Six Christmases ago, for a newspaper story, I sat in on the last sermon of the world’s saddest church.
a little white church at the bottom of a hill, right next to the train
tracks. It had a gravel parking area and a tidy graveyard, though who
knows how tidy those graves are now. A century ago, the local mining
camp built it. Then the mine died. Then all the big donors died.
Then the church died.
went there a few times when I was little. I remember Halloween parties,
grape juice and building the Tower of Babel out of popsicle sticks,
which I guess showed us how God punished popsicles for their hubris by
making them different flavors. I remember one guy who went there, who
was either a gangly teen or a young adult at the time. He was autistic
and his breath smelled like shit. The actual smell of turds would waft
out of his mouth.
I turned into a gangly teen myself and stopped going. And so did
everyone else. When I came back for this story, I saw a plaque on the
wall that boasted a record attendance of 119 or so. I did a head count
in the sanctuary. On Christmas 2005, I think 19 people showed up for the
really should be a bittersweet memory, because I talked to some cheery
old ladies who were proud of what they’d done in and for the little
church, and were proud to carry those memories to new congregations. The
thing that sticks out in my mind most is this, I don’t know, sketch for
the kids, in the middle of the last sermon.
of the congregation, this woman in her 60s wearing a petunia-colored
sweat suit, came up and started talking about what was important about
Christmas. (spoiler: not the presents.) Only she was talking about gold
and jewels for some reason. She had this forced levity you only hear
from estranged family members and divorcees, where if you put on a happy
face then everything is okay.
was the most horrible fucking thing. This woman couldn’t relate to the
kids in front of her, these sullen hunter’s kids with buzzcuts who may
have been named Hunter for all I know. It was like watching a mother try
to play board games with her disinterested, cynical step-children. It
was like the Chris Benoit tribute episode of Monday Night RAW where this
gimmick wrestler who pretended to be a retard with a fucking toy horse
or something flopped around while everyone else was too busy being
devastated and heartbroken over Benoit’s double-murder-suicide.
lady was trying to reach out the only way she knew how. I don’t know if
she was aware of the generational disconnect or the way her upbeat tone
jangled against a background of stifled sobs and burning tears. It goes
without saying, that Christmas sucked.
(constantly) I feel like I’m stepping into this lady’s shoes. I used to
be a print news journalist. Recently a human resources lady shot me
down from a job I know I can do because I have no “social media”
experience. My body of work means jack shit because it’s not in the form
of 140-character hiccups buttressing a bit.ly link. I’m old enough that I can’t go back to college without crippling myself with debt for the rest of my life.
looked at how to master this social media horseshit and the best advice
boils down to either “be famous” or “have a famous website.” Or if
you’re MinecraftChick, post 60 videos of yourself playing a video game
badly with a picture-in-picture frame of yourself maundering on about
narcissistic drivel. Oh yes, I jelly. She has fifteen thousand followers
I feel like the clock is ticking and I’m too stupid to open the few
remaining doors available to me. I’m going to go through the motions but
I think I’ll spare you the chirping, forced levity. I’ll put on a happy
face when and if I’m happy. Don’t hold your fucking breath on that