If At First You Don’t Succeed
The first time I saw Karyn, we were both only fifteen.
The minute I read the first sentence of this chapter, I knew it wouldn’t turn out well. And it won’t. After the events of this book takes place, Doug will find another Karen, after this Karyn divorces his smug and allegedly abusive ass.
Two years later, they’ll meet again. I’m not saying a relationship started at 17 can’t last, I’m saying the odds are low. 17 year olds are just beginning to figure out who they are, particularly Doug, who has literally just converted to Christianity. Converting to a religion is a major life change, and I feel like you need at least a year afterwards to fully adjust before you go trying to involve someone else in your life like that.
In any case, Doug meets Karyn again at 17, and he offers her a drink.
“No thanks, Doug. I don’t drink anymore,” She answered.
“What do you mean, you don’t drink?” I asked, disbelieving. “Everybody drinks!”
No, Doug, everybody does not drink. I’m not believing that there was literally nobody in his life, pre-conversion, who chose, for whatever reasons, to abstain.
“And I suppose you read the Bible too?” I asked, half sarcastically.
She stopped and looked at me in surprise. “As a matter of fact, I do. How did you know?”
“I don’t know. Just by putting two and two together, I guess.”
Because no one who reads the Bible could possibly drink! Moderate drinking, what’s that? That’s for alcoholics.
Doug and Karyn go on a walk, talking about religion and the Bible.
We saw each other a lot after that, and two weeks later we were married.
They met briefly at 15, and then again at age 17. Strike 1. They were married “a few weeks later” after this second meeting. Strike 2.
No wonder they divorced. This relationship was doomed from the start. It’s not usually a good idea to get married that quickly, especially when one is 17. Most marriages that started at age 17 at least had the couple in question knowing each other for a lot longer than “a few weeks” before the marriage.
Immediately, Doug and Karyn start looking for a place to live. They don’t like town life, so they hitchhike to….??? (No seriously, that’s pretty much what Doug says.)
And they can’t just live in the cave Doug’s been living in because….????
They find a driver who is heading to Covelo, a place surrounded by national forest, with a lot of churches. Doug and Karyn feel that God is impressing them to go there, so they do.
We lived in a cave in the national forest for a while
Is this sort of thing allowed? Are you actually allowed to just wander onto a national forest and start living in a cave? I thought this sort of thing was a big no no? Were the laws different in the 1970s?
The only problem was money. The only work I could find was seasonal.
Well, Doug, this is why your daddy wanted you to finish High School. Even in the 1970s/1980s, most places at least required a high school diploma.
At summer’s end we were forced to return to Palm Springs so I could support our growing family, for soon we would be parents.
A fast, young wedding followed quickly by a pregnancy. Yup, this was a recipe for disaster.
Doug’s dad helps him to get into the meat business, buying him a used VW. He had a sign painted on the side, Doug Batchelor’s Wholesale Prime Beef Steaks. He tells us that business was great for him as soon as he started this, and that he learned interesting things about meat during this business venture.
One day a customer asked me if I could get her some prime pork. I knew about the grades of beef: prime, choice, good, and fair. I had seen graded chicken, but I’d have to do some checking about pork.
Doug checks with his butcher friend, who laughs at him.
The Department of Agriculture doesn’t think you should feed that stuff to your dogs. They’re not even going to grade it. That stuff’s swarming with ‘bugs.’ They even print pamphlets telling you to make sure you cook it thoroughly to kill all the trichina larvae.”
I have no idea how true this was back in the 1970s, or the 1990s when this book was written. I’m not sure how I’d go about looking that up, but I do know how to look up how things are today, in 2016.
I went to the USDA website, and here is what they have to say about grades of pork:
Although inspection is mandatory, its grading for quality is voluntary, and a plant pays to have its pork graded. USDA grades for pork reflect only two levels: “Acceptable” grade and “Utility” grade. Pork sold as Acceptable quality pork is the only fresh pork sold in supermarkets. It should have a high proportion of lean meat to fat and bone. Pork graded as Utility is mainly used in processed products and is not available in supermarkets for consumers to purchase.*
(On the same webpage, we are told that “Fresh pork” means “uncured meat.” I have no idea what that means, but I’m sure someone else does.)
One hopes that, in later editions of this book, someone has added a footnote to inform readers that, even if this ever was true, it is no longer true today. Pork does have grades. To do anything else is to purposely mislead one’s audience.
Trichinosis, however, is still a thing. Here’s what the USDA has to say about it. Source is the same as above.
Pork must be adequately cooked to eliminate disease-causing parasites and bacteria that may be present. Humans may contract trichinosis (caused by the parasite, Trichinella spiralis) by eating undercooked pork. Much progress has been made in reducing trichinosis in grain-fed hogs and human cases have greatly declined since 1950. Today’s pork can be safely enjoyed when cooked to an internal temperature of 145 °F as measured with a food thermometer before removing meat from the heat source. For safety and quality, allow meat to rest for at least three minutes before carving or consuming. For reasons of personal preference, consumers may choose to cook meat to higher temperatures.
If things have been improving since 1950, that should have been known at the time Doug wrote this book.
In any case, as yucky as Doug (and I) think all this sounds, it seems like things have improved drastically since twenty years before this even happened.
Doug goes on to talk about Leviticus chapter 11, in which God forbids the eating of pork.
Some preachers told me those laws had been done away with, but that didn’t make sense. Didn’t the human body still respond to the food put into it, the same as it did during the time of the children of Israel? Wasn’t it still subject to disease and germs and parasites?
Well, yes. But today we have way more sophisticated cooking techniques. We have microscopes to detect bacteria. We have improved testing methods. Yes, the human body would react the same way to germs and disease, but, even by 1975, we had better ways of dealing with those things than the Israelites did!
Doug goes on to tell us about his own experiences with meat eating. He decides that he should use his own products. Ok.
Soon I was eating New York Steak for breakfast, T-bone steak for lunch, and fillet Mignon for dinner.
Yes. This sounds like a totally healthy balanced diet. I expect good results from this.
But then I noticed that I felt run down all the time, with no energy. My behavior began to change too. At night I would sit and watch TV and eat a quart of ice cream by myself–yes, a whole quart! I felt my spiritual life being numbed, and I had less inclination to resist temptation. My cave-man diet of rice, beans, bread, and fruit had given me a feeling of strength and vigor. For the first time I realized what an impact diet had on my physical, spiritual and moral well being.
First off, Doug, you’re not supposed to eat steak for every meal. Second off, you just told us you were eating quarts of ice cream every night! No wonder you felt run down and had no energy!** And you want to blame your ice cream eating habits on meat eating? WTF that makes ZERO SENSE.
I don’t think Doug truly understands the concept of moderation.
Doug tells us that even though he and Karyn were making good money, they were unable to save. The more money they made, the more they spent.
Doug never really learned money management growing up.
He and Karyn decide to move back to Covelo, where they start going to a Presbyterian church. Doug wants to give the local Seventh Day Adventist church another try, but Karyn prefers to stay home with Rachel, their new baby girl.
Hang on, your son was just born. How many years did the events of this chapter take, Doug? You can’t just time jump without telling us. Jeez!
When Doug goes, he digs out his old overalls and his “scroungy looking” shirt, tying his hair back in a ponytail. Then he rides to church on his motorcycle. I guess he wants to see if they’ll still treat him the same way the other church did.
Doug invites his friend, Duane, who wears tattered blue jeans, because that was “cool” back then. Doug put the scare quotes around cool, not me.
One of the back pockets of his jeans had been torn off, and his bare skin revealed the fact that he wasn’t even wearing underwear! I almost felt embarrassed for him, but I didn’t mention it.
Ok, there’s showing up in tattered clothes to see how people will react, and then there’s wearing clothes that aren’t even appropriate for leaving the house. This crosses that line very much. It’s just not appropriate for anyone to go anywhere with your ass sticking out of your pants.
There’s not likely anything Doug can do about it, and since his bare skin is sticking out, Duane is probably very aware of the problem, so, drink up, because I agree with Doug that it was probably the right thing to not mention it.
The people at this particular church are a lot friendly than the last church, even though most members are pretty old. I find this semi-believable. I’ve been to churches where there are lots of older people, but they’re friendly older people who aren’t terribly judgemental. That being said, I haven’t found churches like this, in general, to be especially welcoming.
After church, people crowded around us, welcoming us and inviting us home to dinner. No one seemed to notice our clothes, and I felt a little ashamed by now.
Sounds like textbook love bombing to me. And I bet that they did notice your clothes, they might have just been kind enough not to mention it. Though Duane’s outfit really is inappropriate, and I wouldn’t fault a pastor at all for asking him to go home and change.
Oh wait, Duane’s male. It’s only the females that get sent home to change when they show up in something inappropriate that shows too much skin! Silly me. I forgot.
In any case, the pastor draws the short straw, so Doug and Duane come to his house for Sabbath afternoon dinner. Afterwards, they have a Bible study, in which Duane falls asleep.
That would be my reaction too, especially after a particularly full meal, which Sabbath afternoon dinners usually are.
The next Sabbath, Karyn goes with him to church, and they decide to make it their home church.
Pastor Joe tells Doug he’s almost ready for baptism, but doesn’t feel like he can baptize him because he still smokes. Pastor Joe tells Doug that as long as he’s addicted to cigarettes he’s chained to the devil.
“Can you imagine Jesus blowing smoke in someone’s face while he’s talking to them about the love of His Father?”
Pastor Joe is talking here, and I actually agree with him. Blowing smoke in someone’s face is rude. I disagree with Christians that Jesus was the nicest guy ever, but if one believes the Biblical account, Jesus was at least polite and respectful (most of the time). Someone who is polite would at least try to blow their cancer causing second hand smoke away from someone’s face.
Now, would Jesus smoke at all? I don’t know. Was smoking a thing in his time period?
Doug then tells us this is similar to his drinking. He told God he didn’t want to give up drinking, because it was fun. So God told him “go ahead and drink.” Doug quickly assures us that this didn’t mean God approved of his drinking, just that God was giving him the choice.
Little by little I began to see all the heartache my drinking caused. I’d wake up in jail or be sick all day and throw up, or I’d wake up and find out I’d made a fool of myself and embarrassed someone I cared about. Once I found out I had wrecked a car that didn’t even belong to me. I heard the Lord saying, “Doug, are you enjoying yourself?”
This paragraph does not describe the behavior of someone who enjoys occasionally getting drunk on the weekends, or having a glass of wine with dinner every now and then. These are the behaviors of alcoholics.
In the Adventist mind, there is no distinction between the two groups of people. If you drink at all, you are an alcoholic. This is why Doug doesn’t tell us that he was an alcoholic, or that he had a drinking problem. He doesn’t need to. All he needs to tell his audience is that he used to drink, and his audience will agree that he was an alcoholic. However, in this paragraph, Doug shows us that he really did have a problem. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I agree with Doug (drink!). Abstinence was probably a good choice for him.
Doug tells us that giving up smoking was harder than quitting drinking, and I’ve never smoked tobacco or used any sort of tobacco products, so I can’t comment.
Karyn, he tells us, gave it up really quickly, when the doctor told them that their baby (I don’t know which child this is, what with all the time skips and jumps Doug takes us through) was born pre-mature because of Karyn’s smoking.
I checked the CDC website, and this appears to be correct information, even today.
Doug tells us that it was much harder for him to kick “the cigarette demon.” I wonder if he means that literally…. but I probably shouldn’t speculate on whether or not Doug has a mental illness that causes him to see demons, so moving on.
I threw my cigarettes away and tried to forget about them. But the next day I wanted a cigarette so badly my hands shook. I hurried to the store and got some more….and so the battle raged for months.
Compare this passage to the one we just went over in Project Sunlight. In PS, Meg is told to just give it to God and forget about it. Here we see Doug trying that, and it clearly isn’t working for him.
I am not saying one’s belief in a higher power can’t be helpful when one is trying quit cigarettes, just that it doesn’t work for everyone, and that most people need something more.
The smoking battle is very easy for Meg in Project Sunlight. Once she realizes that giving up smoking is her gift to god, she never does it again. We all knew this was unrealistic. Doug here is showing that.
So, props to Doug for writing a more realistic book than June Strong could.
However, he still goes for the magic God route. He is telling us about how his truck broke down, and that he is dreaming of a new one.
“Lord, I’d even give up smoking d you’d give me a truck like that!”
I half expected the punch line to be that God did give him a truck like that, so he praised God and stopped smoking. Instead, we get this disturbing paragraph
I never claimed that I heard God’s voice speak to me audibly, though I have heard it many times speak to my conscience, but suddenly I heard a voice echoing in the cab of that old pickup: “You’d quit smoking for a truck, but you wouldn’t quit smoking for me?”
This, then, answers the question of whether or not Doug is hearing audible voices. I think Doug needs to see a therapist. They have medication for that sort of thing, which is much safer now than it as in the late 1970s. Or early 1980s, whatever time period Doug has dragged us to without telling us.
After this, Doug throws his cigarettes down the outhouse (they have an outhouse? Why? Those were still a thing in 1970/1980?) and never smokes again.
Ten years later, Doug finally gets his dream truck, a Datsun 4×4 with a winch, king cab, and five speed.
“Lord, why did you wait ten years?”
He told me that during that time, I had saved up enough money from not smoking to buy it.
Looks like it wasn’t God who gave Doug a truck, then. It was Doug. Doug answered his own prayer. And in reality, if you think about it, so do we all.
**Incidentally, Ellen White tells us that eating sugar is worse for you than eating meat. So of course Adventists demonize meat eating and consume sugar in moderation.