The Oddball Of Dickson Street

Through the blur of red and white on Dickson Street, a band was raping Rolling Stone’s “Satisfaction” with precision. It was fitting as hundreds stumbled on The Drag and lamented what will be another failed season after another promising loss.

Walking through The Drag was a cruel rerun of every over Saturday – a déjà vu for the insane. The sidewalk was lined with dried beer and vomit and it was impossible to tell the difference between the hookers and the girls just out for a good time.

Among the newer attractions over the recent years is the addition of several chic bars, a hot dog stand and the strangers throwing up signs about repentance and damnation. The latter is not exactly something you want to see while trying to drown The Beast within.

These fellas are the oddballs of The Drag. What compels someone to spend their Saturday night worrying over the Apocalypse and inviting confrontations about the salvation of the soul?

Contrary to the theory that these people are a conspiring collective of Christian extremists, the two groups I talked to had nothing in common with one another – other than the fact that they believed those “wallowing in sin” should be aware of the better life promised them by The Teachings.

Josh Parsley, 22, and Clint Pianalto, 23, spoke with me at Jimmy John’s, the de facto retreat for every ignorantly drunk partygoers on Dickson Street. Luckily, we were assaulted only by the Sunday lunch rush.

“We have a saying that the bible-belt holds up the pants of hypocrisy,” said Josh. “A lot of people can quote scripture. Usually they’ll quote it to justify their sin.”

Clint picked up the idea quickly, saying, “What we have here is that a lot people have a preacher who has told them they’re saved. They’ve said some kind of prayer, they’ve maybe been baptized … They’ve got a dose of religion to feel comfortable, to make themselves fell warm and fuzzy inside.”

Neither Josh nor Clint would say it was impossible to have a balance. More accurately, it was nearly impossible to do both.

“I would abstain from the very appearance of it. When you go to the bars you don’t look like your living a holy life. If I had a Bible and a beer in my hands it wouldn’t look very good,” Josh said.

“A lot of religious people we run in to will say, ‘don’t judge me’ or ‘you’re not suppose to judge.’… but when you say murder or fornication is wrong – that’s a judgment,” said Clint.

Josh and Clint said they both lived lives more closely aligned with those on Dickson Street before being born again and have lived most of their lives here in Northwest Arkansas. But they echoed nearly the same words another sign-waver, David Keeling, from Monett Ministries in Missouri, said about reading The Word and following it.

Keeling said it’s not he who just knows but he who puts it into practice.

The craziest thing about both collectives is that neither seemed insane. Both were thoughtful and articulate about their views and neither insisted, “THE WORLD IS COMING TO AN END.”

Neither group said they picked The Drag because it was a haven for Sodomites and Gomorrans. Rather, it was a large public area where ignorance and hypocrisy seemed prevalent.

There’s nothing special about The Drag. The same filth and vermin congregate in the gutters of Bombay and on Sixth Street in Austin. I harbor no illusions. Prostitution is the oldest occupation in the world.

The tough boys’ belligerent words will be floating in the toilet and the stained skirts of Lady’Backs will be crumpled by the bed Sunday morning. The hung-over and still drunk mob will be in their Sunday best forgetting verses about moderation and humility. After all, the next game is only three days away.

But the idea of a Daddy spanking my post-humorous behind is equally insulting to basic decency. Only a child with a Freudian fear of his father would believe such hogwash. Keeling also alluded to ideas about women keeping silent and covered – a notion bound to set our collective intelligence back a millennium.

We live in a cesspool. There’s no doubt about that. The best we can do is to try and live without having complete disregard for our actions, and without claiming that a select few of us are cleansed of the stains of humanity.

It’s easy to live by a set of principles, whatever they might be, convictions, though, are a difficult thing to master. These guys may have an odd way of looking for the truth but at least they’ve making the attempt. Purity kills – but so does hypocrisy.

– Arkansas Traveler, Sept. 9, 2006

[Original Column available here.]

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