Sunday, November 23, 2008

Mill Avenue Nights Saturday November 22st 2008

Some interesting things to regale people with tonight. The SFTS invited some reporters from the New Times to observe what they do so I saw them out there with the group, but didn’t get much of a chance to speak with them; I’m not quite sure that journalists are in my observative mandate for Mill Ave. Of course, I’m happy to see them checking out things on the Ave.

Upon arrival we discovered a huge protest happening on the corner of Mill Ave and University—prominent in the group were flags that were immediately obvious as Palestinian. It seems that there was a protest that night that went as late as 8pm by a Palestinian group about Israel. I did not get a chance to talk to them, nor get photographs (my camera died covering the Westboro no-show.)

“End Israeli Occupation”

Drum Circle and Mill rats

Amid the crowds I found Vince wandering around, but didn’t have a chance to speak with him.

The drum circle I missed out on in a major way, having trouble walking long distances. I accidentally dropped it out of my patrol path in order to shorten my movements. I did see a number of street rats that I know and spoke with them for a while, but I didn’t witness any drums—except for as musicians on the Ave itself—during the night.

I did have some conversations with random Mill goers who appeared to be middle-class Americans. Surprised by my makeup and the way that I dress (the whole goth thing has fallen a bit out of the public mindset recent.) I did not get his name but he seemed to be interested in my observations of the construction of the Centerpoint Towers and the other issues with real estate and Mill Ave nightlife.


I actually had a pair of extremely polite black American women approach me to ask what an anthropologist is. A thing that came up a couple times at the Westboro non-protest at The Laramie Project play showing at Glendale Community College. The term isn’t well known to the public—although there is a TV show which exemplifies it in a pop cultural way: Bones. It was fun to talk to them because they were cut-out of the flesh of Ave passersby themselves.

I have been waiting for people to say things like, “You dress funny for an anthropologist.” Whereas I would like to explain to them that when studying the savages it’s best to dress like them, but somehow I think that the humor might get lost on them. So I’ve kept that one on the back of my tongue for a more appreciative audience.


The entire group of the SFTS clustered in front of Borders at about 8:30pm and eventually decided to move away because there was nothing going on. They finalized their set up in front of the Post Office where they pretty much spent the night.

Suzanne is the newest member of the Way of the Master group who I have met. She is a middle-aged woman with long, brown hair and a gentle voice. She had a sensibility that I don’t notice much in the preachers, but she wasn’t one of the shouty-shouty types and lent herself primarily to handing out tracts. She is the mother of the young woman in the wheelchair who comes out to Mill (who I haven’t had a chance to speak to yet—I’ve been spending too much time learning the names of the new Mill rats.)

Apparently her daughter is also a writer who has been working on archaeological fiction—a genre dear to my heart ever since watching all of Raiders of the Lost Arc and similar movies.

The next evangelist that I got a chance to speak with was Trevor. A middle-height young man, with short-cut hair, and a steady gaze like he’s looking for something behind your head. I spoke to him for a little while, trying to gage his gesticulations and body language with how he held his Bible. I also noticed that when he descends into his mirror-speech his voice “goes away” like it’s literally been lost in thought. I’m used to seeing people’s faces become blank or flatten, not their voices—in his case I think he’s way too well practiced with his mirrorspeech and this has created a different cadence to his voice when he falls back to a script.

I am slowly developing archetypes for the people who come out to Mill and he falls far, far away from Suzanne on that spectrum.

Usually I spend little time speaking, and I mostly listen when I meet a new preacher. But this time I felt a little impatient and decided to chisel at his mirrorspeech to get to know who he was as a person. Since he is really out there selling his religious meme, he had little time to actually do this sort of thing because I think he quickly discovered he wasn’t finding a convert in me (I’m too familiar with everything he had to say.) And more than once he missed entire sections of what I said because I must have hit a keyword in his speech that set off his script. Things like, “You must have a lot of faith then; a great deal.” In reply to things about Celtic mythology and how I find it extremely interesting.

He wouldn’t take one of my books, telling me, “That’s okay.”

Apparently he came to his particular doctrine from A.A. meetings. Which he described as false teachings, trying to tell people to either be their own god or develop their own sense of the divine in order to break themselves from addiction. He has a part-and-parcel indoctrination story about how he was steeped in party culture, getting drunk, doing some drugs and eventually dragged himself out.

He also had an obsession with “real names” like other evangelists of his particular type. I will go into why they do this in my post on Better Than Faith and in a later article on here. However, I have some observations and thoughts on it right below:

All names are real; or none are.

This is rhetorical, of course. When someone says, “real name,” they are attempting to apply some sort of disenfranchisement to a name that they don’t believe is what you like to be called by your friends. They feel like you have handed them a subordinate title because they’re not in the right group—and in fact, they’re right, they’re not in the proper group to know your name as you are with friends. Most our society affects this particular thing by offering our family name (last name) instead of our first name when introducing ourselves to strangers. In most cultures this is stratified by levels of formality.

The street, however, has a totally different take on this than the rarified polite culture: we have street names. And these names are as good as any, since they define and refine who and what we are to the people we meet there. These evangelists come into our culture and they experience a strange culture-shock when they discover that we are different than they are.

The general transcript of any conversation seem to run this way:

“What’s your birth name?”

“I don’t have it anymore.”

“What happened to it…?”

“I gave it back.”

“To who?”

“My parents.”

The misunderstanding at this point is where I derive a lot of amusement. The evangelists—or whomever—just really wants a “handle” on me by using the name they thing will have the most psychic impact on my mind, the psychology of names is that when people use them they tend to get our attention and notice. Really, I don’t have that name anymore. I don’t use it anywhere not even with the US Government. It’s not mine to give.

Worse: if Trevor used it, he would insult me over and over.

Have we ever thought about how naming someone who cannot choose their name themselves is a little bit silly? Naming a child nowadays is like naming a dog or a cat. Some creature that responds to a label by training, but not because they would have chosen it themselves. A great deal of people go by nicknames or names they’ve taken to themselves than birth names because often birth names are not even proper to the person—and then there are those who choose their birth names. In a way, accepting the gift; but this is not always the case.

He also had a strange comment about “true names.” Saying that if I were reborn (he must be from the Born Again meme) that his god would replace my heart of stone with a heart of flesh and give me my “True Name.” I don’t know what exactly he meant by that, except that it tells me that he himself doesn’t even understand what he originally meant by “real name” if I could get an entire other more proper “True” name by joining his mythology.

I am named after the daughter of one of the A’Toll Crystalian heroes: Amyrist Embrak A’Toll. One of the first of my clan, in fact.

You can read more about my observations of the preachers on my Better Than Faith observations blog post for this weekend.

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