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November 18th, 2010

(Not exactly) Like a Prayer

Soon, as many families take a seat at their Thanksgiving table, after the food is set but just before the feasting begins, a paralyzing moment will occur. What now? They’ll wonder, glancing left and right. Should we pray? Uncomfortable seconds will tick by. Finally, someone will ask to be passed something and people will dig in, grateful to get on with it.

Thanks girlWe used to pray, when I was little, when the family was young and the occasion was important and we were forced into this odd intimacy, with the mystical tones of something like church but at home. As a child the ritual was like a magic show, waiting spellbound as the secretive words were spoken.

My oldest brother Hal would pray at the dinner table with his head weighed heavily in his hands, as if he had a massive migraine or was avoiding the paparazzi. Maybe he was just embarrassed, since the act seemed so foreign and mortifying, like peeing in front of one another.

Once, Mom asked Dad to recite the Lord’s Prayer at the Thanksgiving table. He started strong and then the words came more slowly, until his memory of the prayer – recited every Sunday in church services he wouldn’t attend – failed him. Everyone just sat there in awkward silence, staring at our dad the heathen, until my mother finally prompted him, utilizing a Nancy Reagan whisper into his shirtsleeve.

It was about that time that prayer was discontinued at our dinner table. For a few Thanksgivings someone would suggest we all say what we were thankful for, but the practice faded. It seemed like some sort of consolation anyway. All the magic had long since been revealed.

PrayerManToday, my recovery from being a drug addict includes many suggestions about prayer. It’s encouraged, primarily for me to exercise enough humility to acknowledge there are powers greater than myself. After years of selfish using and living on my wits alone, it’s an important reminder. But that doesn’t mean I do it. Pray, that is.

I’ve been getting by with the claim that I meditate. Just the word “meditation” has less of the religious baggage than “prayer.” It feels less embarrassing, more reasonable. Maybe I’m remembering Hal, with his head buried in his hands.

I do believe that an awesome power, a god out there somewhere, is responsible for my existence and good fortune. I’m just not in the habit of chatting him up to express my appreciation or even for a passing hello. Which means, if I believe something created me, I must be one ungrateful son of a bitch.

Interesting. I’ll have to meditate about this.
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My week as a guest host for The Bilerico Project is ending. Here’s a wrap-up of my posts on current events and pop culture:

Elliott MAIN (2)In The Beginning, there was Sam Elliott. Long before Tom Selleck and before the Baldwin brothers, there was only Sam. Here’s my appreciation for a man who not only set the gold standard, but had class. And I offer proof, in relating the story of the night the lights went out at an AIDS Quilt event in Los Angeles years ago, and his graceful response.

William and KateIs William the next King of England? Can’t we skip Charles and make this graceful young man King? I just can’t bear the thought of Camilla sleeping anywhere near Buckingham Palace. Meanwhile, young Kate Middleton has been screaming “crazy like a fox, bitches!” into her cell phone for the last three days.

Alice and KayeEvery girl in the UK is singing this song! If you don’t know who Alice Ghostley or Kaye Ballard is, please turn in your gay card, if you carry one. As the stepsisters in the original production of Roger & Hammerstein’s “Cinderella,” they stole our hearts (and twisted our arms) with the hilarious “Why Would a Fellow Want a Girl Like Her?” Here’s a look at their magical, snarky rendition.

WizardOfOz 1Curses! Hollywood Meddles with the Magic of ‘Oz.’ Some day I’ll wish upon a star and ask that they never, ever try to remake The Wizard of Oz. Or, for that matter, any one of the truly awful sounding projects currently underway with ridiculous storylines like the early days of the wizard or Dorothy’s great-great-granddaughter. Wasn’t The Wiz bad enough?

Swan LakeThe Great Chinese State Circus. Ballet isn’t my thing, but this is beyond anything I’ve ever seen. Is it gymnastics? Cirque du Soleil? Whatever it is, your jaw will drop… and stay there for three minutes. (Now I’m even more excited about the soon-to-be-released The Black Swan, featuring a total freakout performance by Natalie Portman. Director Darren Aronofsky hasn’t been this twisted since Requiem for a Dream.)

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May I invite you to join my mail list (upper right) or become a Facebook Fan (upper left)? I won’t stalk you, I promise. This is my own, private (advertisement-free) web site and I’d like to keep you up on the latest. If you’re already a fan, thanks my friend! — Mark

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9 Responses to “(Not exactly) Like a Prayer”

  1. Joe Says:

    November 18th, 2010 at 12:47 pm

    That Sam Elliott story is about the most touching thing I think I’ve ever read…powerful stuff.

  2. Sue Says:

    November 18th, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    Too true for me. My mother is the prayer in our family and too frequently we just shovel the food without giving her a chance to say a prayer! My bad.

  3. john Says:

    November 18th, 2010 at 1:26 pm

    Oh thanks so much for the link to Sam Elliott. I just forwarded to my husband that has NEVER stopped drooling over him since both were born! LOL! Besides being interesting, it is nice to see that some real folks do exist in the kingdom of the stars!

  4. Simon Says:

    November 18th, 2010 at 1:26 pm

    Canada here, we’ve already done our Thanksgiving but two thumbs up for prayers. Up here in the big white north (okay it’s slowly turning white) we’re always thankful for our southern neighbors hospitality ask any snow bird freezing his butt off that pops down to Florida to warm his ass up. Prayer for me is a reconnecting with our “Blessings” yes another heavily used word which denotes religious underpinnings. But think of this; us POZ guys and gals especially those who fall into the LTS category (long term survivor) are amazed we have lived as long as we have. We began before AZT the first available drug, we survived AZT (a minor miracle in itself) and then the gambit of guinea pig drug trials to make it this far into what? We’re now in the 3rd decade of the AIDS epidemic. We’re now experts on AIDS and for the most part a lot of us share that wealth on knowledge with our HIV+ newbie’s. (Kudos to those that do)

    What do some of you have to be thankful for? Well knowing us LTS are around after all the sheet we’ve gone through there’s hope you can survive with AIDS that it’s not all doom and gloom. So what do I have to be thankful for – gosh I don’t know but being alive to hug mum and dad? To annoy a pesky brother or irritate my sister comes to mind. To travel and go on a Poz cruise are the latest adds to my list.

    So yes I use prayer to acknowledge my Blessings, all those people who helped me get this far and further, I acknowledge myself and I’ve done good because hell knows we deserve a little thanks sent our way to. So sitting down to that big ol’dinner or heading for the nearest KFC alone as a substitute give your self a smile a silent pat on the back because we should be thankful for a lot stuff and Thanksgiving is a time when one can verbalize or silently whisper “thanks” to a higher power be that internal or external.

  5. Chris Says:

    November 18th, 2010 at 5:44 pm

    With your usual, careful choice of words and metaphors, you capture the intimacy of prayer “like peeing in front of one another.” I think of prayer (and spirituality) as the final frontier of intimacy, and thus it can be awkward, especially initially. I prefer hearing an awkward prayer to a “polished” one — feels like the pray-er “gets it” — that she or he is addressing some one or some thing way beyond our imaginations or intellects.

    What I particularly appreciate is that you make us stop and think about what giving thanks means to us, and perhaps get us talking with one another about something really important.

  6. Anne Says:

    November 19th, 2010 at 12:42 pm

    Yes, there is that awkward moment when everyone is expected to voice whatever it is that they are thankful for. But it does give everyone a chance to either verbalize or internalize what blessings each can remember, whether or not they want to share. One time, a mother said that she was thankful that next year the family would welcome another person at the Thanksgiving table (knowing that she was pregnant). One son spoke up and said, “Oh, will Aunt Clara be here?”

  7. Jonathan Goldman Says:

    November 19th, 2010 at 3:40 pm

    Well, Mark, your fans needn’t pray for your maintained sobriety, which appears firmly entrenched with your delicious sense of what will entertain and enchant and enthrall your viewers/readers. Best wishes for a moist turkey/tofu casserole. Off to spend the holiday with my 90 y.o. mom and blessings to all!

  8. Nancy Lanzillotti Says:

    November 21st, 2010 at 11:39 am

    Loved all of it from Sam Elliott to Swan Lake!
    Love you bro, Nance

  9. tony Adams Says:

    November 28th, 2010 at 12:59 am

    THanksgiving 2009. Three couples. Husband and I, my two brother-in-laws and their wives. A posh oceanside resort on Hilton Head. All six of us had been raised in religious traditions built on prayer and all of us had been raised in homes where the saying of grace was not a foreign concept. Nevertheless, not one of us even paused to notice, over our three day sojourn, that we didn’t say a group prayer of any kind. We didn’t even joke about it. The “prayer-thing” wasn’t on any of our radar screens. Religion sinks below the surface. We, the children of the God-fearing prayerful, shake off the hands of those who grab at our ankles as they drown. We have our own driftwoods to contend with, and our own mysteries to celebrate and our own tears to bottle. I know where I assign the blame for this, but I’ll spare you that tiresome prattle.

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