Posted by: nflanders | April 23, 2008

Stabbing Jesus – Weekly Journal Excerpt

This week my journal was not all that interesting, so I picked up a different volume (I told you I wrote a lot!) and found something at random that I liked. This takes place just a few months before my previous excerpts. I live out in the boonies with my comp, Elder Ford. At the time, I thought Ford was very devout, but in actuality he was just as conflicted as me. He is the only companion I still keep in touch with. He’s also left the church, but when I tried to proselyte to him about the DAMU, he didn’t seem very interested. Maybe I’ll leave him a pamphlet.

Other explanatory notes: we live in a one bedroom apartment with two of the most annoying elders I ever had the displeasure of meeting: Alvarez (the Zone Leader) and Jefferson. Jefferson deserves a whole book because he was one messed up dude. He was one of those elders with lots of “past transgressions” who seemed to be trying extra hard to be the perfect missionary. It’s always the reformed sinners that are the zealots. Whenever he’d teach a discussion, his voice would get all high-pitched because he thought that General Conference tone would bring the Spirit. Despite his self-righteousness and policing other people’s behavior, he was also one hell of a baker. He was constantly baking delicious things and sharing them with the zone. I still dream about his orange rolls.

Cliff and Jared are other missionaries in the zone with whom we often do splits. Andrea and Wilma (her real name!) are both Latina sister missionaries. Wilma is a local member doing a month-long mini-mission and Andrea is from Chile. Final explanatory note: Argentines are still quite angry about the war over the Falkland Islands that they fought with Britain in 1982. Argentina still claims sovereignty over the Falklands, but refers to them as “Las Malvinas.” Place names are endlessly recycled so there are neighborhoods and even cities called “Las Malvinas” in the province of Buenos Aires. Enjoy:  

16 December 1997

…the nice memories of today clash harshly with the bleak prospects of tomorrow and the annoyingness of my housemates. Jefferson and Alvarez’s nightly prayer was a spectacle tonight as Jefferson was crying and loudly sobbed out his prayer…

17 December 1997

…I warned Cliff and Jared and Andrea about the brownies as Jefferson for some inexplicable reason last night as they were cooling put Alvarez’s bath towel right on top of them and left it till morning. Disgusting. I didn’t eat any brownies. Cliff ate even after I told him. Jared and Andrea declined to eat more after I warned them. I was tempted but I kept strong. A lot of free time to joke around with the sister missionaries but I fear I am going too far. I guess the whole teasing thing is kind of childish, but I just try to get laughs out of them. My jokes went over flat with Jared.

The meeting was okay, I guess. Alvarez did something cool for once; he had this thick cardboard sheet and he went around and had us stab our sins into the cardboard slab. So everyone just laid into it and slashed away and it was fun. Then he pulls out the picture of Jesus that was inside, all stabbed and slashed and said that Jesus took upon him all our sins. I thought it was cool. Everyone was so shocked when he pulled out the mutilated picture of Jesus. I let out a cry of impressment.

I told Wilma, “The mini-mission is good so you can see that you don’t want to do the big one.” She is crazy missing Christmas and New Years when she lives just a couple of train stops away. I don’t know if I would do it. I throw a lot of respect her way just for that. And when I was thinking this earlier, the thought came to me, “Well, you’re doing the same-but longer.” “But I have to,” came the reply in my mind. “Who told you you had to?” “A prophet of God.” It  wasn’t optional. But what she’s doing is quite optional and quite avoidable.

I was talking with Andrea and she asked me why I came on the mish. I told her first that I was being paid, but then I told her I didn’t have any place to be. “I thought…” and I paused here, not exactly wanting to bare my soul for someone who I barely know and probably in private dislikes me. “I thought it would be different.”  What I didn’t say was that I thought I would change for the better, I thought I’d return a different person. I was running away from myself on a superficial level because when the daily grind comes down on me, I want to stay who I am and not change at all. Of course, I couldn’t tell Andrea that so I said I came to pick up chicks…

18 December 1997

We walked off to a mess of dirt roads in the middle of nowhere, technically called “Malvinas”…Cliff sometimes doesn’t know where to draw the line, which he demonstrated by asking the Stake Mission Counselor when they were going to change the name of the neighborhood to “Falklands.” Not too funny, just uncomfortable.

We missed the train of course, and thus had to take the bus home. We were trying to figure out how to get home. Andrea told us that Jefferson and Alvarez had already left on the last train until 3 or so and that we might as well wait for the train at 3:30 with them. But Wilma informed us that we could take any #52 bus out to Lujan. And Andrea said, “Why did you tell them? They would have had to wait with us for the train.” “Better that they go,” said Wilma. As we were walking out of the station, Andrea offered me one of their sandwiches. I told her she shouldn’t share because people are just bad and take and take and take. “People like…” and I trailed off here. “Like what?” “People like me,” I said. I asked her if she had put her bath towel on top of the sandwiches. “No.” “Well then, maybe I’ll have one,” I said, provoking laughs from both Wilma and Andrea. But I had realized seconds earlier that the reason I didn’t like receiving free stuff from people is because I like to live the Golden Rule and for my part to be justifiable, I have to want that others give me nothing. Worse was the guilt of knowing I wouldn’t have done the same thing for them. That is definitely the worst…It was nice of them to offer but in the end I did not accept.

 We parted from the sisters and came home and ordered a pizza since I didn’t feel like cooking. Thankfully, Ford let me have one of his pieces since I was still hungry and he was not. We still had 30 minutes left of lunch so I read the newspaper in my bed waiting till Ford would come get me. But he fell asleep on Alvarez’s bed and time dragged on and I didn’t want to wake him up. It was 5pm and then 6pm and I got dressed to get ready to leave and listened to my walkman. A salesman came by. The Red Cross came by. Then Ford went into the bathroom for like an hour or so. He came out and sat on his bed. Something is definitely wrong with him. Not that I mind sleeping the siesta. On the contrary. But it doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t fit into his character. At least with my previous companion I knew why we were staying in and could count on it but this was just weird. We didn’t leave until 8pm… I thought it was kind of funny as I was thinking about sharing too much with Andrea that sometimes we share our most intimate secrets with people we barely know just because they don’t understand what secret has been casually plopped in their lap.

I’m going to call this final excerpt “Ned and the wise man…”

I don’t want to downplay the problem of alcoholism, especially in nations with high unemployment, but missionaries probably aren’t the most qualified judges of it. Compounding this problem is that often the only people who actually want to talk to the missionaries are drunk. For this reason, we missionaries were very dismissive of anyone we considered a drunk or anyone who bought the Argentine drunk’s favorite wine, Pico de Oro. Pico de Oro comes in a box and is extremely cheap, hence it’s popularity with poor people and alcoholics. It’s the cheapest form of booze this side of rubbing alcohol. (Tangent: Chileans find Pico de Oro hilarious, because “pico” is Chilean slang for penis; so it translates as “Golden Penis.” Add to this that, colloquially, drinking was often called “sucking”, as in, “he was sucking down that wine” and you have unlimited comic possibilities.) Anyway, here is my conversation with a very wise man. And yes, Pico de Oro did have a Christmas tie-in edition of their box wine, much like Coca-Cola, that featured Santa Claus on the box.

20 December 1997

Talked to some drunk. Very old, carrying his Pico de Oro home from the kiosco. “You don’t drink wine?” “No,” I said. “What do you drink then?” “Coke – the best. It’s living water,” I told him. “No, Coke has drugs in it like caffeine but the vino is natural. It only has some alcohol in it.” “Yeah, and your liver will be about this big,” I said. Then I asked if he had the new Christmas Pico which has Santa on the front, drinking down a big glass of wine. He was surprised to discover it did indeed have that on the cover. Then he said, “If Santa Claus drinks wine, why shouldn’t I?” “You shouldn’t follow the example of Santa Claus,” I told him. He told us about a schoolmate of his who didn’t drink or smoke or womanize and died at 26 of a heart attack, as opposed to him, who did all that and was 70 now. “Why not?” he said. I asked if he was happy. He said yes, but I don’t believe it.

Of course I didn’t believe it. How could he be happy if he was drinking (cue scary music) WINE! Of course, if he was actually an alcoholic, then he probably wasn’t very happy, but I don’t think I was a very good judge of that back then. He might have just been an old guy buying the only wine he could afford to drink with his meal. And I know for a fact that he was happier than I was at that moment. So who should have been lecturing whom, I ask you?

                                      Pico de Oro



  1. Goddamnit, Ned, why weren’t you born in 1966 so you could’ve gone on a mission with me? Finally, someone I can relate to. Especially how you dealt with the drunk guy–that was fantastic!

    And I thought your best stuff was the “bowels are full of mercy” line from the MTC. Boy was I wrong.

    Good work, my man, good work.

    “If Santa Claus drinks wine, why shouldn’t I?”

    My new signature line on FLAK, con tu permiso, maestro.

  2. Por supuesto, señor. You are too kind.

    I can’t imagine the dip in the number of discussions if we couldn’t count drunks or women sweeping their walks.

  3. When I was in Villa Amelia–not too far from where you did your sentence–we tracted out and taught this one guy the first three discussions while he was drunk. When we came for the fourth, he was sober and didn’t know who we were.

  4. That’s one hell of a hangover. Surprise, you’re halfway Mormon! Although, it was nice of him to sober up for the Word of Wisdom discussion. What did he say when you showed up?

    I gave sit-down first discussions to several people who either a) didn’t understand us at all, b) had a serious mental disability, c) were just trying to be polite, or d) were blasted out of their skulls. Gathering the elect, indeed.

  5. His words–“Quienes son Uds? “Como que estaban hablandome de religion, soy catolico apostolico romano, y no me interesa cambiar. Que tengan un muy buen dia, tengo cosas que hacer. Chau”.

  6. Why was Jefferson crying?

    He told us about a schoolmate of his who didn’t drink or smoke or womanize and died at 26 of a heart attack, as opposed to him, who did all that and was 70 now.

    Best argument ever! Obviously, the lack of drinking, smoking and womanising led to premature death. It’s only logical!

  7. you must have been a totally fat missionary. three or four Whoppers at a sitting, a half kilo of ice cream, the extra slice a pizza, brownies, orange rolls… it’s like eating was your only joy on the mish. or maybe it was your way of dealing w/ the depression of being a missionary. it sure worked for me!

  8. Three things (now with four! thanks to the Cap’n):

    First, what is UP with the damn apostates who don’t LOVE THE DAMU!!?!? They are some annoying mofos, no? They are like FISH WHO ARE ALL, “WATER? NONE FOR ME, THANKS.”

    Second, “a cry of impressment” is only the single best phrase I’ve heard all week. Noice.

    Third, “sucking on the golden penis” — another modern classic.

    New! Fourth — Oy, cap’n, I was born in ’66 too. We’re old now. But you probably already know that. Sucks (the golden penis).

  9. I just can’t get over the brownies covered by a bath towel. Germaphobes unite.

  10. Wry:

    Well then, where the hell were you at while I was suffering self-righteous prigs by myself? Although I must admit, I was probably a pretty terrible comp to have for the sticklers for the rules–running off by myself, reading, sleeping in, refusing to do “companionship” study, etc…the only reason anyone, including my two presidents tolerated me was I was a pretty decent ‘baptizer’ and I got along well with the Argentines.

  11. This has got to be my favorite internet post ever.

    Hey Ned, did you ever have that fruit cocktail the Argies made using white wine? They’d serve it in a glass–it had apples, grapes, oranges, all covered in white wine or occasionally alcoholic cider (sidra).

    I just remembered that stuff—another reason I probably made a lousy comp was that I loved it. Around the holidays the Argies who weren’t members would make it and give it to us. By the time my comps figured out what it was I’d already “chugged” the glass, wine, fruit and all.

    There wasn’t enough booze to even affect you, unless you were a real glutton and polished of 5 or 6 glasses of the stuff, but the missionaries acted like it was Everclear. I had one idiot swear he got a buzz after he’d eaten a few apple slices and some grapes from his “cocktail”.

    Did you ever have that rum flavored ice cream, Samboyan? Good stuff too, and another favorite of mine that had my comps running like vampires from garlic.

  12. Fe de erratas, the liquor flavored ice cream is spelled “sambayon”, not samboyan. One too many fruit cocktails for lunch.

  13. Craig– Why was Jefferson crying? Good question. It didn’t seem very real, at any rate. If he were really upset about something, he wouldn’t sob during his prayer and make such a scene. He was one of those guys, I think, who didn’t know when he was full of it, because he always was.

    And yes, it’s a miracle I survived my youth of alcohol-lessness, tobaccolessness, and womenlessness. No, actually, it was a miracle. I think this guy is on to something.

    m– By all rights, I should have been rolling out the door in the morning, but every single one of us lost at least 15 pounds. That’s what happens when you outlaw dinner (stupid mission president). But yes, I was totally obsessed with food. You should see how talk about members who fed us more than usual or gave us seconds.

    wry– You are too funny. “Sucks (the golden penis)” has been making me laugh out loud for five minutes now.

    You are so right about exmos who aren’t interested in the DAMU. I keep thinking, “he just doesn’t understand what it is, that’s why he’s not interested.” The parallels to Mormonism are uncanny.

    “Cry of impressment” almost got cut because I am embarrassed how much pseudo-King Jamesy language I picked up in my journal.

    WendyP– My fellow germophobe! The thing was that it wasn’t an accident. He didn’t have a dish towel to put over the brownies so he figured, what the hell, let’s use this crotch-and-ass towel, no probs. I couldn’t believe Cliff kept eating the brownies. He was like, “Whatever, a brownie’s a brownie.”

    Capt my Capt– No, I never had the fruit cocktail, at least that I can remember. I do remember bitter controversy on whether we could drink non-alcoholic cidra. We turned it down. We thought we were being so righteous instead of just rude. Never had the sambayon either. I was a dulce de leche granizado man.

  14. And yes, it’s a miracle I survived my youth of alcohol-lessness, tobaccolessness, and womenlessness. No, actually, it was a miracle. I think this guy is on to something.

    You’re right, he was on to something. I can’t speak for the women or tobacco, but alcohol is great. Its funny to think about all the reasons Mormons try to justify the Word of Wisdom (besides GOD SAID SO). My dad’s never had a drop of alcohol, and my mum joined the church when she was about 18, and never was a drinker, so they really have no idea what its about. They told me about how even one drink can make you an alcoholic, and of course there are the many, many sunday school lessons about how alcohol robs you of all your ability to make rational (good, holy, righteous) choices. Of course if you are an alcoholic, then that might be true, but they say it with such finality and as if it were true of everyone who drinks alcohol (almost the entire population of western world).

    That’s my “isn’t Mormonism queer” thought for today.

  15. Craig– I agree. I had my first drink of alcohol ever, just a year ago. That means I was inactive for nine years, abstaining from alcohol. The reason I always gave was, “I have a very addictive personality, so I shouldn’t even try it.” I also wanted to not believe and still not drink, to prove I wasn’t leaving the church just so I could “sin.”

    It’s bizarre to think of alcohol and coffee as “sins” instead of, you know, food! Surprise, surprise, I didn’t turn into an alcoholic as soon as liquor touched my tongue.

  16. It’s funny how much the Word of Wisdom is built up, not the real Word of Wisdom, just the tea, coffee, and alcohol stuff; it’s soooo evil to have an iced tea! And if you don’t drink iced tea, then you will be winning gold medals at the Olympics. It’s all just an easy way to feel more righteous than other people.

    And it is very much like the mission rules. For some reason, I thought swimming was sooo evil, close to the worst thing a missionary could do. Only the worst missionaries went swimming. The only thing worse than swimming was kissing. I was a “bad missionary” well before I broke the swimming rule. I never crossed the kissing line; how did I go two years without kissing anyone?

  17. Yeah, neither did I. And I didn’t become addicted to caffeine as soon as I had a sip of that delicious nectar knows as coffee.

    I think the mission rules are just an outgrowth of the “just do it, cause we said so, not because it makes sense” mentality in the church. Also. I wonder what missionaries were caught having sex to make the “don’t sleep in the same bed” rule. AWKWARD…. But then again, all the rules for missionaries have to do with the opposite sex. You could really get away with all sorts of gay stuff if you really wanted to. (Not that I would know anything about that).

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