My Two Week Consulting Trip to Bethel

It was the Absolut beginning of the end for me and at the end of it I made the biggest decision of my life. I have only one regret about this whole story. My mom.

This story's main portion spans the time over a the week and a half I spent at Bethel, but over all it has effected my whole life. I am going to break it down into several parts, two now, the rest when I have time to write it.  For those who care to take the time to read it, and if you get a little something out of it, then it makes the experience as well as what came out of it a little more worth it.

Dave

[parts 1-4]

In late 1983 I owned a company that I had started two years previous that made and marketed art materials. I had invented a couple of products for the commercial art material industry and spent a lot of time writing articles for art related magazines and doing lectures at trade shows and college universities on the subject of commercial illustration.

One day I got a call from a purchasing agent for the Watchtower Society inquiring about a new kind of Airbrush paint my company was introducing to the art market. At the beginning of the conversation I told the purchasing agent I was a JW. He got excited about this, especially after I told him I would give free paint to the Watchtower Society.

A few days later I got another call from him and he told me that I had been the subject of several conversations back at Bethel and asked me if I would be interested in coming back to help out with some consulting and training. He of course had to check me out with my local body of elders to see if I was a good little JW boy. Since half of them ended up at my house on Friday and Saturday nights I was given a very shining report card. Even though I traveled every few weeks on business the elders were still grooming me for the next ministerial servant spot. Half of me wanted it, the other half of me wanted nothing to do with it.

A couple of weeks later I was on a flight to New York. I had been to New York on business several times before but never took the time to see the dog-and-pony show at Bethel. Before I left I had called my mom and told her about the society's request for me to come and help out. She was so happy, she was in tears. It had always been her dream for me to work in the art department at Bethel. She knew I would never have the hours to achieve her dreams because I hated going out in service ever since I was a kid. As the years went on, I became a constant disappointment to my mom. Little did she or I know that her life's dream for me to work at Bethel would be the one thing that finally persuaded me to leave the religion for good.

To me, I looked at the trip as something that would finally make me a spiritual person and show me some miraculous re-evaluation that would for the first time bring god and the JW religion solidly into my heart. I had been a back-and-forth JW my whole life. To me, this was exactly what I needed. It was like going to the safest place on earth if and when Armageddon came. It was the Mecca of all JWdom.

As I got off the plane at Kennedy airport, I walked out to the waiting area and there was the brother who I had originally talked to on the phone the first time. We became friends over several conversations and he wanted to personally pick me up from the airport. I recognized him because he was holding up a copy of the Watchtower so that I could identify him. I had to admit, it made me cringe just a little walking up to him. I could also tell he was holding the magazine close to his suit coat and slipping them in and out as people walked by him. I don't blame the guy, it was a bit embarrassing.

After we picked up my luggage I was hit with the first of many little rules that would slowly slice away at my expected feeling of joy and brotherly love and open my eyes to the reality of Bethel. As we were walking he looked at me and said "Dave, I hope you don't take this wrong but you can't ware those boots or jeans while you are working in the administration building." I never traveled in suits when I flew and told him I did have a suit or two in my luggage and it was fine with me. In actuality, it pissed me off a little. I hate wearing suits, I wore them every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday of my life. In business I only wore them when it was absolutely necessary. I have always been a jeans and cowboy boots or jeans and Nikes kinda guy.

A little knot started to develop on the back of my neck. As we drove to Bethel my new friend and fashion consultant began to tell me how things were going to go. I would be dropped off at the Society's VIP building and have my own room with my own bathroom. I looked at him like "that's nice" and then he went on to tell me how special it was for them to do this for me. He then told me that he would knock on my door bright and early in the morning to take me to breakfast with him and his wife. After that, I would be turned over to a personal escort and be taken to the administration building to meet Dean Songer and the heads of the different departments I would to be working with.

I was dropped off in my room and my new friend walked into it like it was a suite at the Plaza. He looked out the curtains and showed me the view of the harbor and the statue of Liberty. I wasn't impressed, I had seen it before. He looked through the room and checked out the bathroom. He was very impressed. To me, it was a little bit of a dive, but I didn't say anything. Later I would come to realize why he thought this tiny one bedroom box was so special. The first thing I noticed was the faucets in the sink. It had been cleaned so many times the chrome was rubbed right down to the shiny brass. Even though it was small and in my opinion a bit dark and gloomy, it was clean enough to eat off the worn down wooden floor.

Morning came too soon. Because of the time difference from the West coast to the East and getting in on a late flight I only got a couple hours of sleep. I woke up, took a shower and put on my less expensive suit. I thought the Armani might have been a bit too much. Like advertised he was knocking at my door as I was slipping on my calf skin Italian shoes. I had grown up wearing my older brothers' hand-me-downs that were hand-me-downs from some other fashion victim brothers in the kingdom hall. Once I started making good money, I started wearing nice clothes. Unlike most guys, I now owned about twenty pairs of shoes. This didn't mean much to me at the time, but shoes become an interesting matter in later parts of this experience. The clothes I wore made me feel very much out of place here, but it was just the beginning of me having that feeling at Bethel.

We walked down several sets of stairs and ended up in some underground tunnels. Hundreds of people were walking around through the what seemed to be a maze of tunnels under the streets. For just a second, a vision from the movie 1984 flashed through my mind as I watched hundreds of people walking through these tunnels like they have been preprogrammed to go from point A to point B like lifeless, emotionless robots. I was starting to get a little freaked.

After walking through a couple of tunnels we walked into a huge dining room. There was room after room and long table after long table. Rows and rows of them. As we met up with his wife we walked over to a table that was toward the middle of the room next to a wall. As I looked around the room I saw several TVs sitting on little shelves that came out of the wall toward the top of the ceiling.  We sat down and within a minute or so an older male figure appeared on the TV screens. We stood up again as the man on the TV began to say a prayer for the morning breakfast. Once again the image of the movie 1984 flashed through my mind.

The long lecture/prayer ended and the sound of several hundred people sitting down at once was deafening. Within a minute or two, another guy shows up on the TV screen and starts in on the daily text. I couldn't eat. All I could do is look around and think to myself, "What in the hell am I doing here? Was this what living in the new system was going to be like? Was this really the Mecca of the JW kingdom? Was this supposed to be as good as it gets? Was I eating breakfast in a bomb shelter with sewer pipes flowing above my head? I hadn't even begun to start working on what I was asked there to do there and I was already feeling suffocated.

The up and down robotic movements of the people started to remind me of the military. Everything done on cue and everything done exactly as the generals wanted you to do them. The only thing that looked even half way out of step was after the short breakfast was over, several people were dishing the leftovers up and putting them into little plastic containers to take back to their rooms. I could understand that, it seemed like we only got five minutes to eat. That knot on the back of my neck started to get a little tighter.

I was then taken over to meet the brother who was going to be my escort for my time at Bethel. Talk about men in black! The guy had the personality of a desk. As we headed out for the administration building my escort said we had to make a stop and pick someone up. We met up with our co-escortee in the front of another building. He was a little old man in a tattered suit and scuffed-up worn out brown shoes. He was talking to his feet as we met up with him. I was introduced to him while he was still looking at the ground and mumbling to himself. The little old man was Fred Franz. He shook my hand but didn't look at me face-to-face. He just turned and headed out like the rabbit from Alice in Wonderland. I watched him walk in a very fast New York kind of pace and I kept thinking to myself, "I'm late, I'm late, for a very important date."

As we walked to the administration building he constantly looked at the ground while he talked to himself. I couldn't take my eyes off his shoes. They looked like they had gone through a meat grinder. I thought to myself, this isn't a poor religion. Their real estate on the edge of the New York harbor alone had to be worth tens of millions. Why can't they give this old guy a decent pair of shoes? The only thing I could figure was he had a very long, close and personal relationship with his shoes because he kept looking down and talking to them as we walked. For just a half-second I wondered if Jehovah was not an all-seeing all-knowing God, but instead, he was an old worn out pair of brown shoes.

Maybe it was that pair of shoes where Fred got his inspiration and direction to run a religion and write prophecies that never came true. I mean if a talking snake can convince a couple of naked people to commit the ultimate culinary sin that would doom the entire planet to destruction, why not a talking pair of old shoes?

I had to keep telling myself that this wasn't weird. I was just not spiritually-minded enough to look at things in a better light. A gang bang breakfast, a stroll through the tunnels of George Orwell's mind and walking with a senile old man with an old worn out brown shoe foot fetish. The bad thing about all this is, it would get worse and many things that were revealed to me would open my eyes a lot more. It made me realize I was not crazy, nor was it my lack of faith that kept my head spinning. It was the bit by bit hidden truth about "the truth" that slowly became revealed to me that would finally do me in.

As we entered a door of the administration building we did not head to the elevator to take us up the eight floors to the main administration floor. Fred [Franz] headed to a stair well. I turned and looked at my escort and he just shrugged his shoulders and said "Fred likes to take the stairs for exercise." I was tired from lack of sleep and hungry from lack of food. The last thing I wanted to do was watch Fred Franz have a nice long conversation with his shoes as we walked up eight flights of stairs. But, mine was not to question why, mine was to do and die, as I grasped for air as we reached the last step on the eight floor. I thought to myself, this old guy may be nuttier than a bag of filberts but he's in damn good shape.

I was taken to Dean Songer's office and introduced around the room to some nice smiles and a few hand shakes. I was told that first off I was to give the people in the illustration department a short workshop on airbrush illustration. Then I was to assist on a few Awake! covers and then do a photo shoot with the head of the photography department. Last but not least I was to give what information I had on helping the graphics department do a better job miniaturizing negatives so that the books they print very small and smuggle into communist countries can be halfway readable.

Easy enough I thought, it wasn't graphic brain surgery. I don't know why someone there didn't know how to do this stuff already but, what the hell, I was there and I was making my mom happy.

I then went down to the art department with the elder who was in charge of it. He was a nice old guy and treated me like I was someone special. He gathered all the people in the art department together and introduced me to them all. They all had big smiles on their faces so I thought this would be some fun. A couple of them told they enjoy the articles I write in the art magazines and they were really happy to meet me. For the first time, I started to feel a bit comfortable. Then I noticed one older sister who didn't smile or look like she was the least bit interested in me being there. I told everyone what I was going to teach them and proceeded into a room where I set up to teach the class. When it came time to bring everyone in, that one older sister walked in, looked around and said, I don't need this, I'm leaving.

I looked at her and smiled and said "I flew back five thousand miles to teach you guys some things about art and you don't want to learn it? Colleges pay big bucks for me to teach this stuff and you guys are getting it for free." She gave me a dirty look and just said again, "I don't need this, I have better things to do," and she walked out. Everyone in the room looked to the ground out of embarrassment. I was a little shocked but since I had taught workshops all over the country for the past few years I knew there was always one in the group that ended up being a pain in my butt. I just didn't expect this kind of attitude from a loving sister from Bethel.

I looked around the room and asked, "What's up with her?" nobody said a word. As people were taking their seats and unwrapping the free airbrushes I gave them at $150 bucks a pop, one younger shy looking brother asked me to step outside with him. He then said something that not only was a surprise to me, but started out with words that I would hear several times while on my visit there at Bethel. He leaned over an in a whispered voice said, "You can't tell anyone I said this, but, she is a real problem. She is married to someone high up in the organization so she can pretty much do as she pleases." For the first time there I was shocked. I never in my wildest dreams thought that there was some kind of caste system at Bethel and that some were more privileged than others. I soon found out that this lady had a license to be a bitch because of the man she was married to. I also found out that she just found out she and her husband were going to Europe with several other higher ups in the organization and they were all going "first class."

I thought about the last hundred dollars I slipped into the contribution box back at my kingdom hall. I though that some of that money was going to help pay for this pompous bitch to fly her sorry butt to Europe on a three thousand dollar first class airline ticket and she was too damn important to listen to a thing I had to say. For the first time in my short visit to Bethel I wasn't confused, I wasn't shocked, I was just pissed off.

We went back into the room and I started to teach. The first thing they wanted to learn was how to better retouch photos. As part of a demonstration I took a photo of one of the Bethel models who was dressed up like Abraham. He was standing and had his hand stretched out with his palm down. To show how to match photo grain, and add shadows, I airbrushed a basket ball under the hand of Abraham and it had the shadow of his hand right on top of it to give it a realistic look. As I pulled the plastic airbrush mask off the photo and showed it to the group I got a blank stair back. I could tell a couple of people wanted to laugh but I could tell, that laughing would have been the wrong thing to do. I couldn't see anything wrong with it, but my new art department buddy leaned over again and said, "We would get in trouble for doing something like that even as a practice piece."

I looked back at him and said, "You're kidding, right?" He looked me straight in the eye and in another whispered voice he said "No, they wouldn't think that was funny." I set the retouch photo of Kareem Abdul Abraham on a chair next to me and continued on with the class. It became lunch time and the lemmings were headed toward the cliff and I asked my new art buddy if he could walk me out of the building.

I had to wait for my escort to show up so I could head to lunch. After the experience at breakfast I told him I just wanted to go to my room because I didn't get any sleep and I wanted to rest a little bit. He walked me to my building, unlocked the door and let me in. As I walked up to my door the cleaning lady/sister was just leaving. She told me that she hung my suit up and wanted to know if I wanted it pressed. I told her thank you, but no. She asked me about the designer of the suit and I was surprised but felt like she at one time knew more than how to scrub a floor. We had a brief conversation and in that short time I realized here was a bright, educated and very together lady. Then as she left, I thought to myself. What the hell is she doing cleaning rooms? She should be running this place instead of Freddie Brown Shoes. It was the closest to a real intelligent conversation I had so far and she just finished polishing off another layer of chrome on my sink faucet.

I lied down for a while and then just as I nodded off my escort was at my door saying it was time to go. As we walked back to the administration building I asked him how I could find a person from my old congregation that was here at Bethel. He told me to give him his name and he would get the information to me. I went back to teaching my class and saw the old lady who blew me off, working on something at her desk. I walked by and saw that it was a new song book. The book we had at that time was that dull pink thing and the one they were working on was a regular book size. As she held up the mock up of the book, it hit me like a ton of bricks. That is a hymn book just like they have in all the other churches. Her holding it up made me realize that second that this was just another religion. I started to feel like I was an escaped convict and that I was going found out and caught any second. In that instant I could no longer feel good about where I was I needed a break from the place and I needed a drink.

Toward the end of the day I asked my new art department buddy if he wanted me to take him out to dinner. I was starving and I didn't know how to get around in Brooklyn. He jumped at the chance and said yes!

I took him to a nice Chinese restaurant because he said he hadn't had any good Chinese since he'd been at Bethel. As they brought out the first course his eyes lit up like a 13 year-old boy who just saw his first Playboy. I thought the smell of the food alone was going to set him off into an orgasm. When I ordered a shrimp dish I though the guy was going to jump across the table and kiss me. As we ate he started to tell me about his life at Bethel. At least fifteen times as he spoke in a low quiet voice he said, "Don't tell anyone I said this but...". He began to tell me about the problems between the different departments and how they couldn't get any cooperation because of certain elders having control over things they knew nothing about. He told me no matter how upset you got, you had to keep your mouth shut. He told me you learn quickly what you can and can not say and who and who not you can say it to.

He particularly complained about the elder who ran the photography department and how he had to do things exactly as he wanted and not as the illustrators asked to do it. At Bethel, just like in other studios, they have photos shot of people so they can have an accurate example of how lighting and folds in clothing and things like that look as they do their illustrations. The elder in charge of the photography department had to do everything like he thought it should look and disregarded anything the illustrator asked for. In the real world, a photographer blowing off an art director would end up pushing brooms in no time. I think this brain squid took photos of babies at Sears before he came to Bethel.

He also told me about the old lady who blew me off and how she treated other members of the art department like dirt and got away with it. I then told him that I would do what I could to take care of it. He looked at me in shock and asked me what I could do? I told him part of my duties were to watch how things were done and report back anything I saw that was unprofessional or caused problems. He started to sweat and stopped eating. He asked me to please not say anything about what he said. I told him I wouldn't, but I would report things that I observed myself. He seemed very scared like he had just given me the secrets to building the H bomb. After that all he talked about was a sister in the Canadian Bethel that he met and fell in love with. He told me how hard it was because he couldn't see her. I asked him why, but I don't remember exactly what he said. I could tell this really bothered him so I dropped it and we went back to our own buildings.

He was a good guy and I really liked him, but I've never seen someone so scared of his own shadow in my life. I felt really bad for this guy, he didn't deserve to have what little real personality he had squashed by the "powers that be."

The next day was the day I was going to work, art directing a photo shoot for an upcoming Awake! magazine. I was going to work with the elder from hell who ran the photography department. Again I had a hard night sleeping, I couldn't wait to get my hands on this guy. Later that next day I got the biggest shock of my whole trip. A visit to Governing Body member Leo Greenlees' apartment.

The next morning My escort picked me up and we walked with Freddie Brown Shoes to the administration building. I could have sworn his shoes talked back once. At that point I wouldn't have been surprise about anything. I went up to the art department and was told the elder in charge of it (the nice old guy) was going to take me down to the photography department. Before we headed out he wanted to talk to me. He told me that the young elder who ran the department was a little bit set in his ways and that I should just do what I came for and not let him upset me.

I thought that was a really nice way of saying he was an asshole. I walked into a large photo studio and was introduced to this young, short, greasy-haired fine brother who gave me a look like I came to steal his candy. As we walked toward the back of the studio I notice a photographer's cyclorama. That is a thing that photographers use to shoot photos of people. It is a (usually) wooden structure that starts at the floor and slowly curves up to the ceiling up against a wall in a half circle shape and then straightens up as it hits the ceiling. There are no seams in it at all and they are somewhat hard to make because of having to curve the plywood. Its like building half a ship up against a wall. I have seen hundreds of cykes and have been in hundreds of professional photo shoots. This was the first time I had ever seen one with a shiny white surface.

As we walked over to it the elder from hell gave me a big smile and said, "This is my new cyclorama. What do you think about it? I looked back at him and said, "It's shiny." A big smile came to his face and said, "Yes, isn't it great?" I asked him how he keeps all the hot spots out of the background. He looked at me like I was speaking Yiddish. I told him I had seen hundreds of cykes but never had seen one built with a shiny white surface. He said, "Really." I just shook my head and asked about the project we were supposed to be working on. He brought the cyke up again and I told him every cyke I had ever seen was painted with a very flat color and sometimes sanded so that the light from the light boxes or umbrellas wouldn't reflect off of it. Again. I was speaking Yiddish.

He told me that we wouldn't need to worry about it because we were shooting a table-top shot. It was to be of a mannequin neck with an expensive necklace on it and someone hand coming into the shot that looked like they were stealing it. He told me the props were on their way.

We waited a few minutes and he began to roll a sheet of seamless (long flat colored paper used as a back drop) onto a makeshift table. We had the mannequin neck and within a few minutes a very classy lady in her early thirties showed up. She walked up to the elder from hell and in a very strict voice said, "Nothing better happen to this!" She had a very bitchy English accent and a look in her eyes that could freeze lava. She handed over a medium-sized jewelry box and he set it on the table. She asked how long until she could get it back and he said an hour or so. That instantly told me this moron didn't have a clue about what he was doing. A few minutes later one of the guys from the illustration department showed up and told me he was there to learn something. All I did was smile.

As the little elder started to set his lights up I asked him if he was going to look at what was in the box before he started to set his lights up. He said he didn't need to, so I walked over and opened the box. There was a necklace loaded with diamonds and emeralds. The largest rock had to have been at least eight carats. I knew by the look feel and weight of it, it wasn't from K-Mart. The young brother from the art department came over ad took a look at it himself. He just shook his head and then faded back into the background. As the little elder played with his lights I slipped back into the background and asked the guy from the art department who that sister was and how did she get a hold of the crown jewels. He told me that she was married to one of the Governing Body members who was more than twice her age and she came from a family with money.

I don't remember who that Governing Body member was, but in a phone conversation with Barbara Anderson a year ago, I asked her about it and she knew who it was and chuckled. I still don't remember his name, I suck with names of people I don't care about remembering. I started to tell the little elder about the hot spots he was going to get off the jewel cuts because he was using an umbrella instead of a hot box. He didn't seem to care so neither did I. He shot a few Polaroids and I took a look at them. Sure enough, it looked like shit. I wasn't about to help this guy out. He was a pompous twit and having to spend an hour standing next to him I already hated his mother.

He did the shot and as he said, it took him less than an hour. It looked like a piece of sparkly blown-out shit, but he did do it in less than an hour. The kid from the art department looked at it and I could tell he was about to blow a vein in his head from trying not to laugh. I finally told the little elder to try bracketing a few shots no matter what he thought his light meter said. I told him that if he was a little off on his main shot then possibly a few darker ones might work. I think I saw him adjusting his aperture while I was leaving. As much as I wanted to give this idiot a piece of my mind, I thought leaving him alone with himself was about the meanest thing I could do. I've heard from a few ex-Bethelites that shortly after that, the little elder got demoted and was given some manual labor job. I feel bad for the broom.

I headed back up to the art department and the secretary had a note from my escort. He had found out where the brother from my old hall was and left me a note. It was Tuesday night and I had to go with the kid from the art department to the book study. I told him I would meet up with him later and we would go to the hall at Bethel. I wanted to hunt down the guy from my old hall first. I got the instruction on how to find his room and headed to it right after dinner time (which again, I sat alone in my room admiring my sink faucet). I then headed to go see the brother from my old hall. When I found the right building I went up to the right floor and knocked at the door. The kid I knew back in my old hall answered the door with a shocked look on his face that very nervously turned into a half smile. He asked what I was doing there and I told him. Then he invited me into the apartment. I had been in several rooms of the people in the art department and the guy from the purchasing department and most of them were the size of a walk-in closet that had a bed that came out of the wall.

This was a full-blown two-bedroom apartment with a small living room. I knew he had only been there a few months and I had heard the story about how someone has to die off or get kicked out to get a larger room, but this was a damn palace compared to every one else's dump. I looked around and asked him how he got such a nice place after only being there for a few months. He told me that he was Leo Greenlees' (a Governing Body member) new room mate). I looked at him again and asked how did that happen? He backed up a few paces and in a low soft voice said what I had heard several times before: "You can't tell anyone I told you this but..." I had heard that intro to a statement several times before on this trip, but this one I was dying to hear.

He told me that Leo's last roommate had to leave Bethel, so Leo asked him to be his new roommate. I asked him why Leo's last roommate had to leave Bethel. He told me that he wasn't supposed to tell anyone. I looked him straight in the eye (I have this mean kind of "I'll rip your throat out kind of look when I want to, I don't know where I got it, I think I had it as a baby) and I told him that if one more person told me in a quiet voice not to tell anyone something they were about to tell me I was going to blow up. He sat down and repeated his request for me to keep what he was about to tell me to myself. He said the average brother might not understand. I said, Just tell me!

He said that Leo's last roommate had been kicked out of Bethel because he would get new young brothers drunk and then bring them up to his room and have sex with them in their butt. Yes, he actually said "have sex with them in their butt." I didn't know whether to laugh my ass off or drop to the floor in a state of shock. I then asked him if his old roommate was gay. He looked at me a little funny and asked me what did I think? I didn't know Leo Greenlees from Mr. Green Jeans so I didn't know what to think at that point.

All I could think of was, how could this happen at Bethel and how could this have happened right in the room of a Governing Body member? (For those Watchtower spies who don't know about Leo, go ask someone who has been there for a while and ask them why Leo was the only GB member who was shipped off to New Orleans to be a special pioneer until he died instead of living out his life at Bethel like the rest of the GB members.)

I sat down for a while and just couldn't think straight. Then I thought about this young brother from my old kingdom hall and how he was so quiet, shy and so impressionable, and what the hell was he doing here? I looked back at him and he was definitely shaking. I felt bad for him and I felt bad that he let out such a big secret. I told him not to worry about it. That I wasn't planning on telling anyone back in my hall about the things I had seen so far on my trip to Bethel. I was starting to realize that what I saw and what I heard would be instant grounds for disfellowshipping for apostasy. I told him I had to go and I left in a daze.

I later hooked up with the kid from the art department and we went into a big room in one of the buildings that served as a kingdom hall. It had big heavy wooden doors on it and As I opened one I accidentally hit someone on the other side with it. It was an older brother and his wife was behind him. I didn't open it very fast so there was no real damage. I said I was sorry, and asked him if he was alright, and he said yes. As soon as he walked away, the kid from the art department asked me if I knew who I just hit with the door? I said no I didn't. He said was brother So and So...(Again I forgot his name) but he was one of the Governing Body. All I could think of was this just wasn't my day, and for the first time in all my years of being a JW I was actually getting to know the names of some of the Governing Body members. Brother Leo In the butt, Freddie Brown Shoes and Flat Nose So and So.

After the book study the kid from the art department asked me if I wanted to go up to his room and have a drink with him and his roommate. As we were walking down the street I asked him if that was permitted to drink in your room. He said after a little time at Bethel, it was an absolute necessity. He then smiled and asked me to look up the street and see how many guys were walking into their buildings with brown paper bags under their arms. I looked around and it seemed odd, but it looked like they all had paper bags under their arms. He told me, "That's all beer they are taking in." I asked if they were sneaking it in. He said no, it was OK to do that but you just had to carry it outside in a paper bag so no one knows what it is. As stupid as I thought that was, I agreed to it and we went to his room. On the way up we ran into a few other people from the art department. They were headed over to this one sister's apartment to have some mixed drinks and asked me if I wanted to go. I smiled with a genuine smile for the first time in days and said yes.

The sister and her husband made daiquiris for about six of us. I'm not a dainty drink kind of guy but after this day of meeting the cradle-robbed English bitch who could freeze lava with her eyes, the little Napoleon elder from hell in the photo department, learning that Leo Greenlees ex-roommate use to get guys drunk and have sex with them in their butts and almost personally knocking off a Governing Body member with a Kung Fu door, I needed a drink.

The next day was going to be tough. I had to do kind of a portfolio check session with the illustrators and work on some photo retouching for an upcoming Italian Awake! magazine and work with someone from the graphics department on the miniaturization issue.

As I walked around a little bit I noticed a large Hell scanner sitting in a room with a plastic tarp over it. This was back before desktop flatbed scanners, and I had only seen this particular scanner at color houses. They cost over a million dollars each at the time and took a person with more than a half of brain to work it. I asked the brother who ran the illustration department about it and he didn't even know what it was. I have to say again, this guy was one of the nicest people I met on my trip. I felt bad he didn't really now what he was doing but I would find out the next day or so why.

I got to the art department and the young kid who I had drinks with the night before was waiting for me. He said we had to go up to the main administration floor to check out some old books they wanted to make some archival negatives of. I went up to that floor and we were met by a couple of brothers. One was a tall black brother who (I think if I can remember) said he worked in the legal department. The other brother didn't say what he did. We went over to the back of the department and there was a locked door. The brother opened it and as I stepped in he told me something I had heard before but with a little different slant to it. He said that the room had a lot of the old Watchtower literature in it and I shouldn't be alarmed about anything I may see. He said that the faithful and discreet slave had a lot less light from Jehovah back then and that new light had replaced some of the things the early faithful and discreet slave didn't quite grasp. He said that the average brother may not understand all of this.

One thing that seemed to have escaped all these guys was the fact that I was an average brother. I spent my whole life just accepting what they said as the truth and like everyone else never really questioned it. After all, would my mommy lie to me?

I'll tell you, if I didn't know I was in a JW library, I'd swear I was either in a Catholic one or some ancient library of Egyptian occult history. Some of the old books had crosses and crowns and I saw a few pyramids. I also saw a few Egyptian icons on a few books that I recognized from a few old art books. The more I saw, the more I realized how different the teachings were now compared to what they were when the religion just started. You wouldn't even know it was the same religion. I could see how the early JWs were definitely influenced by the occult and how its early teachings laid heavy on Egyptology. I remembered reading somewhere about the stair steps in the great pyramid adding up to the year 1914. I was really starting to question everything as each minute went by. For the first time I started to feel a bit nervous. I felt if I could spend a few hours in that library I could find things would shock the rank and file JW right out of their jammies. I was almost afraid to look around too much. I felt like there were things in there I shouldn't see.

Imagine now if Alan F. was given a key to that library and was told to have some fun. Talk about skeletons in your closet, this room had a whole damn graveyard. When I met Alan around 1995 I told him about the library and he didn't even know it existed. I had never known anyone before or since that knew more about the watchtower skeletons than Alan. For them to keep this room a secret to the average JW for so long is amazing. It makes you wonder how many other secrets they have kept from everyone.

I wanted to go back and put a little sign on the door of the secret library that said, "When leaving please turn the light off, a new light will be installed on each visit."

I don't know if the two brothers read the expression on my face or if they just got a little nervous, but they told us it was time to go and we left.

As I headed back to the art department it started to bother me that they had a locked library in the first place. What else were they trying to hide? I think that locked library should be open to every JW tour group visiting Bethel. I think the average JW should see where the religion really came from and let their own judgment and logic kick in. The graphics alone on the book and magazine covers screamed the word "cult." All I can say about it now, is the Watchtower has developed one hell of a marketing program. They can promise anything and not deliver. They can say anything and change it at any time without any repercussions. They can whisper secrets all the time but still not listen to what they themselves are saying. It's down right spooky as well as effective.

By this time my mind and body were just floating. I didn't care about why I was there any more, nor did I care about helping anyone out. I just wanted to go home. I spent the next few hours looking at all the illustrators' work. I met the guy who did all the nice illustrations for the yearly calendars and told him how much I liked his work. Both he and his wife worked in the art department and were very nice people. They were one of the few people who thanked me for the new airbrush I gave everyone and asked if they could buy another one from me once I got back to my office. Since they offered to buy it, I sent it to them free when I got back.

I also met another brother who did some great oil work. He was a short, stocky New York Italian-looking guy, and if I can remember I think his name was Joe. I could tell that he was definitely the bad boy of the department. He was very talented and had a good sense of humor. I noticed on a lot of his work that he had a lot of short New York Italian-looking guys with beards wondering around in several places in each illustration. I mentioned it to him and he just laughed and smiled. He held up his finger to his lips and gave me that "shoosh" sound. I liked this guy. Instead of asking me about pointers or getting deeper into a critique, he kept asking if his work was good enough to make money in the real world as an illustrator. I told him if he could change his style just a little bit he would be a great illustrator. He asked about how much money could he make if he was a professional illustrator? I told him I knew several illustrators with similar styles like his and they did book illustration and made well over a hundred thousand dollars a year. I could see the exit signs light up in his eyes. He is one guy who I felt would not be sticking around Bethel for very long, even though little images of him with a beard would hang on the walls of the art department for years.

Before I headed out for my next assignment I stopped off in the office of the elder who ran the illustration department. He told me about some brothers who had come back to consult in the newly-developed computer department. He told me that even though they had a wife and kids a special arrangement was made for them to come back to Bethel for a year or so to work. He told me that they were set up in their own VIP apartments and their wives stayed in the apartment with the kids why the brothers worked. (I saw this coming like a hook to my upper lip.) He then asked me if I would ever consider doing something like that. My mind flashed back to my wife's closet full of clothes and shoes and I thought there wasn't one apartment that I saw while being there (except for Leo Greenlees' up-the-butt palace) that would even come close to holding her stuff. I also thought of my two boys being locked up in a cramped apartment for days on end. I couldn't be that cruel to either my kids or my wife's wardrobe. I said the only thing a loyal JW man with rapidly developing doubts could say. I told him I'd think about it.

Later that night I was asked to do some photo retouch on a photo that was going to appear on the cover of an Italian Awake! magazine. It was a photo of a brother in Italy behind prison bars. I was asked if I could make the bars more pronounced and the room a bit gloomier. Now I have been to some of the art departments of some of the largest newspapers in the country. I have seen them do retouch work on all kinds of photos in the advertising section but never have seen a photo touched up for a news story. That is a journalistic sin, that is except for tabloids like the National Inquirer, The Star, and the Awake!. At this time, I just wasn't into doing this. I had a tough few days and the last thing I wanted to do was sit in a dark room leaning over a drafting table doing some airbrush retouch work for free. I fumbled through it and gave it back to the guy in the art department for proofing. It wasn't exactly what he was looking for, I guess, because he asked me to do it again but not to make the prison bars look so clean. I messed with it a little while longer until the Italian guy looked like he was not happy being behind bars for Jehovah. The art department guy was happy and we headed off to his apartment for a drink.

When we got there, there were several people having what was soon starting to look like their nightly "thank God the day's over nightcap." I was starting to feel that the minuscule amount of money they got as an allowance to buy personal items like deodorant and soap was being use to buy Jim Beam and Jack Daniels. If the Society ever got new light from the FDS that drinking was a sin, all of Bethel would shut down overnight.

In this little meeting of the "don't tell anyone what I am about to say" club, I got an earful about the Bethel male migration to the new Bethel sisters crotch scenario. It reminded me of a billion sperm jumping over each other to get to a single egg. As I saw it, a single Bethel sister was doomed the second her bobby-socked little feet from Innocentville, Kansas hit the hard pavement at Kennedy Airport. In this little group everyone there was married. They talked about getting "Bethel sickness," which was the wife getting pregnant and them having to move out of Mecca. That kind of bothered me. The JWs talk about how kids are a gift from God but it was obvious that children were not tolerated nor appreciated at the world headquarters of Jehovah's Witnesses. That's understandable considering I never knew a person outside of Bethel who could have children, raise a family and hold down a job at the same time. It all made sense to me.

I also learned that night about the secret little jobs brothers do on the side for other brothers in nearby kingdom halls after Bethel work hours. They got paid two or three times as much to do those jobs as they did doing their Bethel job. I didn't have a problem with that. After all, booze is expensive.

The next few days were fairly uneventful. I did what I was asked to do and when I was done, I turned into Dear Abby for my fellow brothers. I also learned the trick of cutting meetings and hiding out in my room. Saturday morning I asked the first brother I had met from the purchasing department if he and his wife would like for me to take them out to dinner. He, like everyone else, jumped at it. This was to cover up the fact that there was no way in hell I was going to go out in service with anyone and I found asking any Bethelite out to dinner is an instant subject changer. I was learning how to survive at Bethel. I told them to pick any restaurant in New York and I would take them out to the dinner of their lives. They took that literal. His wife jumped on the phone and made reservations at the Windows of the World Restaurant at the top of the World Trade Center tower. I was a bit shocked, I didn't think we could get in there on a Saturday night with little notice.

I absolutely hate pretentious snooty restaurants and in my business travels I've been to the snootiest of them. This one was very typical. I had to tip three people before we could actually get a table that was near a window. The head wine steward looked like he had just walked out of an Agatha Christie novel and came up with his silver tasting cup around his neck. I have always wanted to rip those things off their necks and shove them up their noses. That was one hell of a coke spoon. It was a typical pretentious dinner. Half-cooked vegetables with a string wrapped around them, tiny portions of the main course that got lost in the shadow of the oversized garnish and a dessert that is only served in the finest New York restaurants and old folks nursing homes around the country. Why the hell do they give a fancy name like "sorbet" to a tiny scoop of frozen Kool Aid? Jesus, I hate New York!

I only heard one "Don't tell anyone" that night. It was that there are parts of the South Bronx that no one goes to out in service.
I guess that is one of the places the rocks are going to have to cry out the good news of Jehovah's Kingdom. It was the first logical thing I had heard about the religion all week. The JWs make it sound like they are in every nook and cranny in the world but a few miles away from the world headquarters has already been marked by the angels as a place the good news ain't going. I thought the angels were a bunch of sword-carrying bad asses with wings that would protect God's true people from harm. I guess when god starts outfitting the angels with Mac 10s the preaching work will start up again in the South Bronx. I do have to admit that the baby chick Cornish game hen I had three bites of was tasty. $400 later and a 1% tip for the pertinacious snobby waiters and wine steward, we headed out. I did slip the wine bottle-carrying kid a twenty and told him not to share it with his boss. I swore I'd never go back to that restaurant. I don't think a couple of Muslim fundamentalist liked the service there either.

The weekend went slow and I did some walking around Brooklyn. Parts of it are nice and parts of it should be blown off the face of the earth. Monday came and went and Tuesday I was asked to give a progression report to my buddy Dean Songer.

I came into his office and we had a little chat. He asked me what I thought about the whole operation. I told him that if the three departments I spent time with were in a real company, heads would roll. I told him about little Napoleon in the photography department and I told him I thought the communication between each department was unbelievable. I told him that the people in the illustration department didn't like or get along with the people in the graphics department and that graphics department didn't get along with the people in the illustration department and that both those departments couldn't stand the guy running the photography department. Everyone was afraid to complain or talk about any real issues. I told him that the heads of the departments, even though some of them were very nice, didn't really have a clue about the job they were doing. I told him if he wanted any productive changes he would have to find people that not only knew how to communicate with each other but also knew what they were communicating about.

Dean stood up and started walking around his office. He told me that the first priority of anyone that headed up a department was their spirituality. He told me this is the way it was, always has been, and always will be. I then asked him about the million-dollar Hell scanner sitting with a tarp over it. He said they had not found a brother with the spiritual and technical expertise to run it. I then asked him why they bought it. He didn't answer. I didn't go into any of the "don't tell" issues I heard about because I liked most of the people who confided in me and I didn't want them to get in trouble. I didn't tell him about what I heard in Leo Greenlees' apartment or the old lady bitch who blew me off in the art department. I just sat there and listened to his reasons for how things were. He thanked me for my help and it was mutually decided that I would leave the next day (I don't think Dean liked my report). My two-week trip was being cut short. I thought that would be the end of my "don't tell anyone" secrets of Bethel but it wasn't over yet.

The next morning I was picked up by a mechanic from the motor pool in a brand new Chrysler station wagon. As we got to talking I asked him if the car was his or was it owned by the Society. He told me that it was owned by the Society and that they had several of them. He told me that there are several brothers who own car lots across the country and they donate the cars to the Society. He also said that there are a lot of old brothers and sisters who donate cars, homes and money to the Society in their wills. He mentioned that there were thousands of older couples who never had kids and everything they had goes to the Society when they die. I got to thinking about the twenties and thirties where the Society told people that we were so close to the time of the end they were strongly encouraged not to have children. So people who never had the pleasure of having a family ended up giving their life savings and all worldly possessions go to the good old Watchtower Society. That has to add up to a lot because kids are expensive to raise. Just look at all the money you can pack away in a savings account by not having to pay for any pesky kids. It's a shame that Armageddon didn't come back then so those childless couples could go into the new system and have children when they are a couple hundred years old like they were promised.

Don't get me wrong, I don't think the Society intended to have those people die childless and leave all their money to the Watchtower Society. I think they just screwed up on their predictions for the end of the world and the money just happened to end up in their bank accounts because the people who were told not to have any kids didn't have anyone else to give it to. It's not their fault, really, anyone can screw up predicting the end of the world, they have been doing it over and over again for centuries.

As I sat on my five hour flight home, I couldn't stop thinking about the many nice people I met at Bethel. I also thought about the controlling assholes and how scared of their own shadow everyone seemed to look. I thought about the militaristic structure of simply going in to have a happy meal with the Big Brother faces on the monitors. I thought about how everyone had to sneak their sanity saving booze into their rooms in brown paper bags that absolutely hid the fact that they were all taking booze into their rooms. I thought about how before this trip I felt it would make me a better JW and help save my marriage and knock me up to the next rung of being a ministerial servant. I also thought about that poor shaking brother from my old congregation that knew he was sleeping in a room where the last guy got young brothers drunk and had sex with them in their butts.

I never sleep on planes no matter how tired I am. My head was swimming and I felt like a huge wall was in front of me and I had to decide to stay behind it, or climb it and look at the other side. I thought was I just imagining what I saw and heard because I must be spiritually weak or was I not looking at the whole experience in the light of people simply being imperfect? Did I simply stumble into a situation that showed me more than I could handle or did I see some real truth about the truth?

I knew I couldn't tell anyone about what I saw, heard, or felt. I knew talking about it would lead to me being disfellowshipped for apostasy even though I would only be telling the truth about what I saw and heard. I had done nothing wrong but do what was asked of me and listen to people with an open mind and understanding heart. Unwillingly I had already begun to commit the unforgivable sin, I began to be honest with myself and think for myself. I knew being disfellowshipped for talking would kill my mom and I also knew it would end my unhappy marriage. I thought about my kids and how what I knew would eventually affect them. I thought about my mom again and how I finally fulfilled her dream of having me work in the art department at Bethel. I also thought about whether I should act on what I saw or just keep my mouth shut. I thought so much all I wanted to do was stop thinking. I didn't think I knew anything for sure anymore. I started to think I wished I didn't know what I knew. But, I had to admit, I now knew one thing for sure, my life would never be the same.

Next: The decision that changed my life (end of part 4)

 

My two week consulting trip to Bethel (the beginning of the end) Part 5

As I drove home from the airport all my thoughts turned to questions. I kept recalling the advice from the faithful and discreet slave to never question them because they spoke exactly from god's lips to their ears. To question them was to question god. To have the slightest seed of doubt was to plant a garden of death fruit. Even though I was never an overly spiritual person I believed the teaching of the Watchtower Society in a very technical manner. What ever they taught from creation to destruction I accepted as easily and absolutely as I accepted the fact that the sun shines during the day and the moon glows at night. When you do not even consider questioning anything about life it makes it an easy life to live, you do not have to think about anything, you simply accept and live.

I always thought that those who chose not believe what the JWs taught had an easy life to live. Either way, believing everything or doubting everything was easy, You didn't really have to think much either way. I knew I had a bright mind, I had been told that my whole life. For the first time I realized that being intelligent or being as dumb as a potato chip didn't matter. Belief has little to do with intelligence and more to do with acceptance void of objective knowledge. I had never experienced objective knowledge up to this point in my life. Everything I had accepted as the truth about my own and everything else's existence was subjective knowledge. After my time at Bethel I now realized that what I so strongly and adamantly believed in was subject to the whims and interpretation of 12 very controlling men sleeping snugly in their brownstone apartments in Brooklyn. I later came to realize their incredible ability to keep secrets and claim that anything said that was opposite to what they claimed to be true was apostate propaganda, and the rank and file JW accepted it without question.

Is I walked into my house I got the usual "daddy's home" and a huge hug from my five year-old son Nathan and a big smile with arms reached out from my year-and-a-half old son Abram. As usual I was completely ignored by my wife, who couldn't care less if I took a nice long business trip off the edge of a cliff. Just as long as I paid all the bills and gave her money when she asked for it she didn't care if I was there or not.  She didn't even ask about Bethel or the people I met or what I thought of the trip. We had been married for a little over six years and except for a short time period right after each one of my boys were born, we never got along. She was a beautiful woman who like many JW women, got married young simply to escape her unhappy life with her parents and siblings.

She was not my first wife, I had been married once before at the age of 19. I married my high school sweetheart who I stole away from her Baptist parents and had her study the Bible with my mom, and leave her happy home to go live with her older sister and brother-in-law until she came of legal age to marry. We got married two weeks after she had turned 18. She accepted the teachings of the JWs because she wanted to be with me. At that age I didn't have a clue about being a good husband. All I knew was I was the head of the house, and my beautiful new wife was supposed to do what I said. My first wife Sharon was very bright and we had a good marriage for the first six months. Since she had been raised outside of the JW religion she didn't understand how to live in such a controlling environment. She hated going out in service but since I hated it myself we didn't go do the door-to-door work much. I had learned the trick of going out in service with a couple of elders who did nothing but back-calls. I would push my wife off with some of the elders wives who did pretty much did the same thing. After a year of being a JW my first wife had enough.

She knew I would not listen to her for a second about counter-JW teachings and she began to feel trapped in a world she learned to despise. One of the things she did tell me that surprised me (and I had a hard time accepting) was some of the songs in the JW songbook had the same exact melody (with a few lyric changes) as the hymn books she grew up with in the Baptist church. At first I didn't accept what she told me about the songbook and songs but I knew she sang in her church choir most of her life and I also knew she understood a lot about music because she had been playing the piano since early childhood. Her and I were very compatible but I took her intelligence for granted. I sucked as a husband leaving her at home by herself while I rode dirt bikes with my JW buddies on weekends. I wouldn't allow her to hang out with her non-JW sister or girlfriends from high school. I had even told her to have my brother's wife be her maid of honor at our wedding instead of her own sister because her sister wasn't a JW.

I look back now and I can't believe how controlling and un-loving that religion had made me. Sharon and I stayed together for a little over a year until she could no longer handle it. She knew I would never leave the religion and the only way to set her self free as well as myself was to have an affair. The worst part of that decision was she had it with my best friend, the presiding overseer's son. I not only lost my wife because of the affair, I lost my best friend. I was such an idiot. I was blinded to any reality in life, I just floated along filling up a seat at the kingdom hall and nodding my head in agreement like one of those floating head dog toys in the back of a car. I was taught to think any problem that came up because you didn't follow the JW road map of reasoning was the another person's fault. I accepted the fact that Sharon committed adultery because she got caught up in lust and unchristian like thinking. I went for a long time thinking none of it was my fault. In reality, it was all my fault.  It was the first real jolt of reality I had in my life and it really crushed me. Everyone blamed it on the fact that I married someone who, even though studied with my mom for a while and eventually got baptized, she was taken from a worldly life and I pretty much got what I deserved. I loved her about as much as any 20 year-old kid could love a wife but it took me many years before I could blame myself for losing her and coming to the understanding that I didn't have a clue about what real love was.

My second wife and I met at a district convention of Jehovah's Witnesses in Corvallis, Oregon. I knew I had to find someone soon to marry because I had passed from being a non-sexual young Christian brother to a pulsing lump of hormones with a sexual Geiger counter fighting to show my zipper who was boss. At age 21 I was at the peak of my sexual stupidity and I needed a fix. Sharon showed up at the assembly begging me to take her back. I was cold and I was unfeeling and I didn't have the ability to understand let alone be compassionate or forgiving. She told me she needed to talk to me and try to explain. I couldn't think of any explanation that would excuse her actions. My level of stupidity was at its fullest and all I wanted to do was find a new victim. That victim showed up in a tight little summer dress and long brown hair, beautiful blue eyes, and the nicest butt I had ever seen. All the virtues of a perfect JW girl ripe for the picking.

The average JW post-teen male has only a couple of priorities when looking for a spiritual sister to make his wife. She was a baptized Witness, she had breasts and she had that same little gleam in her eye that he did. The JWs discourage long courtships because of the chance of having premarital sex and dishonoring the organization. I figured after staring at Korin's butt for five minutes the courtship was half-over. In most cases where a divorce does happen in a congregation the one left going to meetings and crying on the shoulders of fellow brothers and sisters is the one who is not at fault. It doesn't matter what happened or how stupid you are, as long as you show up at those meetings and squirt a tear or two out once in a while, you are absolved from all responsibility for the break up. I had to wait a few months before I could bring Korin to my own kingdom hall. I had filed for divorce from Sharon, and Korin and I got married while the ink was still drying on the legal papers.

In that short period of time from where my eyes first met her cute little butt I was in love. I really didn't get a chance to know her very well but that was never seen as a priority in the world of JW courtship. All I knew was she was beautiful and she knew how to highlight sentences in her Watchtower magazine. Every JW boy in the state of Oregon between the age of 13 and 60 wanted her and I had her. Like most young JW couples we had sex a few times before marriage. Most do, but few fess-up. As long as you keep your mouth shut you can slip through the JW wedding with an innocent look and phony smile. Korin and I weren't that lucky. Guilt and the fear of dying at Armageddon for having sex a few weeks before we were scheduled to get married took over and the story of the death-defying sin we committed got out.

We had that infamous little talk with the elders in the back room where they asked personal sexual questions that were none of their damn business and we shed the appropriate amount of tears of remorse. We were told that we should get married as soon as possible (no, she was not pregnant) so we flew to Reno, Nevada to get married. We went to an all-night wedding chapel and I stood at the front as Korin and her mom walked down the isle. Korin was crying her eyes out and for the first time during this whole nightmare I really felt bad. Here was a 20 year old JW girl who had subscribed to Bride Magazine for years and her wedding day consisted of her mom, her disfellowshipped step-dad, my JW roommate, myself, and some Elvis wannabe rent-a-preacher. I looked at Korin and saw the tears flowing down from her eyes and I almost put an end to all of it right then. But, I couldn't. We both begrudgingly said our "I do's" and on a day that is usually the happiest day of any young bride's life we both felt like shit.

This was no way to start a marriage. It wasn't any business of a farmer, a TV repairman, and an a retired lumberjack to tell us we "had to get married as soon as possible." Starting a marriage with all that going against you was doomed to fail. That day I became the ultimate enemy in Korin's eyes. I was the guy who took her dreams and turned them into a nightmare. In her eyes Satan the devil was an OK guy with a small personality glitch compared to me, but I was evil personified. One thing about a JW woman is they have had to endure such a deep feeling of being controlled and deal with a less important status than the theater seats in their kingdom halls; and once they got pissed-off, they can hold that pissed-off feeling forever. Korin, in the 25 years I've known her, has done just that. I have just learned to accept it.

After playing with my boys for a while I poured myself a drink and sat on the coach to try and just forget the past week-and-a-half. For the next couple of days I just went to my office and acted like nothing had changed. I skipped the meeting on Thursday but went Sunday morning. The PO asked me how the trip went and If I had taken any pictures. I had told him before I left that I would shoot some slides and have a little gathering at my house to show everyone the beauty of Bethel life. The next day I went to pick up my slides and when I open the package all I got back was a couple of rolls of twisted multi- colored strips of plastic film. Now this was weird. I had shot tens of thousands of photos before and was very familiar with the ins and outs of photography. This was the first time I had ever gotten a roll of film back that was totally destroyed beyond recognition. I don't believe in signs, predestined coincidences or even soul mates, but this little twist of fate and slide film really set me back a moment. After a while I just blew it off and didn't think about it again for a long time.

The next week I got a call from my mom asking me how the trip to Bethel went. I knew there was no way I could say anything negative so I told her it was quite an experience. I told her that I had met and walked with Fred Franz every morning and I had ran into another GB member but didn't remember his name. I think she was expecting more of a glowing report but every question she asked I gave her the kind of answer she wanted to hear instead of the truth. I had been answering questions like that she had asked me my whole life. As a little kid I always wanted to play spots on an organized team. I would see kids playing little league baseball on Saturday mornings as we headed out in service. I remember asking my mom why I couldn't do that. Her pat answer was always the same question. Would you rather play sports or serve Jehovah? I always went with the lie. JWs only accept lies like that from little kids who want to experience a little normal kid fun growing up. They never seem to want "the truth," they just wanted "the answer."

After I hung up with my mom I started to feel like shit again. I was slipping into the area of self-denial and closing my eyes to what I now knew as the real truth about the truth. It was easy to do, I had been doing it all my life. As a JW you tend to melt two things into an accepting but false reality. The right answer and the real truth.

Talking to my mom was tough. Growing up, my mom always was proud of me when I gave a talk or placed a Watchtower and Awake! magazine at a door or gave a very adult answer at the book study. By this time in my life I never got any praise or recognition for anything I did well outside of the Watchtower's force field of power. In  jr. high school I was put into a special math class that was studying computer data processing, advanced geometry and trigonometry and that class was only available in three jr. highs across the country. It was kind of an experimental class set up for some of the brightest pimple-covered minds in the country. I didn't even know I was accepted into the class or that it even existed until I walked into it on the first day of the 7th grade back in 1968. I found out why years later when my mom told me that my parents always got things like that concerning me from the schools but never told me about it because I had eight other brothers and sisters living at home and my parents didn't want them to feel like I was anything special. They did a good job of that.

Instead of feeling proud of me starting my first business at age 26 with no college and very little money, all she could say was be careful not to let materialism take over my life and never leave "the truth." I was a good dad and excellent provider for my kids who I loved and my wife who hated me. None of that mattered. All that mattered was the meetings I went to and the amount of hours I could lie about on the service time slip I turned in every month. Report those hours so the world can see how much time the Jehovah's Witnesses put into serving their god. That religion is all show and no go. In all the years I was a JW I never got a phone call from an elder just to see how I was doing or if I needed help in anything. But like clockwork if I forgot to turn in my time slip I got a phone call. I hated those calls, it was a lot harder on the phone to add up the time I said the word god to a friend and then count the hours in-between that time when I left and said god again. The JWs call it incidental witnessing, I called it the elders trick for keeping your hours up. If the JWs used punch-in time clocks instead of a time slip based on the honor system the hours they reported to the world every year would be cut by 80%.

The weeks and months went by, and as they went along I started to miss more and more meetings and I blew off going out in service entirely. I couldn't handle listening to the same old thing over and over again that I had heard since childhood. I was talked to by my friend and elder one night that I didn't make ministerial servant because my hours were going down. Before I went to Bethel, that would have bothered me, now it was just a relief. I also couldn't watch as the songbooks opened up and the congregation looked like they were just another religion singing some the same songs as all the other religions and not really understanding what or why they were singing. Each meeting I attended I heard all the same words but now I saw them in a different light. Speaking of light, the only time you heard anything different at the meetings was when one of their prophecies was proven wrong by going over it's due date or people narrowing down aspects of the old light and asking more questions the GB can't answer.  Then we would get the "this is not an admission of being wrong in the past but" The F&DS have given us "new light."

Jehovah god is a god with  great sense of humor and timing. When he reveals to the faithful and desecrate slave something that is going to happen he only tells them half the truth. Once they publish the information in their books and magazines and it doesn't come true, he simply says "just kidding" and then tells them the real truth. In the mean time that old truth now know as "the truth that god was just kidding about" brings in thousands of new converts because they buy into the fact that the end of the system is right around the corner. I've been waiting to see that corner turned ever since I was five years old. And I thought New York city blocks were long! The "your kids are going to die at Armageddon and it will be your fault you lousy children-hating parent" card gets played real heavy before the new light is turned on. Since most JWs are born blind at birth, they seem to miss that part.

That Jehovah god, he cracks me up all the time. I started to wonder if he ever gave Leo Greenlees some new light to share such as "get a clue pal, you like having young Bethel boys as roommates so they can get other young Bethel boys drunk and have sex with them in their butts." Actually I think some of the other Governing Body members were blinded by that light and that was why god told them to send Leo to New Orleans. I don't know how that new light didn't make it into the publications. Somebody must'a forgot to flip the switch on.

In August of that year I decided to go to my 10-year high school class reunion. I didn't go to my 5-year because just like in high school JW kids are encouraged not to associate with worldly friends. The word "encourage" means one thing to the JWs and another to the rest of the world. To encourage you not to do something means "don't do it"! Or to encourage you to do something means "you will be treated like a leper with rotting skin falling off your demon-possessed bones if you don't." I was encouraged to get baptized at 18 years of age. So, as the JWs say after you grow a brain and leave the religion and they disfellowship you while they encourage your family to not to ever talk to you again they can say, "It was your decision to get baptized and your decision to leave." "Accept  god's discipline and forget you ever had a mom, dad, sister, brother, son, daughter or grandkids." Yep, I deserved getting a good butt-whacking from god for actually seeing what I saw and hearing what I heard at Bethel. Shame on me.

The word "encourage" is the biggest loophole they use to cover their ass. When asked why they tell their people to do or not to do this or that they say, "We never said that." We "encourage" them to do this and that but they have a free will to do what they like. JWs and ex-JWs who are honest with themselves know what a crock that is. The people in the world give people the benefit of the doubt too much and buy into that crap. The JWs get away with murder with that loophole and they hide behind the letter of the law because of it.

At my class reunion I ran into all the people I knew as a kid and wanted to hang out with but couldn't. To my surprise I hooked up with an old classmate who was one of the most popular guys in our class. He was editor of the school paper, played as a starter on the football and basketball team and had the impressive ability to date all the hot girls that were sometimes a year ahead of us in school. This guy was my idol in school and probably would have been my best friend back then. We were a lot alike, popular, athletic, smart, nice looking, but at the same time we were both real loners.  He had his reasons and I had mine. He also had the coolest name in the school, Kurt Sinner.  What more could a guy want in high school? What really pissed me off was I was smarter, a better athlete, and better looking than Kurt but I wasn't allowed to do anything about it (I slipped that in just in case he ever reads this). That was 20 years ago. Kurt and I have been best friends since, even though I haven't heard from the bastard in four months. He has a new girlfriend now, I'll hear from him when she smartens up and dumps his old butt.

Kurt walked up to me at the reunion and with a real smart-ass grin on his face said, "Dave, everyone is wondering where you stole the Porsche from." I looked right back at him and said "from the Porsche car lot ya moron." We were instant friends, two cynical, sarcastic, and intelligent smart-ass brothers who were separated at birth. Little did I know at the moment, Kurt, my new best buddy was going to ask me a question that would take all the things I saw and heard at Bethel along with all the fears and frustrations I had been feeling my whole life and help turn me completely around.

As the next few weeks went along Kurt and I got together several times and talked about how our lives had been going for the last ten years. Kurt had a college degree and became a high school teacher. He was married and had a young son. The more we talked, the more I was impressed with his level of intelligence and his grasp of reality. I had never had a friend like this and it felt great. One day Kurt came over to my house. I introduced him to my wife and kids and we sat down to have a quick drink. My wife sat down with us because Kurt was a good looking guy and she wanted to stare at him while giving me dirty looks at the same time. She was an Olympic gold medalist at giving me "die you bastard" looks.

As with most JWs when they get a worldly friend to sit down with them, they almost automatically without thinking break into a little incidental witnessing. Even though my head had body had been going in the opposite direction for a while I slipped into this robotic and very seemingly rehearsed "Did you know god said," little speech and Kurt stopped me a little into it. Kurt looked at me funny but then smiled. For the first time he had figured out why I was such a loner in high school.

Kurt leaned over the table a little bit and looked me right in the eye. He said "Dave, you are one of the smartest guys I know, but I have to ask you this question." (Here it comes folks). "Do you really and honestly believe that the whole world is in a world of shit, because a talking snake, told a naked lady, to eat a piece of fruit"?

I went dead quiet and slowly leaned back in my chair. I thought about his question and I thought about how incredibly ridiculous it sounded. It was like my mind opened up and for the first time in my life I could answer a question exactly how I felt in all honesty instead of answering it with an answer I was supposed to give. A huge smile came to my face and I felt like I had a "light bomb" of intelligence and truth shoot through my head for the very first time. At that very instant I became absolutely honest with myself for the very first time. Everything made sense now and for the first time I answered a question as Dave, not as Brother Dave. I looked at Kurt and with a half-laughing tone to my voice I said "NO! I don't believe that."

I couldn't stop smiling. I got up and literally walked around in a couple of circles. I said, " Ya know, I never thought about how stupid and childish that story was. I started to laugh. In that very second I had a feeling of freedom I had never experienced in my life. I had that spiritual revelation that I thought I was going to feel at Bethel but came home feeling the opposite. If any time in my life I felt like raising my hands to the sky and saying "praise God", that was it. His simple question was the key that unlocked my mind and my life. The feeling of being honest with myself for the first time and saying it out loud was over overwhelming.

I looked over at my wife and that feeling of joy turned to a lighting bolt right through my heart. She looked at me with her big beautiful blue eyes in a total state of shock and then got up and left the table. She knew all the years we were in our terrible marriage that she could treat me like total shit and I would just put up with it and never leave her. In that moment she knew the game was over and I was no longer being controlled by other people. I had just taken my life back for the very first time.

Kurt left a little while later and didn't realize right then that his question and his friendship would completely change my life. A few days later I jumped on a plane and headed off to Detroit for a small business convention. I took a very late flight home Friday night and got home in the middle of the morning on Saturday. I didn't sleep at all. Korin didn't even know I was home because I always slept on the couch in the living room. We didn't sleep together very often because I grew tired over the years of staring back at her in bed and knowing I couldn't touch her.

Korin came into the room and told me to get my lazy butt up and go mow the front and back lawns. We had a big two-story five bedroom house and the front and back yards were very large. It was a hot summer day and I went out and mowed both the back and front lawns. I came into the living room dripping in sweat and Korin was in the kitchen. I sat down to rest for a second and I asked Korin if she could please get me a glass of water. She yelled back from the kitchen, "I'm not your slave, get it yourself." That was it. That was the straw that broke the camel's back. I walked into the kitchen and in a very calm voice said,. "You're right. You're not my slave. You actually don't do anything for me. I make my own meals, iron my own cloths, and I even sleep by myself. You're not my slave, you are not my anything."

I went into my room and put a few things in my luggage. As I started to walk out of my room my five year-old son came up to me as calm and quite as I was. He looked at me with a very questioning look, and I bent down on my knees and gave him a huge hug. I started to tell him that I was moving out and this time I was never coming back. I had left Korin on and off over the years but usually for only a week or two and I always came back. I started to choke up and I expected Nathan to start crying. He didn't. He, in a very mature manner said that he knew it would happen someday. He was and still is an extremely bright person. He gave me a big hug and said he understood. He said don't worry daddy, I'll see you soon. I told him that I would be back in a week to pick him and his little brother up for the weekend. He said OK and walked away. As I was walking down the stairs to put my bags in my car, my year and-a-half old son came crawling down the stairs crying. He wasn't old enough to understand what I had said to Nathan but he knew something was wrong. As he slid down each step he would look up at me crying. I lost it. I started crying and went over and picked him up. I just held him tighter and tighter as Nathan stood at the top of the stairs and I could see a tear start to roll down his cheek.

Abram wouldn't let go of me. He had a tight grip on my neck and wouldn't let go. He just kept crying. I told him that daddy would come back soon and get him, but it didn't help. He just held on a little tighter and cried harder and harder. Nathan finally came down the stairs and said, "Dad, give him to me." I pulled Abe off my neck and gave him to Nathan. I walked to my car and opened the garage door. As I backed out I could see both of them standing at the doorway. Abe crying and holding his arms out for me to come back. Nathan just looked at me with a single tear running down his cheek as he held his little brother tight. As I pulled onto the street, I looked back one more time. Nathan was waving good bye. I just wanted to die. I drove away crying harder than I had ever cried in my life. I couldn't get the picture of my two boys standing at the door in the garage out of my head.

Part of me felt free, part of me felt dead. I knew I couldn't tell my wife about the things in Brooklyn. It was bad enough she heard my response to Kurt on the talking snake issue, I didn't want her looking at me as an evil apostate and try to keep my kids away from me. I absolutely knew I couldn't tell my mom about Brooklyn, either. She was going to be upset enough that Korin and I just broke up for good, adding the truth about what I experienced in Brooklyn would be too much for her to take. Everyone who knew Korin and I knew we didn't get along. I figured that I would just use that as the excuse for leaving and let people think what ever they wanted to think. They were going to do that anyway so what the hell.

As I drove to my dad's house I couldn't get the picture of my two boys crying as I left out of my head. I didn't know what was going to happen next. I just kept driving and crying. It must have been an all-time first. A guy driving down the road in a brand new Porsche crying his eyes out. All I could think about were my boys and it was tearing my guts out.

Life was weird and it was about to get even weirder.

End of part 5 _____

PART 6


Within a few weeks I leased a condo on the banks of the Willamette river just outside the city of Portland. I bought all new furniture and household goods so I could try and live a comfortable life in my new place. This was the first time in my life I had a place of my own. I didn't have to answer to or explain anything to anyone, I could live my life as I pleased without any judgmental pressure from anyone who thought they had the right to run my life. I could walk around my place without seeing anything that showed it had been influenced by another person's taste or belief. There wasn't a single ruffle or flower pattern in the whole place and not a single piece of Watchtower literature in sight. Except for the odd packed-away piece of Watchtower literature there wasn't one thing in my house that would remind me of the lifelong brainwashing I once had to endure.

After getting the legal part of ending our loveless marriage on the way, I started to adjust to the quiet and stress-free environment of my new life. Even though I was starting to realize the freedom of never having to go to a meeting or wake up early and put a suit on to go to a Sunday morning meeting or go knock on peoples doors who didn't want me there on Saturday mornings, I still felt some guilt. Thursday and Tuesday nights felt strange as I would sit alone and watch TV thinking about a lifetime of going to the Ministry School and Service Meetings on Thursday and the mind-numbing book studies on Tuesday nights. For a year I had the book studies at our house. I didn't like the idea but with most JWs it is a point of showing how you are "reaching out" and it made your parents very proud of you.

Even though I had figured out the JW religion was not what it claimed to be, the lifetime of fear of dying at Armageddon still haunted me. I missed my boys terribly and thought about them not having me to see at night and have that sense of security having their dad around. There wasn't a night that went by that I didn't miss them and there was not a night that went by that I struggled with the hardest transition of my life.

Within a few weeks I got a call from my step dad. I didn't tell him why I left and as far as he could figure I was going to continue to be a JW but divorce Korin. My parents never liked her very much and my step dad always considered her, as in his words, "a nut." That always bothered me. I sometimes though that if they had embraced her like they embraced my older brother's wife and made her feel more a part of our family, maybe she would have felt the same back toward them. Korin always complained about my Mom being sick all the time and how she didn't seem to care about our kids as much as my brothers kids. Now it was too late.

A few days after the call from my step dad, I got a large envelope in the mail. It was from my mom. I opened it and it had a letter from her and a cassette tape with the Watchtower logo across the front of it. I started to read the letter and by the second sentence it started in with Jehovah this and Jehovah that. There was no, "How are you doing, son?" or "Is there anything I can help you with?" It was just the same old lines of preaching about never leaving Jehovah and God's organization that I had herd a million times throughout my life. I think I quit being my mom's son once she became a JW. Every member of that cult looses their biological family tie and becomes first and foremost a fellow JW. Sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, grandchildren and grandparents are no longer offspring or ancestors, they are simply fellow cult members. I set the letter down and thought that this would possibly be the last time I would have any contact with my mom. I pulled the tape out of the envelope, looked at the blue silk-screened logo of the Watchtower and then tossed it into the garbage.

I had come to realize that the grip the Watchtower organization had on people was incredible, and the one they had on my mom was unshakable. I think I would have eventually left the religion, but the trip to Bethel accelerated the inevitable. For many years I had problems with the 1975 issue. I had heard all the talks at the assemblies that did everything but come right out and say Armageddon will definitely come by 1975. The JW leaders have the technique of saying things without actually saying it. They can make their followers believe something so strongly, it makes them react by piling on the reported hours on their service time slip. What they were saying was taken as fact. Their reaction to the teaching of 1975 proved that they preached a message that moved people to do what they wanted, and not once did the JW leaders in the middle of it tell their people they may be overreacting and to slow down. When their words are proven to be wrong by the reality of the passing of time (without the fulfillment of their prophesy) they just turn on their own people and blame it on them by saying that they read too much into what they said. The JW leaders come off as the real "talking snake" and tell lies for their own selfish and arrogant reasons. When they are found out to be liars, they shift the blame to their own people. The most amazing thing about their false prophesying is that when they blame it on their own people, those people in turn buy into the scam and blame themselves. The rank and file JWs are either the stupidest people on the planet, or they are so deeply brainwashed they cannot see the truth through the blinding glare of the continually changing new light.

This is an ultimate example of total mind control and brainwashing. Because the JWs so desperately want what their leaders teach them to be true, they will constantly adjust their own reality to fit the obvious and unreal mind control techniques of their leaders. The fanatical reaction to religious leaders, coupled with the need to believe that they are right, causes the JWs to sever ties with their own flesh and blood as well as let them die by avoiding life-saving medical procedures. That act of total mind manipulation is nothing more than mental terrorism and downright murder. The JWs rarely quote the thought from the Bible: "Judge not less you be judged," but instead constantly preach the scripture about leaving one's own child or parent if they do not agree with the teaching of their cult. Both teachings come from the same book. The importance of one over the other is the main tool used by all cults to steal the mind and hearts of their meek, humble and teachable followers. Once the leaders convince their followers that they themselves are nothing, and their only hope is their leaders' personal interpretation of their sacred books, the battle is over. Their minds and hearts and very existence are lost to the whims and control of a handful of power-hungry mind and body snatchers.

Redefining the meaning of basic human emotions like love and hate is the key to controlling their followers' minds. When a cult can take the most powerful human emotion of love and convince their followers that part of showing that love means turning your back on your own flesh and blood, then that cult can convince them of anything. A person's mind and life are no longer their own, they belong to the leader of the cult. The last element of mind control used to permanently cement the thinking of their people is in convincing them that anything written or said that contradicts or even slightly questions the teaching of the leaders is the ultimate evil. The one and only unforgivable sin! Any other atrocity that one human can execute on another human can be forgiven, but speaking against the all-powerful leadership of the cult will never be forgiven. It is the crossing of the "dead in our eyes" line.

This is why I chose not to speak up about what I knew to be true. It is not that I feared or believed in the unforgivable sin, but rather my mom and brothers and sisters (and most importantly my wife) did. The state of Oregon and my wife owned my kids, they just allowed me to rent them on weekends. Being disfellowshipped is one thing, but being disfellowshipped for the unforgivable sin of apostasy is another. I would keep what I knew to myself for many years and concentrate my thoughts on how I was going to try and fit into the rest of the world. Leaving the totally controlling JW religion that I have been a part of my entire life puts a person into an extremely awkward place. I was no longer a part of a psychological family or a fundamentalist tribe that were made up of the only people I knew and associated with my whole life. I was also not a part of the so called "world" that the JW cult had so protectively kept me from. The "world" was made up of supposedly evil people who have no concept of what real love is.

I become an isolated and socially ill-equipped member of a no-man's land of permanent in-betweenness.

This is what stood before me, and it was a bit scary. I didn't know any ex-JWs; the internet did not yet exist in the manner it does now. I had no one to help me that understood my social immaturity and troubling and very heavily programmed mind. I couldn't simply flip a switch and say I was all better now. I would still not step foot in another church and I still thought all gay people caused the destruction of two nice cities that were the Las Vegas and Atlantic cities of Bible times. I needed a brain tune up and I didn't have the slightest idea how to do that.

A few days later Kurt came by and I told him about how I was feeling. We talked for hours about god, religion, brainwashing and life changes. Kurt at that time was into eastern philosophy and recommended that I rent a movie and watch it. The movie was "The Razors Edge" with Bill Murray. I couldn't understand why a movie starting the comedian Bill Murray would help me, but I had a lot of respect for Kurt and at this time in my life he was the one and only friend I had. The next day I rented the movie and watched it five times in a row. It was a very deep movie but the humorous personality of Bill Murray still came through. (The movie didn't do well because people couldn't see Bill Murray doing a dramatic role.) It became my favorite movie and still is to this day. It's about a man looking for the meaning of life. When he finds it, it is simple.

I had been in my new place for about four months. I would get my boys on weekends and try to keep my mind busy during the week. I had started to spend more time at my heath club playing long games of racquetball and basketball. I was starting to make some new friends and for the first time not looking at them as evil worldly people. Korin and I were battling over the details of the divorce and my attorney bills were starting to pile up. We had a court date in a couple of weeks and I dreaded going to court. I didn't want to think about it, I just wanted it to go away. As long as I could see my boys, I no longer cared what she did in her life. I felt bad for thinking that but I was also starting to realize how easy my life was starting to feel not having her to fight with all the time. My stress level was way down and I was actually starting to have a few moments in my life where I was feeling a bit happy.

One night I had just finished playing two hours of racquetball and I was getting ready to head back to my place. One of the guys who worked at the club and I became friends and he was getting off work just as I was leaving. He came up to me and asked me if I wanted to walk across the street and go the bar at the Rusty Pelican restaurant to listen to a live band he liked. Automatically and without any thought I told him I couldn't. I guess in my mind Thursday nights were still the "down" nights. I thought about it for a second and realized I did not have anything to do but go home and watch TV. I told him I would go. As we walked over I thought about my first response and how my mind was still a bit programmed into doing things related to the religion automatically and without any real thinking. It was as automatic as putting your socks on first and then your shoes. I never considered doing it different or even the possibility of not wearing socks at all. I shook my head and realized I have a lot to change in my thinking and I first had to start with the things I didn't even realize I was doing.

We sat at a table that was just off the small dance floor that was in front of the band. After we sat down I realized why he wanted to go see this band. The lead singer was a very attractive lady and had a great voice as well as a few great looking other things. The bar only had a couple of dozen people in it because it was a Thursday night and somewhat slow. I had never been in a bar with a live band in it before so I was settling in and starting to enjoy myself. The music was good and the lead singer kept my attention. I didn't know it at the time but this bar was quite well-known as a meat market, and one of the city's main pickup bars for the yuppie set. I didn't even know what a meat market pick up bar was at the time! I was quickly being filled in by my new club buddy. Just as my friend from the club and I were talking about all of this while the band had just started a new song, I felt this hand go across the top of my back from my left shoulder over to the right and then down my arm to my right hand. I felt my hand being grabbed and I was pulled up from my seat on to the dance floor right in front of me. I looked up and to my shock was this beautiful strawberry-blonde woman.

I stood there for a few seconds just staring at her. This woman's appearance just screamed sexy. My mind instantly flashed to the drawings in the Watchtower publications of the harlot riding the seven-headed wild beast, and now that harlot was dancing right in front of me! She was in a tight sexy dress and she had a couple of nice gold jewelry necklaces around her neck and a few gold bracelets on both of her wrists. She started dancing and moving and looking around and didn't notice I was just standing there like a statue with a two by four up my butt. I was truly in a state of shock. I glanced down for a second and saw my club buddy looking up at me and laughing his ass off. He then lifted his hands up and moved his shoulders up and down as if to say to me "dance a little you moron."

I looked back at the woman and she just noticed I was standing there like an idiot. I forced a little smile and began to move my hands and arms just like my buddy showed me. Nothing below my shoulders moved for a few moments. I felt like I was milking invisible cows as they hung from a tree all around me. All of a sudden I could feel my butt moving to the beat of the music. I had no control over it, it seemed as if my ass just grew a mind of it's own and it wanted to boogie a little. I felt like my butt wanted to sit down, then stop halfway, and stand up then stop and sit down and then wiggle a little. Next came my feet. I looked down and they were starting to move. I felt like the whole bar was staring at me and my uncontrollable and indecisive boogie butt. Here I was making an ass out of myself, and the entire bar as well as the entire state of Oregon was watching me as I wiggling my body like my ass was on fire, while dancing with the harlot from the Babylon book.

How long do these damn dance songs go? I wanted to fake a heart attack and die right on the dance floor. If I died then I wouldn't have to apologize to the harlot for my uncontrollable pelvic seizures and the ten gallons of sweat that was starting to stream down my face like a freshly pissed-in urinal. This dancing stuff was a damn hard workout. Screw playing two hours of racquetball; the key to fitness is making a total ass of yourself on a meat market dance floor. I hadn't remembered why I hated dancing so much since the day I was kicked out of my sixth grade PE class for refusing to do the Hokey Pokey. I decided at a young age that no one was going to force me into sticking my back side in, then stick my back side out, then stick my back side in and shake it all about. If that was dancing then I wanted nothing to do with it. I had much more dignified ways of making an ass out of myself. To this day, I hate dancing.

The song finally stopped and the harlot thanked me for the dance and went back to sit with her girlfriend. I sat back down with my buddy.  What he mistakenly saw as some mysterious power I possessed in picking up chicks without really trying was really one of the most frightening experiences of my life. He leaned over and with a little thumbs-up signal said "Man, how did you do that?" The truth is, I didn't do anything but go into a state of shock as I was forcibly yanked onto a dance floor. I'm sure if this is being read by any Jehovah's Witnesses that are sneaking a read here, they are thinking "the devil made him do it." I don't believe in a little pointy-tailed boogie man devil, but for right now I'd have to agree with them.

It took me a few minutes to collect my thoughts and settle my ass down. I looked back behind us and saw the harlot sitting with her girlfriend. She was drinking that glass of red wine she had been pictured with in the Babylon book, as she went for that horsy ride on the back of the seven-headed wild beast. I was still in a little state of shock, but for some reason I felt the need to go up to her and explain my convolutions. I got up and walked over and sat in the extra chair they had at their table. She looked up at me, smiled, and said, "Hi, my name is Sara." I looked back at her and in a very long breath said, "I'm Dave and I need to tell you that I've never danced before in my life and if I embarrassed you I'm sorry because I didn't expect to be pulled onto the dance floor and I have no idea what my body was doing." Sara looked right at me and laughed uncontrollably. She then said, "That is absolutely the worst pickup line I have ever heard in my life." Sara and her girlfriend were laughing and looking at me like I had just been air dropped from a plane full of bobble-head dolls headed to a local "Morons R Us" store. I looked back at both of them and said "That isn't a pickup line. I don't know any pickup lines and I've never been in a bar with a band playing in it before." I thought they were both going to knock their glasses of red wine off the table from slapping their hands on it and laughing so hard. I didn't dress in the typical little Amish boy black suit and hat so they figured I had to be giving them a line.

Since I had never used a pickup line and had never sat at a table in a bar with two attractive single women, I was pretty much stuck on what to say next. I looked over at my club buddy and he was giving me that stupid-ass thumbs up sign again. I looked back at Sara AKA the harlot and tried to convince her that I was not lying. She wasn't buying it for a second. She then asked me what I later found out was one of two conversation starters in meat market pickup bars. She asked me what was my sign. I looked back at her and said, "What sign, I don't know what you mean." This set her and her girlfriend off on a laughing spell again. She then asked me when my birthday was. I thought to myself what in the hell is she asking me that for? I told her and she then informed my that I was a Gemini (whatever the hell that meant) and she tried to tone her laughing down a little. Next was the other question that is standard in pickup bars, "what do you do for work?" she asked. I told her exactly what I did. I own a company that manufactures art materials and I also own a business that teaches art-related workshops around the country; I am also the national marketing and sales manager for one company out of Japan and another one out of Europe. I have an advertising agency that does all their advertising and collateral material, and I am an artist.

Even though everything I had just told her was absolutely the truth, I later learned that in the mid-80s during the height of the "I'm a Yuppie and I drive a Porsche," that everything I told her was things that every pizza-delivering, used car-selling, junior executive-bullshitting single male with a perpetual personality erection told women. They did this in an effort to impress them right into their roommate-full apartment with a Patrick Nagel print on the wall and an empty can of Spaghetti-Os in their sink. She not only saw what I just told her as a total and absolute line of incredible bullshit, but as the ultimate line of incredible bullshit. It had been a long time since I saw two women laugh so hard. All I could do is sit there and wonder what the hell was so damn funny. I was completely clueless and I was starting to get a little pissed off. I turned to look back at my club buddy and he and his little "at-a-boy" thumbs had gotten the hell out of Dodge.

Sara the harlot and her girlfriend started to catch their breath a bit an in a real smart-ass tone of voice, and she said, "So with all that, you're an artist, too?" I said (in a bit of an embarrassed voice) "Yes, I'm an artist." She looked at me and I think for the first time she could tell I had a bit of sincerity in my eyes but she had to do one more test. "I suppose you are going to invite me back to your place to look at your etchings?" I looked at her a little strange and said, "Well, I don't do etchings but I have some nice paintings and a couple of really good pen-and-inks at my place that I did, and I just live up the street if you want to see them." I was damn proud of these pieces of art. They had appeared in several art books and magazines and I honestly just wanted to show them to her.

Again, I had no clue that when a guy asks a woman back to his place to look at his etchings it meant something completely different from what I had just asked her. She laughed again and after her fourth drink just said, "What the hell, this should to be good." I didn't know then, but I do know now that she thought I was a nice guy and really funny. I wasn't trying to be funny at all, I was dead serious about everything I told her. As we walked out to the parking lot she mentioned something about me either being the biggest bullshitter she had ever met or the most clueless and innocent man she had ever met. I didn't quite know how to take that; either way it didn't sound good. The curious look changed the second the valet pulled up with my car and I opened the door for her. I wish I had a camera at the time to capture the look on her face for life. Now she didn't know what to think.

We drove the few blocks back to my place. She didn't say much as we walked in and I took her straight to my living room. As she stood in the middle of the room I went from painting to painting and told her a little about each one. She saw the name on the paintings and asked me if that was my name. I looked back a her with a puzzled look said, "Yes it is, I told you that I wanted to show you my paintings." I thought she was a little nuts by now, after all, she was the harlot. She made me take out my wallet and show her that the name on my driver's license was the same name as on the paintings. Then she started to laugh uncontrollably again. In the middle of laughing she walked up to me and gave me a hug and a kiss. She said "I can't believe it, you really did bring me here just to look at your paintings?" I looked at her like she was an idiot, "Yes I did, that's what I told you I was going to do, didn't I?"

Ya know, I discovered a couple of things that night: It is really hard to kiss a woman while she is laughing uncontrollably. Another is, not all sexy women are harlots, they are just sexy. I didn't expect the kiss, I didn't initiate it, but I didn't fight it, either. She then said, "Well, I guess you should take me back to my car so I can go home." I said, "OK, it is getting late," and I did just that. I dropped her off at her car back at the Pelican. She wrote her home number on one of her business cards and told me to call her. I looked at her card and it said Park Avenue Tan and had Sara's name and the word "owner" under it. As she got into her car she looked at me funny again, laughed and just shook her head.

One thing was absolutely sure about this new experience. I WAS the most innocent and clueless guy she had ever met. The bad part was, I didn't have a clue about how clueless I was about life or anything else for that matter. I still had a lot of issues to deal with that I didn't even realize I had. I had to learn right and wrong and up and down all over again. I would mess up a lot of times and learn from each and everything I screwed up in. Some things I had to learn about more than once. The thing is I had the freedom to learn from my mistakes and ask questions. A big difference was, I got back answers that weren't tainted by the narrow-minded teachings of the Governing Body of the Watchtower corporation. I learned about what real honesty was, and real love. A whole new world was opening up to me and the ability to be honest about what I thought and felt was very fulfilling. I could now use my brain for something else than a Watchtower pull string doll.

Sara was the first girlfriend I had in my social and intellectual rebirth. I was a born-again human and there was one more step in making this real. Thanks to the rules and regulation set forth by our religious forefathers, the JWs had created a way to, as they say it, 'keep the congregation clean;" but in actuality was to keep the rank and file JWs in the dark about anything that went against their personal interpretations and beliefs. Sara and I have remained friends ever since that day almost 19 years ago. I learned a lot for her and I think we will be friends for life. One of the biggest things I learned through my journey and transformation was that even though I had left the religion, many of it's hard-wired programming glitches would slip in and out of my life for a long time. I also learned that it was okay to be a little behind in learning how to fit in. Ex-JWs aren't the only ones with that problem, but at least we know where it came from, so we can start to fix it.

Sara and I had been dating for a couple of months. My divorce from Korin was final and I was starting to support her for what turned out to be half of her life. One Saturday morning Korin showed up unannounced with my two boys. I was going to pick them up a little later but she decided to pay me a surprise visit. I was still in bed sleeping on an early Saturday morning (like I was now able to do for the first time in my life) and I woke up to Korin bursting into my room asking me who the half-naked woman cooking breakfast in the kitchen was. I slowly rose up and said, "What half-naked woman?" ( I was starting to get my sense of humor back). Korin gave me one of her die-in-hell-you-bastard looks, slammed the door and left. Sara walked in as she was buttoning up one of my dress shirts she had on and asked, "What was that?" I said that's Korin, isn't she something? Sara told me that was one of the scariest moments of her life. She said Korin wanted to kill her with her eyes. I smiled and said I know that look, I lived with it for six and-a-half years. I got up and got dressed and gave the boys something to eat. Sara couldn't handle the horror of meeting Korin in one of her moods, so she left.

A few days later I got a call from one of the elders from the last kingdom hall I attended. This was an elder who I considered a good friend and who didn't call me once in the six months after I quit going to meetings. He told me that Korin had reported to the elders that I had a worldly girlfriend and that I was sleeping with her. He then asked me if that was true. I told him that I didn't want to answer any of his questions and neither did I feel obligated to, it was none of his business. I also reminded him of how the many times Korin and I went out with our little group of the cool clique in the congregation and how she treated me like I had leprosy. He understood, but still persisted in trying to grill me for information. He told me that if I stopped seeing Sara and came back and said I was sorry for what I did, that I would be okay.  I told him that Sara treated me great and didn't acted like I was a piece of crap and I was not sorry for that at all. I told him to do what he had to do and I didn't care.

The elder called a few weeks later and asked me if I was still seeing Sara. Sara and I had briefly stopped seeing each other because I was still working out some of the judgmental issues I had developed as a JW. The elder was happy to hear that I wasn't seeing Sara and told me again all I had to do was to say I was sorry, stop sinning and come back to the meetings. I told him that I wasn't sorry and I was never coming back. I told him that if I said I was sorry, I knew that is what they wanted to hear, but it was not the truth. I've said before that the JWs do not want to hear the truth; they only want to hear the answer they expect. Telling the truth felt good no matter the consequences. The elder told me that I was expected to come to a committee of elders meeting the next Saturday. I told him I wasn't going to be there and again for them to do what ever they felt like doing. He seemed to be in a little shock to hear that I would not come running to the elders when they told me to. They no longer had power over my life. They no longer had the control as counselors and disciplinarians over my action and thoughts. The were in my eyes exactly what they in reality had always been. Janitors, carpenters, and maintenance men. One would think if they were so concerned about my spirituality that I would have heard from them at least once in the six months after I stopped going to meetings. I guess there was too much drinking and partying to do on Friday and Saturday nights to pick up a phone and try and save my soul.

A week later I got the call that I was disfellowshipped. At least it was for a forgivable minor sin like finally having sex after six and-a-half years of sleeping alone on the couch. I could have been disfellowshipped for adultery or sexual molestation of a minor or lying and cheating a fellow brother or even murdering someone, but at least I wasn't disfellowshipped for the ultimate unforgivable sin, of telling the truth about what I knew about the Watchtower Society and their lies and scams. That is sinning against the holy spirit and saying something against the Watchtower corporation. Murderers and sex offenders can be forgiven, but never anyone who spits on the Watchtower.

The disfellowshipping of a well-known JW with a lot of friends and family ties gets around the area like it had just been shown as breaking news on CNN. This must have been what prompted a long-time friend and elder from my old congregation to call me. He told me that he had been disfellowshipped and wanted me to come back with him to the meetings so I could be reinstated. I was absolutely shocked when he called. This was a guy who became an elder at age 25 and was one of the most anal elders I had ever known. He was a few years older than me but we kind of grew up together. He would have Watchtower studies at his house on Friday nights and was gung-ho in service. His young son gave his first talk at age five and learned to read at age four just so he could give talks. This guy was the golden example of reaching out and a shining example to all those who could deal with his high level of fanaticism. The guy made other elders feel nervous.

I asked him several times what he did to get disfellowshipped and all he would tell me was that he got involved with some wrong-doing. Hell, blowing up the Twin Towers can be considered a wrong-doing but I couldn't imagine what brother super elder did. I told him that I had no intentions of going back to meetings or being reinstated. He told me to think about it and he would call me back. In the time between, I found out what he did. This guy, the bright and shining star of my old congregation, had sex with his 14 year-old step-daughter. He blamed it on Satan's influence because he let his step-daughter start to listen to FM radio and worldly music. JWs may be clueless, but they are the best at coming up with excuses for sinning in a moment of temporary insanity.

All I could do was shake my head and think how glad I was to finally be out of the clutches of that insane religion. I'd lost my family and I would probably never see my mom again, but for the first time in my life I was starting to feel happy. The JWs are right about one thing.

The truth will set you free.


Dave

 


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