It came to me, it came to me like a thief in the night, announced, sudden, surprising. I would build a Batmobile. I would jettison my first idea of constructing a cathedral and build the Caped Crusader’s car. How I remember laying in front of the small black and white TV of my Las Vegas home, afternoon feasting on Batman reruns. How I hated when the episode ended without conclusion, when the screen produced the hideous words, “To be continued…”.
At first I planned on building a cathedral for the races. Seemed like the right thing to do. I had made a noble and authentic bid for bishop of my home diocese but was rejected out of hand. I didn’t even get out of the Batcave for a phone interview. I didn’t have just the right constellation of gifts for the ministry. Oh well. It came as a relief. I didn’t want it, not really. I was trying to be open to the Spirit-still am-but I kept worrying about the fit.
So, I decided to build a rolling cathedral and cruise down Tombstone Canyon atop a cardboard cathedral. I’d been the real Vicar of Bisbee. Now, I could be the pretend Bishop of Bisbee. Made sense after all. The first time I participated in the BRATS I built a one seat church pew. Poe, the architect of the BRATS (Bisbee Rolling Art Transportation Society) event invited me to join the downhill calamity some seven years ago. I accepted the challenge and thought I would do something religious and churchy. And so I did. I availed myself of the pew chop going on in an old downtown church that long ago had closed its doors to worshipers. It had several iterations before a well-heeled entrepreneur tuned it into a night club with a big screen. Most of the solid oak pewery took on a new vocation and were cut to order to build the club’s bar. A long time Bisbee resident once told me that such disrespect for God’s furniture explained the failure of the business about two years later. I’m not ruling anything out, I’ll tell you that much.
As carpenters retrofitted the old sanctuary to make a new one, I asked a friend on the site for some pew chunks out of which I fashioned my first BRAT. Poe and others didn’t think I’d pull it off. But I did and I was I a hit. My cart rolled. The people cheered. God smiled-I think.
I adorned my pew with a hand-crafted crucifix made by a local artist with a national profile. He constructed the cross of wood and then glued discarded Bic lighters on it. I loved it. My wife wouldn’t allow it in the house. It seemed the right thing to place behind my head as I coasted. The only hiccup that day occurred when the cross went tumbling. I’d mounted it poorly in my last minute effort at accouterments. I heard it fall off and hit asphalt. I pulled the breaks hard, jumped out of my pew and retrieved the fallen symbol. Still nervous about the crowd’s response to my interloping onto the BRAT event, I returned to my cart, warmed by modest but enthusiastic applause. “The church as been through worse,” I proclaimed as I lifted the lighters on high. Laughter surrounded me, cracking open the defensiveness I wore regarding my sacred vocation. (to be continued… I have to keep grading…)