Sunday, March 24, 2013

Pancakes for a cause

Cooking for the multitude
You do the damnedest things in the name of community.  But this week it was easy -- all I had to do was make sure a couple thousand people enjoyed themselves at the Kiwanis Pancake Breakfast.

I first joined a Kiwanis Club in 1980 when I was assistant to the publisher of the Tillamook Headlight-Herald.  When the invitation came, I had no idea what a "kiwanis" was nor why I should be interested.

My boss was too the point.  "Go, it's the service club to be in here."

That was tempered by the fact that he was the only person at the paper who qualified to be in Rotary, the boss-only service club.

When I moved to Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, I was at first too busy to think of Kiwanis.  But I found myself focusing too much on government, crime and mayhem instead of the vibrancy of our community.  I found another Kiwanis Club full of energy, good-hearted humor and the passion to serve.  Even in the snowbound darkness of Northern Idaho mornings, breakfast with my fellow Kiwanians was often the highlight of my life.

Pouring samples of MUple syrup
Eventually I went off to grad school and into management at  newspapers where I was expected to join that "other" service club.  Rotary was enjoyable and definitely the place to meet movers and shakers.  But "service" tended to mean digging into your wallet for another $5 "fine." (Exception:  The Pendleton Rotary poured beer at The Roundup.  We got about a penny a cup for our efforts and raked in $1,600 one year.  Do the math.)

I invited myself to a Kiwanis Club here in Columbia a couple of years after I took my position at the Missouri School of Journalism.  It was a spin on my earlier need:  I knew there had to be something in this town beyond Ph.D.s and hoary academic traditions.

The Kiwanis Club of Columbia takes the term "service" seriously.  We box groceries for the Food Bank, read to kids at a pre-school, serve lunches to kids in need and take on a community building project each year.  That's in addition to the score or so of children's programs we support.

Cooking breakfast ham
I good part of the funding for those deeds comes from the annual Pancake Breakfast we put on with the four other Kiwanis Club in Columbia (all spin-offs from our original club).  Each of us is supposed to sell at least a dozen tickets, but I usually buy them myself and give them to friends.

It's an amazing gathering.  People from all walks patiently stand in line four a couple of rather ordinary hotcakes and a slice of ham. The dining hall at Columbia College fill with happy conversations as men and women in K-emblazoned had refill their coffee cups and bus their tables.  I circulated and gave samples of the maple syrup the MU Forestry Department is now making.

But the sweet surprise for me came a few days earlier.  I had avoided an officer position in the club for years, partly because my seat on Faculty Council gave me more than enough extra duty.  But I'm leaving the council in June, so gave in and agreed to be vice president next year (then president-elect the year after and president the third year).

My Kiwanian friend Ernie Lee sent a causal note to me last week thanking me for taking the position and explaining that the Pancake Breakfast is coordinated each year by the vice presidents of the five clubs. 

And by the way, next year it's our turn to provide the chairman for the event.

Service with a smile, Clyde.  Service with a smile.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

At peace with love and rock-and-roll

There are those we look up to and those from whom we look away.  Robert Moore was both.

Marc Beachamp, a year behind me at Shasta High School but who also followed the journalist's way, wrote a touching column this week about our mutual high school friend.  Some of our classmates gathered at a bar recently to raucously remember the leader of Uncle Robert's Zapp Juice Band.

When that wonderfully-name band played every Northern California high school dance in the late 1960s, Robert was one of the most popular kids in the school.  But he always had  time and conversation for the less-than-popular (me).  My last memory of him was of that big mop of hair topping one of the most angelic smiles I would ever know.

I wandered away from our hometown to pursue a career.  Robert wandered away into his own mind, eventually becoming a shopping-basked-pushing homeless guy on the streets of Redding, CA.

His was a trip I think most of us who grew up then contemplated.  An unfathomable war was sending classmates home in boxes.  The environment was spiraling down into Rachel Carson's Silent Spring.  And nuclear annihilation seemed all be inevitable.
Robert and the band gave us temporary respite from the world.  Not for Robert, however.  He turned to drugs, alcohol and delusions only he knew to get away from it all.

I never came home long enough to see Robert in his bushy-bearded latter stage.  But my friends tell my he was still full up upbeat energy -- until his mind would take a side road.

We all remembered Robert with a "there but the grace of God go I."  But you have to ask, who found the greatest peace?