Dunk

If You Feel**
(A description of a spontaneous collaboration.) *

When an author exposes his very substance without deliberately trying to exert an influence, the repercussions
can be as if he had launched into a political argument: he provides an example, not an impulse. And
the intellectual currents are often highly diverse, highly contradictory. I gladly admit that I prefer
drawing a map to playing the role of a signpost.

--- Ernst JŁnger

You donít need a violin to know which way the wind blows.

--- Jim Younger


Dunk, a collaborative performance / installation by Hills Snyder and Rev. Ethan Acres, Primera Iglesia
Buatista Mexicana, July 2001:

Spring of 2001, I was invited to be a part of the annual exhibition, Art in the Hood. Participating artists
would each get an area to work with in the former Primera Iglesia Buatista Mexicana. A meeting was set to work
out the logistics of the space. I wasnít able to attend, but everyone who did told me my work was
ďalready there.Ē I went down the following weekend, and when I saw the stained-plexiglas window rising
behind the pulpit, I understood what they meant. The looming red cross, thirteen feet high, stood in luscious
contrast to the sky-blue field behind. I was immediately attracted, as I love Plexiglas. Like LSD,
Mott the Hoople and quantum physics, itís so Twentieth Century. No other material is so preternaturally
pretty, and like the USA, itís tainted by industry and naÔve. Each of my projects is collaboration with some
pre-existing situation, but this was possibly something new --- to work with the anonymous artist who had
made the window in a kind of unknowing synchronicity. But then I noticed that the cross was located above a
baptistery and thought immediately of Reverend Ethan Acres, a fourth generation minister/performance artist
who happened to be living in San Antonio for awhile. I asked him if heíd like to participate in a project called
Dunk
Ė-- could he baptize me and deliver a sermon of his own devising on the twin themes
of total immersion and basketball? He readily agreed. So now it would be the three of us. Ethan and I
each went about making some props. He outfitted himself with a new robe, kind of a Roman referee get-up,
complete with a ministerís stole sporting twin round-ball and smiley face insignias. My Converse high
tops and yellow tank top and shorts combo would pass as a basketball uniform. The see-through top
section of the baptismal tank was bordered with primary colored Plexiglas images of teacups. These had
been borrowed from a previous piece in which multiple flat cutouts combined in a stack to create one
cup, a bit like a conjugate hologram in reverse. Ethan covered a small table with a green altar drape,
which was emblazoned with a yellow cross on the front. Red, yellow and blue candles spaced evenly on
top. He also cut a circle out of a basketball. This would serve as the baptismal chalice. While gathering
china teacups for the performance, I found a tacky, but choice, chrome ashtray to serve as a stand for the
lobotomized ball. I also placed five twelve-inch square Saltillo tiles in a semi-circle around the altar.
These were marked with the letters H Ė O Ė R Ė S Ė E, correspondent to five positions around
the basket in the shoot around game of the same name. Two brightly lit EXIT signs, surmounting the
doors into the vestibule, served as visual ballast for the yellow and black ďsmiley-crossesĒ mounted
above them. The night of our event came and I floated the sixty-five teacups in the water that filled
the baptistery. Then the Reverend and I walked from Blue Star to the church, with a mixture of processional
solemnity and mirthful good humor. We made our way in through a gathering crowd of about a hundred people.
Ethan lit a white candle, handed it to me and bowed in prayer while I ceremonially lit the altar candles before
heading up to wade in and wait. On the way to the water I flipped a switch to turn on an instrumental loop of
Tupacís I Wonder If Heaven Got a Ghetto --- a very sexy soundtrack for the sermon. While Ethan preached,
I stood in the water and began to non-shalantly play HORSE with the teacups. It took me more shots than Iíd
like to mention to hit the H, but once I got that behind me, I grew more confident and moved into more
practiced looking hooks and fades. Each time a cup would hit one of those inch thick Saltillos it would shatter,
sending shards skittering across the floor. The first time this happened the crowd backed up en masse,
like a wave.

* Iím not sure whether it wil be less or more spontaneous, but Ethan has graciously agreed to preside and
entertain at my funeral and wake.

--- Hills Snyder  

The words that follow are Ethanís sermon. Just imagine it served up Southern Style, rapped and shouted, with
strutting and a large measure of feeling, punctuated by the sounds of china breaking:

Swallow your pride; let Godís light shine in. Heíll open your heart, and cleanse you from sin. PRAISE GOD!

I said, Swallow your fear, stop towing the line, come in to Loveís
Pool. UMMMM, the waterís just fine.

PRAISE GOD!

Glorious, sweet sweet WATER...UMMMMMM, that cold, cold water. Yes, sir, my friends and neighbors, there is
nothing on this earth like   getting into water that is soooo fine, so cool, so refreshing...and even now, our
Brother, Mr. Hills Snyder, is entering that cool, cool water up there that he has dreamed about for some
time...the cool, cool water that he has longed for so VERY long...the cool, cool water that we all long
for, beloved, but, as you know, we all have to get into the water in our own way...in our own time.

My son, he just likes to dive right in, sending all of the little drops sparkling into the sky like so many diamonds.
My wife, on the other hand, she likes to lower herself in real slow like, making all kinds of faces as she goes.
But my friends, Iím not ready to get into the water, Iím not ready to join Hills yet. You see, I like to tease
myself a little bit...I like to get myself really hot before I get into the water, I said, I like to be REALLY hot
before I get into the water...and Iím starting to feel hot...I said, Iím starting to feel hot...there is a fever
starting to burn in my head, a fever starting to burn in my head, and it just wonít let go...I said, it wonít
let go...Itís like I can feel little tongues of flame licking at my legs, licking at my hands...OHHHHHHH,
I can feel it...it is like a flame. Revelation 1:14, ďHis head and his hairs were white like wool, as white
as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire.Ē Hebrews 12:29, ďFor our God is a consuming fire.Ē 1st
Corinthians 3:13, ďEvery manís work shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall be the trial of every
manís work.Ē IT IS THE POWER...HOLY GHOST POWER...THE PRESENCE OF GOD, and I can feel it,
I can feel it, I can feel it here tonight...I said I can feel it here tonight...the Presence of the Holy Spirit...
the presence of...LOVE. We are here, my friends, not to speak of tribulation or misappropriation, inflation,
or other nations, my friends, no, we stand here tonight for celebration, revelation...salvation.

PRAISE GOD!  We are here for one man, Hills Snyder, and we are here to help him find Grace.   Now Grace,
my friends, well, Iím not talking about that grace you say at the dinner table every night, and I Ďm not talking
about the Grace who works down at the Hidey-Ho, no sir, Iím talking about Grace, the miracle.  Thatís right
you heard me, a miracle.  Iím sure many of you are thinking to your selves, yeah, right, a miracle...whoís
this guy kidding.... I donít see no miracles. But, my friends, if you have walked around in the galleries
tonight, you HAVE seen miracles...you have been a witness to Grace.  For what is grace, my brothers and
sisters, but a physical manifestation of the divine, right here on earth...the unknown made knowable, the
unseen made visible...that is what art is, my beloved, an act of creation, a miracle, small in a cosmic sense,
very true, but a miracle nonetheless. Now, Hills, he is no stranger to miracles...he has dedicated his life to
making the unknown knowable, the unseen,  visible.  But there are times in our lives when we have to
reaffirm our union with Creation, when we have to pull over and ask for directions, when we have to throw
away all the trinkets and baubles holding us back, all of the rules that human society tells us we MUST follow,
and instead, find our way back to that path on which we started...the path of our love.  Through Grace,
we can become more that we ever were, or could ever hope to be, through grace, we can break the bonds that
hold us from our goal...the divine.

Case in point, my brothers in sisters...My grandfather...Joe Longshore...on this day, July 6th, fourteen
years ago, I stood beside his bed in a nursing home In Ft. Payne Alabama, and held his hand as he slipped
away.  Up until a year before his death, my friends, I hated my Grandfather. He was an angry, spiteful,
racist, homophobic old man. I remember sitting one day with him, about six weeks after he had a stroke,
when this young preacher, fresh from seminary, came to visit my papaw. The preacher was all duded up in a
brand new Members Only jacket, and perfect Timberlands, and he walked into the house beaming with good
Christian charity. Well, Joe was, up until the young seminarianís arrival, having one of his happier afternoons,
lost as he was in the darkest of jungle love as he watched beautiful Nubian Sisters wiggle and shake
aboard the Soul Train that always rolled into Joeís Saturday afternoons just after Kung Fu Theater. It
was always difficult to bear watching Joe Longshore during Don Corneliusís Fantastic Parade of Flesh and
Rhythm, for Joe became completely oblivious to his body, and the undulations rolling across the screen
were sloppily mirrored in the old manís frantic rocking back and forth, to and fro. However, to my and
Joeís dismay, and very soon to that young pastorís, the Soul Train would soon find itself derailed -
for the first thing that that Preacher did as he walked into the little house was to cross the lime-green
linoleum floor and turn off the television.    

Now, from my perch, I could see the flames begin to burn in Joeís eyes and as the Preacher began to talk
to Joe, the seconds becoming minutes, minutes becoming hours, those flames grew into an inferno. I sunk
deeper and deeper into my chair, fearful about what might slide from my papís tobacco stained lips. And
yet,when the preacher finally got up and crossed the room, kneeling beside Joeís chair, getting into
that posture that every good Christian boy can tell you means its time to pray, I breathed a sigh of relief.
I felt that the emergency was over, and that very soon, calm would once again settle over this corner of
Willís Valley. I could even see, as the reverendís prayer rose and fell, that my grandfatherís shaking was easing,
and that, why, yes indeedy, it looked like all the demons were finally getting their pink slips, preparing to go
out and find other more appealing work. But then, all hell broke loose. My Grandfather hadnít walked in a long
time at this point, at least not on his own, but he still kept beside his chair a heavy wooden cane with a silver
handle shaped like a bust of legendary Coach Bear Bryant. It always lay there, halfway under his chair like
some sleeping serpent. Now, friends, once the Preacher said ďamen,Ē he leaned over, took my grandfatherís
head in his two hands, pulled him close and said, ďJoe, please know how much I love you.Ē And, as pretty as
you please he planted a kiss squarely on Joeís cheek. I have described that cane as a serpent, and now I am
here to tell you, gentle listeners, that no sooner had that preacherís lips wetly unstuck themselves from
the crusty skin of old man Longshoreís right cheek, than that cane whipped up like some angry viper, itsí Bear
Bryant head opening a wide gash across the brow of a young man who only moments before was expressing
nothing more than charity and love. Joe fell from his chair on top of the now bloody man of god, screaming at
the top of his lungs, ď you fucking faggot...you mother fucking faggot, Iíll send you to hell, fudge packer, to
hell, do you hear me!Ē But by the grace of God that poor servant of the Lord managed to untangle himself from
the dead weight of the screaming hellbeast formerly known as one J. Longshore, and crawled out the screen
door into the front yard. He didnít even wait for the ambulance I called just as soon as I was able to unglue
myself from the gawking stupor that had fallen over me like a shroud.  My last glimpse of the pastor was
his ruined face, glistening with the crimson tide flowing from his forehead, staring angrily at me through the
glass of his GMC Pacer, and then he was gone, in a cloud of dust and gravel. Never to return.  

Joe.

Oh, how I hated him. I just couldnít understand how we could be related. I hated his comments, I hated his little
smirksÖI hated his racism. (How could he say those things about my friend Sonya Davenport, and what would he
say if he knew that Sonya and I spent a whole twenty minutes kissing in the barn one time?) And I hated how
he talked about Uncle Sharon, who lived in Cincinnati, and ran a little cafe filled with poets and those artsy fartsy
types. I thought that there was nothing redeeming about this man. I mean, how could you love a man, who
loved nothing himself. How could you love a man who thought Archie Bunker wasnít a parody, but a kindred
spirit. But beloved, things change...and I finally came to find love for Joe Longshore... and it was because I was
there when Joe first witnessed grace. I was taking care of him one afternoon, and we were watching basketball
on Joeís battered old RCA. Well, he was watching. I didnít really care much for sports, so I was reading in a chair,
strategically placed out of his line of sight. I would occasionally make some comment reaffirming my interest in
the game.  You see, Joe hadnít walked in three months following the stroke, and now was a prisoner of his chair,
the TV his only window out into the world... his acts of violence now limited to the endless number of coffee
mugs he hurled at me, or my grandmother, the dog, or the picture of Jesus on the wall, when he was REALLY
hot.  There I was reading, lost in my own little world, when Joe let out a mighty yell.  I looked up, and my jaw fell
into my lap, my brothers and sisters, for there was Joe, standing up out of his chair, standing as If he had never had
the stroke...pointing at the TV, and saying to me, ďson, did you see THAT!  DID YOU SEE HIM FLY THROUGH THE AIR!
GAWD, HE AINíT HUMAN...Ē I looked at the TV, and there I saw Joeís miracle.

And this, my friends, is a miracle that most of you are familiar with, a
miracle wrapped up in flesh and bone, muscle and sinew...a man.  A man
destined for greatness...
   
--- Six-time NBA champion and Finals MVP (1991-93, '96-98)
--- Five-time NBA MVP (1987-88, '90-91, '91-92, '95-96, '97-98)
--- Ten times on All-NBA First Team (1986-87 to '92-93, '95-96 to '97-98)
--- Eleven-time NBA All-Star (1985, '87-93, '96-98, missed '86 due to injury)
--- Ten-time NBA scoring champion (1986-87 to '92-93, '95-96 to '97-98)
--- His records include: most points, playoff game (63, '86); highest scoring
     average,  Finals (41.0, '93)
--- Named Defensive Player of the Year (1987-88); Rookie of the Year (1984-    
     85)
--- Ranks fourth in career points, regular season; first in career points,
     playoffs
--- Ranks first in career scoring average, regular season and playoffs

But all these things mean nothing to me, my Brothers and Sisters, for the greatest thing I ever saw Michael
Jordan do, was get my Grandfather Joe out of his chair, and give him back his life. From that day forward, until
my grandfather died two years later, Joe was a different man, and basketball, primarily Michael Jordan, became
his passion. I donít remember any more hate coming from that man. I donít remember any more broken cups,
but I remember completely the smile on Joeís face in 1987 when He and I boarded a Greyhound for Chicago to
see Jordan play...Grace had filled him up to the brink, washed away all that he was before, and made Him a
new and better man.

Beloved, today, Hills has come to be baptized...Recently, on a trip to the beautiful city of Amsterdam, Hills read
The Moorís Last Sigh by Salman Rushdie, and one particular line from the book struck him deeply. It describes
love as ďthe blending of spirits, as mťlange, as the triumph of the impure.Ē  I can think of no more eloquent
way to describe baptism, for my Brothers and Sisters, I believe that we are reborn through baptism, but not
because all that we were has been washed away, clean, perfect, but because, through grace, all the trappings
of life are diluted, remixed into something new, something that didnít exist before, something much tastier
than the sum of its ingredients. God is the Great Mixologist... through him, we can take lifeís salt that stings
us (exorcism of salt), the oil that binds us (exorcism of oil), and the flame that consumes us (exorcism of flame)
and mix it all together...and there, in that mix, what do we find, water from the river Jordan...the water from
which we may crawl spiritual infants into a bright, glorious new day. Hills will walk away today a starter
on Godís team...rededicated to the Game, one of Creationís Great MVPs.  And all he had to do was
come here today, and toss away all of the little things, and give himself back to the Dream.    

(Reverend enters baptistery)  

Joe Longshore found grace in Michael Jordan. Hills Snyder now finds Grace in the River Jordan.    

(Reverend pours salt water and oil from basketball into baptismal water)

(Reverend places a hand on Hillsí head)     

God, Iím coming down the court, oh Lord, and Hills is right here with me, Iím taking him past all the demons
that stand as His opponents, oh God, Iím bringing Him to your Basket, oh God, Demons of Doubt, you cannot
foul me, Demons of Indecision, I renounce you with my Hook shot, We are in the air, oh God, and itís just
me and Hills, nothing else matters, time is standing still...and there is your basket, oh Divine, there is our
goal...there is love.
   

(Hills is pushed under the water)    

Swoosh!

Two points for God!

(Hills and Ethan walk out of the baptistery. Standing before the  congregation, Ethan holds Hillsí hand up,
the victor, and blesses the onlookers.)  

 
EXIT

 

**If You Feel
(Gary Blackman/Marty Balin)

If you feel like china breaking
If you feel like laughing
Break china laughing
Break china laughing, laughing, laughing

If you feel like leaves falling
If you feel like smiling
Fall leaves smiling
Fall leaves smiling, smiling, smiling

If you feel like love making
If you feel like flying
Make love flying
Make love flying, flying, flying

Got down
Not the first time you know
Got down
Got up to go

 



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