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Story and Photo by Steve Elkins

Photo by Steve Elkins

God's Country (Anecdotes from Hell):  Part II

by Steve Elkins

The first words out of his mouth to the band: "Well it's good to see you guys have hair." He just rolled in from Vegas, refers to "tits" a lot. Soon after says: "So we're all cool with Jesus here, right?"

I'm shocked to find that most of the country knows who he is. And not just the police. A girl working the register in a rural Florida K-Mart recognized him even before he purchased his own Greatest Hits record from their shelves.

I had the dubious privilege of being paid to film a documentary of one of the Christian music industry's poster boys on tour.  Let's just call him H. 

I’m sure the financier began to loosen his tie when he realized he had financed over sixty hours of footage of H scared so shitless by the confused silences following everything that comes out of his mouth, that he fumbles for any combination of words resembling language. Perhaps he asked his secretary for a cool glass of water after witnessing H in Pittsburgh announcing to the predominantly Christian audience that "heaven will only be as interesting as we make it, so it's very important that we be as interesting as possible."  Crickets wove their delicate melodies on each side of the stage.   Or when he tried to recover from this blunder by offering some philosophical musings like, “If there were no trees, we would have no monkeys.” But what I want to know is, when did the panic set in?

Perhaps it was when he tried to butt into a conversation with some attractive girls about France, by busting out with this: "I've walked many nights through the lonely streets of Paris contemplating the poetry of Baudelaire." Except he makes a fatal attempt at pronouncing Baudelaire with a French accent and comes out sounding like Baudelahhh. At first everyone just looks confused, but instead of playing it cool and moving on, he tries to say it again, this time it sounds more like: Baudelaaarrr, then, Baudeleeeggghh, now, Boodeleeeeuuuurrr, reducing the French language to a variation on autism. By now the whole table is staring in shocked silence observing the spectacle as if watching a goat being strangled, but he keeps trying. I start to wonder if he's choking on food. His eyes are getting wide and horrified at his own predicament but to everyone's dismay he's insists on being stuck on this word. Phantasms from his profile interests are surfacing in my head: "understanding and relating to women," "15th to 17th Century Books." Books?

And lest we forget the nights H's hair almost put an end to our tour.  In Jacksonville, Florida, we entered a bar with more cowboy hats and boots than I had seen since a bar called Tipsy McSwaggers on the outskirts of Rochester, (with its vending machine labeled "Live Bait" by the doorway), but this time I felt confident that we would not leave this bar before H's hair got our asses kicked. It was immediately apparent that the median sexual aesthetic here fell somewhere in the vicinity of Kathy Bates in "Misery." The women bore an even more striking resemblance to Billy Ray Cyrus than the men. One rather globular middle aged woman with coronas of sweat spreading across her shirt from her armpits approached me from across the room and sprayed "I bet you came here to get some pussy!" across my face, shooting me a carnivalesque smirk to let me know she was on to me. "If that were my goal," I retort, "this might not be my bar of choice." She laughs maniacally, shouts "bullshit!" and then waits as if expecting me to fold my cards. My eyes dart frantically across the room for some distraction, but in one direction my eyes fall on a dude with a code red mullet dressed like Robert Smith on the Wild Mood Swings tour doing MC Hammer moves with someone who is straddling a thin line between woman and walrus. In another direction, H is signing a middle aged woman's fake boobs with a Sharpie.

But the woman speaking to me won't let me off so easy. "I got someone to watch the kids today so I could get really fucked up. I've been here since noon." Realizing that meant she had been drinking for a solid 12 hours, I remark: "I'm surprised you're still alive." It's then that her eyes narrow as if to say "let's get serious now," and says "I have a trick that keeps me going." "What's that," I ask, bracing myself for an answer that will no doubt leave me scarred. And sure enough, she delivers. Staring at me unflinchingly she says: "Turkey." I start scouring the bar for a set of box cutters. A man in chaps pushes through the crowd shouting "hyaa, hyaa, hyaa," confirming his status as a ranch hand, then freezes in perplexity and says to H, "Look at your hair boy! You've got some crazy-ass-shit goin' on there. Hey boys," alerting the entire bar at this point, "check out this crazy-ass-hair-shit. God damn boy, where the fuckyoufrom?!" H, sensing the potential collapse of the situation, averts his gaze from the wrinkled breasts he's drooling on to convince half the bar that we are Hoobastank, which he presumably succeeded in doing given the resounding chorus of No Shits.

And then there was the rampant practice of something I discovered was called "Christian Sex."  The idea behind "Christian Sex" is this: if an unmarried Christian indulges in sexual activity but manages to avoid "penetration," they are still technically "saving themselves for marriage."  For example, enjoying the good ol' fashioned "dry hump" (what a gorgeous vernacular!) is a good strategy for unmarried Christians to handle maintaining their virginity as long as it does not go further than that. This has evolved to include anal sex to pacify them until they can "lose their virginity" in marriage. I wonder how the girls feel about this. I also wonder how this doesn't make them a little more tolerant of homosexuality. 

The result, of course, is that you have a generation of people who believe that sex is defined only by "penetration" itself...that sex has little to do with psychology or emotions or communication or foreplay or an expression of other intimacies that have already taken place between two people. In Christian Sex, sex is viewed as a mere technical foul that amounts to nothing more than a physical utilization of space.

This distortion about sex mirrors the distortion of art that people like H propagate.  It will never be about the miracle of communion between two human beings.  It will only be about masturbating as creatively as possible, if only to create a reflection of himself that's easier to digest.  Its worth will be measured by the distance between the stage and the ground.

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