I just love my job!
Last Saturday, I drove the loneliest road in America (Hy 50), the old Pony Express Trail, from Tahoe to Austin. As I came around a small mountain, I looked out over a tan-gold plain at sunset to see the snowcapped peaks of the Toiyable Range (Nevada's 2nd longest of 312 mountain ranges, a range with glacial features going back to the Pleistocene era), and had to press hard on my faith to believe a site so beautiful could be real.
Then came a solo supper at the Toiyabe Cafe next door to our little Church. The Toiyabe Cafe is down home and unpretentious with antlers on its walls. As I was savoring my Ortega Burger, in came 4 teenagers dressed to the 9's in evening attire surprisingly well fitting. The girls were super dolled up. Their hair must have taken hours to fix. They were embarrassed by their finery and giggling compuslively to each other. The boys one could understand only if one had been a boy and had some vague memory of it. (Mine is fading.) They were awed and terrified by the girls. Mysterium tremendum, mysterim fascinans. And so they were ignoring the girls with all their might. The nervous girls sought solace in mutual silliness; the hapless boys, in mutual dufusness and thereby avoided each other.
After rehearsing for an ordination, and moving into a room at my beloved Pony Canyon Motel, I strolled down to the International Bar. It was much as you would expect. A dark, Western bar with predicatable personalities sitting on the stools. Vic, the weathered Serbian bar tender was playing pool with Jay, the 32 year old smiling Native American (I'm guessing Western Shoshone) wearing a cowboy hat.
On the largish tv in the corner, The Lion In Winter was showing. Stop to remember this film classic to grasp the incongruity. I got a table and watched the medieval drama unfold:
Alice: Do you know what I want for Christmas? I want to see you suffer.
Eleanor of Aquataine: Alice, just for you.
And the two women, wife and lover of Henry II respectively, fall into each others arms weeping.
Meanwhile a large overweight dog, whom I will learn at Church the next day is named Oso, wanders about. A woman comes in, sees Oso, and goes back to fetch her Pomeranian puppy, who trots up and down the bar -- not the floor, literally, the bar.
Lion ends. Next film: the 1932 black and white production of Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde for which Frederick March received the Oscar for Best Actor. The ranks on the bar stools are thinning out. The intimacy of the truly faithful begins to inform their discourse. The woman with the Pomeranian confesses she is saving her money for a breast reduction surgery. The guys at the bar are mightily opposed. Vic leaves the room, comes back, flings a Bible onto the bar, gives it to the woman as a gift, insisting she study the Bible diligently and it will reveal to her God's opinion of breast reduction surgery. She takes the Bible and promises to study it thoroughly.
I am not called into this conversation -- fortunately. However, Vic does learn I am a bishop and occasionally refers the patrons to me for guidance. They look at me, laugh nervously, then look away and change the subject. But as they leave, they each and every one come by to shake hands.
The next day, our new priest, Darla, tells me about Dynamite Bob who works at the Toiyabe. He bought a house up the hill, probed about in the basement and found several very old cases of dynamite. He stuffed sticks of dynamite in his pockets, walked downtown, and attempted to trade the dynamite for drinks. The bomb squad was called and it was an exciting day in Austin.
Truly, there is no better town for us to have a Church.