Twenty-five years ago today, I came to Kansas City for the first time. It was some sort of pre-registration event for incoming freshmen at Jewell. The Kansas City part was fairly short... and may have technically been a look from a slight distance, as we came across on I-70 and then headed north on... some road or another. If I had to guess now, I'd say 435, but maybe we did the 291 thing. Whatever.
Anyway, the date has always stuck in my head, as it was such a huge thing for me. I wanted to get out of Ralls County (no offense, Ralls County) so bad at that point, and I had an audition for a scholarship that day, and it was a huge deal. The night before I'd spent what seemed like hours perusing the Hannibal Public Library looking for a 4-minute monologue piece. In those days way before the internet, I had no idea how to find such a thing in my rural home town or nearby towns' libraries. June 7, 1985 was one of the first times I heard my mom drop the f-bomb, by the way.
I came in from my fruitless trip to the library in Hannibal, and Mom asked if I found anything. If you've seen that scene with Edie McClurg from "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles", what came out of my mouth was not unlike what I said to my mom at that point. However, my rant was about living in a small town and a rural community--just equally peppered with f-bombs as the one in the movie. Mom's response was similar to the one by Edie McClurg's character: "Well, f*** it." Well, similar in that it was short and had the f-bomb in it.
So I went to my trusty Apple //c and started adapting the floor show from "The Restaurant at the End of the Universe" into a four-minute monologue. I stayed up very late working on that, and had to get up very early the next morning.
We had just gotten a handicap van (with a wheelchair lift), and I seem to recall the removal or the return of one of the swivel chairs in the back the night before. The library search, the conversation with mom, seeing the chair replacement/removal, and the hours spent in front of my computer with a paperback book beside me are the main things I remember from the day before.
I got a couple of hours sleep before we had to get up, get ready, and head for Jewell. In an ideal world, I would have slept in the van. However, I had a monologue to memorize. I'll cut to the chase on the audition: it was terrible, but luckily at that point to get a theatre scholarship at Jewell if you were male, all you had to do was be in the program.
I guess the Taylor family (sans Derek, if I remember correctly) came to our house, and we all left in the van from there. I remember Les pointing out a hotel he worked on when he was in the Kansas City area working. I still think of that whenever I drive by that place on I-70.
I don't remember a lot of time details. I know early on I had my audition, which started with a meeting with Kim and his son Kyle (well, the meeting was with Kim, and Kyle was there). Kyle was on his way into 2nd grade, and his head was shaved. I thought he had leukemia or something.
I know my appointment to set up my schedule started while I was auditioning. My mom met with Dr. Dunham for that part, and I arrived later. We were in the west cafeteria, not far from where me and mine often ate dinner every night over the next several years. Apparently Dr. Dunham found my mom entertaining enough not to shoo us away upon my arrival.
We didn't look at a lot of the campus (at least, it doesn't seem like we did... I was dead tired, so maybe I sleepwalked through it). I remember seeing Joy Mincey, because she had long black hair with a streak of red it in. This small-town boy was shocked that people would go out in daylight like that.
In honor of it being the 25th anniversary of my first visit to Jewell, I went on campus today. I took a lot of pictures of the quad, and my photo-of-myself for the day was outside the theatre. And I ran into Dr. Robinson! I was in her "Teaching Reading in the Secondary School" class in... 1989 or so. She was so excited to learn of another male middle school teacher... and I learned in the course of her conversation she has been teaching there for 31 years!
I walked around the library a bit, and went into the new-fangled Student Union. It's all very different. Blink, and 25 years pass.
Apparently, lots of other changes are on the way. The school wants to "modernize" the front of the library, so it looks more like the new Student Union front. Whatever. It's all good. I've got photos of what it used to look like.
I kept thinking how much has already changed since that day. I decided to go while I was on the other side of town, so just for fun I had the Garmin tell me how to get there. I had my phone with me. I was taking pictures with my digital camera. I wondered what that me from 25 years ago would have thought about all that, were we to bump into each other on the quad. But there were probably much more important things to share with that guy. Winning Powerball numbers, for instance...