Monday, September 04, 2006

i love you hoov especially in the white and blue

I can't imagine an easier job than being a drummer in a Tejano band.

The following events transpired this past July. At the time it seemed like optimal blog-fodder, but I was unable to find the motivation to post it. Which reminds me - you people have totally left me hanging on comments. I'm very shallow and I need validation.

As many of you know, for the past five months, I've led work crews at a church in Compton almost every Saturday. I don't exactly relish this. I am a lazy man, and my ideal Saturday does not involve getting up at 5:30 so I can drive to a place where there is a very real, albeit slight, possibility that I could get shot.

Hoov, that is a media-perpetuated, racially offensive, and socio-economically stereotypical generalization and I expected more from you.

Right. And tell that to the guy that runs the Taco Bell down the block. The counter is sealed off by half-inch thick bullet-proof glass and you order through an intercom. You really can tell him if you want - I could arrange it. He's a deacon at the church and he gives us free food sometimes.

But I digress. I go there every Saturday, and even that is rough on the ol' gasoline budget. I drive a Tahoe, which means I have to fill up every 47 minutes. So when Pastor D. called me up and requested that I come up to the church on a Thursday, I was, shall we say, disinclined. It went down like this and like that and uh.

"Mr. Adams*, could you come up to the chuch [sic] this Thursday?"

Well, I've got some work stuff to do... What's going on?"

"Oh, I can't tell you.

"...You can't tell me?"

"No, no. It's a surprise."

*Sometimes, Pastor D. is under the impression that my name is John Adams. He often introduces me like so: "This is my attorney, John Adams." I am neither his attorney, nor a person whose name is John Adams.

But I digress. Now don't get me wrong - I love Pastor D. He's getting on in years, so he's not as sharp as I gather he once was (he's got his doctorate), but his wisdom and his commitment to serving God are unquestionable. But I was not pleased with the proposition of taking an extra trip to Compton for an undisclosed purpose. I already mentioned the petroleum factor, and on top of that, it breaks up a work day. Compton is not exactly on the way to Newport.

cuz i'm down with a capital CPT...

But I caved and the appointment was set. I show up at the church around 10ish, get in his car, and we begin to cruise the streets of downtown L.A. And I don't mean like, Rodeo Drive kinda downtown L.A. - I mean downtown L.A. - the garment district.

I have absolutely no clue what could be going on. I was most inclined towards thinking that it was something ministry related - perhaps a shelter of some sort, or another church that he thought would make a good candidate for Halo. When we parked the car on the street and got out, I saw neither. Just random shops and sketchy people. The shop nearest us featured an oddly dressed black man standing in the door - bright purple knee-length vest and a luminescent gold shirt worthy of Oscar himself.

...Umm, why is the oddly dressed black man walking towards us?

In a flurry of purple and gold this rather large man strode out of his storefront and embraced Pastor D. I looked on with incredulity. They proceeded to catch up on family, business, church, and mutual friends. At this point, the ornately dressed and very large black man looks over at Pastor D.'s confused white companion.

"Is this the young man?"

"Yes, Larry - this is my adopted son and my attorney, John Adams."

"Nice to meet you Mr. Adams, you can call me Big Larry."

Just stop for a minute and take it all in... Try to feel my confusion at being embraced by this large purple and gold man calling himself Big Larry, and at still having no idea why any of this is taking place.

I step in to his modest storefront and I see suits. Suits everywhere. And I see pictures on the wall. Pictures of black celebrities. I was immediately drawn to an autographed photo of Samuel L. Jackson:

Big Larry,
You got me laid out!
I look great!
Samuel L. Jackson

What the-? Did I just get hugged by Samuel L. Jackson's tailor? What is going on?

"Mr. Adams, what's your jacket size?"


"That's gonna be on the right wall, up top. Pick out any color you like. We got lotsa colors."


"Your suit, Mr. Adams."

"...My suit"

"Pastor! You didn't tell him?"

No. Pastor D. had not told me that he was taking me to his tailor to buy me a suit. And a shirt. And two ties. This was breaking news to me.

At this point, I'm presented with a bit of a problem. A suit shop, in an urban area, with clientele consisting primarily of black men. Ok, so... you know how sometimes black men will wear suits in colors that no white man could get away with? Well, that is most of this store.

I can't walk into court in a pink suit. Just not gonna happen. The purple? Looks great on Big Larry. Medium Hoov - not so much. Baby blue? It suits my winter skin tone, but no. And then, there it was - like Donald Rumsfeld stuck in an elevator with Earth Wind & Fire - a navy blue and white pinstripe suit. So fresh and so clean clean.

So Pastor D. bought me a suit from Samuel L. Jackson's tailor - just to show me how much he loves and appreciates me. It's hard for this raconteur blogger to explain how loved I felt. But to me, something as simple as a navy blue suit represents the best of ministry. No fancy theology, pretty buildings, or 40-day programs. It's the partnerships with other believers on the frontlines of ministry; it's the relationships that we've built with people of a different race and background. They can't teach that in seminary.

As my team and I sacrficed our time and money to bless this man and his church, he was thinking of how he could turn it around and bless us right back. Granted, no one else got a suit, but I usually buy them breakfast.