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    Friday, December 30, 2011

    A Memoir Moment

    The Tale of a Youth Master
    It was a chilly December afternoon full of amazing potential.  My wife (then Fiancé), Hilary had a roommate who was performing in New York City, so we put together a band of misfits and decided to drive into the city of New York for the very first time.  None of our band of friends had ever ventured into the deep heart of Manhattan before, so eager anticipation filled the car ride.  As we drove, many of us were thinking of the sights we’d see, the sounds we’d hear and the food we would taste; as well as thinking about our friend and how she would do.
    We drove in my green, tiny little 98’ Honda Civic from Nyack to Manhattan on the Palisades Parkway.  We were all packed in there like sardines: I was driving, Hilary was in the passenger seat and in the back we had our friends AJ, Chantelle and Debbie. Hilary was (and still is) a brown haired, brown eyed knock-out (who strikingly looks like Anne Hathaway). AJ was a jacked muscular Italian guy with long blonde hair and a smile that could melt most women’s hearts.  Chantelle was a petite little white girl who lived in Africa most of her life; and Debbie was your typical blonde haired, blue eyed suburban girl from Jersey.  Together we were an interesting crew to venture into the city of New York, some would even say we were (in city lingo) “suspect”, which means such an odd paring that something had to be off.  Nonetheless we all together headed into Manhattan for our friend: Maimee.
    Once we arrived in Manhattan, we had to make our way to the place where Maimee was to perform.  Let me begin by saying: all of us in the group are coming from a Christian college and all have pretty conservative backgrounds; with that said, you can enter into the world of our uncomfortable feelings.  Maimee was to perform in a club for the evening along with other acts for the night.  We honestly had no idea what to expect (in fact neither did Maimee).  After some trekking through the city, we finally came to the place where Maimee was to perform.  We saw the sign and walked up to the building only to find that we needed to head down a staircase to the lower level where the bar/club was to be found.  Immediately I felt weird.  Never before had I ventured into Manhattan on my own (or with friends) and now we are being asked to go down to a basement bar?  I was beyond freaked out, I was downright scared; but I had to be brave for my fiancé because AJ, big AJ was being tough and brave and I didn’t want to look weak in the shadow of his strength.  We ventured onward and came to the bar in the basement.
    Once we got there, I could tell right away it was shady.  My lungs were rudely invaded by the strong smell of: cigarettes, alcohol and urine; it was a putrid smelling mix to say the least.  The lights were dimmed to near darkness and the walls were light up; highlighting the interesting paintings on the walls.  When I looked at the walls (which as I said were featured), I noticed right away that my eyes were not expecting what they saw.  What I saw painted on the walls were graphic nude scenes that would make your Grandma blush.  They were apparently labeled as “artistic” but I thought the word “pornographic” would be more suitable.
      Shortly after our entire sensory system was offended, we were greeted by a waitress with a too-low top which left her a little exposed and she offered us all something to drink (which yes, meant alcohol).  We all declined and asked for sodas instead, which brought a rolling of the eyes and a sigh from our waitress.  First off, we were too young to drink and secondly, we were, as I mentioned earlier, pretty conservative folks.
    By the time we received our sodas, we were more than ready to leave but we decided stick it out; so tried to find Maimee to see what the plan was on her performance (seeking really to see how fast we could exit).  She was yacking it up with some slick, young looking guy with a Gucci watch and some overly large sunglasses on his face; which didn’t make sense considering we were in a dark, dingy basement.  She caught sight of us and invited us over.  She shared that the young man she was talking to was some guy from Sony (I will name him Mr. Sony) who was here tonight to hear the performances.  We were all duly impressed and asked when she expected to be on stage.  She shared with us that she would be on in roughly 15 minutes.  I think all of us inwardly let out a huge sigh of relief at the news, but we all smiled outwardly  to allow Maimee to sense our excitement for her and her chance to show her skills to some big people (like the creepy, slick-haired Mr. Sony).
    After sitting around and talking amongst ourselves about the weird Mr. Sony and the choice of décor the bar/club owner chose, we were ready to listen to Maimee sing her song for all to hear.  She sang beautifully and had the crowd hushed, eagerly listening to her wonderful voice.  The song was remarkable and all of us who drove from Nyack together kept looking at each other in awestruck wonder.  We had heard Maimee sing before, but never like this!  It was amazing and the Mr. Sony seemed to be into it as well.  He continued to nod his head and do something with his phone (which we all assumed was a good sign).
    After her performance, she came over to us and was instantly followed by Mr. Sony.  We all had conversations with her and him.  What struck me was that even though he couldn’t offer Maimee anything and she probably wasn’t going to get picked up by a label such as Sony, the guy was genuinely nice.  We all discussed later how we had mis-judged him.  We took what we saw at face value and made an instantaneous judgment of the guy.  We found out that he too was a Christian and felt just as awkward in the club as we did.  He was a stand up guy and we were wrong to judge him the way we did.
    Soon after talking with Mr. Sony, we headed out on the town.  We hit up some American Restaurant for dinner where we laughed and had great conversations about the seedy bar, Mr. Sony and how great Maimee did in front of a weird (most likely drunk) crowd.  Maimee was grateful for us being there (especially, she said because of the place) and shared with us how she felt the whole time before and during her stage debut at the shady club.  She also apologized to AJ and me for the graphic “artistic” nudes throughout the bar. Both of us chuckled and said we just kept our heads down and eyes focused on the floor.
    When dinner was over, it was time for us to head on out, we had a curfew to meet at our Christian college after all and with what we’d already been through we didn’t want to risk getting into any more trouble.  We ventured back into the crazy jungle of Manhattan driving, we cleared the city and drove over the George Washington Bridge (fondly known as the G-Dub).  Once we crossed into NJ, I felt a little more comfortable so I stepped on the gas a bit, met with immediate rejection.  My now wife, Hilary looked at me and said: “Slow down Marvin, we don’t need a ticket to go with our night”.  I was in no way going to slow down, so I said: “Honey, there are no cops and there is no need for me to slow down”. 
    No sooner were the words out of my mouth when a siren went off behind me.  My mind froze and I instantly began to regret my words.  My heart was racing and breath was withheld by all in the car.  I pulled over to the right on the Palisades Parkway, 800 feet from Exit 1.  We all, with bated breath awaited the arrival of the cop.  Shortly after being pulled over, I noticed the car was un-marked and two, not one cop was coming out of the car, without the normal uniform.  I started to panic and think to myself “How fast was I going?  What on earth is going on”?
    The answer came quickly when a young, strapping dark-haired Italian looking cop came to my window and asked me to get out of the car right away.  Next to him was a fat, wanna be Hitler looking guy with a large face and a tiny mustache that seemed to match the angry look on his face.  He too yelled for me to get out of the car.
    Everyone in the car freaked and said: “That’s not standard procedure, if you go out, be careful”.  As soon as I stepped out of the car, the cops asked me to go to the back of the vehicle, so I complied.  As the nicer looking cop interrogated me, the Nazi cop began flashing his flashlight in my car and in the faces of my friends.  The nicer cop asked me where we were and so I described going to see our friend sing at a club, to which the Nazi cop screamed: “Told YOU!”  This completely confused me until the nicer cop asked: “Young man, we know you and your friends have drugs, where are they?”  To say I was stunned would be an understatement, I was completely at a loss for words (which doesn’t happen to me).  I stepped back and said: “sir, we do not have any drugs, I promise you”.  Then, the Nazi cop came over and got in my face: “We know you have drugs!  We can tell, you college kids always have drugs!  We have dogs at exit one waiting to sniff out your car!”  I spoke nervously, but confidently “Sir, we truly do not have drugs. We can go to exit one, where the dogs are and you will see.”  The Nazi cop got all in my face and said: “Can you vouch for your friends?  That blonde Italian guy, he looks like he’s hiding something, something like drugs!”  I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, but I said: “Sir, I know we do not have drugs.  Everyone in that car is studying ministry at Nyack College and I am studying to be a Youth Pastor, we do not have drugs”. 
    With one final desperate act, the Nazi cop looked me in the face and said:
    “What the heck is a YOUTH MASTER?”  I realized he had no idea what I said and a name like “youth master” could insinuate that I am in charge of some underground youth drug cartel.  I stood there in shock when the nice cop said: “Idiot!  He said Youth Pastor!  I believe them, let’s let them go, I don’t think they have any drugs”.  The Nazi cop glared at me and said: “Very well, you may go”.
    I got back in my car a bit shook up and began to drive back to Nyack.  I stayed quiet for awhile, but then relayed the entire story to my eager audience of passengers.
    As I reflect on that crazy, wild night in Manhattan, I see some weird things that connect that never seemed to connect before.  The first connection is that my group of friends and I were both judgers of appearance and judged by our appearance.  The second is that knowing someone is the key to true understanding of that person.  Mr. Sony looked like a slick, slimy recruiter but he wasn’t anything of the sort, it wasn’t until we got to know him that we realized the truth.  Apparently, my misfit band of friends looked like a drug infested party waiting to crash, yet we too were no such thing.  It wasn’t until the cops actually took time to hear me out and find out a little about me that they could determine I was in no way a drug dealer or user. This event has since made me consider to not react strictly by the appearance of those I meet, but to truly get to know them before I allow any thoughts on their person to creep into my mind.


    Erik Pasco said...

    Awesome story Marv, I enjoyed reading it.

    Marv Nelson said...

    Thanks Erik! I had to write a memoir for my master's course and this is what I wrote. I trying to be a better story-teller so I am glad you enjoyed it!