Before he went ape shit, I had a friend named Pablo. Relax, he was a good dude before he went ape shit. How did he go ape shit? I’ll get to that. Anyway, I met Pablo through Dale and Joe. As usual, Dale had planned an event, and he invited everyone and their mother. Pablo was a guest, and he had known Dale’s friend Benedict from The Ball Scene. Benedict had known Chacho, and therefore we bonded. As I chatted with Benedict, he introduced me to Pablo. We then discovered Pablo also knew Joe from the art scene. The world is not that big I suppose.
Pablo originally hailed from Venezuela. However, his mother was Russian, hence his fair hair and other fair features. He had trained as an architect in his homeland, and had been somewhat successful. However, he had burned out on architecture and had been quite gifted visually. So when he moved to the US, he began work as a costume designer. Some of his past clients include Lady Gaga, Madonna, Nicole Kidman and anyone else in Hollywood. Not to mention he helped design some of the costumes on Broadway. Once, I went to the costume shop with Pablo before a dinner date at The Dish. Not only was the experience amazing, but he was so talented it blew me away.
Right away, I liked Pablo because it seemed he had more dimension than the Lost Boys and Lost Girls who flew about in our Peter Pan circle. Before coming to New York, he had been married in Venezuela. Pablo had always known he was gay, but he was part of the generation where that wasn’t an option, especially in the country where he was from. Gay, straight, you had to get married and that’s the way it went. However, Pablo eventually came out as his marriage was falling apart for reasons having to do with the fact he was gay. At the urging of Sophia Loren, Pablo remained good friends with his ex-wife and even helped her obtain passage to America. Not to mention he is a very dedicated father to his daughter, and loving grandfather to his grandson and granddaughter. When his daughter Angelica told her father she wanted to get married, Pablo objected. He told her to just live with her now husband, have children, and not get the government involved. Most fathers would object to their daughters living in sin and having children out of wedlock. Not Pablo…
One thing I loved about Pablo was his big heart. Usually, he was trying to help someone. Through Dale, Pablo became acquainted with our less than law abiding friend AJ. Before going to jail, AJ had been sentenced by the court to Haven House for drug treatment. There, his roommate was a kid by the name of Mohammed, or Mo for short. The disenfranchised and disinherited son of Jordanian royalty, Mo had gotten busted for cocaine. While he had girlfriends, and some very beautiful, Mo believed he might be gay now that he was sober. Mo tried to solicit AJ for sex, but AJ declined because he didn’t want to be the experiment for some straight boy.
After meeting Mo during a visit to AJ, the two became pen pals. What Pablo didn’t know was his former jet setter friend had both a girlfriend and boyfriend in the drug treatment facility. Yes, Mo was dating a homo thug and a 50 year old ex stripper who had more work done than Lisa Rinna and less human skin than Joan Rivers when she was alive. So Mo saw the perfect target in Pablo and began to con him for all he was worth. In between jobs and barely able to pay his rent, Pablo began sending Mo money. He also bought him a cellphone and an internet hot spot. Yes, Mo was rolling Pablo like a barrel.
Disgusted at Mo’s behavior and how he was sucking my kind hearted friend dry, I confronted Pablo with my concerns. Pablo got indignant and refused to hear me. He explained he consulted his Tarot cards daily, and the spread he kept getting informed him that his current mission in life was to help Mo. I told Pablo the cards were wrong, and clearly he was being used by a spoiled brat who was opportunistically gay or straight depending on where he got the better deal. Pablo then continued to be resistant, explaining the cards helped him make all the decisions in his life and they had never been wrong. Yes, the big decisions that included moving to that discount house in East New York, dating a man who was heading up an internet scam, and now being ripped off by a manipulative trust funder. Yes, those very bad decisions. I didn’t know what was worse, the fact he believed so deeply in the Tarot or the fact he actually thought these decisions through before he made them.
As he chirped away about the power of the Tarot, Pablo revealed a psychic on the street had also alluded to Mo several years earlier. She said Pablo would help a man with dark hair and dark eyes. Pablo was elated when Mo matched the description. The scammer also informed Pablo the devil was after his soul, therefore he was having bad luck. Pablo took out $10,000 in bank loans so this woman could defeat the devil. Needless to say, he was $10,000 in the hole and his luck did not improve. Satan 1, Pablo 0.
I have worked as a reader, and I quit for one reason, the people who go to psychics. However, my mentor Kathy, a Roma woman who has been doing this for 10 generations, still reads people. I sent Pablo to Kathy, who is not only a skilled psychic but actually tries to help her clients for the greater good without swindling them. Kathy gently tried to tell Pablo that one should not read their own cards, because it would and could make a person crazy. Eager to get Pablo on track because he clearly lost his mind, she persuaded him to let his feelings, gut, and faith do the talking. Kathy also predicted Mo would turn on Pablo. Granted, it didn’t take a psychic to see, that. But we all felt it didn’t hurt for Pablo to hear it from yet another pair of lips.
While Pablo didn’t believe her, the fallout was bad. Mo tried to blackmail Pablo, and told anyone who listened that Pablo was trying to use Mo for his money. Meanwhile, Pablo had the stealth of Frankenstein. To boot, the workers at the rehab facility took no mercy on Pablo and laughed at him when he revealed what happened. Again, no crystal ball needed.
Soon after the Mo disaster, Pablo began to take a series of classes in consciousness reaching. He sent me a link describing the curriculum, and the concept seemed promising. Pablo spoke at length about how his Tuesday evening class changed his life. For the longest time, Pablo dreamed of opening his own costume shop and getting away from his deranged alcoholic boss. Now with the help of his classes this dream might become a reality. Perhaps my friend had found something after all. When he talked about his new found educational endeavor, he seemed to make sense for a minute.
As Pablo progressed into the consciousness reaching program, his overall manner changed. Before, Pablo had a variety of thoughts and feelings. Now he was a wide eyed, smiley, warm and fuzzy, one note automaton. Pablo believed consciousness reaching held the key to existence and the future. As he spoke, my skin began to crawl. Pablo began to sound vaguely like the founder of Heaven’s Gate, the leader of the Kool-Aid drinking space ship suicide pact sect. I still remembered that man as a child from newscasts. Now his likeness was staring at me.
Pablo chirped about not only consciousness reaching, but expanding his mind and astral projection. He claimed now that he had reached the “new evolution” he was capable of anything. Pablo explained before he had been a victim. Several years previous he had been gay bashed in a deli by rowdy teens. Bruised and bloodied, he had gone to the police. The people in this consciousness reaching class explained that his mistake was going to the police and disrupting the lives of these young men. He should have not complained and kept going. As Pablo explained, “There is no good, there is no bad, there is only existence.”
My mouth hung open. Pablo had lost his fucking mind for real this time. Then Pablo explained that I needed to attend a class with him, and that it would change my life. I asked Pablo how much the classes were, because I was curious. He said $500 a semester. I pointed out to Pablo that I was too broke for such a thing. Pablo explained, “If you visualize the money, it will appear.”
Meanwhile, Pablo was living off unemployment in between jobs. Plus he was still paying off the bank debt from his psychic friend debacle, and Mo had put him in the hole as well. Currently unable to pay his rent, he had to bargain with his landlord not to be evicted. As I sat there shocked at the anti-logic, he attempted to coax me again. Then it hit me, my buddy Pablo had wandered into a new aged cult.
My mind exploded and my heart broke at the same time. I had grown up around cults, and knew exactly how they operated, and Pablo was the perfect target. Yes, I can still see the mega church, it’s monolithic structure. I still remember how people joined, and were told they couldn’t talk to others unless they were “Christians” aka members of this church. When questioned about their beliefs, they were defensive and explosive. Members were forced to give a third of their yearly income to support the organization, and if they would not and could not contribute they were ex-communicated.
Additionally, their youth group encouraged it’s members to bring children not associated with the church. If so many new members joined at the end of the month, there would be a pizza party.
Determined to take over the town, this same church stated an in-school youth group. They claimed it was only a Bible Study in the summer. Each child in my family was approached by a member at one time or another with a mission to save our heathen brood and bring us to Jesus. The student leader would gather others in the group around the flag pole each morning and lead a prayer circle. There were promise rings and interjecting of Jesus and doctrine in class arguments.
Their adult leader, a man named CT wandered our cafeteria looking for fresh blood. Half way through high school, we got a new principal who was creeped out by CT and his Children of the Corn. He had the Pied Piper expelled from the cafeteria. The principal was correct to be suspicious. Shortly thereafter, CT was arrested and convicted of molesting children. Touching and healing in the name of Jesus, I know.
My instincts were dead on. I Googled the group Pablo belonged to. Others who had left the organization wrote about their experiences, and claimed that yes, this was in fact a cult. During their seminars, no one was allowed coffee, cigarettes, or cellphones. They claimed the coffee and cigarettes were mind altering. Translated, it was their job to screw you up. Oh, and the contact with the outside world would connect you with friends and family members who would scream, “Are you out of your fucking mind!”
Classes in consciousness reaching could be as many as 12 hours. Some teachers did not even allow for water and bathroom breaks because it delayed and interrupted the process. Then I found out the founder was living in France as a fugitive. During one seminar, a woman who was a diabetic was denied her insulin because it was “mind altering” and “interrupted” her consciousness reaching. She went into shock and died. Oh, and this Messiah also embezzled his own organization for a few million so he and some babes could eat and drink all day on a tropical island. Then again, we all reach a whole new level of consciousness when we are getting a lap dance by a Penthouse Pet and slipping $20s in her G-String.
Pablo had made some shit decisions before, but this loaded cow pie took the cake. Yes, he had joined a Jim Jones like cult, and I worried he would be forced to go to a Jonestown. Not even L. Ron Hubbard was as creative as these assholes and he wrote science fiction. That is when I decided I had to put a stop to this.
I went to my friend Dale, both with my suspicions but also for backup. Like myself, Dale has had close and personal experience with cults. While I grew up on the periphery, Dale had grown up in an actual Waco-like compound. Yes, Dale was a cult child. His parents joined a sect that separated from the Catholic Church. Started by an ex-nun who believed she was The Virgin Mary reincarnated, she claimed to meditate and God sent her orders. Due to this connection with The Holy Spirit, she claimed all should obey her. Women were not allowed to wear makeup, men were not allowed to shave, and children had to attend church 3 times a day as to prevent promiscuity, drug addiction, and homosexuality.
When Dale was 15, he ran away from the cult during a church service and became a street kid in LA. He already knew he was gay, and in order to support himself he escorted. In order to deal with his life he did drugs. Looks like the 3 church services a day backfired on The Virgin Mary reincarnated.
Dale confirmed my findings, but assured me an intervention, no matter how well intended, would fail. “You need to let him see these people for who they are.” Dale explained. We both agreed this was only going to end badly.
As time went on Pablo was promoted from passenger on the crazy train to conductor. Pablo continually tried to convert myself or anyone else he met, and preached the importance of consciousness reaching. With a wide eyed enthusiasm of someone being fitted for a straight jacket, Pablo explained because of these seminars he had the ability to expand his mind, read the minds of others, predict the future, and he even knew the day the world was ending. Pablo also confided in me that he was learning to use his powers to teleport and levitate. When I called balderdash, Pablo explained the leader of the group claimed levitation was possible. The worst thing was, my friend was not only serious but sober as a judge.
Pablo informed me of the date of the world’s end, and how we would lose our power. At the time, I had just written my book. Pablo apologized for not buying a copy. He told me he knew I was a good writer, but if the world ended he might be dead and therefore would have no use for reading material. I had no words for that other than, “Good luck with the end of the world. See you on the other side, Pal.”
So Pablo invested in about 300 jugs of water. He also build a shelter out of firewood in the court yard of his apartment building, a fortification for the fire storm that was to come. Pablo explained while he might be taken, he would not be destroyed but go to the next level and evolve. He then explained to me that the only way I could join him was to start attending weekly class. I declined. The world did not end, and Pablo was stuck with 300 big jugs of water.
Several weeks after the end of the world failed like I a quadruple amputee climbing Mount Everest, I got a call from Pablo. Attending an advanced consciousness reaching seminar, he informed me he had been “inauthentic” with me. Pablo read me the letter explaining he had behaved this way because he felt I was “crazy.” It was a look who’s talking kind of moment. My friend was gone, and the gravity of the situation was worse than many of us had suspected. He was on the spaceship headed to a nonexistent astral plain. However, underneath was still my buddy, the one I had long talks at The Dish with. Yes, the one who told me to call my mother so she wouldn’t worry because he was a parent. The one who designed costumes and made the world beautiful. I loved that person, and not the brainwashed creature he had become. So I told him I loved him and it didn’t matter.
Then I hung up the phone and stared into space for about a minute with the nagging question of “What the fuck just happened?”
Pablo soon became promoted to Director of Education, and started to recruit everyone in our circle with increased zeal. The pitch for membership had failed on Dale and I, but some of our other friends weren’t so lucky.
One was Rodney, who is an intelligent fellow with a degree in computer science from Carnegie Mellon. Rodney went to a consciousness reaching class because Pablo had spoken so highly of it. No to mention he was at a crossroads with his life, and thought this might give him what he needed. When Rodney went, they tried to recruit him for more classes. Reluctantly, Rodney signed up. Before his session, a cult representative called him and tried to get him to sign up for a complete package explaining it was the only way he could reach the new evolution. Rodney explained the seminar made him feel good, but he also had a hunch there was something terribly wrong with this group of people. That is, especially since they assured him that he was wrong for mourning his grandmother’s recent passing from cancer.
Their words, “A body is just a body, and death is just death. She went to the new evolution. Don’t be sad. She is evolving on another plain.”
Then Pablo talked my two friends, Brian and Olivio, a gay couple who has been together forever, into attending the seminars. While not gullible, both are open minded. Within seconds of entrance, both described having an eerie feeling and left. However, somehow this cult obtained their contact info, and was calling my buddies multiple times a day in order to sell them classes. When they failed to pick up the phone, these people would call under another number. To say Brad and Olivio were spooked out is the understatement of the year.
After a lengthy vacation from Pablo, I saw him at a get together our friend Jason was having. A satellite in Dale’s circle, Jason has a normal office job and is not involved with the art, party planning, or music world. At first when I saw Pablo, he sounded better than he had in a while. He mentioned he had gotten a new design job, and actually liked this boss. Pablo had also lost weight and joined the gym. Perhaps he had left the cult too. Maybe I had my friend back.
No such luck. As we spoke, we both revealed that we realized the anniversary of our dear friend Joe's passing was approaching and we admitted we were both thinking of him quite a bit. Pablo admitted he had been dreaming about our departed comrade, and we reminisced about the good times we had with him.
Then in the next sentence Pablo said, “You have been thinking a lot about Joe because he is getting ready to transport you to the next level of consciousness. Do you feel dizzy lately? It’s because Joe is expanding your mind. This was revealed to me in the last seminar.” At that moment, I knew I had to cut Pablo out of my life on a permanent basis. While I loved him, I didn't love what he had become. This was farther out there than the rings of Saturn.
When I disassociated with him, most of our friends followed suite. Either he was trying to recruit them to have their consciousness reached and expanded and it weirded them out, or they were tired of hearing about the latest cult teachings. If that wasn’t the case, Pablo’s terrible decisions based on cult teaching or Tarot Card readings left his support network of friends tired and drained from his hair brained antics. So after he declared he reached the rank of Metaphysical Wizard on social media, the last remaining members that still spoke to him backed away appalled and frightened.
I received no updates on Pablo until yesterday. Brian and Olivio called me and told me our favorite conscious reaching and mind expanding guru had turned up on their doorstep puking his guts out. Apparently one of his fellow cultists convinced him a mixture of acid, crystal meth, and mescaline would help him reach a whole new layer of evolution. This cultist explained these drugs were not meant to be abused but simply to get in touch with the deeper meaning. Well, Pablo’s body didn’t get the memo, and Brian and Olivio were forced to take him to the ER. As the staff gave him his much needed straight jacket, Pablo screamed he was a Metaphysical Wizard and could levitate and teleport. He yelled, “No Earthly matter can tether me!”
As this information was revealed, I was rather aghast and disappointed to say the least. I told Brian and Olivio that Pablo was so trusting and kind. Fed up, Brian snapped, “No, he’s a freaking goon and a gullible one at that.”
I told Brian I had not wanted to say that. To which Brian said, “April, we need to call a spade a spade, and when we lose that ability we are fucked.”
This latest development in the life of my cowder headed compatriot upset me and shook me for the rest of the day. Especially in the next breath when they revealed Pablo had been urged by the cult leader not to pay rent, but to actualize his existence instead. They informed him rent and money were material things and he was bigger than that. Housing Court of New York City had yet to encounter consciousness reaching, mind expanding, and new evolution. Translated, they evicted him.
Later, that evening, I saw my friend Wade and told him what happened. Wade is a former Ford model who is as beautiful as he is wise and kind.
He said it best, “When will people stop paying for God? Why don’t they take a look, take a breath, and realize that He is right here all around us?”
My friends are committed. They have been committed to me in times of disaster, and when they make a bad decision, they are committed to that disaster as well. Then there are times that they should be committed. I believe Pablo is enjoying the cuisine of the psych ward as we speak.
Recently a perspective suitor read my blogs and ran like he saw Godzilla. Sure, my friends go to jail and my friends join new aged cults. They can be dunces. But they are my dunces and when they fuck up, they go big. There is something to be said for that. It makes us all real. It gives us all humility. Best part of all, even at his worst, Pablo still had my best interest in mind. Like the rest of my friends, even as he is being led away screaming on a gurney in a psych hospital, he's true blue.
So when Pablo is out of his straight jacket and decides to return to Earth, I will be right here waiting with an ice cream sundae we can split at The Dish like old times.