The “Cult Years” (part 4)

I Was About to Leave the Desert…

…for a brief few weeks of training from The Cult in sunny Florida.

 

It’s easy to leave Vegas. I did it a lot. You never know you miss the color green until you get out of Vegas and see grass and trees again. What I did know I missed was the ocean. I grew up spending summers at the beach.

When I arrived at the gulf coast of Florida I knew I was in the right place.

Sadly, this was only to last for a few weeks. Just a quick training cycle and back to Vegas to my wee church to run their course room. Well…that’s what was supposed to happen!

As it turns out, there were a zillion wee-church people all over The Cult’s Florida training headquarters because there was a Totally Different Extra Special Training Program going on. It was much like the one that rejected me in southern California: it was mandatory that wee churches send people, they were told to send a team of a certain number, and it was going to take about two YEARS!

I need to help you understand just how much better this place was than the Mama church in California. In Florida, the training center bought numerous entire apartment complexes to serve as housing for their staff of C-Members and still had plenty of room for hundreds of us wee-church students.

I still lived with 13 dudes, but it wasn’t in a janitor closet. It was a 3-bedroom, 3-bath apartment. Sure, there were bunk beds in the living room, but this was relatively do-able. It was 20-minute walk from the apartments to the training. But, in the mornings and evenings The Cult even ran buses every ten or fifteen minutes.

Then there was the beach. That was a 30-minute walk from the training center. Dolphins, rays, manatee, huge crazy birds, flying fish. I was in love!

I’d made a lot of friends. Most of the students were my age or younger. A lot more of them were female. There was a fair number of minors who were sent by their Cult parents. Someone somewhere signed legal guardianship papers and these kids were on their own. I’m talking 12-year-olds.

I shared a room in our apartment with only one guy (from Australia), played guitar and bass whenever possible, went to the beach Sunday mornings, and hung out with some pretty cool people from all over the world. And the food was good. I decided I was going to get myself into that Totally Different Extra

Special Training Program. And so I did.

That really pissed off my Vegas wee church people. But they still sent me five or ten bucks every couple of weeks for soap and shampoo and such. I would go through several pairs of thrift shop shoes, pants and shirts to meet the dress code. We all cut each others’ hair to save money.

The Cult found that I needed to re-do all the clean-up services I had done in Vegas, so back to the sauna and the running (I ran to the beach every day!), and the vitamins. As soon as all that was done, I was assigned a training partner. My “buddy” for the next year or so was Molly, a 13-year-old girl whose Cult parents sent her for training.

It was an inauspicious pairing as far as getting training done, but we got along great most of the time.

You may wonder about the safety of setting a 13-year-old free in such an environment. The Cult handled all legal matters as Ethics Issues and never, never ever brought anything to the local law enforcement authorities. So, the multiple instances of underage sexual contact I had become aware of were dealt with internally. There were quite a few under-age brides who were C-Members (yes, they could sign up) married to other C-Members. Yes, again, I’m talking 12 or 13-year-old girls. There was a 14-year old girl all my friends had known from before I arrived. She left before I got there but now had returned to training after giving birth to a baby girl. She wasn’t even a C-Member, just of of of wee church students. There she was every day with the baby in a stroller.

I was strongly suspicious of this arrangement and a lot of others like it, despite never seeing any evidence of overt institutional attempts to take advantage of these girls. I was more leaning toward thinking that The Cult was just waiting for someone to take the “bait” (so to speak), at which point, they’d get out their meters, and get you to “hold the cans” and confess. THEN they had you right where they wanted you.

Of course, we non-C-Member wee-church people were under explicit directions to avoid any and all forms of sexual contact with anyone. The sexual tension was brutal. There were at least a half dozen times I was in delicate, nearly intimate, situations where I was certain I was being set up for a sting. I never fell for it, though.

Well, it was straight 94-hour weeks for almost two years. I got pretty far in training. Since students needed people to deliver services to, until they were certified, they delivered to other students under tight supervision. So, I got a lot of the services too. Most of it actually works and some of it really blew my mind. I had some experiences of being exterior to my body…and caused the same for others as a student. Great potential..too bad its all tied up with the strange cult situation.

At one point I was ordained as a minister of The Cult. I could do weddings! Somewhere, there’s a picture of me with a priest’s collar. Being an ex-Catholic, I though that was hilarious.

Well, right around the two-year mark I was about done. I had to plot an escape, so I got in touch with an old friend and had them send me $100. My plan was to go back to Brooklyn and get a job. Surely by now there must be a job in New York City!

I did all my planning in secret. I found out the bus schedule and got the number of a taxi company. I had to play it really cool the whole time, though, because one thing The Cult really hates is people leaving The Cult. They’ll get up a posse of C-Members and send ’em after you if they know where you went. They always assume there must have been an error made in your “services” that messed your mind up…and that you would run right to the cops or the press and say Bad Things. I don’t blame them for worrying!

The night before my escape attempt I walked home from training to the apartments and saw the convenience store I had always passed right by. All those neon beer signs! I was almost free and I hadn’t had a beer for two years…so….big 40!

I stealthily packed all my stuff (a somewhat easier task since my bass had been stolen at around the one-year-mark) and stashed it all in my closet for a 5 AM sneaky tip-toe departure. A cab would be waiting to take me to the Greyhound. I was done packing well before my new roommate came in to go to bed. I was sure everything looked totally normal.

About midnight, they came to get me.

My roommate totally busted me and they took my $100.

It’s OK, though, because a month later I managed to pull it off successfully. Same plan, minus the 40-ounce Budweiser.

I arrived back in Brooklyn and had a wicked awesome reunion with my old girlfriend and all my old buddies. It was shortly after my arrival that a bunch of us were drinking and throwing darts in a bar. We had gone out to have a puff of the domestic blend and when we came back in the topic of conversation turned to The Cult. I was getting ragged on pretty hard – in the way only friends from Brooklyn can do. That’s when it happened: The Cult-Related Dartboard Miracle.

That’s where I’ll pick it up in the next newsletter, because it leads right back into Vegas again…and more unbelievable tales from The Cult.

Speaking of miracles…we are progressing toward our crowdfunding goal. This is good because we are almost at the end of our crowdfunding project.

We’ve seen some enormous generosity so far and it tells me our music does make a difference for people. The gratitude we’re feeling is amazing…unparalleled.

If you haven’t yet checked out the crowdfunding project for our new CD Love One Another now is the time. If you’ve checked it out and plan to make a pledge…well..now is the time! Here’s where to click>>>

Peace

-Tom