NO @ OKC: Spiritual
2/2/18 Oklahoma City: I decided to attempt fasting in OKC. One reason being the South was fuckin insane, and I’d been rotating between eating po’boys, tacos, and BBQ for over 2 weeks like it was an ok way to go about life. Another reason was I didn’t know what else to write about in OKC, and thought it might be interesting.
But really, I’d heard some folks talking about fasting on a podcast as a spiritual experience of sorts, and it sounded kinda appealing. I always went through phases of dipping my toes into the spiritual world; whether it’d be meditation or yoga or long lonely walks through wooded areas or what have you. It was typically a half assed attempt to connect to something bigger, and I never stuck with any daily practice for more than a month or so. Partly because I was lazy, and partly because I was unsure how I felt about the whole thing.
I went back and forth between feeling like there was some grander force or energy pulling strings, and like our time here was essentially random and meaningless.
I was raised Catholic and went to church every Sunday growing up. I didn’t do that anymore, and no longer considered myself Catholic. I had heard a couple of my siblings and a lot of other reformed Catholics talk about hang-ups they had with Catholicism- sexual suppression, hypocrisy within the church, just general guilt about everything- and I guess I had a little of that just from growing up in it. But mostly I just never really felt any kind of connection to it, it always just felt boring as a kid, and silly as I got older.
When I was young and would have to sit through mass every week, I would make up games to try and make the time go faster. I would turn and stare at the clock, and waited for the second’s hand to get almost all the way back to the 12, then I would start to count as fast as I could in my head to 60 , and see if I could beat the second’s hand back to 60 seconds. I played that game for years.
My fondest memories of church were when something funny would happen; like the priest would mess up one of the prayer things, or an old lady would sing along with the somber tunes in a ridiculous high pitched vibrato, or someone would fart. That was the best. Because you couldn’t laugh, so me and my sisters would be suppressing our laughter, trying not to look at each other, but that only made it funnier. My dad would get so pissed, which also made it funnier. I remembered thinking on many of occasion, “I can’t wait to get out of church to laugh about this,” but it was never that funny once we got outside. Church funnies were confined inside those high ceilings and sad stained glass windows.
But I didn’t want to just rag on Catholicism, it’d been done. And I didn’t actually know a whole lot about it, I was busy playing the clock game. I still didn’t understand the difference between like Pentecostal, Lutheran, and Catholicism. Didn’t they all root for the same guy? Whatever, I’m sure they all did good and did harm, like every entity on the planet.
It was more just the arrogance of all organized religions that turned me off to them, what were the odds that your thing was 100% right and all these other religions were totally full of shit, it just didn’t seem very likely to me. It just felt like the world’s largest annoying bar argument where nobody was willing to give an inch, and being right was the most important thing in the world. Like, my dad had way more in common spiritually with my super-into-it Jewish barber, than he did with most of my siblings and me, but it felt like he would never see it that way because we were baptized or whatever the bench mark for spirituality was. It felt like a practice in stubbornness, and it didn’t make sense to me.
So I preferred to meditate sometimes, and not eat any food in Oklahoma City, like a rational person!!
I went to the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial Museum my second day in town. I was over 40 hours into my fast and was feeling like dog shit. I had a full night of hungry sleep, but I was still absolutely exhausted, and dumb as fuck. It felt like one of those lingering hangovers where you couldn’t do anything right, and you were just slow and dumb, and it took you like 20 minutes to take a sip from the bottle of water that was right next to you. Everything was an ordeal. But I figured a catastrophic-tragedy-museum wouldn’t be the worst place to go on an empty stomach, I couldn’t imagine it was going to make me hungrier, and if anything it would curb my appetite a bit. My brother had been to the museum during his visit to OKC and recommended it to me, and I had watched a documentary about the bombing, so I had a slight idea of what I was in for.
But you could never really prepare for something like that. The tour started out with me sitting in this room by myself, and there was audio of some kinda run of the mill bureaucratic board meeting-about like city water lines or something- then 2 minutes into the meeting there was an Earth-shattering explosion and people yelling, then the faces of all 168 victims appeared on the wall, and these double doors opened to the rest of the museum. It was fuckin’ terrifying.
The museum was set up like a timeline of the events from the 3 hours prior to the bombing, to the lethal injection of McVeigh. There were displays of like watches, and coffee mugs, and a kid’s shoe they found in the debris. It was rough. They had everything from how the community came together, to how the media handled the story, to personal accounts, to the contributions of various religious organizations, and absolutely horrific pictures of the recovery efforts. I was tearing up left and right, especially with the sections about the daycare that was in the path of the explosion. I just thought of my niece being in that kind of situation and it made my stomach turn, my empty stomach.
It occurred to me in that moment that fasting was fuckin’ dumb, especially in the name of some spiritual endeavor. Because you know what? Even if there was a God or whatever, crazy random shit like the OKC bombing happened all the time, so starving yourself to try and get a better understanding of this God that might exist, made no fucking sense. What was stopping some white supremacist lunatic from blowing up that memorial museum in the name of Timothy McVeigh? Then I was gonna get blown to bits after not eating for 2 days? Get the fuck out of here. Bad shit happened to decent people every day-God or no- so I was just gonna enjoy the simple pleasures of life while things weren’t exploding. I was gonna eat food while I still had the option.
Now… was I using the memorial of this tragic event as an excuse to cut this fast short by a couple of hours… Yea, lil bit, lil bit. But I agreed with the rationale… plus I felt like garbage and didn’t know what else to do in OKC on a 40 degree day.
And I regretted nothing. I’ll tell ya what fasting was good for, it really made you appreciate food, and it made food taste absolutely phenomenal. I still had some leftover rice and tomato/mushroom bisque that I cooked in Dallas. My last night in Dallas, I whipped up some crispy fried rice over-top/mixed in with the bisque, then capped it with a fried egg on top. And it was no fuckin’ joke, lemme tell ya, one of the better things I’d ever made, and I was no slouch in the kitchen. So after pretending for another 20 minutes like I was gonna keep fasting upon leaving the museum, I raced back to my Airbnb. I threw together the same thing with the same leftovers, and it was the greatest fuckin’ thing I’d ever eaten in my life; it put the same dish from two nights prior to shame. It wasn’t even close. I kept telling myself to take my time eating it, y’know, really enjoy it, but my body was just like, “fuck you bitch!!!” as my hands were shoveling everything into my face. I’d also gotten some salted chocolate covered almonds during the period when I was lying to myself about continuing the fast. And I kept lying to myself after shoveling the leftovers into my head; that I was going to save the almonds for a quick to-go breakfast in the morning. That lasted about 2 minutes. I ripped them shits open and continued to lie to myself, “I’ll just have a handful,” “I’ll just have a couple more,” “I’ll leave half the bag for the morning…” “fffuuccckkk thhhattt, I’m eating all these god damn things RIGHT NOW.” And that was what I did. I finished my coffee, then drank a brew, canceling out the 2 day fast in 20 minutes.
At the end of the, tour? Exhibit? Piece de Remembrance? I didn’t know what to call it, whatever, unimportant. At the end of the museum, they had this nice display of how OKC had bounced back. The last thing was about the Thunder; just having an NBA team was a victory in itself for this small-town-feelin’-city, which had gone through such upheaval. After a player was drafted by/signed/traded to the Thunder, they were taken on a tour of the museum, which I found really cool. There was no way any human who wasn’t a mass murderer could walk through it and not have the museum leave a big imprint on them. The players would have a connection to Oklahoma that other players, playing on other teams, just wouldn’t have with their cities.
And I felt it in the crowd; it had the intimacy of like a college or high school game. I did a lot of shitting on crowds in general, and perhaps the majority OKC fans didn’t know what the hell they were talking about, just like most sports fans. But they certainly gave a shit, which was more than could be said for almost all the cities I’d been to thus far. And the few people that yelled out random shit throughout the game seemed to have a basic grasp on basketball, which I appreciated.
Ever since they moved to OKC, the Thunder were kinda my backup favorite team, since the Knicks were always a non-factor come playoff time. They had one of, if not the, most exciting young teams in my lifetime dating back to about 2010. They drafted two players who would become league MVPs in Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, and a third in James Harden who would likely win MVP this year, while now playing for the Rockets. They had all 3 of these guys when they were like 23 and under, and somehow never won a championship. They got there once but fell short to a hungrier, more experienced Heat team led by LeBron, then that off-season made an ill-advised trade of Harden. There were years of injuries mid-playoff runs following that. Russ and KD had the 73 win Warriors beat in 2016, but blew game 6 of the Western Conference Finals at home, in stomach turning fashion. KD then left that off season-in stomach turning fashion- to join the Warriors. And just like that the Thunder of Oklahoma City became the dynasty that never was.
This was the first game where I actually gave a shit if the home team won or not. Partly because the Thunder were my backup favorite team, but also because Oklahoma City had won me over a bit. I guess I had a soft spot for places that experienced massive terrorist attacks, then constructed intense interactive memorial museums at the sites of said attacks… Hmm, didn’t think I’d be referencing 9/11 for the second time in a collection of short stories roughly based around going to basketball games, but here we are… Anywho, so yea, I was pumped to cheer along with OKC.
Prior to the national anthem at the start of the game, they had a Pentecostal-Catholic-Lutheran-Pastor-Priest of some sort come out to center court and say a prayer for the game and the athletes and stuff. Then he said, “Amen,” and the crowd responded, “Amen.” Did they do this before every game? What the hell was going on? It felt like I was at one of those crazy ass mega church places, without the theatrics, just the sheer size. Maybe it was a sign from on high about my half assed fasting!! Or maybe Oklahoma was just super religious. I guess if I played, I’d appreciated the preacher-man asking God to look out for me… just in case.
My spirit animal, Boogie Cousins of the opposing Pelicans, had ruptured his Achilles a few games prior. So I kinda figured the Thunder would come out and roll over the shorthanded Pels. Especially since the Thunder had just suffered a heartbreaking loss in Denver the night before. And through the first quarter and a half that was exactly what transpired. Russ and Steven Adams were working the two man game to perfection, and former Knick-hamstringing-All-Star Carmelo Anthony pitched in a bit on offense. They were building close to a 20 point lead at one point in the 2nd, then were only up by 4 at the half. They relinquished the lead in the 3rd, and missed ample opportunities for a comeback W in the 4th. Everyone was missing everything, plus Russell Hustle and Muscle played to his weaknesses in the 4th; turning the ball over and chucking up 3’s. Anthony Davis was the best player on the court and he dropped 40 points as the Pels walked away with the victory.
The skyscraper and two other biggish buildings were lit up in Thunder blue, and it made me sad for the whole city that they lost. On our way to the parking lot, one guy said to his friends, “these games are just fun, I don’t even care what happens, I just like to see them try and do well.” He said that as I passed their group, and I made a face like I was watching one of those Youtube compilations of like family dogs and babies playing together. That was one of the sweetest things I’d ever heard uttered from a human’s face.
I wanted to get back to my Airbnb and comfort myself with some salted chocolate covered almonds, but my body had ravaged my supply. So it wouldn’t had mattered anyway, they weren’t lasting til breakfast one way or the other.