Part 2: Into the Deep South...
From there, we moved to the deep south- Florence, Alabama, and I loved it. Frist of all, the house was by the lake. Second of all, it was the first place my sisters and I lived that had a little thing called, "central-airconditioning." I had never experienced the deep South before and in some ways, Alabama was one of my biggest influences. I'll never forget driving through a real shanty town for the first time. It's not there anymore, but for those of you that have ever experienced the silent segregation that still lived up into the late 80's, a shanty town is a sad, different world. Wooden shacks with dirt floors as far as the eye could see. Nary a tree. It was if we had driven into a third-world country. We didn't spend a long time touring Shanty town, to say the least, but many of my friends lived there.
So, it was in Alabama that I was faced, dead-on with racism. Unbeknownst to us, we had KKK members in our church. (Some wonderful people too, and good friends.) One church member told my dad that if he seated a black man then he'd regret it. I don't need to tell you my dad's response. Again, only a few church members were nasty, most were very kind. I loved my school even though I wandered the halls of my first years of highschool (8th grade was in the highschool) in total terror. Groups of black young men would single-out one white male and ambush him, for no reason, and for a good 10 seconds the would knock the crap out of him, then disperse, leaving the beaten boy on the floor. Thankfully, that never happened to me. That lasted for a year or so until the school took some drastic measures.
What saved me from racism was my black friends. When I moved there, I didn't know a thing about racism. It was never a part of my family and my hero growing up was Michael Jackson. (Thus the moon-walk performance.) My black friends explained to me that these guys were just angry and that all black people don't do that crap. From them, I learned what welfare was, and I watched in amazement as some teachers discouraged them from enrolling in college-bound courses. In one instance, one of those friends probably saved my life...
It is no exaggeration that the school where I went harbored downright criminals, white and black. In one study hall, one black young man was talking about how he was going to stab the next person that talked back to him. Long story short, somehow, my mouth somehow volunteered for his sociology experiment. It wasn't intentional, but something I said, some question... offended this character. One of my black friends interceded for me and with two words and prevented my death: "He's cool."
Many other deeply dramatic stories from this time have shaped my conscience, some to do with racism and some not, and because of them, deep south is in my blood forever.
To the Midwest...
From there, we moved to the true mid-west, Springfield, MO. Springfield is home to some of the greatest people I've ever met. Some of my most important growth came in that era and I owe much of my character to the friends and church family there. I probably had the most fun living in Springfield and I still LOVE going back. I started playing the piano there. Someday, I hope to own a little house there and spend half a year at a time there, maybe tend some sheep... (Hey, a man can dream.)
I went to a small church in Springfield and my youth group was just awesome. Never would you find such an array of characters in one place. Right now, they are scattered about and most are doing great things. One works for NASA, another is pres. of his own Engineering company, one is a successful accountant, one is a military chaplin, one is living in Boston, graduate of M.I.T. with his wife and kids and does medical research, or at least he did last time I checked. All of them encouraged the lonely preacher-boy writing this today and I owe much to their friendship.
After that I spent 10 years in the great state of Texas. Let it be said (sorry dad) that though Oklahoma and Alabama probably shaped my artistic conscience more than anything, I'd probably claim Texas as home more than any place. (NYC is gaining though...) Texas was (and still is) where I was primarily educated. It was in Texas that I met and married my amazing wife, and for that alone, it is the greatest state in the union. (Ironically, my wife was born in Oklahoma as well!) Texas was the place where I learned to love the church again and where made some more of my deepest friendships.
I never considered myself much of a role-model, but my stint in Texas helped me to learn that God uses all that you have to offer, and what you do... everything you do matters to the younger eyes watching you. I suppose a big fat "duh?" would be in order for that last statement, but this is coming from a man who still tries to see the world as a kid himself.
So there you have it folks. A brief history of me. I do love this city, but once a southerner, always a southerner. Example: You really need good walking shoes to survive in this city, however, you'd have to tear my cowboy boots from my cold dead hands.
My anscestors made it here floating on debree, we made it here in a Uhaul. Not much progress there if you've ever driven a Uhaul.
Hope you enjoyed. Any questions? What's your story? Do you go in for that sort of family history?