The 1st Church of Bob

After yet another long and arduous search for a place of worship
and higher learning, I finally settled on the First Church of Bob.

How one finds a church like this must remain undisclosed,
you understand.
Perhaps ‘It’ finds ‘You’.
But what works for me would probably never work for you...

Bob is a kind and enquiring soul who has provided a certain sort of education
to me. I met him early on in what I call ‘The Inner World Tour'.

Backing up a bit, in my fiftieth year I traveled around the world solo.
There is something that comes with being fifty and above...
that is, if you are still growing.
Life takes on more depth, surprising new vistas, richer magic, more hilarity.
That journey stirred up far more questions than it answered...

On my return, I shipped myself off to a spiritualist camp for a different kind
of sojourn. I went there to mull things over, do a bit of writing and see if I
could get a few answers to my questions.
My plans for a 3 month stay unraveled almost immediately and I found myself in the somewhat embarrassing position of explaining to friends and family
just what I was doing years later in this quirky out-of-the-way spot
in America’s Heartland.
I have sometimes wondered myself...
I told them the most honest thing...that I was now on ‘The Inner World Tour'.

The Inner World Tour can be trying at times for there are few reliable roadmaps...and that is where a word of tribute must be given to my mapmakers.
They are few.
I have had a ragtag assortment of zany spiritual teachers along the way...
Among them...Psycho Taxi Boy, Deaf Steve who taught me telepathically, Roland "the Kid Next Door", Shirley the reluctant psychic, Patrick (of
"Hello My Heart") and 2 Joes (one of whom is described in "Tokyo Joe").

But when things get really out of hand and I find myself on the most precarious precipice where only Pan and naïve goats would plant a hoof,
it is the veritable Tom Robbins who shows me that I am Still on the Path.
I credit much of my sanity to his unorthodox guidance.
“I know my sheep and my sheep mostly know me.”

So back to Bob... Bob was my neighbor at the spiritualist camp.
He had overseen decades of seekers and séances, frauds, fakirs,
trance mediums, trumpets floating in air, table-tipping, transfigurations
and spirit manifestations of every kind imaginable.
Bob had investigated most all of what can be seen there.
He somehow manages to retain a certain compassion for all the foibles
carried out in a place like that.
He keeps one of the best libraries there, to boot.
He became my trustworthy guide to the mysteries along that path...
a kind of teacher-in-residence.
And that is how I came to ‘The First Church of Bob’.

The FCOB boasts no regular hours of service and is open to all inquirers.
Weekdays it is held in the back office of Bob’s appliance parts shop.
Just walk in the door, pour yourself a cup of coffee and take a well-worn seat.
Above the old coffeemaker is a sign that reads 'Hebrewing all day'
which is about the only concession old Bob makes for the Bible.
I asked him again recently, “How old were you when you kicked yourself out of the Catholic church?’”
He repeated the story to me with the same dark relish as before.
You’ll have to fish the details from him yourself, but he was about 10 when he had the run-in with the Bishop in which some tart words were exchanged.

No collection plate is ever passed around the circle of congregants.
Offerings of a can of coffee or a package of Styrofoam cups are accepted
if you’re a regular.
It’s ok to bring lunch. It’s ok to spend the entire day if you want.
Most people come and go according to who they like or dislike
in the congregation.
Bob is curiously welcoming of all comers...

While you’re there, pick up a book, try out the ozone, put questions to Bob
about the bicameral mind and the origins of civilization or the search
for Omm Sety and off you go for a day of unscripted spiritual finding.
Old Bob has been on the path for a fairly long time, even for this life.
As he tells it, things started heating up for him when he was three or four.
Most nights he would wake in the wee hours to find a group of rather porous-appearing people crowded around the foot of his bed.
They watched him, wordlessly, night after night.
Young Bobbie ducked under the covers in fear, but found over time that they meant him no harm.
He eventually got a little used to the spirits.
He never got to the bottom of that mystery, but he’s tackled a few others
along the way...

Now you can’t get all your Enlightenment in one place, but many fascinating bits and pieces of enlightenment were gathered at the FCOB.
Bob has a few arcane talents that drew me in his direction...

For instance, he has a way of scanning a crowd for the one person in it
who doesn't fit in. With a detective's eye, he would spot someone wearing antiquated clothing or a hairstyle from another era.
Another time it might be someone looking the other way from the action.
These people would appear in one moment and disappear in the next.
I’ve seen him do it...a kind of ghost-spotting.

He also has a talent for analyzing handwriting that he learned from old Esther who learned it back in the day when they called it ‘grapho-analysis’.
Esther was my sprightly, elderly landlady at the spiritualist camp.
I remember the day of our 1st meeting...
I handed her a check for the rent. A quick glance at the single scribbled initial at the bottom of the check was all she needed to describe my entire relationship with my mother. She did so with impressive accuracy.
Given the complexity of said relationship, she was pretty darn good.
(Esther's story is found in "Girl in a Hurry").

Bob does pretty well with hypnosis, too.
He turned out to be a good partner in past-life regression escapades.
Given the sensitive nature of those sessions, the reader will have to wait
until the Cosmos deems the material appropriate for sharing.
I’m not sure Bob ever got over his early predilection for using hypnosis to get girls, so there came a time to bring that avenue of research to a conclusion.

Most Friday nights, the 1st Church of Bob convened at The 3 Pigs...
a throwback era bar and restaurant, replete with burgundy imitation leather banquettes and antique lighting that had seen better days.
The 3 Pigs still served up a good steak and cheap drinks.
When so inclined, many a Saturday and Sunday evening were spent there,
as well. "Dammit Janet" was our faithful server as we communed over wine and garlic toast.
The 3 Pigs was a veritable portal to another time and place and that made it the perfect spot to venture between the worlds.
What conversations we had...
We had some formidable debates, too!
An education from an old master that couldn't be gotten in a better way...

I had a relatively good sojourn at the FCOB, that is, up until the time
that Bob informed me that I was to be his reward for following the
Path of Enlightenment.
The problem was that I had not been similarly informed...
I was not up for grabs.
A classic pitfall between teacher and student...
In a carefully calculated response, I asked Bob when he had converted
to Islam.
I was met with a dark scowl.
Bob was notoriously anti-religious.
"Virtue is its own reward, Bob... Don't you agree?"

Nothing like mixed motives to mess up a good thing...
And so, once again, after thinking that I had finally found a true teacher,
he turned out to be like the others.
Seems they were always after your money or your power or your other attributes...

He remains unconvinced . . .