I Learn Another Sword

I Learn Another Sword

Picking up from my last Memories post, we had one more thing to check off of our checklist to complete our move from Renton down to Vancouver.

I had a new job – check

We had found a new home – check, check

And a new home for my fencing – check, check, check

And now we were looking for a new church.

We limited our scope to one of the Lutheran flavors, specifically we would only consider one belonging to the Missouri Synod. We sampled one in the vicinity of our home, but nothing struck us. We widened the circle and finally landed at one on the opposite side of town.

Everything about the church seemed right to us. But especially the pastor. We had not met the like before. There was something about him that was, for the lack of a better word, ‘charismatic.’ As it turns out that was exactly the right word. He taught from the Bible, not from another book, such as any currently invogue self help psychology piece (a la transactional analysis). The style is called expositional teaching, which is done by going through the Bible text, line by line, and expounding upon its meaning, giving historical and cultural context to better understand the people written about and God’s dealings with them.

And there was teaching we had never heard before. We were taught about the Holy Spirit – something always catechized but seldom introduced into any sermon from the Word (i.e. The Bible).  A whole new understanding and deepening was opened to us. Not something brought out of a man’s imagination – for what he taught was right there in front of us on the pages of our Bible. We now had a place to call our church home.

But with it came a significant reckoning for me.

I attended one of the small group meetings at the church. We were encouraged to get to know one another better as individuals before the meeting got underway. I sat with a man of about my own age by the name of Randy. I went first. He listened to my introduction of myself as being new to the area, working for a cinema circuit across the river in Portland. And very into fencing.

He said a few words about himself, and what he did. But what he added next stopped my mind in its tracks. He stated simply that he was a follower of Jesus Christ. But more than the simple words were stated, I knew by its emphasis that it was of supreme importance in his life – taking precedence over everything else he had mentioned – indeed the governing direction for his life choices. There was not a hint of pride, spiritual or otherwise in the declaration.

It was something that challenged my life, who I was and where I was going. The unexamined life is a treadmill from one milepost to the other, and can become numbing, when one is completely focused on the self. Randy’s words had sent me into what is classically called a dark night of the soul.

I will not bore you with a litany of confessions I made before God in the privacy of my room. More importantly, at issue, was, who was the Lord of my life? Was I the measure of what is right and wrong? Or was there something or Someone outside of myself who knew better?

Not without reason is the Bible, God’s Word, likened unto a sword.

Hebrews 4:12 –

‘For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.’

In my case, the Word was a scalpel (and a mirror – another appropriate and biblical comparison) that revealled the gulf between myself and a Holy God. It illuminated my need for the gift the Gospels offer – forgiveness through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. His execution for my crimes.

As this work of the sword was all inward, (and I must say, continues to do so), from then on there was another emphasis to be added, a sword directed outward, in another manual of arms so to speak. In the training of another Master.

I was no longer lord of my life, but Jesus was.

No going back. No going back.

[Other posts that cover my spiritual journey:]

Three Kings Went Forth

I Can See Clearly

My Brother vs the UU Church

Moony and the Baptists

My Brother’s Accident

Speed

Speed

My next vehicle after the Pontiac was a really sweet ride – a 1965 Chevy Malibu Super Sport. With a baby blue paint job and chrome accents it looked great too. It was my first car with bucket seats and a shift on the floor – not manual, but rather an automatic.

I went to a lot of places around town, Renton and beyond. My girl friend and I would drive in and around the little parks alongside of Lake Washington up on the Seattle side of the lake. We’d park and watch the nightly submarine races.

My brother went in for more muscular cars. He had a GTO  that he used to drive around the loop in downtown Renton, and frequented the local hang out burger joint, Herfy’s. It was very much American Graffitti. More so than I knew at the time.

I didn’t find out until years later that he was a local drag racer, competing each weekend on the local strip. (In 1973 he was crowned King of the Road at the SeaFair Nationals). I should have got a clue when he approached me one time about doing a favor for a friend of his. This friend was getting too many tickets with his car. And he wanted to trade me straight across for my Malibu. I was kind of skeptical, but my brother assured me it was great deal, that I would be coming out ahead value wise.

So, that is how I became the proud owner of a 1969 Plymouth Road Runner. Dark green with two broad non-reflective black racing stripes on the hood. The 383 hemi engine had some extras, it had been blueprinted to  lighten the weight and bored out to receive a 440 racing cam. There was a whole lot of petal I didn’t use after reaching the speed limit. And with a bench seat it was much nicer to take to the submarine races.

It was great transportation. It saw me through 3 and a half years of college and we took it on our honeymoon.

Sadly, when it came time to sell it, it was stolen from in front of my folks’ house and taken on a joyride. The perps rolled it and it was adjudged totalled at the junk yard that retreived it. (I still wonder about complicity on the part of the junkyard).

All in all though, I only have one regret –  I sure wish I had kept the purple horn button.

Beep beep!

Speed2

The Parades Gone By the Stationery Store

the Parades Gone By the Stationery Store

My parents finally found a home for us in Renton. It was in the Kennydale area, up alongside of Lake Washington. We had no view of the lake, as we were well away from it, and only a couple of lots over from the I-405 freeway.
So, I now drove to work from the opposite direction (i.e. no longer from SeaTac Airport). I could literally go from a nearby on-ramp to a cloverleaf near the theater, which gave me access to Grady Way from the beginning of the Valley freeway, which if continued on would take you to Seattle via Rainier Avenue.
Sometimes, I would take the back way through Renton, especially if I were not in any hurry. I found a favorite stopping place, just off downtown – a stationery store. But besides paper, pens, pencils and other office supplies, it also carried books. Nowadays, my comics stayed in their boxes, as I more and more delved into the real books upon which my Classics Illustrated were based. I did still check out some from the library, but now that I had my own money (a whole 1.25 per hour) I looked to acquire certain titles for myself.
It may well have been on my first visit to this store that I found a book by Kevin Brownlow. It was an oversized paperback that caught my eye on one of those revolving racks. It wasn’t his name that grabbed my attention, for I’d never heard of Mr Brownlow. It was the title that intrigued me – The Parade’s Gone By. The blurb read “Recreates the earliest days of the Movies.” In short it was all about silents. Mr Brownlow had interviewed many of the pioneers of the “new” art form, and here retold their story.
It was a fantastic read, one of those volumes that you did not not want to end. When you came to the end of a section, as long as there was another, you rejoiced. He talked about the silent stars, of course, but also about the directors, the cameramen, the writers, the editors, the moguls and others that toiled behind the scenes. And there were tons of pictures, stills from the films themselves and candid shots from behind the scenes.
You really caught from Brownlow his love for this era and his concern for the preservation of these films. The read did come to an end, but not without birthing a desire in me to see some of these films someday. To date all I’d seen were a few Harold Lloyd titles (more were listed in this tome), and dim memories of Laurel and Hardy. Now I not only wanted to catch up on the other comedians such as Chaplin and Keaton, but also other Hollywood luminaries such as Fairbanks and Pickford and Valentino etc.
Most of all I wanted to see the films of D. W. Griffith, and above all else, his masterpiece Intolerance. The photos for its Babylon set captivated me. But that event would be a couple of years in the future. For now the parade for me had not even started.

The Renton Cinemas Open

The Renton Cinemas Open

As I stated previously, having my father on site was a real boon for his company GCC. He kept an eye on things (like wrestling the safe through the completed lobby and into his office), and headed off potential problems before they happened, or became costly errors.
The cinema was built on the property of a shopping mall area called Renton Village just off Grady Way. The shopping complex wasn’t as big as Brockton, but well attended none the less. Right down the sidewalk from the theater was the Sheraton Renton Inn, a high rise hotel. At the far extremity away from the theater was Schumsky’s restaurant, with which my father horse-traded passes for meals. A Tradewell grocery store and an Ernst hardware were the main anchors.
The big circuit in the Seattle area was the Sterling Recreation Organization, and as such had the film market pretty well sewn up. But GCC beng a national chain wasn’t without some influence. There were a few distributors that were very glad to see a new player in the area. In those days, Seattle had its own”Film Row.” The distributors kept offices down on Second Avenue. In the main we played Columbia, Universal, Buena Vista and MGM, which were headed up respectively by Al Boodman, Russ Brown, Homer Schmidt and Connie Carpou.
That being said, the two opening bills for the Renton Cinemas were not auspicious. On one side was the feature Duffy from Columbia and on the other Secret Ceremony from Universal. I suspect no else in the area wanted to play them. Between the doormen and us ushers the code word for the latter was “Secret Garbage.”
Duffy, which starred James Coburn in the title role, is noteworthy in my estimation only tangentially, through a couple of the people associated with it. One was Donald Cammell, a rather unusual avant garde type who worked on the screenplay and would later co-direct with Nicholas Roeg the Mick Jagger film Performance. He pushed the envelope so far he shot and killed himself some say on purpose. The other was the director Robert Parrish, at probably the extreme opposite end of the spectrum. He was Old Hollywood, having started there as a child actor in the thirties (City Lights and the Our Gang comedies), and graduating to film editor (Body and Soul) and later director.
Not a thing did I know of any of this. Of all I was blissfully ignorant. Such information came as my interest in film grew. For the time being I probably had a feeling akin to Parrish’s old boss at Columbia – Harry Cohn, whose talented butt was his barometer to taste in film – if it wiggled in the seat it was no good.

The Renton Cinemas Open 2

Seeing the [Upper) USA in a Chevrolet

Seeing the Upper USA in a Chevrolet

It was early in 1968. We were still running the Sound of Music in Cinema 2 and my father was called to the box office to help the cashier with a difficult customer. It seems that he did not like “his” seats for the Julie Andrews movie. My dad gladly refunded his money, all the while the complainer continued to whine. After the disgruntled customer departed, a VP from GCC came in. He had been watching the whole encounter from the outside. He came up to my dad and told him that he could soon say goodbye to such treatment, for on the West Coast the customers were all a lot nicer. The company was offering him a new theater that was going to open in Renton, Washington that fall.
We were on the move again. Though not until summer. Dad didn’t want us to miss any school. Time to say goodbye to all my friends in Brockton – Dave D, John M, Jimmy S, and Joe G. I recently discovered the oversized card that they sent me off with. The envelope was decorated with unusual grafitti – song ditties or doggerel either in Russian or Latin – stuff we had gleaned from the classes we had taken together.
My dad bought a new car for the trip, a four door canary yellow 1968 Chevy Impala. And he made sure it had air conditioning. So come July we were all set to see the USA in a Chevrolet. Or the northern part anyway.
We must have travelled fairly fast. I can remember the NY Turnpike where it paralleled the old canal. But after that it was all a blur until we reached South Dakota. There we hit the Badlands. Why they call it the Badlands struck me as strange. It was beautiful, in an eerie sort of way. Though I suppose in the early days it would have been a terror to traverse. Those jagged hills and rocks, though pretty to look at, would have been daunting on horseback or in a horse drawn wagon or carriage.
Emerging from the Badlands, we made our way to the nearby monument, Mount Rushmore. I think that our expectations always suffer a set back when it meets reality, especially as regards visiting someplace you’ve only read about or seen pictures of. It’s a time like this when you realize that the writing or the picture was taken from a better perspective than what you experience at first sight. Old George, Tom, Teddy and Abe seemed small and distant. My Dad’s binoculars helped, but they also revealed the long grooves in the rock face, the “brush strokes” as it were of those that sculpted their visages from the rock.
The next memorable stop was at the site of Custer’s Last Stand in Montana. But probably most memorable because there wasn’t much to see – a small monument and a hill covered in sagebrush. We were all a little disappointed, and maybe us kids moreso. We had visions of marauding Indians dancing in our heads.
We were able to hasten on our way aided by the “reasonable and proper” [i.e. no] speed limit in Montana. We came into Washington through Spokane, crossed the state, traversed the Cascades and descended into the promised land of the Puget Sound area – the promised land of “nicer customers.”
Ha!