Jesus gave me a woman

Well, okay. So I made it through nearly a week posting everyday and then not only did the wheels fall off, the axle broke. But we’re out of the shop and ready to roll.

Walking back recently to my home with co-host Brian from a movie viewing at Newport on the Levee got me thinking about the blatant religious brainwashing going on in my little neighborhood.

As we crossed Central Parkway and left the comfy confines of the CBD (that’s “central business district” for suburbanites, or what many deem as the actual downtown area) and headed along Race Street to my apartment, a guy tried to stop us on the median and tell us about his experience with Jesus. Tonight, as he quickly explained, Jesus had given him a woman, a giant smile adorning his unshaven, scruffy-haired, nearly toothless face.

“Praise Jesus,” he said as he kept walking southward into the CBD.

Just about five days earlier, the Sunday morning before we celebrated our Independence Day, I had the windows open in my apartment. Around 10:30 a.m. Jesus-music started to fill the innards of my living space and gave momentary pause to my two cats. Really, really loud Jesus music. At first it was beautiful. I kept thinking I need to get dressed and run over to Washington Park and hear this choir. They were something else. Then it didn’t stop. And I realized it wasn’t live. They had a Jesus-deejay spinning the music, interspersed with God-speak. Really, really loud preaching.

When I finally stepped outside a couple hours later the sight across the park was deeply disturbing. There in the gazebo a loudspeaker was set up, microphone, mixer, looked like a CD player, maybe a turntable. And this large woman was standing in the gazebo, dressed in a pink and white dress, and was yelling Bible verses and espousing on the virtues contained therein at ear-piercing (maybe ear-exploding and bleeding – it was so loud) levels to people standing about 15 feet away.

What got them to stand there? Hot dogs. They were standing there in a long line to get hot dogs. Meanwhile, this woman and others throughout the day blared Jesus-talk at these people.

“If the drugs had you, now you have Jesus,” one said.

“If you were addicted to drugs and alcohol, now you can be addicted to Jesus,” screeched another.

Eat our dogs, get God and be thankful and respectful of those that brought you over to get a wiener.

It made me sick – way beyond the thought of eating a ground-up pig tail ‘n ear ‘n lip seasoned with pepper and spice. What’s worse – and being a journalist I like to check these things out first, but I think I can safely assume – they weren’t allowed to be there. They didn’t get a permit to shout at these people in these denigrating tones. They didn’t get a permit to yelp into my apartment windows. And they didn’t leave until nearly 6 p.m.

The Drop-Inn Center is just a half-block away and serves three square meals a day for free. What I want to know is why hot dogs for free, coupled with insulting rants, when free, rant-free meals are served nearby? I understand that the Drop-Inn folks get a little puzzled when every so often a van will pull up outside their facility and hand out bags of food. What’s different? Inside those bags of food are Bible verses.

All this commotion and sound pollution got me thinking. I wonder why no one complains just about the sheer intensity of the sound shooting out of the park? Is it status quo in a neighborhood full of people who already feel so abandoned and helpless and pushed aside that they think another cry from Over-the-Rhine would go unheeded? Or is it wrong to question religious leaders? Or were those dogs some Hebrew Nationals, that plump when you cook ’em, and served with the freshest relish ever that the folks in line actually look forward to Hot Dog Days?

I have to admit I didn’t walk over – I was in a hurry to get somewhere – but spoke to a person who has lived in the neighborhood for nearly a decade. This happens fairly regularly. We’ve had at least two Hot Dog Days in June. Am I nearly the only one wondering what the heck is going on? And cares?

Author: Joe Wessels

Joe Wessels is a freelance journalist and photographer. Wessels covers local news events for Thomson Reuters news service and features for About.com's Cincinnati Guide site, plus is the executive director of hyperlocal news site, iRhine.com. He wrote for The Cincinnati Post, covering Cincinnati City Hall and Hamilton County government and wrote a weekly political column, which continued weekly at Cincinnati CityBeat. Previously, he was a reporter for the Cincinnati Business Courier and writes or has written for several publications in Cincinnati and around the country including The Cincinnati Enquirer, Las Vegas Review-Journal, Cincinnati Magazine, Cincy Magazine and the Sacramento News & Review. He is a native of Colerain Township, one of Cincinnati's western suburbs, and now lives in Over-the-Rhine near downtown Cincinnati. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology and a journalism writing certificate from the University of Cincinnati. He also graduated from Colerain High School, is an avid photographer, news junkie and was once a roller rink disc jockey, and sometimes rides a scooter around town.

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