Scientology – Return of the Archons

Recently I found myself in the town of Clearwater, Florida, world headquarters of a unique organization. My office was, maybe 400 yards, from what was once the First National Bank of Clearwater. The sturdy neoclassic designed building was decorated with massive Greek columns and the words “Church of Scientology” newly carved in the freeze.

Apparently, the preferred wardrobe for many of the Church of Scientology members is simple black pants, black shoes and white button down shirts. I did not know this until recently. When I first arrived in Clearwater, I just thought the town employed an unusually high number of French waiters.
I was there for f weeks.  Everyone in town was nice. I was never approached by devoted followers or dragged away and brainwashed by cult operatives. (At least I don’t think I was. That’s the funny thing about brainwashing. You never can know for sure, can you?)

There was one interesting moment during my stay in the town, which I would like to describe to you all. It was on a Saturday, I found myself having to work the weekend. I had skipped breakfast and was the only one in the office so around noon I finally decided to take a walk to get something to eat. Downtown Clearwater has a charming, small town, main street. It seems like the local government spent a lot of money recently to fix it up - restored storefronts, neat sidewalks and a green median, with a sculpture and fountain. The sad thing is, despite the refurbished facades, all the stores are empty, (I suppose, as a consequence of the economic downturn.) The weather was wonderful. It was the beginning of fall, which is the only reason Floridians put up with six months of what seems like living on the hot side of the planet Mercury. Because it was Saturday, no one was downtown, the street was beautiful but empty with an ideal breeze rustling the palm trees. Everything was just right in a kind of Truman Show sort of way. As I walked down the street, my stomach grumbling, a crowd of Scientologists started streaming out of the large church. (I suppose they have to eat too) and the street, a ghost town, a moment before, was now filled with people, all serene and polite, all wearing black pants, black shoes and white shirts. So there it was, a perfect day, on a perfect street, with no activity going on behind the perfect business facades, and with everyone dressed exactly the same, like a scene straight out of The Stepford Wives.  The only thing out of place was me, hungry, and cranky, weaving through it all, in my ratty sneakers and Hawaiian shirt, desperately looking for a place that would sell me a ham sandwich.


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