Untotaled: Stepping 37 (September 4th, 1967) Fair Weather Friends … October 25, 2014

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(2392)

(Transcript)

For most of the years of my youth, the fall school year commenced the morning after Labor Day. So the last hurrah of the summer was always a trip to the Ohio State Fair, to hopefully connect with friends, and enjoy some cotton candy, joke about the smell of the pig barns and see each other, so that when the academic year began we wouldn’t feel like strangers or look at each other like aliens.

In 1967 something unbelievable happened. My friend Phil asked me to spend the weekend with him and my parents agreed. That, in itself, was special. But when Phil’s father gave us $5 apiece three days in a row, dropped us off at the fair and then picked us up in the evening, I thought I had discovered the pearl of great price.

(I did take the precaution of not telling my parents what was going on, just in case they would throw a wrench into the gears.)

So we called our friends and made plans to meet up at the gate so we could spend the day marching around the fair as free men and women, knowing that in just a few days we would be on a death march to the classroom.

The fair was amazing that year because the proprietors had scheduled both Herman’s Hermits and The Who to appear in the grandstand for free. Living in a small town, I was not that familiar with either group, especially The Who.

The bands were fronted by Peter Noonan and Peter Townsend, so we guys got a great locker room giggle off of the battle of the “two Peters.” (The girls along with us didn’t seem to understand the joke or they played dumb to maintain their small-town innocence.)

Honestly, I found the concerts annoying. There were girls screaming everywhere, which made us jealous that these chicks were getting all worked up over scrawny Englishmen instead of big, burly Buckeye boys. Plus there was a little propriety swimming around inside of me from my parents, which caused me to criticize the groups because they “looked like girls, dressed funny or weren’t American.”

Matter of fact, we had a huge discussion with the females, which escalated into a fight. So we finished out the fair separated into camps of gender. The boys felt that the rock and roll bands were “sissy” and wouldn’t last long. But the girls, having better intuition, knew that this music was here to stay.

The three days prior to school that year passed way too quickly and we spent too much time eating and not enough time feeling.

But the appearance by these two English rock and roll bands did seal something deep within our hearts that would bloom much later.

My Generation was Into Something Good–and The Times Were Certainly a’Changing.

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Untotaled: Stepping 33 (March 12th, 1967) Charley … September 27, 2014

Jonathots Daily Blog

(2364)

(Transcript)

Charley loved to run.

Not me.

I had chubby legs that seemed to be made out of cotton candy, generating the gait of a circus elephant.

In one of the brief fits of verbosity that possessed his soul, Charley once shared with me that running faster and faster made him feel that his feet were leaving the ground and he was soaring into the heavens to dance with the angels.

Pretty articulate for a Midwest kid.

I decided to go out for track and field more or less because I didn’t have anything else to do. Since I could not run or jump, they asked me to try out on the shot put. I did.

I was unimpressed, so I fell back into my acquired nature of quitting. But even though I departed the team, I found myself during study hall sitting at the table with these athletes, and when the monitor left the room, Randy spoke up and gave us a juicy piece of gossip. (Randy was also a runner but never quite as fast as Charley.)

Randy explained that Charley was a “gypsy type.” Now, I do not know what the origin of that phrase was in our community, but I knew that “gypsy type” meant that Charley was–well, dangerous. The adults had other terms for Charley’s problem when they were alone and away from the children.

  • “Effeminate.”
  • “Queer.”
  • “Sodomite.”

Although I had no personal experience with Charley demonstrating such bizarre behavior, in 1967 just the mention of the situation caused your skin to crawl, making you want to avoid any contact with such perverted beings.

Randy knew this. In other words, it didn’t have to be true–just spoken. The gossip mill and bigotry would do the rest.

No one drew close to Charley after that.

He ate alone, he ran alone, he walked alone, he talked alone.

When he asked me why I was not sharing with him anymore, I clumsily replied, “I’ve been busy.”

One day we came to school and he was gone. No one even asked where he was or if he was coming back. Charley was soon forgotten, and the quest for other “gypsy types” was set in motion with renewed scrutiny.

It was many years later that Randy, the accuser of his running friend, came out of the closet, admitting that he was gay. (“Gypsy type” was no longer acceptable terminology.) Randy was lauded for his courage. He was embraced by his friends. Matter of fact, he was set apart as an example of someone who had endured a silent persecution and now was set free.

Mustering some boldness, I asked Randy about Charley. He said he didn’t remember much about Charley.

He paused and then added, “Oh, wasn’t Charley that good-looking kid that was really fast?”

I just smiled, and said, “Yeah. That’s him.”

I walked away from that encounter realizing that there is no such thing as a “righteous” judgment.

It’s all just crapping on people.

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Untotaled: Stepping 32 (January 14th, 1967) Mr. Bayonne … September 20, 2014

Jonathots Daily Blog

(2357)

(Transcript)

Two or three days of snow, then a brief warming period, followed by a frigid arctic blast, leaving the countryside glistening with ice, rendering everything precarious.

This was the winter of 1967.

It left all of us in grouchy moods, even though we insisted we were hearty “Ohioans,” accustomed to such frosty conditions. We basically just muddled through it, quietly complaining about “the winter of our discontent.”

Arriving back in my classroom after the Christmas holidays, I discovered that our female math teacher was gone. The initial explanation was that she was battling a severe bout of the flu.

But it took little time for the sour grapevine of the gossip mill to unearth the details. She had actually left town due to a pregnancy out-of-wedlock, making her the subject of great local scandal. My coach joked that considering she was a math teacher, she certainly didn’t do a very good job “counting her days.”

The whole locker room laughed, and I joined in–even though I didn’t get it.

Replacing her was a tall, lanky, clumsy olive-skinned fellow with thin brown greasy hair and a beak for a nose which would have been more suitable for the Family Ostrich. He was a tentative sort. Honestly, it appeared this was his first excursion as an educator.

Yes, he was an oddity. An Ichabod who resembled a crane. And in our community of conformity, he became a necessary target and needful diversion for our present boredom.

Especially when we found out that he was inept at discipline. We tormented him with our ridicule and teasing.

He wore the same brown suit every day with a white shirt and a brown tie with a gold design which could just as easily have been a speck of dried-on scrambled egg.

He had a hilarious tendency to point at the blackboard using his middle finger (which by the way, appeared to have three knuckles) and we always burst into laughter. He would whirl around and screech in a scratchy voice, “Silence!” We laughed harder.

One day a cheerleader inched her way to his desk, supposedly to ask him a question. He was so delighted for the kind attention that he failed to notice that she was taking blackboard erasers from their perch behind his back and softly laying them against his coat with her hand, creating an amazing chalk-dust design. After she returned to her seat and he turned around, we all once again erupted in great guffaws. He had no idea. Matter of fact, the same marks of chalk were on his suit four days later.

He persisted. So did we.

Matter of fact, it became more nasty when one student thought it would be funny to place an anonymous note in the suggestion box in the principal’s office, complaining about Mr. Bayonne’s teaching style.

Long story short, when we returned after our Easter vacation of resurrecting our Lord and chomping on Easter bunny candy, he was gone. We had successfully driven a stranger away–simply because we deemed him strange.

I often think about Mr. Bayonne. He may not have been suited to instruct the rabble of high school hoodlums, but he certainly deserved better treatment. But in our tiny world of thinking, this math teacher just didn’t add up.

  • Because he was different, he was wrong.
  • Because he was clumsy, he was mocked.
  • Because he wasn’t Nordic, Germanic or Scandinavian, he stirred our prejudice.

I have spent much of my life trying to make sure that I never “Bayonned” anyone again, and in so doing I have discovered a magnificent reality:

It takes different people to make me different. And if I don’t become different, I’m stuck … going no further than where I am.

 

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The Sermon on the Mount in music and story. Click the mountain!

The Sermon on the Mount in music and story. Click the mountain!

 

Click here to get info on the "Gospel According to Common Sense" Tour

Click here to get info on the “Gospel According to Common Sense” Tour

Please contact Jonathan’s agent, Jackie Barnett, at (615) 481-1474, for information about scheduling SpiriTed in 2014.

Click here to listen to Spirited music

Click here to listen to Spirited music

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