Road Journal – Day Two

Posts in the Road Journal series

  1. Road Journal – Day One
  2. Road Journal – Day Two
  3. Road Journal – Day Three
  4. Road Journal – Day Four
  5. Road Journal – Day Five
  6. Road Journal – Day Six
  7. Road Journal – Day Seven
  8. Road Journal – Day Eight

Saturday, June 23, 2007

5:55am
Irvine, California

Oh. Great. Googly Moogly. It’s so effing early.

10:12am
I-10, near Palm Springs

Well, it turns out that we had a bit of a schedule malfunction. We were supposed to do a concert at 7:15, after the clients had breakfast, but it turns out that they’re done at 6:45 and literally all gone by 7:15. We were running late as it was, so it just wasn’t gonna happen. Glad we got up at the crack of dawn… Oh well.

As a side note, it never ceases to pleasantly surprise me when workers at rescue missions refer to the people they serve as clients. That little word speaks volumes about the inherent dignity of every human being, even the homeless and down and out. Rescue and social workers strike me as way more like Jesus then most pastors I know… but that’s for another blog.

We’re having our big drive day today, out to Arizona. The bus is sleepy and quiet. We’ll arrive in Blythe in time for lunch, and then continue to, well… somewhere in Arizona. I make it a point to stay blissfully unaware of logistics on these trips. I have a fantasy that if I answer, “I Don’t Know,” to enough questions, that the kids will stop asking me. It’s been five years now. I’m a stubborn bastard when I want to be.

The Pursuit of Happyness is playing on the miniature TVs for those who care to be awake and entertained. Every year, there’s a battle over which movies are appropriate for general consumption. Two years ago, the battle was over Mean Girls. One particularly opinionated young lady wanted to watch it, expressing that it was only a PG-13 and it had a good, positive message. I raised my concerns about content, even though I quite like that film and I have an enormous humor-crush on Tina Fey. I noted that, if my memory served, there was quite a bit of thematic content that some of the more conservative families might find offensive. After the 134th “Bitch,” or “Slut,” one of the female sponsors had finally had enough and pulled the plug, to howls of protest. I was, and I know this may be difficult for some of you to believe, pretty smug.

Last year, the battle was over Ocean’s Eleven, which, for me, was a tougher call. One of our male sponsors was uncomfortable with the fact that we were watching a movie that celebrated criminal behavior. He made a point that, on this trip, we’re supposed to be putting our thoughts on higher, purer things. I happen to think that pulling a casino job just to impress and woo your ex-wife is almost Biblical. Maybe that’s just me.

I have decidedly mixed feelings on the issue. I agree that this trip is a time of being set aside, an offering, a sacrifice. I agree, in principle, with the male sponsor who made the statement about setting our thoughts on higher things. I guess its just that if you start down that path, there’s just no end to what we can start cutting out if we’re gonna follow to it’s logical conclusion. “Christian” entertainment is plenty offensive, albeit in different ways.

Stick with Pixar flicks, I say. All hail John Lassiter.

2:38pm
I-10, Western Arizona

Just finished a little on-the-bus small group tutelage. We have two small groups within the larger group, with seven and eight kids, respectively. I find it extremely hard to coach them. So much of what I do, when it comes to singing, and especially small ensemble singing, has been and always will be pure instinct. The years spent at APU simply refined what was already inherently understood. I have trouble articulating these ideas that have just been buried in my psyche for so many years, exercised weekly like my favorite muscle group. Erica is a Godsend in these situations, as she earns a living putting words to such things. I always end up saying things like… “Sing Blacker!”

We did, indeed, stop for lunch in Blythe, California. Blythe is the gateway (or the exit, in this case) to Southern California. It never ceases to amaze me that there have not been more eating establishments built there. It’s in the middle of nowhere, on the Colorado river, and the best place to eat in town is Sizzler, which we patronized.

Now, for a salad eater such as myself, this presents something of a conundrum. Oh sure, there’s the salad bar, but at a joint like that, the produce is just not their top priority. I went heavy on the Tomato soup, which was actually quite tasty. I’ve chosen a difficult time to get zealous about my diet again, but it’s gonna be what it is. I’ve been running several miles 4-5 times a week again for the past two months, and I’ve only seen a few pounds subtracted from the scale. I’ve been hoping against hope that I would be able to lose weight and still eat a sandwich from time to time.

No deal.

For some reason, I’ve always lost weight on tours. I have been looking over old photographs in the past few weeks, marveling at the weight fluctuations that I didn’t even realize I was having. I always look best in pictures from college years, in the late summer.

Yes, there is a fringe benefit from spending most of your youth morbidly overweight. You look at pictures of yourself from ten years ago and know for a fact that you look a hell of a lot better now then you did back then.

Eat up kids!

7:31 pm
Casa Grande, Arizona

We’re on our way to Golden Corral buffet for dinner, more health food for Chad. The desert sunset is putting on a show that almost redeems the fact that it’s still about 90 degrees outside.

Tonight, we had our first real concert. We were at a Teen Challenge facility here in town. Teen Challenge, FYI, is one of the most successful drug and alcohol rehab program in the United States, boasting an 86% success rate. It’s one of the more amazing Teen Challenges I’ve ever seen, a 30,000 square foot building with bedrooms, playrooms, classrooms, workspaces, and, I’m told, the largest walk-in freezer in Arizona.

I think they told us that this only one of three treatment centers in the nation that houses both women and their children.

(side note) We have a great bus driver named James. He’s currently doing doughnuts in the Golden Corral parking lot to make the kids laugh.

We’re here, more in a minute.

9:08pm
Casa Grande, Arizona

And now back to our regularly scheduled program.

Anyways, it was great. Visiting a Teen Challenge center always restores my hope in humanity, no joke. There’s something about those places. You hear it in the voices of the women, as they open up and tell you their stories.

They’re in the program for a year. A year. They live in this commune for a year. They’re given therapy, work training, assimilation training, etc. I think I remember hearing that Teen Challenge doesn’t even officially graduate “Students,” until several months after they’ve left the facility and stayed clean.

It was one of those nights where I felt, clearly, that we were there not to teach, but to learn. I believe the only difference between the 60 recovering drug addicts that we sang to and the 30 lily-white Agoura Hills suburbanite teenagers is that the recovering addicts are the ones who are simply more aware of and able to articulate their dependence on God. Those of us who, “Have our lives together,” whatever the hell that means, are not at all encouraged by the church to live openly and authentically. In fact, I believe in most churches, we’re punished for expressing our failures and struggles in subtle, sinister, and ultimately soul-crushing ways.

I think those ladies are closer to God then I am. I’m jealous of them.

I think I’m gonna go shoot some meth. What sort of whack job starts doing hardcore intravenous drugs just so he can go to recovery? A soon to be ex-pastor, that’s who.

Previous in series: Road Journal – Day One

Next in series: Road Journal – Day Three

6 thoughts on “Road Journal – Day Two

  1. Sharolyn

    “For some reason, I’ve always lost weight on tours.”

    Wow! I always gained weight. And where did that little quote icon go?

    “Those of us who, “Have our lives together,” whatever the hell that means, are not at all encouraged by the church to live openly and authentically. In fact, I believe in most churches, we’re punished for expressing our failures and struggles in subtle, sinister, and ultimately soul-crushing ways.

    I think those ladies are closer to God then I am. I’m jealous of them.”

    I love this. Thank you.

  2. Bobby

    Great stories… I just got back from a month of leading worship and/or playing concerts at 4 different junior high/ high school camps from Texas to Michigan, so I can relate a tiny bit at least. And no vans catching on fire this time, so we win.

    It must be a little easier to find suitable movies when it’s just 4 guys… basically it’s fair game if it involves Will Ferrell. The long trips (say, Shreveport to Green Bay) lend themselves to TV on DVD… we watched seasons 1 and 2 of The Office (NBC version this year) and all 18 episodes of Freaks and Geeks.

    I’m looking forward to hearing about the rest of the tour!

  3. Daniel Semsen

    >>>Stick with Pixar flicks, I say. All hail John Lassiter.

    Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaameeeeeeeeeennnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn (cutoff)

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