March 5, 2011 – Song 121

826CHI, an organization that provides writing workshops and after school programs for kids is having their annual dance tonight. This years theme is “Keep PROMME and carry on” and is a celebration of the original Tea Party Movement.

Song 121.

So never mind the bollocks and get your tea kettle to the PROMME!

London Calling – The Clash

Once upon a time I lucked out in this life and met an amazing lady named Erin Dance. We were roommates for several years and had all kinds of adventures. But one of the most important ones happened long after she had returned home, to her beloved Texas.

Many years ago and out of nowhere, during something I can only refer to as a “rough patch” in my life I got a phone call from Erin. She had discovered that you could get a thing called the Ameripass from the Greyhound Bus that would allow you to ride as much as you wanted for one month. And needless to say I will pretty much always follow THAT hippie to a second location.

We started out just after Thanksgiving in Phoenix and made our way through California, all the way to up to Portland and back down to into Texas. And about one gillion things happened. Here’s one of them.

While in San Francisco Erin mentioned wanting to go to a place she had heard of. A Pirate Store, to be exact. Like I said, my policy with Erin on most anything is “Lead the way hippy.” And lead the way she did. So we find ourselves in this strange store. Or not strange at all, given the fact it was full to the brim with pirate gear. Eyepatches, wooden legs, parrots, Jolly Rogers….even a vat of lard that you could buy by weight. I assumed that it was some kind of San Francisco thing. (It’s on the ocean man) But the longer we were in there it became apparent that something else was up entirely.

I said as much to the lady behind the counter who whispered, with a hand to the side of her mouth as if revealing a big secret, “It’s a front.” She then went on to explain the formation of 826 Valencia. It seems that some folks wanted to start a writing workshop for kids but were bound by some kind of permit to have a retail store. So they said “Ok. Well then we’ll have a pirate store.” And the rest is well, magic I guess.

826 Valencia

The unexpected thing was that having an odd store helped bring attention and money to their cause and most importantly blew kids imaginations wide open. 826 now has chapters and stores all across America, including a Superhero Supply Store, A Time Travel Mart, A Robot Supply and Chicago’s own The Boring Store (a clever front for super spies, of course).

The Chitown branch opened a couple of years after our trip and I have been volunteering there when I can ever since. It is such a great place full of great people. A lot of which are the tiny kind. One of my most favorite times at 826 is when they hold their annual dance. I wait all year to DJ it in fact. Last year it was called “Prom Hanks” and there were Astronauts, Soldiers, Gumps, Members of the All American League, Bosom Buddies, Joe’s and even a few Volcanoes. But there were also a lot of people simply in their thrift store don’t be shy!

Come on out to the PROMME this enchanted evening. I promise you, if you like parties…this band of weirdos never, ever fails to deliver. Did I mention there’s a Rod Stewart impersonator? Of course there is. ♥

Personally I’m going as the Material Expat if you know what I mean. : .)

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