Barry Smith: Irrelativity
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO, Colorado
The exodus and resurrection of Jesus
“Hi, I’m Jesus,” I said to the people on the couch. “Nice to meet you.”
And I meant it.
Here’s why …
It’s 1989, England. I’m 23, living in a squat in London; broke, high and unwashed. It’s awesome. In the summer my squat-mates and I head to the Glastonbury Festival to camp out, see music (The Pixies!) and engage in all manner of debauchery. We have a nice little campsite on the hill, surround by about 8,000 other campers. Friends join our camp. Friends of friends join our camp. Eventually our camp consists mostly of people I’ve yet to meet.
On the last night of the festival, I fall asleep by the campfire. Some of these new people see me sleeping and begin joking that I look like Jesus. This is probably because I’m 23 and have hair.
Dreads, in fact. And, because, you know, I embody the essence of The Almighty.
The next morning I wake up to, “Good morning, Jesus!” They continue to call me this, one of those in-jokes that develops in such close quarters. The next day some of these folks are heading up to Wales. I tag along. Why not? I’m 23, living a squat ” it’s not like I have to clear my schedule.
So, I pile into a van with people who are all jokingly calling me “Jesus.” I arrive in Wales and am introduced as “Jesus.” These people introduce me to new people. As “Jesus.” By now my degrees of separation are such that the people doing the introductions don’t even know the origin of my never-meant-to-be nickname. They just think I’m some guy from California who calls himself Jesus … maybe even thinks he IS Jesus.
A bunch of us go to live on a farm for a few weeks to pick fruit. More new people, more Jesus. I’m surrounded by people who don’t know me as Barry. By now I’M even introducing myself as Jesus. Why confuse people, right? We pick strawberries for a while, earn some money, head back to Wales. Jesus has returned.
A month has passed since the end of the festival, and back in the squat my friends are curious as to what I’ve gotten up to. Remember, this is pre-e-mail, pre-cell phone ” there’s no phone in our squat. When you’re gone, you’re gone. Like me. On a random Tuesday afternoon my friend Steve stands up in the squat kitchen and announces that he’s going find out where I am and what I’m doing, and off he heads around the corner to the big red British phone booth.
Steve calls his friend Dave, who knows some of my new friends in Wales. As it happens, Dave was just visiting Wales, and while there he heard rumors of some dude from California who thought he was Jesus.
Neither Dave nor my squat friends were present at my campfire baptism moment, so they don’t know the nickname story. But it’s easy to piece together that this deluded “Jesus” guy they’re talking about is me, Barry.
Obviously Steve is VERY excited to return to the squat with this news.
This next part is hard to believe, but it happened just like this ” you’ll have to trust me.
What Steve doesn’t know is that early that very morning I’d started hitchhiking back to the squat. I get a lift to the edge of London and tube my way back to Kilburn Station, which is right around the corner from our squat. I exit the tube station JUST AS STEVE WALKS PAST ME TO THE PHONE BOOTH!
I didn’t see him. We had to have missed each other by mere seconds. I knock on the squat door and my friends open it to find … me! They’re freaked out. They explain what just happened. I’m freaked out. Someone rolls a spliff. It helps.
Five minutes later Steve comes bounding through the door, giddy with his news ” Barry has totally lost it! He’s in Wales and thinks he’s Jesus! Rejoice!
The only thing is ” there’s Barry, sitting at the kitchen table.
Steve is jaw-dropped frozen for a full 60 seconds, snapping out of it only when the spliff comes around to him.
Back in the squat, I’m no longer Jesus. They already have a nickname for me ” Spazz ” not necessarily an improvement, but a lot less pressure than being Jesus.
“Hi, I’m Spazz,” I say to people I meet. “Nice to meet you.”
And I mean it.
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