Schwinn From The Fifties
Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, SD - Jesus stopped by here again on his way to Dixon’s funeral wake Friday night, caught a ride with Tom and me, and forgot his wallet, which was still in Tom’s blue truck.
“Dixon knew he was going to die,” he said. “That’s why he offered you his boots.”
We got into a conversation about water, and the ongoing legal battle with the uranium mine people out at Crow Butte that is threatening the water…I should say, contaminating the water source and threatening the lives of the Indians of Pine Ridge and the population of the Nebraska panhandle.
New studies have linked diabetes with arsenic, the by-product of uranium extraction, but the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board judges of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission are requiring water sample lab results before allowing establishment of a causal link as evidence beyond conjecture in the cases against permit renewal and expansion, respectively.
I got this all from the horse’s mouth, and was giving Jesus an update before he stopped me, saying, “I know what’s going on.”
“Yeah, yeah, I forgot,” I said, feeling extremely uncomfortable all of a sudden.
His eyes kept bothering me. His eyes are brown, and so is his skin. Contrary to popular belief and depictions, Jesus isn’t white. But, no worry. He’s the most forgiving person I know.
“I see you got a new bike,” I said, changing the subject and nodding toward the red Schwinn sitting outside. It had fat tires and one of those comet-shaped tanks in the frame, with a button for a horn. “I thought you were going to get a motorbike.”
“Garage sale in Hemmingford,” he said. “Thirty-five bucks. Couldn’t pass it up. 1957. Not a scratch on it.”
“I see you’ve got streamers, mirrors, headlight, reflectors, mud flaps, and all the extras,” I said. Looks like a showroom model.”
“It got stolen four times in six hours in Pine Ridge last Friday,” he said. “Two drunks, one meth head, and one crack fiend. Each time I tracked it down, the thieves kept lying and saying they didn’t believe I was me…same as the Pharisees and a lot of other people…they wanted me to prove it.”
“What did you do?” I asked. “Work some magic?”
“I just looked at them until they started squirming, like you did just a minute ago.”
I wanted to change the subject again, to philosophy, or what the Dali Lama said about forgiveness, or anything, but he read my mind already.
“Forgiveness is rooted in love and compassion,” he said. “It’s impossible not to help yourself by forgiving. You could call it selfishness, depending on how you define ‘self’.”
Once you surrender, you realize you’ve surrendered only an illusion, like Abraham, or Steve this year at the sun dance.”*
Sometimes his stuff is waaaaaaay over my head, far far beyond the 200 level philosophy, linguistics and semantics courses I thought could make me clever. You had to major in those studies to enable yourself to blow away everyone with your lofty cocktail party bullshit, including department chairs and demi-gods.
“You ever come on to chicks with some of that stuff?” I asked. “Like, in a bar?”
Ignoring my question with his telepathic ‘you poor, pathetic, smartass’, he went on with his train of thought. “Take our friend, the Dali Lama,” he began. “He lost his country. People take offense at what they perceive to be their loss. Loss of this, loss of that…but mostly pride and an affront to sense of self. So what have you lost, relatively speaking?”
I sat there, unable to speak, numb, a ringing in my ears, then pounding. I felt frozen, and experienced an extraordinary flash of recognition, something buried in an astral pre-neo-natal womb world. How long were we sitting there? How long between breaths? How long between heartbeats?
“I read your blog,” he said, snapping me out of my coma. “I wish you’d stop putting words into my mouth.” he said, sounding irritated. “You misquoted me at least four different times.”
“That happens all the time in journalism,” I quipped. “It made for a good tale. A lot of people wrote to me after those entries. I didn’t know you had so many friends.”
“Hey,” I continued. “A friend of mine, George, the hockey player from Chicago, told me he saw ‘JESUS SAVES’ written above a urinal in the city, and someone else had scrawled underneath, ‘But Esposito scores on the rebound!’ Pretty good one, huh?”
A slight smile cracked at the sides of his mouth. “Yeah. I saw that,” he said. “A Blackhawks fan.”
“There’s been something I’ve been meaning to ask you,” I said.
“Is this about that two-on-two pick-up game between those Jehovah’s Witnesses and you and your clone?” he asked.
“No,” I replied, wondering why that incident was still a matter of concern. Sure, there were some hard fouls down in the paint, like any tough game, but those guys shouldn’t have challenged us, especially in their door-to-door church clothes.
“No matter how salty or thick a soup was,” I said, “dad always salted it and added a fistful of crushed up crackers. Is there anything wrong with that?” I asked.
Sounding more like a doctor than a messiah, Jesus said, “Other than the chance of offending the cook, presumably, your mother, he should watch the salt, but the crackers…there’s nothing wrong with that.”
*Steve, a New York Mohawk, wanted to hang from the tree for the health of someone near to him. After hanging suspended for just a short time, he broke loose and dropped to the ground. “I wanted to go higher and hang longer,” he said later in his tipi, disappointed with his effort and fighting back tears.
“Looked like Creator didn’t ask as much as you were willing to give,” I told him.