Well, today is the big day - August 1. I turned 39. What a catastrophic achievement of biblical proportions! For the record, I have always been one to shun pre-planned celebrations. If you asked me, "Saf, what did you do on your birthday last year?" - I'd have absolutely no idea whatsoever. I tend to treat everyday the same in an attempt to ride a wave of absolute consistency. In many ways, it's odd. When everyone is having the time of the their lives on New Years or the infamous night before Thanksgiving, I generally tend to avoid the party and lay low. Churchies will call me a "wet blanket." Street thugs (surprisingly from Beech Bottom) might view me with mild contempt. "Whassup wit dat? C'mon Lil' Saffy. True dat!" Rednecks will inquire, "Saf, you ain't gonna do that shot of Beam?"
Suffice to say, I don't generally celebrate my birthday. This year is a little different though. I woke up and ran about 3 miles and then mowed my lawn. Good workout. Then, I jumped in the shower and decided to eat lunch at Wesbanco Arena. For those of you in the dark, allow me to guide you into the light. Do you see? Do you see the light? If you've been following the local news, you'd realize that this weekend they're having the annual Jehovah's Witness Convention at the arena. They're actually spreading it out over 3 weekends due to overwhelming demand and lack of accommodations. I decided that since I was going to see Slayer, I might as well try to strike some balance in my life. Hence, a Jehovah lunchable. I put on my only religious attire - a Pope Benedict XVI U.S. tour shirt along with khaki shorts. I figured this might help me blend in. This assumption proved false. First, I failed to realize that everyone would be wearing nicer church-going attire - suits and dresses. I got some strange looks from the Jehovites. It dawned on me that they were probably not amused with the shirt. In their eyes, I think a pope t-shirt could be viewed as somewhat offensive. My bad.
I arrived at lunchtime with my DeFelice Italian sub and grabbed a seat in the corner upper deck. Not much really going on. People milling about here and there. I had hoped to see a little of the presentation (possibly a reenactment of the fornification of Adam and Eve) but I timed it wrong. Anyway, I start eating my sub and reading the paper. A young man named Dave from Spencer, WV must have seen that I was a little out of place. He greeted me and asked me where I was from. I let him know that I'm just a local. He proudly distributed some Witness literature and went to get me a DVD. I ate half my sub, chips, water and bolted. Not the entertainment value I had hoped for. Then again, I wasn't trying to engage anyone.
A few observations. Having been intimately acquainted with all things Jehovah, I feel uniquely qualified to comment. Most people view the Jehovahs as a cult. As if their brand of religion is less cult-like. Every religion embodies this weird ritualistic behavior. It's as if acting incredibly bizarre is almost a rite of passage and mode of acceptance by the flock. The Jehovites do take it one step further. First, they actively discourage their members from getting a higher education. Second, they don't let you register to vote or participate in the political process. Third, there's the blood transfusion issue. I wonder if you're even allowed to donate blood. Probably not. I'm not even going to delve into the knocking. The voting and education issues seem overtly linked to maintaining control over the flock. But the blood transfusion and the parental refusal to accept medical care in extreme cases - c'mon, what the fuck is that about in the 21st century?
I will say one thing though. The Jehovahs are an incredibly inviting and racially inclusive group. I've been to a few functions and the one thing that immediately struck me was the friendly interaction between blacks and whites. Didn't see much in the way of Asians or Hispanics, but then again, this is Eastern Ohio.
I made one other important observation. The Jehovahs sometimes make fun of and mock the crazies. I'm talking the true wackjobs who can ONLY talk about their faith and the church. You can't talk about the stock market, the Steelers or even a sale on ground chuck. Everything is "The Lord speaketh" and "Let us pray." My point - just like every other religion or cult, there's a definable mainstream element which mocks the hardcore super religious freaks. The way I see it, the problem is, when your religion becomes too cultlike, how can you properly define where "normal" begins and what constitutes "freakshow?" I'm sure it's the same deal with Islamic Jihad and off-shoot Hindu sects.
One other thing, assuming only 144,000 people get into heaven or are saved or whatever ... Why in the name of the fucking pope would you actively solicit new members? Wouldn't your success diminish your chances of doing well in the afterlife. Anyway, just something to think about.
So onward to Slayer. Tailgating was predictably weak because most of the crowd went in early. I love metal as much as the next tatooed, pierced up weirdo but in all honesty, how much can one tolerate. They opened the gates at 2:30pm. Everyone seemed a little worn out by the time Slayer and Manson hit the stage. One girl referred to Slayer as "consummate professionals." I wholeheartedly agree. They opened w/ Darkness of Christ & Disciple - The God Hates Us All song. BAD ASS. And unlike the Jehovite gathering, I got a few compliments regarding the pope t-shirt. Just trying to take things in a different direction. Long and intriguing night. I think I'll go running and sweat out some of the toxins.