It was before sunrise on November the 1st. All Saints Day. A rather appropriate day for my birthday. At least, so I've always thought.
I was sitting in a McDonald's in a Northern Chicago 'burb. Dave Fitch had brought me there for a very early-morning birthday breakfast. It's where he spends many of his before-sunrise mornings. Working on his writing. Drinking McD's coffee. Chatting with a bunch a guys about hockey, and Max's need for new skates and asking "who has Bob's sports section."
He got up to chat with the guys while I was fiddling with my Sony PCM-M10 audio recorder – trying to get it ready so I could shoot a brief comment of Fitch talking about something or other missional. The camera was ready to go.
"Are you Brad Kinnon?"
I looked up to see this nicely dressed guy, in a stylishly long leather jacket, black turtle neck and black jeans. His aviator shades were in his hair. He was looking at me in a rather discomfiting manner.
"Ahh, actually it's Bill. Bill Kinnon."
"Right, right. You're that blogger guy, kinnon dot tv, right."
He and his McDonald's coffee sat down across from me, uninvited, in Dave's seat.
Dave could be heard in the near distance talking about the Blackhawks' defeat of the Leafs and how, if Hamilton had a team, perhaps they'd be Stanley Cup contenders. And if the Hamilton Ti-Cats made the Canadian Football League playoffs, he was going to spend Thanksgiving in Canada watching the Grey Cup.
Thinking this could be interesting (leather-coat guy, rather than Fitch), I hit record on the little Sony. What follows is a transcription of sorts.
He didn't offer his hand as he said, "I'm L.S Clivenot. But people call me Jim. I'm the Creative Visioncaster and Media Guru of Bestis MegaChurch, Evah, Indianna."
"I'm surprised you don't know us. We're one of the biggest MegaChurchs in Indianna. Evah's a suburb of Gary. We're on Bestis Street."
"I'm a Canadian. Perhaps I'm not as tuned into the latest and greatest megachurches."
"Well, that would seem obvious from the few times I've read your blog." There was that disgust microexpression again. "You just don't seem to get the powerful impact megachurchs have on this great nation of ours. "
He was right about that. "Well, I…"
But this was a monologue, not a dialogue.
"We've just opened our new 100 million dollar facility. It will blow your mind. We've taken megachurch design to a whole new level. I was here in Chi-town this weekend bragg…ahh, telling a bunch of megachurch creatives about it."
"Yes, well…" At least I tried to interact.
"We didn't waste money on a better-than-Broadway stage. Too smart, too cutting edge for that. We put in a state-of-the-art 3D projection system and huge screen. Every one of our 5,000 reclining seats has a perfect 3D view of that screen."
"Better than 'Wow', man. We built one of the finest soundstages ever – right behind the huge screen. With multiple studios, small green-screen ones, a big one for major productions. All shot with 3D cameras. Like I said. It will blow your mind."
"Ever seat has it's own case with the finest 3D ground-optics glasses in those cases. Of course, we have RFID tags on each pair. Anyone tries to steal 'em and the alarms go off."
"That sounds kind of…"
"…smart. You're right. And the really cool thing is we got one of the top movie trailer voice-over guys to do our every-service opening. [He became Mr. Voice-over Guy right in front of me.] 'WELCOME TO BESTIS MEGACHURCH, EVAH, INDIANNA. PLEASE PUT ON YOUR 3D GLASSES FOR THE BESTIS EXPERIENCE.' And then he goes on to tell them to put the glasses back in the case when the experience ends."
"..love it. Do they ever. When the pastor picks up his bible at the beginning of the service and shakes it at them, they almost all duck. Of course, he only picks up the Bible once. We wouldn't want to scare people too much, now would we."
"You mean the Pastor preaches from a soundstage?"
"Of course. Why wouldn't he? We can put him in any environment he wants. Last week he preached from the surface of Jupiter. Out of this world, man! And then, at the end of every service, the Pastor walks out in front of the screen to wrap things up. Oh. And he reminds people to put their 3D glasses back in the cases."
"No buts, man. Just butts in every chair. And the cool thing, it's gonna make satellite churches really easy to setup. And if the Pastor only wants to do one service… we have three… we just playback a pre-record. As long as he still comes out from behind the curtain, ahh, the screen – no one knows it wasn't live."
"And you won't believe our Holiday Season Event this year. Me and my team have created a whole new Narnia story. We call it, Narnia & the Evil Penguins."
"NARNIA & THE EVIL PENGUINS!??"
"With Voyage of the Dawntreader coming out, we figured what better way to capitalize on it and get people into our Holiday Season Events. We've set it in the Chicago Zoo. That's the biggest and best zoo around. It's kind of the story of Aslan's birth – he's born the King of the Zoos. His mother is Mari, the Lioness. The Joseph part is played by Tony the Tiger. A little corporate sponsorship to defray some of the costs, you know."
"But what about Lewis' storytelling…"
"Yah, right. I saw an illegal torrent of Dawntreader, man. Eustace is the hero. He's the one who saves everybody in the end. A little creative license never hurt anyone."
"You've got to be…"
"…excited. You bet. It's going to be great. The penguins are lead by Harrad, the Warrior Penguin. He thinks he's the King of the Zoos. The penguins scheme to kill baby Aslan after they hear of his birth from the three magicians. We're using a flame-eater, a sword-swallower and a third guy dressed up as a clown."
"Penguins?" I was still in shock.
"It's great. We've even worked in Lyle Lovett's Penguins song. It'll be a real crowd pleaser. Harrad's wife sings it. She's a chinchilla in this story. And then we have this kids' choir who are supposedly touring the zoo when the Angel Clarence shows up and does that whole 'behold' thing. The kids go running to the Lion cage."
"It's a zoo, man. But trust me, it all makes sense. So. When the kids get to the cage, Mari stands and begins to sing the perfect song."
"And let me guess, the perfect song is…"
"Somewhere Over the Rainbow. It's so beautiful man. Mari is played by this gorgeous Mezzo-Soprano, who looks fabulous in lion-skin."
"The kids choir joins her on Somewhere and it'll send chills up your spine. And while they're all singing – Warrior Penguin King Harrad and his Penguin horde attack. What's so cool is we got that dwar…ahh, little guy who was in Prince Caspian to play Harrad, Peter Dinklage."
"He was great in The Station Agent. But how could you possibly afford him for your production?" I finally got two sentences in, back to back.
"We flew him in for a day. On the wideshots you can't tell it isn't him. And we go to playback for his closeups. You could never do this with a stage production. Trust me."
I didn't know what to interject as he continued, "…so, the Penguin horde is on the attack but as they approach they hear Mari's song."
"Another song? After Somewhere?"
"No, no. She's still singing Somewhere. It's a powerful tune. And it touches Harrad's heart. He realizes the evil of his ways. When I wrote his monologue, it even made me cry, man."
"I'm sure I'd cry, as well." He couldn't read my microexpression as he stared right through me, picturing his wondrous prose.
"And the ending is fabulous. Baby Aslan morphs into this full grown lion. He grabs a guitar and leads the entire cast in that killer Sting song, If You Love Somebody, Set Them Free. He even hoists Harrad onto his shoulders at one point. We had a few tech challenges their, I'm telling you."
"But, the cage…"
"Oh, right. When Aslan morphs to full grown, the cage opens magically. It's part of the whole 'goodness frees you' theme of the Holiday Event. We get the Angel Clarence to explain that at one point."
"And the whole production stage piece ends with Aslan's amazing guitar solo as the entire cast comes out in front of the screen and leads the audience in the closing song."
"Let me guess. Silent Night, right?"
"Man, you really are stuck in a traditional mindset, aren't you. It's no wonder you don't get megachurches. Of course not."
"The Pastor's a real Train fan. And he plays the ukelele. I rewrote the lyrics to Hey, Soul Sister. Called it Hey, Soul Lover. Absolutely Killer! Brings the house down. Guaranteed. [And he began to sing] Hey, Soul Lover, Ain't that Aslan's mother on the…"
At that very point Fitch reappeared at the table, further proving there is a God. Fitch's expression wasn't micro. He wanted his seat back.
Clivenot stopped singing as he looked up at Fitch. He immediately got Dave's look after ignoring all of mine. "I guess I'm in your seat. Sorry, man. Hey. Aren't you Jarred Fitch. I heard that Moody Radio thing you did with Scot McKnight on…"
But Fitch cut him off. In his best, unintended Jack Nicholson impersonation, "I'm really sorry, man. My name's not Jarred and I've got a lot of work to do here."
"At McDonald's?" Clivenot responded. Fitch just looked at him and that was enough to send Clivenot on his way.
He looked back over his shoulder, as he headed for the door. "Hey, Brad, " he called loudly, "I don't want to read about this conversation on your blog, ok."