It's rush hour, and the A train (express from downtown to 207th St.) swarming with exhausted and irritable commuters. We must be passing by Chinatown, because there's an unusually large number of beige-jacketed Asians aboard, struggling to maintain the dignity of consciousness against unrelenting fatigue. Suddenly a wiry black man in a Yankees baseball cap gets up from his seat, claps his hands together, and announces disruptively, "ALRIGHT EVERYONE I GOT A LITTLE SURPRISE FOR Y'ALL TONIGHT." To the chagrin of several nearby commuters (who huddle into their jackets and scowl at him) he taps the ring on his finger against the handrail to a catchy little beat, and violently bursts into song. It's a gospel hymn, Southern Baptist or Pentecostal maybe, and it's pretty upbeat despite the fact that it's about the tribes killed in the Flood and the Egyptian soldiers killed in pursuit of Moses and all the other groups of people who heard the call of God and missed the boat, so to speak. He ends with a smile and shouts "ALL RIGHT THANK YOU EVERYBODY MY NAME IS RAYMOND I'M FROM SOME CHURCH IN NORTH CAROLINA IF YOU LIKED THE SONG FEEL FREE TO MAKE A DONATION OR A THANK YOU OR A GOD BLESS WILL DO JUST FINE." Most of the passengers on the bus are scowling at him or trying very hard not to look at him, and apparently this is the reaction he anticipated, because he is quickly shambling down the subway car to get away before the TSA can apprehend him for making a disturbance. As he passes by, I tap him on the sleeve and say, "God bless you, sir." He looks at me, genuinely startled, and smiles, and says, "The Lord be with you too, son."
The other passengers scowl at me for encouraging such behavior, but I don't care. It's not every day that a guy has the opportunity to receive a singing telegram from God.
I attend a night service at a tiny Latino Pentecostal church in my neighborhood. I can't understand a word they're saying (until the translator hops onto the stage), but it is absolutely terrifying. The pastor does not really need a microphone but he uses one anyway, and the result is deafening. The message is the same as I'd expect from a Presbyterian church (oppression is not God's wrath, but Satan attacking you because he knows the Holy Spirit is within you) but it is spoken much louder, with shouting, crying, screaming, and all manner of hysterics. Volunteers are picked for fasting--they're trying to get a church of their own (the service is held on rented space), and with their small membership they have more to gain from faith than from fundraising. At some point I am inexplicably adopted by the church, and lots of people are crying and hugging and shaking my hand. They feed me rice and pasta and beans. I talk to a bunch of the younger members, schoolkids mostly--their English is much better--about video games and racism and theology, before departing in a theological stupor.