Tag Archives: Pastor Kenny

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

A Hurricane Refugee Unpacks ► Unpacking The Writer

Apologies to my faithful readers. I know the Not Now Silly Newsroom has been idle lately. To start I’ve needed to Lyft to keep up with my bills. Then along comes Hurricane Irma, which I fled before she ever arrived.

I lived through Hurricane Wilma, which was a Cat 2. Irma was a monster which, at one point, was a Cat 5 and headed straight for the condo. I decided that I didn’t want to see a 5. I had my hurricane fun during Wilma. So I fucked off, in the vernacular.

Drove to the Detroit area, where I have family and friends. Shared driving and expenses with a fellow I’ve known as a facefriend for several years, but we’ve never met before. I packed Marley up, picked Steve up in Boca Raton, and we headed north where we had adventures on the roads. This includes 18 hours trying to get out of Florida in bumper-to-bumper traffic with gas availability troubles. But, we got to Michigan eventually.

This is what they do when Rest Areas have no power. Welcome to the New World Order.

These ROAD TRIP stories go into the pipeline, if I ever get to them.

Click to read about previous Road Trips.

Definitely in the pipeline is a new Pastoral Letter, for those that enjoy that series.

I had been banging away at one in a desultory fashion before I left. However, on this trip to Michigan I took another drive to Ann Arbor. This time I had the honour to watch Pastor Ken Pastorize his flock at Blue Ocean Faith.

That was followed by lunch with several of Ken’s parishioners, one of whom I may have made hate me. That’s a story I will definitely write about. Stay tuned.

Then I convinced Ken to visit the old neighbourhood in Detroit, some of which I posted on the LIVE facebookery. [Trying to figure out how to post those here.] All of this time spent with my oldest friend in the world not only focused my thoughts on the next Pastoral Letter, but has also given me insight on many of the other topics the Not Now Silly Newsroom tends to commission from me. So, look for some of that sooner rather than later.

Meanwhile, here’s Pastor Ken Wilson giving me a Shout Out and then going on to talk about his struggle in finding his place within Jesus Christ. I’ve probably described it wrong, but I found it fascinating. Your mileage may vary.

10 Sep 2017—Blue Ocean Faith Ann Arbor Celebration
from Blue Ocean Faith Ann Arbor on Vimeo.

ALSO: I think I’ve figured out a way to go back to writing about Miami politics. Therefore, consider my recusal a partial recusal. I just have to find the exact right wording. So, you can also look for that.

Taking Marley on a Road Trip was an experience. I’ve never traveled with a cat before and Marley has never spent much time in a car before. I hope The Traveling Cat is a post I can eventually get around to. Suffice to say for now: Marley did wonderfully in the car for all those hours. She got to the point where she wandered around the car at will, including on my lap and under my feet, while I was driving. Ahem.

A shameless plug for my other traveling companion:

Steve Dibert is a Mortgage Fraud Investigator.

Altho’ we’ve been facefriends for several years, we had never met. After almost 50 hours together in a car, we’re tight now and he knows enough to blackmail me. He tolerated Marley, even tho’ he’s allergic. He tolerated all my stupid stories. He tolerated all of my tunes without complaint, including — and especially — the hours and hours of Frank Zappa. [No exaggeration. Not only did we hear nearly 8 hours of Frank Zappa, but I explained everything I knew about every one of the songs.] And, after all of that, he didn’t kill me.

If you need some mortgage fraud investigation, give MFI Miami a try.

I went to a great Drum Circle at this place [pic to the right]. It’s the 2nd time I’ve been there over the years, and I will write a little bit about it eventually. I want to compare it to Drum Circles I know.

While in Michigan (as I always do) I talked to marijuana enthusiasts and learned more about the Michigan MMJ laws. This will eventually be published as a long-form article, but I’ve been adding to my knowledge and connections for years.

As well, I made a business connection on this trip which could put me on ground floor of a start-up [tangentially] in that field. You’ll be the first to know when I can announce that. However, I don’t want to be on the ground floor. I want to be on the elevator to the penthouse. Rub your lucky rabbit foot.

There’s more in the pipeline, but here’s the bottom line, literally: 10 days away from my Lyfting — and the gas money and other associated expenses of running away — has really put a hurt on my bank account. I’ll try to post a few quick one-offs in the coming week, but I’m really going to have to hunker down behind the wheel of the Grey Ghost and grind out the Lyfts. If I can drive to Michigan and back, this should be a cinch.

See you on the flip flop.

Don’t Give Up The Fort ► A Pastoral Letter

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

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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

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.

The Trunk Lost In Transit ► A Pastoral Letter

Pastor Ken Wilson wrote this book arguing for
full acceptance of LGBT folk into the church
and uses scripture to back up these arguments.

Dear Pastor Kenny: Long time, no see!

Seriously, it was great reconnecting with you at the tail end of the 3rd Annual Sunrise to Canton Road Trip for Research, as brief as our reunion was.

I was mighty disappointed when it looked as if we were not going to meet because of your vacation schedule. When I got your message that you’d be available after all, I dropped everything to high-tail it out to Ann Arbor to see you. Had I not already had something scheduled for the evening, I could have stayed and talked forever because there was still so much I wanted to know. Did you ever see that Saturday Night Live sketch “The Guest Who Would Not Leave”? I was already feeling as if I had overstayed my welcome because it was running into dinnertime and you had just got home from vacation.

I have a confession. [Do you take confession?] Because it didn’t look like we’d be getting together, I never finished reading your book. A bigger confession: I’ve been reading your book with the same critical eye and methodology with which I read James Rosen’s historical revisionist history of John Mitchell, Richard Nixon’s Attorney General. I filled The Strong Man with yellow Post It Notes and then eviscerated it in the Watergate exposé Did Roger Ailes Dupe James Rosen, Or Did Rosen Dupe ‘Merka?

The problem is that right up until the time we met I had been thinking of you as a research project. I used our reconnecting last year as a jumping off point for these Pastoral Letters, in which I am (selfishly) exploring and writing about my Atheism, which grew out of my Agnosticism, which grew out of a Reformed Jewish child. To that end, I’ve read dozens of reviews of your book, read up on The Third Way, and continue to follow the writings of your old church and your new church.

Random Ann Arbor pic

I have often said, “You can take the boy out of the newsroom, but you can’t take the newsroom out of the boy.” I was wrong. The journalist in me had a million and one questions for you, but the minute I saw your face, all that went out the window. It was Kenny, my oldest friend in the world!!! I was a little boy again, forgetting all about the Not Now Silly Newsroom. In fact, I was so caught up in just reconnecting that I forgot to take any pictures of you, even though I carried 3 cameras, took some pictures on our walk around Ann Arbor, and usually document every tedious moment of my life.

I am glad we got to talk about your getting kicked to the curb by your old church. I don’t know how much of that was said for publication, so I won’t. However, I find it a fascinating story on the type of changes churches need to make in order to survive into the next century.

Here’s what surprised me the most about our reunion: Maybe it’s because you’re a Pastor, or because I have been trying to reconnect to my past, or because you’re my oldest friend in the world, but I don’t know what prompted me to blurt out my deepest, darkest secret. I can’t believe I told you what I’ve shared with less than a half dozen people, 3 of them psychiatrists. The significance of the title of this post will be mysterious for everybody else.

Random Ann Arbor pic

One mystery cleared up, however. Remember how much I was sweating after our walk, even though it wasn’t that hot a day? As it turns out, that was the beginning of my uncommon cold, which I wrote about in Road Trips, Writer’s Block, and the Uncommon Cold ► Unpacking The Writer

I always feel like I’m behind on all my writing, but even more so with this post. You asked me to send you links to my writing that I felt were worth your time. Originally I thought I’d just shoot you an email. But, then I thought it might make a better Pastoral Letter. Then I kept putting it off as I had other things to write. Better late than never, eh? Not to brag, and only because you asked, here are a few of my posts I think are worth reading:

1). The Detroit Riots • 2). My Days With John Sinclair • 3). Where The Sidewalk Ends, Racism Begins • 4) Where The Sidewalk Ends, Racism Begins ► Chapter Two • 5). Where The Sidewalk Ends, Racism Begins ► Chapter Three • 6). When Whites Went Crazy In Tulsa • 7). Happy Birthday Coconut Grove!!! Now Honour Your Past • 8). Josephine Baker Born • 9). Is Marc D. Sarnoff Corrupt Or The Most Corrupt Miami Politician? • 10). The Day I Shook Hands With Glenn Beck • 11). The Day I Met Bob Marley • 12). Any & all of my Watergate stories • 13). A Tribute To Alan Turing ► The Man Who Saved The World • 14). A Musical Appreciation ► Cole Porter • and 15). More Proof the Palin Family Are Liars and Grifters, which is as fresh as today’s headlines.

Random Ann Arbor pic

And, of course, my Pastoral Letters, which are all addressed to you, whether you’ve read them or not.

I think I’ll leave it here, Ken. The Autumnal Equinox Drum Circle is coming up later this month, which is when I tend to think of Spirituality without a God. And, if you recall, Drum Circles are when I most often think of you. You’ll probably be hearing from me again near the end of the month.

Feel free to write back because I never know what you’re thinking.

Your childhood friend,
Marc Slootsky

Packing Up The Newsroom ► Unpacking The Writer

My old house to the Viola Liuzzo Playground is just over 1/2 mile

The 3rd Annual Sunrise to Canton Road Trip for Research begins early tomorrow morning and the excitement is building.

Yesterday I told someone that driving is my “happy place.” There’s nothing I like better than to get behind the wheel, crank up the tunes, and cruise. I have many hours of that ahead of me over the next few weeks and am looking forward to it.

Excitement is also building — I hope — among those folk who signed up for a visit during this year’s road trip. Several of them are repeat customers, so I must be doing something right. A few of them are brand new to the Aunty Em Experience. I’m looking forward to seeing them all.

Among my stops are Centerville, Columbus, Elyria, Akron, and Columbus, all in Ohio. I’ll be retracing my steps in West Virginia, the subject of last year’s A Tribute to Don Knotts ► Morgantown’s Favourite Son. The last 2 stops will be to visit people in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and Oviedo, Florida. The latter is someone I’ve known in Cyberville for decades, yet we’ve never had the chance to meet.

During this year’s Sunrise to Canton Road Trip for Research I’ve also scheduled several stops for Racial Research™ along the route. I’ll be visiting the Harriet Tubman Museum in Macon, GA; the Old Slave Mart Museum in Charleston, South Carolina, with a stop to pay respects at Mother Emanuel Church; and the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit. Through sheer synchronicity the Wright Museum is holding CALL of The DRUM: An International Drum Summit on the weekend I’ll be there. I’m taking my claves.

As well I plan to stop off for a night in St. Augustine. I’ve been there once and found it incredibly beautiful. It’s the oldest, continually inhabited city in this country. Ponce de Leon was tramping around there and I can’t wait to see it again.

There’s been no word from J$ on whether he wants to help me write The Johnny Dollar Wars ► The Final Chapter? There’s still another 10 days for him to decide whether he has the cajones to confront the man he relentlessly cyber-bullied for more than 3 years. Regardless of whether he participates, the final chapter will be written.

However, one part of this trip only got added to my itinerary yesterday, and it’s an interesting story. Have a seat. Relax.

In preparation for this year’s Sunrise to Canton Road Trip for Research I was looking on Google Maps for the name of a park in my old neighbourhood. If I remember correctly, this park once had a water tower, torn down in the late ’50s or the early ’60s. I have vague memories of playing on the girders after it was ripped down, but before they had been hauled away.

What I discovered on Google Maps came as a shock, mostly because it came as a total surprise. It’s the Viola Liuzzo Playground.

I had no idea this park was named after a Civil Rights Martyr from Detroit. I had no idea Viola Liuzzo came from my old neighbourhood. This is a woman whom I have read about so many times in so many books. I’ve watched documentaries in which she has appeared prominently. Tara Ochs plays her in the movie Selma.

Brownsville Herald – April 4, 1964

The house I grew up in was slightly over a half mile from the Viola Liuzzo Playground. [See map above] In 1964 I was 12 years old yet I knew nothing of any of this. Whyzzat? This is as local as it gets. Cross burnings in my neighbourhood? Really?

When I visit Detroit this time I am going to visit this park. It’s my plan to write about it and, more importantly, write about my ignorance of the fact that her funeral, with Martin Luthur King, Jr., attending, happened practically under my nose without me realizing it.

I have now been in contact with Mary Liuzzo, Viola’s daughre, who identified 19375 Marlowe Street as the house that Viola Liuzzo left behind to join the Freedom March in Selma, Alabama. She never returned, having been murdered as she was ferrying Freedom Riders to several locations. A week after her death a cross was burned on her lawn.

Hopefully, one of the other people I’ll be seeing on this trip is Pastor Ken Wilson. We grew up across the street from each other and recently reconnected losing track of each other 45 years ago. Ken has become a bit infamous over the last year. As Senior Pastor of the Vinelands Church in Ann Arbor, a church he founded in his living room 40 years ago, Wilson wrote what I believe is a very important book. “A Letter to My Congregation” argues for full inclusion and acceptance in the church of the LGBT communities. For his troubles, he was kicked to the curb by Vinelands Church — or he resigned in mutual agreement. However, that hasn’t stopped him.

It’s to Pastor Kenny that I’ve addressed all my Pastoral Letters. However, I’ve just learned there may be a scheduling problem and a reunion with Kenny may not be in the cards after all.

Curious, I’ve just asked Ken electronically. While he was aware that Viola Liuzzo was a Civil Rights Martyr, he was also unaware that she was from our own neighbourhood and was as ignorant as I was about the cross burning just a mile and a half from where we lived.

This is going to be the best Sunrise to
Canton Road Trip for Research

The Johnny Dollar Wars ► The Last Chapter?

Cyber-bully Mark Koldys as a child

As I prepare for the 3rd Annual Sunrise to Canton Road Trip for Research, I would be remiss if I allowed an anniversary to pass unremarked.

July 4th of last year was a personal Independence Day of sorts. It’s the day Ashley Graham, the Head Nutjob of The Flying Monkey Squad, tweeted his last tweet. Grayhammy, as he called himself on the interwebs, stalked me online, revealed my alternative lifestyle, and cyber-bullied me for more than 3 years. He didn’t do this for himself. He did it on behalf of Johnny Dollar, who gleefully joined in on the cyber-fun.

Johnny Dollar — in reality, former-Wayne County Michigan prosecutor Mark Koldys — is a self-appointed Fox “News” defender. Because I was writing Fox “News” criticism, Johnny Dollar thought the very best way to defend Fox “News” was to publish details of my private life on his sewer of a blog. If you can’t kill the message, try to kill the messenger.

Despite July 4th of last year being the last cyber-attack, I waited a full 6 months before I was Declaring Victory in the Johnny Dollar Wars. Things have been very quiet since that went up.

IRONY ALERT: While Mark Koldys had no compunction about publishing details of my private life in his quest to be an apologist for Fox “News,” he squealed to facebook and Google when I used pictures of him and his family that I found online. He then tried to pretend that he was the victim of my unprovoked attacks, as if I had no reason whatsoever to retaliate.

However, that’s water under the bridge, all written down, and currently being poured over by editors. However, one of them makes a fair point: “Where’s the Fairness & Balance in your story? What does your antagonist have to say?”

Home of Mark Koldys, who, as Johnny
Dollar, is a proud Fox “News” defender

Fun fact: Canton is a township, not a town
Official Wesbite
Wikipedia Entry
Canton Weather
Public Safety Office
Public Library

Observer and Eccentric – Canton
Plymouth-Canton Patch
Canton Videos
Canton at ClickOn Detroit

Things to do in Canton
Attractions near Canton
IKEA Canton

Canton Township
Cornerstones: A History of
Canton Township Families

Seven Fatality Christmas Tree Fire
Encyclopedia of Invasive Species: From
Africanized Honey Bees to Zebra Mussels

Leaving Home to Find Home


Let me explain. Since the day Johnny Dollar outed my alternative lifestyle I have been writing The Johnny Dollar Wars, a full-length book on what it’s like to be the target of a viscous and relentless cyber-bullying campaign.

Mark Koldys (Johnny Dollar) lives in Canton Township, Michigan. Therefore, The Sunrise to Canton Road Trip for Research was always an itinerary based on my need for on-the-ground research. I purposely named it such so he would know I was coming. While the word “Canton” means little to most people, it hit the intended target: both Ashley Graham and Mark Koldys, who stalked my social media for anything to use against me, made a point to mention it.

During the upcoming 3rd Annual Sunrise to Canton Road Trip for Research I am hoping I can finally write the last chapter of The Johnny Dollar Wars by interviewing Mark Koldys himself. This will be a way for Johnny Dollar to finally go on the record and describe the skirmishes in The Johnny Dollar Wars from his side of the battlement. Maybe there were extenuating circumstances that resulted in my private life being outed.

I have a journalistic duty to find out, I suppose.

Because Johnny Dollar blocked me on Twitter after I started sharing The Johnny Dollar Wars with his correspondents, I cannot message him there. I am hoping someone — like maybe his brother Bruce — will pass along this interview request to him.

Funny story: Bruce and I exchanged some messages in 2013, after which I wrote Fun With Pictures. For reasons I don’t quite remember (I hope I was trying to be funny) I blacked out his name in that post, but it was Bruce Koldys I had been addressing.

During that exchange of messages, Bruce asked me not to judge an entire family based solely on the nut that fell from the tree, but I am paraphrasing wildly. TO BE FAIR: He merely wanted me to know that his politics are far different from his older brother’s and to leave him out of The Johnny Dollar Wars. Ever since, Bruce Koldys has regularly retweeted some of my Fox “News” snark, which is probably his way of tweaking his brother’s nose.

IRONY ALERT: Just before publishing this, I checked his
Twitter timeline. I’m glad I did because it’s obvious Johnny
Dollar has reformed. Now it’s diseased and creepy to stalk
people online. I’ll have to ask him why he changed his mind.

So, I am hoping I can dragoon Bruce into passing along my interview request to his big brother Mark.

Bruce: Tell him we will meet in a neutral location, preferably a Starbucks. He should come alone and make sure he’s not followed. No weapons of any kind. Both of us can record the interview for posterity. Everything said, from first greeting to last goodbye, is ON THE RECORD. Any deviation from these instructions and the truth gets it.

If he agrees to these terms tell him to give me a call. Mark once indicated (correctly) that he knew my address and phone number, so that should be no problem. Or, he can email me. I will be in Canton from July 17th, through to the 24th performing some last-minute research. He can contact me right up until the 24th.

SYNCHRONICITY ALERT: Those who have been following my Pastoral Letter series will be glad to know I finally have a copy of A Letter to my Congregation by my childhood friend, Pastor Ken Wilson, of the Blue Ocean Faith Church in Ann Arbor.

I started reading the book as I always do, from the title page on, including the copyright page. Lo & behold: A Letter to my Congregation is published by Read The Spirit Books; an imprint of David Crumm Media, LLC; of Canton, Michigan.

It all comes full circle. Maybe Pastor Kenny can help me how to find forgiveness for Mark Koldys. However, I’m more inclined to think I’ll be able to forgive when the full-length Johnny Dollar Wars is finally on the shelves of bookstores all across ‘Merka.

Desperately Seeking Spirituality ► Another Pastoral Letter

Analog writing

Dear Pastor Kenny: 

I’m not feeling terribly pastoral these days, yet it seems time for another Pastoral Letter, so here we go into the dark abyss of my soulless psyche. 

I’m starting this in longhand on the night of the Summer Solstice as I catch a breather before heading out to the Tequesta Summer Solstice Drum Circle. It’s a drum circle so crowded that trying to find any kind of spirituality seems foolish.

So why, you may ask, am I going? Good question. Bad answer: I’m not entirely sure, but I have equated drum circles with serenity and the search for something pastoral, as you know. Which, if nothing else, explains why I am writing a Pastoral Letter, Ken, even if I’m not feeling it.

Recently I revealed to a drum circle buddy that I was going to the Tequesta Summer Solstice Drum Circle to see if I could find spirituality. I was surprised when they told me that they were a Nihilist, something I never would have suspected of them. I think that’s one of the few philosophies I haven’t tried on yet.

As an aside, I learned this morning that:

[T]he meaning of the “the shruggie” is always two, if not three- or four-, fold. ¯_(ツ)_/¯ represents nihilism, “bemused resignation,” and “a Zen-like tool to accept the chaos of universe.” It is Sisyphus in unicode. I use it at least 10 times a day.

I’m feeling more nihilistic than pastoral because of last week’s church massacre in Charleston, South Carolina, cradle of the racist south. I’m not feeling very pastoral because, as soon as it happened, so many people on the Right became heavily invested into denying that racism had anything to do with it, instead blaming the War on Christianity, video games, and the evil Left Wing Libruls, as opposed to the twin scourge of Racism and easily available guns in this country.

Even after Dylann Roof admitted it was a racial attack — that he was trying to start a race war (echoes of Charlie Mason and Helter Skelter) — Fox “News” and others were still denying the obvious. It’s that denial that allows incidents like these to happen time and time again in this country.

Coming so close on the heels of Ferguson, Baltimore, McKinney, and more, the senseless slaughter of 9 innocent people — at a Bible study class — is simply an overt example of the pernicious racism that pumps through this country’s bloodstream. It’s in our DNA. It’s baked in the cake with the Constitution’s 3/5ths compromise. Black folk were chattel, property to be bought and sold, owned by anyone who could put up the cash at the many Slave Auctions through the south.

When slavery was outlawed — following the Civil War — and Reconstruction was abandoned, Jim Crow took its place. Redlining folks into ghettos, refusing home renovation loans, lower wages, worse schools, a lack of opportunity, and White Flight — not to mention lynchings — kept Black folk in enclaves as tightly controlled as those that existed during slavery. This as Black folk did most of the back-breaking work that built this country.

As you know, Pastor Kenny, I use these Pastoral Letters, for the most part, to kick around ideas about religion and atheism that I’ve had my entire life. This one will also address some of my ideas about race relations in ‘Merka.

Bottom line: If there was a God, She wouldn’t have allowed 9 innocent people to be slaughtered in Her house. Yeah, yeah, I know that’s been said a million times before me, so many times that religionists have a ready answer for it. I forget what it is because I just think it’s a bogus rationalization.

Oh, wait! I remember now. It’s God’s will. Got it.

I had been on the verge of tears all week following the massacre, but I totally lost it when the families of the victims started giving their impact statements at the bail hearing. Every one of them spoke about God’s forgiveness and Jesus. Their capacity for forgiveness was more than my already over-wrought emotional capacity could bear.

They were forgiving Dylann Roof, but it sounded to me more like they were forgiving God for allowing it to happen in the first place. 

To me this was incomprehensible. More incomprehensible is that this fellow Jesus, by all accounts a pretty good guy, was the God of their Slave Masters. Why would anyone adopt the God of their Masters? Still more incomprehensible to me: The same Bible used by the Slave Masters to justify slavery was used by the slaves as a prediction of their eventual emancipation. They identified with the Jews and the motto “Let my people go!”

It’s a tricky book that can be used by all sides to justify whatever people want. Right now it’s being used to deny LGBT communities basic human rights. I’m glad you’re fighting against that, Ken.

Tequesta Summer Solstice Drum Circle at sunset, June 21, 2015

The overriding reason I go to these drum circles whenever possible is because I felt an irresistible spiritual tug to it when I covered the Coconut Grove Drum Circle marching in the King Mango Strut.

Tonight I went to the Tequesta Summer Solstice Drum Circle, but I wasn’t feeling all that pastoral either. I had had an intermittent stomach ache all day, that only got worse once I arrived at the park. That kept me from getting inside the rhythm, which is my comfort zone within a circle. I’ve yet to achieve that at Tequesta, because of how crowded the field is with 3-400 people in it. For some reason I still want to see if that’s even possible.

You see, I’m still trying to figure out why I have such a visceral need to bang 2 pieces of wood together. Is this a desire on my part to replicate the human heartbeat? Or, in the alternative, am I just another case study for Dr. Oliver Sacks. While standing and watching the crowd on Sunday, I couldn’t help but feel a weird kind of cultural appropriation.

When I first experienced a drum circle, at the 2013 King Mago Strut, I couldn’t help but think of Kebo. Apparently Kebo was a village in Africa. It’s also the name some of the original Bahamian immigrants gave the enclave that is now known colloquially as West Grove in Coconut Grove. On that day I was struck with the fact that I was standing in modern day Kebo and listening to a bunch of White folk bang on drums. I couldn’t help but wonder what the ancestors buried in the Charlotte Jane Memorial Park Cemetery would think of this development.

Now, I don’t want to say that only Black folks have rhythm because
I’ve heard a lot of amazing White drummers in these drum circles. What I
will say is that I see very few Black folk at these drum circles. I find that interesting and worthy of note.
Before I left Tequesta (at 9:30, long before the crowd would have reached its zenith) I decided to walk around the circle 3 times,
which isn’t easy when it’s so crowded. While I did so I counted the Black folk I saw. I
counted 14.

For reasons I can’t even describe it didn’t help make me feel pastoral.

I’m still recovering from whatever stomach bug I picked up, but am starting to feel better, Kenny. Well enough to try to organize the rest of my thoughts and finish this latest Pastoral Letter before it gets too old.

Some people see things through Rose Coloured Glasses; Since leaving Detroit I see things through Race Coloured Glasses. It may be a blessing, or a curse, but my mind almost always immediately jumps to how Race plays into whatever sitch-eee-ay-shuns I’m observing. There are many reasons for this. However, I believe it all goes back to the awakening I had when Pops lost everything in the ’67 Detroit Riot.

I didn’t have the words for it at the age of 15, but these were my first inklings of White Privilege and Black Rage. I’ve been piecing the rest of it together ever since.

Read: The Detroit Riots, Part Five
of the Unpacking My Detroit series

Ken, yesterday I went to Barnes and Noble to get your book. There’s only 3 weeks before we get together next month and I wanted to have digested it before we talk about it.

It turns out A Letter to my Congregation is not one of the religious books Barnes and Noble stocks, so I had to order it, pre-pay for it, and pay an additional $3.99 shipping fee for the experience. Just for shits and giggles I told the clerk that I didn’t want a book that I couldn’t examine first. Couldn’t they have it shipped to the store so I could make an informed decision on whether I really wanted it or not by holding it in my hand?

No. That’s not something they do. But, I was given a choice. I could either buy it, or not buy it. I chose to buy it. Furthermore, I was told your book will be shipped to me anytime between a week to a month. It may not arrive before the 3rd Annual Sunrise to Canton Road Trip for Research, so I may not know what’s between the covers before we meet again. Worse yet, how will I get it inscribed by the author?

So, I am still forced to read discern your Biblical reasoning from your posts and the book reviews I’ve been reading.

I have said more than once that those who believe in God have it a lot easier than the rest of us. How nice it must be, whenever one is buffeted by the injustices in life, to be able to place everything in the hands of the Lord and just go on. Even more interesting to me is that whole “Get out of hell free” card religions offer: Make a confession, do a few Hail Marys, and poof! You’re good to go again with a clean slate.

An Atheist like myself has to live with the fact that I screwed up. Only I can make it right. A prayer won’t fix it. Yet — as I take a quick self-examination — I’m not breaking any of the 10 Commandments anyway. At least none of the biggies. I don’t need a book to tell me what’s the right thing to do. None of us should. I don’t need a promise of Heaven to do what’s right.

Nor do I have to find justification in the Bible for treating people with simple dignity. That you have had to spend all those pages to say, in essence, “What would Jesus do?” seems like a waste of time and energy. That you are considered an outlier in your religion should tell you something. It tells me churches have been wrong — about so much — for centuries and that’s not about to change in our lifetimes.

If there really was a God it would change tomorrow. She’d kick some ass and get ‘er done, to quote a Redneck comedian.

My receipt: Barnes and Noble
didn’t stock your book, but it still
tried to sell me books it did have.

As fresh as today’s Headlines Du Jour, because it was published today, is Pastors want to create a Christian community open to all, your interview on Michigan Radio:

Ken Wilson founded Vineyard Church in Ann Arbor and served on the national board of Vineyard USA for seven years.

he and co-pastor Emily Swan left Vineyard to form Blue Ocean Faith, a
new church that seeks to create an evangelical Christian community in
Ann Arbor that openly welcomes lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender

Wilson says that leaving his congregation at Vineyard was difficult, but it’s a move he’s proud of.

denomination I was a part of rejected my move toward being fully
inclusive with LGBT, and so that necessitated our starting a new
church,” he says.

How many breakaway churches are needed before we reach the least common denominator?

In that interview you are making the same point as I did above before I even heard this, about the church being wrong:

Absolutely. We were wrong on interracial marriage, we were wrong on slavery, we were wrong on the full inclusion of women. For 2,000 years the church taught a very, very strict line on divorce or remarriage, where virtually no one who had a living spouse could be remarried. And this was just — didn’t square with reality.

However, we look at these previous errors of church doctrine differently. How could God let Her creation be so self-deluded? Over and over again? How do you know you’ve finally got it right?

Over the last 2 days we’ve have seen a seismic shift in our treatment of the Confederate flag in this country. Soon  the Supreme Court will hopefully rule in favour of LGBT marriage and equality. Eventually, the church will either have to embrace LGBT equality, or die. I believe it will be the latter.

Until that happens, I’m not feeling very pastoral. Maybe I can find some of that at Saturday’s drum circle.

See you next month.

Your childhood friend,
Marc Slootsky

April Showers Bring Headaches ► Unpacking The Writer

Delray Beach Drum Circle – April 15, 2016

Here we go again! As long-time readers know, my Unpacking The Writer series is where I peel back the curtain to reveal the inner-workings of the mind of a one-man newsroom operation. 

The Wizard of Oz analogy is always appropriate since I once wrote under the nom de plume of Aunty Em and christened my haters The Flying Monkey Squad. But enough about those crazy MoFos.

I usually begin these Unpacking The Writer on the 15th of the month and spend a few days slapping down the points I want to make for the month. Then I use part of another day to kick it into shape, finally publishing the sucker under this rubric when it feels right. It hasn’t felt right because I’ve barely had time to work on this.

I started putting this together in my head at Wednesday’s Delray Beach Drum Circle. I’m still going to drum circles whenever possible. Over the last year I’ve developed some Drum Pals, and we either meet up or share rides to the event. I am generally the designated driver; not because anyone is drinking alcohol, but because I just love to drive. I am fascinated by my interest in Drum Circles. Why is this so important to me? I’ve never been a joiner, but find myself abandoning my inner curmudgeon to get together with other people so I can bang wooden sticks together.

People rocking out to the Delray Beach Drum Circle

I know there’s a story of several thousand words in Drum Circles, but it’s yet to find me and I have not found it, either. Like I used to tell my children when they couldn’t fall asleep, “You can’t go looking for the Sandman. He has to come find you.” Same with stories I really want to write.

Campaign Carl helping me cement our great friendship. We’re now like THIS!

The last week has been somewhat hectic. I went to the Marco Rubio campaign kick-off and managed to get 2 separate and totally different stories out of it. Three Stooges In The GOP Clown Car is my take for the Not Now Silly Newsroom, while Outside The Curcus Tent At The Marco Rubio Campaign Kick-Off was an EXCLUSIVE for PoliticusUSA.

However, the best part of last Monday was exchanging information with my new best friend, Campaign Carl Cameron, Chief Political Correspondent for the Fox “News” Channel. We had a few laughs over the fact that his bosses hate me, but he had to do a live pop for Cavuto (or was it The Five?) before we got around to discussing anything important, like “Is Hannity as crazy as he seems?” or “Does Loofah Lad Big Foot everyone in the Fox corridors, the way he does guests on his show?” However, there’s always the next time. Call me, Carl. You have my business card.

Politically, NNS started this past moth with Cruzing Back To The ’50s ► Presidential Politics Post, which tipped my hand as to how I plan to follow the GOP field of candidates. I’m not going to take any of them seriously until the field has been narrowed to the top 3 or 4, and then I’m going to start making fun of them.

This month also included A Passover/Easter Pastoral Letter, the latest in that series. While I have a great need to be exploring these issues, I’m not so sure Pastor Kenny shares my need. What has me puzzled is why Pastor Kenny doesn’t sense my need and minister to me. No matter, because I am still making discoveries on my own, mining an area I call “The Trunk Lost In Transit.”

The month ended with another campaign event (and my first real headache of the season, but I’ll get to that eventually). Compared to someone running for POTUS, the Miami District 2 campaign is small ball. However, aside from the fact that the District 2 Commissioner is considered the most powerful in Miami, local politics is really where the rubber meets the road. Think globally. Act locally.

Lorry Woods in conversation with a voter in West Grove

Restauranteur Lorry Woods has been on what she calls a listening tour of her potential constituents in Miami’s District 2. Because she held a Meet & Greet in the part of the district 2 that interests me the most, I drove down to West Grove and posted my day as Coconut Grove Is Not Out Of The Woods Yet. It was nice to run into so many people I knew at the BBQ and meet several new people.

That’s where the headache comes in. I was fine when I left Coconut Grove, but partway home I started to get one of my debilitating migraines. By the time I got home, I could barely see straight and had to crawl into bed to try and nap.

I go through this every Spring. It’s a symptom left over from when I had a vestibular disorder almost 2 decades ago. While the constant dizziness and vomiting eventually dissapated, 3 symptoms never went away: 1). When I am in a room with an awful din of background noise, I can’t hear the person right next to me; 2). I have occasional attacks of tinnitus. These are not as difficult to handle as some people experience because it only ever lasts from a few seconds to a minute, tops, and then it fades away to nothing. Although, it’s incredibly painful; like high-pitched feedback. Instructively I cover my ear it hurts so much; 3). And, massive headaches when the air pressure is changing rapidly from RAIN to FAIR. That tends to describe Spring and, to a lesser extent, Fall.

Sure enough, as I was driving home, the clouds rolled in and I could see lightening in the distance. When I finally got home and upacked the car, I checked the barometer in the kitchen. The needle had swung all the way over to LIE DOWN NOW!

The biggest news this month is that I have FINALLY reformatted the hard drive in my PC tower, after threatening to do it for so long. It kept the Not Now Silly Newsroom off the air for 2 weeks, but it was worth it. I’m now running WinDoze 8.1 and everything is a whole lot faster than it was previously. At the same time, to help facilitate the downtime without a RC tower, I bought a laptop, which is also running WinDoze 8.1.

The laptop and renovated tower will, hopefully — because that’s the plan — make the Not Now Silly Newsroom more productive. With so many stories in the hopper, I should be busy for quite some time. F’rinstance, there’s a whole new Trojan Horse Parking Lot story I want to write, not to mention a more recent story on a brand new way the City of Miami is trying to keep public information from the taxpayers. However, there’s still some more research and a few interviews I want to conduct before that sucker’s ready.

Meanwhile, I recently had a whole new idea to explore that has nothing to do with writing, politics, or Drum Circles. However, I can’t tip my hand yet. Maybe by the next Unpacking The Writer, I’ll have all the disparate threads on that tied up and can make an announcement on this new venture.

Until then, we take you back to our original Not Now Sill programming, already in progress.