What a cool little button from the 40s or 50s. This button inspires this profound advice. Surround yourself with cool chicks (and cool cats). Of course MaryEllen is the coolest, but beyond that, I’m very fortunate that I get to hang with cool people most of the time. Some of that is by design, and some of that is just lucky. But I know that cool folks make life better.
I was going to share a nice church camp story (I have a lot), but I thought of this one as I was sharing a couple clips of Jesus Christ Superstar with the kids. This was at a big camp in Kansas City. They had motorbikes, horses, and a water slide. But they said things like this–I believe there is a special place in hell for pastors who puff on their pipes and say that Jesus Christ Superstar was a moving experience for them. Yeah. The guy really said that. To teenagers. He condemned to hell pipe smoking pastors who liked a movie that he didn’t like. I had a great time at that camp. Went with a bunch of my friends. But looking back, it was pretty messed up.
Friend Carrie: It was really messed up. Really, really.
Brother Mike: I don’t know if I would agree with the term “messed up”. I mean, ” a special place in hell” may be a little strong, but let’s face it, JCS was no Evita or Phantom.
This button wasn’t part of my collection as a child. It was 1988 or 1989 when Run DMC played at Kemper Arena. My friend Dan knew a girl who’s dad had one of the suites–a few seats behind glass with access to a kitchenette and toilet. So when when Run DMC came to town, Dan wrangled access to the suite and invited me along. I’d been a rap fan for a few years. In high school Marshall introduced us to The Sugar Hill Gang, Grandmaster Flash, and a bunch of funk records. I was mostly, like everyone, familiar with the Raising Hell album. I think this concert was to support the next one, Tougher than Leather. Between acts we would wander out into the hall for concessions, that’s when I got this button, and to people watch. This was not the demographic that any of these small town Kansas boys grew up with. But rap has the power to unify.
So, while behind glass is not the best way to enjoy a concert–a sort of a communal experience, it was still pretty sweet. A little group that no one had heard of started off the show. They came out in matching jumpsuits doing coordinated karate moves. Oh what was their name, oh yeah PUBLIC ENEMY! Then there was this little two-man group that only had a couple hits. Who were they again, oh yeah DJ JAZZY JEFF AND THE FRESH PRINCE! Then Run DMC destroyed the place! Everyone, including the eight white kids behind the glass, were rapping along, dancing, high-fiving the folks outside the glass. it was great. I would love to go to that concert again.
I was born
Son of Byford, brother of Al
Bad as my mamma and Run’s, my pal
It’s McDaniels, not McDonald’s
These rhymes are Darryl’s, those burgers are RONALD’S
This button is not from my child hood, but from just a few years ago. I had my English III students work in groups to design and carry out a number of community service projects. I know this isn’t reading a story and answering questions, but it requires a half dozen or more language arts learning targets, plus most of our graduate goals. Some kids raised nearly $1000 for Haiti, some raised less for other charities, some spoke with younger kids about bullying or how to be ready for high school. This group designed these buttons, sold them, gave the proceeds to a local no-kill shelter, and maybe volunteered some time at that shelter. Pretty cool. My kids are doing it again this year [last year]. I got a text last night from a kid saying they’d made over $100 selling baked goods at the track meet. It’s fun to see them fired up about doing something good.
When we first got there we lived in an old canvas tent on the beach while we looked for work and a place to live. What were we thinking. It turns out potential employers want a real address, and potential landlords want you to have a job.
Fortunately we found a sketchy apartment complex that was willing to offer us a six month lease. They didn’t trust us for the full year. That worked out for us too. During that time when we’d tell people where we lived, they’d say, “Oh my, you need to get out of there.”
Six months later we did. We rented an apartment in Norfolk from a crazy woman who saw visions of the future that she didn’t remember seeing until the future had come to pass, took us to small claims court (maybe we took her, I don’t remember) over a preexisting carpet stain that was as big as our dog that she claimed our dog made, and then called us for a job reference.
Finally we ended up in our first house. It was a tiny little thing in a neighborhood of tiny little things built for the soldiers coming back from WWII. I think the breaker box had six breakers and was outside the house. We loved our little house and neighborhood, Norfolk, and mostly the amazing people we got to know there. It was a great four years.
This seemed like a fun idea for a candy bar. . . at first. I remember the Chunky t.v. and comic book ads. I thought it was a new thing in the 70s, but guess it’s been around since the 50s. If you ever bought one and tried to eat it, and I only tried a couple times, you found that it was almost too big for a kid’s mouth, and that it was really just a hard block of chocolate that was really more trouble to eat than it was worth. And they put things like nuts and raisins in them, making them even more difficult to eat, and less desirable. Are these still around?
The day started off with me sliding off a bleacher and putting a big rip in my pants. Anyway, the thing about judging cattle, and participating in a cattle judging event is that humans are not born with any knowledge about how to do it. It takes training, some education, a basic knowledge of livestock. I had none of that. I sat on the bleachers in my ripped pants watching the cows get led around the arena. Look for one with a big mouth, dad suggested. Then I watched these kids line up to talk to the judges. They looked like the knew what they were talking about. The judges were nodding their heads and asking questions, and the kids were answering with confidence. I was in way over my head. It’s kind of a blur, but I think I basically told the judge I was sorry to have wasted her time, the cattle all seemed nice, and I will be going now. And then I went home and changed my pants.
This is of course a campaign button for Calvin Coolidge, the 30th president of the United States. He was elected in 1924, but took office before that when Harding died. What’s weird to me is that my grandpa Sears could have voted for this man. It always blew my mind that grandpa had been born in the 1800’s. That was like cowboy times for heaven sake. I know I’m old, but to have only one generation separating me from people born in cowboy times. One of my grandmothers, I can never remember which, had Native Americans knock on her door to trade. My dad can remember the gypsies coming through and everyone checking to make sure their kids were accounted for.
Anyway, grandpa Sears. I wish I’d got to know him better, but we were never that close. We were Sears’s after all. I know he got on the train to fight in World War I, and by the time the train stopped the war was over. I know he was a banker during the Great Depression, and he never foreclosed on anyone. And I know he did magic shows around town. He showed me some of my first tricks, one of which I still do for the kids and on the street. I’m glad I have a lot of his old tricks and props. And I know he was born before Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, and five other states were states; before the massacre of Wounded Knee; before Pat Garret, Buffalo Bill, and Wyatt Earp were dead; and before the Lincoln penny, Rose Bowl, World Series, Ford Motor Company, the Boy Scouts, and the Wright Brother’s famous flight. For heaven’s sake!
Merry Christmas, everyone. I hope you are making some amazing family memories.
The Sears family Christmas story happened the year we spent Christmas with my grandparents in Texas. They used to winter down there in a mobile home park with a bunch of other oldies. We may have Christmased down there a couple times, so my memories of the place are all mushed together. My favorite memories are some of the most swirly and twisty, and that’s of our visits to Mexico. The worst is of a Mexican Kmart or something like it. Just like an American Kmart or Walmart, but more of everything that’s unpleasant and about those places, especially to a a kid–people I couldn’t understand, being their forever while the adults looked for whatever it was they needed, impatient and tired parents and grandparents, like a nightmare. The best is also very dreamlike, but pleasant. It was some kind of big indoor/outdoor shopping center, in the evening I think. I remember the smells of street food and leather, incense and aftershave, dad’s cigarettes and mom’s vanilla. And all the leather crafts and carved stone animals, bandito marionettes and swinging bamboo snakes, and the pottery–plates and cups and smiling suns. And the smiling Mexicans in the shops and my folks bargaining with them, and no you can’t get a bullwhip, and keeping and eye on us, afraid we’ll wander off and then be snatched away, so stand right there and pick out a carved donkey, and one of the shopkeepers switching out the little donkey I’d picked out and wrapping up a broken one in newspaper instead. And the sounds of piped in music in the shops and real music in the street, and Spanish Spanish Spanish bring spoken everywhere. And despite the discomfort at all the foreignness my folks may have been feeling, I was with them and I felt safe.
It’s no wonder that during a Christmas like this Santa might not realize that he dropped a G.I. Joe white tiger action set on the porch roof back in Abilene, only to be discovered by two amazed kids upon our return.
Another festival. This one for Ozark music. What is Ozark music? Bluegrass? Country? Andy Williams? I think it was my 5th and 6th grade years that mom and dad owned, with my uncle, a camper. It wasn’t huge, but it was big. And we took it some places. Mostly I remember Branson. This was back in the day. Branson had maybe four theaters. The one we went to, because it was the one my grandpa liked (it was probably the only on he’d ever been to), was the Foggy River Boys. As I remember, which honestly isn’t too much, they did an old fashiony harmony gospely kind of thing with white leisure suits and wide collars. I don’t remember the show, but I remember standing in line and getting an album signed by each of them afterwards.
I think that’s also the trip that I raced grandpa. Just across the parking lot of some place. If I do my math right, he wasn’t that old. In his 60s. Of course people in their 60s were older back then than people in their 60s are now. It wasn’t long after that he had his heart attack. He told me he thought he felt something happen when we had that race. He didn’t say the race caused the heart attack, but it let him know that something wasn’t right. He recovered pretty well. But he was never as strong after that. And he certainly didn’t do any more racing.