Still Light Outside

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  • Sam


    Just when the craving hit for some generational-specific laughter you deliver once again.

    Thank you.

  • Your parents were hippies and you turned out Christian…

    My parents were John Birchers and I turned out a long-haired agnostic.

    Funny how that works, huh?

  • Well, it wasn't QUITE like that. My father was/is about as far from being a hippie as … Kissinger is, and my mother engaged me in very serious conversations about God since I was old enough to know and track what she was talking about. Even today I'm … not not exactly what you'd call a typical "Christian." I suppose it all ends up in the mix somewhere, doesn't it?

    My mom (on the other hand) was a spiritual Nazi, and my dad, an actor, was in a porno movie. So one … never knows.


    You couldn't make it up.

  • Ellen Armstrong Wron

    NOTE: John and I went to the same elementary school

    John, Your picket at the 7-11 was historic! I was on vacation (visiting my Grandma or something) at the time and when I got home EVERYONE was talking about it. They were ALL there carrying signs (or maybe it was kind of like Woodstock and everyone just wanted to claim being there). I remember that we were all going to boycott Slurpees forever – but then it got hot outside and we decided that a couple more cents didn't really matter anyway and besides, those cherry Slurpees were my favorite! I also remember when the girls all got together and signed a petition and planned a sit-in at the principal's office demanding that we could wear pants to school and not just dresses. It was somewhat of a disappointment when he said yes – we were secretly looking forward to the sit-in. The next day NO ONE was wearing pants. Our moms wouldn't let us. Oh yes, we were children of the 60's. Thanks for sharing.

  • Ellen Armstrong! Wow. And I can't believe you remember that protest! You're the third person I've heard from that remembers it! How funny. Yeah, I was WAY serious about making it work. I thought, Okay, we need four things: a lot of PEOPLE, a lot of SIGNS, a support group to keep us in food and drinks, and a good chant (which I wrote but have now forgotten). Then I got all serious about basically assigning liasons for each KIND of group of kids in (I think) the fourth through sixth grades: No clique left out, was my basic idea. Then I got a LOT of sign-building stuff–I think I stole all these flat, pointed wooden garden sticks from off a construction site, so we only had to buy the poster-board–and started this little FACTORY of sign makers. By the time the event launched, there were, like, 100 kids, each with a totally nice sign, all marching up and down the sidewalk chanting, and all these PARENTS and brothers and sisters sitting on coolers feeding us and everything. And the owner of the store got all upset because we were blocking the driveway into the store. And the police cars showed up—and I had to NEGOTIATE with them on the driveway issue. (I was, like, "Tell him to give us all Slurpees," and the 7-11 owner was all, "Never!") It was so … stupid, basically. There was this one moment, though, where I kind of stood apart from it—I think it's when I was walking back from the Big Negotiations–and I saw the huge group of kids (which had about doubled by then) marching in a double row all up and down the sidewalk, chanting and pumping their signs up an down, and there were four or five cop cars parked at weird angles all around, and there were all these parents sitting on lawn chairs with blankets and coolers of food (and lots of the parents were marching, too, which amazed me), and there were tons of spectators all over the place, and all the traffic had slowed down for everyone to watch. And I thought, "Man. If you pick a good cause, and you get organized, and really think about how to do whatever it is you want to do, it can pretty quickly take on a whole other life of its own. You need to be CAREFUL with this stuff." I felt … warned by life.

  • Karen

    My (late) husband asked me once what I wad doing when I heard that MLK Jr. and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated. I don’t remember. While he was at Harvard and protesting Vietnam, I was in 2nd grade — or else at home recuperating from the mumps or a broken nose. Each generation thinks it is the most enlightened. Perhaps only the children are?

  • It does seem like each generation gets a little wiser, doesn’t it?

    Of course, a lot of elderly people seem pretty wise.

    All the smart, wise people are under eight and over eighty. Everyone else sucks.

    I once wrote a short piece about where I was when MLK died, and asked others to share whatever they might remember of that day. That piece is … here:

  • Liz

    The beginning of the fifth paragraph made me laugh so hard, I had to pause before I could continue reading. Excellent craftsmanship, once again.

  • Ummm, so much nicely unsaid. Good crafting.

    Flowers for Algernon … I need to read that again.

  • Great post. I don't know whether to be happy or sad, but I think I got most, if not all of your sly allusions. I could almost smell the hot smoke and sasafrass!

  • Linda Chimienti

    John, did you get Miss Michaels for 8th grade English at Collins Jr. High? That woman forced an essay a week out of us and although I felt she RUINED that semester for me (writing is so difficult for me) I sort of felt the light bulb turn on when it comes to finding something to say and saying it in two pages. My mom was involved in the process too as she patiently listened to my frustrated rantings about tough ol' Miss Micheals and then she would help me refine my thoughts and suggest ways to edit them. Did your mom help you along when you were learning to write? Or was it an inspirational teacher that takes credit for that? I love your writing.

  • Patty

    I was a hippy Christian. The two aren't mutually exclusive.

  • Your memory slays me.

    "Where, oh where, have all the flowers gone?"

    You're like a poet trapped in a writers body.

  • At first I thought you meant this sentence: "One night I did see my mom on TV, running from a cop who was chasing her fast, with his club raised high." I was, like, "Wow. Tough girl!" But .. that's not what you meant. Thank you for the kind words.

  • Thank you, Sherry (and for your other recent kind comments).

    Later, in high school, I played Charley in the play "Flowers for Algernon." I was awesome. But it's wrong to say so. So I won't.

  • Wow! You're welcome! I've never had a craving for "generational-specific laughter." I once had a craving for some generational-specific ice cream, but Dandelion Surprise was really a let-down flavor.

  • No, they're certainly not.

    Brian: BOTH your parents were John Birchers? Or even ONE of them. Man, that is hardcore. Have you ever written anything about that?

  • Sasafrass! That would have been a MUCH better Oldye Thyme ice cream flavor! (This refers to a reply I left to a comment further up, in which I … oh, never mind.)

  • I DID have Miss Michaels, of the mannish haircut and gait. That was one tough teacher, man. But I secretly appreciated her adherence to her standards. She once gave me an "F" for a report I wrote on tropical fish. My dad went insane. By then he'd resigned to the fact that I'd never learn to add and subtract; if I turned out to be a loser in English, too, he feared I'd be living at home forever. So he went to the school and worked out some sort of clemency deal with Miss Michaels, and the next thing I knew I had one day to do a REAL report, which this time wouldn't involve me ripping any pages out of an encyclopedia and sloppily stapling them together. She told my dad that I was the most smart-alecky, pain-in-the-ass student she'd EVER had. She basically hated me, and wasn't shy about letting me know. One day she kept me after class and said, "What the hell is your problem, Shore? What's with the wise cracks all the time? This is a classroom, not a nightclub. And you're a student, not a comic. You crack one more funny joke in my class, and you'll be laughing your way right into the principal's office." And I go, "Really? You think my jokes are funny." And she THREW A STAPLER AT ME!" I could see she threw it wide, on purpose, but still. Pretty scary.

    Thank you for saying you love my writing. That's very kind of you.

  • What a lovely thing to say. Thank you, Ric.

  • Not really. It was quite an adventure… and of course it was mostly about race. No going to school with THEM. No swimming in the same pool with THEM. You get the idea.

    My pediatrician was chosen not for his medical acumen, but because he was featured in a Bircher book called "A Texan Looks at Lyndon."

    As Molly Ivins once said, "Once you realize they're lying to you about race, you start to question everything else."

  • Karen

    Thanks for the link; I read the article.

    You're right about the under eight and over eighty. I don't think humanity as a whole is getting smarter. We just don't seem to be capable.

    It's sad that I don't remember that day, but I may have been in the hospital. I'm sure it mattered to my parents. Mom was from Memphis, and they both are not racist. This would have hurt them deeply.

    Thanks always, John!

  • Latoya

    I just love the way you express yourself..always have 🙂

  • Mindy Yates Moore

    That's pretty funny… I went to the same elementary school too. I didn't know John until 7th grade, so I don't remember the picketing at 7-11, but I do remember the petition/protest to let girls wear pants at school. My 16 year old daughter still doesn't believe me when I tell her that we had to wear dresses to school "way back then"!

  • I remember organizing another protest in junior high (Mindy, you might remember this; though I hope not) against boys not being allowed to wear Bozo wigs, clown noses, and nothing but underwear to school. I had a whole bunch of signs made up, and wrote a cool chant or two; I especially liked: "Big hair's enough to wear!" and "A big red nose, and no clothes!" I was crushed when I turned out to be the only one who showed up at the rally.