Monday, February 12, 2018

Providence, Promises, and Preemption

It turns out the Holy Land Experience's concession stands had little to choose from. Figs, olives, manna, milk, honey, and broken bread were the only appetizing options. No wasabi, no shrimps, nothing of that nature.

Beverages for lactose-intolerant Christians included new wine in old wineskins, old wine in new wineskins, Blood of Christ Pinot Noir wine, Laodicean St. LukeWarm Cola (made esp. for spewing out of one's mouth), the Water of Life, and Moses' Water from the Rock (distilled, with carbonation available for an additional dollar).

These limited offerings didn't sit well with Tally whose belly seemed to think it had endured a seven-year famine.

She opted for two bags of manna, regular for Howard, Red Sea salt for her.

As the two munched noisily on the Bread of Heaven, Howard was inwardly drafting his marriage vow. 

In case you hadn't heard, after fleeing from their wedding earlier in the day, their plan was (1) go to someone else's wedding as a kind of dress rehearsal to give them more time to reassess their desire to live together forever, (2) then, when they were unable to find an ongoing non-them wedding, they decided to visit the Holy Land Experience theme park near Townsville to help direct their thoughts purely into the spiritual realm, leaving the Flesh to bang rambunctiously on the walls of their respective libidos.

And finally, (3), to take all they had learned in the last dozen or so hours and turn their incipient wisdom into self-authored vows the profundity of which would put the Buddha, Socrates, St. Augustine and Dr. Phil to shame.

Hence Howard's multitasking as he savored his manna, which had been made in a factory in Detroit, incidentally. What promises would he feel free to make and free to keep? And how to work in the concept of freedom into marriage?

Meanwhile, the couple queued up for the "Being Isaac" attraction, and boy was the line long. Watching a video reenactment of Abraham almost killing his son Isaac (the same Isaac famous for having said, in a moment of confusion, "Call me Ishmael"), came with no additional fee.
Neither Isaac nor Howard, but still . . .

For an extra ten dollars, however, the guests could take turns -- you guessed it -- being Isaac. 

First, the guest walks up a hillside carrying an armful of kindling, accompanied by an actor dressed exactly like Abraham and made up to look 108 years old, roughly Abe's age at the time of the truncated filicide. 

At the top of the hill, the guest is gently fastened to an altar, the kindling placed beneath it, then the Abe actor raises a rubber knife high above his head, then an automatonic ram bleats from a dense but plastic brier patch, the guest is released and given a mild anti-anxiety pill, and is reminded that the moral of this historically documented event is, simply, "When the Good Lord asks you to do something, ask not why, but when and where." 

Howard, much more familiar with the bible than most convicted abductors, knew the place where Isaac survived his dad's Trust Exam was called "God will provide," from the Hebrew "Mariah," as in "They call the wind Mariah."*

But would God provide Howard and Tally with wedding vows that would bind them -- like young Isaac to his altar -- in conditions they approved of,** throughout Eternity?  

As he trudged upward next to his (seemingly) trusty (pretend) father, lugging the logs of his impending doom, his mind began to draft those potentially sacred words. In what might be called "stream of consciousness" or "interior monologue" or "roof chatter" or "CT scan of the mind," let us go there now and eavesdrop on this process. Please note that Howard is composing vows for both of them to mouth: 

"We, Howard and Tally, do solemnly swear to stay by each other's sides (figuratively) forever or until our love, 'so much refined, / That ourselves know not what it is' deteriorates so low that it may be verbally expressed or rightly understood by the vulgar who gaze upon us fraught with envy.

"And at the first glimmer of this dark moment, we vow to get on with the lives of our respective dreams, that is, the dreams that flickered in our heads like silent movies with subtitles, perhaps dousing the mighty conflagration of our early bliss.

"And to prepare for such a highly unlikely eventuality, we will, from the get-go, share no  property, knowing that said property would serve in the long run only as a hindrance to the life to come, the one we had dreamed of enjoying as soon as the non-rechargeable battery of our love had petered out into the great darkness of What Once Was." 

So occupied with the vow-drafting process, Howard hardly gave a second thought to his dance with death, his macarena with mortality, his Dostoevskian reprieve from the Grand  Reaper's cold grip of immolation. 
Dresden after WWII allies gave it the ol' Sodom & Gomorrah treatment
Still the Holy Land Experience's much needed message had found its way into Howard's spirit, seeping through his pores. The Noah's Ark water park, the manna from heaven, the sacrificial ram -- yes, God would provide, and this was even before he visited the Dresdenesque destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah attraction! 

And we leave them today in the Sodom queue, each guest equipped with either a box of matches or a tiny card, the latter Rococo in its graphics, inscribed with a graphic but vulgar pickup line, written by illegal alien interns from Kiev, and translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky.

(The guests were allowed choose either the matches or the card. You should know by now which one Tally chose.)

*Many bible scholars mistakenly believe the word is "Moriah," and has nothing to do with the song from the Broadway hit Paint Your Wagon to a Star."

**Or "conditions of which they approved"

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