Clueless in America. Chapter 50

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50. Come Hell or High Water.

Well it was not hell of course. It was church, maybe the chapter should be called ‘Heaven or High Water’. It was Sunday and Sunday is the day that millions and millions of Christians traditionally skip their way along to church and this morning we were part of that universal clan. Once again it was so cute being with pastors on a Sunday morning, they seem to get so pleasantly focused, whilst their kids just seem to be pleasantly unfocused.

Now the previous Sunday we went to a church that had survived many a fund-raising drive. Well this church was a little different, they were in the process of being given a building(142) and not just any building, but simply the coolest place in town. They were being given a down-town night club. From what I saw of down-town Green Bay, there isn’t really that much to talk about, wide streets and light coloured buildings, which for America could be considered old. Though to be fair, I am not one hundred percent sure that I was actually in the down-town.

The outside of the building was irrelevant, it was the inside that said ‘Yes this the kind of church that I want to go to’. Immediately upon walking through the doors one got the sense that this was something else. The sense that this is a re-used, recycled building. The sense of a down-to-earth   abode. The first thing that caught my eye was a bar or at least an ex-bar. This is America, where the church and state are joined at the hip and alcohol is the bane of the church, so naturally unlike some of their European counterparts, they did not sell alcohol. However, like all good American churches this bar had coffee, numerous bits of paper promoting stuff and of course the foyer had the obligatory toilets.  It was cold inside, but felt like God and felt like church. We, having arrived with the pastoral family were early. Nevertheless we grabbed coffee and headed into the meeting room. If we go to church in heaven, this is exactly what I expect the inside of the church building will look like. It had booths!!! I kid you not, it had a grandstand kind of thing with booths lined up on each tier. Each booth had great big shiny seats that flanked three sides of a table, leaving the front empty so that we, the congregation, could have an unobstructed view of the stage. These booths were so big and so cosy that we could hide in them. The room in itself was large, airy, and dimly lit. To the right and the left of our boothed grandstand were pool-tables, unfortunately they were covered, but imagine how cool it would be to play pool and listen to the teaching. There was a dance floor at the front, but it was mostly covered with chairs around coffee tables. And of course at the front of the dance floor was a space for a worship team and a pulpit. I was secretly hoping that the preacher was going to turn up the music, spin the disco ball and boogie out his sermon. I was disappointed.

A building in itself does not constitute church. What undoubtedly one hundred percent constitutes church is her people. And this church somehow had lost its cookie cutter, her people were not identical clones of each other. Some were big, some were small, some were rich, some were poor, some were black and some were white and some looked good and like me, others did not. This church seemed so normal that it was almost weird. And best of all, I could hide in my booth, be shy, be a ‘nigel’ and watch everything pass me by. The worship was good, the teaching was good, the only thing was, that no one really reached out and made the effort to include this shy person. Afterwards I spent a long time standing in the foyer sucking my cappuccino, just hoping that somebody would be interested enough to talk to me. No one did, but it didn’t matter. However I loved the place, it smelt like God and if it was any more not-together, it would have practically been Christ-like. And to put the icing on the cake, the pastor’s name was Bill, how inconspicuous and cool is that?

I spoke about the building to Bill afterwards, he said that the first thing that they needed to do was fix the leak in the roof, then gut the inside, like get rid of the booths and put in more practical and and inclusive seating. The whole idea of gutting the inside of this lovely building left me feeling totally gutted, knowing that on my next visit that I may not be able to hide. We pastors seem to have a lack of understanding on how to pastor shy people and seem to think that everybody needs to be involved all of the time. Then again I think that it is a fair presumption that people come to church to worship God in community and that us shy people actually come secretly hoping that somebody will encourage us out of our shells. Anyhow I loved the church, because it did not have the crinks polished out of it; for me, it is through the crinks that I find God. Oh yeah a good drummer helps as well.

Anyhow, that was the Heaven part, now it is the time to move onto the high water part.

We ventured back from Green Bay to our Hartland empty nester friends. Once again it was an embarrassing trip for Betsie, due to the fact that once again we were blindly following Ronnan. Personally I enjoyed the Ronnan adventures. But Sharon on the other hand was totally frustrated by the thing. We still had it set on the shortest possible route. Which meant instead of Ronnan skirting us around Milwaukee on the major roads, it took us diagonally through suburbia. By now we probably could have driven most of the way without a GPS, but for me Ronnan was still a cool novelty and a sure way to get into trouble and not get lost. In this case we travelled through a snow storm, through endless traffic lights and instructions of ‘turn left in one hundred yards, turn right in fifty yards’. It was a miserable dark, slippery, snowy journey.

However the journey was worth it and our friends’ empty nest was as warm, homey and as all American as it could be. Before we went to bed that night we were encouraged to step outside into the snow and enjoy a hot spa(143). We at first somewhat reluctantly agreed. We were presented with warm bathrobes and pointed in the direction of a secluded balcony. Oh my goodness what a delightful treat this was. As soon as we opened the outside door of their house, we got blasted by a rush of cold snowy air. We slid our way across the snow laden balcony, took a deep breath, kicked off our sandals, chucked(144) our bath robe over the rail and carefully but quickly oozed our way into the piping hot spa pool. I so needed this hot/cold, prickly, bubble sensation, I could feel a million American service industry conversations leaving me.

I very quickly formed the opinion that one is below the poverty line if one does not have a spa pool attached to their house, therefore the government should step in and provide us all with our very own personal spa pool. But of course America or at least the ‘we-hate-healthcare’ version, does not want to be a socialist society, and thus cannot have a government funded spa pool scheme. Let me tell you a secret – ninety-nine percent of the modern world does not want to be a socialist society either. Every time I hear an American call New Zealand and many other countries socialist, I am offended. Let me quote for you from an American dictionary(145).


a: a system of society or group living in which there is no private property
b: a system or condition of society in which the means of production are owned and controlled by the state


a: government by the people; especially: rule of the majority
b: a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections

Hey, at least when we hold an election, the people with the most votes win, unlike George Bush versus Al Gore in 2000. Socialism and democracy contradict each other. The fact is we are both democracies, just different flavours of the same capitalist candy. The problem is when America’s newsreel stars start calling European countries socialist, we hear communist and many of us are still scrubbing those scars and shedding those shackles. You hotheaded-nobody-newsreel-stars, you have no idea what you are talking about and just how offensive you are.  And on that note once again I will climb off my well balanced high-horse.

Oh before I finish the chapter, I need to inform you that I regrettably and Sharon thankfully surrendered Ronnan back to her owner before leaving Wisconsin. For me it was a sad parting and I long for the day of either our reunion or when a cousin comes to visit our hapless Opel(146).

Oops, I also forgot to mention something very important. Our empty nester friends asked us if there was anything that we needed that we could not get back home. We had a very definite answer, we wanted what Americans rather embarrassingly call baggies. What this translates into in my English is plastic bags that are often about the right size to put sandwiches in. They have a fastening system that involves a zip that locks the bag. I would go into much more detail for you, but unfortunately I cannot because the company that makes the bags is preventing me from using their registered-trademarked name. This whole story was originally going to be about those bags and American society, but they wouldn’t let me use their name, so now in my writing I am left rather clueless in America. Oh well, they probably made the right decision; though I like the product, I am not a fan of supporting multi-national companies and probably would have taken the chance to have some fun at their expense. Next time you put your lunch into a bag with a zip, remember it was them who caused me hours of work to take their brand off my blog and out of my story. And thus the title ‘Clueless in America’ was born.

Tune in next week to learn about mad mad Madison.

For past chapters click here. Or look on the side panel.

You may have noticed some bracketed numbers in this chapter. These numbers correspond with explanations and definitions that are in an accompanying glossary. To read the glossary you will need to by the yet to be released book. Sorry!

Thank you so much to those of you who donated to the writing of this posting of Clueless in America. This chapter was writtenn in Costa Coffee, Milngavie, Glasgow, Scotland.

So far I have written in the  Hotel Pagegiai cafe, Pagegiai, Lithuania, the Katiyas Tejai Tirgotava, Sigulda, Latvia, Chu Chus Cafe, West Kildbride, Scotland, the Tinderbox cafe in Merchant City, Glasgow, Scotland and Costa Coffee, Milngavie, Glasgow, Scotland,

Thank you so much for reading out for lunch. If you would like to contribute toward the running of out for lunch or donate money towards my writing projects, please click on the donate button. Thanks Kel.

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