Hide the Beer, the Pastor's Here!

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I've officially been on vacation since five o'clock on Friday, and, man, all I can say right now is damn it feels good to be a gangsta. I'm doing absolutely nothing, like it's my job, and I'm digging every minute. Been a hell of a weekend so far, from playing Rock Band at -- get this -- my pastor's house on Friday night to playing with an actual rock band at a kegger last night in Brighton.

More on that in a minute. First I should probably back up a bit and tell you how a card-carrying sinner like me ended up kicking it with a man of the cloth on a Friday night. Last Sunday as we were leaving church, the pastor invited me over to his house for game night. He said a bunch of guys were getting together and that it would be fun. Now I didn't know if the "game night" he was referring to involved Monopoly or Pictionary, or if "game night" meant a bunch of dudes pounding the Dews and playing Halo -- an inexplicable ritual I'd heard about before and even seen on the Big Bang Theory but never actually witnessed in person. Smart money was on the latter.

Didn't matter. Either way, I was in. We just started going to this church not too long ago, and I thought this would be a great opportunity for me to get to know my new pastor. That, and I was stoked that the guy reached out to me. At our old church, the pastor didn't even know our names, despite the fact that my family and I had been members of his congregation for more than a decade. Granted, I know it's a big church, but still. Even more deflating, I doubt if anyone over there, other than my family who still attends, has even noticed we're missing. Another reason I took him up on the invite, I figured, come five o'clock on Friday, I'd be off the clock until next year. With that in mind, I figured I probably should take an actual vacation from my job, which meant finding something else to do besides going out to a bar to watch a band.

When I pulled up to the pastor's house, it looked like the lights were all off, which kind of threw me. So I double-checked the address from the e-mail he sent me. Yep. Sure enough, I was at the right place. So I knocked on the door somewhat tenuously. Luckily, a guy from my church answered and waved me in. Once I made it inside, it was more less exactly as I suspected -- and sort of feared: Two mammoth TV sets and a dozen or so dudes huddled around an X-Box 360, lit by the blue glow of the screens, with controllers in their hands. Now, I'm not a huge gamer -- or a gamer at all, really, unless playing Syphon Filter once for a week-long stretch about six years ago when I was unemployed qualifies -- so I sat around and watched everybody else play. As the dudes gleefully shot each other, I tried to get into it but ultimately determined that I was just born without the gaming gene. After doing that for about two hours, I began to feel a welp coming on (as in, "Welp, it's been fun, but I gotta bolt..."). Just then, the pastor suggested we play Rock Band. "Alright, now you're speaking my language," I said to no one in particular. I'd been eager to check out the game since I read Carrie Brownstein's piece about it in Slate.

Dude. It was rad. We did a bunch of tunes -- Say It Ain't So," "Creep," "Learning to Fly" and some Coheed and Cambria song I'd never even heard. I'm still trying to wrap my head around seeing the pastor throw down, though. He turned in some seriously believable vocals on "In Bloom." I'm not so much surprised that he could sing, I guess I'm just more stunned that he knew all the words -- or that he even knew who Nirvana was, for Pete's sake. The pastor at my old church once said that he'd never even had a beer. Not a sip. In his life. Ever. Hell, a guy with morals like that makes you feel like a heathen just being around him. Kind of reminds me of that song, "Hide the Beer, the Pastor's Here!" by the Swirling Eddies. Ever heard it? I don't imagine you have. It's a pretty obscure song from an even more obscure band. Here's a few lines:

And the hate in your heart, you're hiding well
But the booze on your breath is easy to smell...
Hide the beer, the pastor's here
Hide the beer, think of your career
He might find out that we're human beings'
And bring us all down to the rack and the ruin

There's more, but you get the picture. So, yeah, I didn't really expect for my new pastor to be such a regular guy. But he was, and it was really refreshing. I'm really glad I went. As for Rock Band, Christ almighty! I'm addicted. (In fact, Santa, I know there's only one shopping day left until Christmas, but if you're reading this, hook a brother up, would ya?)

Uh, where was I ...?

Oh yeah, so anyway, last night, I basically ended up doing the same thing -- only swap the Dews for brews and the fake band for a real one. A few week's back, my old pal Romero, who used to be in the bands Sick and Drug Under, invited me to his fortieth birthday party. It was going to be "an old school kegger," he promised, with a band in the basement and everything, just like the old days. Tell you what, man, he delivered.

I showed up around ten o'clock. And in a moment of unintentional hilarity, Sweetie dropped me off in front of his house in my brother's mini-van. It was a scene ripped straight out of Weird Science or something, with my mom dropping me off. I ran into a friend on the porch who was smoking. I pointed out the fact that I hadn't been to a kegger since my senior year in high school and then said that I couldn't believe that there was going to be a band in the basement. That just seemed to be an invitation for the cops to bust things up. It would be in my neighborhood, anyway. Homie don't play that. Guess this really is going be like in the old days, I mused. "Yeah," she said, with a laugh, "but these days we don't have to run from the cops."

True that.

A few minutes later, I was down in the basement. I felt like I had stepped into the wayback machine. It was 1989 all over again. The place was jammed, and there was a keg in a trash can filled with ice. Ah, just like riding a bike, I thought as I grabbed a High Life. Romero and some other cats -- including a very trimmed down Bill Terrell and Rich Odell, the guy who first taught Eric Greenwall, one of my favorite guitarists, drummer Jim Messina from Love.45, and Ronnie Chavez, from Drug Under -- kicked things off with an entire set of Van Halen tunes. Although Romero confided that he was fighting a chest cold, he sounded great.

Next up was Love.45. The guys played two sets. The first one was original material, and the second one was mostly covers, with all of us taking turns throwing down. It was killer. I got to sing lead on "Basket Case" and then did some harmonies on some classic butt rock. For a sideline reporter like me, it was awesome to get the chance to suit up again and get back in the game for a few minutes. The band wrapped its set and hit the bricks a little after two. I didn't make it to bed until five or six. Been a while since I was coming in just as the sun was coming up.

It's all good, though. I mean, it's not like I had to be at work in the morning or anything. Although, now that I think about it, I did miss church today.

-- Dave Herrera


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