The Road to Farley

The Road to Farley

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Tickets to Somewhere...

This week, I attended a Hancher performance of Take 6 with two of my favorite peeps: Liz and Katie. Fantastic concert! If you haven't heard of Take 6, you should check them out. Six "brothas" who sing a capella -- everything from gospel, to Michael Jackson, to Earth Wind & Fire, to Miles Davis. What they can do with their golden voices is amazing. (Which makes me wonder, what happened to Mr. "Golden Voice" Homeless Man??? That sure was a less than 15 minutes of fame moment earlier this year, wasn't it?)

Of course, the event wasn't really at Hancher because Hancher has been closed ever since the flood of 2008! C'mon U of Iowa...this is getting a bit ridiculous. It's been three years, and I still see no movement on getting Hancher rebuilt.

Anyway, for years, I have saved my tickets to events that I attend. I don't know exactly why I started this, but I have a big glass jar with one of those hermetic-sealed lids that I toss all of my tickets into. Every time I have moved over the course of the past 25+ years, I think I should just let it go and toss them. But, I continue to cart them around with me. So, today, as I was about to plop my Take 6 ticket into the jar, I took a little trip down memory lane to reminisce on what I've seen during a period equal to HALF my life. (OK, that's weird to think about...)

1986: I was still living in Texas and clearly was still in my "country" phase. On January 31, 1986 I attended the Fat Stock Show at Will Rogers Coliseum in Fort Worth. I wasn't all that interested in the Fat Sock...but, yum, cowboys in Wranglers and ropers! Enough said! I'm sure we hit the cowboy bars near the stockyards after the show. I was with my friend Donna on this night, and she had invited three friends of hers to join us. There was Perry, who was a former Miss Montana (for real) and a friend of Donna's from college and her friend. To say that Miss Montana was not digging the other two chicks would be putting it mildly. Later that night, when we got back to Donna's, she called her boyfriend and described them as "the two skankiest women she had ever met."

1986 - 1989: I've graduated from college and am now living the single girl career life in Minneapolis-St. Paul. Evidently, going to Twins' games was cheap entertainment for us. I have a whole slew of Twins tickets. The cheap seats were 5 bucks. We probably paid more for the beer. I also attended a number of Iowa basketball games and football games. Apparently, it was easy to get tickets via the U of M back them. Those tickets were pretty cheap, too. 10 bucks. Those were the glory days of Hayden Fry and Tom Davis, when we could count on Iowa to kill the Gophers, and Roy Marble was, well, not in the news on a regular basis for substance abuse issues.

On February 22, 1989 I saw Robert Goulet in South Pacific. I can still hear him singing "Some enchanted evening....." I remember that he was very short and wore platform shoes.

1989 - 1997: I moved back to Iowa and met Grayling. It's easy to see that my entertainment choices changed here. No more Iowa or Twins games. Oh, wait, I take that back. On July 9, 1994, we went to a Twins vs Cleveland Indians game because we got comped tickets from Kenny Lofton. That was an interesting night. Grayling and Kenny went to high school together, and another of their classmates was at the game compliments of Kenny. He brought his baby and her mother, along with the mother's son from a previous relationship. The little boy was like 5, and the guy wouldn't buy him anything at the game! He bought his daughter popcorn, pop, whatever. It annoyed Grayling and I so much, that we ended up buying the kid stuff. When Grayling asked his friend why he wasn't buying the little boy anything he replied, "he ain't my kid." Whatever, idiot! Also from this era, tickets to Boyz II Men; Blues Music Festival with BB King, Etta James, and Jimmy Vaughn; the Manhattans; Cincinnati Jazz Festival; New Edition (sans Bobby Brown -- that was a terrible concert! They sang for all of about 45 minutes); Aretha Franklin; Bring in Da Noise, Bring in Da Funk (with Savion Glover tap dancing); more BB King; Indiana Pacers vs Charlotte Hornets.

I also saw Donny Osmond in "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat in Chicago." Fabulous! Donny was still a little bit rock and roll. I went with my mom, brother, and sister in law -- not Grayling, duh!

1999 - present: I moved back to Iowa City, and without Grayling's daily influence and with my work travel schedule, once again my entertainment choices changed. This is kind of my "Broadway" phase, I've seen a number of shows both on Broadway and other venues, including: Tony & Tia's Wedding; We Will Rock You; 700 Sundays; Movin' Out; Hairspray; and Little Mermaid.

During a work trip to Vegas, we were given comp tickets to see "Jubilee" at Bally's. I think it's the longest running topless show in Vegas. I have to was incredible. The costumes are designed by Bob Mackie. I felt transported back to the days of the Rat Pack. It was classic, and, really, the topless part was very secondary. A top notch show.

Speaking of rat pack, I took my parents to see Tony Bennett at Hancher on September 28, 2002...back when Hancher was a great venue! If I recall correctly, it was Hancher's 30th anniversary celebration. "I left my heart, in San Francisco..."

I saw two former presidents during this time -- Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, who were guests for the U of Iowa Lecture Series. I don't care what anyone says, they will remain my two favorite presidents.

Don't worry, Grayling wasn't totally out of the picture. There are more BB King tickets, Monk on Monk, more Etta James.

On January 7, 2007, I saw "Bodies, The Exhibition" in New York. This is a kind of freaky traveling exhibit of cadavers, which shows the musculoskeletal structures of the bodies in various positions. It's a somewhat controversial exhibit because some believe that the bodies are from Chinese prisoners who have died and the families did not consent to have the bodies displayed. Of course, the exhibit insists that this isn't the case. Still, it was disturbing and fascinating all at the same time.

So, back in the jar my tickets will go. It's a little window into my life. Tickets to the destinations in my so-called life journey. When I'm old and gray, I can hold these tickets in my hands and try and recall these moments and the friends with whom I have shared these times.

After my Grandma Scherrman died, we found a whole box of "stuff" in her attic from her various travels. Hotel receipts, menus from restaurants, train tickets, postcards she had written home to my dad and his sisters from these trips. I put all these mementos in a binder because it made me feel like I got to know my grandma as a younger woman because of this. Maybe Carter or Carter's kids will find these tickets 50 years from now and say, "Wow, Aunt Carol really got out and enjoyed life."

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Secret Millionaire

I typically do not watch the ABC reality show "Secret Millionaire" because it airs in the same time slot as the CBS reality show "Amazing Race." (Yes, I admit that I do like my reality shows.) But, tonight, I tuned in because the secret millionaire was visiting Gary, Indiana.  

The media typically portrays Gary as a rundown crime-infested city with a high unemployment rate, high poverty rate, and and a declining population.They make it seem as if the city has no hope. I worked in the heart of Gary from 1997-1999, and I was able to see a different side of Gary. 

Gary was once a thriving city on the shores of Lake Michigan, built on the backs of the major steel mills. At one time, it was the second largest city in Indiana and was the major retail shopping area in Northwest Indiana. You can drive down Broadway and see the shells of what were once fancy department stores and boutiques. Driving through some of the city's neighborhoods, you can envision what were once grand homes on tree-lined streets. Marquette Park, with acres of beach on Lake Michigan, was once a crown jewel of the city. When I've driven these streets with Grayling, I wondered how a city can fall into such disrepair over the course of 30-odd years. Several factors played into the city's decline. In 1967, Gary elected it's first black mayor. At the time, Gary was predominantly white. Soon, white flight started to erode the population base as white residents began to move out into suburban areas. The steel mills began to experience increased competition from foreign companies. Unemployment was on the rise. City services began to suffer as the tax base steadily declined. As homes and businesses were vacated and vandalized, there were no resources to rehabilitate them. A city doesn't fall apart overnight, rather, it dies a slow painful death. 

The amazing thing I learned during my time working in Gary, and what tonight's secret millionaire learned, is that Gary is still full of amazing, dedicated, humble individuals. People who have more faith in God than I personally could ever imagine. People who are welcoming and accepting of everyone...even a white girl from Iowa. In a city that faces sometimes unimaginable despair, lives resourceful and committed individuals who band together to continue to rebuild the community and to make it a better place for their children. In Gary, I learned to not make assumptions about people until I have stood in their shoes. And, I learned to be grateful for the smallest gifts in life. And, I learned that sometimes a kind word can make all the difference.    

Some of the best tacos I've ever had came from 5th Avenue Tacos in Gary. South Gleason Golf Course in Gary is my go-to course when I'm in Indiana. And, attending a high school basketball game in Gary is an experience that can't be duplicated just anywhere! Go West Side!

Friday, March 11, 2011


I went to the gym today. Yes, you read that correctly! I bought a membership to the University of Iowa Rec Centers this week and tonight was my first official night to go. If I go at least 8 times per month, my company reimburses me $20/month for the cost of the membership. This is good, there has to be some kind of incentive for me to go besides just trying to be healthy. That's boring.

Tonight seemed like a good night for my first foray into the CRWC...that's Campus Recreation & Wellness Center to the uninitiated. It's a beautiful new building in downtown Iowa City that just opened in August 2010. It has everything you could want in a fitness center: an abundance of fitness equipment and weights, a rock climbing wall, an indoor track, a gym, and the prize jewel in my mind...a natatorium, which is a fancy word for a pool. But, oh, what a pool. It's the home of the UI swim team, so it's an Olympic sized pool complete with diving platforms. I picked tonight to go work out for the first time because spring break started today, and I hoped there would be fewer agile college students staring at me as I was dragging my fat arse around checking out the equipment. I was wasn't very busy.

As I plodded along on the treadmill with the built-in TV screens and looked out toward the UI library and Burlington Street, I thought back 30 years...yes my freshman year at Iowa. When it was spring break, I didn't have the luxury of heading to Florida or Cancun, I just headed to Farley. In fact, I never went anywhere other than home during spring break. But, really, it was fine. I probably would have hated it. I've never been one to prance around on a beach in a bikini. I don't really like crowds. I dislike crowds of drunken people even more, and I've never been one interested in drunken hookups. I like to think that I spared myself a lot of humiliation by being safely ensconced in Farley during spring break. Well, I suppose you could count the trip that my BFF Cathy and I took to Des Moines for one night during spring break of freshman year. We thought we were so cool, staying at a Best Western hotel, going to the mall, and eating at Chi Chi's. Is Chi Chi's even still in business? We met up with one of our friends who lived on our floor in Burge Hall. She was visiting her cousin and staying at his apartment. We stopped over there...he was an odd duck. We felt weird so we went back to our hotel and, I don't know, probably jumped on the beds and ate junk food or something.  

OK...14 minutes in on the treadmill at 4 mph with a 3.5 incline...working up a sweat. I forgot my iPod, so I can only read the close-captioning on the Channel 7 news, which is mostly about the devastating earthquake in Japan. I begin to think I need to get a part-time job typing closed captioning because whoever is doing this broadcast is terrible. Every other word is misspelled and the other half of the words are missing, so it's difficult to piece together what is being said. There is a story about nine U of Iowa students who are studying in Japan this semester. They were able to contact all nine and they are safe. None were directly in harm's way of the earthquake and tsunami.

My mind starts to wander again of the course of my life from freshman year to this moment. I think back to choices I made along the way that altered the course of my life. These aren't earth-shattering choices. In fact, at the time I didn't much give them a second thought, but with all the life wisdom gained in the past 30 years, I think of how a few might have made my life quite different. 

The first was probably my decision to transfer from the U of Iowa after my freshman year. In all honesty, the only reason I even chose the U of Iowa was because my friend Cathy was going there. I didn't apply to, look at, or even consider any other options. I wasn't even all that sure I wanted to go to college. There are a whole host of life choices that I'm sure I overlooked on that decision. Had I stayed at Iowa, I suppose I would have graduated with a business degree of some sort and then gotten a job in Chicago or something. I would have probably trekked to Iowa City each October for homecoming and followed the football team to bowl games. Heck, I might have even tried out for marching band. But, instead, I transferred first to Clarke College in Dubuque, quit school for a semester, moved to Texas and enrolled in a fashion college. Yes, the kind of school advertised in the back of Seventeen magazine. I realized after about two days that it was a school for dumb--and I mean DUMB--rich girls. For example, business math was how to use a calculator. After I explained that I had already taken college calculus, I got to opt out of that class. I lasted about four months, but I had a 4.0 when I completed my "fashion certificate."

Fortunately, the University of Texas Arlington was two blocks away. So, one day I walked over and signed up. That was in the boon of Texas oil days and tuition even for out state residents was super cheap. I'm talking like $400/semester for a full course load. I graduated after three and a half years, thanks to my two years as a non-major, my semester off, and my stint at fashion college. I had a lot of electives. When I was a couple of months from graduation, my boss in the financial aid office suggested to me that I should move to Washington, DC and get a government job/internship for at least a few years. She told me that DC would be filled with people my age from all over the country, and that I would make great connections and gain valuable experience. I didn't even consider this as an option. Again, I didn't even look into it at all. Now, after working on government contracts for the better part of the last 15 years, and having a better understanding of how things work on the "Beltway," I realize what sage advice she was giving me. By now, I could have 25 years experience as a public servant and be well on my way to early retirement with federal benefits. I could have been among the movers and shakers. But, instead, I decided to move to the Twin Cities.

1986 was not necessarily a banner year for employment for recent college grads. After being unemployed for four months and getting countless rejection letters, I took a job with a temp agency. Because of my financial aid experience in college, I was hired to enter student loan applications into a guarantee agency's database. It was mind-numbing work, but I prided myself on my speed and accuracy. After just three weeks, I was offered a permanent full-time job in their claims department. The very day that I accepted, I received another job offer to be an accounting clerk with a locally-owned chain of Italian restaurants in the Twin Cities. I told them, "No thanks, I've accepted another job." I was so young and dumb. I didn't even ask what the salary was. The job in the claims department was going to pay a whopping $12,500 per year with the possibility of some overtime. Who knows, had  I take the job with the Italian Restaurant, I might have become a mogul in the restaurant business. Maybe I'd have had my own franchise. At the very least, I'm fairly certain I would *not* have been headed to my career in financial aid.

Fast forward about 13 years. I was living in Indiana, still working in financial aid. I was ready for a change. Simultaneously, I was offered a job at my former company in Iowa City and had completed a second comprehensive interview with the U.S. Department of Education (ED), based in Dallas. Without waiting to find out the results of that second interview at ED, I was packing for Iowa. Another shot at a job as a public servant and a future with federal benefits forsaken. 

Don't misunderstand my musings about my choices as dissatisfaction with my life. Quite the contrary. I look at all the wonderful experiences and friendships that I quite possibly would have missed if the choices at those junctures had been different. If I hadn't spent a year at Clarke, I would have missed out on friendships with Kay and Cruiser. If I hadn't moved to Texas, I wouldn't have rekindled my friendship with Donna...who has been a steadfast friend since first grade. I wouldn't have gained that financial aid experience, which has provided me with many opportunities and professional friendships over the years. If I hadn't worked at the student loan agency, I would not be friends with my dear friend Craig in St. Paul. I cannot imagine a Craig-less life...after nearly 25 years, he has an uncanny knack of always making me laugh and always knowing what I'm really thinking. If I hadn't moved to Dubuque for a position as an assistant director of financial aid, I would not have met Grayling...who, for better or worse, has been a very significant part of my life for nearly 22 years. If I hadn't moved to Iowa City...I would have missed knowing some of the best friends and co-workers that a person could have. Katie, Liz, Sara, Cassie, Gary, Paul, Hayden, and so many others. You all enrich my life in countless ways. 

Maybe those other paths would have lead to equally satisfying relationships. But maybe not. Maybe I would have been miserable in DC. My cholesterol, BP, and weight might have gone sky high working at the Italian restaurant. I didn't really like Texas the first time I lived there, what makes me think I would have liked it any better the second time. I think, right where I am is where I am supposed to be. 

35 minutes on the treadmill...I'm sweaty. Thankfully, I have on my Nike Dri-Fit shirt. I mostly walked, but I did jog for a couple of segments until I thought I was going to fall off the treadmill. The computer says I burned 385 calories. Hmmmm, I don't think that covers the chocolate that I devoured at my desk this afternoon. My goal...go to the gym again on Saturday and Sunday. I need to get my 8 visits in for the month so I can start recouping my $20/month.