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.
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.
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.
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.
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?