Monday, April 2, 2012

"Bless Me Father, For I Have Sinned...I Think" (Songs 'n' The Hoods Part 13)

Palm Sunday, the Catholic holiday that celebrates Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem, is also the day, 34 years ago this week, when my Catholic upbringing made a right turn at Albuquerque.

Sunday mass, whether serving it as an altar boy or simply attending it as a spectator, was never a pleasant experience. How could it be? It took place on a Sunday morning. If that wasn't enough, the priests celebrating the masses at both the church attached to my grammar school and the church closer to my home (see pic above), didn't really have a command of the English language. It was more like a surrender. Whether in Italian or Lithuanian, I had to sit for what felt like an eternity, and pretend to know just what was being celebrated through the worst public address systems known to man, in a language that skimped on words in English. 

(Seriously, what is it about churches and their sound systems? An empty paper towel roll would have projected more clearly than the $7 microphones and $15 speakers that seemed to be installed in every house of Catholic worship across America.)

Yet every Sunday, I'd sit and listen to a language I couldn't understand as these voices told these crazy tales of miracles and suffering and impossibilities. I had to. It was my obligation. Plus, the nuns who also taught grades 1-8 at my school, pretty much guaranteed that if I didn't show up for church on Sunday, God would know and would smote me on a regular basis.


Palm Sunday, 1978, I had had enough smote talk. I brought the Arts & Leisure section to mass, where I was sent by grandparents, aunts & uncles to retrieve the palm leaves distributed, and just sat there, reading, while Father Baciasukas stood there, preaching...about something. About 3 minutes in, I saw this on Page 4:

And like that, I blew by the confessionals and made my way to the exit, forgetting the family's palm in the pew. I headed up to Madison Square Garden. It was that easy.  No internet. No passwords. No pre-sales. Just a subway ride to the box office.

"Two please!"

(Note, the dates on the ad are incorrect.)

The ride back was tricky. My heart was pounding with excitement, as I held onto these golden ducats for one of my rock and roll heroes. But, my soul was trembling, as well. What if God wasn't impressed with Bowie's collaboration with Eno? What if he...excuse me...He doesn't really love us all no matter what we do? I was sure as shit gonna get it now!

Look at this:

Reading in church
Leaving before the end of mass
Forgetting the palm

Oh, and the lying to my grandmother, which was about to take place, as soon as I got home without the goods.

I don't recall the rest of that afternoon. I do have vivid memories of David Bowie at Madison Square Garden. Does that make me a bad person?















jeff k said...

great piece (as usual), reminded me of the time I skipped hebrew school to go see "a funny thing happened on the way to the forum" hey, I was twelve or thirteen at the time, and those sweaty roman girls in bikinis were an easy choice over Mrs. Heiman.

anyway, I seem to remember some huge punishment, but hell if I cared, as far as I could figure, that was just about the best movie ever made.

Albert said...

Was I the other ticket?....I remember seeing him on the Stage tour...can only guess it was with you.....and your point about being "smoted"....yep....I think you got us both "smoted" that day......but Bowie's worth it....if that 2nd ticket wasn't me, I guess I "smoted" myself....

Sal Nunziato said...

Thanks Jeff. And yes, it was you, Albert. Maybe those nuns were onto something.

Anything Should Happen said...

Great post as ever Sal. I'll add some of my memories at the new place in time.

Including telling Ian Hunter I liked his trousers, bunking off school with Eddie And The Hot Rods and that Sparks story.

Oh and plenty of tales from the second wave of Merseybeat.

Gene Oberto said...

Well, Bowie was at least more popular than John the Baptist at that time, so I can see you ditching the service. The trouble with spontaneity is you miss the details, in this case the palm frond. As I see it,your worst concert is better than your best Mass.

For me, the worst thing the HR Church ever did,after the inquisition and capitulation to Hitler, was changing from Latin. Once you could understand what they were saying up there, I was done.

Finally, Jeff K....her name really was Mrs. Heiman?!? I bet that brought a few giggles. Remember what the guy said, "We learned more from a 45 record than we ever did in shul"

Paul said...

What I got a kick out of was the $9.50 ticket price for a seat in the red section at the Garden. All that other stuff is between you and God my son.

jeff k said...

yup, mrs. heiman.
toughest lady I ever knew, escaped germany in a hay wagon after german soldiers stabbed at the mound of hay with pitchforks. she kept quiet and got out alive.

back in the 60s, she used to bring members of the black panther party to talk to our class.

i'm sure if she had known who david bowie was she'd have urged me to go.

FD13NYC said...

Bad person? Not at all. Bowie tickets vs Palm Sunday mass? Not even close. Actually you could of dashed into a rectory and grabbed some palm on the way home, but hell, oops! I'm sure I did that kind of thing back then too. Whether it was skipping school or taking a day off from work, not missing church because I never went, heathen that I am. Had to get those tickets, and as you said, it was easy 30 or 35 years ago. Even if you had to wait on a little line for 20 minutes, it was worth it. Not like today, you can't get tickets for anything, shame.

Nice picture of the now defunct and long empty Our Lady of Wilma Flintstone. A true to life story once again. Funny about the sound systems in churches, and smote, great word.

allen vella said...

You, my good friend, are going to hell.

cmealha said...

Allen, Based on previous posts, I think he's already there!

Sal Nunziato said...

And that concludes another episode of "Well, You Asked For It!"

Grey said...

In my favorite scene from one of my favorite movies, a happy-go-lucky priest leaves the church because he cannot reconcile his love of life with the church's love of death. If there is a god who has created a whole world full of wonderful things to enjoy and then plunked us down in the middle of it, I like to think he'd give that priest a smile and a thumbs-up.

Life is for living. Good on you for recognizing that.