Friday, March 18, 2016

Endle St. Cloud – "Street Corner Preacher" (1968)

You clinch your fist 
And shake it at the sky
Street-corner preacher!

In the last few 2 or 3 lines posts, I’ve been catching up on some recent news stories.

I’m sure you’ve been wondering when my usual narcissistic crap will rear its ugly head again.  Wonder no more, boys and girls – it’s b-a-a-a-c-k!

Today's 2 or 3 lines recounts a pointless story from my youthful days of yore – a story in which I behave badly, but not so badly as to make the story very interesting.

Which reminds me of something.  When I started work as a young lawyer for a federal government agency in Washington in 1977, I showed a female friend a picture of myself from my senior year of college – when I had hair down to my shoulders, a horseshoe mustache, and a dead-eyed expression.  

Horseshoe mustache
“You look sort of . . . dangerous,” she said.  It was the nicest thing a woman has ever said to me.

Anyway . . . 

In the summer of 1971, three of my high-school friends and I headed out on a quest.  We didn’t drive to Galena, Kansas, that night seeking the Holy Grail of Arthurian legend.  We were in search of very cheap 3.2% beer.

Our goal that night was to drink a gallon of the stuff – a difficult feat that none of us had ever even attempted, much less achieved.  (On a typical night in Galena, my friends and I would stop after downing two quarts of beer – a mere half-gallon.)

We chose to eschew our usual Galena destination – the infamous Nina’s Green Parrot, where generations of Missouri teenagers (and only Missouri teenagers) went to drink beer – because we were rather poor knights-errant, and Nina charged as much as 45 cents for a quart of beer.

Buck's sold more than just Pepsi
Instead, we headed to Buck’s Recreation Parlor, a dingy redneck hangout that sold hunting and fishing licenses and where you would usually find some farmers in bib overalls playing dominoes.

At Buck’s, you could get a quart of a bargain-brand beer – Falstaff, Stag, Pabst, or Hamm’s – for a quarter.  (“A quart for a quarter” has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?)  

Given that each of us was planning to pour four quarts of the stuff down our throats that night, going to Buck’s would save us some serious coin.

After driving the ten or so miles from Joplin to Galena on old Route 66, we took a right on Galena’s Main Street and headed to Buck's.  

Street-corner preacher
We were only a block or two from our destination when an amplified voice suddenly boomed out these words:  “AND WHAT ABOUT YOU BOYS?  WHERE ARE YOU GOING TO SPEND ETERNITY?”

A street-corner preacher with a portable loudspeaker had stationed himself in a vacant lot, of which there were plenty in Galena.  (The town had fallen on hard economic times when the once-rich lead and zinc mines in the area had closed.)

Martin Luther once wrote that “unauthorized men preaching on street corners are a sure sign of the devil.”  But defenders of open-air preaching point out that Old Testament prophets and New Testament apostles alike engaged in preaching en plein air – as did Jesus Christ himself.

The Sermon on the Mount:
 preaching en plein air
Simon and Garfunkel famously sang that “the words of the prophets are written on the subway walls and tenement halls.”  When the words of the prophets rang out from the Galena preacher’s battery-powered bullhorn that night, did I listen?  

Are you kidding me?  Of course I didn’t listen.  (I’ve never listened, have I?)

Instead, I went into Buck’s (which we used to call “Uncle Buck’s” for some reason) and got down to business.

A few hours later, my compadres dropped me off in front of my house.  I got out of the car and promptly threw up in the middle of the street.  It was the one and only time I remember throwing up from drinking too much beer. 

(Let me clarify that statement.  It was not the only time I drank too much beer – far from it.  But it was the only time I threw up after drinking too much beer.) 

The next morning, I was none the worse for wear.  In all likelihood, I was back in Galena that night for a little hair of the dog that bit me.

I wonder what happened to the Galena street-corner preacher we encountered that one night almost 45 years ago.  Did he remain faithful to his calling, perhaps finding a church with a vacant pulpit that he could occupy? 

Or did he give in to demon rum – or demon gin, to be precise – and give up preaching, like the street-corner preacher in Endle St. Cloud’s song?

“Street Corner Preacher” was released on St. Cloud’s 1968 album, Thank You All Very Much.  That was the 12th and final album released by International Artists, a legendary independent label based in Houston whose other releases included albums by the 13th Floor Elevators and Bubble Puppy.

Here’s “Street Corner Preacher”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

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