downtown kearney, missouri--the odd fellows building named for the tradesman's union
if your house catches on fire, i’m sure it will be of great comfort to know that i am a first responder. . . . if you live in kearney, missouri, that is. fire chief larry e. pratt swore me in just before i cleared out of town–taking my tornadoes and thunderstorms with me to illinois.
the swearing in of kearney’s newest volunteer firefighter
larry pratt has devoted his entire life to service in kearney. his father before him and his sons after him have been part of the police and fire departments–and larry is a keen preserver of kearney history. i wrote a history of kearney and larry made my job so much easier that my able assistant made a charm out of a picture of me and larry at the firehouse.
one of the forty four charms is of me and larry working on the book about kearney's history
i leave kearney realizing that i have yet to meet a rude person while there. i mean, there’s a lot of cities, i won’t name any except for one that goes by the initials of new york, where you can easily find someone who will cut you off in traffic, tell you to commit abominable acts upon your own person, or budge ahead in line at the deli–but you can’t find those people in kearney. that’s what i love about the place. i think kearney is what i would like for my family or as my home.
i just have to work on that teleportation system so i can be a first responder!
the hottie you dated all four years of school and broke up with and dated and broke up with and it would have kept up like that for the rest of your life if one of you hadn’t graduated and moved to italy. the roommate who always had someone sleeping over (awkward!) but who came down to the police station to bail you out for that unfortunate incident and so you didn’t have to tell your parents. everybody from your soccer team, the choir, the band you started in the basement of the hardware store. you knew their names, their favorite beer, and whether it was wise to copy their homework. before facebook, these people disappeared until the tenth reunion and then it was a competition as to who was fatter and who had a better job.*
some people you went to school with are now part of your friends list but they aren’t the same people you would have put on the friends list at the time.
i’m not sure which one made the friendship request but mike coglan (f2fb #137) and i were in the same graduating class at north central college. the entire student body was less than a thousand so i figured i had to know him. i was pretty sure he was the dude who sat behind me in economics for three semesters. on facebook, we exchanged a few stories of the good old days, compared notes on what we had been doing for the past twenty five years–mike is a minister in kearney, missouri and i raise my sons and write books in winnetka, illinois–and then we got down to business–
online scrabble. i’m addicted. mike’s better than me.
at one point, mike mentioned that the economy was heading south, fast, in kearney. a lot of his parishioners were hurting. i suggested help in the only way i know how–what if i wrote an arcadia publishing company history of kearney and mike’s congregation sold the books as a fundraiser?
three short weeks later, i drove eight hours to kearney with my assistant f2fb #20 charlie seymour. at kearney’s rotary club i spoke about the book and about how i was looking for help from the community to find old photographs, documents, papers that would help me develop a complete picture of the town. charlie sat in the back taking notes and leaned over to mike.
“what was arlynn like when you two were in college?” charlie asked.
“i have no idea,” mike said. “i don’t remember her at all.”
i was ready to pack my bags that night! we finished the book**.
mike and his family opened themselves up to me. mike and i still play scrabble. he also talks to me about his relationship with God and my relationship with God. if someone were to ask me where i go to church i would most likely say that my congregation is the kearney covenant church and that i don’t go to services often, which is to say i have only been once.
but mike and his wife laura (f2fb #138) prayed and talked with me one morning this week. laura asked me to consider how i would feel if one of my children–joseph or eastman–came to me and said “i want your love, i have you say you love me, but i feel i am unworthy of your love”. wouldn’t i feel such pain for them? when i thought about that, i started to cry and so did she. mike made himself busy with finding tissue paper and said that under no circumstances was he crying too. God’s love is a gift and it hurts Him to have someone not think themselves worthy of taking it. thi
laura, me and mike coglan
as i got ready to leave the coglans, the entire family–mike, laura, ian, and brenna–had me sit down. each of them put their hands on me and each of them made an individual prayer for my safety, health, happiness, and progress on this year’s journey. four distinct prayers that i might be BOLD and unafraid. that i would take the chances i have spent so many years being afraid to take. and they asked for God’s PROTECTION that i might be safe and confident of my safety.
when i got into the car i felt transformed. and i had only one last thing to finish up in kearney before i could clear out–i had to get deputized by the fire chief. after all, i have a lot of talents to offer this town!
*romy and michele’s high school reunion is such a great movie! i think i have to get it on netflix right now!
as talking head maximilian tam (f2fb #45) says “fame first, money will come, and the women will follow”. . . in the case of the meeks of kearney, missouri they are doing everything they can to elude fame.
matt (f2fb #135) and connie (f2fb #136) met while performing in a country music variety show in st. joseph, missouri more than a dozen years ago. nashville called them because nashville has one currency–talent. the meeks packed up, anxious to be stars–and that’s when they found out they were pregnant with their first child.
there are a lot of choices they could have made. ones that would have resulted in their pictures on the cover of people magazine and their stories on tmz.com. but they literally turned the car around on i-435 and picked a place to raise a child.
“we didn’t want to bring a child into the world of touring,” connie explained.
they chose kearney. or maybe kearney chose them. and while here, their faith has deepened. matt, who had turned away from the church, was baptized only a few years ago. they are in the music ministry of the kearney covenant church. i remember being at a service more than two years ago when they presented a song they had written. i asked them to play it for me again.
matt and connie meek
i am convinced this song will be a hit on the christian music scene. and then they had better get themselves a mansion with a pool and invite me over.
“but we don’t want to be famous,” connie said as she and matt scooted off into the night.
melinda morgan (f2fb friend 134) will help me get back on my feet with her sound financial wisdom.
she could make money off her looks, but melinda’s rejected modeling contracts from kansas city and new york. she could quit her job at gino’s restaurant in kearney, missouri where i first met her–but she was there this afternoon waiting to see me before her shift starts.
melinda has a packed schedule of work, going to college, and trying to find time to spend with zack, her boyfriend of four years. i noticed the promise ring on the finger. i think the word “fiance” is just heavenly!
she asked me how i was doing and i said that the two boys were away, that i was doing this project, and that i was trying to sell my house but i was afraid it wouldn’t yield a price greater than the mortgage outstanding on it. a lot of people are in my position. some even worse, with foreclosures at an all time high in this country.
“i don’t believe in mortgages,” she said.
“you can’t buy a house without a mortgage,” i replied.
“i already have.”
it’s a small house to be sure. but melinda saved every tip she ever got at gino’s and she bought a twenty thousand dollar cottage in nearby excelsior springs. she is putting in a driveway this summer. and a shed. she likes fixing up the house, with an eye towards increasing its value.
she plans to sell it in a few years if the market is better and then use the proceeds to buy another house. if the market is terrible, so what –she stays in her house. either way, a bank is not the boss of melinda morgan. i asked her what her major is because not many twenty year olds seem quite so assured of themselves.
“accounting and business administration,” she said.
“will you be licensed to do tax returns for people by april?”
“meet your first client.”
we shook on that.
yesterday i forgot to credit courtney m who works with darrell at the hair salon. and a photo credit to emily eldridge.
i have been followed by tornadoes through illinois, iowa, into nebraska and looping through missouri. and everybody’s a little jumpy in tornado alley because joplin is just an hour away from kearney where i have landed. but i figured that no tornado would find me because the town–although well respected as the birthplace and the final burial ground of jesse james (not a facebook friend of mine)–it is also a very small town. once you get away from the macdonald’s, burger king, pilot and mobile gas stations that cling to highway 35, kearney’s business district is little more than one intersection–washington and jefferson. i was there yesterday afternoon, having lunch at fat boy’s before i would go to my facebook friend #133 darrell’s barber shop and beauty salon. suddenly, all the patrons and the owner were standing out back on the porch. a tornado had touched down in eastern kearney, which is to say half a mile away.
the owner of fat boy’s graciously ordered up everybody a drink. across the street, at city hall, people headed for the basement. we had the beer cooler. i think i chose my safety zone very wisely.
once the sirens stopped, i got a call from darrell who had been hunkering down at his house not far from the salon. he was in the mood to do some major changes on me.
after all, i had never had my hair professionally colored.
“i can tell,” darrell said cheerfully.
i cut my own hair, have for the past four years.
“i can tell,” darrell repeated.
i don’t use straighteners, blow dryers, curling irons, hair spray, deep conditioning masks, or extensions.
“i can tell,” darrell sighed.
darrell is more than a hair artist. he holds a community together. and not just because he recently instituted a policy that unemployed people can get their haircuts for free. no, no, he does more. people come in to get themselves made over but they also come in to chat and to hear the news of the town. darrell is also one of the founders of the historical society of kearney, which is how i met him: i wrote a history of kearney. much of the previous histories of kearney have focused on jesse james and the town struggles to create an identity outside of that long shadow. in believing that history is always being written, we are in agreement. when darrell spent two hours devoted to the transformation of arlynn, we agreed that i should keep my eyes closed.
“i’m a redhead!” i squealed.
“yes, because that’s your personality,” darrell said.
i think i look so good that i’m never washing my hair again. just kidding, darrell! darrell promised to hit me up when he next comes to chicago. he loves to go to a particular orchid store in villa park and he wants to see the planetarium and the field museum. i said i’d love to host him. secretly, i want him to keep taking care of my hair.
when a town is as small as kearney, it’s easy to believe that the quality of artistic endeavors will be lesser than that of something coming out of new york, los angeles, london or paris. in derrell’s case, that’s utterly untrue. he has trained with many of the most sophisticated stylists. he is familiar with trends i read about in vogue just that morning. he’s an artist whose medium is hair because of the quirk of family–he had a wife and a son (born blind) to support and his father in law was a barber willing to sell the family shop. darrell heard opportunity knocking but he has lived his life in such a way that opportunity knows how lucky it was to be invited in.
you can friend darrell through the facebook identity haircut salons–and if you mention this blog, tell darrell you want fifteen percent off your next visit!
it’s everybody’s dream to be a star and i’ve heard about that whole “casting couch” thing. but this guy, john hill, f2fb #132, just wanted to touch my stomach. with his wife watching. so weird.
john is an independent music label executive, focusing mostly on artist development. he’s worked with some of my facebook friends, such as vince p. (#57), mc kato (#49), carla kosak (#127), richard “mop” furniss (#53) and reggie gholston (#32). he’s also worked with many grammy winning stars and has an impressive collection of awards for his own book shelves.
john had just come back from a humanitarian mission to haiti and was swamped with work, but he made time for me at the home he shares with his wife christie and their two children. i had driven four hours from council bluffs and was very ready for my audition. john said i had to learn to breathe first before i could learn to sing. christie said she’d be happy to tape the whole thing.
i’m not an opera singer!
john was originally trained in opera which makes him able to spot talent in others–he knows a good voice. he was polite–he is that unfailingly–but i don’t think i’m getting a recording conract. it’s because my stomach is, well, i haven’t got abs like john hill. he tried again to show me how singing works.
john and christie met when john was touring with r. kelly. john doesn’t want to tour while his children are young. his greatest joy is being a father and that joy has allowed him to better appreciate his own parents.
“your parents mold who you are, whether they’re there or not,” john says. “i grew up in a cosby family. my dad was a chef, so if you’re hungry get ready! and my mom works at a drop out recovery center for chicago public schools. we came out here because my wife’s family is here but we came to enjoy the simple life.” here’s a poem he wrote for his father.
a poem about john’s father
i had such a wonderful time and i realized that the way schedules work, i would never have gotten a chance to see john and christie–or to try out for that recording contract–without this project! take a look at your friends list. is there somebody you haven’t seen in forever?
christie is expecting their third child in october
i like that french existentialists came from france. because all the space, the nothingness, of america would freak jean-paul sartre and his posse of intellectuals. there’s just way more of that nothingness here than in france. driving along i-80 across iowa and into nebraska, i was aware of the nothingness but also of the being. . .check out the windmills–
windmills were planted earlier this year
for hundreds of miles there are windmill farms.
this tractor is ready to harvest windmills. . .
coming out of cedar rapids, i headed for council bluffs because according to my trusty spreadsheet rodger gerberding (f2fb #131) lives in idaho. the two letter postal code for idaho is id) i was really excited because in messaging each other i understood he would be in council bluffs iowa for one day. in iowa (postal code ia). i didn’t know that i had screwed up on the spreadsheet. it’s ia not id. still, i got to see rodger. i was a little nervous because rodger and i have only one mutual friend, my father justin (f2fb #30). rodger was a friend of my grandfather fritz leiber (as well as a fan of fritz’s work).
rodger is an actor, writer, artist. . . and he had a wonderful story to share:
i left rodger and blew into omaha, nebraska. across the street from the hotel was a riverboat casino. i thought women in evening gowns, gentlemen in tuxedos, an atmosphere of glamor, intrigue. . . . i did what any gal would do–i spritzed the angel perfume, put on a little black dress, pulled the bright red lucite heels from the back of the car and headed over there.
only to discover row upon row of slot machines. with galpals in sweatpants and “world’s greatest grandma” t-shirts. dudes sporting polo shirts tucked in and hearing aids firmly in place. i looked like an underage hooker and i did get my share of attention from the security staff. i sure hope las vegas is more uplifting. . . .
and tomorrow, onward to blue springs to have a facebook visit with a label executive. do you think i’m too old for to put out an album?
mobiles homes cause tornadoes. this is my contribution to meteorological science. after all, anytime there’s a report of a tornado there’s usually an accompanying report of mobile homes being plucked from their moorings or collapsing under the weight of falling trees.
as i entered the state of iowa, all radio stations reverted to the emergency broadcasting system. the radio announcers were plaintive and earnest. “you must go to your safe place,” they repeated. ominously, several added that if you were traveling along i-80 “we implore you to pull over and get to safety.”
well, to an agoraphobic, that means one thing: return home forthwith because home is the ONLY safe place. i wanted to turn around. because there is no other safe place other than home. the outside world is, by my definitions, a scary place. but i had made a commitment to be in cedar rapids to meet f2fb friend #139 bruce nesmith and his family.
bruce and i went to college together. he wanted to be a radio newscaster. he ended up becoming a political science professor at coe college in cedar rapids and, because of his acumen, he is frequently called upon to be a “talking head” on radio and television. so he has some of the makings of a perfect life.
the sky blackened and the announcers were tracking three different tornadoes and telling people in solon, north liberty, johnson county, “you need to be in your safe place NOW.” their natural iowa reticence was being tried. since i didn’t know where i was in relation to any of the tornadoes i did what they told me. after, hail was being tossed on my windshield like eggs in the hands of an angry god. the tornado sirens wailed. the little farmhouses, red barns, the moo cows gave off the vibe that they could at any moment rise up in the air, spinning and twirling and bringing up with them flying monkeys and wicked witches. i pulled over to a convenience store and waited out the storm. hands shaking. hives rolling up my neck. my inhaler in one pants pocket, my backup inhaler in the other.
but trying to play it cool, leaning against the vending machine as the store filled with people who watched the television coverage of the storm warnings. just, you know, another tornado. . . i went outside. that’s when i got to see the beautiful moment when a cloud starts to spiral. . . . and then it dissipated.
i traveled on to cedar rapids. the house was a gorgeous center hall colonial. bruce’s wife jane and their two sons welcomed me with bright smiles and a bit of curiosity about my new year’s eve resolution to meet every facebook friend. jane freelances both as an adjunct professor of writing and as a journalist for a local newspaper. their two sons robbie and eli did their best to make me feel like an honored guest. . . and as someone sort of cool. or at least not embarrassingly uncool. robbie is in marching band. eli is graduating eighth grade in a week,
bruce and jane met when they both sang in a methodist church choir. they are comfortably suited to each other as they approach their twenty second anniversary. religion is an important part of their lives–we sat down to dinner and opened with a simple, but familiar prayer of thanksgiving. God is great, God is good, let us thank him for our food, amen.
i told the nesmiths about my experience with the nascent tornado. they weren’t quite as impressed as i was. i think you have to be pretty tough to be from iowa. but i think bruce nesmith has created for himself the perfect, perfect life!
i left the nesmiths after a tour of coe college and continued west. . .
so phyllis and i shared a man. it’s true i was unconscious of what we were doing for most of the time, but phyllis knew the score.
i drove a little over three hours to get to phyllis and we met at a culver’s which is known for butter burgers and cheese curds. i had both. i don’t need to repeat the experience.
here’s my new friend mr. culver–
phyllis worked in winnetka until a few months ago when she left her husband and relocated with her older sister who is still mourning the loss of her husband two years ago. when i talked to phyllis earlier in the week, she said she was applying for unemployment. when i got to culver’s, phyllis told me her unemployment application was denied.
i thought “her life sucks so much” i showed her a private shout out video i had made of her former colleagues at the dry cleaner in winnetka. i also asked her if she’d like to be introduced to f2fb friend #128 thomas shea bulger II with whom i had shared a meal just the day before. thomas is a friendly guy, living on his own, retired, spends a lot of time riding his bike and volunteering both with aa and with elderly people. he’s a sweet guy.
this is going to be tom's profile picture since he doesn't have one!
see, here i am meddling!
phyllis doesn’t see a glass as half empty or half full–she just drinks in the experience! phyllis has already landed a job since finding out she won’t be receiving unemployment benefits, has settled her sister and herself into an apartment and has found love. on the internet. he’s from north carolina and will be moving to illinois. i asked her if he would be moving into the vega apartment and phyllis smiled mischievously. mr. wonderful and phyllis will be taking it slow.
meanwhile, as the singer carla kosak sings “i don’t want your man” both phyllis and i don’t want that man we shared.
phyllis vegas manshares with me
phyllis (f2fb #129) noticed that this man was posting flirty stuff on my wall and, since he was doing the same thing to her, she got suspicious. she tracked down what his real story was and then she laid it out in front of me. we both defriended him. thank you phyllis, for watching my back!
we hugged, said goodbye, and i skedaddled towards cedar rapids, iowa. where i meet f2fb #130 bruce nesmith and his family. right after i meet the tornado.
i was surprised that carla kosak even said yes. after all, she’s a star. she’s hot in all the senses of the word.
facebook friend gilbert gottfried blew me off earlier this year. celebrity facebook friend elmore leonard is probably a no go. and alex beh, who used to babysit at the redmond house when eastman would sleepover on a saturday night, has recently broken up with jennifer love hewitt and has such a busy schedule as a writer and director. . . . but my new year’s resolution is to meet every one of my facebook friends before year’s end so i messaged carla.
i figured the best i’d get would be an autograph and a chance to watch her record her third hit–the first two being amongst the top ten downloaded tunes by radio, the can’t stop yourself from dancing “don’t want your man” and the fresh “get pumped up”. i met carla because she loaned her talents to vince p.’s music video for “girls in da club” which–don’t even ask–i wrote and directed.
i drove a long way to find carla. as a star, she naturally protects her privacy and has a home that is nearly impossible to find. but i had my trusty atlas and this trip turned out to be the first time i didn’t actually get lost! when i arrived, she answered the door herself. and wow! imagine aphrodite dressed in sweatpants and a tank top but still the most beautiful goddess. i suddenly felt quite sweaty, old, fat, tired and in need of a mascara break.
and this is what she looks like when she’s just hanging out at home with the love of her life. . . her two year old son!
we headed for the park. carla’s son is bright and so polite it makes me want to redo all my parenting. i went down the slide with him. he wanted me to push him and then he wanted mom to get him out of the swing. carla and i talked relationships, careers, and her incredibly busy schedule. i’m honored she spent time wth me. i’m looking forward to my nine day road trip beginning on sunday because i’ll be seeing john hill, a music entrepreneur who is interested in carla’s career!
carla has enough energy to be a mom, a star, and to keep a day job (that last only for the moment). i loved her son. and, just like mom, he’s a natural entertainer.
so–WORLD PREMIER HERE!!!–the acoustic duet of carla kosak and her son!
and here’s a link to the version of “don’t want your man” she performed on the night i worked on the music video for vince p. this gal is amazing!