Tag Archives: tornadoes

f2fb #133 uncovers my essential nature

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!


a tornado and i’m not even in kansas!

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. . .


tornadoes in raleigh? welcoming me? what?

i took piano lessons from miss violet who slapped my hands when i misplaced them on the keyboard. one time, i was practicing and the vibrations from the standup piano knocked a china cup display from the wall. rather than applauding my bravado with gilbert and sullivan, my adoptive mom mrs. patrick sent me to the basement. and once, in a car, i sang the flintstones theme song and a gentleman to whom i was matrimonially related told me i was the most offkey singer he had ever aurally encountered. in better terms, i’m not musical but damn i admire it!!!

my two sons have genetically inherited musical talent from a family they are not genetically related to. the eastmans are very musical and they don’t need an ipod or an mp3 player to entertain themselves. i was stunned when julie eastman (f2fb #97) and her beloved groom mike sollins (f2fb #98) forswore sheet music to play the richmond cotillion. at the end of the civil war, many secessionist (southern) households would host “hardship parties” where no food or drink would be offered but there would be music and merrimaking. when i was running in the woods i realized i was in territory that young men stood thinking i am protecting my mother, my wife, my children. the trees are that old that they once shielded those men. . . who would have danced with their sweethearts. . . . .

julie and mike met in boston. they live next to f2fb #96 susan who is julie’s twin. aren’t they sweet? there is something in us that does this connecting thing. jeez, i thought they were just going out. some years have passed. .. .

chapel hill is a wonderful paradise. they talk about aging in place which, well, i’m on it. all i need to do is move into the shack behind the two eastman sister houses (please mike could you put in electricity? and a blanket?) the eastman daughters and mike even provided me a tornado. but i have to move on. . …. .