06 April 2011

A Man Called DVH

Seventeen years ago, in a vain attempt to impress an anorexic girl in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, I *published* (by Xerox) a newsletter comprised of my scribbled-on-my-lunch-hour-at-work fiction and council flats commentary on the not-so-great cultural issues of the day. I advertised the newsletter in an eccentric journal owned by one of the Capturing The Friedmans Friedmans. Factsheet 5, the rag was named, and it was the Yellow Pages of the kOOk’s vanity press—a listing of all the (mostly) poorly written idée fixes of the AmerICKan fringe.

The second person to write for a copy of my newsletter (which were referred to as *zines* by Factsheet 5 and the small community of kOOks who penned them) was also from Milwaukee, Wisconsin—a gentleman named David Van Hyle. Included with Mr. Van Hyle’s request was a copy of his own *zine,* titled Apocalypse Pretty Soon—certainly one of the most bizarre newspapers ever issued. Apocalypse Pretty Soon could best briefly be described as Crypto-Christian-Biker-Pornography, a head-spinning paste-up of Clinton conspiracies, crazy Christian Identity doctrine, motorcycle club urban legends and a hodgepodge of revolting bondage pictures of heavyset *mature* women. Thus began a seventeen year correspondence between myself and DVH, as Mr. Van Hyle identified himself in his *zines.*

Every other week for seventeen years, DVH sent me a large mailing envelope containing a letter and an assortment of underground literature. Then, a month passed in which I heard nothing from DVH. After another week of postal silence, I received a card from DVH’s daughter, informing me her father had *passed away.*

Though he had dabbled in the heretickal Identity movement sporadically for the seventeen years I corresponded with him, DVH had Christian roots which were formed in the soil of the Jesus People movement of the 1970s. In the months before his death, DVH was graced with a Psalms 51 refreshing, as our Lord created in him a clean heart, and renewed within him a right spirit—he began again evangelizing the true gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

DVH was that rarity, a genuine friend, one with whom one could discuss any subject—no matter how debauched—and not fear man’s retarded judgment or condemnation. He well knew the truth of Romans 7:23-24—as was made crystal clear in one memorable letter in which he described, in ultra-graphic detail, his weakness for hairy, obese, flatulent, middle-aged women.

Seventeen years worth of letters, the world spinning round and round: hundreds of handwritten pages (DVH never owned nor operated a computer) exposing Clinton, then Bush, then Obama, theories on OJ, JonBenet, Natalee Holloway, revelations of the TranceFormation of AmerICKa—from Randy Weaver to Timothy McVeigh to *9/11.* And there were also the seventeen years of our everyday personal apocalypse.

Nine years ago, lonely, in his mid-50s, DVH met a hairy obese forty-something woman. In a union only God can ultimately bless, they had a son. The newborn was the apple of the aging eccentric scribe’s eye. A new family meant the dawn of a new life for a man who thought the sun had set on his day of domestic joy. But barely a year into his return to Eden, the woefully overweight woman left DVH, taking their son, and sent Van Hyle spiraling into a black hole of urban solitude.

A smothering depression choked Van Hyle. He lost interest in his self-publishing empire, and, telling of its cold narcissism, the world of kOOk literature failed to register the absence of its merriest crankster. Quickly discarded by his obese object of grotesque desire, and deprived of his beloved son, the son who was to be his literary heir, the son who had become his motivation for pressing forward in the world (enduring 60+ hours-a-week of shit security guard jobs on Milwaukee’s meanest streets to provide for his new family), David Van Hyle’s health, both physical and psychological, rapidly declined.

DVH’s letters became psalms as bleak as those of his beleaguered namesake, King David:

Have mercy upon me, O LORD; for I am weak: O LORD, heal me; for my bones are vexed. My soul is also sore vexed: but thou, O LORD, how long? Return, O LORD, deliver my soul: oh save me for thy mercies' sake. For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks? I am weary with my groaning; all the night make I my bed to swim; I water my couch with my tears. Mine eye is consumed because of grief. . .

The last nine years of DVH’s life were scarred by ever-worsening mental and physical anguish. As his thoughts became shadowed by suicide, his body broke down. He was frequently hospitalized for various cardio and respiratory ailments, and he also had a fairly lengthy stay in a lunatic asylum.

But God Almighty, our most merciful Heavenly Father, would not suffer Satan to sift DVH to the end of his days. David Van Hyle was taken into the saving hand of our Lord Jesus Christ upon receiving His gospel in the Jesus People movement in the 1970s, and Christ would not allow Satan to pluck him from His hand, even as Satan came to tempt DVH with false doctrines in various seasons. In the last year of DVH’s life, God would restore to him the joy of His salvation. A bedridden Van Hyle saw a vision of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Minister to the sick, the poor, the despised.

Ending his life in a subsidized apartment building for the infirm, the weak-minded and the elderly, the severely depressed DVH’s days consisted of lying in bed and staring at hour-after-hour of noxious cable television as he waited his daily delivery of Mom’s Meals and his thrice-weekly in-home visits from indifferent Medicaid nurses.

One gray November afternoon, turning his eyes from the garbage on the television to his cracked ceiling, he saw the overhead of his shabby AmerICKan flat dissolve away to reveal our Lord, dressed in bright white linen, as He healed the sick and lifted the spirits of the brokenhearted. As he watched our Lord bringing His gospel to the poor, he heard a voice declare:

Behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest, and the harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few. . .

Van Hyle wept over the Savior’s love for His sheep, and felt the joy of salvation burn away the misery of the previous eight years of heavy-heartedness.

Immediately David Van Hyle began the arduous process of dressing and jacketing himself, then he collapsed into his motorized chair. He wheeled out of his room and went a short distance down the hall and knocked at the next apartment. An elderly, rheumy-eyed negress opened the door.

“Is there anything I can do to help you?” DVH asked.

Those were the first words he had ever spoken to the aged colored woman, though they had been *neighbors* for almost three years. As it turned out, the white-haired old black had been waiting two days for her daughter to show up with a Lasix prescription, and was now quite worried as she had just taken her last dose. Van Hyle, frail and short of breath, rolled eighteen blocks in his motor chair down Milwaukee’s West Layton avenue to a Walgreens, picked up the pills, and rolled eighteen blocks back to deliver the medicine to the old negro lady. He then told her Jesus had called him forty years prior, and though he had spent much time afterward in the wildernesses of the world, Jesus had never left nor forsaken him.

And that is how David Van Hyle spent most of the last year of his life, ministering and preaching the gospel of Jesus to the poor of his government subsidized housing project. Fifteen or twenty years ago, he had been a fairly well-known name in the little pond of zines, enough so that the Big Fish of zines, Jim Goad, had noticed him and condescendingly anointed him *one of zinedom’s more intriguing goofballs.* But in the last eight years of his life, after the devastating abandonment by the obese woman who took away his son, Van Hyle was forgotten by all of his former zine *friends.*

Alone year-after-year, he lay dying a slow death of depression and disease. . .but in his dark night of the soul, our Lord came to him, showed him once again the Way, and guided him back into the sheepfold. In his last year, DVH’s final letters to me were a New Testament of the Faith of Christ. In ministering and preaching the gospel to his hundred and ten neighbors, the still-gravely ill DVH experienced something only a small handful have ever experienced: a life of complete fulfillment. He was able to achieve something unheard of in our day and age, he lived in agreement with Colossians 3:1-2:

If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.

In the last year of his life, Van Hyle labored for treasure in heaven. . .

He died known only to the hundred odd souls of his AmerICKan slum yard, his daughter, and perhaps to an obese woman somewhere out there with his son, a son we pray God in Heaven is looking after. He died with no earthly treasure, but with a heart for Christ. Most will die surrounded by junk, which they mistook for treasure, and they will die with hearts terrified of the hereafter. David Van Hyle died knowing he would see Christ. He died with a rejoicing heart, and with a joy that can never be taken. . .

2 comments:

  1. Thank you for writing this. I knew DVH for a bit before he met the mother of his son. He was a warm and loving man. He often wanted me to have another child and I knew that I was getting in the way of his dreams. That son of his was a twinkle in his eye for years before he was ever born. As was his daughter and two grandchildren. (I pray that someday we will meet again in heaven.

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  2. Email me if you'd like to talk more. thejman99(at)aol.com

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