Monday, January 14, 2008

Mill Avenue Nights, January 12th 2008

Strange weekend.

The street preachers moved from in front of Urban Outfitters to in front of the post office. In the past, this has actually been one of the places that other preachers would show up—the guys with the huge wooden cross. I haven’t seen them in a while. Of course, the Way of the Master folks can cheerfully take over that spot, it’s a good place for them. It appears they were displaced by a young man with an amp and a guitar.

A lot of interesting stuff happened tonight, so I’m going to try to cover it point by point again, but hopefully without losing to many people.

“Why don’t you atheists get your own corner?”

Kazz tells me that Lynda said this to someone in the crew. I’m pleased-as-punch, even if I am not atheist I still am filled up with joy about the dialogue that they’ve started with the preachers. It’s not about the disturbance that they create on the Ave—and the new presence of better hecklers and more disciplined dissenters is just a sign of that dissonance being noticed—it’s about the people that get brought up in the churn.

The preachers have been the only voice on their various corners for way too long. Here I’d say that they’ve gone unopposed for too long, but this isn’t exactly truthful. It creates a false sense of dichotomy, as if the street preachers are one of two voices, when they’re really one of millions and, in spite of the etymology of the word dialogue, there can be more than two parties involved.

The best part about the disruption that the street preachers create on the Ave is that the theater of the discussion between their amp and the newly added bullhorn creates an actual discourse. It requires the person with the amp (tonight it was Jeremiah again) to actually respond to the person with the bullhorn and it forces them to be part of the dialogue. They still tend to ignore a lot of questions in that slippery showman fashion, but at least it’s forging an actual forum rather than an ad hoc lecture.

But, really, what brings a smile to my lips happens behind the scenes, after the curtains fall. At about 11p.m. the preachers fold up and prance off, vanishing into the vehicles that brought them to the Ave (or they tuck into Starbucks for a while.) Without their mike and amp they become more personable, more like people; hecklers and preachers end up mingling and speaking to one another about personal lives, thoughts and ephemeral cheer. Very little animosity remains in the air, hands shake, and rivals take on a different level of discussion.

When the machine dismantles the components aren’t as hot-and-heavy anymore. At least then they’re people—which is what I come to the Ave for, after all, not for the moralizing lectures and sanctimonious priggery, but instead the reality of people and the wonder that is the story of their lives.

Where do good books come from, after all, but the humanity and the storytelling that binds life together.

This section is shorter than usual today because of…


Fred is the best thing about the night. She’s a tiny, slip of an emo chick, double-breasted black vest with a white “broken” heart, and raven-haired bowl cut—but the best part about her (aside form her gorgeous, giant spectacles of awesome) was the fact that when our eyes first met, and she smiled: I saw fangs.

Vampire fangs!

Nothing is going to catch my attention instantly than someone actually going out with a pair of acrylic appliqué fangs. The lovely thing about Goths who go with the fang look (or even emo) is that they can be kept as a subtle affect. If the person knows how to wear them, doesn’t spend their time drawing attention to them, normal conversation becomes a whole different experience. There’s no feeling quite like holding a giggling, grinning hanging-in-the-wind discussion with the leery looks of people making double-takes as they walk past.

Needless to say, I instantly delivered as many copies of Vexations into her hands as I possibly could. What can I say? There aren’t that many other Goths hanging around, and Emo are the new Goth as far as I’m concerned.

To say the least, I spent the three hours I should have been paying attention to the preachers and Mill instead paying attention to Fred. (Don’t worry about me, my research is fine. I did take a great deal of demographic notes and I’ve still got enough piled up from other nights to make up for a lapse. Why can’t I have fun some nights on Mill?)

She’s a chemical engineering major at ASU (a place that I wish that I was still a student at most days) and draws her own comic series. I cannot wait until she appears on DeviantART like she suggested she would. She even drew us some of her characters, who are interestingly thin figures similar to Johnen Vasquez’s Johnny the Homicidal Maniac. Just with a particularly straight-line-style emo flare. Also, her comix appear to feature a manic-depressive, suicidal vampire who just cannot seem to manage to kill himself (stakes don’t work, walking outside in the sun simply gives him a charbroiled sunburn, hanging fixes out-of-alignment vertebrae—some of which he received trying to run himself over with a truck…)

We managed a long talk about what it’s like living in Fountain Hills as a teen and why that’s a terrible experience for anyone. I certainly wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

She also managed to get herself booted from Bath and Bodyworks. Something about not buying anything and staring at other customers. This rather dampened our spirits later in the night when we decided that we were going to start an ad hoc coven right there in front of the street preachers (but for a lack of candles, which would have required braving B&B again…)

C’est la vie.

Cheers to another beautiful night on the Ave, and another day spent daydreaming and writing.

Psst. For those who want to know. Volume 7 is out of post-edit and is taking the finishing touches of artwork. So that’ll be appearing sooner rather than later.


vocab malone/jm rieser said...

i responded to your comments on my blog over at!

Anonymous said...

I am one of the street preachers. I actually find your writings to be sincere as well as endearing. I respect the fact that you're open-minded to us. The thing that bugged me in this particular blog is that you say we're sanctimonious. I can only speak for myself and some of my friends on Mill, but we try to live up to the words we speak. Words are worthless without actions to back them up. I have a sincere love and concern for the people I talk to on only agenda is introduce them to the freedom and love provided by Jesus Christ.

Kyt Dotson said...

Ah, sanctimonious, that does sound like something I’d say. The paragraph thou’ve zeroed in on is in reference to the speeches delivered over the loudspeakers contrasted with individual affect. The speakers may be sincere but often the speeches are not. My interest in Mill Ave is the people—after all an anthropological or even personal study doesn’t go very far without people—and flawed memes repeated every few visits, some of which are deliberately inflammatory, aren’t very respectful of the audience.

There is a definite dichotomy between the speech giving/presentation phase and the group-with-group phase of the night.

Which street preacher wouldst thou be?

Anonymous said...

Hi Kyt,

I don't find anything to be inflammatory in what the street preachers say. But then again, I'm a great proponent of the truth. On the other hand, our atheistic counterparts spew quite a few remarks that many would perceive to be incendiary as well as condescending. Most are respectful though.
I'm not telling who I am! ! I'm anonymous.

Anonymous said...

I am an envangelical Christian who believes in what is known as "street witnessing" ...

however, I do think the methods often used by many of them are counter productive and violate the normal rules of Christian etiquette

Kyt Dotson said...

Welcome to the most popular post in my blog ever, Anonymous.

I study the street preachers rather incidentally—they’re on my street—and while it’s cultural anthropology, I am really no expert in the presentation. They’ve always had a section in my variously more academic reports, but gather a larger notice in my nightly narrative. Especially now that I discovered the group who showed up to protest them.

It’s interesting to see so many perspectives, and I’m really amazed at how attractive the Internet is.

I hope thy stay is entertaining at least.