Wednesday, August 16, 2006

My namesake gets it

William McKinley, January 29, 1843 – September 14, 1901.

Rockaway Beach, New York

Rockaway Beach, New York
Originally uploaded by Richard.
These bits of New York and Long Island, down by JFK Airport and further out east into the Atlantic, look so fragile from the air. I guess if climate change is a reality, we may have to say bye to Rockaway.

Fifty years ago and more, Rockway Beach was where Irish immigrants and their Irish-American children settled in large numbers, or at least set up their summer homes. It's sometimes called the 'Irish Riviera' to this day. The Ramones' wrote a classic song, "Rockaway Beach," about here in 1977.

Monday, August 14, 2006

I am a bad Protestant

I'd never heard of the Five Solas.

I'm also a bad Protestant because I live in Harlem, but that doesn't preclude me from being in touch with the Gospel. There was a very special outdoor meeting at the New Covenant Tabernacle on Amsterdam Avenue on Saturday evening, with a big screen TV thing projecting some sort of Gospel service in Spanish - the gimmick was that the preacher on screen, whose fluency and presence made me stop and watch, was 12 or 13 years old.

Because I stopped, a smiling man in a shirt and tie came over to give me a tract. At the last moment he fumbled slightly, and reached to the bottom of his wee pile of tracts where he had versions in English.

New York City is easily one of the most religious places I have ever been, and that includes Ballymena. I have a friend who lives in Brownsville, Brooklyn and there are five competing evangelical black churches on his block, all operating out of shopfronts that were once delis or bodegas.

Lucky for me, there are only three on my block. Oh, and there's the Church of the Covenant on Convent Avenue, which looks like a nuclear bunker, one block away.

Even with its reputation as a flesh pot, New York City's residents can be surprisingly close to God. Yesterday I hitched a lift with a friend from Brooklyn to Manhattan. I sat in the back next to his guitar and a month-old copy of one of the local gay magazines, Next. As he needlessly worked out his aggression by negotiating the traffic with too much honking and cursing, I leafed through the magazine. I discovered someone I knew last year, a semi-famous DJ, had died, aged maybe mid-40s.

I'd had breakfast at his house one morning last summer. In his funny little gay East Village apartment, I had been struck by how many little religious Jewish trinkets he had on display and drew his attention to them.

"Yeah, I'm a fucking New York City Jew," he said. R.I.P., Louis.


Are you addicted to porn? Probably not – besides, what exactly does ‘addicted’ mean? Whatever your sexual preference, chances are you don’t mind glancing occasionally at some sort of nudiness, and that it does not in any way damage your life, mental health, standing in society, chances of heaven in the hereafter (what hereafter?). News reaches me of a poll conducted by leading U.S. Christian web site,, which says that an eleven-question survey posed on its home page shows that “no one is immunized against the vice-grip clutches of sexual addictive behaviors.”

"The poll results indicate that 50% of all Christian men and 20% of all Christian women are addicted to pornography," said Clay Jones, founder and President of Second Glance Ministries, which conducted the poll in conjunction with ChristiaNet.

The report concludes: “It seems the Christian community is struggling with many of the same ‘temptations’ that the secular society is faced with.” There’s so much in this pompous and pat little conclusion that pisses me off: the tiny worldview, the implicit dual assumption that Christians are better than the rest of ‘secular society,’ yet always in danger of slithering downwards, and the rank ignorance of what is neatly termed ‘secular society.’ Then again, what do you expect from people who unironically publish books like the one pictured above?

Meanwhile in Iraq, something not that much different is happening in terms of being terrified by sex. Via Andrew Sullivan's blog: “Iraqi Islamists are threatening shepherds with violence if they don't clothe their goats with diapers to avoid tempting lonely shepherds… it's also revealing about the way fundamentalism and sex interact. What most male-run religious fundamentalisms include is a major exception for the hetero-male sex drive. Sex outside of missionary-position reproduction with legal wife/wives is officially verboten; but when frail male flesh gives in, the blame is almost always the object of desire - not the guy actually responsible. Hence: it's the goat's fault. The way they were dressed, they were asking for it.”

A note on the side: in Afghanistan in 2002, I actually witnessed a man shagging a goat. And, in order to help stave off any further descent into uncontrollable porno perversion, I urge you all not to look below. Don't look! DON'T. LOOK.