My Temple of Doom: Part One

In my mind, I can imagine a day, far off into the future. With a warm fireplace flickering in the background, my children, my children’s children, and even the faint cries and coos of their children all sit around a table festooned with a holiday feast. The finest silverware clanks from forks and knives and the cheerful conversation and reminiscing of times shared together as a family fills the air. I sit at the head of the table, snug in my red knit sweater. I am not eating, but I’m taking in each sound and smell of the festive event and the warmth that spreads across the generations of my family—my heritage.

“…and then I found out he was standing right behind me! Can you believe it?” the unnamed spouse of an unnamed grandson laughs to the rest of the table. “So, what about you, Grandpa?” she says, looking at me though I am still rather uncomfortable with her referring to me by that name. “What’s your most embarrassing moment?”

“Oh, Dad doesn’t talk about that,” a son quickly retorts. “Believe me, we’ve tried to get it out of him for years. We should probably just change the subject. Could someone please pass me the green beans?”

“But, why won’t he talk about it? Everyone is sharing their own,” the spouse says.

“No, really, we shouldn’t keep bringing it up. Could you please just pass the…”

“The year was ’99, back in the old century,” I finally say, loud enough to silence the rest of the table. Everyone listens intently, even the youngest children. Sadness and nostalgia flicker across my eyes which stare straight forward as if looking directly into the memories I’ve tried so long to repress. Some would say they could see the faint reflection of a waving American flag in my eyes as I began my harrowing tale.

I made my way to my girlfriend’s house one summer morning. The sun had not yet come up and there was still a briskness in the air for July in Utah. I walked to her door, dressed in a shirt and tie and knocked gently so as to not wake up the other sleeping residents. It isn’t a usual occurrence to begin a date before 6:00 in the morning, but there was little that was usual about what was to come.

The plan for our date was to go to the temple to perform baptisms for the dead. That last sentence would either make perfect sense to someone who is LDS (you know, the Mormons) or would be horrifying to someone who is not. To summarize as much as possible for those who might be in the later categories, Mormons frequently make their way to temples to perform certain acts of worship. Much has been said about the “secretive” nature of temples, but what happens inside temples is not so much “secret” as it is “sacred”. That being said, the things that do happen are probably far less interesting than anything you are imagining at the moment. If Bill Paxton knows all about it, then it probably isn’t too much of a secret anymore. As I tell this story, I hope to keep that sacredness intact even while I use the most powerful tool of the devil—blogging. When it is all said and done, I am still a Mormon and I still believe that we have a Heavenly Father who loves us all as His children, but who might have a vendetta against me for some reason.

One thing that is done inside temples is baptisms for the dead. Rather than digging up the remains of infidels to dunk their skeletons in water, Mormons perform the baptism vicariously for that person—which is more efficient though much less CSI. This is something that youth 12 and older are invited to take part in and youth 16 and older are prone to exploit for a religious-themed dating experience. I know. We are weird.

World-renowned shooting guard, former second baseman, and all-around good guy Danny Ainge is a Mormon.
But it was for just such a purpose that I was waiting on the front porch of my girlfriend’s house at such an, interestingly enough, ungodly hour. After a few minutes and a few extra knocks, my girlfriend Tina (you remember “Tina,” don’t you?) came to the door, bleary eyed and pajama-clad. “I totally forgot that was this morning,” she claimed. She then also claimed that she could get dressed in just a couple of minutes. It took her closer to around 45 minutes all of which were spent with me sitting in the split-entry waiting for my chance to piously impress.

At long last we were off to the temple. Utah, being home to no fewer than one billion Mormons, has several temples. That morning, we decided to go to the Jordan River Temple which is near the south end of the Salt Lake Valley. Once we made our way there, a man with a suit coat and an earpiece met us at the front door as if we were to meet the President inside (which if you vote Republican this year might just be a possibility…our plan is near fruition!) and told us the temple was closed for cleaning. I was perfectly content with the idea that the Lord would recognize our effort and we could now go and enjoy a delicious Denny’s skillet breakfast. Tina, however, would not be dissuaded from her religious duties, so she suggested we go to another temple. So we went downtown, at the north end of the valley, and visited the Salt Lake Temple. If you are not LDS, you still would recognize the Salt Lake Temple. Its Camelot-esque architecture juts out from the otherwise conservative buildings of the Salt Lake City skyline. It is also used as the stock image for inspirational stories about the benevolent Mormon church and horrific cautionary tales about the occultist Mormon church.

At the entrance, rather than a sacred service agent, we were met by an aged, motherly matron, one of several volunteers, mostly retired, who spend their days in the temple dealing with people like me.

“Can I help you?” asked the elderly woman behind the counter, all in white from her hair to her clothes to her translucent skin.

“Yes, we are here to do baptisms for the dead,” I said, with a little too much pious pride.

“Oh dear,” the matron said as she looked at her white watch. “The last baptisms for the day take place at 10:00,” she said kindly. It was 9:56. Apparently, baptizing is a morning-only activity. They have to empty out the font before The Price is Right starts or something. “I’ll see if we can take you back there.”

She eventually came back to us and said that they would make a special exception for us and would take us back. If there was something we needed, it was to be made as a special exception. The matron led us quietly down a flight of marble stairs and through the labyrinthine hallways of the Salt Lake Temple. They were like a labyrinth because they were very maze-like, not because there is a Minotaur who might come out of a corner room and chase you through the hallways with a cleaver. I am not saying that there isn't one of those too, but I also can't say that there is one (wink). However, something akin to that horror was unknowingly waiting for me on the other side of the baptisimal font on that fateful day.

“Um, grandpa, can we take a break now and go get some popsicles or something for desert? I mean, your story is great and all...”

“Micah…you hush up now,” my daughter-in-law reprimands. “But if you are getting up, I’ll take a banana Creamie.”

Kids these days. They just can’t appreciate a good story.

To be continued… (which it is here if you need to get to it immediately.)

Gladys Knight, of Pip fame. Yeah, we got her too. Seriously.

Absence Makes the Heart Something Something

It has been over a year since I have written an article for this blog of mine. One year. We can call it a sabbatical, but I am still not entirely sure what that means. Let’s call it a sabbatical, though.

There are many reasons that I could offer you as to why I have not written in this blog for a year. For one, things have been pretty busy. My regular job has gone from one where I play the Wii and write sexual innuendo for the purpose of selling vitamin supplements to one where I respond to 2,500 emails a week and dream of the days I used to write sexual innuendo. I have also taken on a second job, much like a whore might work for two pimps to pay for all of those Star Wars toys that her bastard children so desperately need. With these and many other things going on, it has been hard to find time to write though it is what I love to do.

It isn’t like anything has happened during this 2010-2011 season anyway. I mean, I went deaf for about a week. I also split my jaw open with the business end of a crowbar. I had what was single-handedly the weirdest day of my life with a certain former star of a zip-code-based television show from the ‘90s. I went to Disneyland. Again. Like a sucker. I had dental surgeries performed under the guidance of Tactics of the Spanish Inquisition for Dummies book. I also was about as sick as I have ever been in my life over the joyous holiday season. Oh, and I also went deaf. Did I say that already?

You would think that all of the various and sundry miseries would be perfect fodder for some good blog articles. But, as the fates would have it, the miseries themselves were what would keep me from writing on the blog. Not that the whole year was completely miserable. There were some good things that happened to me. Something in October, I think. Yeah, there were definitely a few minutes in October that went alright.

But much like the peacock in the backyard that spurned me on to write, like, two other blog posts last spring after taking a comparatively short hiatus, I have also had several other events that have made me specifically think “this is something that would be perfect for Bag Stranded.” Yes, it is always nice to share my misfortunes with others so that you all can laugh and feel better about whatever inferior problems you happen to be going through. But I also like to share my opinion about certain matters, as I am planning on doing in the future. In my mind, there are few people whose opinions I genuinely value. My father, for one. A few wizened friends. My wife, because I have to. I really don’t put much stock in my own opinion. But that won’t stop me from sharing it.
Like Australian rules football. What is up with that? Am I right? I had a hard time sleeping one night so I tried to find something on television that would help me on my journey to a fitful night’s sleep on my microfiber couch. I found just such programming on the delightful ESPN2. They were covering an Australian rules football game with two teams that were the best of the 1,434 teams playing in the league. This rousing match was between the Staewell Swifts Baggies and the Mitiamo Superoos. I know—an incredible match, by crikey!

If you have never had the chance to see a game of Australian rules football, set your DVRs to stun. The game is an interesting mix of American football, rugby, soccer, foosball, jai alai, and Maximus Meridius reenacting the Battle of Carthage in the Roman Coliseum. As much as the Australian people might try to distance themselves from the idea that their country was formed as a penal colony for the worst brand of criminals, their national sport keeps bringing them back to the crazy.
This is an actual legal move in Australian rules football, known as "huck the wallaby".

I watched the match for a solid hour and came to the conclusion that there were absolutely no rules to the game whatsoever. It seemed like one team would try to get the ball to the other side of the absurdly long and oblong field. However, once they got to the other end, they would either kick the ball, throw the ball, touch the ball to the ground, bite the ball open with their teeth, place the ball gently in the awaiting pouch of the end zone kangaroo, or just turn around and start running like mad toward the other goal line. If the ball should make its way out of bounds (represented by one of the countless squiggly, indiscernible lines spread out across the field) the referee is the one to throw the ball back in. But, in the interest of fairness, the referee is forced to turn his back to the field of play and throw the ball behind him, like a bride with her bouquet if the bride was deranged and the bouquet had to be thrown in a 50-foot vertical arc to the bridesmaids, all sloshed from a few cans of Fosters, who would fight for it to the point of biting off earlobes just to get a completely arbitrary amount of points for dropkicking the bouquet at some hidden area of the wedding dance floor.

The facts that things like Australian rules football exist fill me with a boyish fascination for what else the world has to offer. Not only what it has to offer, but what I can experience, summarily fail at, and then make fun of. It has my hope that sharing those experiences, as well as the countless other embarrassing experiences from my past, will keep me continuing to write on this newfangled media known as a blog (or LAWG, I think the B might be silent). I would also like to publish all of these painfully plagiarizable articles into an actual bound book, even if it is spiral bound. That way you can take Bag Stranded with you wherever you go and the internet does not yet exist. Getting published would be a long shot, but sometimes you just have to throw everything up in the air, behind you, in a 50-foot arc, and hope someone grabs onto it.

And hopefully sharing these experiences will also keep you coming back, though you have been so disappointed in me before. So, as my way of thanking you for waiting for me this past year, I would like to share with you my most embarrassing moment. It is important that you understand how big of a deal this is for me, though. When I first started my current job, I took part in the tradition of sharing my most embarrassing moment in the weekly department meeting. As I had done in nearly every instance before or since, I shared some little trite affair that was perhaps only marginally embarrassing. Those embarrassing moments were not an affront to God and man as my actual most embarrassing moment actually is. This is the very definition of embarrassment and it will be my pleasure to share it with you.

In my next blog post. Which should be up on Friday. As long as I am not too busy. Maybe let's just plan for the end of the year. The year 2012, just to be safe.

If this is how the Australians teach their kids sport, what chance have we, America?