One bright spot in the otherwise oppressive International Headquarters Base of Radical Scientology experience for me was encounters with people like Michael “Misha” Priv. Despite long hours, sleepless nights, general suppression, and executing many times pointless work Misha always appeared to me to have a glass-half-full attitude. Recently Misha sent me the forward to a book he is writing on his Scientology experience. He granted me persmission to share it here on the blog. You can find it below this introduction. You gotta love the way this guy rolls.
THE GOLDEN FLEECE
By Michael Priv
LOS ANGELES, JULY 2005
Spurred by adrenaline rush and pure desperation, I dashed to the back emergency door marked DO NOT OPEN, ALARM WILL SOUND and slammed into it. The sound of alarm tore through the hospital calm with insane intensity. I afforded a quick glance back as I bolted out of the bellowing door. Nothing but a couple of oblivious nurses and medical equipment along the hallway walls. There was no pursuit. Yet.
Momentarily blinded by the sunlight outside, I raced across the parking lot toward the concrete wall, grabbed the top, pulled myself up and over and ran across a busy street on the other side. As a lousy runner, I wanted to put as much distance as possible between me and the expected pursuers. I had to assume that the guards, alerted by my absence and the insane hospital door alarm, would chase after me. A terrifying thought. With my heart clucking somewhere in my throat, I ran into a shoe store across the street and looked back just in time to see one of the guards clearing the wall across the street. He looked around and sprinted to his right along the wall.
I hurriedly marched all the way through the store in long strides toward the back door, soliciting quizzical looks from a couple of Latino sales girls in attendance. I smiled at them, panting with exertion. A long time ago somebody once told me that I had a nice smile. The moment seemed right to try it now. The first door I encountered at the back of the sales area of the store stated DO NOT ENTER in large cheerful letters. I entered. The back door proclaimed once again that alarm will sound and it did—with now familiar ear-splitting intensity. Another parking lot, another wall. A glance back confirmed that I was not being pursued.
I ran across an overpass bridge, then along some street lined up with warehouses and auto repair shops and turned into a grungy alley. Keeping at a brisk clip, I labored to get a full breath into my burning lungs. No resting on the laurels just yet. Freedom was too close to take any chances. Several turned corners later, completely out of breath, I ran into a liquor store with an ironic name “AA Liquors.”
“Can I use your phone, please?” I wheezed, fighting for a breath, to the middle-age, hefty blue-eyed sales lady.
“No,” curt but to the point. “Customers no phone,” she added sternly with a heavy Russian accent.
“That’s okay then,” I replied in Russian with an attempt on a smile which probably came out tortured, “I am not a customer because I don’t want to buy anything from you. So I am okay.”
“That completely changes things! I thought you were a customer!” The lady replied in Russian, laughing, “My name is Anna. Sure, use the phone in the back,” she waved her hand vaguely. “Why are you so huffed up? Hey, you want some?” She handed me her bottle of Gatorade which she was drinking from and I downed the remaining half-forgotten chemical sweetness hungrily.
“Thanks, Anna. I am Misha.”
“You are welcome, Misha. Russians must stick together and help each other, right?”
I nodded despite being a Ukrainian. Who wanted to split hairs? Good being a Russian if you wanted a favor from a chubby, blue-eyed Russian lady by the name Anna. Otherwise, not especially.
I discovered a tiny office in the back with a phone on a table cluttered with papers, a bunch of loose change, torn up bags of potato chips and mangled soda cans. With shaking hands and trembling voice I placed a collect call to my parents in San Francisco.
“Hi mom, it’s me.”
“Your son, Misha.”
“Do I have a son?” mom started crying.
“You do! I just ran away.”
“I am out, mom!”
“How? Where…? Are you okay?”
“I am okay, I am fine… How are you and dad?”
“Never mind that, you scoundrel! Are you in any danger? Are these Scientology bastards chasing after you?”
“Bastards? Mom, listen, there is Scientology which is good and then there is a Church of Scientology which is… Never mind. I am alright. I am in a liquor store in LA, they won’t find me here.”
“Well, as you know, I refused to continue working at the International Management Base where I’ve worked all these years and they sent me to LA for a special rehabilitation program…”
“They put you in jail!”
“Well, it is not exactly…”
“Shut up, Misha! They threw you in jail and you escaped!”
“Well, pretty much, I suppose.”
“I hate Scientologists!”
“Mom, that’s unfair. The corrupt Church of Scientology is one thing but tens of thousands of Scientologists who…”
“Shut up! Just shut up! Stop this nonsense! Get on a bus and come home!” mother yelled, “Or are you too brainwashed to do at least that?”
“I have no money, not a penny.”
“Okay, hang on, honey!”
Then I heard my mom yelling to my father, “He escaped from that damn prison!” then it sounded as if she dropped the receiver and moved further away from the phone. In a minute my father picked up the phone, “Hey, idiot! How are you?”
“Pretty good, dad, how are you doing?”
“Better than you for damn sure! Eighteen frigging years you gave them! Eighteen best years! You were twenty-seven when you started! And for what?!”
“Not now, dad, please.”
“Okay, okay. Stay where you are, we are getting somebody to pick you up. Call me back collect in a few minutes and give me the exact address.”
The line went dead.
“Who are you?” a quiet voice behind me. I turned around and found myself staring into Anna’s blue eyes. How long has she been standing in that door?
“Who are you?” she asked again, wide-eyed.
Who am I? An interesting question. Who am I? A Ukrainian man? A Jew? A US citizen? A human being? An animal? A fool? A brainwashed victim of a hateful cult? A holly man? A soldier? A traitor? A hero? A loser? A former member of the Sea Org, the elite paramilitary management corps of the Church of Scientology? A former translations executive, a member of the International Management of the Church? A convict? A coward? A fugitive?
I looked deep into Anna’s pretty eyes and replied, “I am a Scientologist.”
For more of Mr. Priv’s fine writing go to www.ThetaWrite.com