As a photographer, I am always looking for the next shot. I never know when a photographic opportunity might present itself. In the photos that follow, we were sitting at an intersection outside of Fort Wayne and I noticed a young woman impatiently waiting for someone to pick her up. Evidently, her car had run out of gas.
I am not a big fan of posed photography. I prefer taking photographs of people when they are not aware that I am doing so. This allows me to capture a person or persons in their natural state.
We live in a small, rural, NW Ohio community, population 345. The village of Ney has one traffic light, two bars, one gas station, and two people who seriously doubt God exists. Both of the local bars serve food, one is a mom and pop style restaurant and the other is a pizza joint.
The closest town is Bryan, five miles away. Bryan has a few fast food restaurants,a Chief Supermarket, and a Walmart. Defiance, ten miles away, is the biggest community in Defiance County with a population just south of 17,000. Defiance has a plethora of fast food restaurants,a small mall, a few full service restaurants, and a small collection of free-standing big-box/small-box stores. There are five grocery stores in Defiance: Walmart, Aldi, Chief, Meijer, and Kroger.
Serious shopping requires a fifty mile drive to Toledo or a forty mile drive to Fort Wayne. For this reason and others, my favorite store is Amazon.com. I don’t have to get in the car and I don’t have to holler at Polly except when UPS or FedEx is at the door. When we want to eat a nice meal that’s more upscale than Applebee’s or McDonald’s we go to Toledo or Fort Wayne. Most of the time we go to Fort Wayne.
Our favorite grocery store is Meijer. Meijer is a regional grocery chain based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. We also like shopping at Chief Supermarket, a local grocery company. Due to the loathsome politics of the Walton family, we hate shopping at Walmart. But, thanks to having more budget than money, we are forced, from time to time, to give Satan some of our money. We eat a lot of fish and Walmart is the best place for buying frozen fish and Zero candy bars. Brisket too. Walmart is the only store in town that sells brisket, a must have cut of meat during BBQ season. We also infrequently shop at Aldi and we try to shop at Chief as often as we can. Our youngest daughter and son work part-time for Chief, so we view our grocery purchases as job security for them. We do not shop at Kroger. High prices and those damn cards they make customers use make Kroger our least favorite store. We also regularly buy meat from Jacob’s Meats, located just north of Defiance.
I am the primary shopper in our family. I know, a little Susie homemaker I am, a discredit to the male species. Polly and I shop together, but I am the one who checks prices and quantities and decides what to buy. We have a white board in the kitchen and shopping needs are supposed to be written on the board. Did you notice the word supposed? (Polly is glaring at me, giving me the finger without ever raising her hand) We use coupons, shop with a list, use mPerks, and always pay with a debit/credit card.
Going to the grocery is often the only time I get out of the house. Most often, I haltingly enter the store, already in pain. About fifteen minutes into our low price safari, my thighs and face begin to burn and turn numb. Not long after, I need to lean on the cart just to partially stand up. By the time we are finished shopping, I am in tremendous pain and ready for a four Vicodin with vodka drink. I dream of this, but the reality is I am very careful with the medications I take, so it’s two Vicodin with a glass of water and a Tramadol chaser.
There are a lot of things that irritate me when I go to the grocery store, If you have some illusion that I am a Zen-like person who has perfect peace and calm as he painfully shuffles down the aisles of the grocery, I am sorry that your illusion is about to be destroyed.
I love shopping at Meijer. I am a Meijer fan-boy. Anything I can do to stick it to Walmart, I am all for it. But, as much as I like shopping at Meijer, there are some things that irritate me. I mean really, really, really irritate me.
Bruce’s, Top 21 Things I Hate About Shopping at Meijer:
My number one irritation is the greeters, well really just one greeter. This one greeter is an automaton. I kid you not, she says the exact same thing, with the exact same cadence, every damn time. When we come in the store she says in her best robot voice, Welcome to Meijer. When we leave the store she says Have a nice day, thank you for shopping at Meijer. Have you ever seen the comedy Good Burger? If so, this greeter is just like the one Good Burger worker who says, Welcome to Good Burger, home of the Good Burger! Can I take your order?
Shopping carts that have squeaky wheels or wheels that go thump, thump.
The way the meat department stacks meat above the cooling line in the meat coolers. I have complained to the manager and I have called the health department. Evidently, no one seems to care that some meat products are not kept at a proper temperature.
Advertised items not stocked. Every week we have to go ask someone for a sale item or we have to go to the service desk to request a rain check.
Fish that is on sale, but the meat department never seems to have in stock. This happens EVERY week.
Deli clerks who stand fifteen feet away and say, can I help you? No, of course not. I’ve been standing here for five minutes waiting for you to finish washing dishes. No hurry, I know Meijer doesn’t want to sell me any food from the deli.
Produce clerks who refuse to restock the counters until that last smashed tomato is purchased or the last three ears of corn are dutifully placed in a yellow bag ten times bigger than the measly sized ears of corn.
Deli clerks who ask me three times how much ham I want. Did I stutter? One pound and not one hundredth of an ounce over. Can’t you see that I am on a diet?
People who are too lazy to put items they don’t want back where they belong. Polly found a thawed out frozen cake that some lazy ass had dumped. The only worse thing? The Meijer clerk probably put it back in the freezer.
Not necessarily only a Meijer problem, but I hate the size game that food producers play, A quart is no longer a quart. An 18 ounce jar of peanut butter is now 15 ounces. I am very good at spotting packaging that has been reworked to hide a reduction in the amount of product. I think I would make a good spy for Consumer Reports.
Shopping for toilet paper. Am I the only person who thinks we are getting ripped off one sheet at time? It is becoming harder and harder to figure out exactly how much toilet paper you are getting in your single, double, triple, mega toilet paper roll. Is it single ply or double ply? Is it twice as strong or just every day get your fingers poopy strong?
People who stand in the middle of the aisle during busy times. No matter how long I stand there and give them the Gerencser glare, they seemingly are oblivious to anything but their middle of the aisle bull session.
Ditto that for people who seem to only use the motorized carts on the busiest days of the week. I am all for handicapped people being able to shop, but a little common sense about it would be very helpful.
Cashiers who don’t know their veggies. How many times have I heard “what are these?” Sometimes, when we buy a lot of veggies I tell the cashier that I work for Meijer Corporate office and I am testing their veggie knowledge. The younger the cashier the fewer number of veggies they can name.
Scanners that don’t work at the self-checkout. When I have to get help three times, that is three times too many. What makes it worse is when the clerk says “Yeah, we have had a problem with that one all day.” Argh…cuss in mind, but smile with my fake I love Jesus smile.
Stockers who think that their shelf stocking takes precedence over my ability to get down the aisle. Sometimes I will, without saying a word, move their cart. Oh the dirty looks , but I think they get the point.
Dirty bathrooms. Never clean enough for me. I expect clean floors to splatter urine on. I hate electric hand dryers. Give me paper towels or give me death by unwashed hands.
People who glare at me when I park in a handicapped space. I DO have a placard, but evidently I don’t look disabled enough. I look too young or I don’t “look” disabled, even though I walk with a cane. Never mind that going to the store, to that one store, often takes every bit of my energy, not only for that day, but for two days later. Sometimes, but I never do, I want to wave at them with my middle finger raised high.
Not stocking hats and shirts for fans of the Cincinnati Reds and Cincinnati Bengals. Browns, Lions, Indians, and Tigers? What, isn’t Cincinnati in Ohio? Not that I would buy hats and shirts from Meijer if they stocked them. The last time I checked, Meijer’s price for a cheap snap back hat was more than what I paid for a fitted, game day hat. I know my hats.
Not stocking candy bars I like to eat. Come on, Meijer, how about Clark, Zero, and Zagnut bars?
Not stocking Paczki’s all year. I know you stock them for Catholics loading up on calories before Lent, but some of us like to pig out 365 days a year. Same goes for chocolate frosted long john donuts. When I want a donut, I want a donut and it better be 6:00 AM fresh no matter what time of day it is.
I love shopping at Meijer. Now if they would just take my list of irritations and fix them I would be extremely happy. After all, the customer is always right.
Four bottles of inexpensive wine we purchased at St. Julian Winery in Paw Paw. Michigan
She took the day off.
The weatherman says sunny and 55, I hope he’s right.
I busy myself getting ready for tomorrow.
Clean the house, I tell myself. Can’t leave if the house isn’t clean.
House is clean.
I put my camera equipment on the table, tripods behind the door, ready for loading in the morning.
I check the camera batteries and make sure the flash cards are installed.
No need for the GPS, we have iPhones now, so Google maps will direct us to our destination. Just to safe, I put some paper, a pen, a flashlight, and maps of Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio in my briefcase and put it with the camera equipment.
Clothes, shoes, wallet, jacket, and hat, all ready for the morning.
She will be home soon.
She sees that I cleaned the house. She smiles and shakes her head. She knows…36 years of knowing…
I want to be out of the house by 10, I tell her. And I mean 10, I add, knowing that I am fighting a battle I have lost more times than I can count.
A restless night, I get 4 hours sleep before she wakes me up.
The car is loaded, ready to go. Ten minutes late…
She drives. I want to drive but I know I can’t. I am no longer physically able to drive. I know this, but I still want to drive. She ignores me, knowing I will no longer put up a fight.
Off to Fort Wayne first to drop off papers at the hospital. I owe them $5,000.00. I hope they will reduce the amount I owe.
She wants to go Rome City to see an old, no longer functioning self-sustaining nunnery.
It’s not long before I start feeling every bump and thump as we ride over roads savaged by harsh Midwestern winter.
Our destination is South Haven, Michigan. Sunset is at 7:45. I want to get there by 6:00. How we get to South Haven is undetermined.
This is a Gerencser road trip, one our six children experienced many times. A general destination with no certain route.
The assault on my body continues. I complain some, but I know it is not her fault. If I had known this is how painful the trip was going to be, I would have stayed home. I am glad I didn’t.
North and West we travel, meandering down never before traveled roads.
I set Google maps to no highways or toll roads. We want to see what most people never take the time to see.
Amish, horses, buggies, laundry gently blowing in the wind. What a pleasant surprise.
Where’s their school, she asks. Soon, we stumble upon it. Look at all the bicycles and yellow vests.
Countless stops so I can get out of the car and take photographs. It’s not long before my shoes are muddy, muddying up the floor and mat cleaned the night before.
Sometimes, I stay in the car, using the window to steady my telephoto camera lens. We fuss a bit as she tries to maneuver the car so I can take a shot. We’ve been fussing for 36 years. It means nothing, our love transcends anything we could say to one another.
We finally come to a road we’ve traveled before. Soon we come to Paw Paw, Michigan. Let’s stop at the winery, she says, and I say, sure.
So much wine, so little money. I sure could use a drink. We buy four bottles of inexpensive wine. As we checkout, I tell the young woman waiting on us that we were once part of a religion that forbade the drinking of alcohol. She replies, really? Her face tells me she’s never heard of such craziness. I go on to tell her that we were 50 years old before we drank wine for the first time. I chuckle and say, we are living the 60’s and 70’s a little late in life.
She needs to use the bathroom, so does our daughter with Down Syndrome. I’ll tell her I’ll take the wine out to the car, She says, OK, and hands me the keys.
I open the trunk of the car, put the wine in, and carefully wrap the bottles with a towel.
I slam the trunk of the car and reach into my pocket for the keys so I can unlock the car.
Panic. You didn’t. You fucking idiot. Surely, you didn’t lock the keys in the trunk? You damn idiot, yes you did.
Soon she comes out to the car and I tell her what I’ve done. I thought I had ruined our day. She calmly reaches into her purse and pulls out the second set of keys. Disaster averted.
I am mad at myself, still upset over the keys. 57 years, and I’ve never locked the keys in a car until today. My self-esteem takes another dive.
Back on the road, time to head to South Haven.
The roads continue to pummel me. She notices that I am writhing in the seat and says,I’m sorry. I say, it’s OK. It’s not, but only death will keep me from reaching our destination.
5:00 Pain meds. She notices I have taken the maximum dosage for the day, but she says nothing. She knows I will have to take extra pain meds to get through the day.
It’s 5:30 as we pull into the parking lot near the beach. She and I have been here many times. It’s our favorite place to be. There’s nothing better than watching a Lake Michigan sunset, especially when the one you love are by your side.
The sun is shining, it’s 54 degrees.
The Lake is frozen, the beach is covered with a mishmash of ice, melting snow, and sand.
People are out and about. One young woman is in flip-flops and a white sun dress. Silly humans, we are, worshiping the warmth of our star.
We make our way out to the lighthouse. I walking slowly, prodding the ground with my cane, making sure the slushy snow beneath my feet is firm.
We finally reach the point, the first time we’ve been here when the Lake is frozen.
People come and go as we stand there enjoying the warmth and the view. What a wonderful view…
A talkative woman stands nearby. Her back is to the sun and Lake. She seems only interested in talking to those who are near her. She’s lecturing a young couple about an upcoming sales tax initiative. She’s against it. She turns to me and asks, do you read? Yes. What do you read? Books. Philosophy? Yes. I’m thinking, really, here I am 3 hours from home, away from my blog, and I am getting quizzed about philosophy? The talkative woman asks, Who? I snap back, Kierkegaard. This satisfies her and she turns to the woman in the white sun dress and tells her she’s crazy for being out there in flip-flops and no coat. I thought, I’ll tell you who’s crazy.
We walk back to the car and drive to the bluff overlooking the Lake. I’ve never taken photographs from this spot before.
I set up my tripod and prepare both my cameras to take photographs of the sunset. The show will be short and sweet, I know I must be ready.
She gets out the portable camera I bought her for Christmas. She is quite proud of her work. I hear her camera beep, knowing she is photographing me going about my craft. I used to object, but I know my children and grandchildren will one day appreciate her photographs. I’m reminded of what my friend Tom told me, photographs are about the memory, the moment. That’s what matters.
Soon the show is over and we quickly load everything back into the car. The temperature is quickly dropping. By the time we get home it drops 20 degrees.
As we make our way down from the bluff, I ask her to stop at the beach. Just a few more shots, I say. She’s cold, so she stays in the car as I setup my tripod and take a few photographs of the lighthouse, now lighted by incandescent lights along the walkway.
It’s 8:15 as we walk into Clementines. All the adrenaline has dissipated and my body now screams for attention. I can barely eat. I use the bathroom before we leave, leaning against the stall, a few tears come to my eyes. Why does it have to be this way? Why does one day with my friend and lover cost me so much?
More pain meds.
I have a counseling appointment scheduled for tomorrow. She knows, and will cancel it in the morning. Bed is what awaits me come tomorrow and several days after that. It’s the price I pay for living, for experiencing the beauty of my wife and a Lake Michigan sunset.
It’s midnight as we pull into the driveway. We’ve been gone 14 hours and driven over 300 miles. Exhausted, she falls asleep in minutes. I take more pain medication and my normal nighttime meds. I’m so exhausted that sleep comes quickly.
12 hours later, I wake up, knowing that I must now pay for yesterday.
Is it worth it?
She’s at work now and she sends me a text. The sun is shining, want to go to on a road trip?
The Elevate City Church is an Evangelical church located in Fort Wayne, Indiana. According to the church’s website, Elevated City Church is:
Under the Weekend Experience (link no longer active) tab on the church website, Elevate lets everyone know that they are “come as you are” church. A year ago, I was watching a TV program on one of the Fort Wayne TV channels and the station aired an ad for Elevate City Church. The ad was quite syrupy, with various members of the church saying the church was, drum roll, roll your eyes, please:
Ah yes, the three buzzwords of the modern Evangelical church. Rarely do people stop to consider that churches like Elevate are saying that other churches in their community are NOT real, NOT relational, NOT relevant. While the leaders of Elevate City Church would never publicly say these things, it is implied in everything they do. Rarely does anyone ask, why does Fort Wayne, Indiana, a city with hundreds of churches, need another generic, more-awesome-than-sliced-bread, Evangelical church? As I have stated before, we need FEWER churches in the United States not more. Most every community has a plethora of churches and there is no need for more. Fort Wayne, in the heart of the Midwest, is hardly under-served when it comes to churches for Evangelicals to attend.
I titled this post The Elevate City Con Job. Why? Simple. The church wants to present itself as a we will accept you as you are church. While this may be true as far as sitting your ass in a seat, they most certainly have no intention of letting you stay as you are. If you want to do anything besides listen to Pastor Kyle Mills’ awesome sermons, then you will have to change.
Kyle Mills is a graduate of an Evangelical Baptist university, Liberty University. The doctrinal beliefs of Elevate City Church are decidedly Evangelical and Baptist. A quick perusal of the church’s official doctrinal statement (which has since been removed) shows that the church believes that the Bible is the inspired, infallible, inerrant Word of God, salvation is through Jesus Christ alone, and, to use the words of the statement:
After living on earth, the unbelievers will be judged by God and sent to Hell where they will be eternally with the Devil and the fallen Angels…[heaven] and hell are places of eternal existence.
Standard Evangelical boilerplate language. Again, exactly why does Fort Wayne need ANOTHER Evangelical church? According to the church’s website (link no longer active):
The majority of Americans are spiritually restless
180,000 of the 300,000 people in the Fort Wayne area do not regularly attend church
A new church is emerging (and Elevate City Church is part of the new emerging church)
The Elevate City Church is almost three years old. They were started with the support of Eagle Rock Church and The Association of Related Churches. I wonder, in three years, how many of the 180,000 Fort Wayne residents who don’t regularly attend church have walked through the doors of Elevate City Church?
I am sure Pastor Mills and the Elevate City Church members are fine people. I suspect he and I would get along famously. This post is not meant to be a personal attack of Mills or the church. It is me calling bullshit. It is my challenge of the assumptions that led Mills to start Elevate City Church.
Church planters like Mills can never answer me when I ask, so why is planting a new church the answer to 60% of people in the Fort Wayne area not regularly attending church? What is the new church going to do that countless other churches haven’t already done? Of course, Mills would likely say God told me to start the church.
Church planters think that the church they plant is special; that they have a mandate from God. In Mills’ case, God told him at the age of nine to plant a church in Fort Wayne:
“God” also gave Elevate City Church a permanent meeting place, so I am sure Mills and the church see this as a sign that God approves of them starting the church. Countless churches have come and gone in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Every church planter thought his church was special, that God wanted him to plant the church. Church plants fail, and those that don’t, in time, become just like the churches they swore they never would be like. Their new church, if it survives, will become an old church, and new church planters will move to town, claiming to be new, exciting, and different, and they will proceed to poach members from the old new church.
The dirty little secret of Evangelical church planting is that the vast majority of people who attend a new church plant come from other churches. Few people are new converts. Why? Because almost every American, especially here in the Midwest, has already heard the good news of the gospel. It is not a lack of information that keeps people out of churches. Americans are increasingly rejecting Christianity and turning to spirituality, eastern religions, or atheism/agnosticism/humanism. Why?
Evangelical Christianity is slowly dying. Instead of trying to strengthen that which remains, hip, relevant church planters start new churches. They poach the members of old, established churches and this “growth” hides the fact that the disinterested are still disinterested and they haven’t flocked to the new church. The truth is, more and more Americans think Evangelical Christianity is irrelevant. Evangelicals have a huge PR problem, and as long as their beliefs, practices, and lifestyle are tethered to an inspired, inerrant, infallible ancient book, Evangelicals should not expect the disinterested to rush to their churches on Sunday. Playing rock and praise and worship music, dressing down, getting rid of pews, and acting all hip and cool, hides the fact that the message is still the same; repent and believe the gospel or you are going to be tortured by God in hell for all eternity.
I have no objection to Evangelicals starting as many clubhouses as they want. This is America, and corporate, capitalistic, libertarian thinking dominates the Evangelical church-planting scene. They just need to understand that some of us see through the smokescreen. By all means, plant another church, convince yourself that “God” is leading you to do so, but the facts on the ground remain the same. Planting a new church will not fix what ails America. Americans no longer are buying what Evangelicals are selling. Perhaps it is time to follow the command of Jesus: go sell all that you have and give it to the poor. Perhaps when Americans see THAT kind of Christianity, they might take an interest in it. Even though I am an atheist, I can, from a distance, admire a church and a pastor that takes seriously the teachings of Jesus. All I see right now is the same incestuous, irrelevant church, with a new name. It is time to burn the institutional church to the ground and start over. Or so says this atheist.