I’m holding a very old record in my hands.
The paper sleeve is weathered. The real life version of a tea-bagged treasure map. Browned and torn. Onion-skin thin. The record inside is heavy. Made of something different than today’s. Brittle. The label tells me this was recorded, or released, in 1922. The ‘artist’? Aimee Semple McPherson.
That name either created something of a flutter in your heart, or nothing at all. You may not know who she is, but if you do know, you already want to hear this record.
Aimee Semple McPherson may be the first ‘televangelist’. But before TV. She was a radio preacher, with all the shimmer and flash of a hollywood starlet. One famed morning she rode into church on a motorcycle, driving the bike right up the aisle and onto the stage. I’ve been to her church, Angelus Temple, in Los Angelus. It is still impressive today. I can only imagine it’s impact in the 20’s.
Aimee was young and pretty and did not escape scandal. She was the whole ‘televangelist' package. She was ‘kidnapped’ in some exotic locale. Then she was not kidnapped. And money was missing.
But this post is not really about Aimee. I’m writing about writing. About why I write. About how that rare record came to be mine.
A few weeks ago I opened a mysterious email. I get plenty of those. Most are for sexy hookups or million dollar deals. This email had no text at all. Just a voicemail message.
The man left a message for me, name mispronounced, at the Rat Creek Press. I write for them. He wanted to get in touch with me. There were no details as to why. Just a name and number. And evidence that he really had no idea who I was (he said ‘von biker’).
Curiousity caught me. I returned his call that evening. Turns out he wanted to give me records. Dozens of records. From his mother’s collection. He thought I’d appreciate them. I do. Here’s how he knew this.
In the then-current issue of the Rat Creek Press, I had a piece about my ’new’ hi-fi system. A wooden cabinet record player straight out of Don Draper’s appartment. I wrote about the experience of listening to records. The connections the records were building with my wife and I. With our whole family. The forced labour of getting up to flip the record and skip the skips. The intentionality of it all. The attention that listening to music once demanded. No shuffle. No stream-fed playlist.
People read that article. At least one of those readers really got what I was saying. We connected. He responded. He brought records to my house. In his words, we ‘B.S.’d a bit.’
I got paid to write that piece. It won’t keep me in food and shelter, but it’s nice to be paid. Not so nice as making connections though.
That is why I write. To connect.
The Aimee Semple McPherson record is pretty special, but no so special as this story. Not so special as the journey this article took me on.
Something moved my heart. A deadline forced me to tell others about it. My past experience of writing prepared me to speak well of the experience. The speaking-well made a connection with a stranger.
I write to make connections. Every time someone tells me they have read a piece I’ve written–they’ve made a connection–I can write several more articles. More poems. More songs. More essays. Maybe one day, stories. My spark is kept aglow.
I write to open a door. A world is on the other side. I write to make that world as welcoming as possible. Writing is hospitality. I believe all great art is that. A welcome into a shared, liminal space.
I haven’t listened to Aimee Semple McPherson preaching on that record yet. I’m waiting until I have at least one other excited soul to share that experience with. If you’d like to be in that room, let me know.
I’d love to welcome you.