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Chuck the Channel

by Douglas Page2012 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Some people go to India or drop acid to find God. I was going to meet God along Highway 78 in Oceanside on a Thursday night in November.

A psychic woman I once knew named Margie took me one time to meet a channel. The excursion was an attempt to salvage the relationship by exposing me to the world of non-alcoholic spirits, with which she was familiar and I was not. I'm not just a paranormal novice. It's worse. I'm a skeptic. I consider channeling to be part of the same nonsense as astrology, Atlantis, and alien abductions. The closest I've ever come to an experience with a spirit or a ghost is in the house where I currently live, where at 11:11 pm every night the water in the toilet at the top of the stairs across from the master bedroom runs for exactly 11 seconds. I don't know how to explain it. I assume it's a plumbing anomaly of some kind, but that starts to be a stretch when you notice the time adjusts for daylight savings twice a year. This visit to a channel, of course, wasn't to Channel 7 or one of the Channel Islands. It was to a guy named Chuck, who twice a month channeled some strange entity in a rented room east of Oceanside on Highway 78 in north San Diego County. Channels, my friend Margie explained, are somehow able to allow a spirit to control their body and speak through them. Channels are different than mediums, she said. Mediums merely listen to and relay messages from spirits. I nodded as though I understood. She was a good sport to take me. We'd known each other since junior high school and been hugging and kissing buddies off and on ever since. Mostly off. The current connection started when we found each other at a high school reunion. We hadn't seen each other in many years. Neither of us was married or involved at the time, so I brought her home. She stayed three months. Margie had always claimed to be a psychic, even when we were kids. Not the ouija board kind. Shed had several instances that

Page 2 had no other explanation. Like, one time when she was a little girl she woke her parents in the middle of the night to tell them her older brother had been hurt and was in trouble. About an hour later, the police called and said her brother had been in an auto accident and had been taken to a local hospital. There were other incidents of a similar nature. Later, she'd even been a channel herself, only her channeling had been unscheduled and resulted in a bad outcome. It got her locked up in the county psych ward for several weeks. Her channeling didn't happen in front of a ticket-holding disciples, it happened involuntarily in a restaurant, in front of her husband and one of her brothers. Suddenly, she was told later, she got a strange look on her face and began speaking frantically in a language no one understood. She didn't remember much of what happened but whatever it was it did not alarm her. She laughed it off. But, it alarmed the family. The family was spooked and began to watch her closely. When it happened again her husband had her committed to a psychiatric hospital. She was surprised spouses had that kind of power in California - that they can have you committed to a locked down psych ward, merely because they were startled by a couple of involuntary channeling incidents. She remained locked up under psychiatric scrutiny for over two months, maintaining the entire time that she was not even the slightest bit insane. She was there so long she began to wonder if she would ever get out. One morning while playing ping-pong with an orderly she happened to ask him how people ever manage to get released. He shrugged and said "You have to agree with them." So she did. She agreed with the shrinks, that she may have been a little disturbed there for a while but she thought she was better now. Soon after that they let her go. Chuck arrived in Oceanside that night in an eight-year old white Dodge Caravan. In an attempt to make the event as nonthreatening for me as she could, Margie said Chuck, whose last name was Little, was just a normal guy, who sold insurance in Anaheim and coached his kid's soccer team. Except, on alternate Thursdays Chuck happened to rent a store-front in a small strip mall fronting Highway 78 and claimed to channel a spirit named Yahweh. The name Yahweh was familiar. I'm no spiritual scholar, but I was made to attend church in my youth. I even had a conversion experience once. When I was 17 I was saved - born again in the fundamental protestant sense. The fit was too tight on me.

Page 3 Eventually, skepticism caused it to chafe and by the time I was out of the military and in college most all that Bronze-Age dogma had worn off, eroded by the wear of its own hypocrisy. I became agnostic. I do remember, however, the unspeakable Hebrew name for God is written with consonants only, YHWH, the English pronunciation of which is "Yahweh", although Jehovah's Witnesses insist, according to Wikipedia, that YHWH is pronounced "Jehovah". This made the meeting with Chuck the Channel all that more interesting. Some people go to India or drop acid to find God. I was going to meet God along Highway 78 in Oceanside on a Thursday night in November. God, aka Chuck Little aka Chuck the Channel, pulled up to a parking spot held for him in front of the building by two faded orange traffic cones, bounced out laughing the salesman's chuckle, mingled around for a while holding a bottle of AriZona Tea, talking about traffic on the 405 and Orange County real estate prices. Chuck was younger than me, in his early 40s I'd guess, but with thinning hair. He was dressed like an inland surfer in sneakers, khaki slacks, and a USC hoodie. The chat lasted only a few minutes, then Chuck and the 30 or 40 seekers, psychics, and slightly insane who had come to Oceanside to meet God themselves made their way inside the second door from the east end. The little building was mostly dark and featureless, its windows opaque like a tavern, the sort of bleak, single story structures that exist on the outskirts of most towns, out by the auto-body shops and neon massage parlors. Tickets to attend the evening with Chuck the Channel were $35 each for a 45 minute general session. A plain, slightly heavy young woman at a folding table already set up inside the door collected money in a metal cash box. "Visa/MC. Please, No Checks!" was painted on the front of the box in white block letters. Private one-on-one time with Chuck could be booked after the general assembly for $65 for 15 minutes. We bought two general admissions and a single one-on-one. If 30 people paid $35 each, that was over $1000. I was beginning to understand why Chuck was smiling. Chuck the Channel made his way to the front of the room and sat down on some cushions piled in a peacock chair positioned in the middle of a little platform, like a wicker musnud. He put his tea bottle on the floor beside the throne, a signal for everyone to take their seats. Five or six rows of metal folding chairs

Page 4 faced the platform. The stark fluorescent ceiling lights did not dim. Margie said she preferred to sit up front. In fact, she liked to lie on the floor in front of the front row, more or less at God's feet. "The metal chairs after a while hurt my back," she said. She offered to take me to the front with her. "Oh no, you go ahead. I'll be back here, by the door. I was taken to revival meetings as a child in the Midwest and I want a way to get out in a hurry, just in case," I replied. She laughed and patted my knee, and sat with me in the back row, near the ticket table in the corner by the door. After the room quiesced, Chuck took a deep breath, closed his eyes, exhaled slowly, letting Chuck drift away into the Oceanside ether. Then he lowered his head so his chin rested on his chest, as though he had suddenly deflated himself. He remained that way for a minute or so, then, expanding again, raised his head and, one by one, made eye contact with everyone in the room, starting in the front. When the eyes finally reached me, they did not seem to twinkle like Chuck's insurance apertures. These eyes did not joke about the Dodgers, Ducks, or Disneyland. These eyes were optic fists - the stern stare of a father who's just gotten a call from the local police about a mooning incident outside the Roxy Theater. Then he spoke in fluent but unfamiliar English. I couldn't follow any of what he said. The cadence was odd, but I tried to take mental notes as fast as I could. Maybe meaning would come to me later. "Dimensional scheme of energies." "Non-luminous shadow sun." "Blossoms of peace." "Zero point energy." "Eternal being." "Dimensional introspection." To be charitable, the session had no effect on my skepticism, other than to validate it. It was all just a bunch of hooey. I would have been more impressed if he channeled Bronko Nagurski or Mickey Mantle. I don't know how all those ideas connect or if they connect at all. If this was Yahweh, aka God, then why not offer some clue about where our science is wrong or where in the galaxy to look for alien life forms. If aliens have been here, where did they come from, how do they manage spaceflight, how long did it take them to get here, how did they find us, and what do they want? I'd like to know if they die, how

Page 5 they survived their nuclear adolescence, or at least how they beat herpes, tooth decay, and Republican obstructionist politics. Then, suddenly, it was over. Yahweh stopped speaking, exhaled, and lowered his head. Chuck woke up, shook as though waking from a slightly disturbing dream, then departed to his left with the tea bottle, without words or fanfare, and disappeared into an adjoining room. The door closed behind him. No one said anything. No expressions of awe. No tears. No one said, "Dude, that was God. Way cool." I don't think any of them understood what they heard any more than I did. We were the first in for the one-on-one session, which was actually a two-on-one. Margie invited me to accompany her, probably because she didn't trust me to go in there with him by myself. Chuck motioned us into the back office. All three of us sat in a triangle on more cold metal chairs facing each other. Chuck said hello, then closed his eyes and lowered his head again. When Yahweh was ready Margie went first with a question that had something to do with relationships, inspired no doubt by her exasperation with living with an ignorant skeptic. His answer was no more clear nor made any more sense to me than his earlier pitch out in the big room. Yahweh then turned to me. A number of questions had occurred to me while waiting - How much do you charge for stock tips? How do you pick who to channel through? Who else do you channel through? Did they have to be willing? Are they even aware they're being channeled through? Do you ever channel through pets? Did you ever channel through a girl named Paula in the ninth grade? But those questions betrayed my skepticism and I didn't want to provoke a fistfight with God. Later, I thought of other questions I wished I'd asked, like was the universe was open or closed or where the dark matter was hidden or what happens when we die. But at the time all I could think of when he looked at me was where did he go and what did he do when he wasn't channeling through Chuck on Thursdays. My thinking was, if this really was Yahweh, aka God, then he must have a lot more to say then what he could transmit for a few minutes every other Thursday night. Margie sighed, folded her hands and stared into her lap, as though her worst fears for the evening were materializing. Yahweh

Page 6 looked at me with those eyes that weren't Chuck's and attempted to enlighten me. This required the service of a small whiteboard that he held, on which he drew a number of lines with a blue grease pen to illustrate some point elusive to the mortal mind of a skeptic. It was just hooey in technicolor. All the while he spoke in that insular cadence that was as enchanting as it was puzzling. It was like listening to a Texan explain string theory. I remember thinking while he was speaking that this was all a joke, maybe Candid Camera, that this wasn't Yahweh at all, it was Gene Scott without the pith helmet. Soon our time was up. $65 got you less than 20 minutes. No handouts. I never went back. Margie moved out before the Super Bowl and I didn't see her until the next reunion, where we hugged sweetly and that was that. I still don't pray and I still don't know what makes the toilet run at 11:11 every night.

dp 05/2012 ###