I may be 61 now, but inside is this kid. We kind of share reality and he keeps me open to the world of imagination, and I keep him safe from the realities of adulthood. He was and is a highly sensitive boy, an INFJ, and ill-prepared for the world. He was bullied, had two bleeding ulcers before his teens were over, was put in a learning disabilities class the help him with socialization and to give him breathing space, fed Ritalin for years, and spent the majority of his childhood alone with his imaginary friends having adventures.
Eventually, he discovered songwriting and performing, moved to the Ozark Mountains, and had his own show at Silver Dollar City, a Branson MO theme park for 18 seasons. During that time, he flew around the country doing dog and pony shows for the park and appeared on everything from Bozzo to the Today Show. He also wrote songs for the parks musical comedy shows, put out records (Yes, back when they were not retro), and eventually produced one of the first independent CD’s in the U.S. He had to explain what they were after his shows as many people had never seen one before.
As Branson was a summer gig, he went to Arizona in the winter to Rawhide Western Town, where he co-wrote a Vaudiavill show with other friends who went with him, composed songs for it, and was the entire pit orchestra as well as acting on stage. He (I…why am I still writing in the third person? Oh ya, this is that kid’s future). He also appeared several times on Wallace and Ladmo, the longest-running children’s show in television history. Ask Spielberg, he’ll tell you.
Then he met Jan, and they spent the next 28 years playing together, raising a family, writing songs; they went to the U.K. to play for a summer, did Ren Fairs, and planned a future in a fictional British town called Withe & Stone, which would be presented as a video series. Then she had a stroke. Less than a year later, she didn’t wake up one morning, and John was left to decide where his life went from there.
So John took the tales he wrote, and the one Jan started, but never got to finish, Jan’s Art, and wove them together in a collection of interconnected short stories all about what we deal with in life and found the came to a surprising ark all about the nature of reality. It became their only novel together. (Click the Picture) He also recorded all of their unpublished songs and put them on the Website Withe & Stone
Finally, the boy’s voice spoke up the quiet left in John’s heart. Come back, he cried, do not forget me. Do not forget the friends we shared across time. So I listened, and I went back to where I started and discovered who I was all over again, that highly sensitive boy that was always there, the one with the imaginary friend that may have been more real than not, that whispered comfort to us in only times. “Write down our story,” it said, so I did, and it shocked me. Even then, the story was not quite done, and the next one let me (Yes, I can once again refer to us as the same in first person.) bring my friends story full circle and, like Withe and Stone, question the nature of what is real.
So that brings me back now, a very changed, shaken, hopefully, wiser soul, who no longer hides from the bullies and embraces his true self, the sensitive boy who never really wanted anything other than peace and love and wants to tell his story. After all the music, and all the adventures, and all the voices whispering in my ear, it’s time to pull it all together for one grand show. Welcome to my theater. It stands on the edge of Limbo, where we all wait until we have the courage to face ourselves, where we can pick up the broken pieces of our mosaic, as Maddie Stepanic referred to it as, and join each other to see what the world can really be. Welcome to Astrolabe. Welcome to the tent of stars.