It's been a long time since I last showed my big ass around here. My path has led me in a few circles since, and I've found myself forced to let go of nearly everything I ever loved or cherished or clung to, but I still love E2, and the love of human expression it stands for. My hiatus began one night in a hotel room in some nameless city in Indiana, where I was pacing the cold night away, worrying about my dubious future as a radical Christian youth leader in a town where the most intelligent people were already done living. My thoughts went something like this...

I can't do this any more. I can't stand there in front of those kids every Sunday morning and sing songs I don't comprehend, sit in church services listening to a pastor shouting things he doesn't comprehend, tell the people I love that I stand for things that I can't even understand... How do I tell my family that I don't believe all that stuff anymore? They think that rejecting their way of life would send me to hell. Even the small children talk about bad people going to hell. I can stay here in this small town, wash dishes for a living, and read Charles Dickens and the Sugar Creek Gang until time has silenced the unrest inside me, or I can tell them to take their crap and shove it back where it came from.

Unfortunately, my emotion prevented me from seeing the path that lay between those two, and my immaturity naturally brought me to the crap-returning alternative.

My path next led me to a white picnic table behind the no-name restaurant I worked at. It was sometime around midnight, and I was shivering under a tiny flourescent lamp. Opposite me on the other side of the table was a 50-year-old chef named Louis. Lou Dog was the type of guy who has seen it all, done it all, and still cries into his beer every time he hears a touching George Jones song. He and I were in the dubious situation of being in love with the same bonny lass at the same time, and said bonny lass was heavily in favor of the old man. I'm pretty resilient... it hadn't really come between he and I (it still hasn't... he's one of the few people I'm still in touch with from around there), and we were enjoying a decidedly odd discussion about the object of our affections, he over his Miller High Life, me over my fourth cup of coffee for the night. I think I was in a state of coffee-induced hallucination, because at that moment I had an overwhelming feeling that the old drunk on the other side of the table from me was the wisest, most understanding person on the whole damn planet. I still wonder if maybe he is... anyhow, I stopped him mid-conversation and told him about the dilemma I had come up with in the hotel room. He said something like this.

Well, Josh, it looks to me like you need to get the fuck out of here. I almost think of you like one of my kids, and I'd really hate to see you go, but this is no place to live your life.
I'm an old fucker, and there's no reason for me to leave this place, but somebody like you has a lot left yet to experience. You have to
see it for yourself. I can't tell you what's out there, I can't tell you what a pussy feels like, I can't tell you what a beer tastes like, or what a good acid hit does to your mind, but I can tell you that the shit you're growing up with isn't all there is. I can tell you that you're too fucking good to waste your life here, and this shitty job ain't worth what you're putting into it.
I always say there should never be such a thing as an 18-year-old virgin, and I feel damn sorry for you, not 'cause you are one, but 'cause you didn't have no choice in the matter. Get your ass out of here before you get too old an' fucked up to move.

I wasn't about to unconditionally agree with that, although I nearly do now. Anyhow, I followed the main jab of his advice and moved in with my grandparents here in Garland, Texas. It was hard as hell to tell the kids in my church goodbye, I love every damn one of them, but I got over it eventually. Now I'm getting a new footing on a lot of things I thought I had all figured out. Most of all, I found out I didn't know shit about what life is really about. Sucks to be wrong. It's not been a really easy ride, but it's been worth it, for damn sure. I've done a few new things since then... I've discovered Pink Floyd, had a taste or three of some very good things that good Christian kids don't drink, read a few awesome books that godly youth leaders don't read, and even kissed a girl (oh yeah).

I wonder what's next...