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Beware: The Beast Has Moved
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We may finally be off the hook. But the folks in Grand Rapids- well, it could be their turn to deal with the Beast.

We've been doing it for more than 30 years, ever since we moved into our house at No. 666 on a hilly street in San Francisco. The Bible, of course, cites 666 as the mark of the Antichrist. You know, that passage in the Book of Revelation about how "I beheld [a] beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns... and he spake as a dragon... Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast... six hundred threescore and six."

Ah, but now cometh some learned papyrologists at England's Oxford University. They hath new understanding about the true number of the beast, thanks to new techniques that enabled them to decipher previously illegible writing on fragments of the oldest surviving copy of the New Testament, a parchment document from the third century.

Turns out, according to the newly discovered writing, that the number of the dread two-horned beast is not 666. Just as some theologians have been arguing for many centuries, the number is actually 616 -- the area code of Grand Rapids.

But not to worry, says the Grand Rapids Press. The newspaper reported that "area religious leaders say there is no cause for alarm."

Maybe so. But the beastly number, false though it may have been, certainly caused alarm around our house. Ordering pizza, for instance, might be routine in Grand Rapids, but not for us. Take last Friday the 13th. That was not a date on which to make a delivery to No. 666, said the pizza man. I suppose he might have been joking. But the fact is, no delivery was agreed on until I pleaded great hunger and extravagantly praised his product. Cost me a big tip, too.

Another thing about living at 666: We were supposed to be noisy. That, legend has it, is a sure way of keeping the devil away. He's allergic to noise. That's why they ring church bells, and though I naturally don't really believe such stuff, I figured it wouldn't hurt to bang an occasional pot or pan and certainly to clink an occasional glass just in case.

And oh, yes, there were the wisecracks about our address that my wife Gerry and I have had to listen to for many years. Over and over. And over.

We are not alone. Consider what happened to Ronald and Nancy Reagan after they moved into a home at 666 St. Cloud Drive in Los Angeles at the end of Reagan's presidency . The Reagans tried to avoid trouble by changing the address to 668. But though they may have fooled others, they did not fool an armed intruder who broke into the Reagans' backyard. He told the Secret Service bodyguards who tackled him that he was out to harm the former president because, as the real address showed, "Ronald Reagan is the Anti-Christ."

I must admit I rarely agreed with Ronald Reagan the president on anything. But I certainly agreed with Ronald Reagan the ex-president on that address change business. But, unlike Mr. Reagan, I never managed to get my 666 address changed to 668. Although possibly sympathetic to my concerns, San Francisco's municipal authorities weren't that sympathetic. I am not, after all, a former chief executive.

I should think, however, that the postal authorities might be more accommodating to the good people of Grand Rapids. I guess they're probably in no danger, but when you're dealing with the devil, you never can be quite sure, can you.

Copyright Dick Meister