I’ll never forget when Poe asked me to offer the benediction right before my first roll. There I was, a religious interloper, surrounded by the Old Bisbee core, the hippies turned capitalists who discovered Bisbee after its mines closed down. They scooped up the rattling miner’s shacks and made a living selling beads, art, and probably a little smokage. Bisbee’s proximity to the Mexican border providing a lucrative opportunity for a robust import trade. These folks didn’t go to church, as far as I could tell. Yet, Poe asked me to pray, right there in the Circle K parking lot, before we launched. I looked around. I touched my clergy collar to see if he realized that I was the real article and that I would indeed pray and indeed ask for a blessing on this strange and intoxicating event known as the BRAT Races.
“Padre,” Poe said, looking right at me, “Would you offer a few words?”
“Absolutely, Poe. I’d be glad to.” I breathed deep and knew that it better hit this one on the fat part of the bat because because people who talk were listening.
“Let us pray,” I’d said it a thousand time before. This time I looked over my back concerned about fiercely thrown projectiles. None came. Folks stopped pushing their carts and became silent. I was impressed and humbled.
“We ask the Universe’s Blessing this day on our BRATS Ride. May we glide well, roll undaunted, and arrive safely at the finish line. Give us safety in travel. Amen.” I threw out my right arm, my blessing appendage, and made the sign of the cross. I could be ambiguous about how I addressed the Deity, but I had enough conviction in my faith and priesthood that I wanted these fuckers to know I was Christian and that wasn’t going to change. Poe, who had grown up in the Roman Catholic church and weathered a RC education, took a knee and received the blessing. Enough riders offered a loud enough amen that I knew that I made contact and off we rode.
As soon as I began coasting down Bisbee’s main drag, I was beside myself. Dressed in my clergy shirt, priest’s collar, and a blue mechanic’s jump suit, I couldn’t remember having so much fun. I weaved down the street, gliding in bliss. A wellspring gushed up from deep within. I hadn’t had that much fun in a while. The rest of the day was a continuation of the initial joy. We pushed up Brewery Gulch later that afternoon and buzzed back down it. By that time a larger crowd gathered in the drinking district. With a intern seminarian assisting me and wearing my welding jacket, I descended past art galleries and upgraded homes that once housed harlots. The cheers erupted as I threw out my blessing and let them all have it. The cheers indicated they received the love of God and the sign of Christ with open hearts. I now wonder whether or not they thought I was for real or just some crank dressed like a priest. It didn’t matter. We both received something that day; the blessing I mean, the transformative, liberating love of God that insists on nothing more than we be the selves that we were created to be.