I would wander through markets and late night cafes, and take notes, compulsively, and when I got hungry, I would go to the Hare Krishna temple and eat Indian food. Nothing comes for free, of course: The longer you eat free food (I went there at least three times a week) prepared by religious folk, the stronger grow their demands that you pay attention to the platitudes, attitudes, myth-whiffs that come with the meal.
And so I slowly but surely heard the life stories of each and every thirty-something Krishna-monk, mostly ex-skinheads, punks, burnouts, addicts, and kids who came from abusive homes. They would bashfully eat their desserts, the sweetened-burned-milk-balls that in texture and size were exactly like honey-flavored testicles, and while chewing these milk balls, slowly, tenderly, they would tell me their stories of being raped or hurt or hurting others in a million ways.
These guys, beneath their imported Indian scarves and ill-fitting slippers, they had been SO BROKEN that they needed a religion to erase their memories, literally wipe the slate clean. I thought of their conversion this way: Identity bankrupcy. Religion as suicide.
(Read the rest of Krishna-Krishna in Death Confetti: Pickers, Punks, and Transit Ghosts in Portland, Oregon, published by Feral House.)