MY FIRST THOUGHT WAS…….

I woke up Abbi’s couch this morning  and with my eyes still closed, my first thought was that I have to start going through the stuff in Abbi’s apartment, the back of my car, and our storage unit to pick out stuff I need for the trip (or the trip as I know it today) taking me to a fire zone and Mid-continental heat that would make the devil himself envious.

And made the decision not to touch anything until Abbi and her Aussie are off on a camping trip, because it’s going to make a huge mess in her apartment. For someone whose pre-adult space was in danger of being condemned by the county, Abbi has emerged as a neat freak. Her apartment is always picture-perfect-dust-proof-Architectural-Digest-ready (except when her mother is camping in the living room). While they’re sleeping in tents, I’ll be able to dismantle all the necessary crap and repack/re-arrange/re-store everything.

My last thought in the trip zone was that except for toiletries, I shouldn’t need to take anything. If it weren’t for the Puritans that started this great country, I wouldn’t need any clothes for 100+ degree heat. I mean, after all, you can put on enough clothes to get warm, but you can’t take off enough clothes to get cool. Nowhere in Genesis do I find “and on the 21st day, God created closets.” Adam and Eve travelled light. They could pick their wardrobe from leaves and bushes. Not sure where civilization went wrong.

Then, my mind took a short detour ( eyes still closed) to a package that needs to be returned, when it will be too hot this morning to make the five-block walk to the UPS store and closest Bank of America location (the high today should be about a barely-comfortable 80 degrees), and whether I should be here or not when Hillary the Hero comes over to help Abbi with her website. And if I decide not to be here, should I take the car, go to the UPS store, BofA, and hit some used book stores in search of books on tape that will probably end up being purchased at Barnes and Noble anyway. And that I need to look online to make sure the Audio Book Store in Oklahoma City is still open.

Which brought me to where to stay while I’m in Oklahoma City — and whether to set a pre-determined amount of time to visit, or just camp out at one friend’s house for awhile and then head for another until I’ve run out of cheeks to pinch, people to hug, and spare bedrooms (or get bored)…..There’s Kenneth and Lori and their beautiful baby, Tripp. I can’t wait to pinch those  little cheeks. He’s such a miracle. They’re going to throw a party so I can see a bunch of my University of Central Oklahoma kids (who are now in their early thirties). And Jenni and Jason Hawkins, along with their kids Jerzie, Jaxon and I can’t remember the other “J” name. Jenni was first Abbi’s cheer coach, then her team member, and Abbi was a bridesmaid at her wedding. Jenni and Jason took Abbi to her first frat party (we still need to talk about that; she was 14). And Sarah, my sorority sister. The last time we alums got together in her back yard for her perfect margaritas, food, more of her perfect margaritas, and the obligatory passing around of the phone to assure Abbi her mom was fine if she happened to call, we ended up making a side trip to crash the UCO chapter’s “sisterhood retreat” to teach them songs like, “Never trust a Sigma Nu an inch above the knee” and “God Damn, Son of a Bitch, I Don’t Give a Flying Fuck,” along with an instructional in the art of the shimmy. And of course, there’s Mary and Lina and their beautiful family of horsies.

Which jump-shifted into the lessons dad taught me in the short 14 years he was physically here — to watch the white line on the side of the road while driving at night so the headlights of other cars wouldn’t blind me, that the gentleman should always walk on the outside, and that everyone is the same until they proove themselves otherwise. He would have approved of Mary and Lina being married.

And how he used to stay at home on Sunday morning watching church services on the black and white television set rather than follow my mother’s directive that ‘if you don’t go to church on Sunday, you don’t go anywhere,’ and follow her — like it or not — to Oakwood Baptist Church. He didn’t like the hipocracy of men who would shake his hand at the door with, “Welcome, Brother Hyman,” but walk right past him on the street when he was wearing his postman’s uniform. In my eyes, he was more of a Christian than any of them.

My next flip lead me to the fact that before the war the Good Old U S of A started in Iraq to vindicate daddy’s failure to capture Hussein and the need to protect that president’s oil buddies’ interests, most of the conflicts on this planet have been waged over “My God’s better than your God……”

which brought me to how much trouble my mind (and mouth) have gotten me into over the years.

I asked way too many questions…..first of Baptist ministers at my church and Camp Cowan, and the pentecostal ministers in churches Bill and I attended in our years together, and my rabbi.

“If God has so many names, how do we know that the names other religions have for their Gods aren’t just names we don’t know about?”

“Yeah, I know what the New Testament says, but the Book of Mark (the first published book of the NT) was written 30 years after Jesus died. I’m 14, and can’t remember who was in my kindergarten class. That was only 10 years ago.”

“If the New Testament was put together by a committee, how do we know what they left out? Since all the books follow the same theme, is it because they picked and chose because of their own agenda?”  (followed years later by) “With all the new information discovered in the Dead Sea Scrolls, why aren’t we making a bee line to discover what they say so we can add them to the New Testament?” I, for one, would love to read the Book of Mary. Afterall, the fact that Jesus was a Jew is because of her lineage.  (Question to rabbi many years later, “Why is lineage through the mother?” Answer: “Because we’re sure who she is.”)

The two that pissed everyone off (except for my rabbi, of course) were “If Jesus didn’t think anything he said was worth writing down, why do we need anything but the books he studied in the Torah?” and the obvious follow-up, “How can anyone follow Jesus and be anything but a Jew?” Haven’t gotten an answer that makes sense yet. But it sure is fun to keep asking.

Those were the questions before my mom died.  Going through her boxes I found newspaper clippings that affirmed my beliefs. I was born a Jew. I always knew I was a Jew — used to tell kids at Baptist Camp that I was. Didn’t have a clue what it meant, but knew in my heart of hearts that I, like Jesus, was a Jew.  Remembered the times back in Charleston, when we went to my namesake’s kids’ Bar Mitzvahs (dad insisted I be named after Annilee Hallum Bloom). I walked into the temple late (perfectly acceptable for any Jew), sat between people I’d never met, picked up a prayer book and chanted right along; not having a clue where the pronounciation and notes were coming from — but they were right.

After that discovery, I couldn’t wait to get back to Oklahoma City and go through a full conversion. Though I’d been involved in some type of church my entire life, I never felt at peace until I walked into a synagogue, sat through a typical Saturday morning 3-4 hour Shabbus service and listened to scriptures chanted in a language I didn’t understand with tears streaming down my face.

Which lead to more questions/debates with my rebbe during my conversion. To Jews, it’s almost obligatory to spend hours debating scripture, law, etc. It’s common for someone to bark a challenge at the rabbi in the middle of his Torah lesson (sermon), and for a debate to ensue before the rabbi is allowed to re-take control. So the fact that I was questionning what he was teaching was no big deal — even the New Testament talks about Jesus challenging the elders. But our debates got so heated that when I exited his office, his secretary wouldn’t look at me. She could hear us through the walls.

“When the Israelites asked for meat in the desert, why did God give them poultry?” He called his wife. (That’s no surprise either. It’s assumed she is as knowledgeable and wise as the rabbi.) His answer was that it would be easier for them to keep Kosher while they were on their road trip, which lead to my follow-up question, “What if God just said ‘no’.”   He didn’t like that. Or, “If we can’t s seeth a calf in his mother’s milk, why can we serve chicken and egg in the same meal.”

Any more than he liked my challenge that the 10 Commandments are in ascending order. He said they were all equal. I told him that if David had never coveted Bathsheba, he never would have committed adultery, stolen Uriah’s wife, and had him killed.

And here we are. I don’t understand the need for organized religions. At the base, they’re all the same. All believe in a supreme being. That there is some kind of plan in place, and each of us has a starring role.

I have friends who are Wicca. In San Francisco, it’s a recognized religion.

They don’t go out looking for converts and don’t talk about their ‘faith’ unless someone questions. They let the universe revolve around them without trying to make others line up like little ducks to follow them, and worship the creator through the creation. Their highest mandate is, “First, do no harm.”

What if the whole world operated under that premise. Wars would cease. There would be no necessity for laws, police to enforce them, lawyers/judges/courts to interpret them.  If someone was a danger to himself or others, the first thought would be to get him help. It seems to me that after “First, do no harm,” the next step would be, “How can I help.”

I’m finding myself in a kind-of-John-Lennon-ish-zen-like time where I honestly don’t understand where the world got so far off course. Is this what God intended when he invested millinium planning what to do in each of the seven days it took to form the earth as we know it? Did he know his highest creation, man, was going to be a total fuck up? That man’s highest goal would be to destroy his planet and everyone that didn’t see things his way?

I was raised to believe that evil is created by “free will.” Obviously, I’ve screwed up more than my share of the time by exercising my own free will. But I don’t think I’ve ever knowingly hurt anyone (except breaking Joey’s heart because I wasn’t ready to settle down when he was). If I hadn’t been so self-absorbed, I would have stayed in the best relationship this life has thrown my way. But he wouldn’t have married Sue, and they wouldn’t have had their beautiful daughters. I wouldn’t have Abbi. The world would be a different place. So does that mean we are “pre-ordained”?  And how can “pre-ordained and “free will” co-exist, even though we’ve been taught they do? I don’t know.

Maybe that’s the core of why I’m on this journey. Maybe by stripping myself of the “things” that have owned me and letting go of the dock, I’m on a quest to reboot my system, hoping to emerge as the person I should have been all along. I’ve already seen so many changes.

I’m on a day-to-day trek now, not really knowing what the next day will bring but excited to wake up each morning to see. Though I don’t know much of anything about what Wicca’s believe other than their first tenet, I’m going into my new life with the goal of “First, do no harm.” I’ll let the universe take care of the rest.

But I’m pretty sure my existence will never again include arranging my spices alphabetically by cooking and baking.

Wow. That was a ramble. Thanks for staying. It’s 10:30 now. Hillary will be here half an hour, and I’d better put on clothes and decide whether to stay or go — quickly.

Once again, I’ve got to quote Dann Saxton and my punk rockers, Kill the Complex. “That’s all I wanted anyway, to be the creator of the soundtrack to my own life.”

So until tomorrow, create your own soundtrack, and stay safe out there.