It seemed like a good idea at the time. I decided to take a vacation to Key West, and while there visit the church where my grandfather had been a minister. I set out to visit the church on a weekday, and I was concerned that it might be locked up, but I’d give it a try.
Now, back in those days I was a recent California transplant. I’d been a professional musician in Florida and moved to California to pursue my career. Of course, I’d adopted a more punk California look. It was somewhat menacing- long black hair, black t-shirts with skulls and other unpleasant images, long black shorts, and the ubiquitous black combat boots. My mom once commented that she would cross the street to avoid someone who looked like me. Even the first band I recorded with in California consisted of members of a band called Christian Death, who’s singer eventually died of an overdose. So I didn’t look like the type of person who would visit a church.
I arrived at the church, soaked in sweat thanks to my all-black outfit and combat boots during the middle of a summer heat wave, to find the front door locked. I walked around the church looking for an open door. Eventually I found one, and as I stepped inside I saw about a dozen elderly women, having a nice lunch, go from happy to terrified in an instant. They all looked at me as though they were waiting for me to pull a gun and ask for money. I smiled politely, and one of them asked if she could help me.
I asked her if I could see the parsonage. Now, your basic devil-worshiper, petty thief or punk-rock robber wouldn’t generally know what a parsonage is. And in fact, I’m not sure why I used that word other than I remembered my grandmother calling it that. At that moment a couple of the women went from terrified to curious, and one of them asked why I wanted to see it.
I told them my name, and mentioned that my grandfather had been a minister there. Immediately the fear was gone and all of the women smiled. One stated “your grandfather married me”. Then another said the same thing. My head began to spin! Had I just discovered that my grandfather had numerous wives? Even with just those two and my grandmother that would make THREE just in Key West. Suddenly the shoe was on the other foot. I apparently looked stricken while the elderly women began laughing. It was at that moment that I realized they were using the term “married” as a verb. Which was kind of obvious since he was THE MINISTER! For a moment, I lived up to my outfit.
One of them escorted me into the church, and told me I could stay as long as I wanted. I took some pictures and thought about what it was like to live in Key West back then without air-conditioning. As I left I thanked the women for their hospitality, and they told me it was a pleasure to meet me, though I imagine they discussed my sense of style and clothing for some time after that. They then told me that the church was closing the next week. Sometimes you just have to wonder why things work out the way they do.