So sometime in May I will drive up to Kansas City and spend some time with the Center High School 50 year reunion committee. I am not an official “member”, but I am and interested observer and part time participant. So I barged in a few months ago… and I am thankful I did, and grateful to be welcomed aboard the Good Ship Yellowjacket 69.
Obviously it is filled with my CHS classmates. people that I have known since I moved to the Boone School district in 5th grade, and some of these folks are nearly friends with each other from the womb. For me it is a round table of folks I have been far more absent from than present. I have moved so many times in my life. I have kept in touch with a handful of my old cohorts, but for the most part, I spend very little social time with anyone from CHS.
That being said, It is a special time to share a table, talk briefly about the past and ponder the schedule for the upcoming event. It is NEVER a time to talk religion or politics, though it is filled with people who would happily discuss, argue and question both. It is just a time to celebrate. Mostly, as I have observed, it is just a group of people who want to celebrate life. And the celebrants have more in common with each other than can be found with almost any other folks that I might encounter in any random gathering at any time in any place, from now until the moment of my last breath. Or so I would guess.
The purpose of the committee is really singular. What can be done to celebrate life, provide venues for smiles and good times. What will attract the most folks to a couple of events so that both the seeker and those being sought can have a really good time with a not some random group of devotees gathering to rejoice as a result of a common experience.
So here is my experience regarding reunions… I have been to a few… Some I really enjoyed… from start to finish…. some I enjoyed for only moments. I am glad I went to all of them… However, rarely did I come away with any meaningful moments. In my earlier days I got to be reunited with Paula, and would visit her when I visited my Mother in Austin. Paula passed several years ago of Cancer. For the most part, I would just spend time with the guys I spent time with decades ago. A poker game at Cal’s house, with Bob, Ric, Curtis, Marco, Don, Joe, a few others… So reunions were just moments in time. Happy moments, but brief and then over.
That was true until the last reunion. My life changed. Two people who were merely moments in my CHS life became two of my besties… It is not easy to make new friends at my age. At OUR age. People from Center have their own lives. I am thankful they do. I am more thankful that Ann and Lynn let me into theirs.
I knew Ann Asel and I knew Lynn Joseph whey I went to Center. I probably spoke to them for nearly and hour. I mean an hour total during our entire 3 years during our shared high school experience. We did not date, we did not have the same circle of friends, Ann and I had Journalism class together I think.
Because of the Last Center Reunion… my life has changed. I have stories to tell, but the relationship started because I had been selling stuff on Ebay for nearly 20 years. I sold some stuff for both of them.. I don’t list anything for them on Ebay any longer, but I drive to Kansas City from Tulsa with some regularity to see these two friends. I love Annie and Lynn. I am shocked.
Maybe you should come to the reunion and get shocked.
By the way, 98.6 degrees, as you know is our average body temperature, while alive. In 1951 the projected life span for men was 65.8 years, for women 71.6 years.
I will be 68.3 at the next reunion. I hope to laugh with you there.
I’m really a bit surprised. I’m surprised because I really didn’t know Carol or Shirley very well. They had become Facebook friends over the last few years. It’s been nearly 50 years since I was in the same room with both of them. So, how long do I need to wait before I get over this kind of departure.? Is there a point in time when this kind of goodbye won’t matter? Seriously I’ve only seen one of these people in the last 50 years at a CHS reunion, and one of them I haven’t seen at all. For the most part all we really had in common “to the colors high above us Gold and Blue.” And yet I am profoundly affected by the recent news of their departures from this plane of existence. I mean how in Heaven’s name can I miss them now when I haven’t missed them for decades But I do miss them now.
I feel like Center High School was my Goldilocks Journey. I’ve talked to people who have had many thoughts and memories regarding their High School experience. I’ve talked to people who have been obsessed with the high school journey, Similar to Al Bundy from Polk High. I know folks who hated their CHS journey. I’ve talked to people who studied really really hard, and I’ve talked to people who didn’t study a lick. I’ve talked to people who went to huge high schools and graduated with thousands of classmates. I talked to people who went to small schools and they attended School with a handful of mates. But Center High School (CHS) was the Goldilocks adventure for me. Not too big. not too small, it was just right. And as I get older it gets just “righter”. But my Band Of living classmates is shrinking in size. How terribly strange.
High School is a unique American Adventure. It is one that people of my age all experienced. Very few private schools in the 60s, Most kids went to a public high school. Therefor, High school is often common ground… So many of us just took the yellow bus. Looking back on my life, it is special because CHS provided a unique band of friends that I knew and explored life with, for nearly a decade. In some cases, I have High School friends who married their High School sweethearts, and remain together to this very day. It is in many ways uniquely American. And for children of the 60’s, for children who are the last of the Baby Boomers, I think High School can be even more special and more unique. But I can only compare it to my own experience. And because of that I hold my years at Center High School in Kansas City Missouri as some of the most precious years of my life.
One of the things that is part, a large part of the shared CHS experience during the 60s is GREAT music. Rock, pop, folk, Motown, soul, R&B. Music to sing to, and dance to, and cry to, and to make-out to, and live life to. I went to the first live music concert when I was in junior high I guess. I mean I saw the Beatles live in September 1964. I Saw The Who in the Shawnee Mission South gymnasium… and Iron Butterfly and the freaking Cowsills on back to back days at Municipal Auditorium in June of 1969. My friends and I treasured our vinyl and Turntables. We knew the WHB top 40 list.
And we “all” sang “Hey Jude” together at OUR assembly…
My musical favorite however, was Simon and Garfunkel. And Paul Simon could write words that were sheer poetry for me. His words touched my heart. I would play his records for hours..Paul Simon affected me profoundly. Simon & Garfunkel we’re best known for songs like the Sounds of Silence and Bridge Over Troubled Water. They had some great music. And some great lyrics. I became the Boxer…
“In the clearing stands a boxer, and a fighter by his trade
And he carries the reminders
Of every glove that laid him down or cut him
‘Til he cried out in his anger and his shame
“I am leaving, I am leaving”, but the fighter still remains”
But in the midst of all of the music, and all of the words one quiet little tune became my favorite. It still is my favorite.
Nothing and no other song and has ever touched me it continues to touch me like “Old Friends”. It’s amazing, I tear up even now as I talk about it. It is so much a part of who I am. And the depth of its meaning continues to grow every time I hear it or sing it or recite it There is a a picture of my dog gazing at a park bench. My dear friend Beth commissioned this picture for me, when my best dog friend left me in September, 2017. I posted this song in my blog once before…
My friend Tank, the Georgetown, Texas, Dog Park, 2010..
Old friends, sat on a park bench like bookends…… old friends how terribly strange to be 70. Those phrases have been a part of my heart since 1968. And now more than ever I am moved when I hear about the passing of my Center High School classmates.
When I was still at Center High School it truly was a song line that I listened to often. I don’t know why. How terribly strange to be 70. A few years back my classmates would do a Beatles reprise “When I’m 64.” And when I heard that song I was reminded that it was less than a decade until my life would be terribly strange. And I have to tell you my life is getting stranger.
How terribly strange to be 70. I had No idea what that line would mean… when I first heard this, I was only 17. I have a better understanding now.
And now, how terribly strange not to make it to 70.
Farewell to some very special Yellowjackets.
I hope I see many Gold and Blue lives at the Center Reunion, Fall, 1969. I would love to see some of my terribly strange friends…
It is a regular event, one you might expect.
There are those that line up and wait for the doors to open. They are “those” people. The ones that hang out till close, wander the night, and then need to fill their need and wait for the doors to open. They know each other. They are regulars. And they are habitual. As if they have no where else to go. Many appear daily, they are recognized and welcomed, Ahhh the fellowship of this bar.
And this day is special… it is Christmas, and most places are closed… but this place is waiting and ready. This is not your regular bar… This is Iron Gate. It is a food bar, a soup kitchen open on Christmas day, and every day. Their mission statement… Our mission is simple: we feed hungry people.
And on Christmas I said yes to being their Santa Bob.
Santa needs to go the extra mile to touch lives when folks live in tents or under bridges or any place that will allow a person to get a moment of warmth or protection. Comfort is an optional word in the vocabulary of these folks. But Iron Gate is a place of comfort, warmth, nourishment, every morning from 8am-10:30. Food, shelter, a smile, a moment of service to those who are rejected, dejected, infected, unconnected. Iron Gate serves “crackers.” I don’t mean saltines. I mean folks who have fallen through the cracks. The mentally challenged, the disenfranchised, the shopping cart pushers, folks without an address.
This is NOT Cheers. But they all have names.. Not everybody knows all their names… but nearly everyone is know by someone. These are a fragrant people. . . in quality of spirit as well as other ways. And I am sure that Iron Gate is a home for their hope. But the holidays are especially trying for most in need. Rich or poor. But the crackers now hold a special place in my heart.
This is a good place 365 days a year.
Grab a plate. Sit and enjoy. Stay a while. Go back for more. An someone will even smile when they clean up the mess….. no tipping please.
But this day was special. Santa got to sit and watch. He was assisted by his elves, Morey and Giacomo. As always…. the elves did all the work. But Santa gets the headlines. And this is what Santa saw.
Hungry folk, homeless folk, down on their luck folk, down home folk like you and me… but they are folks with few options. If these folks are “milking” the system like I read so often on Facebook, they really SUCK at it. I am absolutely certain that these folks don’t have what I think people who have stuff think they have.
As and aside, I have heard the phrase “there but by the grace of God, go I.” Well let me say, for all you believers out there, those that recite that phrase… someone needs to put some skin on your Jesus. I WAS There. That place. There but by the grace of God go I, and the grace of my beloved friends who opened their home to me and my dog for 18 months. Nearly broke for 18 months while I tried to get back to life after multiple tragedies and bad decisions. Bad decisions made at an age where I should have known better. The result was broke and homeless at age 59, with a van, a dog, and a few hundred bucks. J&G put flesh on their Jesus.. AND A ROOF OVER OUR HEADS. Tank and I will never forget that.
So maybe those panhandlers on the corner are out there milking the system. Maybe they have such an incredible life they just need to stand on a corner with a cardboard sign and hope for $3 more then head to their secret home in the hills and take your quarter to pay the cable bill. Or maybe they will waste it on a smoke or a drink and a moment of comfort, instead of opening a savings account and build for the future. I don’t know what they will do. I do know where there next meal will come from if they want it.
Well this is what Santa saw. He saw survivors. They come in all shades and all sizes… but they all appear to live to survive until tomorrow. And Iron Gate puts just enough flesh on their bodies, and flesh on their Jesus so the crowd that gathers today can return tomorrow. There is no preaching, there is only flesh. Tangible and loving. And because of this, Santa saw the sparkle of hope in the eyes of a grateful crowd.
But Christmas was a special day… There WERE presents. The appearance of the “holy trinity.” And recipients seemed as excited and grateful as a kitten with a new empty cardboard box.
The “holy trinity” of gifts.
Candy, gloves, socks. Sugar, warm, dry. Joyful recipients. No Bah-humbug here. Hark the Herald Angels sing. Gifts received to an hallelujah chorus of thank-yous.
Gifts received by folks who are grateful in the face of such trauma.
The holy trinity. Skin on your Jesus.
Energy, comfortable hands and feet. Blessings. Tears. Laughter. Though there was a small crush of folks trying to get to the head of the receiving line, there was NO unruly outbreak like folks on black Friday fighting over a $5 toaster.
Santa took notes. It is a very short list of things to keep in his sleigh. And I need to get a bumper sticker for the sled.
CAUTION: FREQUENT STOPS FOR SHOPPING CART PEOPLE
And a bag to hold some socks, some gloves, and a roll of lifesavers.
Visit here to learn more.
Could it be the place where it all began. Could this have been the start of all things “un”. I remember this time. I was fresh out of College… ready to plant myself in the world. Ready to do something. I am still ready to do something. This could be my un-moment. My personal battle ground.
As reported in Advertising Age Magazine, “In the early 1970s, as part of its new “uncola” advertising strategy, the 7UP company had J. Walter Thompson produce a TV commercial starring actor, director and choreographer Geoffrey Holder as a Caribbean planter explaining the difference between cola nuts and 7UP’s “uncola nuts,” lemon and lime. The extraordinary performance of the Trinidad-born Mr. Holder made the spot one of the most remembered commercials of all time. But behind the scenes, the project also represented a dramatic change in the marketing culture of the soft-drink company — the first time it allowed a person of color to be cast in its TV ad.”
I so remember this campaign. I did not know that it was the first to feature a person of color… but that is not my current focus. It is the UN that fascinates me.
I am intrigued as we have passed Thanksgiving and rapidly approach the “other” holiday. In the spirit of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, who’s office of diversity had the foresight to publish these seasonal guidelines in a helpful list for us all to better UN-joy Un-Christmas.
“The list, found on the University of Tennessee at Knoxville’s website, also encouraged employees to send non-denominational holiday cards, use general decor when decorating and make sure that food and beverage selections are not specific to any one culture or religion.
The list also discourages us from playing “Secret Santa” games.”
“Holiday parties and celebrations should not play games with religious and cultural themes — for example, ‘Dreidel’ or ‘Secret Santa.’ If you want to exchange gifts, then refer to it in a general way, such as a practical joke gift exchange or secret gift exchange,” the guidelines state.
Ahhhhh…. UN-Christmas. Why didn’t I think of that. I mean seriously, how can folks like me be so selfish and heartless to think I/we should be allowed to celebrate the birth of Jesus, who I believe to be my Savior, as a focal point a worldwide remembrance. Enough is enough. It is time to recognize this time of year for what it really should be…From this day forward we shall all celebrate “Yearsend”. Yearsend, what a festive time. I can’t wait to chop down and decorate my Yearsend tree.
Here are a few of my new favorites:
The Grinch that stole Yearsend
A Yearsend Carol, with Mr. Scrooge.
The Yearsend Story, you’ll shoot your eye out.
The Griswolds and Yearsend Vacation.
The list is endless. UN-Christmas, I mean Yearsend, is here.
OK. Enough is enough. WTF. Who cares and why? Seriously, how can my celebrating Christmas offend anyone. I haven’t got a clue.
I love that my Jewish friends enjoy Hanukkah.
I would never ask a celebrant to refrain from enjoying Kwanzaa.
There is Festivus for the Rest of us. (Thanks Jerry)
And Seriously University of Tennessee… what is the religious beverage you are referring to. A cup of blood at a Satanic gathering? OR… Is it Eggnog?
I am so frickin’confused.
Really, Secret Santa is offensive? Perhaps that is what set off the Muslim terrorists at the Christmas, oops, Holiday party in San Bernadino recently. Is that why the terrorists left and returned in tactical gear to murder party goers? Santa Claus and offensive drinks.
No it is now Insanity Claus. People are just fricken’ nuts. So much hate, so much anger.
If Christmas pisses you off, move along. There is nothing to see here. It is just a bunch of folks waiting in line Thanksgiving night to kill someone for a bargain price on a Toaster or TV.
In fact that Black Friday thing could be a terrorist plot. OMG, danger zone at the Walmart.
And to think is all started with an Uncola.
Prior to that, we would all take a Coke in hand and teach the world to sing in perfect harmony.
Happy Yearsend to all, and to all a good night.
The holidays. A time filled with music, joy, shopping, drinking, eating, giving, receiving, and reminders… Ah, yes reminders. Little memory triggers that may occur on a daily basis during the rest of the year, but for some unknown reason hold a special power in November and December.
Some very special triggers are annual. No other time. Some are the best. Some are the worst. And some are like Pumpkin Spice Latte at Starbucks. I don’t mean to judge but what the hell is all the hoopla about this passion for chemically induced seasonal flavor. I don’t get it… well actually I do…but I am NOT a follower of the pumpkin spice stampede. But I understand the passion and love for some if not all things Thanksgiving and Christmas.
First is the turkey. I eat turkey nearly every week. but the roasting and the smells that fill the house are usually seasonal. I don’t know why.. probably because it takes a family to consume a bird. Probably because I can’t microwave a 15 pound bird. Probably because I can’t fit the turkey roaster in the dishwasher. But for me is goes one step beyond the meal.
It is the ritual of taking the carcass, the boiling and bone picking and the making of the best soup I ever tasted. Thanks Mom, you really hated to cook… but you really loved to pinch pennies. There are many good things that came from your frugality. This holiday gem is the best for me.
There is no carcass this year. It’s ok. I relish in the memory.
Second, the lights. I love the lights. During my adult life I have only done the “full-Griswold” once. My first year of marriage. Every nook and cranny. The roof and house lines… and though I don’t do that anymore… I do travel the streets in search of the best. And how can I not. I am from Kansas City. That is all I need to say for those of you from Kansas City understand that the “Paris of the Plains” is the home of the greatest shopping center Christmas light display in the world. I won’t argue with you. I will just say that the Country Club Plaza has no equal in my little holiday mind. Just trust me when I say… pictures do not do the Plaza justice.. I am so thankful it is a part of my memory bank.
I missed the lighting again this year. It’s ok. I so enjoy the memory.
So many pleasant memories.
As I age I find that memories are enough. I don’t want to live yesterday again… I just want to smile because I was a part of it.
And of course there are the moments that give me pause. Because now my life includes tragic and sad moments. Things from yesterday that I cannot change, things I have accepted, but things which will cause me to cry out.
Though I am not a big shopper for the holidays. I am aware that others may be. And I do have 5 dogs and 3 cats. And they require constant spoiling. So I do go shopping. I do not like to go shopping. But my animals are not sensitive to the holidays. They are sensitive to feeding times and play times. So shop I must. And I always grab a cart when I shop for the critters. I have to. I will just grab an armful and a hand basket when I shop for me. But when it comes to the kids, well it requires the cartage of bags and boxes of some weight.
Let me introduce you to my little friend–
We met in the parking lot. Discarded like an unwanted animal. Left to find its way home, lest some caring patron or hired gun would come searching and return it to the home for wanted grocery carts. This cart had no business being in this place at this time. So I grabbed it. I had to. Those of you who have followed my irregular blog my understand why.
You can get a refresher here …………
So I decided it was time to renew the purpose and mission of this 4-wheeler. Off we went. Past the holiday displays… the racks of candy, cookies, toys, impulse “as-seen-on-TV” displays…. wait is that a Chia Head… wow, how cool is that.
Stop renewed focus… don’t get sidetracked. All of the fun, meaningless stuff that Michelle loved. Seriously, a brilliant woman with a penchant for all things tacky. (that could be why she married me). Remember the dogs and cats. On to the pet food aisle.
Tasty treasures, Meow Mix, Rawhides, Chunky beef stew.. filling the cart. Grateful to have one. Then to the self check-out aisle. Staying focused. No other things to buy. Get to the vehicle and unload. Hurry. Hurry. I could feel it… I had to hurry.
Open the trunk… Unload. Return Cart.
Damnit. Damnit……… I actually cried it out loud in the store parking lot.
I was a miserable, selfish, sh!##y husband. Damnit.
I returned the cart to its home… And I went home.
I wish I had a turkey carcass and trip planned to Kansas City.
I don’t but I am now at peace. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.
Somewhere under the rainbow…..Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet….
I see them everywhere. Rainbow colors. They are not thought of as the marker to a pot of gold. They are rarely connected to unicorns anymore, They are, it seems, the new representative of the unspoken acceptance of a now “legal” lifestyle.
So many folks have washed their Facebook profile pictures with this rainbow flag symbol.
We are it seems, awash in the rainbow spirit. Are you “fer it or agin it?” Whichever side is chosen, there will be arguments. There will be stands taken. There will be anger. There will be joy. There is the “thrill of victory and the agony of defeat”. There will be divisions. It is the the world we live in.
But wait there’s more……….
Somewhere under the rainbow another battle begins on an emotional, historical, and very real issue to so many. It’s an exorcism in the making. I sit in awe and wonder. I am saddened. I am not surprised. A reason to rise and fight is often robed in many symbols. I do not have the energy to judge it… I just observe the battle raging. It will get uglier.
We are it seems, awash in the rebel spirit. Are you “fer it or agin it?” Whichever side is chosen, there will be arguments. There will be stands taken. There will be anger. There will be joy. There is the “thrill of victory and the agony of defeat”. There will be divisions. It is the the world we live in.
And why do we fight…
Well here is my deal.. I am created in the image of God. Therefore His character and His characteristics reside in me. When I recognize that, and live that, and honor that… my life is more often filled with joy, with peace, with a desire to live in unity.
Here then are my 2 takeaways from all of this flag waving.
1. John 13:35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” the counterpoint… live in the spirit of division and people won’t know anything about God and His purpose for those who love Him……or those He desires to be with.
2. Symbols have power. Symbols do represent what people believe… because God set up symbols before me… it is what God does… it is part of His character… I am in that image, so are you.. I believe.. Why else would folks fight over a flag or a color scheme? Genesis 9:13. I have placed my rainbow in the clouds. It is the sign of my covenant with you and with all the earth.
May you find peace under the rainbow. May you know the covenant Maker.
Oh, yeah…. what the heck in indigo anyway?