Road Trip III: post John

John left really early in the morning to fly back to his church that he can’t ever miss except in case of death and dismemberment (if it’s your dominant limb). The rest of us headed off to Redeeemer Presbyterian Church.

You know, I’d heard a lot about Redeemer but when it comes down to it, I really didn’t know that much about the church. Didn’t know when/where they met, what the pastor was like, what the congregation was like. All I knew is that everyone in New York seems to have gone there at least once.

We took a tunnel (am I the only one that thinks of Sylvester Stallone’s Daylight when mentioning the tunnel? And I haven’t even seen the movie. Maybe it’s not relevant at all) to the island and parked near NYU, where I guess parking is more available. While on the subway I got a quick lesson in New York geography. Like what the boroughs are and where they are. Side note. Did you know the Wu-Tang Clan is from Staten Island? But anyway.

I like New York. Only been there twice, not even a full day each time, but it’s nice. Glad I don’t live there, though. I’m not a city boy. Definitely not a New York City Boy (maybe 3 people will get that). Like to visit, glad I don’t live there. But it’s cool.

So anyway, we get to Redeemer, and who knew? It meets at a college or something. I didn’t know that. How old is this church, anyway? Has it always been meeting there? I thought that was unusual. I knew CFC does that but they’re a college church and relatively new. I dunno, I was just surprised, is all.

We went to the early service so there were a lot of people there but it wasn’t packed like the second service supposedly is. tK (ooh, I can say that now! I’m on the inside!) wasn’t there that week. I just found out that day that he has cancer or something like that – sad. So he’s taking a sabbatical. Also sad, someone said the attendance has dipped with him gone. Is that true? What is this, a church or a personality cult? But I digress.

I also didn’t know that they don’t sing “praise” songs, just hymns. Like I said, I knew very little about the church. But I’m down with hymns. It’s good they have a good organist. I know I’ve gone through my hymn playing philosophy before, but the gist of it is, you gotta vary it up a bit each time. The organ is ideal for that because you have so many different sounds and registers. And he was good. Although, he changed the chords from what was written significantly.

OK, just one random note – there was something like a special praise time and I dunno, I thought it was a little strange. First of all, it was very clearly a black gospel song, but it was sung opera style. I actually hear this a lot, and I don’t get it. I promise you that’s not how the people who wrote it sang it. Just strange to me. But whatever, she was fine.

The weirder thing was her accompanist. I’m getting superficial here. But yeah, to my eyes, he was flamingly gay. And hey, it’s New York, no surprise. I was just surprised to see him at a Presbyterian church. Maybe a PCUSA church. But not a PCA church. I’m telling you, he had this draped sweater action working that only gays can pull off. Maybe I’m wrong. But it was distracting.

So in tK (whoa!)’s place was this guy from a partner church, New Song I think in Harlem. I think Marshall might go there, not sure. It was a fine sermon. About justice and worship. I liked it, except for just one thing he said. Geez, I’m a nitpicker. But yeah, there was one point where he said, “Now look carefully at what the passage is saying here”. And he made a point. And I’m sorry, I looked really carefully, and it wasn’t saying that. But I’m just being a punk here. It was a good sermon.

The other thing that surprised me about the church was how many Asians were there. I really had no idea. Tons of the deaconesses are Korean. I dunno, I was just surprised, but I guess I shouldn’t have been.

So here’s what annoys me about Asians who go to trendy American churches. As always I’m way overstating things and this applies only to a fraction of people I’m actually talking about, but whatever. It’s not that they think they’re better than people who go to Asian churches, although there are a fair share of those. What annoys me is that they’re turning white churches into Asian churches.

So after the service is coffee time (they had good mini-muffins) and it was just like an Asian church. Bunches of Asians hanging around in clumps figuring out what they’re going to do afterwards. I’m sure it’s not like that for everyone that goes there, but just for these clumps I saw (and don’t get me wrong – this includes the four of us that went), they were all Asian. It’s like they were replicating their Asian experience there.

I actually dunno if annoy is the right word, maybe it’s concern? I don’t even know if that’s it. I just wonder what happens to the white people. Don’t they feel uncomfortable with all these Asians there? Not because they’re Asian, but because they’re so Asian, clumping together in their Asian way, doing their Asian thing. When they come in and replicate their Asian experience there, are they pushing other people out?

I dunno, it’s probably completely unfounded because what do I know about the church. Demonstrably very little. But I dunno, I just kinda felt like that’s what happened with say IV when we were at Stanford. All the Asians came in and took it over and made it very Asian. And you know, if the white people were cool with that, then they stuck around. But the others all headed to Cornerstone which in our time was basically Stanford White Christian Fellowship. Again, maybe it’s unfounded but I feel like that’s happening in a lot of places. Asian Christians are invading everything and making them Asian and pushing white people out.

But whatever. Oh also, we ran into Soojin there. Someone told me, you’ll always run into at least one person you know at Redeemer. I guess it’s true. Anyway, afterwards we took the subway (is there a hip word for the subway in New York? Like, Chicago is the “L”, right? Isn’t Boston the “T” or something? What’s New York? I dunno.) to Times Square to meet up with some people.

OK, one thing I don’t like about New York. By virtue of the layout you have to walk everywhere. The thing is, in the summer, it’s hot. So my question is, what do you wear? We met up with some people and one of the guys had just come from church and was wearing shorts and sandals. That made sense to me. I was wearing khakis and a short sleeve and was dying. I don’t know how New Yorkers do it.

We went to a pizza place and met up with some people. Side note. If you’re keeping count, I’ve had Buffalo wings in Buffalo, tasted a Denver omelette in Denver, had Chicago-style pizza and hot dogs in Chicago, and New York style pizza in New York. Never eaten Rice-A-Roni in San Francisco city limits, though. Anyway, if you ask me, Chicago style pizza is much better. Not just in the cities themselves, but the style. Like in the South Bay, I like Pizza Chicago way better than Amici’s. But anyway.

Uh, should I get into why we met? I’ll just say who was there. It was me, Henry, Andrew, Dave, Tina Park, Ellen, Chris “mas in the” Park, and Carl. I think that’s it. It’s complicated, but the meeting was basically set up for me to talk to Carl, so it was a little bit tense, because I felt all this pressure to talk to him. But, it ended up well, I think. And again, won’t get into it here. But, God just confirmed some things. Actually, He just reconfirmed it, but yeah, long story.

One interesting thing about Carl – OK two things. First of all, he feels nowhere as close to Dave as Dave does to him. I just thought that was amusing. Oh wait, another funny thing. Before lunch, Ellen says the exact phrase, “I get to sit next to Dave Hong”. 100% not making that up. And she was serious. As Henry astutely noted, that’s the first time that phrase has been utterred in reference to our Dave Hong. I dunno, gotta slam Dave.

So the interesting thing about Carl is that he went to a Jesuit high school, as did I. So we talked about it, and it’s kind of surprising how many similarities there were, even though his school was in the midwest. I know I’ve talked about my religious studies courses before, and learning all those things about the different authors of the Old Testament. He had the same experience.

The interesting thing (to me) is that, I think I’ve said this before also, but my high school was very liberal in their theology. Very universalist and such. Which I’m glad about, it let me work out those issues early instead of struggling with it now. But yeah, I always attributed it to typical West Coast liberal influence. As it turns out, that’s just the way Jesuits are in general. I guess it’s official Jesuit theology, or something like that. I cannot overstate how shocking this is to me. I just don’t understand – if all paths lead to God, why even bother picking one? I just don’t understand. I understand universalists in general. But a universalist priest? That I don’t understand.

Lunch was nice. We also went to some bubble tea place. Which was pretty bad. Don’t remember what we talked about there. Nothing significant, I think. Anyway, after that we all split up and Henry took me and Wong to the airport.

Traffic was terrible. And it was mad hot. After having walked around everywhere I couldn’t take it so I took my shirt off. It was just too much. We got to the airport late so Andrew had to run off. Henry dropped me off, still topless, at the Continental terminal.

I just want to say at this point that Henry was wrong. I saw a sign or something and asked him if Continental wasn’t somewhere else where the sign was pointing and he said something typically huffy about how he always flies from EWR and he knew where he was going and whatever. Anyway, he was wrong – I should have been dropped off the level below. I can’t remember exactly what it was he said, but I remember distinctly thinking “Henry wrong”.

OK, one more interesting thing about EWR. I don’t fully know what it is, but the shops there seem to be run by Westfield. You know, the same outfit that runs Valley Fair in Santa Clara. So like it’s Westfield Valley Fair, they had signs like Westfield at Newark Airport or something like that, with the same types of fonts. I thought that was absolutely random.

The flight home was uneventful except for one thing – the kid next to me had the worst smelling feet I have ever smelled in my life. Ever. It took a while to figure out what the stench was. At first I thought someone must have vomited on the pillow or blanket I was using and they hadn’t washed it thoroughly. But nope, I smelled all over and nothing. After a while I realized the kid had taken off his shoes and was just wearing socks. Every so often he’s put his feet on the seat and this wave of foulness would hit. He must have had some sort of disease or something. I’m not saying this to be mean. Because even more disgustingly, he spent long periods of the flight rubbing his feet with his hands, like they itched or something. And then he’d eat with those same hands! Absolutely disgusting.

So, dilemma. What do you do in a situation like that? What do you say? “Excuse me, but could you put your shoes back on? Your feet stink. It’s enough to cause nausea but not enough for me to lose consciousness so if you could do that I’d appreciate it.” I dunno, I just couldn’t figure out a nice way to say that. I just can’t believe he didn’t smell it himself.

So I did the cowardly thing. Every time he brought his feet up, I’d visibly put the blanket I was using over my mouth and nose. I didn’t even need to be looking to do this. I’d be facing the window, trying to sleep, then wafts of putridness come over and I knew he’d brought his feet up again. I dunno, I thought if I did it visibly and consistently enough he’d get the picture. He didn’t. It was a long flight.

Jieun picked me up from the airport with Paul Jung. Long story. But she was waiting in the airport with a sign for me. Is my wife great or what? But yeah, Paul and Eric Ha spent the night at our place so we hung out a bit that night. And that’s basically the trip.

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