I Sing the Body Eclectic

No doubt Walt Whitman would have sounded his barbaric yawp from the steaming rooftop pool of Spa Castle in Queens, had the multi-level Korean day spa been around the corner from his Brooklyn stomping grounds as it is today.

I’m not saying he would have retitled “Song of Myself” to “Song of Ourselves,” but I like to think that he might have been so inclined upon entering the ground-level indoor spa for the first time, onto a wondrous tiled cavern of heated pools, a sauna, steam room and cold plunge, open showers, a dousing shower, and sitting stations to shave or brush one’s teeth—with all manner of naked men roaming from one rite to the next.

(Women have their own identical spa on the ground level, the rest of the floors are unisex and require the oversized, undersexy shirt-and-shorts uniform found in the locker rooms.)

The first time I entered, before I even dipped my toe in the jasmine pool to test the temperature, I was already refreshed by the raw physical diversity that meets the eyes like a democratic antidote to the idolatrous fetishization of body type in today’s culture. Here was every shape and size, from tall to short and skinny to fat, from the comparatively hairless to bearlike monstrosities with throw rugs on their backs and big bushels of pubic hair; from those genetically endowed with a windsock for a penis, to those with a cigar stub.

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Saint Death and Easter

Guest Post
By Chris Hoke

I got a call from a number I didn’t recognize. The voice was low, lifeless. He just got out of jail, and the guys in there told him to call me.

I function as a volunteer chaplain in Washington State’s Skagit County Jail, and I’m the closest thing to a pastor most gang members in my valley have known. Jail-tier referrals like these are how my tiny congregation grows.

The next day, I picked this new guy up and we sat at my kitchen table.

Danny was a quiet young man. He grabbed a coffee cup with a hand that had skeleton bones tattooed over his fingers, up over his wrist. A ghastly ink mural of a wide-mouthed skull poured out from his throat, darkening most of his neck.

He wanted help getting off heroin, he said. He heard we at Tierra Nueva Ministries help guys get a job sometimes, and that we do a spiritual drug recovery program. He wanted…”I don’t know…prayer, I guess. Right?”

So we prayed. I held his skull hands in mine. It wasn’t much of a leap: I asked if he’d ever given himself over to the power of Death.

[Read more...]

Emerging from the Tomb Intact

There’s a moment in Anna Karenina in which a frustrated Anna turns to her husband. She had been very sick, but she’s better now. During her sickness, over what they thought was her deathbed, her lover and her husband reached out and clasped hands. The urgency of her illness brought about reconciliation. Karenin, the wronged husband, let go of his moral outrage and forgave both Vronsky and Anna.

Tears ensued. Grace shone forth. All felt the bliss.

At the moment I’m thinking of, Anna, back from the brink of death is annoyed over the very thing she so longed for. Her husband has forgiven her. But, as she says, “I didn’t die and now I know I have to live with your forgiveness!”

He is stunned and so are we. For in that moment comes such truth. [Read more...]


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