This Holiday Season, include the NFL in the list of people to be grateful for.
The highest paid center in the NFL left $12.5 million on the table to become a farmer. Not just to become a farmer but to feed the hungry.
29 year old Jason Brown left the St. Louis Rams to start First Fruits Farm, He had plenty of time to get another big contract from the NFL and his agent told him he was crazy. In 2012, Brown — who graduated from UNC but knew nothing about farming — started to teach himself farming by watching videos on youtube.
The farm he bought was a 1000 acre former dairy, but Brown has been growing sweet potatoes and cucumber (so far). He gained expertise working with local farmer Len Wester. This year Brown has given away 46,000 pounds of sweet potatoes and 10,000 pounds of cucumbers to help the less fortunate.
The NFL gets a bad reputation for players who misbehave, but many of the players tend to give back to their communities and to organizations with foundations that don’t get the same publicity. Sure, you hear about the big ones like Peyton Manning’s and Drew Brees’ but there are more than 180 individual NFL player foundations, most of which we have never heard of. Many are for inner city kids, underprivileged youth, disabled youth and just plains kids, and others are for conditions that my have touched a player’s family. There are foundations to fight lukemia and autism. Ben Rothlisberger has a foundation for policemen and firemen. There is a legacy foundation for Pat Tillman, who quit football to fight in Afghanistan and was killed by friendly fire.
So Jason Brown might not be all that notable in the NFL, except that he quit football and left several million on the table in order to serve the hungry. ( According to the site Feeding America in 2013, 49.1 million Americans lived in food insecure households, including 33.3 million adults and 15.8 million children. 14.6% of our population doesn’t have enough food).
Mark and I just came back from a visit with my childhood friends —friends of 50 years or more. We spent a lot of time just hanging out. Early in the visit, someone brought up the seven things you are not supposed to talk about. The list was evidently put together by a French woman, who passed it on to an American woman, whose daughter Sara was interviewing her and filling in for Ira Glass on This American Life. Some of the things are obvious, some not so obvious, but I will share the whole list here.
The first, and most offensive, said Sara’s mother, was “route talk.” The very idea of telling someone how you got there –to wherever –was at the top of the list of colossally boring subjects. No one wants to know how you got there. No one wants to know about traffic. About getting lost. About stopping along the way. Sara’s family, for some reason, sometime ago, had invited Robert Redford to their home. And when he got there the first thing he did was engage in route talk: “how he got lost and asked someone for directions, and they recognized him and asked for his autograph, and so on.” According to Sara’s mother Redford’s recitation of route took as long as it took him to get there — two hours. Sara asked her: Is he dead to you now? Her mother replied: Pretty much.
Money was a big one, and we all know about that. I can’t imagine any one who was brought up without knowing that talking about money is rude. And, yet, says Sara’s mother, that is all that Americans do. (Including her, she admitted).
One applies to only half the population, and it’s easy to understand. Never, ever talk about your period.
Then there is your health — no one, says Mrs. Mattheison — is interested in your health. The only exception is a serious illness, and among friends.
After that there is diet. Especially offensive at the dinner table. That includes whether you are trying to lose weight, what you’re eating, what you can’t eat, what you don’t eat. Vegans, beware. I understand this one, because my brother, who is incredibly healthy and skinny, will inevitably take a bite of dessert and comment that he shouldn’t be doing it. I, of course, do not talk about how I should not eat dessert, even though I shouldn’t.
We’re on to sleep. It’s boring to talk about how you slept, or didn’t sleep. Boring to everyone, but maybe you.
And finally, there are dreams. No one cares about your dreams. For Sara’s Mom the pinnacle of boredom could be Dream Groups.
Having learned all of this, I, along with my friends, did our very best to bring up the seven things you don’t talk about in every conversation we had.
Howdy Doody had plastic surgery. I learned this fact while watching Jeopardy! So I looked it up. As it turns out, the original Howdy Doody was made by a puppeteer named Frank Paris, and apparently bore no resemblance to the one which we grew up to love. He (Frank) had a dispute with the network and departed, taking the original Howdy with him. The new freckle faced Howdy Doody was created by two artists (Margo and Rufus Rose) who were alums of Walt Disney Studios. When some kids asked how come Howdy’s appearance had changed, they were told he’d had plastic surgery. Which he hadn’t. So they lied. And Jeopardy! was wrong.
In the process of learning about Howdy Doody’s “plastic surgery” I learned that in 1948, the year before I was born, Howdy ran for “President of All Boys and Girls,” and that year the show received 250,000 requests for “Howdy for President” buttons. The show flourished, Howdy’s popularity blossmed and it ran five days a week until 1954 (when air time had become too expensive to run a children’s show five days a week), was moved to Saturdays, and went off the air in 1960. Clarabell, who never talked (I do not remember this), gave up his series long silence to say “Good Bye” at the end.
This little exercise got me thinking about two things: elections and plastic surgery. First of all, this year’s election turnout was the lowest in 72 years. Maybe if Howdy was running for Congress or Senate, more people would have come out. Depending on how you feel about Howdy Doody, maybe several Howdy’s did run (and win) in this election. As an Obama fan, I will not conjure a Howdy Doody president — though some of you might. As for plastic surgery, in 2012, there were more than 14.6 million cosmetic plastic surgeries done in the United States. Several of them may have been on the Howdy’s running for office.
With elections just around the corner, I have been thinking about the little man in my glove compartment. He has been riding around there, in his vending machine ball, since he was given to me by my ingenious friend Nancy Aleck.
For an art project, Nancy fashioned several (dozen?) little clay people to represent politicians and put them in vending machine balls with “Vendo Vote” on the bottom. She couldn’t afford the size of vending machine that would allow the Vendo Vote toys to come out, so she used a regular gum ball machine — making it even funnier, because you could put in your 25 cents again and again and nothing would come out. Her piece was a little bit of performance art and a lot of political commentary.
In my mind, the idea of buying politicians has never been expressed so simply or humorously. The little clay figures are all faceless, making it even more ridiculously appropriate.
P.S. Possibly not coincidentally, this dollar bill showed up at the grocery store the other day:
The following is a poem by my adored friend Mary MacMillan who is a super talented person, an artist and a poet. It really hits the nail…
PET Scan of the World
The massive machine dwarfs the orb
stilled by the pill to relax, rolled onto
the sheet-swathed slab.
The buzz, hum begins as the bruised
sphere yields to pixilation, and hot spots
scream on the imaging screen.
I see the open wounds wrought by Palestine,
Israel, the cremated remains
of the plane shot down
in Ukraine as Russia encroaches, a blood-stained
grab, while Sunnis, Shiites, radical sects
tear at the febrile, ill-built Iraq, tribes
torture Afghanistan, babies
bleed out in hunger-scorched Africa,
pure white bears cling to frail bergs
as the ocean opens its plastic-choked maws
to inhale the pristine shores, dunes,
and dirt-germed, thirsty children
trudge through our borderless lines
of demarcation to protestations of who
belongs in this once sacred
nation, and the prisons are engorged
with men of color, and guns blast
through the hearts of innocence.
I study the magnetic, scattered splotches,
hear only the words; chaos, metastatic,
see the scabby, oozing globe emerge,
wobble onto its scarred axis, hobble
through the hall, trip, fall,
gasp for breath.
Macro wasting into micro.
Just like us.
Gloria. Circa 1955.
Gloria. Circa 2012.
Other than working for the American Red Cross in Korea for two years, Gloria Garvey has lived in Hawai`i since 1971. Her opinion and other writing has appeared in: The American Philatelist. Honolulu Weekly, The Honolulu Advertiser, The Honolulu Star Bulletin, The Star Advertiser, Hawai`i Reporter, Pacific Business News, Island Scene, The Design Management Journal.