End Times Down at the Kingdom Hall
Oh, they were swingin’
Down at the Kingdom Hall
Oh, bells were ringin’
Down at the Kingdom Hall
A choir was singin’
Down at the Kingdom Hall
Saturday. 4:45 a.m. San Diego, California.
On a starlit morning, the airport shuttle van turns onto a street of neat, one-story houses, each with patches of front lawn and wide driveways leading to attached two-car garages; a neighborhood not unlike the one occupied by Jim Carrey in the movie, Pleasantville.
When the van stops in front of one of those pleasant houses, a garage door opens and a man in his mid-fifties steps out rolling his suitcase behind him. He wears a gray suit, white shirt and firmly knotted rep tie. His hair is side-parted and slicked down. Slightly old fashioned, horned-rimmed glasses perch on his nose.
We are the only two passengers on the shuttle. I’m groggy, having been up for an hour with no coffee, but he is awake and very alert and asks me where I’m going.
“The southern tip of the Baja peninsula,” I say, and return the question.
“New York,” he says. “Newark Airport.”
My home airport, I think. And now I’m curious.
“What are you going there for?” I ask. But what I’m wondering is why would anyone choose to wear an uncomfortable suit for a five-hour flight to New Jersey on a Saturday?
“I have a meeting,” he says. “Actually it’s in Patterson. A sales meeting starting tonight at 6:00.”
A long day. He must be in manufacturing, I think. Or maybe he’s a post beat generation poet making a pilgrimage to the home of Allen Ginsberg. Then again, maybe he’s part of a revitalization committee working to restore one of New Jersey’s decayed factory towns.
“I’m a Jehovah’s Witness,” he says.
Bells, whistles, red flags, adrenaline jolt me, but I remain outwardly calm.
“Oh,” I say. “There’s a Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall in our community. I have an acquaintance who brings The Watchtower to me every month.”
He perks up, leans forward.
I realize that my Watchtower friend also wears a similar gray suit. In his case, he is in his mid sixties and retired, and he doesn’t come alone. Another man drives him and waits in my driveway in a green Buick.
“Each month I tell my aquaintance the same thing,” I say. “I was raised a Roman Catholic and I can’t abide by any belief system that holds no place for women, especially Mary, Jesus’s mom.”
My van companion dodges my comment completely. “Do you think he is a good salesman?”
It’s not the question I was expecting, and so I have to ask myself, who is trying to sell whom?
I’ve spent more than half my life traveling through much of the Eastern Mediterranean and Near East trying to understand how texts written down thousands of years ago have become hardwired into our culture.
“Well, he is persistent,” I say. “He comes every month, whether I answer the door or not, and leaves the Watchtower.”
The man smiles and leans back in his seat. “I was raised Roman Catholic, too,” he says. “You will find it is a cult if you look carefully.”
“But they say the same about Jehovah’s Witnesses.”
The words come out of my mouth one step ahead of my semi-conscious brain. The sound of a low-flying plane breaks the stillness and we enter the boulevard that leads to the airport.
“I have been a Witness since I turned 25, “ he says. “The older I get, the more I understand the Book of Revelation. The signs of the End Time are here. We must wake up before it is too late. I will do my best to save those who will be saved.”
The van stops in front of the American Airlines Terminal. When the man gets out, he smiles a genuinely friendly smile.
My Watchtower friend in New Jersey has been interested in my travels. One of the places I’ve visited is the island of Patmos in the Aegean Sea very close to the coast of Turkey, where the Book of Revelation, the last book of the New Testament, came into being in the mind of the Apostle John.
In a cave with a handhewn stone ledge upon which to rest his head and a mythic of view of sky and sea, John had his visions of the Four Horsemen of the Apocolypse. What struck me as I stood in his sanctum and saw my own chimera of light and cloud and sunlit dust is this: if one chose to have a vision there, it wouldn’t be that difficult, especially if you were alone and depriving yourself of food and drink.
Here is the first line of Revelation. Chapter 4, Verse 1 of the New Testament:
“After these things, I looked and saw a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, ‘Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.”
The following Saturday, after learning of the earthquake in Chile and threat of Tsunami in Hawaii, I thought of the man I had met a week earlier. Was he home using new sales skills to talk about End Times?
I drove through heat and dust and mountain and light to the organic market in San Jose del Cabo. There, among the stalls selling heirloom tomatoes in magenta and burgundy and lime; and carrots so deeply red and yellow one might believe they were fake, and after buying a handmade cornsopa holding creamy refried beans and queso fresco, I felt as if I had entered paradise.
To make sure I knew I had landed in a Garden of Eden, I ate my sopa at a table near a group of kids in their early twenties – Mexican, American, and European – with dreadlocks and long skirts and a fat, naked baby; and pan pipes and didgery-doos and drums filling the air with the song El Condor Pasa.
When I returned to my town on the Sea of Cortez, I learned that much of it had been evacuated because the earthquake in Chile had threatened the entire Pacific basin with a Tsunami.
“Nobody has ever seen anything like it,” said a neighbor. “We watched the sea come up three feet over the breakers and then quickly recede, up again and back, and again like water sloshing over the edge of a giant bowl. If there’s an earthquake in the Mexican mainland, the water will pour over the Peninsula straight to the other side.”
Another sign of End Times, I thought, at least for my San Diego van campanion.
And while the rest of us grab what we can and run, my Witnesses friend will be celebrating the End of Days as we know it. He’ll be singing down at his Kingdom Hall:
Hey, liley, liley, liley,
Hey, liley, liley lo…
In 2006, Joy E. Stocke founded Wild River Review with Kimberly Nagy, an outgrowth of the literary magazine, The Bucks County Writer, of which Stocke was Editor in Chief. In 2009, as their editorial practice grew, Stocke and Nagy founded Wild River Consulting & Publishing, LLC.
With more than twenty-five years experience as a writer and journalist, Stocke works with many of the writers who appear in the pages of Wild River Review, as well as clients from around the world.
In addition, Stocke has shepherded numerous writers into print. She has interviewed Nobel Prize winners Orhan Pamuk and Muhammud Yunus, Pulitzer Prizewinner Paul Muldoon, Paul Holdengraber, host of LIVE from the NYPL; Roshi Joan Halifax, founder of Upaya Zen Center; anthropologist and expert on end of life care, Mary Catherine Bateson; Ivonne Baki, President of the Andean Parliament; and Templeton Prizewinner Freeman Dyson among others.
In 2006, along with Nagy, Stocke interviewed scientists and artists including former Princeton University President Shirley Tilghman and Dean of Faculty, David P. Dobkin for the documentary Quark Park, chronicling the creation of an award-winning park built on a vacant lot in the heart of Princeton, New Jersey; a park that united art, science and community.
She is president of the Board of Directors at the Cabo Pulmo Learning Center, Cabo Pulmo, Baja Sur, Mexico; and is a member of the Turkish Women’s International Network.
In addition, Stocke has written extensively about her travels in Greece and Turkey. Her memoir, Anatolian Days and Nights: A Love Affair with Turkey, Land of Dervishes, Goddesses & Saints, based on more than ten years of travel through Turkey, co-written with Angie Brenner was published in March 2012. Her cookbook, Tree of Life: Turkish Home Cooking will be published in March, 2017 by Quarto Books under the Burgess Lea Press imprint . Stocke and Brenner are currently testing recipes for a companion book, which will feature Anatolian-inspired mezes from around the world.
Stocke’s essay “Turkish American Food” appears in the 2nd edition of the Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America (OUP, 2013). The volume won both International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) for Beverage/Reference/Technical category, 2014; and the Gourmand Award for the Best Food Book of the Year, 2014.
She is the author of a bi-lingual book of poems, Cave of the Bear, translated into Greek by Lili Bita based on her travels in Western Crete, and is currently researching a book about the only hard-finger coral reef in Mexico on the Baja Sur Peninsula. She has been writing about environmental issues there since 2011.
A graduate of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, with a Bachelor of Science in Broadcast Journalism from the Agriculture Journalism School where she also received a minor of Food Science, she participated in the Lindisfarne Symposium on The Evolution of Consciousness with cultural philosopher, poet and historian, William Irwin Thompson. In 2009, she became a Lindisfarne Fellow.
Works by Joy E. Stocke in this Edition
AIRMAIL – LETTERS FROM AROUND THE WORLD
AIRMAIL – VOICE FROM SYRIA
ARTS – ART
COLUMNS – THE MYSTIC PEN
FOOD & DRINK – ANATOLIAN KITCHEN
FREYMAN & PETERSON- Your Life is a Book: How to Craft and Publish Your Memoir
LITERATURE – BOOK REVIEWS
LITERATURE – ESSAYS
LITERATURE – MEMOIR
LITERATURE – POETRY
LIVE FROM THE NYPL
The Euphoria of Ignorance: Being Jewish, Becoming Jewish, The Paradox of Being Carlo Ginzburg
Fountain of Curiosity: Paul Holdengraber on Attention, Tension and Stretching the Limits of Conversation at the New York Public Library
Paul Holdengraber – The Afterlife of Conversation
2013 – Three Questions: Festival Director Jakab Orsos talks about Art, Bravery, and Sonia Sotomayor
Critical Minds, Social Revolution: Egyptian Activist Nawal El Saadawi
INTERVIEW – Laszlo Jakab Orsos: Written on Water
Tonight We Rest Here: An Interview with Poet Saadi Youssef
Georgian Writer David Dephy’s Second Skin
On the High Line: Diamonds on the Soles of Our Shoes
Car Bombs on the West Side, Journalists Uptown
New York City – Parade of Illuminations: Behind the Scenes with Festival Director Jakab Orsos
The Pen Cabaret 2008: Bowery Ballroom — Featuring..
Anatolian Days and Nights: A Love Affair with Turkey, Land of Dervishes, Goddesses and Saints
Daring Collaborations: Rolex and LIVE from the NYPL at the New York Public Library Composing a Further Life: with Mary Catherine Bateson
WRR@LARGE: From the Editors – UP THE CREEK
Up the Creek: Volume 1, Number 1
Up the Creek: Volume 1, Number 2.5
Up the Creek: Volume 1, Number 3.3
Up the Creek: Number 4.4
Up the Creek: Beautiful Solutions
Up the Creek: Blind Faith, July 2009
Up the Creek: Create Dangerously
Up the Creek: What Price Choice?
Up the Creek: Before and After: September 11, 2001
Up the Creek: Candle in a Long Street
Up the Creek: Crossing Cultures: Transcending History
Up the Creek: Man in the Mirror; A Map of the World
Up the Creek: Stories and the Shape of Time
Up the Creek: The Divine Road To Istanbul
Up the Creek: What It Means to Yearn
WRR@LARGE – WILD COVERAGE
UNESCO World Heritage Site Under Threat of Mega-Devlopment Sparks International Protests
The Other Side Of Abu Ghraib — Part One: The Detainees’ Quest For Justice
The Other Side of Abu Ghraib – Part Two: The Yoga Teacher Goes to Istanbul