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Jason Toews and fifi (the band)

The Springfield Mystery Spot!

I was raised to be rational, encouraged to dissect and debunk the mysterious.

Wait. Let me re-phrase that.

I was raised to think of myself as rational, encouraged to dissect and debunk the mysterious beliefs held by other people.

Jehovah’s Witnesses have this self-image which positions them as the lone scholars in a benighted world enslaved by con artists and voodoo priests. Convenient, that. As a Witness, therefore, I expended a fair amount of energy denouncing and deconstructing shaky doctrines such as the trinity, the rapture, purgatory, hellfire… and also the celebration of birthdays. (FACT: Only two birthday parties are recorded in the Bible. FACT: Both were celebrated by pagans. FACT: Both ended with the martyring of a true believer. CONCLUSION: No Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots on June 22 for Jason.)

This devotion to “rational thinking” led to a suspicion that anything mysterious or currently unexplained was likely the work of Satan himself. To cite just one example: For many years, my dad believed that popular magician Doug Henning was in league with Beelzebub. How else could he cut that woman in half and then restore her, with nary a scratch? Clearly, he reasoned, this could only be possible with the assistance of The Dark Lord.

In my teen years, it dawned on me that Witnesses had their own set of “mysterious” doctrines, beliefs which seemed just as rickety as those we spent our time debunking. These included the beliefs that only 144,000 lucky folks are going to heaven, the belief that the earth was created 7,000 years ago, and the belief that the “Disco Remix” of the Doobie Brothers “What a Fool Believes” is based on ancient African voodoo music and will unleash a torrent of unbridled homosexual lust in the unwary listener.

My next shocking discovery was that the insupportable, illogical, purely speculative doctrines taught by my own parents – unlike the similarly preposterous doctrines taught by our Catholic neighbors – were not open to debate. My seemingly airtight, point-by-point case arguing that a 4/4 disco beat could not be proven to increase homosexual desire fell on deaf ears, and this was the beginning of my downfall.

Much later, I wrote a 14-page letter to the “body of elders” in my local congregation, outlining my questions. Why do we insist that certain Biblical numbers are symbolic, while insisting that other Biblical numbers are not? Why do we expel members for celebrating Christmas, while cases of child and wife abuse often go unpunished? And what’s wrong with a little disco music every now and then, as long as I guard against the attendant homosexual lust? I’m not talking about pornographic filth like “YMCA” or “Le Freak” here, but perhaps “On The Radio” by Donna Summer, as long as chaperones are present?

The elders, fearing they might be swayed by my seductive, Satan-inspired logic, refused to read my letter. In thrall to a romantic idealism, I felt I had no choice but to “disassociate” myself, which, in Witness terms, is a sort of self-imposed exile. Imagine you are surrounded by beloved friends and family, but then you get a wild hair and decide to move to the other side of the country, so that you are completely isolated and can never see any of those people again. How stupid would that be?

Wait, that’s probably not the best example…

At this point, I’m not sure I can successfully steer this back to my intended topic, but I’ll try:

As a younger person, I believed that everything could be apprehended rationally and that anything mysterious was to be feared and probably rejected. These days, I’m less sure. These days, I find myself wanting things to remain mysterious. I’m fascinated by the Toynbee Tiles and the Original Spanish Kitchen and Henry Darger, and I am disappointed when those mysteries are explained away or “solved.” When I was a kid, I had a recurring dream/nightmare about the Loch Ness Monster being captured and displayed in a mammoth glass tank at the Puyallup Fair. I still scour Digg and the Fortean Times for any news stories about sea monsters, but now I’m slightly saddened when those monsters are actually caught. I prefer it when there’s just a grainy underwater photo or dubious deathbed testimony or a jerky, low-resolution video posted on a Russian website.

Simply put: I want more mystery, and that is why I don’t want to know the real story behind the Agawam Sportsman’s Club:

I could probably find out easily enough, but I don’t really want to know the history of this building, either:

I just want to enjoy it as it is: abandoned and evocative.

I keep trying to take a picture of this brick hut near the I-91/5 interchange, but these are the best I’ve been able to get. What in the world is it for? If you know, please don’t tell me.

I also love this unmarked meadow near my office:

Surrounded by the slightly ominous foliage that is common here:

For me, our new surroundings are rife with mystery, with abundant unclaimed and un-labeled space. The relative lack of prosperity here means that empty lots and wooded areas often remain undeveloped, abandoned buildings often remain abandoned, none of which would be allowed in a boomtown like Seattle. Of course it’s sad, but at the same time, it reminds me of the magical landscape of my youth, traipsing through undeveloped forest and hidden streams throughout the Lynnwood area. It gives me the feeling that I could escape easily here (should that become necessary), that I could hide in the woods, build a fort, disappear, roam. I love it.

It is also fair to argue that I am free to enjoy the resulting environment without ever really experiencing the poverty that made it this way.

* * * *

Not long after my last post, we sat in a Friendly’s (kind of like a Dairy Queen caught in the process of transforming itself into a Denny’s; almost as ubiquitous as Dunkin’ Donuts) with our realtor and signed the first set of “final papers” on our new house. As of this moment, we are set to close on October 9th. We hope to take possession on October 10th, which means I can begin assembling my movie viewing room on October 11th. Boxes containing all the necessary components – projector, A/V receiver, speakers, upconverting DVD player, 106′ projection screen – are currently stacked in our condo living room, taunting me with their promise of home theater nirvana to come.

The two La-Z-Boy recliners we bought wouldn’t fit in here, however, so those will be delivered directly to the new house.

We also had the home inspection, where this highly caffeinated guy with an encyclopedic knowledge of Springfield home construction codes and zoning laws bounced through our house pointing out every rusty hinge and clogged drain. When he asked if we were planning to upgrade the electrical system, I said “Yeah – 220, 221, whatever it takes,” but only Robin thought that was funny. Apparently, nobody else was familiar with Michael Keaton’s finest film.

* * * *

In other news, Robin turned 51, which is the first birthday for either of us in our newly-adopted homeland. Her colleagues in the Westfield College Dept. of Education threw her a combo “Welcome to Westfield / Happy Birthday” party, which was very sweet.

* * * *

Know how I know it’s time to conclude this blog? The pile of construction debris is, at long last, gone:

* * * *

To all who took the time to read this blog, add comments, or respond to me personally: Thank You. To everyone we left behind in Seattle: Jiminy Christmas, we miss you! As soon as we’ve settled into our new home, we are open for receiving visitors. I know, I know – we’re way on the other side of the U.S., but remember – from our house, you can take day trips to New York City, Boston, or Washington D.C. Also, there is some beautiful countryside around here to explore.

And we’ll have that movie room.


  1. Yeah, but I was born on the Virgin Mary’s birthday, so how do you explain that?

  2. Jason, Seattle seems to have a “mystery spot” too. It’s the space you left behind you now that you are gone!
    We miss you, and are so glad things are going well on YOUR side of the continent.

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