Category Archives: Pastoral Letters

I Felt The Dream ► A Pastoral Letter

Brand new Mustangs as far as the eye can see

January 15, 2018

Dear Pastor Kenny:

Long time no write, but I thought of you a great deal yesterday and wanted to tell you all about it. For an Atheist like myself, it was certainly a very religious day.

However, first let me share some amazingly weird news, so the following makes more sense. Last year I blurted out to Miami District 2 Commissioner Ken Russell, a gent I have come to know over the last few years, that I loved his life story and wanted to be the one who writes it. He didn’t laugh.

We started kicking around a few ideas for a book — he shot down my original thought that we alternate chapters with “If you’re waiting for me to write something, you’ll be waiting forever.” — and finally came to an understanding: I’d write the whole damned thing. However, he agreed that it would be warts and all biography and I would have a free hand.

Then he announced he’s running for Congress in Florida’s 27th district, now considered one of this country’s districts to watch swing BLUE in 2018.

So, back to yesterday: Once a week — on the Lord’s Day — I meet with Ken and grill him on any topic that appeals to me for the book. However, yesterday he had a full day of ceremonial events, as well as looking after his 2 girls, something he does every Sunday while I interview him around their interruptions. I asked whether I could tag along and embed myself with him for the day. And, we’re off at the races.

First up was Three Kings Parade through Little Havana. I know you’ll get the reference, Ken, but for anyone reading over your shoulder, those are the 3 kings that brought gifts to baby Jesus. [I needed the explanation.] It’s one of the biggest parades in Miami.

Double parenthetically: If you don’t mind me saying so, those were very impracticable gifts for a child. Why not a rattle? Or, a brightly coloured mobile to hang in the manger?

Where was I?

I rode in the Commissioner’s car with his girls while he jumped in and out of the car to press the flesh. [Videos can be found on my Facebookery.] While the parade commemorated a religious event, there was little religiosity from out perspective, riding in a brand new Mustang convertible near the head of the parade with the other dignitaries.  Although Ken’s girls got to see the 3 camels when they went for a walk with Dad before it started. We never saw the parade.

As soon as we got to the finish line there was just enough time to find an Uber, find Ken’s car [made more difficult because the parade along Calle Ocho cut off the way back], drop off the girls at the babysitter, and rush back to Coconut Grove to attend the Martin Luther King, Jr., memorial at Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church, the oldest Black church in Miami. It was sponsored by the Coconut Grove Ecumenical Network and the Commissioner had been invited to speak.

The church was filled, with an overflow crowd watching on a monitor in the community room in the basement. As people filed in a piano player quietly tinkled some Gospel. Occasionally spontaneous singing would break out from one end of the room to the other as people recognize the tune. Then it would die down again.

Once the official program started, it was like a locomotive that just picked up steam as it approached the end. There was song, humour, several sermons, and the sound of Gospel and the message of Dr. King still fills my ears.

Brother Edward Leonard read the entire “I Have A Dream” speech. What a hard act to follow, but Mr. Leonard made every word sound new and important. Furthermore, it was amazing how much Dr. King’s words rubbed uncomfortably against some of the recent news events out of Washington, not to mention the comparative poverty of the West Grove.

However, I was most impressed with the final Message, delivered by Reverend Nathaniel Robinson, III. He used the Bible story of the lepers to make a connection with present times. “It was a skin problem” he said. The comparison to the colour of people’s skin and Racism was not lost on the congregation. “It was a skin problem” and they were not letting the skin problem define them.

I won’t even try to paraphrase the Pastor, because I would never do him justice. [I’ve looked for a video online and, believe me, Ken, if I find it I’m going to share it.] However, it was rousing enough that more than once I was on my feet applauding and shouting along with the congregation. I felt the dream.

I was so awestruck that I took no pictures or video. I became a participant, no longer a disinterested observer.

No offense, Ken, but you could use a little of that fire and brimstone in your sermons. Your sermons are pretty calming. Pastoral, if you will. There was nothing calm about Reverend Robinson and the congregation reacted appropriately.

Having said that, I have to commend you for your sentiments on the very same day. My Uncle Harry was Pops.

14 Jan 2018—Blue Ocean Faith Ann Arbor MLK Remarks from Blue Ocean Faith Ann Arbor on Vimeo.

I’m also so very proud of the political positions you’ve taken and how you’ve been encouraging your congregation, and your facefriends, to hector their elected representatives. I also like how you don’t tell them what position to take. Despite the simple fact that you believe in God and I don’t, our politics align almost perfectly.

All told our service lasted 3.5 hours, much longer than your’s. Nyah, nyah.

Just before it ended, I quietly slipped across the street to the Charlotte Jane Memorial Park Cemetery.  This is a place I have visited at least a hundred times. I’ve taken thousands of pictures of it all all hours of the day and night. At one time it was the only place that Black folk could be buried in Miami. The last time I visited the cemetery was in terrible shape. The grass had not been cut and was 3 feet high. Branches broken off by the fury of Hurricane Irma still littered the ground. After a small, quiet cry I sent out a video showing the disrepair the cemetery had fallen into.

You might call this a miracle, but I just call it good citizenship: A woman saw my video. She just happened to work in the Commissioner’s office and jumped onto the problem. She organized a crew of volunteers to get the cemetery cleaned up and now it looks as good as when I first discovered it almost a decade ago.


I never did publish your response to my last Pastoral Letter, even tho’ I promised I would Apologies. Here it is:

Marc, I read your pastoral letter on sin. But I can’t comment on the blog. can’t seem to log in the right way. Nothing unusual there. Couple of comments. I could stand to lose a few pounds also I look older than i think of myself on this side of my own eyeballs. So I guess my sin is vanity. But i think envy is the one most of us can cop to. Me for sure. It’s funny, I think I pretty much agreed with all your comments on sin. Either you’re a crappy atheist of I’m a crappy Christian–as we’re supposed to have big disagreements on sin, right? I think the traditional Christian emphasis on sin is all messed up and serves interests other than God’s or most people. It’s like Trump getting us all focused on something else so we stop paying attention to what matters. I’m guessing most of the things I might tend to feel guilty about aren’t that big a deal but the guilt distracts me from paying attention to things that are. I still eat meat knowing how much chickens and cattle suffer in the agri-business world. Why? Because I like the taste and can easily ignore their suffering. I thought you had a characteristically Jewish approach to sin which I generally trust more than the Christian approach. It’s more sensible, more human. But I’m just blathering now.

It’s never blathering, Ken. I’ve missed our communication. The book project has kept me from updating our Pastoral Letters. Hopefully, I’ll see you during what has become our yearly get together in 2018. Yet I know the primary season is going to be pretty hectic as I embed myself with the subject of my book. And, if the Commissioner wins the Democratic primary, I’ll be up to my ears in writing for the general in November.

However, we must catch up. The invitation is always open for you and your family to have a few days in the sun, but otherwise I might be in Motown in April. Let’s plan to hook up then.

Your childhood friend,
Marc Slootsky

The Sins of the Father ► A Pastoral Letter

Pastor Kenny Pastorizing his flock

Dear Pastor Kenny:

It was great seeing you last month, as unexpected as it was. Almost immediately after the Not Now Silly Newsroom officially announced there would be no Sunrise to Canton Road Trip for Research this year …. What’s that old Jewish expression? “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.”

Since God and I are not on speaking terms, I have absolutely no idea how He might have learned of my plans to stay home this year. Unless He reads my facebookery.

When I made my announcement, I obviously didn’t know that Hurricane Irma would force a Road Trip on me. However, by the time I finally made the decision to flee, Irma was headed straight for the condo as a Category 5. Originally, I was only going to go to as far as Pensacola to get out of her path. However, in the final analysis that wouldn’t have done any good. Irma curved to the west side of the state. I’d either have had to continue north or make a left in the panhandle and head west towards Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.

At the last minute, however, a facefriend of some years standing, whom I had never met, suggested we hightail it to Michigan, where he also has relatives. At first I resisted, then changed my mind. In the end that proved to be the least expensive option. Driving anywhere else would have required us to spring for hotel/motel fees, more meals in restaurants, and other accessories.

Talk about your synchronicity: It was only when I was finally in Ohio, traveling north along I-75, I asked Siri to call you. Siri didn’t know your number because it was in my old Windows Phone, where Cortana ruled the roost. Not long afterwards — at the very next rest stop, in fact — I opened up my facebookery and the top post on my timeline was one of your infrequent (compared to me) ones.

That’s when I facebooked you and we set up our time together. This year we spent more time together than any previous year. I especially enjoyed visiting the old neighbourhood with you:

FULL CONFESSION: I only really think of sin when I’m writing to you. Otherwise, I just carry on day to day without a single thought of eternal damnation whatsoever.

Of course, Jews don’t really believe in Heaven. Nor Hell. To bastardize Woody Allen’s joke: I’m a Reformed Jew. I’m so Reformed, I’m a Atheist.

♫ ♪ ♫ Knock, knock knockin’ on h— WAIT!!! WHAT???

Regardless, in “Heaven and Hell in Jewish Tradition“, at the Jewish Learning website, it says (among a bunch of other stuff worth reading):

What the next world is, however, is far from clear. The rabbis use the term Olam Ha-Ba to refer to a heaven-like afterlife as well as to the messianic era or the age of resurrection, and it is often difficult to know which one is being referred to. When the Talmud does speak of Olam Ha-Ba in connection to the afterlife, it often uses it interchangeably with the term Gan Eden (“the Garden of Eden”), referring to a heavenly realm where souls reside after physical death.

The use of the term Gan Eden to describe “heaven” suggests that the rabbis conceived of the afterlife as a return to the blissful existence of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden before the “fall.” It is generally believed that in Gan Eden the human soul exists in a disembodied state until the time of bodily resurrection in the days of the Messiah.

One interesting talmudic story, in which the World to Come almost certainly refers to a heavenly afterlife, tells of Rabbi Joseph, the son of Rabbi Joshua ben Levi, who dies and returns back to life.

“His father asked him, ‘What did you see?’ He replied, ‘I beheld a world the reverse of this one; those who are on top here were below there, and vice versa.’ He [Joshua ben Levi] said to him, ‘My son, you have seen a corrected world.’”

Ken, anything you can add to this internal discussion is always welcome, but it occurred to me a long time ago that I’m really writing to myself. These Pastoral Letters, as you know, are a self-examination of my spirituality, or — to put it into other terms — my relationship with a non-God.

Anyway, as I say, my mind jumps to sin at times like these. Having actually never done so, I decided to use Der Googleizer. Who knew there were so many kinds of sin?

There’s Mortal Sin,, when you’re going to straight to Hell, do not pass GO, do not collect $200. Venial Sin, in which you’re surely testing the limits of your relationship with God, but you know in the back of your mind that all you have to do is beg forgiveness, and BINGO! It’s a done deal. In fact, the same goes for Mortal Sins. That’s why confession is good for the soul. Because it lets one off the hook.

Then there are the Seven Deadly Sins, which is what people tend to think of when they think of sin. The WikiWackyWoo suggests the Seven Deadly Sins should not be confused with Mortal Sin. It adds:

The seven deadly sins, also known as the capital vices or cardinal sins, is a grouping and classification of Christian origin, of vices.[1] Behaviours or habits are classified under this category if they directly give birth to other immoralities.[2] According to the standard list, they are pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath and sloth,[2] which are also contrary to the seven virtues. These sins are often thought to be abuses or excessive versions of one’s natural faculties or passions (for example, gluttony abuses one’s desire to eat).

But later, just to confuse the issue, the Wiki also says:

The seven deadly sins in their current form are not found in the Bible, however there are biblical antecedents. One such antecedent is found in the Book of Proverbs 6:16–19, however only in the Masoretic Text (the earlier translated Septuagint version of this passage lacks a clear preface and lists only five). Among the verses traditionally associated with King Solomon, it states that the Lord specifically regards “six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto Him”, namely:[6]

  1. A proud (vain) look
  2. A lying tongue.
  3. Hands that shed innocent blood
  4. A heart that deviseth wicked acts
  5. Feet that be swift in running to mischief
  6. A false witness that speaketh lies
  7. He that soweth discord among brethren[7]

Another list,[8] given this time by the Epistle to the Galatians (Galatians 5:19–21), includes more of the traditional seven, although the list is substantially longer: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, “and such like”.[9] Since the apostle Paul goes on to say that the persons who practice these sins “shall not inherit the Kingdom of God”, such sins are usually listed as mortal sins (unless sufficient reflection and deliberate consent are not present) rather than capital vices.[10]

Who’s got time to keep track of all those sins? Especially the “and such like” category, in which you can lump just about anything? Instead, let’s (quickly) take the Cardinal Sins one by one.

  • Lust. Most people think this means “sex”, but there is lust for things as well: money, status, and respect. Personally, I lust after nice pieces of brass.Meanwhile, sexual lust can’t be evil. Otherwise, only a practical joker of a God would have hardwired it into us. It’s what one does with that sexual lust that can be evil — or illegal, for that matter.
  • Gluttony. This week I ate a quart of ice cream by myself, but for the most part I’m not a glutton, except for punishment.
  • Greed. The unfettered acquisition of money has never been one of my problems. In fact, had it been one of my problems, I’d have fewer problems.
  • Sloth. It comes and goes. I can be real lazy when I set my mind to it. But a sin? Not to me.
  • Wrath. I get angry, but can blow & go; get pissed off about something and then forget all about it after the volcano erupts. But, I never take it out on people that don’t deserve it, if that helps.Yet I also recognize that there are some people on my shit list that I will take pot shots at again and again, and never forgive.
  • Pride. Like jingoistic flag-waving? Not my problem. However, there’s some things I justifiably take pride in. Is it Foolish Pride? Just crank it up and D A N C E ! ! !

  • Envy.

Envy? You ask.

DING! DING!! DING!!! Oh yeah, that’s the one. I’ve long recognized it’s my biggest fault; my biggest sin.

Now, I’m not envious of people’s money, or the things they have acquired [see above]. I’m envious of people’s situations, which is really hard to explain. The story I told you about pretending to be on the Safety Patrol (way back when) must have been born from my envy of you.

Here’s how sick I really am (and I’m not talking about this vaguebooking): I have a dear friend, who happened to fit incredibly comfortably into a situation, due to an introduction I made. At the very same time a brass ring I had been reaching for receded well beyond my reach and was denied me. Thru’ the facebookery, I am forced to confront both of these things simultaneously. I should be happy for my friend for the former, but I am nothing but envious due to the latter.

Read “Facebook, the “spiral of envy,” and our Botox Life

Since I returned from Michigan, I even started to envy you, Ken.

As you know I offended one of your parishioners deeply. When I apologized and asked for her forgiveness, she replied that she had, but only because I’m an old friend of yours. I envy that relationship you have with her; instead of having her accuse me — in the same sentence — of both mansplaining and whitesplaining. She would never accuse you of Pastorsplaining. She would have listened.

I’ve always said that the most important thing to remember in discussions about race is that White folk need to listen when Black folks speak about Racism. I still believe that. They’re on the front lines. They have the experience(s). However, it wouldn’t hurt Black folks to listen once in a while. I may not be totally woke, but I’ve been wiping the sleep from my eyes about Race Relations since I was a teenager working in Pops’ store on 12th Street, now known as Rosa Parks Boulevard. I feel I have something to contribute to the discussion and to use terms like whitesplaining and mansplaining is not designed to have a dialogue, only to turn one into a pillar of salt.

TO BE FAIR: She was not wrong to be offended. I used an offensive word. But, here’s the thing, Ken: Pops never said “the N-Word” in his life. Pops said “nigger”. I’m not going to WHITEwash what Pops said, as ugly as it was. This is the titular “Sins of the Father“. I don’t let Pops off the hook just because he’s 1). Dead; 2). My father. Using the word when appropriate is just an extension of my essay, which predates our reunion, “A Reasoned Defense of the Word Nigger“. Furthermore, I see no contradiction in using the word and being sorry that I did.

If you think of it, Ken, please show this essay to her. Not to offend her all over again, because I truly fell in love with her. But, to offer her as much space in rebuttal as she’d like to take. I promise to print every word.

As always, the same goes for you.

I’ll sign off here, Ken, as this Pastoral Letter is long enough already. As they often do, this one went to places I never intended when I started and I’ve had enough self-examination for one day.

With all my love,
From your oldest friend in the world,

Marc Slootsky

Pastor Ken Replies ► A Pastoral Letter

Pastor Ken Wilson of the Blue Ocean Church, Ann Arbor, Michigan,
replies to What Is It All About?, my Pastoral Letter of last week.

An Atheist without guile, indeed.

Your Gilchrist memories triggered my own, for some reason, of a time I was in my parents attic–it must have been when they were moving out of the Detroit house to the Southfield apartment.

Under what they called “the eaves”, in the second floor attic remodeled as a master bedroom, was a box of letters. And the one that came to me like a bolt of revelation was one my father saved, written to him by a co-worker when he was a young up-and-comer in the insurance business.

My father, you may recall, was (what was the adjective you used that hit the  mark?….it will come to me…not curmudgenly, which I can’t spell, so glad it wasn’t that….but) irrascable (which I also can’t spell, be back in a minute after looking it up.)

[While Ken has wandered off, let me fill you in. On one of our yearly walks through his neighbourhood, Ken asked me what I thought of his father. I told him that his father reminded me of the fictional — and irascible — Mr. Wilson on Dennis the Menace. Back to Ken.]

Irascible: irritable, prone to anger. When you said that, btw, I thought, what a treasure to know someone who goes back so many years and could say what it is I saw as a judging young lad, irritated by my father’s chronic irascibility.

It was the perfect word, because it dignified his anger. That was it: he was prone to anger….and what I didn’t know at the time was that he had been in the worst mortar shelling to date in WW2, November 11 1944 (four years before my oldest sister was born, and Veterans Day to boot.) His nervous system was assaulted as he ran through a field of exploding shells–one that took two guys on either side of him out as they scrambled for cover at the base of a tree.

Had I misremembered? Was he really just normally irritable? Was my memory too harsh? No…..Marc knew. Mr. Wilson was irascible. And now, I can spell that word. So thank you.

But back to my attic memory. The letter I pulled out of the cardboard box of letters knew a different Glen than the irascible man we knew. The writer of the letter was marveling at what a talented salesman my father was: Smart, funny, fun to be around, a real rising star in the world of business. Which never happened.

Nazi soldiers launching mortar attacks on the Eastern Front

The PTSD that no one even knew to name back then — anything less than total “shell shock” went virtually undiagnosed and untreated — caught up with him, I guess, and irascibility took hold. I could use a few of your tears to shed over that. All those damning thoughts — why do you have to be so grumpy all the time? Make everyone around you walk on eggshells? — just born of [childhood] ignorance.

Nobody knew what he was going through, least of all the man going through it. Note to self: distrust damning thoughts.

Yeah, and that milkshute. OK how do you spell that? Milkschute? Milkchute? Milk chute? There it is. And memories of shining dad’s shoes down in that back door area, what did we call that? Basement landing? Something. Give me a memory hand here it was called something in particular. The little depressed area where the front door opened into was the “vestibule” I think. What was that little area going from the kitchen to the back door and/or downstairs?

[We called it the “back landing”, Ken. Our front entryway was also called the vestibule. Where did we get these crazy, elitist notions?]

And your going through so many years of accumulation, time detritus, aka memory holders…..makes me glad, and a little sad, that all the stuff my kids pitched after Nancy Rozell died. She was a bit of a pack rat. They ordered up a huge — no, I can’t use that word anymore until after the Impeachment — a very large dumpster, and in a week’s worth of steady work cleared the place of all those memory holders. And now i wish I had a little more of that crap.

So suck the memories out of every last object, I say! What’s the rush?

See? You got me talking. An Atheist (with Israelite roots) in whom there is no guile indeed. With so many of our sleazy ideas of God so, literally, God-Damnably idolatrous, I say Atheism is a step, at the very least, in the right direction. We could all use a good dose of Atheism these days to get us closer to whatever God is or Isn’t.

Ken Wilson is the author of
A Letter to my Congregation, which
this Atheist believes is an important book.

This letter edited lightly and slightly for clarity,
with as few interjections as I could muster.

What Is It All About? ► A Pastoral Letter

Hate on the hoof

Dear Pastor Kenny:

Reconnecting after 45 years apart (and linking up on the facebookery) has been a blessing, if you don’t mind this Atheist appropriating a religious term.

Watching your growing politicization since we renewed our friendship in November of 2014 has been a wonderment to behold.

Certainly your walk in the desert began before we rediscovered each other, when you started the thinking that led to the research, which resulted in your writing A Letter To My Congregation. You ran headlong into church and LGBT politics after it was published in book form.

Soon after we reconnected, church politics ran headlong into you and you were fired from the church that started in your living room 45 years ago. Though you believed your congregation was ready, they kicked you to the curb because you had the audacity to enter the 21st century by advocating for a full embrace of LGBT folk in church life.

You do realize they pray to the same God you do, right? How can you all be right, Ken?

I was surprised (and honoured) when you read my email and drew Biblical parables in the very last sermon you gave from that pulpit.

In that 2014 sermon you preached:

So Jesus finds Philip and Philip finds Nathaniel and Jesus sees something in Nathaniel at a distance and names it.

Despite Nathaniel’s snarkiness, which he doesn’t name, Jesus calls Nathaniel, a “true Israelite in whom there is no guile (or deceit.)”. Which reminded every Israelite true or not of their founding father, Jacob, who was renamed Israel, speaking of new names.

Jacob-Israel (like Peter-Cephas) had to undergo a transformation from the one who cheated his brother Esau out of his inheritance into a brother without deceit, without guile.  And Nathaniel represents that transformation. Sitting under the fig tree (which might have been Israel’s national tree) maybe praying or studying Torah, maybe updating his FB status “SEEKING A RELATIONSHIP”

Again, Jesus sees something in Nathaniel that maybe he didn’t see in himself until Jesus named it. Maybe Nathaniel was the ignored kid in school, the one no Rabbi would call to be his dis iple, because he didn’t have much promise. Maybe Nathaniel half believed that about himself but didn’t buy it fully.

Jesus comes along and names the thing about Nathaniel that Nathaniel most wants to be, a true Israelite in whom there is no guile. And when Jesus speaks it, Nathaniel says, “Yes, Lord!”

I aspire to be the true Atheist without guile. But that’s another story altogether.

Anyway, I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know, Ken, but thought my readers might appreciate the back story before I move onto new stuff.

Through the facebookery I’ve been able to follow your latest political awakening, especially your grassroots agitating following the last election.

I love how you have been urging your facefriends to get involved in the political process.

Not just exhorting them, but you have been providing folks with concrete information on how to contact their representatives in Washington and Lansing. As well, you’ve shared phone apps that make it easier to do so and provided updates of your own experiences, letting people know how simple it is to get involved. Then you give positive feedback and affirmation for those that do.

Here’s why I marvel: You’re not giving people your point of view. You’re not pontificating for or against any candidate or party. You’re not telling people how to vote or which side God is on.

You are merely asking folks to get involved. To make their feelings known. To no longer be silent about issues that affect them directly. You are doing this in a (mostly) bipartisan, secular, non-denominational, non-aligned, intersectional way. Here are some one recent examples:

I’m not like you, Ken. I tend to wear my political affiliation (and heart) on my sleeve. There’s no mistaking where I stand on any given issue. However, we’re both working toward the same end: a better world for those that follow.

I’ve been thinking a lot about you for another reason, Ken, because I’ve been thinking a lot about Gilchrist Street lately. As you know I’ve been downsizing the stuff in the condo. Mom & Pops lived here for 40 years. They never threw anything away and collected a lot of crap in that time. Every cupboard, closet, and drawer was filled to the brim.

It’s been exhausting work — physically yes, but especially emotionally. It’s been a much harder process than I thought it would be when I started and it’s taking a lot longer than I planned. There’s something to be said for my sisters’ suggestions that they come down in a blitz and help me tear off the bandage quickly. I declined in order to do it myself, so I only have my own self to blame.

Funny story: Even though I’ve lived here almost 12 years, there were many places I never looked into because they weren’t mine. They were Pops’. During the clear-out I have found some absolutely wonderful things.

Frinstance: In the very back of a desk drawer that held staplers, paperclips, and envelopes, I discovered a bag folded over many times, which contained the most amazing family ephemeral: Love letters and postcards Pops sent my mother when he was training to be a gunner during WWII. The salutation “Kiss the baby for me” referred to my oldest sister Brenda, who was newly born.

Naturally something like that would make me tear up, but some very bizarre items have also managed to start the waterworks.

In a junk drawer in Pops’ room (now my room) I found (when it still did the job for which it had been intended) a small wooden drawer 5″ x 3″ x 9″ deep. It would have come from a wall of drawers in a large cabinet, like in an old timey hardware store. On the front is a brass holder for a cardboard label, the curved bottom of which also doubled as the pull.

I never knew it as such. Here’s what I remember about the very first day I first saw it. I don’t know where my mother got the drawer, but she was repurposing it. She got some kind of paint (early ’60s) that allowed her to streak it so it looked like wood grain. I saw it immediately after it was painted, when it was still tacky, and thought she was a magician. It looked EXACTLY like real wood grain to my child’s eyes. Now I can see how poorly it resembles real wood.

Recently you and I had a FB conversation about the milk chutes on Gilchrist next to the back door. This small drawer was repurposed to hang from in the back hall on Gilchrist, right across from the milk chute. The bottom was nailed to the wall, with the face toward the floor, and it held the family’s Bills Payable.

I sobbed on and off for 2 days after I found it and I don’t know why this affected me more than Pops’ love letters.

Even though I’m trying to downsize, I find that can’t throw it out. Therefore, I’m repurposing it as a holder for the television remote controls.

So, what’s new with you?

Your childhood friend,
Marc Slootsky

My Father Who Art In Heaven ► A Pastoral Letter

Dear Pastor Kenny:

Thank you so much for the book. It was on my doorstep when I arrived home. I was locked out when I got here (long story), so I read it and finished it while waiting for the locksmith. It brought me to tears, but many things do these days. My emotions are still raw.

It is a wonderful book which I will now recommend to others who have just lost a loved one.

It was also wonderful for you and Julia to come to Pops’ Shiva on Sunday. It meant so much to me. Aside from the fact that you were the only friend of mine to be invited, it somehow closed a loop that began when we met on Gilchrist Street 59 years ago.

[And, it was just slightly subversive to have a pastor and a priest in a clerical collar at the most solemn of Jewish gatherings.]

Fifty-nine years is a very long time, but a mere blink of the eye in the scheme of things. I wonder if we had not lost touch for most of that time whether we would still be friends. We seem to share views on politics and social justice. Our only major disagreement is about God.

While I am far more opinionated than I was about most issues, I am less intolerant of other people’s belief systems than I’ve ever been. I can’t say I always understand them, but I don’t rail against them; only the hypocrisy that occasionally accompanies them. [See: Evangelicals for Trump]

All this week during evening Shiva services I wore the yarmulke and stood at the appropriate times. I went along with the program in a “When in Rome” manner. However, I did not pick up the prayer book, nor did I mouth the words even though I remembered so many of them from childhood. I’ve identified as Atheist for a number of years, so it feels hypocritical to mouth words I don’t believe in.

Kenny, why is my head so much smaller than yours?

There was a time, Ken, when I did say the words, even if I didn’t feel them. But one day the that light bulb went on and I have never been able to turn it off. Yes, brother, I have seen the light. Hallelujah!!! No more hypocrisy for me. [If only!]

Yet, there are times I discover — or, as is more likely, people point it out to me — that I have said, or done, something hypocritical. I can’t proceed until I’ve made amends (if needs be) or examined my hypocrisy from every conceivable angle. Only then do I feel I can forgive myself for being a hypocrite.

Forgiveness is a big part of your religion, Kenny, and I marvel at the ability to forgive others. This is something I find extremely difficult to do, if not downright impossible, when I have been wronged by someone.

As you know my writing and research has taken me into a unique Black neighbourhood in Coconut Grove. Through that I have met priests and pastors, military men and women, and older folk who have lived through many of the years of our racist country’s racist past (not that racism has ended by any means). One question I ask over and over again is where do they find the compassion and empathy to forgive those who have wronged them. They’ve all said the same thing, if not with the same exact words: Our religion, our God, our belief in Jesus instructs us, compels us, reminds us to forgive.

That whole God thing must be pretty powerful if it can be used as both a shield and a sword against the hate directed their way.

Where am I going with this? 

Just as I was leaving Michigan I had a massive blow-up with one of my sisters. It came as I was trying to get over the hump of our last blow-up, which happened almost exactly 1 year ago. We’ve barely spoken since then because she started last year by saying “You may never talk to me again after I say this, but…”

I decided I would let her be right and I was totally comfortable with that. I won’t be verbally abused by anybody, even — or especially — my own sister.

However, what made me decide to circle the square was 2 things: First, all week during evening Shiva services God, family, and forgiveness were all mentioned several times. I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but it started to penetrate my thick skull.

However, it was a story a gentleman told me after Shiva services one night that made me decide to make amends. Here’s his story in a nutshell:

Years ago when this gent (who is our age) was just a young man, he learned he had an aunt he never knew about and no one ever spoke of. It was his mother’s sister. So he decided he was going to find her and reach out to her. Eventually he discovered a woman in Florida with the right name, but it was a relatively common Jewish name.

He called her up and said, “I’m so-and-so and my mother is so-and-so and you may be my aunt.”

The woman started screaming at him, “No! I’m not her! I don’t know who you are talking about! And, don’t ever call me again!!!” She hung up on him.

However, during this time he also discovered he had a cousin about his own age and reached out to him. As it turned out the woman in Florida was his aunt after all.

So the cousin, thrilled to have reconnected with a long-lost relative, called his mother and told her about this. Then he asked if she could send him some of his boyhood pictures so he could show them to my storyteller. His mother agreed to send the pictures, but told her own son never to contact her again!!!

This incident that had occurred decades earlier — which was apparently over who would get to wear a fancy dress when they were children — was still fracturing the family.

It was this story, far more than the religious services, that made me decide to make up with my own sister. Who needs this kind of strife in one’s life?

My conversation with my sister went sideways immediately. In less than a minute we were screaming at each other. My sister was purposely hateful, hurtful, and abusive. Getting nasty in a fight — fighting to wound as opposed to to arguing to get to a mutually agreeable point — seems to be my sister’s comfort zone when things are not going her way. She brings a bazooka to a spitball fight.

She attacked me in several ways that would have shocked you had you heard it. It certainly shocked the accidental ear-witnesses, of which there were two. And, it shocked me that she would ‘go there’ again because it obviously wasn’t enough that she said some of the same shit last year when she abused me.

One of the very first things she said was “You are throwing away a perfectly good sister.” Aside from the fact that she was really throwing herself out with that statement (because, remember, I was attempting to make up), she felt the need to say it several times. Finally I said, “Then you must be garbage if I am throwing you out.”

It didn’t get any better from there. When she stormed out she said, “Have a nice life” and I certainly plan on it. And, it may even be nicer without her in it.

Forgiveness? Nope. I don’t have it in me even though it was one of Pops’ fervent wishes that all of us sibs get along.

IRONY ALERT!!! One of her bones of contention is that I did not accept her apology from a year ago. But her apology was “I love you. I’m sorry we had a fight,” which I took as a non-apology apology.

First, we didn’t have a fight. She abused me on the phone and I took it silently with tears streaming down my cheeks. Secondly, a real apology takes ownership of one’s words and/or actions. There was no ownership of how she had hurt me and she even made me a party to it by describing it as a fight. It was not a fight.

However, one of the things she yelled about yesterday was how when I was apologizing to her, I added a “but.” But, here’s the deal: I wasn’t apologizing. I never said the words “I’m sorry”. I said, “We’re good, but if you ever talk to me again like you did last December, we’re not good ever again.” In fact, that was my opening statement to bury the hatchet.

In fact, that’s what sent her spinning.

To her that was a failed apology because it added a “but” and apologies don’t come with a “but.” She’s right about that. She’s just wrong about it having been an apology.  I wasn’t apologizing. I was drawing a line in the sand.

I have nothing I feel the need to apologize for. I said nothing either time that I want to take back or make apologies for. If she’s being honest with herself, she cannot say the same thing.

IRONY ALERT #2: During our fight yesterday, with her trying to hold back tears because she was suddenly playing victim after having just verbally abused me, she actually offered a rationale for her behaviour last year and all it would have needed was an “I’m sorry” attached to it and I would have accepted it without reservation. I know how to do that.

IRONY ALERT #3: And, maybe a smidgen of hypocrisy on my part. One of the things I threw at her yesterday was how after our fight of a year ago, she called up all kinds of people to tell her side of the story; something that I didn’t do because it was nobody’s business. She aired this dirty laundry to family and friends. When I tossed this out yesterday she tried to deny it, but I started rattling off the names of people she told because I heard all about it from several of them. What I don’t know is how many people she told and how I was made to be the villain.

My hypocrisy is that I just shared this latest fight with the entire world or, more accurately, anyone who reads this article.

Ken and Julia found each other after the untimely
deaths of their own spouses. A wonderful love story.

One saving grace is that she may read this post and recognize how her behaviour last year and yesterday was over all lines of decency. If so, she may offer an apology. I have never refused a real apology. However, I will still have my line in the sand.

Bottom line, Kenny, is one of these days you will have to teach me all about this forgiveness thing. It seems like a pretty powerful thing and something I still need to learn.

However, while I am still upset over yesterday’s fight (in which I did participate, unlike last year) I know I will grow comfortable with where it sits because I have been here before with her and not just last year.

Have a Merry Christmas, Kenny, and give my love and deep regards to Julia. Maybe my next time in Michigan we can go visit the old neighbourhood together. And, maybe I can get you and Julia down here to Florida sometime. I’d love to show you Coconut Grove, which is the where the social justice issues I am writing about reside. In fact, some missionaries recently showed up to help with the fight for social justice in West Grove. I know, right?

Forgive this paraphrase, but “Social justice is the reason for the season.”

Talk to you in 2017: The Year We Fight Fascism.

Where Does The Magic Go When The Magic Goes Away? ► A Pastoral Letter

Dear Pastor Kenny: 

SPOILER ALERT: I firmly believe that due to the immutable laws of physics and the Laws of the Universe, the magic never really goes away. Here’s why:

If you recall, in my last Pastoral Letter I had just been Pastorized after visiting you in Ann Arbor on this year’s version of my yearly road trip.

[For readers just tuning in: Pastor Ken Wilson is my oldest friend on the planet. A capsule chronology: When I moved into my house on Gilchrist Street at the age of 5, Kenneth John Wilson was the first kid I met. He lived catercorner across the street and we grew up together. We lost touch after he visited me in Canada at the age of 18-19 when he tried to sell me on Jesus. Over the years (especially after Al Gore invented the internet /snark) I tried to find him. Do you know how many Ken Wilsons there are in the world? Adding his middle name didn’t help much.

Until I located him a few years back, I didn’t know he became Pastor of the church he started in his living room in Ann Arbor. Nor did I know that after 45 years he wrote a book called A Letter To My Congregation, which argues for the full acceptance and loving embrace of LGBTQ communities into the life of the church. I consider it a very important book, which is why I provide the Amazon link. Buy it and read it.

I began writing these Pastoral Letters after we found each other again.]

Coincidentally, Connections is one of
my favourite Tee Vee documentaries,
finding synchronicity in the universe.

Ken, when I visited in August, I asked you the question that had been on my mind during all those miles on the road. What is the answer when Jesus is not the answer? Your reply was a single word: Connections.

I’ve been thinking about that a lot ever since.

How is it that you chose the one thing I seem to be the worst at? Maintaining connections has been a struggle for me since — well, since you and I lost touch in 1972. Time and time again I’ve lost friends as I have moved through ome phase of my life after another. Not just lost friends, but have jettisoned entire groups of friends all at once, as I burned bridges behind me.

Once, a couple of decades back, there was a group of us that always got together on the weekend. We had done so through the years as we all acquired spouses and moved to new houses. We’d meet at one house, or another, and each week I’d always call around to find out where.

One week I decided not to call to see if anyone called me. I’m still waiting. There is an entire clique I stopped connecting with overnight. I have other stories like that.

I’m rambling, Ken, because I know what I want to say, but I’m not sure of the exact words that will get me there. Rather than continue to spin off on tangents and tell you in all the ways I’m bad at keeping connections, let’s just stipulate I am.

I’ve been thinking about CONNECTIONS ever since we spoke. It occurred to me recently (because there are times my brain is very slow to make even the simplest of connections) that connections could also mean synchronicity, which I’ve written about. The interconnectivity of the Universe.

Late last year, after an adulthood of being an atheist, I started believing in something bigger than myself: MAGIC. And then I didn’t anymore.

Where does the magic go when the magic goes away?

Recently I had a conversation with the magical person in my life where we decided to call it quits. She said, among other things, that she found it hard to keep up the connection. I wish I were making that up, Ken, but that’s the exact word she used.

From the actual police report

During the same conversation I told her that I thought I could identify the exact moment the magic disappeared. It was late October. I was returning home from a productive day of research in Coconut Grove, a 35 mile drive. To pass the time, as we had done so many times before, she accompanied me on the trip. I called her when I left Miami and we talked about everything, anything, and nothing on the phone all the way up I-95 and across I-595, and up Nob Hill Road.

I was about a mile from home when a teenager made a right turn on a red light and ran right into the side of the car. I wasn’t hurt, but the car was a write-off.

That’s the last moment I could remember feeling the magic. A lot has happened since then, and so little of it’s been good. Actually, none of it’s been good, unless you count me saving Pops’ life, but that’s another story entirely.

Irony alert, Ken. After my magician and I had our recent conversation, I remembered I had actually written about that moment in one of my Pastoral Letters, of all places. I went back to read what I had written. And, that’s when the light bulb FINALLY went on. [As I said above: I am often the last one to make a connection.]

I am just guessing, Ken, but I think I can identify the exact moment she stopped feeling the magic. That would have happened when she read Before and After Synchronicity, another one of my Pastoral Letters. I published it very soon after the accident. I had been working on it for a long time. I finally decided to rush it to completion, maybe before it was even ready. Probably before it was ready.

I say that because in that post, in my fumbling to find the right words to express the magic I had been feeling, I offhandedly used the term “mumbo jumbo” more than once as a way to express what I used feel about deep spirituality, a force beyond my limited understanding, but one that I was finding myself opening up to despite myself. [In a run-on sentence.]

What I was REALLY saying (in my clumsy way) is that prior to meeting that extraordinary woman, I didn’t believe in that mumbo jumbo. After stating that, I then listed all the magical synchronicity that brought us together. All these things had me doubting what I had previously believed, or non-believed, as the case may be.

And, as for my loose language I am truly sorry. It came off in a way I never meant it to and I have only myself to blame because I didn’t choose my words wisely.

However, if I am right about this, I also think I am owed an apology. Rather than tell me her feelings had been hurt, and why, the magician kept it to herself and allowed it to eat at her. Furthermore, I was never given a chance to explain, to clarify, to make amends.

I should have seen it. I felt her pulling away, but I put it down to the holiday season. I even remarked once that she felt distant, and as proof I pointed to Facebook, which had already noticed she was not coming up in those algorithms that show who you are close to and who is close to you.

And, more than once, when I expressed something magical she would ask, “But what about the mumbo jumbo” and I would explain again how everything I had once believed had been turned on its head. In other words, while I didn’t know what it was, it was no longer mumbo jumbo.

And then one day the magic was gone. I could no longer rouse in her those feelings that I once had, which led to a disappointing visit to Toronto in August and a more disappointing conversation recently, where it was decided that we pull the plug.

That’s when I started to ask, “Where does the magic go when the magic goes away?”

Then, on the very day I began this post (and it can sometimes take me weeks to get these thoughts down the way I want them, I took another one of those Facebook quizzes that use your algorithms:

That’s when I realized that due to the immutable laws of physics and the Laws of the Universe, the magic never really goes away. Either that or the Universe has a really sick sense of humour.

But, I have talking to the crows again.

And, it has not gone unnoticed that I am publishing this on Yom Kippur.

If you’ve liked anything you’ve read at the Not Now Silly Newsroom,  please consider donating to my Go Fund Me campaign to Support Investigative Journalism. My Freedom of Information requests from the City of Miami are beginning to add up, not to mention all the other costs of researching systemic racism and corruption in Coconut Grove.

Don’t Give Up The Fort ► A Pastoral Letter

One block south of 8 Mile is the intersection of Gilchrist Street and Hessel Avenue

Like what you read here? Help support the
Not Now Silly Newsroom at Go Fund Me

Dear Pastor Kenny:

Remember the fort we built in the backyard behind my garage on Gilchrist?

I distinctly remember scrounging some of the lumber for it from the excavation ditch that later became the Southfield Freeway. I can’t remember who was with me that day, you or Dean Donaldson, but if it was you, it’s safe to admit it. The statute of limitations on that crime has long expired.

It was a pretty sweet fort, as I remember. With the liberated plywood as a roof and walls, it was water-tight when it rained. We spent a fair amount of time hanging out in there, but I spent more. There were many times I’d sit in the fort reading comic books. It became my refuge away from my sisters. As you may remember, I had 4.

My old backyard showing the room my father added to the
back of the house, taken on August 2, 2016. The first thing I
noticed was that the cherry tree next to the garage was no longer
there. It was beautiful in the spring and you could sit on the
garage in the sunshine and pick cherries all the doo dah day.

Did you ever wonder why we still don’t have that fort to sit within and ponder the world?

I destroyed it in a fit of pique.

My parents were bothered by the mess we left behind and ordered me to clean it up. I walked across the street and tried to get you and Dean to help me. Neither of you could be bothered, so I decided the fort had to go. With tears in my eyes, and filled with childish rage, I ripped it apart within minutes, demonstrating how shoddy we were at fort building and how I can, at times, be my own worst enemy.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

In the last 8 months my life has been on a metaphoric fort busting bender, until I find myself beached here 13 miles from the beach — right back where I started.

Don’t give up the fort.

Just when things seemed at their lowest ebb, I hastily prepared another of my epic Road Trips to visit Pops. Knowing we’d meet again on my swing through Michigan, I had a lot of time to think over what I wanted to ask you during all of that driving. I was telling my friends along the way, most of whom have read my previous Pastoral Letters, that I was going to see you again. Most of them also knew of my troubles of late. I started to make the joke that with all that was going on in my life, I needed to be Pastor-ized.

Your house still looks picture perfect, Ken

I had hoped to meet you in our old neighbourhood, where your house still looks picture perfect. However, time constraints meant we only had a small time together and I was on vacation, for the most part. I didn’t mind traveling to Ann Arbor to meet you.

I wanted to share everything that occurred since the beginning of the year, but we certainly didn’t have time for that, so I shared the highlights lowlights — including the heartbreak I experienced just days earlier in Toronto. I even told you the joke above about needing Pastor-ization. Then I popped the question that had been on my mind since I left Florida. It started as a far more complex question, but during all those miles on the road it became simpler and simpler until I boiled it down to 10 words:

“What is the answer when Jesus is not the answer?”

Your answer was very Zen: Connections.

I am still processing what that means for me. I’ve come to the conclusion that not all connections are real connections. Nor do I really want to be connected to all those who are connected to me. The contradiction is that my writing at the Not Now Silly Newsroom, as well as my oversized presence on the facebookery and Twitterverse is all about making connections to many people I have no real connection with. Heavy, eh?

On my most recent road trip in front of my
former Kensington Market house on Nassau

IRONY ALERT: The person/place I truly wanted an improved and stronger connection with has gone cold and I have no idea how to rekindle it.

Ken, your other suggestion — to get back to Drum Circles — is a good one. Pops’ hospitalization kept me busy since early June, and there was no time. One of my favourite ones is tomorrow. It’s the monthly Drum Circle where I actually composed most of my first Pastoral Letter to you. However, here’s another contradiction: I’m not a joiner.

Speaking of joiners, I have always . . . what’s the correct word — envied? coveted?– someone who has a God to believe in. When life turns to shit, there’s an entity to pray to. Atheists don’t have that. Without those connections of which you speak, I’ve got to tough it out on my own.

The last time I believed in something bigger than myself was, in reality, not all that long ago. It was only last year and I wrote about it in a previous Pastoral Letter which I titled Before and After Synchronicity. Now I’m not sure if what I believed was real. It all seemed so right and this feels so wrong.

I no longer know what to tell the crows.

I hope it’s not another year before we see each other again, Kenny, but I expect it will be. In the meantime, feel free to reply. I told you that I write these more for myself than for getting a reply. However, this time I’d love to read your thoughts.

Your childhood friend,
Marc Slootsky

Kicking 2015 to the Curb ► The Ultimate Throwback Thursday

As we all look forward to a New Year, some highlights before all the sand runs out of this one:


Maybe I was just asking for trouble, but I began 2015 by . . .

While I thought these crazy cyber-bullies were finally vanquished, just recently “Angie Simmoril” — who hides behind a wall of complete anonymity — popped up again to promise big doings on the Aurelius Project for the beginning of 2016. While I had almost forgotten The Flying Monkey Squad existed, this is simply more proof that an obsessed crazy person never really goes away — unless they die, which is really what I thought had happened with Grayhammy.

Watch this space.


I wrote so many stories about Coconut Grove this year, but most of them were about the Coconut Grove Playhouse and its surrounding parking lots. That meant I spent a lot of time in parking lots this year, and the year before, while I did research in the field, as it were:

When I agreed to drive a car at this year’s King Mango Strut, little
did I know it would be the one with Ken Russell doing yo-yo tricks


My campaign to SAVE THE E.W.F. STIRRUP HOUSE not only led to all those stories on the Coconut Grove Playhouse — which is catercorner to it — but also got me deeper then ever into District 2 politics. That led to a series of stories about [allegedly] corrupt Miami Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff, which naturally led to that time When Miami Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff Lied To My Face.

When the term-limited Sarnoff put up his wife Teresa to run in his place for District 2 Commissioner, I started following the election closely. My first foray in covering the candidates didn’t go so well. Jammed For Time tells the story of getting thrown out of the Grace Solaris campaign kickoff. That didn’t auger well for the rest of the Commissioner race. As far as I knew the rest of the field would treat me similarly. Luckily, none of them did. All were gracious about answering questions and posing for pictures. That provided a number of stories, the best of which are:

Interview With District 2’s Ken Russell

During the race several of the candidates agreed to talk to me, allowed me to accompany them on door knocks, let me sit in on private meetings and phone calls, and gave me some very interesting inside skinny on the donation process. All of this was done on an OFF THE RECORD basis, to be embargoed until after the election. I’m still processing my notes and recordings to see what kind of story I can get out of it.
To be continued.


As much of a political junkie as I am, I’ve been mainlining what’s been going on in the presidential race. While I’ve not written specifically about Donald J. Trump, I have created a number of memes currently whizzing around the innertubes. Collect ’em all. Trade ’em with your friends.

However, I have covered the joke that is some of the rest of the current GOP field, and some previous races:


Late last year I reconnected with my childhood friend Kenneth John Wilson. Ken, who is an evangelical pastor in Ann Arbor, Michigan, has written a very important book on LGBT acceptance in the church. I started following his extraordinary story and began a series of Pastoral Letters to him. Occasionally he replies, but I am writing then more to understand my mind than his.

I’ve started another Pastoral Letter, but it will be a while before I get all my thoughts in order.


I began my research into Coconut Grove years ago at the E.W.F. Stirrup House. While there’s not been that much to write about on that issue over the last year — because almost nothing has changed — that doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten all about Gino Falsetto, the rapacious developer who got his grimy hands on the historic structure:

I’m also prepping a new story on the E.W.F. Stirrup House.  It’s almost half written. Stay tuned. Watch this space. Coming to a browser near you.

This year I also bonded with Fox’s Campaign Carl Cameron


My fascination/revulsion with the Fox “News” Channel continues, which is how I picked up Johnny Dollar as an enemy in the first place. No matter. For the last year I’ve written a Friday Fox Follies for PoliticusUSA website, continued to run Fox Follies and Fallacies, over at the facebookery. However . . .

. . . sums up my attitude whenever I encounter a Fox “News” spouting parrot.


This year I took 2 marathon road trips, both more than 3,000 miles from door to door. These are just some of the posts these road trips generated:


Before the road trips I stopped aggregating the Headlines Du Jour. It took several hours 3 days a week and it was a trap, without any achival value. When I got back from the road trips I began two brand new series. Launching Throwback Thursday with The Westerfield Journals was one and Monday Musical Appreciation the other. I’m quite proud of both of these series. In both these series I am highlight some of the lesser-known history-makers.


One of the things I’ve been accused of over the years is name-dropping. I plead guilty and throw myself on the mercy of the internet. What’s the penalty? Izzit just a fine or jail time?

No matter. Exhibit A and B as evidence against me this year:

Those are just some of the highlights from the last year. No one knows what 2016 will hold for the Not Now Silly Newsroom, but I’ll be writing it from Toronto. More specifically, Kensington Market. It felt so good in September, I’m going to do it all over again. To that end, I’ve launched a Go Fund Me to help defray my moving expenses. It’s amazing how much stuff I’ve accumulated in the last decade. Help me get back to Toronto:


Before and After Synchronicity ► A Pastoral Letter

A reading assignment from Pastor Ken Wilson.

Dear Pastor Kenny: I began this Pastoral Letter several weeks ago and have been tinkering with it ever since, trying to get it right. Then came the car crash. That’s why this essay is bifurcated into Before & After; before my accident and after.


It’s been well over a month since my last Pastoral Letter and almost 2 months since I received your response. I have so much to tell you that I barely know where to begin.

It hardly seems like a year since I rediscovered you and wrote the first of my Pastoral Letters, which I called Finding An Old Friend. It was slotted under the Unpacking The Writer rubric because little did I know at the time it would become another series in the Not Now Silly Newsroom. I don’t know how they’re working out for you, but they sure are helping me. Being forced to turn what’s firing through my neurons into words, helps me get my thoughts straight on these weighty matters.

First let me thank you (I think) for your reading assignment and sending me “Changing Our Mind” by David P. Gushee. (I have so many books on my “to be read” shelf, that the last thing I needed was a reading assignment.) I’ve yet to crack it open, other than to look at the chapter titles, making special note of Chapter 20, Ending the Teaching of Contempt, the one concerning anti-Semitism that you felt I should read. However, I’ll be reading the whole thing.

In your last Pastoral Letter, which I called a Pastor Kenny Responds (in lieu of a better title), you said: 

One of the things I’d forgotten was just how racist things were growing up. You reminded me what it was like to grow up Jewish— and it all came rushing back, the horrible jokes about Jews, and Blacks, and Poles, and well, non WASPS. I remember being warned by someone not to attend a Catholic Mass because they spoke Latin and you didn’t know whether they were saying bad stuff or not.

It made me feel ashamed. Using the N-word was strictly forbidden in my family. Same with anti-Jewish rhetoric. But talk of “Injuns,” “Krauts” and “Japs” was tolerated. Now I’m ashamed. But I was also ashamed because of my forgetting. Forgetting how bad the Christian participation in anti-Semitism was in that era.

Back in college I edited the school’s alternative paper
(ie: the one not put out weakly weekly by the Journalism
students). This was the cover of our Revelations issue.

While I never participated in racial denigration growing up — perhaps because of my Jewish upbringing or the fact that Pops had a store on 12th Street, where I got to know a lot of Black folk — I have my own shame over the names I called people in the LGBT communities back then. I console myself with the notion that it was a different time and I simply did not know any better.

My children were taught to know better, which is one of the ways with which we CAN change the world. And, that reminds me of a story:

One day my youngest son and I were walking down the street when he was about 8 or 9. Suddenly he yelled, “LOOK, DAD! A FAGGOT!!!”

Just as I was about to blast him for using such an awful word, I looked at where he was pointing. There, waiting for trash pick-up, was a bundle of sticks. How can you not like word play like that from a child? He now owns a successful restaurant in Toronto.

Ken, you also told me:

I must say I have been honored by your interest in my little LGBT soap opera. Spreading the word about Letter to My Congregation,
being interested, curious, sympathetic.  But it has also been
comforting to reconnect a little bit with my Gilchrist past through your
reaching out. 

The cover design is a bundle of sticks

The fact of the matter is, Ken, that I feel you’ve written a very
important book, which I tell anyone who will listen, for as long as they
will listen. With your book you are on the leading edge of an important
Social Justice Movement within the church. Only time will tell whether
the masses will follow, and I mean masses in both senses of the word.

Books: another one of the ways with which we can change the world.

And, as I explained to you as we walked around downtown Ann Arbor in July, reaching back and reconnecting with my Gilchrist past has become very important to me because of The Trunk Lost In Transit.

What I find amusing, Ken — and your mileage may vary — is that I reject almost everything else you believe in. I identify as a non-evangelical Atheist. I don’t proselytize because I don’t care all that much whether people agree, or disagree, with me. Whether they do, or do not, affects my life not one iota. That’s why I don’t understand evangelicals, whether they’re about Jesus, Atheism, or FitBit. (Say Ken, have you heard about E.W.F. Stirrup and his house?)

Having said that, while you may be used to having your beliefs challenged, I am not used to having my disbeliefs challenged.

Which brings me to what I really want to talk about: Cosmic Synchronicity. But first, some definitions:

Merriam-Webster defines “synchronicity” as “the coincidental occurrence of events and especially psychic events (as similar thoughts in widely separated persons or a mental image of an unexpected event before it happens) that seem related but are not explained by conventional mechanisms of causality—used especially in the psychology of C. G. Jung.”

In the same post I defined it differently:

Think of your own personal synchronicity as a blanket you are shaking rhythmically up and down. The sine waves created by the blanket is a two dimensional representation of your synchronicity in a 3-Dimensional space. However, everyone knows that synchronicity works in the 6th Dimension, where it interacts with the ‘waving blankets’ belonging to everyone else. Where these waves collide are where the EXACT moments and locations the FSM [Flying Spaghetti Monster] has stitched together Space and Time and Gravity and Dimensionality and Predestination. If, as they contend in Quantuum Mechanics or String Theory or Whatever They’re Calling It These Days™, that all choices are possible in the Alternative Universes that exist, then the chances of anything so improbable can be proven possible by multiplying boiling water with pasta and adding sauce.

So . . . where to start? Let’s go all the way back to the beginning, Ken. And, get comfortable, because this is going to take a while.

Barbara way back when

Back when you were visiting me in the early ’70s, my first ex-wife was going to school at George Brown College to learn all about the Sewing Arts, the field she eventually made her living in. There she met a gal named Barbara. I don’t think I met Barbara back then.

A few years later I lived and worked on Bedford Road. Barbara lived on Bedford Road, just up the street. I don’t think I met Barbara back then.

I finally met Barbara when I
was a freelance writer selling my words to any publication that had a
few extra dollars to spend. Among those was TO Tonight, Yorkview Magazine and a tabloid called Entertainment Weekly (long before and no relation to the tee vee show), where Barbara worked.

She was gorgeous and I asked her out. We went to a concert and then a
bar. Afterwards, full of liquor and hormones, we repaired to my place on Nassau Street, in Kensington Market, which makes me an official Marketeer. At some point — maybe we were discussing George Brown College, or maybe it just came out in casual conversation
— but Barbara realized she knew my ex-wife. Which explains why we
never did The Deed that night. Sisterhood Solidarity was more important to Barbara. She left shortly after that.

Later Barbara left Entertainment Weekly and I became its Editor and Head Writer.

Skip ahead another 30 years, or so, and somehow I became facefriends with Barbette Kensington, her online persona. She’s done community outreach for more than 3 decades in The Market and is often called the “Unofficial Queen of Kensington Market.” She’s posted a lot of pictures of herself and the various Marketeers at various locations in The Market. There’s The Stoop, The Office, The Office Annex, the Alley and Lola.

Every time I saw one of her pics, I would gasp. She simply takes my breath away. She’s gorgeous.

Knowing she’s an event organizer, when I needed to throw myself a party in Toronto, I went to her (digitally) and asked where she’d hold such a party. [Read: The Nuptial Nostalgia Tour and the follow-up, Love Makes The World Go Round.] In all honesty, I had no expectations, other than she might know of a place. I haven’t lived in Toronto in 17 years and Canada in 10. What do I know about entertaining in Toronto these days?

I certainly didn’t expect her to take that ball and run with it. As an event organizer she assumed that’s what I was asking. She found the perfect location in Kensington Market, Lola, and went about organizing the whole thing. Selfishly I let her because I didn’t have to do a thing. However, I did sent out the invites on the facebookery.

When Barbara and I met up I hugged her. Hugged her hard. She tells me was not the kind of hug one normally gives an old acquaintance, but she allowed herself to fall into it. We’ve been allowing ourselves to fall into it ever since.

I keep telling Barbara that “I don’t believe in any of that Mumbo Jumbo.” She’s Mohawk and deeply spiritual. I keep saying that because of all the coincidences that have built up to the point of cosmic synchronicity.

• Late last year one of Barbara’s face-to-facefriends messaged me requesting facefriendship on Barbara’s recommendation. I replied, “That’s good enough for me.” Little did I know that ever since this friend has been urging Barbara to go to me.

• One of the first conversations Barbara and I had at our reunion included an off-hand remark she made about her upcoming birthday and how she always thought she’d be married at that age. Without thinking I blurted out, I’ll marry you. And, I meant it.

• Days later, at my Coming Home Party, one of Barbara’s dear friends, who is downsizing and loves to give her things to random people, arrived at my party at Lola with a bag of jewellery. Some of it was real, some of it was costume. [I was on the other side of the patio, so I didn’t realize this was going on at the time.] She slipped Barbara 2 very simple, tasteful, wedding rings and said, “Here.”

This hand shook the hand of Bob Marley

• After the jewellery had been divided up, there remained one piece which was handed to me. It spoke to me immediately. It’s the colours of the Jamaican flag and the Rastafarian religion, if a religion is said to have colours. I slipped it on my right wrist, where it has remained. Since returning to Florida several people have taken note and remarked on it. Now I get to say with more emphasis than ever something I’ve been saying for many years anyway: “This hand shook the hand of Bob Marley.”

That’s as far as I’d gotten with this Pastoral Letter.


And, then came the car crash. Long story short: I was sideswiped by a car turning right on the red as I motored through a green light just a mile from home. After all those 3,000 mile road trips it seems ironic to be taken out of commission so close to home.

That was more than a week ago and I didn’t know where to take this essay after that. Therefore, I’ve just let it sit and stew in its own juices hoping I would be inspired.

The problem was: I no longer felt inspired. I’d read this and re-read this, not knowing where to take it, what to add, what to subtract, and whether to start all over. Yet, this morning I woke up inspired by the word “bifurcated.” Here’s where I’m taking this now:

I returned from Toronto feeling better than I have in decades. 

It wasn’t just being back in the city that I love and call home, no matter where I happen to be. It wasn’t just how Toronto feels as comfortable as a Johnny LaRue‘s smoking jacket. It wasn’t that, as a Marketeer, this was like a homecoming. It wasn’t even that Kensington Market, in which I spent most of my time while in Toronto, revitalized the Hippie slumbering in me. And, it wasn’t that I fell in love with one of the most fascinating women I’ve ever known.

Me in Johnny LaRue’s actual smoking jacket

No, Ken. It’s that one of the most fascinating women I’ve ever known fell in love with me and calls me handsome. It was such an ego boost to know my affection was being returned. It made me feel good right to my core. It made me forget all the trials, tribulations, and challenges I have in Florida taking care of Pops. It gave me something to look forward to after feeling my life has been on hold for so very long.

Then came the car crash. Like an elastic band, it snapped me back to where I was — what I was — before I went to Toronto. I was morose. I was filled with ennui. While I put one foot in front of the other, I merely moved through life, life didn’t move through me.

During the interregnum between returning from Toronto and the car accident I had more than once wondered, “What’s it going to be like when this good feeling goes away as it inevitably will? What will the bubble-bursting feel like?”

Now I know.

However, and here’s the important part: I don’t feel as if I have regressed completely. Barbara has provided an important spark, which won’t be extinguished. I told Barbara I was seeking her healing energy, which she gladly gave. Her spiritual beliefs go far deeper than my deeply held Atheism.

I feel spiritual when I’m banging two wooden sticks together in a drum circle when the rhythm takes me to a place where I’m not thinking any longer. I call that my Zen space, but I don’t really know squat about Zen because I also say that driving with the tunes cranked up is also my Zen Space.


I won’t even begin to describe Barbara’s spirituality (because that would be unfair to her), but I have on several occasions felt the need to say, “You know I don’t believe in any of that mumbo jumbo.”

Which is, I guess, the worst I can say about your beliefs, Kenny. While we appear to agree on so many Social Justice issues, we have a giant disagreement about the core belief driving us. I act in a socially conscience manner because I’ve long come to the conclusion it’s the only way to live, both with the world at large and with myself. I don’t need a God in my life in order to know the difference between right and wrong. You know I don’t believe in that mumbo jumbo.

Maybe it would be easier if I could ascribe all events to a higher power. Reconnecting with Barbara after all these years certainly feels fated, predestined, kismet. Yet, the car accident does not.

My happiness can only be found within myself, as opposed to the belief that praying to a higher power brings me fulfillment and makes me happy. That thought, and that belief, makes me happier than I’ve been since the accident.

Two headlines that crossed my electronic transom yesterday couldn’t be more diametrically opposed:

Now, that’s funny. We’ll see if I’m still laughing once I start fighting with the insurance company of the teenager who hit me.

Your childhood friend,
Marc Slootsky

Pastor Kenny Responds

Pastor Kenny. Pics stolen from his facebookery.

A Response to Your Pastoral Letter (Or How One Pastoral Letter Begets Another, Begets Another, Begets Another)

I’m a FB neophyte, so it took me quite a while to dig out your last pastoral letter once I had a little time to respond to it. I’ve not known how to respond to your pastoral letter because I wasn’t sure if or what might have been expected of me.  Was it an invitation to dialogue? In what forum?  I was just a little befuddled.  SO I figured, heck, I’ll just write something down on word doc and if Headly wants to publish it, so much the better.

I am going with Headly at your request, though I knew you as Marc.  I think we lost regular connection before you became Headly so it was good to hear your story about how the name came [about] and took.  Ken or Kenny works for me. Only my sisters, Marilyn and Nancy call me Kenny, so it reminds me of my past. (The name, btw was ruined by association with Barbie, and if it’s not too insulting to a fine musician, Kenny G. Nobody seems to name their kid Kenneth anymore.  Someone told me in Scottish (?) it means “handsome,” which [may] also account for its unpopularity. Who would want to name their kid “handsome”?  Alas. Mark has fared much better as a name, and the variant Marc (short for “Marcus”?) is a little exotic, given that we’re in the 1950’s Tom-Dick-Harrry-Mary-Deborah genre of Wonder Bread Names to begin in. But I digress.

I must say I have been honored by your interest in my little LGBT soap opera. Spreading the word about Letter to My Congregation, being interested, curious, sympathetic.  But it has also been comforting to reconnect a little bit with my Gilchrist past through your reaching out. 

Pastor Ken Wilson with wife Julia

My wife, Julia, grew up in Holland Michigan, where her dad still lives in the house she grew up in. (Her dad was an English Professor at Hope College.) She can go back to the house and stay overnight, as we have a few times since we got married.  Recently, at her moms memorial service, she met all sorts of people from her growing up years—people who babysat for her and for whom she babysat, teachers from high school, old friends.  It helped me realize how the decline of a city like Detroit can disconnect you from your past. 

Going back to the old neighborhood recently was stunning—urban blight such as I’d never seen just a few blocks South of where we grew up. Such an empty feeling. And no one from the old neighborhood to share it with. So reading your posts—especially your history of the Detroit riots—triggered all sorts of memories for me. Thank you.

One of the things I’d forgotten was just how racist things were growing up. You reminded me what it was like to grow up Jewish—and it all came rushing back, the horrible jokes about Jews, and Blacks, and Poles, and well, non WASPS. I remember being warned by someone not to attend a Catholic Mass because they spoke Latin and you didn’t know whether they were saying bad stuff or not.

It made me feel ashamed. Using the N-word was strictly forbidden in my family. Same with anti-Jewish rhetoric. But talk of “Injuns,” “Krauts” and “Japs” was tolerated. Now I’m ashamed. But I was also ashamed because of my forgetting. Forgetting how bad the Christian participation in anti-Semitism was in that era. Remembering how my late wife Nancy and I came to visit you in Toronto talking all our Jesus talk without remembering how your ears would have heard Jesus talk, having been called, as was common in that time, “Christ killer.” I can’t imagine what it would be like to associate the Jesus that I’m so ga-ga over with that kind of treatment from people who claim to be part of the religion he started. I have to admit, it’s a pretty reasonable thing to judge a religious figure by the behavior of the religion that he founded. So I can’t blame you for not picking up what Nancy and I were laying down in that trip to Toronto. 

Pastor Kenny’s very important
book, which got him thrown out of
the church he founded 45 years ago

By the way, it was fun to talk about that Toronto trip and to hear you say that you found it kind of interesting despite the fact that the God talk went on a little too much for your tastes. New converts to anything are a trip and I imagine I was one too. You should hear me talk to my friends who show any interest in my Fitbit. I get enthusiastic about things and want the whole world to adopt them. (Say Headly, have you tried the Fitbit? It’s amazing how it helps you be more active—I walk so much more now that I have one of these little wonders.)  But I digress again. I think you bring the elementary school of me, the Kenny locked up in Pastor Ken. 

I do know that there’s a connection between the mistreatment of the LGBT community and the Jewish community. In much the same way that anti-Semitism was tolerated in the Church for millennia—based on a handful of biblical texts taken out of historical context—a handful of texts taken out of historical context have propped up teachings that are harmful to vulnerable sexual minorities. The Second Vatican Counsel—which took place while we were growing up in Detroit—signaled an important reversal on this. Now there’s virtually no respectable Christian tradition in which it is OK to refer to Jewish people as “Christ-killers.”  Maybe the same reversal is underway today when it comes to sexual minorities. I certainly hope so.

And drum circles. I found it fascinating that you’ve gotten into them.  I’ve always thought they would be a blast.  I walk through the Diag sometimes and there’s a drum circle happening. They don’t seem to be looking for people to join them, but I’d like to. I always think of you now when I see them.  The feeling of connection with other people that happens with a drum circle has got to be pleasurable. You could do a lot worse for a communal spiritual practice than a drum circle. He said, approvingly.

OK now I have to figure out how send you this word doc via FB. Oh crap, is that even possible? 

Grace and peace to you, fellow pilgrim and pastoral letter writer.

Editor’s note: Kenneth John Wilson is my oldest friend in the world. We grew up together on Gilchrist Street in Detroit, catercorner from each other. We lost track of each other in the early ’70s.

Last year I was made aware that Pastor Kenny is shaking the foundations of organized Christianity with his book A Letter to my Congregation, which argues for full inclusion of the LGBT communities in all congregations. We have since reconnected to my extreme happiness.

There has been some slight editing of this Pastoral Letter for clarity and spelling.