Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa
Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa
Where’s the church, who took the steeple
Religion’s in the hands of some crazy ass people
Television preachers with bad hair and dimples
The God’s honest truth is it’s not that simple
It’s the Buddhist in you, it’s the pagan in me
It’s the Muslim in him, she’s Catholic ain’t she?
It’s that born again look, it’s the wasp and the Jew
Tell me what’s goin on, I ain’t got a clue!
The preceding are lyrics from a song on a Jimmy Buffett CD from fifteen years ago. It’s some of the lyrics to the title cut of the album Fruitcakes. This point of this post is to show you just what great lengths as a kid you’d go to, so as not to do something you really hated. And I hated church. I don’t mean disliked. I mean “I’d rather be tortured…hate”. But while this is about at the Catholic church, it could really have been any church or temple. I thought going to church was like seeing the same boring movie over again. And again. Well, you get the idea. The only time the show ever changed was for High Mass (as opposed to “low Mass” I would guess). And this change made the torture even longer. And Catholics had the bonus of enduring the whole show in a language that not only nobody understood, but also one no one has actually spoke in centuries, which so added to the glory.
My dad is an atheist. I did not know this growing up. I was told he was Jewish. Which he is, but he would say by nationality, not by religion. I thought Jews had it made growing up. They got to sleep late on Sundays and never went to church. To this day my dad has only been in a synagogue for weddings or funerals. He has called me an atheist since I practice no religion. I am not against religion. I see that it does a lot of good. (It also does a lot of bad. But that is more in the holy war or jihad sense.) I think religion is a personal matter. If it helps you, go for it. It just isn’t part of who I am. But as I told my dad, I am not an atheist. We have this chat every couple of years. He forgets how it goes and brings it up again by saying, “Agnostics are atheists that won’t commit.” I look at him like he is the nut (that he is) and say, “Atheists are like Catholics. Both think they have all the answers.” This gets him every time. He always laughs and says, “I forgot about your point there, but it is a good one.”
This is the story as to how I got out of going to church. A couple of friends sold newspapers at the church I attended as a kid. They would become two of the first five WTIT DJs, but this actual predated WTIT. They were to become Bouncing Billy and Killer Joe. I realized if I hung out with them for the three masses, my mother would assume I went to a mass before or after she attended. The great part was that she never even asked. And thus at 14, the Roman Catholic Church and I divorced. After all the newspapers were sold, we went to breakfast at a diner type of place called Dobb’s House.
Billy, Joe and I became old enough to get really jobs so it was bye-bye newspapers. But none of us wanted to return to church and I had a car. So we drove to Dobb’s House and had breakfast while our folks thought we were at church. We started calling it “St. Dobbs House” that was shortened to “St. Dobbs.” The restaurant always had condensation on the windows and it was Joe’s ritual to draw a cross on it. Then Billy always would stick his hand out and say, “give to the church”. That meant we handed him quarters to put songs into the jukebox. Peggy, always our waitress became “Sister Peggy”. She hadn’t a clue why we called her “Sister”. I think she just got used to it and really didn’t care what 15 and 16 years old boys called her or for that matter, even what we were thinking about at all.
Any guy working in there we called “Father Dobbs”. That was because the guys didn’t last long. I don’t think there was ever a Father Dobbs who wasn’t an alcoholic. Once there were ten of us “at church”. Father Dobbs was too drunk to remember what we ate or able to even write a check. Stumbling around he finally mumbled “Give me two bucks and we’ll call it even.” Oh. Are you wondering how the holy three of us churchgoers going to St. Dobbs grew to ten? No, it wasn’t because we found more Catholic friends that joined in. We started WTIT and everybody thought our Sunday routine was so funny that they wanted to join us at the First Church of St. Dobbs. Pretty soon we had Protestants and Jews attending our Mass. The funny thing is that this Sunday morning tradition spooked a couple of our friend’s parents. Once we were picking up Bull Durham. He said he almost couldn’t come. We asked why. He said he had to convince his mother that we were NOT going to church. Her Jewish son was not converting to Catholic. He had to say “Dobbs House is a restaurant and there is no Latin on the menu!” Even as teens, the irony of the situation was not lost on us.
We did the St. Dobbs thing throughout high school and college. We actually picked girls up there. Or sometimes the girls we took out on Saturday night would asked us if we were going to church the next day. We’d snicker and just look at each other. So we had to tell them the story. They’d always want to come! Sometimes on a Sunday, as a fucking date, we took girls to St. Dobbs and then went parking with them. I guess you know what we were praying for during our holy breakfast. When we had a show on WTIT needing a priest, he always was Father Arthur J. Dobbs. We’d say “Dobbs bless you” at a sneeze”. Yes, we knew we had a great thing there and not only ran it into the ground but also we buried and probably cremated it as well. (Try saying “Dobbs damn” three times fast.)
Dobb’s House burnt to the ground in the early 90’s. It has been a parking lot ever since. It was funny, because at the time I was between marriages and brought a girlfriend that I was very serious about there just a week or two before its demise. I hadn’t been there in years, so it seemed appropriate I had a chance to say goodbye. My girlfriend didn’t know the story until I brought her there. She almost had an accident as I told her the story. Fortunately for a short time WTIT made some films. A 1969 film we did had a scene at Dobbs House. So, I can still go back and visit. So dad, I’m no atheist. I remember St. Dobbs as an all knowing, all forgiving and no rules kind of Saint. All in all, I am happy that I found his church. And I will always remember the side bets we had going as to when the priest would either fall or pass out. You had to have both of them right to win the money. Oh, the memories.
a Tape Radio station
Parts of this post appeared on May 21, 2008.