The Street Preacher takes to the corner of Pacific and Cooper in Downtown Santa Cruz shortly before noon on most days. I suspect he’s chosen this spot, because the acoustics on the single short block of Cooper Street are amazing. As he bellows, his words bounce off the tall stone buildings and swell with significance. He looks like an aged biker with his grey beard and a bandana covering his head. He smells like dust and sacrament He holds his bible aloft in one hand, while the other skinny arm stretches skyward. His message is a mix of ancient texts and anti-establishment psychobabble. Some days its hard to tell where the reading ends and the sermon begins.
He’s quite mad, of course, but still, I like to lean against the pole just outside Pacific Wave and listen to him. He sounds as impassioned as John The Baptist and as angry as crazy as Charles Manson. The passages he shouts down the block are most often the complicated metaphors of obscure prophets. Some days I want to cross the street and ask him gently to read a Psalm, or one of Solomon’s love poems. I want to make him understand that fire and brimstone won't work here, in this time, in this place. But maybe he knows more than I. Maybe his secret visions are to terrifying to not be shared. Perhaps he really is the lone sane voice, crying out against evil.
I smoke my cigarette, leaning against the pole while a string of verses from Malachi reverberate from the wall behind me. I watch The Street Preacher because he makes me think. Not because I like what he says.