Monday, August 10, 2015


When I moved from Chicago to Bellingham, Washington, I was passionate about a vision I'd had in relation to an artists' colony for talented Christians: Musicians, actors, painters, photographers and videographers and so forth. It had been my experience that it was tough to find financial support needed in order to pursue one's artistic visions, so I thought that it might be more advisable to launch a ministry that would help artistic Christians to pursue their artistic passions while also giving glory to God, either directly or indirectly.

I'd been drawn to Bellingham by a statement to the effect that Bellingham had a lot of artists, on a per-capita basis. That statement was made by Everett Barton, with whom I stayed for nearly a year after moving here.

In order to launch my endeavor, which I had begun to call the Christian Artists' Resource Center, I knew that I would need to raise funds. No way could I afford to start such a center on my own! I'd moved here in the first place because I was close to homeless, and did not want to stay in a Chicago homeless shelter like the Pacific Garden Mission.

I attended church with Everett at Hillcrest Chapel, which seemed to have a connection with the Assemblies of God denomination, even though the church really had little or no interest in the charismatic underpinnings of the denomination.

However, I was aware of other Christian ministries in Bellingham, WA as well. One ministry that caught my eye was called Band of Brothers for Christ. It was sponsored by Christ The King, a church that had a nice building in the Cordata neighborhood, next to the DSHS office that dispensed food stamps and other government benefits. What I particularly liked about Band of Brothers was that it seemed to be a "transdenominational" group, not merely a group for people who attended Christ The King.

They had meetings there on Tuesday nights at around 6:00 p.m., lasting several hours. Each meeting began with a serving of either hamburgers or hot dogs, along with such things as salad, chips, and ice cream for dessert. It was decent food, but hardly anything to cause one to attend the meeting for the food alone. I attended because I genuinely wanted to make connections with fellow Christians, so that I could communicate my vision for the Christian Artists' Resource Center with the people there.

The group also had a Saturday meeting called Band of Business Brothers. That sounded to me like a great opportunity to connect with business men who had the kind of financial resources that my project would require.

The meetings for that business group were held at Cascade Pizza (2431 Meridian Street, Bellingham, WA 98225), on the second floor of the restaurant, which had decent pizza.

After attending the first meeting and getting to know others there, I decided that I knew them well enough to make a brief presentation regarding my vision and to ask them to pray for me, and hopefully offer some kind of tangible support, in relation to the vision.

They quickly squashed that idea. I was informed that Band of Business Brothers was NOT a group where one was free to share one's personal visions.

Never mind that my vision had been praised by artistic Christians as diverse as Anne Rice (a Catholic who had written The Vampire Chronicles before going on to write "Christ The Lord: Out of Egypt"), John Howard Sanden (former artistic director for Billy Graham), Ken Wales (executive director of the movie Amazing Grace, and also involved in secular projects like the TV show Cagney and Lacey).

At Band of Brothers, Raul Chavez told us that we could not even exchange our personal business cards with one another! All we could do was write our names on their little preprinted business cards for the group, which had no space for any of our personal contact information, and which had to be filled in with pens or pencils. What the point of that ridiculous rule might have been was hard for me to understand. It was as if Raul only cared if his own group prospered, but he did not care if any of us also prospered.

There was a time when we broke into small groups, each of which had a "table leader". We were encouraged to talk about any issues we were dealing with, and to solicit prayers about those matters. There was a time limit to our discussions.

They co-opted the old saying, "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" (just as they co-opted their logo from a classic image of the raising of the American flag at Iwo Jima by modifying it to substitute a big cross for the American flag). Was there ANY originality in this group? Any actual innovation? I began to seriously wonder.

What I needed was visionaries and facilitators. Instead, I realized that BOBFC consisted of obstructionists, whose perceived role was to kill innovation.

The group had no women. There was a parallel group called Squadron of Sisters. But it was clear to me that neither group cared much about SINGLE Christian men and women. How were such people supposed to meet one another and form relationships, if the only groups at Christ The King were for MARRIED people?

The "married people only" orientation was evident in their strong stance against pornography. It never seemed to occur to them that single people who were still VIRGINS, as I was, had good reason to want to experience sex vicariously, if they could not experience it directly.

Porn was and is a lousy substitute for actual sex, but it's better than nothing if one has not EVER been blessed with a spouse, and if one has refrained from fornication with prostitutes or others who might willingly engage in sex even in lieu of marriage.

I am not surprised, however, by the inability of Band of Brothers to identify with single people. I visited with Grant Fishbook, the main pastor at Christ The King, to plead with him and try to get him to consider hosting a fellowship group for single Christians who wanted to meet one another in a social setting similar to Band of Brothers and Squadron of Sisters. Why not a third group, called Squadron of Singles? They certainly had the facilities for that kind of thing.

I e-mailed Grant an attachment, designed to demonstrate why a local singles' group was badly needed in Bellingham. It concerned the vulnerability of lonely singles to online dating scams.

In response, Grant called me and threatened to file a restraining order against me if I ever sent him another e-mail message.

Words cannot express how unconscionable I considered that to be. Grant's attitude was obviously, "I've been blessed with a wife of my own. Who gives a (bleep) whether or not you are ever similarly blessed?"

If I ever visit a legal brothel like the Bunny Ranch or the Mustang Ranch because I have despaired of ever finding a woman of my own, Grant Fishbook and Raul Chavez will have no one to blame but themselves.


Saturday, May 16, 2015

Lurrie and Carey Bell and Da' Blooz

In Chicago, while I was staying at the Lawson House YMCA, I had an opportunity to play my keyboard behind Lurrie Bell at a Christmas party. We got a standing ovation, although that might not have seemed very meaningful, since the residents were just a smattering of people just as poor as we were.

Soon thereafter, Lurrie came out with his "comeback album" on Delmark Records (owned by Bob Koester of the Jazz Record Mart). Lurrie took me to the Delmark offices, where I heard the album with him sitting there and grinning.

Lurrie's father, Carey, had once played harmonica behind Muddy Waters. Father and son later recorded an album together, called "Second Nature". Here's a link to the YouTube video of that album, which is available in the form of a CD-R "one-off" disc from Amazon.