Day 222

Pasadena, CA

I’m feeling worse each morning from the cold, but I soon become functional. Joan has loaned me her copy of Into Thin Air, which I greedily consume in each spare moment.

In the afternoon I set out on a bike ride. I go downtown and stop at the Gospel Recordings headquarters, where Dan shows me around and introduces me to people. The thing that strikes me most about the group is their eccentricity and a social awkwardness that exceeds even my own. Our conversations are short and stunted. When I come up with a subject to talk about they are visibly relieved. Even the director ends our interview at my cue. Some of these folks probably don’t have to interact with the outside world too much in their work, but others certainly do. I wonder if they are more at ease around other people, or if their faith pushes them forward regardless of their discomfort.

The place keeps up with the times, using digital editing software, and lots of gear for altering voices and cleaning up recordings. Mass duplication of tapes is still pretty much how I imagined, with copies made in a bank of tape decks 11 at a time. Originals are kept in a fire and quake resistant vault. There are accountants, sound engineers, various administrators, and a few highly introverted electronics engineers. One of the products they make is a hand-powered tape player. They count the world’s languages at about 8800, of which they have some sort of recording in 5500. I ask but get no clear answer what a typical recording contains. Clearly it’s not usually straight scripture readings. They do a sort of marketing, taking various cultural variables into account to select the most effective content for a particular language. The same process that landed me in a Christian rock and Disney accompanied sermon. This “dressing up” of their message just makes me more skeptical that it will lead to a genuine spiritual experience, but perhaps for many it does.

The only thing that attracts me to LA are the mountains thrusting up to north and east. The rest of it looks like trashed cityscape to me.

Jon and Clair tell me they doubt they’ll make our planned camping trip this weekend due to their busy schedule and the kids’ state of health. I’ve made plans to see Jeanette again Thursday night. I wonder if I might just leave then, but I don’t mention it to anyone. No one asks about my departure.

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