Sunday, January 13, 2008

So, I was strolling down San Pronto Boulevard right along the edge of the harbor where the shrimp boats tie up thinking about getting a job, because I like to travel and that costs money unless you are willing to take some pretty strange routes and make do with very little in the way of amenities, when all of sudden, out of the corner of my eye I spotted a sign. There was my name,up in lights, or so I could easily imagine. It was the old First Church of The Non Denominational Martyrs, closed up and looking a little forlorn since it was deconsecrated last summer, and all the sign really said was "For Rent", but I saw in my mind's eye a glimmering vision of what might come to pass, if I could scrounge up the cash to make it happen. As soon as I got home, I telephoned to inquire about leasing the place for the winter. The caretaker invited me over to look inside, and said the city's real estate agent had promised to stop by in about an hour anyway, so I took my digital camera and walked back over there, a distance of about two hundred yards. Mrs. Norton, who had been my second grade teacher at San Pronto PS239 about a hundred and five years ago (fear not- I didn't say anything as rude as that to her) met me at the door and as we chatted about old times, we went into the main room, where I was startled and delighted to find row upon row- several hundred at least- of slightly dusty but still very comfortable velvet covered theatre seats facing the altar. I asked Mrs. Norton why the Non-Denominationalists had gone out of business when the church so obviously must have been a lovely place to congregate. She laughed and said "Oh, Drifty! They didn't go out of business, they were bought up by Rupert Murdoch for several million dollars and incorporated into his Revival Televangelist Network. Some of the parishioners who traded their share of the sale price for RTN stock made out so well on the deal- because, as you probably know, that darned thing has just skyrocketed these past few months- that they were able to buy those two half-built mosques on the other side of town and start a new religion among the swamp farmers who live out that way. I hear Mr. Murdoch has them in mind for his second round of expansion, which is... " and here she whispered in a coy mock-dramatic way, which I found endearingly comic and damned sexy, for all her 88 years of age "rumored to be in the works for early next year." We looked at the altar foundation, which was a solid stone platform almost as wide as the whole church, with steps all around three sides and she showed me how to control the lights in the choir loft from behind the altar, using an electronic joystick and two or three of the kind of soft-clicking rotary knobs you find on expensive home stereo tuners, to select and adjust the light banks so as to sweep the whole church with a white spot, while simultaneously bathing various parts of the altar in candy-colored pools of soft light. I felt sure she had played with this set-up before, because of the way she deftly twirled the knobs from deep pink to tangerine to taffy blue, and raced the white spot around like, well, like a white spotlight. After a few minutes of this magic, Mrs. Norton started showing me around the offices and store rooms behind the altar. I didn't say anything to my old teacher, but I was already sure I was going to not only rent this place, but buy it, and as soon as possible, before somebody beat me to it. We tried the light switches in what I now knew were going to be the backstage dressing rooms, opened the back doors to see the private parking spots formerly reserved for the minister and staff, looked in at the furnace sitting quietly in its own tall room, which Mrs. Norton assured me was in perfect working order and only dormant to save money, and we were standing in the wood-paneled lobby admiring the scrollwork on the grand main doors when the city real-estate agent, a Mr. Gooden found us. (To Be Continued)

No comments: