The “Cult Years” (part 2)

So where was I…?

Ah!! Leaving Vegas for Southern California…

(new to this story? Check part 1 first here:  )

By now I had met all the other Las Vegas staff members. It was less than half a dozen folks (not counting the pregnant couple in uniform that was about to disappear). Everyone but the couple came in around 6 in the evening for the evening courses. I guess I’d only been around a couple of weeks at that point.

They had given me a couple of the raw public-level intro courses and they seemed to think I was OK. They were actually all pretty cool people. But once they saw I was literate and fairly willing to be sober I was sacrificed to The Mama Church which demanded every little puke-y storefront church send qualified staff to the Mama Church for a Special and Really Important Training Program.

This program was specifically meant for a team of three staff members from any given church…three different aspects of their Super Awesome Executive Course were to be imparted and the team would then return to their storefronts and instantly make them Mama Church-sized!!! So Vegas was sending me. Myself. And I. And upon my return, the reins of Executive Director-hood and Religious Leadership would be entrusted unto well-trained hands.

The little church in Vegas had plenty of room. There were only three customers, and they were only there for training 2 or 3 nights a week. So the course room where the training happened, and the tiny kitchen, where the coffee happened, were mainly free from crowding. The main room up front was large and in good shape, but always devoid of people. An office or two saw some life a few hours a week. Otherwise it was room after room stuffed with boxes…all the same size.

Do you know The Mama Church sent about a dozen of boxes of Mama Church publications, slick glossy magazines, every WEEK to the wee Vegas church? The denizens of our storefront enterprise were expected to get all of them distributed to the citizens of Las Vegas before the next dozen boxes arrived. Mama Church knew how many to send because Mama Church could look up the population of Las Vegas. These Vegas people all had day jobs…so, nope. There were many hundreds of boxes in every unused room in this building.

Now a bit about The Three Customers. This bears a bit of scrutiny. Two were a matched pair of retired well-funded older ladies from way West Vegas. They were as sweet as could be. We hit it off right away, because I was polite and skinny. They set eyes upon me and their new mission in life was to feed me. I loved these two! Then there was Ted. Right now all I want to say about Ted The Third Customer is that there’ll be an entire newsletter in this series dedicated just to Ted, his history, our Vegas skullduggeries and his Standing with The Cult. Oh, also, he was the Best Man at my wedding. The first one. The Cult one. But that’s much later.

So, off I go to Southern California. I was expected to quit my job and move out of my cheesy-ass room. I left my ’73 Strat and Precision bass there at the wee church in Vegas. My trust was not misplaced…it was as I left it when I got back.

Of course the training I was to receive was known to be months if not years in duration, but free as the wind for staff members. In Vegas I had signed a 5-year contract (knowing it was essentially meaningless, considering the utter lack of financial compensation). So, what the hey! What I didn’t know was…..well, read on.

I flew out of Vegas and was picked up at the airport by more uniforms. A couple of 40-ish ladies, very cordial. They drove me to the Mama Church. It was really a campus in the middle of a residential neighborhood. HUGE! About 90 percent of the folks running around this place were also in uniforms. About that…

I need to come up with a made-up name for the The Cult’s hyper-devoted inner-circle group of uniformed people. We’ll call them members of the inner core or Core Members. How about that? C-members, yes?

All C-members signed a one billion-year contract – because reincarnation, of course. They all actually got paid $50 a week, so there was that. Room and board and $50 a week and all the training and services The Cult had to offer – that was free. Except C-members worked 14-hours a day Monday through Saturday and a 10-hour day on Sunday…after 4 hours of Sunday cleaning  and Sunday inspections. And all C-members were very interested in convincing you to sign that billion-year-contract too.They know you wanna!!! You just haven’t gotten enough services to realize it yet!

For these C-members to actually get any fair amount the good freebies, they had to arrange to get in Really Big Trouble. Once that happened they were re-assigned to a life of something like 8-hours of hard labor and 6 hours of free services and what not. 6 days a week. Rather than take up the revenue-generating time of a trained and experienced C-member, those in Really Big Trouble would pair up, study the services to be rendered and render those services one upon the other. The only people on Earth who were allowed to do the services this way were C-members in Really Big Trouble.

After a year or two of Really Big Trouble, a C-member can come out so trained up and serviced up that The Cult is then obligated to promote them in rank and make them Executive C-members. Because that’s how awesome the services are, right? Really Big Trouble was actually very richly rewarded in The Cult.

Well, I was never THAT kind of staff member. No uniform except for a while they wanted me to wear a distinctive red “smock”; but that’s later, too. Nevertheless, I would wind up putting in those very same 14-hour days for most of my time with The Cult. That too will be expanded upon later. Now we’ve just arrived in Southern California’s Mama Church.

Crawling with uniforms!

I was dropped off at a gargantuan building, introduced to someone, then to someone else. Someone ELSE then brought to my new “room”..because it was late.

That room was a former janitorial closet that now had 14 beds of the bunk variety in it. A couple of janitors’ slop sinks and a couple of drains built into the floor were the only other articles of decor. I’m looking at thirteen tired dudes. I am assured there IS a vacant bunk in there.

We were in the middle of the third or fourth floor. There were dozens or rooms per floor – almost all way bigger than ours. There was a bathroom down the hall but the only showers we were OK to use were on the 6th floor. There were but 6 or 8 showers stalls for a few thousand C-members and hundreds of us students from wee churches around the world.

I literally don’t remember where or what I ate the whole time I was there. And I wasn’t there long!

I was there for New Years Eve, though! But that’s a few days off yet.

I spent my days getting shuttled from office to office mostly filling out forms, but sometimes getting interviewed…or interrogated. I still had to be approved by some executive Mama Church C-members before I could do this Very Special Training.

I think the interviews were where things started to fall apart a bit. Definitely.

I was actually looking like a great training candidate until some C-member with a form to fill out was compelled by duty to extract from me in minute detail the entirety of my sex and drug histories. I was bluntly honest. For about two or three hours. Hey, I had just turned 29. That’s fifteen years of gloriously misspent youth (and I was only getting started).

Needless to say, I was on my way back to Vegas, pronto. But not before I got to go out on the town for New Years Eve.

It took them until the 30th or so to determine that I wasn’t Executive Material. They also took pains to explain to me that all the LSD I had mentioned prevented me from ever becoming a C-member. In this lifetime. This little bit of actionable intelligence is what enabled me to actually sign one of those billion-dollar contracts at one point later in my brief career with The Cult (garnering much-needed goodwill and generating much grease for certain wheels…but, later).

They never stopped wanting you to sign that contract…even when they knew you were ineligible.

Anyway, I had become pretty good buds with these two dudes. Like me, they were flung unsuspecting from their crappy little storefront churches (in their cases in Australia and New Zealand) to the mama Church. We all shared a mild suspicion of the C-members and when it was announced that the C-members were going to be partying on New Years Eve unto their uniformed selves, and that the rest of us were free to do whatever, we three hit the town.

I still had a couple hundred bucks I’d saved from the florist delivery job in Vegas, so we bounced around a bit and finally saw a club that sounded like it was a-bompin’…

We paid $50 to get in (New Year’s Eve, Big City…) and found that we were the only white people in the place. It was one of the best times I’ve ever had! I drank like a fish and danced with all these beautiful ladies. I was well-accustomed to beautiful ladies never giving me so much as the time of day. This was great!

We all caroused till the early hours, eventually eating in a diner before heading back to The Cult.

No shower. Three or four hours of sleep. And I’m on my way to the airport.

Back to Vegas. Broke and hung over.

I arrived with Special Instructions From the Mama Church intended for whomever could rightfully be considered the Executive Director at the moment. The C-member couple had successfully escaped! One of the part-timers was supposed to step up, but that was like asking someone to hold a live hand grenade!

Someone finally opened The Special Instructions and it was a laundry list of training and services that a drug-crazed sex-fiend like me would have to complete before being considered for Any Special Training Program. My wee little storefront church was tasked with delivering all this training and all these services to me because, despite my shortcomings and dubious proclivities, apparently I was still potentially pretty OK. The C-members all had unlimited faith in their training and services, I’ll say that much.

Most other non C-member staff I met seemed to be barely tolerating the whole “its a religion, but also kinda like the military, but also a groundbreaking spiritual technology” thing that the C-members were pushing. The local regular staff usually were there because some of that technology – the earlier, lower-level stuff – actually worked like the bomb and had worked for them. There was always a faction that held the technology was great but the religion part and the C-members could go jump off a cliff. The C-members, meanwhile, were mainly there to keep everyone in line and protect Mama Church’s revenue stream.

So, I was to get all cleaned up by The Cult and resume my Very Special Training. At the Mama Church…or somewhere…

I’ll be covering all of that in the next letter. Many interesting wheels turned during the next few months in Vegas,  And then I was off again for Very Special Training, but this time to Florida.

At least in Florida I got to take my Strat and my bass. Never stopped playing.

Speaking of music, there are twelve tunes in our new CD Love One Another – none of which would have come out the way they did if my time on this rock had been spent living to others’ expectations. I knew the expectations, and I usually exceeded them if I felt like it. But in my own way.

That’s what creating original music is like, by the way. Everyone knows what is expected of a “successful” musician, band or artist. Some of us are called to make music and don’t want any part of that commercial echo-chamber pop-star nonsense. And that is exactly what gains us the kind of audience we want…the ones that see assembly-line pop hits for what they are and seek out better music, made by people like them. Music that connects with them and gives them whatever it is they REALLY want from music.

So we make the music we like, and figure that if it attracts people, they’ll be our tribe. Is that you?

Find out, I say!!! Check out the new CD!!! We’re in the middle of our crowdfunding campaign. Make a pledge that helps us finish producing this thing and get more for your money…it will help us out more than you know. All the new songs are available for listening and a bunch of reward levels are available to fit any budget.

Click this right HERE >>>

Love from Tom and Susan