The Promise Keepers

A friend from Seattle visited me in Nashville in the fall of 1997. We were both editors of underground publications. We had met briefly at a restaurant in D.C. three years earlier.

In that cruddy little apartment on Evelyn Avenue, my bed and my couch were in different rooms. On the first morning, I awoke before her. My stereo and my computer were in the room where she was sleeping. I was so bored that I flipped through the AM radio on my alarm clock.

I stumbled upon the live broadcast of the march on Washington by the Promise Keepers. They were a group of men who wanted to take responsibility for their actions—to the women in their lives and to God. There’s nothing wrong with that. The name of the event was “Stand in the Gap, a Sacred Assembly of Men.” That first part doesn’t sound very comfortable for the woman. I found it amusing, so I crept into the living room and started to record the broadcast, taping over Henry Rollins.

The Promise Keepers announcer said that there were men walking around the reflecting pool reading parts of the Bible so that the entire book was read. Why?Radio Shack Tape

Those were the days of staying up late to listen to Art Bell. It was a syndicated program that often discussed the supernatural and the disquieting. There were several recurring guests, one of the more interesting was David Oates. His field was Reverse Speech. The theory was that when people are talking, every while they say things that can only be heard if listened to backward. Supposedly, that gives insight into their inner selves. When heard backward, the human voice conjures an unholy tone.

During the horrible and bitter days of working at Radio Shack, I stole a small tape recorder. (It was a return that had a scratch but was good enough to restock.) I took out the play head and turned it upside down.

I put in the Promise Keeper’s tape. Whenever the phrase, “Stand in the gap, a sacred assembly of men,” was played backwards, it came out as, “An unveiled mess, oh what a mess.” No shit. Clear and distinct. I swear. The only thing I heard on the rest of the tape was what sounded like a black preacher saying, “No one knew her name, law.”

It turns out that I still have the digital transfer of the original cassette.  I certainly don’t have time to listen to it backwards with digital clarity to see what I may have overlooked.  It would be nice to do a sick musical montage similar to Frank Zappa’s “Porn Wars,” but I don’t do much music anymore.  (I saw the video of Frank Zappa sitting in with Pink Floyd.  It was just awful.)

Once more:  “An unveiled mess, oh what a mess.”

For What it’s Worth


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