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Just go ahead and categorize this one under the topic “DON’T TALK TO STRANGERS” or at least call it “PART II” of an on-going saga. One would think by now that I would’ve learned my lesson. I haven’t and I might not. ***WARNING: THIS CONTAINS VIEWS THAT MIGHT NOT MATCH UP TO YOURS*** 

You’ve been warned.

My weekend had started. But unlike most salaried individuals, I work Wednesday through Sunday, 11:30am until 8pm or later as need be. I just came into some serious cash from working holidays. It was the mother lode of paychecks, the first of its kind since I entered the workforce. And it was burning a hole in my pocket.

To celebrate and scratch the itch, I hired the services of Lev Yilmaz,an artist out of San Francisco, for some artwork for the blog and he was needing me to send him some samples of the typeset from my Royal Portable and Smith-Corona Cornet. I also needed a new phone, so I decided to knock a couple of birds out with throw.

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Union Square is my go-to place for doing any major kind of money spending in the City. It has all that I needed– Kinkos, Verizon, Forbidden Planet for my geeking out, and a Regal Cinema for catching Southpaw after work with my girlfriend. Sure, the City has a million places that could fit the bill. But Union Square is generally my speed and was one of the first places we discovered when we moved here. Four movie theaters in a 10-minute walking distance, three bookstores including Strand, more restaurants and cafes than I can count, and a park which a constant schedule of live shows and attractions.

Union Square– that’s my New York City.

I took care of the scans and picked up a new phone. The salesman knew his trade and I walked out with a new iPhone and a bag of accessories, which I wasn’t even quite sure what it contained. The last thing I remembered before shaking his hand and getting out of the store was the salesman tossing in a free pair of earphones.

I was feeling pretty good. That weird sense that things were finally aligning in the Universe and that Good Times had arrived. And, hell, I had a gadget that was more toy than phone and I decided to put it to good use just to get the feel of the Thing.

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After a couple of minutes, I had mastered Slow-mo video and Time-lapse and how to fix contrast and add some red to the picture. It was time to refill on some coffee and maybe check out the scene in the park. I got two double-shots and a bottle of water and went to camp out on the steps to read. When I got there, the scene was foreboding. Two groups of Jesus Freaks had set up camp and were arguing over the finer points of their Religion. As long as they were at each other’s throats, I was fine and I snuck past undetected… at least until I got my ass down on the concrete.

This guy with one of those hats that was 1/3 visor, 1/3 baseball cap, and 1/3 what might have been fake spiky hair came up to me right after giving a speech about nails being our binding contract to the Lord. My brain was sending signals to brace for impact as eye contact had already been made. But part of me still wanted to be able to blend in to my surroundings or maybe sink into the concrete before he could reach me.

No dice, chief.

He was on me before I could work out an excuse not to talk to him. I often feign ignorance of the language and rattle off some German, “Leider kann ich gar kein Englisch… hau bitte ab“. But a handful of tracts were already and inch before my face, and he was addressing me head-on and all plans of diversion were dashed.

“What?” I said since I seem to never hear what strangers say to me for the first time.

“Can I share the Word with you, Brother?”

“O! Good god, no,” I gasped. “I don’t buy into that hokum. Not really my cup of tea.” I don’t like being surrounded by people. I start feeling like an animal being cornered and my brain gets clouded. And that outburst only caused him to get closer.

“Let’s talk,” he said.

“Are you an Authority on the matter?”

“I’ve read the Lord’s Word.”

“So, you’re not.”

He kept coming and my escape routes were dwindling with each second.

“I take it you’re an Academic, who feels like he is better than the Word…”

My girlfriend has warned me about stating my title. That’d it would one day bite me in the ass, hard and long. And it was about to: “I’m a doctor.”

“A doctor?!,” he exclaimed. “A doctor of what?”

“Well, not medicine.”

“And you earned it?”

“Absolutely,” I said.”You can’t just order them online for $36 plus S+H and, BAM!, you’re a doctor.” You can. But he didn’t need to know that. Not yet anyway.

He asked again if he could talk to me, and something in me gave way, and I said he could if he could tell me how translation worked. He started rambling about the Ecclesiastes. So I stopped him, “Whoa, whoa, I asked about translation, not biblical text, man. Just simply in your own words describe what translation is.”

He continued on about the Ecclesiastes. “Ye gods, man, if you don’t know, you just don’t fucking know and say so,” I stopped him again.

“I don’t like that language.”

“What English? I can speak some German and a bit of French and even less Arabic, would one of those do you?”

“No, I just… never mind… tell me what you mean?”

“I mean, tell me what translation is.”

“How about you tell me…”

So I did. And I explained how it was practically a translator’s reading and understanding of a text and that his bible was indeed a translation that had many different interpretation.

“No, no, this is the Lord’s Word.”

“I know you’ve said that, and I heard you the first time. But, it is still a translation based on over 5,500 manuscripts that have been pieced together over 2 centuries by various people. You know the ‘camel through the eye of needle’ fable?”

“Fable? It’s a history in the New Covenant.”

“So, yes? Anyway, ‘camel’ is believed to be a mistranslation. ‘Camel,’ kamêlos in Greek, should have been ‘rope,’ kamilos. Because, c’mon, it’d be pretty goddamn hard to get a camel through an eye of a needle, but why would you be attempting that in the first place…”

We went around a couple of more rounds since he still wasn’t sure what translation was and how that played a factor. He didn’t believe me that words in other languages might not have equivalents in English… and it didn’t help that he didn’t know what Schadenfreude or Madrugada and I was grasping for straws and upcoming up short with finding ways to explain translation.

So, I thought, hell, go simpler.

“You know Shakespeare, right?”

“Yeah, sure.”

“Where’s he from?”

“What do you mean?”

“Where’s he from, where did he live.”

“Don’t know… I don’t need to know to know God.”

“Wait, what? What do you mean… never mind! He lived in England and spoke English, but even still his work is constantly reevaluated and interpreted.”

“How so?”

“Like fishmonger… Hamlet calls Ophelia’s dad a fishmonger for using her.”

“What’s that?”

I pointed out a guy selling hot dogs, “Well, that’s a hot dog monger.”

“And a fish monger is what?”

“… a man who sells fish?”

“I don’t know… so, he called him a fish… seller? Did he sell fish?”

“No, and this is my point. That’s why I’m telling you. He was calling him a ‘pimp.'”

“Language, I won’t ask you again.”

About this time, two or three more members came up. It was getting harder to get a word in edgewise and the situation was deteriorating fast. Up until this moment, I had wrongly assumed there would be rules and standards. Hell, the Hells Angels even have rules to live by, from clothing to fights and everything in between. It’s either bylaw 10 or 11, but that bylaw states “When an Angel punches a non-Angel, all other Angels will participate.” And you’d think if the Angels could get themselves organized in such a way as to have rules, that these Christians whose whole belief is based on rules to live by would have had them, too, and known by heart. But I didn’t realize their rules would be more aligned with the Angels’.

My phone started ringing and I went to reach for it, but a woman, who I had seen earlier and had kept saying she was from Minnesota, except pronouncing it Min-uh-soder, and laughing like a banshee after every sentence, stepped forward and violently jabbed me in the chest. “Doncha ya know that ain’t polite to say things against the Book!” she said.

The phone kept buzzing. It was Lev. He probably had some questions about the piece of work he was doing for me. “Lady, this call, it’s important,” I said. “I got to go.”

“Ya just can’t admit you’re wrong, eh?”

“Frankly, I don’t give a damn about this, lady. I honestly don’t. It plays no role in my life except for when something like this comes up,” I said. “Someone is calling me, I got to take this call, and I am done here.”

“Language! Don’t use that language.”

“Good god, if you don’t like how I talk, take a flying fuck,” I said, and added: “Phone call, bye!” I turned to go and answered the phone just in time to see they were walking after me. I picked up the pace while trying to hold a conversation with Lev. But the speed I needed to pick up wouldn’t allow me to have a coherent conversation. They were calling after me and fear was finally settling in. So, I told him, yeah, sure, sounds good, Lev. Or something along those lines. I ran through traffic to lose them. And the plan seemed to work. My heart took a while to stop racing.

I texted Lev and told him sorry, I was being chased through the park by Holy Rollers.

“Repent” was what he texted back.

Another glorious day in the park.