Three (not-so) novel truths about youth work

I’m a youth worker. Seriously, check my LinkedIn. In addition to multiple summers of camp counseling, and going on my second year of urban youth ministry, I have experience both “in the trenches” and also at the fancy-schamncy level of organizational leadership. Even the final projects for both of my non-youth-work internships were directly youth related.

This was completely unintentional. Despite an interdisciplinary major, I didn’t have a single undergrad course in education or youth ministry or something even remotely related. “The youth guy” was never part of my identity, because in college your identity is what you study, and at North Park University everyone and their cousin worked at summer camp, so the fact I worked with kids sometimes was not something worth mentioning.

It has slowly begun to hit me, however, that being “the youth guy” is a prominent part of who I am despite no conscious decision on my part. Which has led to some reflection: what is it, exactly, that I am doing? And what it is, exactly, about this work that fuels me and my volunteers? 

The typical answer is valid, despite tinges of self-righteousness. Youth work is about providing stability, a positive environment, attention, unconditional love, and mentorship. In short, we youth workers help make human flourishing happen amongst teenagers.

This should be enough to convince you that the work is worthwhile.

This, however, is not the full answer.

What follows are three truths I have learned about youth work, as someone not formally educated in youth work but rather with my own academic lens (global studies and conflict transformation, ha!) and a particular set of youth work experiences. They might strike you as novel at first, but upon reflection you might see how they have always been there. These not-so novel truths aren’t exclusive only to youth ministry, but I would argue have some resonance for the whole gamut of youth work: from teaching to coaching, from social services to student activism.

Youth are subversive.

We all know the stereotype: the rebellious teenager standing defiant against all authority. Whether they do it for attention, as a vent for adolescent hormones, or maybe even because they have the seedlings of a particular political consciousness, we know who these particular kids are.

The rebels aren’t who I am talking about. Not specifically, at least.

All youth are, by definition, subversive. They represent a certain threat to our authority, structures and institutions, simply because they have not yet learned how to fit into our categories. Youth have, so to speak, fresh eyes for the world.

This may sound overly political. But if you have ever known a choir room used for a hide-and-seek game, or a sanctuary balcony used as a place to sneak a kiss, or a church building that has a freakin’ gymnasium in it, I guarantee you that somewhere along the way youth were involved. And, truth be told, I am not quite sure what can be considered more political than redefining spaces according to how one sees fit.

Youth subversiveness is not limited to spaces. Youth challenge relationships, customs, hopes, prejudices, ideas, and plans. This is part of what we call “not knowing any better.”

So we try and teach our youth how to fit in. We help them behave properly and speak correctly. We give them the skills they need to survive in the world (specifically, our vision of the world), because we know the machine will grind against them if they do not know how to be a part of it, and we know the machine’s parts (that is, us) are always wearing out and in need of constant replacement.

This is the starting point for much of what we consider to be youth work, as it should be. But it overlooks the fact that the whole exchange is a two-way street.

When the adults engage with the youth in order to promote conformity, the return deal is that the adults might find their own structures lacking. Youth have the fresh eyes to call out the contradictions, cracks and collusions that we have grown blind to by way of seeing them too many times. We want them to ask the questions that we have answers to; we are much less comfortable when they ask the questions that we never knew were questions. Youth have the right to reform the machine that they are destined to be a part of, and we would be foolish to wait until they grow up to fix the mistakes that they can see now.

So while we need to figure out what to do with the rebellious teenager, we can be thankful that youth are inherently subversive. The challenge of the youth worker, in this case, is to figure out how to properly channel that subversiveness into something constructive for all of us.

You don’t get too old to work with youth.

Just like how the subversiveness of youth can refresh our institutions, the energy of youth can refresh us as individuals.

To borrow logic from “Dipsea Demon” Jack Kirk, you don’t stop working with youth because you get old, you get old because you stop working with youth.

I have to speak carefully because as a twenty-something youth worker I am far from knowing what “old age” feels like. That said, I count it a great blessing to have a game of dodgeball built into my weekly work schedule, when many of my peers are taking office jobs spent almost entirely behind desks. Although I may not be too proud of the fact I can recite the names of the One Direction singers by memory, I find something particularly exciting about being able to speak the language (which is less a language and more a particular set of communication practices) of the generation after mine.

Yet again, it runs both ways. Youth can refresh the elders, while elders can inspire the youth.

When recruiting volunteers, I keep my eyes open on two particular age groups. The first isn’t surprising: those in their 20’s and 30’s. We are old enough to command the respect (and occasionally, awe) of teenagers, but still young enough to not resemble their parents. The second age group, however, are the “empty nesters”: roughly those in their mid-50’s and 60’s.

Why 50-somethings?

1) Because youth are always subconsciously looking for the role models that their immediate family can’t provide. The same reason those in their 20’s and 30’s inspire awe in teenagers isn’t that much different from why those in their 50’s do as well. Youth are looking for role models, not just for the next stage of life, but all stages of life.

2) Because, assuming they have had kids of their own, they are veterans of the teenage drama, and sometimes your average twenty-something youth leader needs a little extra wisdom on the leadership team.

For those of us “professional” youth workers, our work is sometimes seen as a way of getting one’s foot in the door, before the adult world finally accepts us for bigger and better things. Kind of like a glorified internship. That may be true, but more and more I realize that when (if?) the day comes that I have to leave youth work, I’ll resist like the dickens, unless the next job has an office-wide dodgeball tournament built into the schedule.

Youth work is timeless.

I work in youth ministry, a particular form of youth work that has been around for about two centuries, although it has looked radically different from generation to generation. While it seems that every youth minister — and most youth workers — are constantly on the cutting edge of culture, the work we do has been around as long as civilization itself.

I’ll make my case with Ancient Greece, because Ancient Greece seems to be where everyone wants to make “as long as civilization” arguments. Exhibit A — Socrates hung out with a bunch of youth teaching them the Socratic method and other counter-cultural things, one of those youth being Plato, Plato being Aristotle’s mentor, and Aristotle in turn being Alexander the Great’s youth worker (aka “tutor”). Exhibit B — the Spartans, despite implementing a number of strange practices, nevertheless developed an intricate system of youth work, from which they built their legendary militaristic society.

The principle is simple: as long as there have been youth, there has been a need for youth work.

The next generation is not going to “get it” through osmosis, or “flourish” in passivity. It’s amazing what kids can learn from the Internet, but the Internet cannot teach kids everything. The next generation needs people who understand them, who pursue them, who help and care for them.

If we fail at identifying the right people for this task — and equipping them properly — the future of our communities, churches and societies all of a sudden looks rather bleak.

Despite all of its importance, there is a certain intangibility to youth work. leading to a certain angst among youth workers. We rarely get to see the finished product of our labors. We are artists molding with a clay that has a mind of its own, trying to make beautiful something (someone) that already has dignity on its (their) own.

From this intangibility arises frustration, and therefore youth workers have a tendency to “burn out.” Not before the task is finished, because the task is constant, but before the time is right for them to properly retire or move on to the next phase of life.

So, if not in the elusive sense of accomplishment, where then should youth workers find their perseverance? Their endurance? Their strength?

The answer is simple:

Our perseverance is in the past — this is a work as old as time.

Our endurance is in the future — the youth before us have so much potential to flourish.

Our strength is in the present — there is a game of dodgeball to be played.

I don’t usually dedicate blog posts, but I thought I’d take some space at the end of this post to recognize a certain someone. Someone who perhaps modeled these “three truths about youth work” before I could ever articulate them. I speak of a volunteer youth worker I had as a teenager, Margaret Legardwhose abrupt passing from this life provoked me to develop these thoughts I had been sitting on for a while. Peace to your memory, Mother Margaret, and thanks for all your years of sacrifice, care and wisdom. You will be sorely missed.

Three (not-so) novel truths about youth work

On Notifications

Welcome to the world.

You will have survival needs. You will have aspirations. As a relational and finite creature, you will not be able meet these needs and aspirations alone. Regardless of how self-sufficient you may deceive yourself into thinking you are, you ultimately will need the assistance of other people.

Their time, their talent, their money, their presence, their attention.

It looks doubtful that they will come to you on their own. It is quite possible that you will need to find a way to get to them.

Have you considered sending a notification?

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The analysts talk about how social media and the corresponding hardware are changing the world. This is the new human experience: we are closer than ever before. We are lonelier than ever before. We are more visually-oriented than ever before. We are more creative, at least up till 140 characters, than ever before.

They say that our private has become more public, as we can now both update and check up with our entire community from the comfort of our living room. Meanwhile, our public has become more private, as we can put our ear buds in and listen to our favorite song, texting our best friend, all while walking straight through the park where children are playing and the homeless are taking shelter.

This inverted life comes with its own flow of steady, expected interruptions. Instead of the girl asking you to kick her back the out-of-bounds soccer ball, or the tired man with alcohol-stained breath reaching out his hand to ask for change, the interruption flow now originates from our pockets. With a beep! With a vibration!

No surprise here, it is just a notification.

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On my iPhone home screen, as on my Facebook toolbar, notifications are aggregated and symbolized by some sort of integer greater than zero, placed against a red background. Red, the color of McDonald’s and Kentucky Fried Chicken and Wendy’s. Red, the color of Walgreens and Costco and Office Depot. Red, the color of consumption.

Confession: I judge people who have miscellaneous quantities of notifications littering their smartphone screen: 27 unread text messages, 4 “your moves” in that one game app, 2 weather alerts, 519 unopened e-mails, nevermind Facebook with 13 friend requests and 40 direct messages and 112 at-large notifications.

In the spirit of humility and self-improvement, I am trying to not look at people like you as if you are three months late for your haircut. I am trying to hold out for some sort of explanation. Maybe you really are that popular. Maybe you just went viral. Maybe you just do not know better.

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There is such a thing as a notifications diet.

Like pulling weeds, I go through my phone and unsubscribe from push notifications all the time. For example, I won’t hear about any Facebook notification until I am actually on Facebook.

Most apps remain safe on my phone if they just stay quiet. If you were an app, you probably could sit there all year round, but the moment you wish me Happy New Year for no explicable, pragmatic reason, consider yourself trashed.

Roughly once a week, I try and purge the system of all notifications. Get my e-mail inboxes to zero, my iPhone screen free of zits, and my social media presence all caught up. Whatever caught up means.

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Confession: I really like receiving notifications.

Notifications often mean that somebody out there has liked something involving me. It seems as if this person may almost love me.

I don’t know much about neuro-chemical-ology, but I know there is a hormone called dopamine that supposedly makes me happy and I think I get a dose of it running through my veins with every notification I receive.

Unless, of course, I find out that notification was a mass invite to play Candy Crush Saga.

In that case, they may just as well have sent a “poke” — a notification for the sake of notification.

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Then there are those phantom notifications. I can’t trace them down. I can’t unsubscribe from them. I swear, my phone just vibrated. It made some sort of noise!

But the screen looks like the normal background, which is just a heavily filtered photo of the waterfall that I snapped when I went on a hike the first week after getting my new phone.

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Tap on the shoulder. Someone wants my time, my talent, my money, my presence, my attention. Who is it? Is it the girl wanting to play soccer? Or the homeless man asking for change?

There is a moment of suspense.

My phone promised instant connectivity, but I can almost always take a pause before responding to this-or-that beep, this-or-that vibration. There is always the “oh-sorry-my-phone-was-off” card.

Except for when it is a tap on the shoulder. These sorts of notifications have been around since the beginning, since babies could cry and trumpets could blare.

And so I turn around.

“Oh, it’s you.”

On Notifications

Mr. Spontaneous

Growing up, I knew a guy a number of years older than myself who saw opportunity in every corner of life. He could turn a simple car ride from school to the grocery store into a party, and once at the grocery store he would split up the shopping list among the four of us and turn a regular old shopping experience into a complicated game of stealth and intrigue. Sometimes he would disappear for hours or even the entire day, and nobody would be able to say where he was, but nobody was ever concerned. Other times, he showed an uncanny ability to come over uninvited, but never unwelcome.

Mr. Spontaneous, as I liked to think about him, was fun. I wanted to be more like Mr. Spontaneous.

As I got older, and Mr. Spontaneous became less of a role model and more of a peer, there happened to be a moment where I got a privileged peek at his weekly planner. Color-coded and detailed to the quarter-hour, his days were managed like a work of art.

I didn’t believe it at first. Mr. Spontaneous, who seemed to live life on a whim, actually had structure and routine to his days? Nonsense. There was no way his unyielding sense of freedom could have come from such careful planning.

…right?

I came to realize that Mr. Spontaneous was not trying to be spontaneous at all. It just kind of happened naturally. Through his planner, he could gain a sense of what needed to be done in that day and what could wait for tomorrow. Reading between the color-coded lines, one could see the people and places he was choosing to make a priority. Mr. Spontaneous organized his life with spontaneity as an afterthought, instead choosing to pursue a practice of presence.

Another example. Although ideas of spontaneity and presence are not necessarily religious, the Christian scriptures are a testament to the spontaneous power of presence. Take the overlooked prologue in the story of the feeding of the 5,000, where Jesus’ apostles had just come back from a grand and exhausting adventure, and Jesus makes plans for the team to travel to a remote location for a sort of rejuvenating retreat. But, upon arrival, there is a massive crowd waiting, and Jesus was moved “by compassion” to change course and start teaching the crowd.

(I’m surprised the apostles didn’t full-out revolt at this point. This episode is akin to arriving for a week-long vacation in Hawaii only to be get a call from the office manager that there is more work that must be done immediately.)

Jesus was present to the needs of the exhausted apostles, and so spontaneously announced plans to take a break. But he was also present to the needs of the mob yearning to hear from him, and so he spontaneously announced a change of plans.

I think that spontaneity, the creative expression of being present, has political implications as well as being a personal trait. Just like how well-meaning religious folk can overemphasize the Genesis myth of origins (i.e. entrenched creation/evolution debates) or the eschatological expectations of Revelation (i.e. apocalyptic doom-sayers proclaiming the imminent end of the world), I think our politics are often stuck on visions of the past and future, at the neglect of the present.

People trying to change “the system” tend to cast their hopes on a romantized version of the past, or a fantastic utopia of the future. This is despite the fact that flaws of “the system” are often inherited from outdated traditions of the past, or rational-yet-overbaked blueprints for the future. Needless to say, traditions and rational expectations are important, but they must intersect in a rugged commitment to the possibilities of the present.

I don’t know what presence-based politics looks like, but be rest assured that the next candidate to look like Mr. – or Ms. – Spontaneity will get my vote.

But for now, I think it is a noble enough goal to pursue a sort of spontaneous presence in each of our personal lives.

That means time-management of the sort that doesn’t divide between “busy time” and “free time.” It rather contains the sort of flexibility that makes sure what needs to get done gets done, while no great opportunity goes missed because it was not on the schedule. Being spontaneously present means showing up a half hour late to work because of an incredible conversation with a friend, and once at work scraping the revered to-do list because there is a tremendous offer that cannot wait until tomorrow.

Especially in our technologically advanced world, with advanced communication and transportation networks, spontaneous presence also means place-management. It is choosing (as much as we are able) to live, work and getting a bite to eat in neighborhoods where we are likely to be interrupted by the people we care about. It means walking or running city sidewalks without the iPod and earbuds, in tune to the voices that don’t realize they are talking to you. And lest I forget I am an Oregonian-wandering-in-Chicago, these same thoughts apply towards being present to the wonders of nature as much as they do people.

And all that means developing the eyes that see possibilities on top of responsibilities, the mind to discern which commitments actually open doors, the guts that can stomach a roller-coaster change of plans.

There is something initially terrifying about being present. The past and future, the states of being faraway and not-paying-attention, are safe places. Vulnerability to the present means giving up a measure of control. Anything can happen. But Mr. Spontaneous understood this, Mr. Spontaneous was fun, and I want to be more like Mr. Spontaneous.

Mr. Spontaneous

The Simple Accession of Falling in Love

This is the final of three essays I drafted during lazy beach days in Florida earlier this year. The first was The Simple Pleasure of Being Lost, and the second was The Simple Thrill of Getting Wet.

I know a married couple who met during a spring break mission trip to Mexico. Building houses or playing with orphans or something. It was one of those extended conversations long into the night, long after the campfire had gone cold, where neither of them realized what was going on. Neither had been looking for love and it seems so odd that a couple so perfect together would have met each other by such a contingent set of events.

There is nothing unique about this story. In fact, I know multiple couples whose story would fit the same plot-line as I just described. Broaden the story a bit and we all can think of at least someone who fell in love unexpectedly. Change Mexico to another place, anywhere from Congo to Orlando or maybe even closer to home. Or instead of a “mission trip” it can be “working at summer camp” or maybe even the more vacation-ey classic spring break trip (although it seems trips of service tend to be better long-term matchmakers than trips of pleasure).

Not all the time does it involve another person. There are those people who take a week off from work or school or life as otherwise usual and take a little dose of adventure. Again, could be anywhere from Juneau to Rio de Janeiro to Tokyo to the neighborhood on the other side of town. And what ends up happening is that they become enchanted by the place. It somehow resonates within some hollow part of their soul. And so a desire to come back, becomes a promise to come back, becomes a decision to relocate there permanently.

I was searching for a word to describe this, and eventually settled upon accession. In political speak, accession is a means for joining a treaty by a party that did not take part in negotiating the terms of the treaty (see Article 15 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties). Falling in love, I suppose, is a lot like this, where you join into something that your own wishes did not define.

I am not saying all of this is always good. It often is, but there is such a thing as misplaced infatuation. But that is another subject.

My question, rather, is why is it that so many people access to falling in love during a break from the routine?

(I suppose there is room to be even more personal here, but there are a few certain discussions that shouldn’t be allowed to roam freely among the wide open internets. Insert winky-face emoticon here.)

The lesson many of us have been taught, by religious teachers or otherwise wise people, is that love is an action, not an emotion; love is something you choose, not something that just happens; love is a commitment, not an accident. All of these are important distinctions and I believe in their truth.

But there is something missing here. There is a profound problem with conceiving love as something we control. Love defined solely as our own decision tempts us to become masters of own destiny, impervious to transformation. Change, or at least meaningful change, is not something decided beforehand. We can foster maturity or development or virtue, but we cannot chart out change the way we like change because the point of change is that we are so changed that the ways in which we want to change are changed. And this all is part of a larger problem where we are led to believe we are entitled to be kings of our own little worlds instead of responsible citizens of the larger world.

Got it?

We can choose to not fall in love. I have succeeded many a time at this, thinking I was living a more noble kind of love by avoiding the silly kind of love. But after choosing against those extended conversations into the night, in addition to not returning to places and people I have previously enjoyed the presence of, I have begun to slowly realize that this abstinent refusal does not feed the hungry or speak up for the voiceless or anything.

One lives out the noble kind of love by living out the noble kind of love. The silly kind of love doesn’t get in the way. To speak in metaphor, one doesn’t take the train by taking the car – one takes the train by taking the train, and sometimes one takes the car to get to the station.

Not liking to fall in love is a bit of a pride issue for me. Choosing love on my own terms guarantees that love stays safe. It won’t ask questions nor challenge decisions I have made in the past. I become a bit like a snake clinging tightly to the safety of skin that should be shed.

I don’t think I am the only one of us like this, and I think this is why people fall in love during breaks from the routine.

Our breaks are ultimately breaks from our priorities, from the identities we have assumed out of force of habit. On trips to nearby and faraway places, some of my best friends have disclosed more about themselves to me than they ever had before, and it seems to just be because we were somewhere else. With routines and patterns being different, somehow these friends I thought I knew so well had their thoughts shaken and their guard down. These were not “falling in love” moments, but we were both changed by the experience. I can imagine how this same phenomenon, of vulnerability and personal discovery, that comes with taking a break, can catalyze the “falling in love” process.

There is a reason for having guarded hearts. Human passion and compassion can get stretched thin or even hurt. So it may be that some of us have separated the possibility of falling in love from our routines, because the neat thing about routines are that they make us productive and give us a sense of daily stability, and falling in love tends to disrupt that.

But, unless we succumb to the cult of the regular and mundane, we need to admit that along the way that we must make room to be compelled by something outside of ourselves and our own sense of reason. We slice and dice everything down to “I just feel this way because of this cause” but eventually this turns into a lame cynicism that refuses to take the risk of enchantment. But if press pause on our everyday habit-filled selves, the space is created for us to be compelled by something outside ourselves.

Can we choose to make breaks from commitment a regular commitment? Not just as something we need to reenergize, a nap-time for the sake of returning to the daily grind. But to create space for unexpected things, places and people to enter into our lives and perhaps so grab a hold of us. Before we think we are ready, before our imaginations have caught up to the possibility.

Perhaps, then, we learn that the simple accession of falling in love is not quite as foolish as we feared.

The Simple Accession of Falling in Love

Teel and Jon and I go to a concert

This is a story of what happens when I get an idea that I think is really simple but ends up…well, let’s start at the beginning.

Last week was the opening of Ecotrust’s Sundown concert series in downtown Portland. I forget exactly how I figured this out, but I was probably at work trying to figure something out about Pacific Northwest nonprofits when I stumbled across their site and discovered that they were going to start the series off with a band I have heard a lot of and a lot about through the past year.

Typhoon, if you haven’t heard, is one of those “on-the-cusp” type bands that has been getting third-best track of 2011-type fame. Despite their talent, the dozen-or-so-of-them are an elusive act to see assembled outside of the Pacific Northwest. Meaning places like Chicago.

(See where this is going?)

I have two friends – both college housemates and both really solid guys – who are really into Typhoon.

Teel came to Oregon last summer to start his bike trip across the nation to share the love and humanity he had experienced in Africa. In the days before his departure, in order to calm his nerves, we walked around downtown McMinnville. He saw the Typhoon EP “Hunger and Thirst” in Ranch Records, said something about how a music video he had seen from these guys and how much he wanted to hear more of their stuff, and he bought the CD. Later, as we made the long drive out to Astoria as he anxiously waited to begin his epic quest of goodwill, we played through “Hunger and Thirst” twice.

Teel survived the cross-country trek, but he had left the “extra weight” of the CD with me. When I flew back to Chicago, he graciously picked me up at Midway Airport, but I am pretty sure the first words I heard out of his mouth were “welcome-back-where-is-the-CD?”. We listened to “Hunger and Thirst” on our way back to campus. Later, as Teel began to share his summer experience with the rest of us, he began by expressing himself through song, with a sound that was eerily Typhoon-like.

My other friend who is really into Typhoon is Jon. The story is a little less epic, other than Jon is a vinyl-collecting fiend with overall great taste in everything including and beyond music. Jon also has a Typhoon sticker on his laptop, and my backpack has a Typhoon pin thanks to Jon.

Earlier this year, Teel and Jon once heard that Typhoon was recording a live performance at Mississippi Studios over the weekend. They had already begun to pack their bags when they learned that Mississippi Studios is not in Mississippi but in Portland and hence not within a single day’s drive from Chicago. Again, as I mentioned, Typhoon is an elusive group that does not often perform outside the Pacific Northwest, much to the dismay of their nationwide fans.

All this is to say, I knew I had to go to this Typhoon concert in downtown Portland because I had a rare chance to hear great music, but I felt like I had to honor the commitment of my friends. Neither Teel, who is from Kansas and is playing the guitar for kids in Minnesota for the summer, nor Jon who is from Michigan and guiding whitewater raft tours in Colorado as we speak, have a chance to catch one of Typhoon’s Pacific Northwest shows.

So this was where my simple idea was hatched. I will go to the concert, take a picture of the show, then photoshop Teel and Jon into the picture, and then post it to Facebook for them to enjoy their fake-attendance. BRILLIANT.

This is Photoshop. It does not exist on my work computer.

Flaw #1 of the master plan was shortly uncovered when I realized my work computer did not have Photoshop. I pondered my dilemma for a little bit, soon realizing that what I did have access to at work was a color printer. One of those that never run of ink, thank goodness.

Teel and Jon, in case you were wondering, also met the executive director this day.

I figured – this should be simple enough, right? Bring some paper cut-outs of my friends to the concert, bring the camera, and then I can take a picture of “them” “at” the concert of the band they’ve being dying to see all year. Just like Photoshop.

And so I went to the concert. As the experimental pop group AU started the afternoon, and I navigated my way to the front corner to get in position for the best possible photo. Standing for about an hour beside the merchandise table, I eventually caved in and got a band t-shirt. Technical difficulties with the iPad-credit-card-reader led to conversation with the merchandise girl, who I told about my friends Teel and Jon and their passion for this band.

The neat thing about Portland is you can do stuff like holding paper cut-outs of your roommates at arms length and nobody gives you strange judgmental looks. (…I hope.)

Typhoon took the stage and rocked every song, including some new stuff that tickles the ears. I was really frustrated however, to find that all my photos were coming out blurry. Despite my superb position in the awkward front corner, I could only get the Teel and Jon in focus if Typhoon was impossible to make out, and vice versa. My great simple idea was falling apart quickly.

But then, the merchandise girl, seeing and understanding my antics, tapped me on the shoulder from behind. She had an idea for after the show.

What could it be, I absent-mindedly wondered.

I have various smiles – polite, joy, driver’s license, etc.. This is my “mischievous accomplishment” face.

Oh, I know, go backstage, find the lead singer, and put the paper-cut-outs of my friends-who-have-been-waiting-forever-to-see-him-live in his front shirt pocket and then take the picture. I wondered at this point if I had gone too far, but then remembered – they just about went to Mississippi.

So, that’s my story about an idea that seemed simple but became something else.

Oh, Teel and Jon – Kyle (who is a super good sport by the way) says he hopes the band will be coming through Chicago sometime this winter. That is hardly an official word, but hopefully you guys can go for realzies sometime soon. He’s rather, um, intrigued to meet both of you.

Teel and Jon and I go to a concert