Sunday, March 18, 2007

You Can't Go Back. You Just Can't Go Back.

The old saying, "You can't go home again" was brought to bear for me earlier this evening. The results of browsing can rise up and bite you in the butt, if you're not careful.

I went on-line searching for an old acquaintance. Actually, I had searched for him a couple of times over the past few years to no avail, but this time I hit pay dirt.

Back in the late 1960s I worked for (the now defunct) Trans World Airlines at the Indianapolis Airport. A fellow TWAer suggested I go with him to see a vocal trio that was playing the lounge at a nearby hotel. A nite or two later we did.

The trio consisted of one guy I'll call Dain and two girls I'll refer to as Jane and let's say Carmen, yeah, Carmen is good. (Obviously, those aren't their real names. I'd rather not go plowing willy-nilly into their lives.) Jane and Dain were married, uh, to each other. The trio was good. They sang covers of current popular songs - old standards, a little jazz, a little rock & roll. Jane played piano and Carmen sometimes played guitar. They all three sang well individually and had a good harmonic blend when singing together. I believe Jane, who was classically trained, created most of their arrangements.

Over the course of the next several weeks I went to the hotel lounge several times and began hanging out with them after their final sets. Dain and I became friends. To understand our relationship, suffice it to say that Dain was very much an "A" type personality while I was then and remain a "B" kind of guy. Dain was dynamic, pretty much always the mover and shaker of whatever was going on. He ran the show. We followed and fed off of him. Was I a sycophant? I prefer to think not, but I was certainly caught up in his aura.

Dain, Jane and Carmen had been students at a fundamentalist college out here in the midwest where I believe they met. Not surprisingly, Dain had been well on his way to becoming an evangelist minister. But somewhere along the line Dain, and I would assume with Jane and Carmen following his lead, became disillusioned by their studies and religion in general, and together they left school and their religious lives behind them. All claimed to no longer believe in god. In so doing, Dain related that his father had essentially disowned him. Jane's parents though less harsh, still were mightily troubled by their daughter's rejection of the church. I don't recall hearing how Carmen's parents weighed in on all this.

Shortly thereafter the three of them pooled their musical talents, formed their little trio and began playing clubs in the midwest. Somewhere along the line Dain determined that his new found goal was to become an actor, and the only place to do that was New York City. After several months the three of them pulled up stakes and moved to the Big Apple. I followed along a few weeks later.

I was a pretty malleable pudgy hunk of clay back then. I quit my job at TWA, drove east dragging a U-Haul trailer loaded with my junk and moved in with the three of them at the Seville Hotel at 29th and Madison where we lived for several months. To be kind, the Seville had seen better days but was relatively cheap, at least by New York standards. Dain enrolled in acting classes at HB Studios, a professional theatrical school run by Herbert Berghoff and his wife, Uta Hagan, both well established broadway actors. Subsequently I too enrolled at HB and quickly became hooked. The atmosphere at HB was intoxicating, especially to a midwestern hick like myself. Suffice it to say that I proved to be no threat to anyone's theatrical career. But Dain seemed to be on the fast track. He managed to get into Berghoff's class from the get go.

I won't go into all the gory details, but as time went on things deteriorated between all of us and ultimately we drifted apart. Dain had a brief affair with Carmen. Jane discovered it. Dain and Jane split only to later reconcile. Carmen began seeing a fellow who was a heroin addict and soon, may have become one herself, although I am not certain of that. She and I shared an apartment for several months and she was at times chatty about this and that. She did tell me she had done some heroin but was not addicted. I'm not sure if you can "sample" that stuff and just walk away.

Just to do the confessional thingy, I smoked some grass, dropped some acid and mescaline a few times over the course of my stay in New York, but I never got involved with anything heavier. As I noted in an earlier post, I haven't imbibed anything of a dubious legal nature over the last 30 years or so, other than repeated heavy doses of trans fats. The LDL swat team is surrounding the house even as I type.

Carmen decided that it was up to her to intervene on behalf of her boyfriend by moving both of them back to her family home in Illinois in the notion that she would be able to get the two of them "straight." In what was perhaps the most surreal scene I have ever witnessed Carmen's middle aged, midwestern, fundamentalist parents came to New York to assist with the move. Mom and Dad rented a truck and began loading Carmen's worldly goods onto it. Carmen and a girl friend of hers decided the best way to handle all of this was to drop acid making pretty much the whole job of loading a truck the most hilarious and alternately the saddest thing they'd ever done. Of course, her parents were clueless. During all of this Carmen's boyfriend was nowhere to be seen. Perhaps being a lifelong New Yorker, he was contemplating life in the heartland with some trepidation. I guess he showed up sometime or other, I don't remember.

Meanwhile I was trying to find a place or places to take my meager belongings. I was forced to give up the apartment as the rent was too high for me alone. So I moved back into the glorious Seville; just me and my little Dachshund, Doodle. Yeah, Doodle. Want to make something of it?!!

By late the following summer Carmen was long gone. Dain was doing summer stock in Massachusetts, if memory serves. I don't recall what Jane was doing at that point working somewhere, I presume, paying rent. In the meantime I had fallen rather too hard for a girl from Massapequa Park, but my ardor was unrequited. I was pretty much alone, and I must admit, rather a pathetic mess. It was time for me to get out of Dodge, or, er New York.

A couple of years later, shortly after Jo and I were married, we drove to New York as a kind of belated honeymoon and stayed with Dain and Jane at their apartment in Purchase, NY in tony Westchester County. Frankly, I can't remember specifically what Dain was doing at that juncture, but I'm pretty sure he was still clambering up Thespis' ladder. Jane had taken an accompanist job at a community college in Purchase. Jo and I stayed for a few days. As I recall the infamous Boris Spasky/Bobby Fisher chess match was ongoing.

That was the last time I saw Dain or Jane. We exchanged a few cards and letters over the next year or so, perhaps a phone call or two, but as so often happens, communications between us dwindled and ultimately ceased. I haven't seen or heard from any of them since. Until today I didn't know if any of them were still drawing breath.

I found Dain online today.

During our early days, first in Indy, then in New York, through any number of all night, sometimes drug enhanced gab fests with Dain, Jane, Carmen and others who occasionally came and went, my atheism took form. I remember one evening just as I was leaving their apartment, which overlooked Abbington Square in the West Village, I turned back and asked Jane if she believed in god. She thought for a minute, smiled, and quietly said no. I left, going back across town to my tiny rent controlled hovel in the East Village with the aforementioned and mighty Doodle in tow thinking about just where I stood godwise. I decided during that walk that I too, no longer believed. I felt as if a great weight had lifted off my shoulders.

Well, that was then. This is now. Dain, as it happens, is now a christian minister in Hollywood. In Hollywood for crap sake! He is a member of the "Pastoral Posse" (???) at his church. Talk about a slap upside the head?

How do I feel about this? Betrayed? Mmmm, that might be a bit strong. Sorely dissappointed? Yeah, I'd say so. I guess I always assumed Dain was my secret partner in crime.

Of course, Dain made his own choices as he had a perfect right to do. It was and is his life, after all. But as memory serves, he was so adamant, so sure of his sight back then. During that time in New York he reiterated time and again that to believe in god was ludicrous. Given what I've come to understand about people in the intervening years, while I am certainly chagrinned, I am not altogether surprised by Dain's reversion to religion. I think Dain always believed he was destined, if you will to be great at something. Perhaps things didn't go as he anticipated. Or, actually, maybe they did. I don't know.

Nor do I know if he now gets up and preaches the gospel. If he does, I'm sure he's very good. He has great stage presence. His voice, a mellifluous baritone, commands attention. His position with the church is noted as being related to spiritually inspired theatrical and film production. In a short bio on the church web site Dain states that his "occupation" is "actor, director, playwright," so he has apparently remained active in that world.

I'm still sorting this out. Dain certainly had no responsibility to me. He believed then, what he believed. Things change. Dain was (is) an intelligent guy; on the whole, much moreso than I. But he somehow thought his way back to the church. I can't account for that.

My atheism has remained steadfast and developed on its own over the last several years. The Dain/Jane/ Carmen trifecta started the ball rolling for me. But now I don't require them or anyone to validate what I believe today. Still, this revelation has shaken me to a degree. It is rather comically ironic, I guess. My wife thinks its hysterical.

I sent an email to Dain. I am curious to see if he remembers me, and if he will choose to respond. Perhaps he won't care to take a stroll down his long past secular byways.

I can take comfort in one thing, though. Dain's bio includes a photo. Dain is bald. I am not. Ha, ha. (Say it like the tough kids do who always beat up Bart on The Simpsons, you know, kinda nasally, but triumphant.)

TLS

Just thought I'd add a little postscript here. Dain does indeed preach the gospel. I found a podcast of a few of his recent sermons. He is indeed quite good. He uses his natural flare for the dramatic and his prodigious theatrical training coupled with his disarming charm to great effect in delivering his message.

Note that while I admire the delivery, I don't embrace the message. I suppose all this does reveal something about me, though. While I have actively sought him (among others) out from my deep dark past, I think it probable that I haven't so much as crossed his mind since Jo and I pulled out of his driveway in Purchase in the summer of 1972.







7 comments:

The Born Again Atheist said...

I'll bet ol' Dain remembers you quite well. I'm guessing he'll respond, too. He probably will think of it as an opportunity to share his faith with you. It's good that you have come to that point where you need no validation on that matter.

I can't blame you for feeling a little undone about this turn of events. Anytime we see someone whom we have admired move from a more rational position to a less rational one, it is upsetting; we wonder what might have been done (and even might it have been done by us?) to prevent such a "tragedy". On a very superficial level, we can feel this on a fairly regular basis when we focus on entertainers and politicians. It's like watching Elizabeth Taylor in Cat On A Hot Tin Roof and thinking her to be the most desirable woman on the planet and then finding years later that she considers Michael Jackson to be a friend. Holy shit! What the fuck is THAT all about?

Keep us posted on Dain.

Terry S said...

Hey,

First, thanks for stopping by and for the comment.

As of this writing Dain has not responded. My email to him was rather cryptic. He may have taken it for spam.

I know of what you speak regarding the evangelical mind. I suppose he might attempt to share the gift of his faith with his old godless friend.

On a personal level, I would just like to hear from him. He was a good friend for a time, and he was a great influence for me on many levels.

I don't know if I would consider his return to the church a "tragedy," but, selfishly, perhaps I do find it sad. It's good for Dain that christians don't treat apostasy in the manner of fundamentalist muslims.

People do tend to let us down, and of course we often let ourselves and others down as well. It is best not to place anyone on too high a pedestal. It is a precarious place to be, and gravity's a bitch.

I voted for Bill Clinton twice and still think of him as a very intelligent and well informed individual. Yet here is a guy who allowed his lust for a few blow jobs in the Oval office nearly bring down his own presidency and arguably give the White House over to GW, the Neocons and the fundamentalist christians. Talk about a let down!

TLS

Joonie said...

Your Sunday, March 18, 2007, blog was quite interesting. Something inside you wants Jesus Christ so badly you can taste it. Otherwise, you wouldn't spend so much time denying Him to the point that you avoid using His Name, choosing simply to refer to God. That gnawing you keep feeling? That's what I'm talking about. You may not realize it, but that's you desiring Him. I had the same problem...saying His Name was something I could hardly do. Then one day I came to the same realization that Dain did...life with Him was SO MUCH better than life without Him. I'll never be the same again. Oh, and Dain has thought of you MANY times since you last saw him. I guarantee it.

Terry S said...

Joonie,

You make some interesting observations, but they ential assumptions about me and Dain that are, for the most part, off base.

I suffer from no gnawing as you put it, at least not for jesus.

I rue the effective loss of a like minded compatriot. (I suppose, as I stated, as I haven't seen or heard from him since around 1972, that that ship had sailed long ago. But, I thought, or perhaps hoped that Dain and I would one day link up, at least via the internet to reminisce and compare notes as it were. We could still reminisce, but we now take wholly different notes in a wholly different language.

I do not desire or otherwise have a need for jesus. I don't avoid his name, it simply does not occur to me to use it. Even in my quasi-religious days I was far from devout and never felt any afinity to jesus or any spiritual presence.

As to my spending so much time denying him, well, that's kinda what I'm doing here in this virtual space. It is, at least in part, the raison d'etre for this blog.

Of course I can't know if Dain has spent any time considering my countenance, but knowing him as I did, I don't consider it likely.

While I believe you are wrong, I thank you for your effort, for taking the time to read and comment, and your concern.

TLS

Terra said...

Terry,

Did "Dain" ever reply? It was a fascinating story for me for some reason.

There is another possibility that you hadn't really mentioned. Perhaps Dain became a preacher because of the power, notoriety, fame of being wanted at least once a week. You said yourself he had the makings of a good preacher, perhaps he got tired of going the long way and chose a more pliable audience?

Also, you were very nice to Joonie. I applaud you for that. I would have had a hard time not telling her to stuff it, as she obviously was misinterpreting your story for her own uses.

Terry S said...

Terra,

Hi, again.

Well, yes, Dain did contact me. It was a very perfunctory response - just Hi. It's been a long time. Busy now. Catch you later. Nothing since.

However, he made note of my contact in his next sermon. I think he was a bit incredulous that I had made such an effort after more than 35 years. Maybe he's right. He was rather dismissive of my blogging effort.

Will he further our contact? I don't know. If I were a betting man, I'd say probably not. I'd like to be proved wrong on that one. We'll see.

As I indicated, Dain is a very strong personality who pretty much fills up a room when he enters. Standing up before a large congregation preaching the gospel is a pretty satisfying ego trip, I imagine. I do not want to suggest that Dain's faith is in any way disingenuine. I have no idea. I liked Dain a great deal. We had a # of good times while I knew him in NYC and before.

As to Joonie, well, I've had a # of those kinds of responses from dyed-in-the-wool christians. They just can't imagine how anyone could NOT want to embrace Jesus. I assume their intentions are good. They want to same my soul. I simply try to explain that it doesn't need saving as it is more than likely that I don't have one.

I'll check out some of your other comments a bit later. I have to get some work done, or the cable guy might cut me off.

TLS

Anonymous said...

"First of all, I'll make a tour of the whole world, giving exhibitions. I'll charge unprecedented prices. I'll set new standards. I'll make them pay thousands. Then I'll come home on a luxury liner. First-class. I'll have a tuxedo made for me in England to wear to dinner. When I come home I'll write a couple chess books and start to reorganize the whole game. I'll have my own club. The Bobby Fischer ... uh, the Robert J. Fischer Chess Club. It'll be class. Tournaments in full dress. No bums in there. You're gonna have to be over eighteen to get in, unless like you have special permission because you have like special talent. It'll be in a part of the city that's still decent, like the Upper East Side. And I'll hold big international tournaments in my club with big cash prizes. And I'm going to kick all the millionaires out of chess unless they kick in more money. Then I'll buy a car so I don't have to take the subway any more. That subway makes me sick. It'll be a Mercedes-Benz. Better, a Rolls Royce, one of those fifty-thousand-dollar custom jobs, made to my own measure. Maybe I'll buy one of those jets they advertise for businessmen. And a yacht. Flynn had a yacht. Then I'll have some more suits made. I'd like to be one of the Ten Best-dressed Men. That would really be something. I read that Duke Snyder made the list. Then I'll build me a house. I don't know where but it won't be in Greenwich Village. They're all dirty, filthy animals down there - lower than cats and dogs. Maybe I'll build it in Hong Kong. Everybody who's been there says it's great. Art Linkletter said so on the radio. And they've got suits there, beauties, for only twenty dollars. Or maybe I'll build it in Beverly Hills. The people there are sort of square, but like the climate is nice and it's close to Vegas, Mexico, Hawaii, and those places. I got strong ideas about my house. I'm going to hire the best architect and have him build it in the shape of a rook. Yeah, that's for me. Class. Spiral staircases, parapets, everything. I want to live the rest of my life in a house built exactly like a rook"(Bobby Fischer)...read more