Finding An Old Friend ► Unpacking My Detroit

 

EMAIL TO: Pastor Kenny
SUBJECT: Long Time No See
Dear Pastor Kenny:
Lately my life is in turmoil. I am in need of something pastoral. Tag. You’re it.
I think back to the last time I saw you. If I’m not mistaken you were on your honeymoon with Nancy.
You visited me in Oakville, Ontario, Canada, and, from my point of view, it was a very strange visit. Now that I think about it, it was the very last time I saw any of my childhood friends.
[I understand that Nancy has passed and that you’re remarried. Condolences and congratulations. I’m a sucker for love and it sounds like you have had decades of it.]
It was a strange visit for me because during much of your visit you and Nancy were trying to sell me on Jesus, despite knowing I grew up in a Jewish home and had even thrown off that religion years before. I had never known you to be evangelical before.
We had an amicable discussion, but neither of us convinced the other. When you left, you left behind (no pun intended) a Good News Bible, which you inscribed to me. I carried that Bible – along with a pilfered Gideon’s Bible, an Old Testament, and a book on Scientology – with me until about a decade ago, when I lost my small religious book section in my last break up.
Before the internet made biblical text searches much easier, I would refer to that Good News Bible occasionally for research, or just to rifle through it and read passages. Each time I couldn’t help but think of you and wondered what happened to you. I’ve thought of you often over the years and not always when reaching for that book. Just this summer, when I last visited family in Michigan, I went to Gilchrist. However, after taking a picture of my old house, I stood
and stared at yours for a while.
Outtake from While Detroit Crumbled, Gilchrist
Street Hung On
. That’s Kenny Wilson’s house on
the far right, across the street, with Danny Harris
of the Gilchrist Block Club in the foreground.
This visit prompted me to write While Detroit Crumbled, Gilchrist Street Hung On.
I visit Gilchrist often because I’m still looking for something there. Me, I think.
As mentioned above, I have found my life to be chaotic as of
late. Pops is 88 and, after my mother died, I moved from Canada, where I lived for 35 years – taking out citizenship in the process – to take care of him. I’ve been in Sunrise, Florida, for the past 9 years. Some days are harder than others and on Friday I expressed my opinion to Pops at full volume.
Skip ahead to Sunday morning. I was still feeling remorseful that I lost my temper with Pops when I got an IM on Facebook from a name I didn’t recognize. She said she had lived on Fenmore. After exchanging a few messages it turns out I didn’t know her or her brother Randy at all. But then she asked me if I knew you.
I said “yes” and that you were one of my best friends growing up, and that I had been looking for you for years with no luck. Do you know how many Kenneth John Wilsons there are in this world? The internet was no help.
She told me you were a pastor in Ann Arbor, which I did not find surprising, considering our last encounter. However, what she told me next surprised me a great deal. She told me that you were the first person in Michigan to wed a same sex couple. I thought, “WAY TO GO, KENNY!!!” I am a long time supporter of the LGBT communities, believing they should have the right to marry in every state. Sadly I read today that all the Michigan marriages that happened in the interregnum are null and void. How sad for those people. How sad for love.
This book seems like a game-changer for evangelicals.
The internet was an immediate help in finding Pastor Kenneth Wilson, but I’ve still not confirmed you were the first to marry a same sex couple, or that you have actually wed any same sex couples. No matter. I have since read about your book ‘Letter to My Congregation’ and several interviews with you. It’s a brave stance.WAY TO GO, KENNY!!!
I have a hard time squaring that with the evangelicals I am always reading about. I know the squeaky wheel gets the ink, but I keep reading of evangelical hate for various factions of folk in this world, whether it’s The Gay, or the poor, or people of colour, or immigrants both documented and un. While the religion preaches love, there’s a whole lot of hate expressed quite openly. One shudders to think of what might be said in private.
Right after having this Facebook conversation I left for a drum circle. This is a new hobby/habit I’ve developed in the past year. It turns out that I still have no rhythm in my left hand, something I should have remembered when I tried to play guitar as a teenager. That’s why I was the singer in the band that Dean Donaldson drummed in; I couldn’t play an instrument. After 2 attempts at a drum circle I remembered that my left hand will simply not fire when I want it to. It’s pretty useless. However, I managed to find my niche within these drum circles by playing claves, which only needs one coordinated hand, while the other is passive.
What does this have to do with anything? Almost nothing, except this particular drum circle meets in Snyder Park, an oasis in the middle of a heavily industrial area of Fort Lauderdale. You would hardly know you were in the middle of a city. While in the park I took a panorama which I sent to my Facebookery with the caption “How pastoral.”
As I played the claves, and zoned out into the rhythm, I suddenly realized why the word “pastoral” came so readily to mind. By the time the drum circle had ended, I had already written parts of this email in my head.
So, what’s new with you?
Your childhood friend,
Marc Slootsky
P.S. I’m a writer and it looks like you are too. I’m planning on printing this email at the Not Now Silly Newsroom. Unless you expressly forbid otherwise, I plan to share your response, if there is one.

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Headly Westerfield
Headly Westerfield
Calling himself “A liberally progressive, sarcastically cynical, iconoclastic polymath,” Headly Westerfield has been a professional writer all his adult life.