Addicted

I used to be addicted to smokeless tobacco, and I don’t use the word addicted lightly. The term has been tremendously overused in today’s society because I don’t believe anyone can actually have a shopping, gambling, food, or sex addiction. We all have certain passions, and temptations in our lives, but wrongly referring to those as addictions only diminishes the seriousness that true addicts are facing. I do believe in chemical addictions, and am empathetic towards those who have them. I think all of the other so called addictions are mythical, created by the health care industry, and when labeled an addiction tends to lessen the accountability factor; therefore, enabling bad decision makers to feel better about themselves, for the wrong choices they’ve made in life. Furthermore, I’m sure the health care profession isn’t complaining about the substantial amount of money made off of these “addicts.”

I first tried a pinch of tobacco, around the age of fourteen, when my Grandpa McCleary offered me a dip of his Skoal. In his defense I had been bugging him, for a taste of the stuff, for many years. I suppose he thought I was finally old enough to handle the substance, or maybe I simply had worn him down. I do know from a very young age I was captivated by my grandpa, and with his partaking of tobacco. I was fascinated by it all. The aroma, the spitting, and even the shiny lid of the can. The aluminum lid would shimmer in the sunlight, like a large diamond, whenever grandpa would remove the can of snuff, in the great outdoors, from his back pocket. Usually while corralling his cattle, or tending to his garden. I only saw the Missouri farmer twice a year, so I developed a broad sense of who he was primarily by what I observed, and that was mainly of a man dipping Skoal throughout most of the day. I can’t honestly say I enjoyed my first taste of the stuff, but that initial experience with my grandpa was enough to ignite my long love affair with the addictive substance.

I may have been introduced to smokeless tobacco by my Grandpa McCleary, but I didn’t fall head over heels in love with it until the start of my high school baseball career. Back in the “good old days” it was quite common for baseball players to dip during games, and although it was against the rules, at the high school level, we took our chances. I remember one particular game, as I was entering the dugout between innings, when the assistant coach took me aside, and informed me that he could tell I had a pinch of tobacco between my cheek and gum. He then suggested I conceal it better, so the umpire wouldn’t kick me out of the game. The high school seemed to have that same blasé attitude since many of us guys used tobacco during class time, and it wasn’t only the baseball players, but the farm kids as well. Now we couldn’t just blatantly go from classroom to classroom carrying around a spittoon all day, so only those of us manly enough to swallow, for the entire class period, actually dipped during class. We veteran tobacco users weren’t all that hard to spot either. The round shaped hole, found on the back pocket of an otherwise nice pair of blue jeans, was a dead giveaway.

My addiction to smokeless tobacco began innocently enough, as I suppose most addictions do, with me only dipping during baseball games and practices. I soon added snuff to my weightlifting workouts, and then used the substance whenever I was outside doing yard work, or changing oil in my car. I eventually found myself “needing” a dip when playing board games, and watching television. The next thing I knew my addiction had mysteriously progressed, and the only time I wasn’t using was when I was either eating or sleeping. I woke up one day as a teenager dependent on tobacco to survive. My “drug” of choice was Copenhagen. If I was going to use tobacco then I was going to do it right, and dip the “hard stuff.” None of that wimpy wintergreen flavoring, found in Skoal, for me. At the time I didn’t mind spending .79 cents, every other day, for a can of the delicious product, and I certainly wasn’t fearful of the possible consequences (gum disease and cancer) because at that age I thought I was invincible. I was thoroughly enjoying my addiction! Coming soon… part 2.


Smile… It Could Be Worse

I would try to smile, but it doesn’t get much worse than the current situation I am faced with. At least the anticipation, of the horrific event, is almost over since the ordeal’s scheduled time is rapidly approaching. The appointment has been confirmed, and there’s no turning back. My lovely wife will see to that. She is the reason I am in this predicament, and why I don’t feel like smiling at the moment. Because of her, and her persistence I finally gave in, and now reluctantly have a date with the dentist in a mere couple of hours, for my seven year exam. That’s right. I make a point of visiting the dentist approximately every seven years, whether I need to or not, but I suspect I need to this time, and that’s precisely why I ultimately gave in to my wife’s gentle hounding. She actually has been suggesting this visit for the last couple of years, but since I waited seven years between visits last time, and all was well, I decided I might as well try my luck again. I am somewhat worried that this time the results may be a little different because the very back tooth, on the upper left side of my mouth, sometimes aches when I’m chewing.

I’m really not scared or nervous, if truth be told, to go to the dentist. I view the occasion more as an inconvenience than anything else. There’s so many other things I’d rather be doing with my time than laying stretched out on a plastic covered couch with my mouth opened wide. The thought of strangers (I haven’t been to this dentist’s office before) poking around in there isn’t all that appealing to me either. I don’t know where their hands have been, except in other people’s mouths of course, and there’s always the possibility of someone accidentally dropping something down my throat. I think what irritates me the most though is the unavoidable line of questioning I’m sure to endure while helplessly lying there with my mouth open. Most of my answers to their questions will typically be inaudible, or awkwardly responded to at best, and probably accompanied with some drool. Let’s not forget about the questions involving flossing, and the hygienist’s inevitable boring instructions, on the proper technique to use, for making my gums bleed. I am not an idiot! I know how to floss, but I choose not to participate in the tedious activity.

When I was a teenager I had no choice but to endure wearing braces, for three and a half years, due to a prominent overbite. My parents paid $1,500., so I wouldn’t appear too hideous to my junior high classmates. I was the only child in my family who had the pleasure of being referred to as “brace face,” “train tracks,” and “metal mouth.” I actually don’t remember that ever happening, but my older sister did call me “Bucky” a few times before I got braces. Many kids my age were in the same boat, and many others were “four eyes,” so our oddities really weren’t such a big deal. Back in the day there was only one style of braces – gray and bulky, with knobs and wires, which almost completely covered every single tooth. I also had to wear headgear, adding insult to injury, to help in correcting my overbite. I was forced to wear the non-flattering and humiliating contraption at bedtime, and whenever I was in the privacy of my home. Some people wore theirs out in public, and I should have as well, but I’m grateful my parents didn’t make me, or I assuredly would have turned out even more messed up than I already am.

I realize, as I’m heading out the door, that I shouldn’t have too much to worry about, concerning my dentist appointment, because I do take care of my parent’s investment. I do brush my teeth twice a day, and I gave up chewing tobacco and opening beer bottles, with my chompers, a long time ago. I also faithfully use a toothpick after each meal, and I think that should count for something, but unfortunately it doesn’t seem to matter much to those working in the dental profession. Flossing is “top dog” in their industry. The dentist’s office was pretty close to what I had expected, when I arrived, and as predicted there was a plastic covered couch awaiting me. I admitted to the hygienist, after being asked, that I don’t floss, so I received the anticipated lecture, but she was kind enough not to waste my time, nor hers on teaching me the correct way of flossing.

During the numerous x-rays and teeth cleaning I was reminded why I am not a fan of visiting the dentist. The whole experience is very tiresome, yet it’s impossible to get some shuteye. There’s a lot of uncomfortable poking, scraping and scratching, and at times there’s some pain involved. The continuous opening and closing of my mouth undeniably wears out my jaw by the end of the session. When all was said and done, after the hour and a half appointment, I was declared cavity-free, and relieved to finally be leaving the facility. The dentist would like to see me again in 6 months, but I’m positive it will be closer to 7 years. I can once again smile, now that I’m back home, because I certainly know it could be worse.


Immigration

This is one of those rare occasions when I don’t have a strong opinion on such a hot topic. Let me rephrase that. I do not have an adamant stance, one way or the other, concerning illegal immigration. I almost always see everything as being black and white, cut and dry, and crystal clear because I often find the “gray area” to be reserved for the uninformed, and frequent “flip-floppers.” I pride myself on being informed, and listening to both sides of an argument before coming to my own conclusion on any given matter. In the case of the current illegal immigration debate the answer is not so crystal clear to me since I understand the concerns presented by both sides on the issue at hand. Many times I wish I was serving my country as a congressman, aiding in the decision making process, because most problems can be promptly resolved by simply using basic common sense. This isn’t one of those times.

If we’re completely honest with ourselves we have to admit that our ancestors, at one time or another, migrated to America from numerous other countries, and most of us were just plain lucky to have been born in the greatest country in the world. Even with all her faults, there’s way too many to mention in a single blog, America stands head and shoulders above the rest in countless categories, also way too many to mention in a single blog. That’s why everyone wants to come here! However; this country’s population already seems to be at full capacity. That’s probably the reason why foreigners must endure a painstaking process to eventually become U.S Citizens. Apparently our nation no longer welcomes the “tired, poor, and huddled masses yearning to breathe free” as is written at the base of the Statue of Liberty. When exploring the topic of illegal immigration I find myself having more questions than finding plausible solutions to the complex problem.

In the not so distant past I viewed illegal immigration as just that – illegal immigration. I was part of the chorus denouncing illegals with the renowned, “What part of illegal don’t they understand.” I thought rounding them all up, and sending them back to their homelands seemed like the correct, black and white solution, but I sure didn’t know exactly how that would work. I still don’t. How easy would it be to force millions and millions of undocumented people out of the United States? I do still think something needs to be done about the illegal immigrants crossing the U.S. border from Mexico. Most of them tend to be male adults looking for work, or longing to join their wives or girlfriends, and their U.S. born children already living here. Many of them have been sent back only to return time and time again. Would sending away cheap labor hurt our already frail economy? Would legal citizens of this country be willing to fill all of those low paying, manual labor jobs left behind?

We most certainly have a problem with drugs and guns being smuggled into the Southern states of America from Mexico, but the current illegal immigration situation is very different, and deserves to be treated as such. The recent wave of illegals are unaccompanied children migrating from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. I see the need for following laws, but I also see the necessity of showing some compassion, for these undocumented children. They are purportedly fleeing from the rampant gang violence in their countries, and not just into the United States for safety, but into other countries as well. I do have a slight problem with the parents, who are choosing to send their children away, but I can at least understand the thought process behind their decision. I cannot fathom trying to raise a child under those extreme conditions, but I am positive I would rather fight by my child’s side than to send him away.

Unfortunately, there invariably seems to be grandstanding idiots, usually from both sides of the political aisle, who are more consumed with advancing their political careers than addressing current issues with any common sense. For example, The Arizona Republic reported that Pinal County Sheriff, Paul Babeu, recently told the media about some children who were caught crossing the Texas border, and who were going to be bused to Oracle, Arizona. He then shared the explicit details of the supposed event, and the circus began. Some demonstrators showed up carrying signs, to welcome the children, which read “Return to sender,” and “Stop dumping your illegals here.” As usual, as is the case with most protests, there were protesters protesting the protesters. Sheriff Babeu was right there in the middle of it all, but he insisted he was only there to keep the peace, and not as a political photo opportunity.

Likewise, Adam Kwasman, Arizona’s House Representative and congressional candidate, appeared to welcome the free publicity by showing up to the controversial event. As two school buses full of children arrived on the scene they were immediately surrounded by the demonstrators. Mr. Kwasman tweeted, “I was actually able to see some of the children in the buses. The fear on their faces. … This is not compassion.” The funny thing is the busload of migrant children never did show up as predicted by Sheriff Babeu. The pair of buses that did arrive were actually transporting local children to a nearby YMCA day camp. In Mr. Kwasman’s defense, I reckon not every child is excited to spend part of their summer vacation at camp, so there probably were some fearful faces on board the school buses.

Illegal immigration is a serious problem in the United States, but is typically ignored until election time, or when special circumstances of great magnitude, as is currently the case, are brought to light. Is dealing with this issue worth adding $3.7 billion to our nation’s already inflated deficit as proposed by President Obama? I wholeheartedly believe the first step in curbing illegal immigration is for the U.S. to rid itself of it’s current stance albeit bad policy of, “if you’re born here, you’re an American.” That principle should only apply to those born in this country with at least one legal parent, but if neither parent is here legally then the child should not have automatic citizenship. Other than my aforementioned proposal, which I believe is long overdue, I won’t even pretend that I know what the proper course of action to take is regarding illegal immigration. As previously stated I seem to have more questions than answers on the subject. I can’t imagine our current elected officials getting this one right, but at least I don’t have to deal with this mess.


Rain

The other night it rained, and I felt a sudden urge to go outside in the backyard, and lay naked on a lounge chair. I’m sort of strange like that. I mention my nudity only because it would have been quite silly if I had laid outdoors during a rainstorm fully clothed. I’m not totally insane. My wife and I have only experienced about a dozen steady rains in Peoria, since moving here over seven years ago. We live in the desert for goodness’ sake, so we really shouldn’t be too surprised by the lack of rainfall. Raindrops are so scarce in Arizona, that many residents flock to their covered patios to witness the oddity when it happens. I’m not one of those people. At least not yet.

I had my fill of rain while living in Iowa, for the majority of my life. Many times tornados, hail, or flooding accompanied the rain, so there wasn’t much to like about that kind of weather. I think what irritated me the most though was the incessant discussion, about the rain, which lasted all spring, and summer long. The tiresome conversation about whether there was too much rain, or not enough rain, for the local farmers’ crops, was almost too much to bare. I can’t remember a time, as a Newton citizen, when the amount of rain was “just right.” Now, many years later, I found myself not wanting to be a spectator, but longing to be amongst the rainfall. My lovely wife wasn’t interested in joining me (she’s mostly sane), so I experienced the rarity of the condition on my own.

In the beginning the large raindrops were cold, and a bit maddening. There was definitely an initial shock to my body, but then I remembered a relevant line from the movie First Blood. The classic film also happens to be what was playing at the drive-in, when my wife and I went on our first date, on June 3rd, 1983. In the classic film, Col. Samuel Trautman is describing his protégé, John J. Rambo, to an egotistical, small-town sheriff who is trying to capture the former Green Beret. The Colonel warns the sheriff that Rambo is, “a man whose been trained to ignore pain, ignore weather, to live off the land, to eat things that would make a Billy goat puke.” I subscribe to that notion, of mind over matter, so I fully expected the elements to change, for the better, as I continued laying motionless on the lounge chair.

Although my eyes were closed, during this rare occurrence, I could see continuous flashes of light through my eyelids, and I could hear the intermittent thunder as if it were in surround-sound. At first I couldn’t tell if God was crying, or simply nourishing His creation. I know there’s a lot going on in this world worth crying over, but this rainstorm seemingly carried with it a message of peace and happiness with each and every raindrop. The rain increasingly became secondary to my profound thoughts which were usually reserved for the still of the night while nestled in my bed. I found myself praying, as if it was bedtime, and thanking the Lord for who He is and what He does. The rain was no longer cold and annoying, but warm and comforting, and I was filled with an unheralded contentment.

After soaking up the unique experience for awhile I was ready to go inside, but then I suddenly felt challenged to ride out the gentle storm. It seemed as though I was being offered a chance to play a friendly game of, “who’ll blink first,” with God. I was just stubborn enough to remain there on my back, another several minutes, for the duration of the rainfall. I won the game, but only because He let me. That’s what Father’s sometimes do for their children. After claiming victory, and entering the confines of my warm, dry house, it immediately began to rain again as if God was enticing me back outdoors for a rematch. I knew I’d probably lose this time, and I no longer had the yearning to be outside, so I decided to remain inside with my newfound memories of the unique experience. Laying naked outdoors, during a rainstorm, may be a bit unconventional, but at least I’m not one of those “patio people.” Not yet, anyway.


That Was Embarrassing

I would venture to say everyone has been embarrassed at one time or another. I would expand on that statement by adding there are many levels of humiliation, ranging from slight to extreme, and once in awhile the people witnessing another person’s blunder may be more embarrassed by the situation than the actual offender is. For example, one time during a church service a worshiper’s cell phone went off at the most inopportune time. I could not help but cringe, while he fumbled around with the annoying device, until he ultimately got it turned off. Afterwards, he might not have given his faux pas another thought, but because of the embarrassing situation, at least to me, he will forever be known as “the rude cell phone guy.” Many people no longer appear to be shocked, or even that concerned, when a cell phone rings during a church service, theater production, wedding, or even a funeral, because it’s now all too commonplace in today’s society.

Some of our awkward moments could be avoided altogether if we’d simply learn to listen better, instead of pondering a reply, while the other person is still talking. As Judge Judy would say, “There’s a reason why we have two ears, and only one mouth.” I’ve been guilty, like many I presume, of anticipating someone’s words before they’re spoken; therefore, incorrectly responding to them since my brain did not have the time to completely digest what was really said. For instance, one time when I was leaving a Starbucks, after purchasing a cream-cheese danish, I assumed the employee behind the counter was going to say, “have a nice day,” as she had done so many times before, but my well-rehearsed, “you too,” became quite irrelevant after I realized this time she had actually said, “enjoy the danish.” Since I couldn’t go back in time, I hurriedly continued towards the exit, and hoped she somehow didn’t hear what I had just said. I think that would qualify as only a small infraction on the embarrassment scale.

I’ve experienced a few embarrassing moments, at some of the different levels, during my lifetime. There is the common, previously discussed, improper reply. There is also the moderately embarrassing accidental fart, ripped while stretching during team warm-ups, before a freshmen football game. I have even experienced the dreaded, red-faced doozy. I’m comfortable enough in my manliness, although not quite to the extent of wearing pink out in public (like my father), to share one of my most humiliating moments with you. It happened not too long ago during my one year of higher learning. I’m a very routine type of guy (borderline O.C.D.), so I became a bit confused, during the last week of my first semester in college, when most of my class times had temporarily changed. The new times were designed for either taking a final exam, or simply handing in a term paper. My English class was over at least a half an hour earlier than normal, and I had forgotten my next class wasn’t to begin for awhile, so I preceded to my Sociology class. To my surprise, when I opened the door, the professor was already lecturing, and someone was occupying my assigned seat.

This situation might not have been so drastic except the teacher was extremely strict, and she absolutely detested interruptions of any sort. You might as well not even show up to her class if you were going to be late, unless you were a glutton for humiliation, because her typical response was to immediately stop speaking, and to intently stare at you until you found your seat. She would pause for several seconds, although it seemed like an eternity, as she coerced an exaggerated look of frustration onto her face, before asking her famous question, “Now what was I talking about before being so rudely interrupted?” As a responsible adult I whole-heartedly agreed with the importance of being on time, and not interrupting a class, but unfortunately for me (undoubtedly her prized pupil) that notion of hers applied to students arriving too early to class as well.

I stood there motionless, like a deer caught in headlights, trying to grasp what the heck was going on. Several awkward seconds went by before the professor, sensing my confusion, finally informed me that I was in her next class. I blindly felt behind me, for the doorknob, while looking directly at my visibly disappointed teacher. I then gradually opened the door, and began slowly backing out of the classroom. I somehow managed to force a partial smile, and mumbled, “sorry,” while closing the door, as the entire classroom erupted with laughter. That was embarrassing!


Tidbits

Tidbits. That’s kind of a funny word, isn’t it? I do prefer tidbits, over slices, chunks and crushed, when it comes to canned pineapple, but that’s not what I’m referring to at the moment. I don’t have a lot to say on a few recent issues making the news; hence, the clever title, “Tidbits,” but I certainly do have an opinion on Bowe Bergdahl, the Washington Redskins, and even World Cup Soccer. Let’s begin with President Obama’s decision to make a trade for Serviceman Bowe Bergdahl. How much is one life worth? Everything! What should the United States trade for the life of one of their own? Nothing! I know that sounds harsh, but the reality is the recent deal our President made does set a precedent, for future unwarranted negotiations with terrorists, and any other group, organization, or individual who’s deranged enough to take on a hostage.

I can hardly imagine being captured and possibly tortured, and I undoubtedly have compassion for those who find themselves in that predicament, but our Government simply shouldn’t deal with the likes of those people. Especially when it is in exchange for an American Soldier, and it makes no difference whether the enlistee is a decorated war hero, or has been labeled a traitor, by many in his own country, as seems to be the case in this situation. I have to assume all military personnel are forewarned of the enhanced risk of captivity, when joining the Armed Forces, more so than innocent vacationing tourists are. Only time will tell how damaging President Obama’s trade, for Mr. Bergdahl, may be to the security of the United States. Let’s hope and pray nothing ever comes of that mistake.

Another interesting tidbit making headline news, I would like to discuss, is the renewed push to force the Washington Redskins, of the National Football League, to change their team name. I guess some people, although I’m not sure who, or how many, feel the word “Redskin” is disparaging to Indians. Unfortunately, the U.S Government has gotten involved because the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office recently canceled the team’s trademarked name. They claimed it subjected Native Americans to, “contempt, ridicule and disrepute.” Frankly, with how things have been going in D.C., since the “Tea Party” came aboard, I think I’m more offended by the word “Washington” than anything else, and that sentiment is coming straight from the mouth of an American-Indian. Well, partially anyway – somewhere in the vicinity of 1/32nd, or 1/64th Cherokee.

I am also a traditionalist in most cases, and this happens to be one of those times. This world would be a much better place if we weren’t so sensitive about every single thing, and if we didn’t always strive to put political correctness above all else. I usually don’t have much use for the outspoken, Rush Limbaugh, but I do like the conservative’s idea, if push comes to shove, of changing the Washington Redskins’ logo to a potato (obviously of the red skinned variety). On the other hand, I don’t know how exactly one could create a tough looking logo out of a potato. I suppose it would take a marketing genius, but maybe it’s worth a try. I do think our government should absolutely stay out of this controversial debate.

Unlike the “Redskin” issue, I’m finally at peace with the government’s involvement, a few years back, of forcing everyone without cable or satellite programming to purchase a converter box, for television viewing. My wife and I now have several more channels than we did before, so we’ve been able to watch the Men’s USA Soccer Team compete in the World Cup, for free, albeit in Spanish. My wife suggested we watch the matches in closed-caption, but I’m not talented enough to focus on the action and read the captions at the same time. Besides, “Goooooooal!” sounds pretty much the same, I imagine, in any language. I recently read a tidbit of news somewhere that professional soccer already exceeds the popularity of the NBA, and is expected to surpass the fan support of Major League Baseball in the next few years. I find that somewhat difficult to believe because everyone knows baseball is America’s pastime.

I haven’t been much of a soccer fan in the past, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. I only know the name’s of two professional soccer players, Pelé and David Beckham, in the whole history of the game, for Pete’s sake. I think Pelé was the Michael Jordan of soccer, and I know of Mr. Beckham only because I’ve seen his face plastered numerous times on the cover of magazines, but more importantly I know about him because he’s married to my favorite Spice Girl. This past weekend I finally realized I had to get with the program after my own son showed up at church wearing an official USA World Cup jersey. The one thing I noticed immediately, when watching the World Cup, was that every player on the field was an athlete. Not even one pudgy person in sight, unlike some pro golfers, bowlers, and race-car drivers. Yes, I know those other “sports” take a certain set of skills, but professional soccer players might very well be the most well-conditioned athletes in the world.

My recent interest in World Cup Soccer can be filed under the category of “don’t knock it ’til you try it.” I’ve thoroughly enjoyed watching the USA Team advance in the tournament, and I have a newfound respect for the sport, although I don’t think the National Football League has anything to worry about anytime soon. Now, if you’ll please excuse me, I’ve got a sudden hankering for some pineapple.


My Hometown

The longer I live away from my hometown the less familiar it seems whenever I come back to visit. Sure there were some changes here and there, and store closings every now and then, when I was a citizen of Newton, but with each passing year the town’s transformation becomes more apparent to me when I venture back to the place I use to call home. One leisurely drive through Newton, on the city’s main street, and you’d know what I mean. The Tastee Freeze, where I use to buy most of my baseball and football trading cards, and where I would receive either a free parfait or banana split, for every homerun hit during a Little League baseball game, is long gone. All that remains of the once thriving ice-cream joint is a shell of what it use to be. The empty rundown building, now sporting a shingle-less roof, taped-up windows, and its once packed parking lot filled with only glass and debris, replaces the fading memories of the “grumpy old man” behind the counter whipping up a perfectly shaped ice-cream cone. It was almost a miracle when on the rare occasion the owner of Tastee Freeze would crack a smile, but owning one of only two ice-cream parlors in town, for so many years, he was able to take that sour personality of his all the way to the bank.

Creative Touch and Mac’s Compact Disc Shop are also gone. The side by side hair salon and music store, my wife and I owned, was located just off the town square, and brought us great joy for several years. I remember Mark, the UPS guy, routinely coming through my store’s front door, wearing those ugly brown shorts (no matter what time of year), with his jubilant demeanor, and that predictable smile on his face when bringing me a package of merchandise. I always felt like a kid at Christmas, opening the box of goodies I had ordered for the week, even though I of course already knew what was going to be inside. I recall my dream of Mac’s eventually becoming a chain store, but after five years of doing only slightly better than breaking even, and with the downloading of songs off the internet beginning to catch fire, I sadly, yet rightfully made the decision to close my store. My wife was forced to close her thriving business several years later when we moved to Arizona. It has now been seventeen years since I went out of business, and numerous other shops have occupied that same old building over the years, but there are still the visible remnants of stained glue, high above the entrance door, which at one time held the letters spelling out Mac’s Compact Disc Shop, for everyone in town to remember that “Mac was here.”

The town square, where young adults customarily would scoop the loop on weekends, appears to be the same. The Courthouse, sitting smack dab in the middle of the square, also looks the same, but many of the storefronts surrounding the government building are now different. Long ago the public could always count on seeing large glowing crosses, adorning all four sides of the Courthouse, and a manger scene displayed on the courthouse lawn during Christmastime. That is until some atheist, or other person with an unconventional religious belief, felt compelled to complain about the Christian decorations, and ruined the traditional scenery of the Season for the rest of us. The high school where I graduated from, located a mile or so South of the square, looks very similar, but on a much larger scale than when I roamed their halls over thirty years ago. Boy, I must’ve received my diploma even before hitting puberty because I know I can’t be that old.

Several years ago Newton’s projected number of future high school students was significantly on the rise, although I don’t know what genius came up with that prediction, so the city put forth a bond proposal to its taxpayers, for funding a major addition to the school. The proponents of the bond measure continuously threatened the town with, “having to teach children in broom closets,” if the proposal failed. They also shouted the predictable, yet nauseating cry of, “let’s do it for our children,” until the proposal passed, and a costly addition to the high school was built. Now many years later those inflated, projected numbers have still not come to fruition, and if anything the number of students have tapered off instead. I cannot help but wonder, “Why does the school have broom closets anyway?”

Brown’s Shoe Store was the only place in the entire town where one could buy brand name tennis shoes, and it was a town square staple for as long as I can remember. Although I hardly ever shopped there it does seem strange that it is no more. When I was a starting forward on Berg Junior High’s eighth grade basketball team I was practically the only member of the squad who did not wear a pair of Nike high-top basketball shoes purchased from Brown’s. I wore K-Mart Trax. The following season I begged my father for a pair of those sweet Nikes, with the familiar tantalizing “swoosh” on the sides, so I could be like everyone else. Although he thought it was ridiculous to spend that kind of money on a pair of shoes, my father did offer me a deal. He was willing to pitch in the amount of money he would have spent on a cheaper brand, but I would have to make up the difference from my own funds. The only money I had at that age was usually received as gifts from birthdays and Christmas, or earned from the occasional snow shoveling job, so I’m almost positive I went broke attempting to fit in with my peers.

I was beaming with excitement when I showed up to the first practice of my freshmen season wearing my prized Nike high-tops. That is until I noticed everyone else had moved on to either Adidas, Converse, or Puma brand name basketball shoes, and the few who were still wearing Nikes had upgraded to the year’s newest model which looked nothing like what was attached to my feet. Lesson learned. That certainly may have been the point in my life when I stopped trying so hard to fit in, and became perfectly content just being “What I Yam.” My newfound creed seemed a bit irrelevant though, after my son was born, because I now had his self-confidence to consider, and I recognized the world’s unfair view of the correlation between materialistic things and one’s self-worth. We tend to want to give our children more than what we had growing up, so I decided why not start from the get-go. My wife and I purchased our son’s first two pair of shoes at Brown’s Shoe Store when he was only an infant. One pair was red and white, and the other was Hawkeye colors (black and gold), but both pair of the tiny high-tops were of course Nikes. They were on sale, and probably the previous year’s model, but as a parent I made the decision early on there wasn’t going to be any K-Mart Trax for my boy.

I no longer have a voice in the happenings of Newton, but I do continue to care for the wellbeing of the town I called home for so many years. I simply outgrew the small town in Iowa, some time ago, and I’m glad I made the decision to move away, but it was a good place to raise a family, and I have many fond memories of the time spent there. My hometown will always have a special place in my heart, but most importantly the town still holds my family, and that will always be enough to bring me back.


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