The test-and-punish model marks a cultural shift away from the War on Poverty, and that should be a red flag for...
“Did you have any problems finding the place?” he asks, showing me to his study.
“Yeah—I mean, no,” I answer, not exactly understanding how all this works. I'd thought it was some bad joke when I was e-mailed by Mr. Goldstein.
“Religion's not played a big role in the election,” wrote Goldstein, “but according to our own internal polling, and despite the tireless efforts of Glenn Beck, people simply do not have a firm understanding of the Mormon faith. We'd like to offer you the opportunity to help us change that.”
With the election a mere week out, and a Mormon running neck and neck with Obama nationally, Heavenly Father's agent thought it wise to try and drum up some good press.
The e-mail blast went out to the entire national press corp. Apparently, I was the only one to reply. And, I have to admit, I felt incredibly silly doing so—even sillier singing the Osmonds' tune “Are You Up There?” in the Costco bathroom.
“Good, good,” he says, leaning back in his leather office chair, smoothing his robe. “Ari's a good man—a resourceful man.”
“Yeah,” I say, glancing around the pristine office. On the wall behind the large, oak desk hangs a framed needle-point that reads: “You don't have to be crazy to work here, but it helps!”
“They used every part of the animal, you know.”
“Excuse me,” I say. “Who? What?”
“The Jews,” he says, stroking his salt and pepper beard. “They used every bit of the Buffalo—the meat for food, the hide for moccasins and teepee coverings, the fat for candles, the bones for...I don't actually know what they used the bones for.”
“Oh, right,” I said. “The, um, North American tribes—the Lamanites.”
“Not those brown bastards!” he howls. “They wasted plenty. The Nephites! Now they knew how to use those buffalo bones, for whatever they used them for.”
“Sure. Sure. OK. I mean, when Mr. Goldstein contacted me I thought—”
“It could all end tomorrow, and where would I be? Does life go on or will it be the end of me?” Heavenly Father bursts into a bit of the Osmonds’ tune, giggling.
“Yeah, I didn't think that would actually work.”
“You know a better way to open a portal to Kolob?!” he roars with laughter. “Mitt wasn't just trying to appeal to the 'I can't afford a car elevator' crowd, you know.”
“I get that now, but how does it work?”
“Darned if I know.”
“But didn't you set it up?”
“Sure, but I work in mysterious ways. Who knows what I'm up to sometimes?”
“Like Sandy?” I grasp.
“Shoot!” he curses. “The 'Frankenstorm' wasn't me. Are you crazy? You think I want a natural disaster right before the election? It takes everyone's focus—even Fox's—off of Libya, and gives Obama a chance to look all Commander-in-Chiefy. No, this is bad for us, for Pete's sake.”
“Oh.” I'm taken aback. “So you believe in climate change then?”
“Heck, no! Are you kidding me? This has Allah's fingerprints all over it.”
“Allah? You have got to be—”
“Haven't you seen Dinesh D'Souza's 2016: Obama's America?!” he booms.
“No, but I—”
“But nothing, boy! You have got to see that film. Do you have any idea what's going to happen if Obama wins a second term? Well, do you?!”
“That's right! A me-damn American caliphate.”
“Um...” I can't help but smirk.
“This is no laughing matter!”
“I wasn't—I—but don't—so you don't have any control over the weather?”
“Who do I look like, Al Roker?”
“He doesn't actually control the weather. You know that. Right?”
“Ha!” he shouts, jumping to his feet. “Well, it's not like Willard Scott controls it! I tell you that much. Cheese n' crackers! And what's with all those old Smuckers people? No one wants to see that when they're eating breakfast. And don't get me started on Matt Lauer. I mean, that guy—” He's really pacing now.
“Can we focus a little bit here, Heavenly Father—is that what I call you?”
“Yes, yes. That's fine. Okay. Yes. Fine. I'm just saying—you know what? Forget it. What do you want to know?”
“I didn't mean to make you upset.”
“No, it's fine. It's just this dang election. The whole White Horse thing, and everything. I'm just under a lot of stress right now. I said I didn't know, but Ari says we need to do this, so let's do this. Please, continue—and, by the way, the answer is yes. Yes!”
“Pardon me?” I ask.
“Yes, I have a bellybutton. I can see you trying to sneak a peak, so there,” he hollers, lifting up his robe to his nipples. “Happy?”
“That's my boy! What about him?”
“No, um...the robe?”
“No, could you please lower your robe? Please.”
“Oh,” he says. “Sorry. Let's—yes—sorry about that. We don't get many visitors, so this clothing thing is a bit weird for me, anyway, you understand. Please, continue.”
“Yes. Let's. So you don't control the weather. You don't seem to have any control over the election, either. What—what, if you don't mind, do you control?”
“Ok, back to my son then. This interview is all over the place, you have to admit.”
“No, I meant, like, 'Jesus! You control rape?’ ”
“No, not him! I do! I just told you that I control rape! Me! Legitimate rape, anyway. I'm pro-life. Especially with white people. I call the coloreds Lame-a-nites. Get it?”
“Jesus!” He finally sits down. Befuddled, we both look at each other.
“Look, you're going to have to schedule something with Ari if you want to interview Jesus. We haven't talked much since he went backpacking across North America. I can't deal with the attitude, you know? But I should really get my hedge trimmers back from him before December.”
“What—what happens in December?”
“Ugh, hello! End of the fraking world ring a bell?”
“Um...you mean, like, the Mayan thing?”
“Oh, Okay. Wow. That's—that's not actually true. The whole position of the planets thing. Yeah. That happens every year.”
“That's not what I read on the Internet,” he says, nonplussed. “Alex Jones says there's something to it.”
“Jesu—no. No. No. Just no. It's not true.”
“Well, that's a real load off. He can keep the hedge trimmers.”
“If you thought it was the end of the world, why did you want your—forget it. Let's get back on track. Earlier you mentioned something about the White Horse. What is that?”
“Oh, that's some prophecy Joey used to talk about.”
“Yeah. Supposedly, at a time when the U.S. Constitution 'hangs by a thread' a great 'White Horse' will come along and save America through theocracy. And maybe bring about the apocalypse. It's been a while since I've seriously thought about it. Or heard anyone talk about it.”
“Well, yeah, it was quite a while back.”
“No, Brigham Young?”
“I know. I'm just messing with you. Heh. Yes, he talked of it quite a bit. I guess people are talking about it now because of Mitt and all. But, I mean, people were saying a few years ago that the White Horse was Glenn Beck—oh, which reminds me: maybe he can try to spin this Frankenstorm thing into one of his crazy Soros conspiracies. A 'liberal weather bias' kind of thing. Yeah! What do you think of that?”
“You're asking me?”
“Sure. Why the heck not? It's better than downplaying polygamy for the millionth time.”
“I think it's ridiculous. What—what was that about polygamy?”
“Nothing. Never happened. Bill Paxton is a lying little liar!”
“What the—he didn't make it up, man. He's just an actor. The fact is that Joseph Smith was killed by a mob for polygamy.”
“And attempting to set himself up as the theocratic God-King of America, like Romney's doing—what? Nothing. That's crazy. I don't have to listen to these wild accusations!”
“I don't even—”
“Take your clothes off.”
“You know, so I can baptize you. It's kind of my thing to just—bam!—baptize people when they least expect it. It's not gay. Nothing like that. Just one guy baptizing another guy. No big deal. You take your clothes off. I take my robe off. And—”
“No to which part?”
“All of it.”
“Good! Because that was totally a test. If you said yes, I would've been all, 'Eww! Gay! Get out of here you gay. You gay homosexual.' So. Good. You didn't. Now I don't have to go all Prop 8 on your butt.”
“I am so confused.”
“Jesus. No. This is not happening.”
“Fine. God. Baby.”
“This is so weird.”
“Oh, like transubstantiation makes sense!”
“What? I'm not Catholic.”
“I just presumed with a good Irish name like that.”
“Sorry. I'm an atheist.”
“Ha! So how do you account for all this then? Talking with me and everything.”
“Well, as far as I can tell you're not a god. I mean, with the whole flesh and blood thing you have going on, you just seem like a dude to me.”
“Yeah, it's crazy, right? I don't know. I was good, so when I died I got my own universe. Tide goes in, tides goes out, you can't explain that.”
“OK, I'm glad you brought this up because I never understood that part of Mormonism. You were good, so you became a 'god' sort of, and if Mitt Romney's good, he'll become a 'god' in a new universe, so does that mean you were a Mormon? Or...? How does that all work? Because LDS started like a hundred and fifty years ago. So...?”
“You ever see 'Battlestar Galactica?'”
“Remember the mythical planet 'Kobol' they were always looking for?”
“Oh my god, I just got that. So...what are you telling me?”
“I have a two o'clock appointment,” he says, standing up to shake my hand, “so you'll have to see yourself out. Good day.”
“Oh,” I say, shaking his hand. He then, rather unconvincingly, pretends to descend a make-believe staircase behind his desk.
“Bye!” he whispers, as if he's now a good distance away. “See ya!”
I stand there for a few seconds. “I can still see your head.”
A man opens the door behind me. From his Website, I recognize him as Ari Goldstein. He's wearing an American Indian headdress, and carrying a large bottle of rum. I point behind the desk, but before I can get a word out, Goldstein dumps the rum all over me and starts singing the Osmonds song.
I rub the sting from my eyes, and I'm in the Costco bathroom. Reeking of booze, I wander around for a bit before security escorts me to the door and tells me to never return.