Lemonade

It was hot, so very hot, as I walked through Crocheron Park in Bayside. For most of the last year, it had been my practice to take a “walking lunch,” pounding three miles of pavement in the middle of my workday, an unrestful siesta from my desk-bound job function.

I have done my walk in the rain, in the snow, in the heat, the cold. During February’s blizzard, a city worker stopped his snow plow and rolled down his window just to say to me “man, I KNOW you are not out here in a suit right now!” Suffice it to say, I’m a dedicated walker.

Still, I am not immune from the challenges of climate, and on this particular Monday, the sun was bearing down in full-on oppression. The asphalt was radiating heat, the breeze was too slight, too broken by the trees and fences and buildings bordering the park, and I found myself in a full rolling sweat, a motile watering unit for the grass on either side of the trail.

As I turned the corner and began the uphill climb towards the school on the far end of the park, I saw bright colored sidewalk art, announcing in big, block letters, “FREE LEMONADE,” punctuated with an arrow indicating the direction in which I was walking.

Buoyed by this promise, I increased my pace, confident that my wallet contained at least a few dollars, a dollar being the maximum I could fathom a child would charge for a glass of lemonade, adjusting my childhood memories for inflation (the word “free” had clearly failed to register). I also realized that there was at least an even chance the lemonade would be too sour, too sugary, too watered down: judging by the chalksmanship, these were, after all, children. Mostly, I hoped they had ice.

Soon, more sidewalk art appeared: “The Mormon church is the answer,” “latter day saints” (the children sadly omitted the hyphen), “do you know Jesus?” and, with a nod to our present century, scrawled in at least a dozen places, “MORMON.ORG.”

So, this was to be the price of my refreshment: a sales pitch for the afterlife, an eager greeting on behalf of a church that evangelizes like no other.

Now, I try to cultivate a certain level of respect for religion, though I concede that most of the time, the absence of complete disdain is as far as I consistently achieve. I don’t believe in the myths, the rituals, the carrot-and-stick, the blind adherence to impossible things not condemned as madness, but praised as faith. The Mormons, however, are in an entirely different category.

They interfere in our politics, in a major and regrettable way. I recall them sinking huge money into anti-gay campaigns in California, scaring voters, using children to stoke disgust and intolerance. I know enough about their own beliefs and practices to realize that, even grading religions on a curve, they are pretty out there in terms of simply making it up as they go. I saw The Book of Mormon, and laughed so hard I cried.

This was going to be a challenge, but I was up to it: I have had many experiences with missionaries from their church, the baby-faced adolescents they ridiculously term “elders,” that were not unpleasant. One even gave me the fabled Book, which I dutifully shelved with my fiction collection, under author’s name “Smith, Joseph.”

I have also had several colleagues who were practicing members over the years, and by and large I found them to be upright, good people, invariably drawn to community service and exhibiting a high level of personal ethics. I don’t dislike Mormons, but their odds of making me a convert approach absolute zero.

With all this in mind, still dripping sweat, I rounded the corner, ready to trade a few minutes of polite attention for a refreshing beverage or two. There, at the center of the path’s homestretch, stood several benches, and just past them, mirror-image sidewalk art promising “FREE LEMONADE,” with arrows pointing in the opposite direction. The benches were empty.

All at once, it dawned on me: the signs were for an event over the now-past weekend, probably Sunday afternoon, after temple services. The enthusiastic younglings who drew the sidewalk art had no such enthusiasm about removing it when the event ended, likely heading home with their families, or to the movies, or an early dinner.

There was no lemonade, only another empty promise from an institution from which, to be fair, I should expect nothing more.

The walk back was miserable, though I did stop on Bell Boulevard for an ice-cold canned energy drink, finding good use for my unneeded dollars. As I returned to work, to finish the first installment in another work week, I was reminded of an old adage, about those times- and we all have them- when life hands you lemons.

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Published in: on June 23, 2014 at 7:12 pm  Comments (2)  
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