3706 - Mama

IMG_2128.PNG

In recent years especially, the concept of income inequality has become something that more and more people are aware of or concerned about. As a raging liberal myself, it's something I consider often. But, as a lover of justice, I’m also worried about a more burning issue confronting the whole of humanity, not just our particular geo-located region of it, and that’s an inequality in Mothering.

I am the sad bearer of the news that every single one of you listening to this has been suffering from a significant lack of mothering. I know this, because I had the very best one. And while she was and is generous with her time and affection, she's only mother to four of us anywhere, and the rest of you are just SOL.

Jamie Lynn was born in Mer Rouge, Louisiana. She graduated from Prairie View Academy, then Louisiana Tech University and sent my sister and I on to both once it was our time.

Funny and fiery and faithful and always up for a fight when she sees her babies or her friends and family wronged, Jamie is more than I deserve as a Mom. She's been my confidant, and my cheerleader, my bankroll and my boss. She never gave up being my parent in order to be my friend, but she also never let being my parent get in the way of treating me like a human being.

She is the best role model I could ever have for raising these four children of mine.

She finished college (the first in her family to do so) in just three years. Then began a career in the public school system. She taught my older brother's generation, and mine ten years later and was still there as an administrator and support staff when my sons started to school. She poured her blood, sweat, tears and lots of disposable income into the hearts and minds of the children of Morehouse Parish for the better part of 40 years, so if any of them are you, you're welcome.

But you still didn't get all of my mama.

You didn't get the snack cabinet, full of so many different kinds of goodies that every friend I have that spent any time in my house as a child STILL talks about it.

You didn't get the sleepovers and slumber parties where she’d ring-lead the games or card playing, but then disappear appropriately to the back so the kids could talk freely about their parents and their teachers and the trashy movie we were inevitably watching on mom and dad’s TV.

You didn’t get counsel, like more than one friend of mine did when they went through a pregnancy scare and couldn’t talk to their own parents, but knew they could count on my mom. I’ve always counted on my mom.

She beat lupus and the Louisiana Board of Education and more than a couple bosses who were sure they didn’t need a Jamie Sharpton in their way. She has slowly trained my father into a very decent human being to live with (of course she finished this job after my sister and I no longer lived with him), and has turned into quite a decorator in her retirement as they’ve remodeled the house from one end to the other.

Her greatest achievement though is in the 4 children she helped raise, the now 9 grandchildren she’s helping spoil and the innumberable students she’s helped mold during her time in and around the classroom. And unless your name is Jena or Angie or Jason, you didn’t get all that in your mama. And for that, I’m a little bit sorry.

Again, none of this is a swing at your mom, I’m certain she’s a wonderful human being, but when the bar is set as high as mine was, there’s not a lot left to worry about except who comes in second place.

I don’t call enough, I don’t visit enough, I DID give her plenty of grandchildren, so I’m square on that front at least. I do know that she’s proud of me, often even when she’s confused by me, and I find that less confusing the older my kids get.

If your mom is still alive, and she’s not a psychopath, because God and I both know, the role of motherhood doesn’t exempt anyone from that possibility, then even if she isn’t Jamie Lynn, you should call her today. You should visit her the next chance you get. Because I’ve already watched my mom say goodbye to hers for the last time. And I’m not taking any of those chances for granted.

And now that you’re already crying, I love you, Mom. Happy birthday.

For now, I’m Joel, this is my story or one of them anyway, thanks for listening.

3705 - Strip Battleship

IMG_2122.PNG

If you're telling the story of your life, it's likely that there will be at least a chapter or two about love. I've already told you these stories aren't coming in order of importance, but no matter which order I tell them in, there are inherently going to be a few stories about women that aren't currently married to me. One way to mitigate any potential issues with that? Talk about your wife first.

I'm not ready to tell the whole story of Kelly, and God knows she's more than one chapter in this narrative, but I do have an aspect of our relationship that I'd like to share with you now.

When I met Kelly I had been separated for over a year. January to January again and then on to May. I had also already rushed into a relationship with someone badly matched for me that had broken my already badly wounded heart. I was not interested in a serious relationship.

Every single "rule" I made to slow down or impede mine and Kelly spending time with each other, I almost immediately broke. Panicked at my growing feelings for her, I even tried to chase her off once (something she occasionally, lovingly reminds me of still).

But I was unsuccessful in my attempts to shake loose of this fiery redhead, not because she chased me down but because I am preternaturally and uncontrollably drawn to her. I cannot help but want to be around her, and it has been this way since the moment I first saw her.

I want to hold her hand, and stroke her hair. I want to smell her and kiss her and squeeze her. I want to be below her and above her and inside and around her. It's an all-encompassing desire that I'm only recently coming to understand can be completely overwhelming for Kelly too. Imagine that?

Mind you, it’s not just a physical thing. It’s at least as much pschological and emotional as physical. I feel better when she’s around. I am agitated and uncomfortable when she’s not. I am a real mess when we’re fighting and actively avoiding each other.

Am I in general a very touchy person? Not especially, although I've always been physically affectionate in a romantic relationship. But the draw for Kelly is deeper and more powerful than that natural inclination. I don't just want to "pet" her, I want to be WITH her, always. Because of this, (and her awareness of my ailment) it's basically impossible for me to stay angry with her. There is (so far) no level of frustration or miscommunication that she cannot instantly disarm with a kiss, or a squeeze of my butt, or even a ribald joke or saucy wink.

Does the nuclear disarmament extend both ways? Not at all. In fact, a butt pat during an argument coming from my direction is liable to escalate not dissipate hostilities. It's really no fair at all.

To her credit, more often than not she indulges my interest and generally finds my attention flattering rather than a nuisance. And perhaps because of this she’s very capable of surprising me, even 7 years after we met, and surprise me she does all the time.

A perfect example is the night we unpacked a box from my old closet at Mom and Dad’s and found an Electric Battleship game set. Kelly immediately suggested we play. I scoffed, "Battleship? You and me are gonna play Battleship together at 10:30 at night?"

Her eyes twinkled, and her mouth curled into a smirk as she answered, "Yeah. Strip Battleship!"

I've loved playing games my whole life, from Solitaire and War that my Papaw taught me before I could count, to Monopoly when no one else in the family could stand to sit through a game, to Canasta which my Nana taught me how to cheat at, to Settlers of Catan with my buddies Josh and Richard for the last few years, I've always loved games.

But until you've sunk a battleship and then been rewarded not only with the electric alarm of an early 90's microchip recorded voice but also with the woman of your dreams and the love of your life slipping out of her skivvies, friend, you haven't played anything.

I lost the game in the end, by the way. But if you're playing with the right person and playing for your clothes, are there ever really any losers?

It's not all naked board games and drive-thru daiquiris around here. Most of the time, we've got our hands full raising four rambunctious kiddos and building an empire to support the six of us. But it's nice on a random weekday morning, between a grocery run and carline pickup to spend an idle moment or two remembering that long after the kids are grown and gone, and the bills are all paid and the job is done, your love will be right there beside you, ready to sink your battleship all the way through retirement.

For now, I'm Joel. This is my story, or one of them anyway. Thanks for listening.

3704 - The House on Haynie

IMG_1967.PNG

From 1982 to 1995 my family and I lived in one house. Haynie Avenue, a little yellow three bedroom one bath with a separate two car covered carport (with laundry room attached).

When I think about the house a FLOOD of images come over me. The first one is the back door. Glass, roll out slats over a screen. We perpetually seemed to have a broken slat or two. I’m sure I was never the cause of any of those breaks.

I think of the front porch, my weird porcelin dog sculpture that sat there until it literally turned to dust one day, the giant church pew repurposed as a bench for Grandma to sit and widdle on or Mom to sit and watch us play in the front yard.

I think about the basketball goal and the countless hours of badly played hoops it saw from me and dad and my brother and sisters. I think about the “junk room” that was my brother’s bedroom when he joined us again on occasion. I remember the roll out bed under my sister’s daybed that I’d sleep on more often than not, because I couldn’t stand to sleep alone.

I remember the recurring nightmare I had of drumming on the roof of the carport while sitting on a giant stool, only for the stool to disappear and me to tumble to the ground. Waking up just before the fall would have killed me for sure. It’s weird what a house means to you decades after the fact. The things you recall and the things you’ve forgotten.

I remember the hole in the wall in my bedroom paneling, the bunk beds and the water bed and million promises, bribes, threats and otherwise to get me to stay in my bed no matter what shape it took.

I remember watching Die Hard with the family on VHS, and buying a new TV and VCR because the old ones looked terrible when we tried to watch Die Hard 2. I remember hidden Frito Lay chips in Dad’s underwear drawer, the toddler potty that got used occasionally until my sister and I were in junior high (because we were a family of sometimes six with one bathroom!). I remember Micah’s house behind us and Mama Rushing across the street and Ellie and Jenny next door. I remember mowing Ms. Dean’s yard, and biking to buy her a carton of cigarettes and I remember a time when a 10 year old buying smokes for the old lady next door sounded like a nice guesture and not child abuse of some sort.

I remember the built in shelves that seemed to overflow with toys (and the envy and awe on friend’s faces when they saw it). I remember good times, and laugh and love and a little too much family togetherness for those 13 years. I remember my home.

But, as a reminder that all is transient and nothing is permanent, I also remember that my mom and dad suffered for the first three weeks or so that they lived on Haynie Avenue as baby Joel cried and screamed because he missed the “old home”, one that adult Joel doesn’t even recall. Home is where you make it, and we made a hell of a home on Haynie.

For now, I’m Joel, this is my story or one of them anyway, thanks for listening.

 Grandma sewing on the front porch pew, and weirdly enough my porcelain dog statue in the background. 

Grandma sewing on the front porch pew, and weirdly enough my porcelain dog statue in the background. 

3703 - Grandma Sharpton

IMG_1969.PNG

Bertha Jewel McWaters Sharpton gave birth to four children from the time she was 17 until after she turned 40. I waited a decade after her to have my first son, and if you confronted me with the prospect of us having a new baby three years from now, I’d confront you with a swift kick in the teeth.

My point is, Bertha has my admiration before we ever begin to dig into who she was and how she did all that was required of her to bring those four children into the world and carry them through the 20th century safe and sound far enough to leave behind a sprawling family tree with roots and branches across the country and fruit too numerous to count.

Born on the day of the attack on Pearl Harbor, just 31 years early, Grandma Sharpton was a firecracker from birth. She loved poetry and remembered into her final days the poems and songs they taught her in school,

“All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small, all things wise and wondeful the Lord God made them all”

She also remembered the longest word in the dictionary (and how they’d taught her to spell it sylabically), “an-anti-antidis-antidises-antidisestab-antidisestablish-antidisestablishment-antidisestablishmentary-antidisestablismentarian-antidisestablishmentarianis-antidisestablishmentariansm. Good Lord, class must have been long.

She knew the Bible, and could quote it which wasn’t really surprising since as long as I knew her it was all she ever read. And she read it sooooo much. My father had always “run references” as he called it reading the Bible and comparing notes in different commentaries, dictionaries and biblical encyclopedias. But Grandma just read the bible. Like it was the daily paper, her favorite novel and roadmap for her next journey all in one. And, you know, she would have said it was. That it is.

I loved Grandma for one thing more than anything else and I don’t mind telling you even now years after her death. The woman made the best biscuits that have ever been made and while my culinary tastes are not extensively broad, they are DEEP with knowledge and experience in a few avenues and I know biscuits.

Cathead biscuits is what Grandma Sharpton made. Big, ugly, delicious. with muscadine jelly or moonshine syrup or a big pat of butter or (if you were like me) just plain jane hot and fresh out of the oven, literally as many as you could stand to eat before they got cold or your stomach betrayed you. If I was on death row and had a last meal, my Grandma’s cathead biscuits is really what I would want, no matter what the kitchen might be able to provide. When I get to Heaven, one of the things I’m most looking forward to is being able to eat those cathead biscuits without the stomach pains or the poor substitution that my own cooking has been for the nearly 20 years she’s been gone.

My point is these biscuits were good, friend. You know why? Lard. None of that box crap, Grandma didn’t need a mix. She’d be in the kitchen, 20 or 30 minutes before anyone else was awake, mixing up a giant bowl and beating out those biscuits by hand. And God bless her for it.

FullSizeRender.jpg

Dad was allowed in the kitchen to cook the biscuits, or more precisely to manage the insertion to and removal from the oven. But the prep was all Grandma. She put more than lard into them of course. There was buttermilk and flour and lots and lots of love. And that’s the ingredient that I can’t find at the grocery these days. I sure do miss it, and her...and those biscuits.

I could tell you about how Hershel married her at 16 after only finishing the 9th grade and how in later years when he’d ask if she ever had wanted to go back to school, she’d smart back, “Well, Hershel, if I had I wouldn’ta never married you!”

I could tell you about the time Grandpa cut a tree down on her (she was fine mostly), I could tell you about the time she told Hershel he was about to get his finger bitten by a giant rabbit (and he did). I could tell you about the time right before she passed away, when she introduced me as her son and my mother as my wife and told us all about the bus ride she was on to Oak Ridge (hundreds of miles and decades in the past at this point in her life).

But the story I want to tell you is about how the same mountain that killed Grandpa Sharpton, the mountain he and Grandma had been born on nearly a century before, tried and failed to kill Grandma too. Because that’s just how bad a b*$%# Grandma was.

After Grandpa’s death in 1982, Grandma discovered a whole new world. She learned how to drive (though she didn’t continue that for very long afterwards), learned how to balance a checkbook, run her house and affairs etc. She lived on her own throughout the 80’s and 90’s visiting family often for extended periods but always returning to Chandler Mountain. One Sunday after church, she made lunch, collected her scraps and went outside to throw them off the ledge as she always did. But it had been misty that morning, her slippers were slick on the moss and rock and maybe her footing not as sure as it was in her youth. No one was with her, so we’re not exactly sure what happened, but to hear her tell it, her feet just went out from under her and she went off the cliff.

That would have been the end of Grandma, just as it was the end of Grandpa, but fate and a forgotten trash dump had other ideas in mind. There was a “burn barrell” an empty metal barrel used to burn trash since garbage pickup wasn’t as common up on the mountain, that had outlived its usefulness and been dropped over the side was wedged between two outcroppings of rock. Sitting solid side up, this half of a barrel was like a metal saddle just waiting there to catch Bertha on the way down.

And it did. She was bruised and battered, shocked and in the end suffering from a shattered leg that had been pulled back behind her a bit unnaturally. But alive, and amazingly, unshaken. Bertha waited for hours for her eventual rescue, and it was only her regular church attendence with some friends that in the end meant she was found at all. They pulled in to pick her up as usual, found her absent, and after seeing her clothes laid out on the bed, and other things “undone” around the house conducted a thorough search outside and found her, hollering up that if they’d help her she was sure she could climb out.

When the rescue workers arrived later to climb down and pull her up, once again she suggested that if they’d straighten her leg out she’d be fine.

She wasn’t in the end. The leg healed slowly and not completely, age and dementia eventual set in as she rounded her 90’s and in the end she never moved back fully to Chandler Mountain after that. The house has been sold and sold again since then, it’s no longer in our family or even a friend of the family. But the neighbors are still friends and every few years we happen by there to say hi to Grandma and Grandpa.

You might think for someone who nearly lost both his grandparents to the mountain it would be a place of dread or fear. But it never has been. Anytime I stand there on the cliff now I think of what Grandma told her friends when they asked what she’d done while she waited for rescue there, hanging off the edge of the cliff on that piece of a barrel.

"Well, I sang some, and prayed a bit, she said and sighed. But more than anything it was the birds that kept me company. They came and sang me to me while I waited.”

Grandma Sharpton was a tough old bird. But on the side of Chandler Mountain that day we discovered she’d been a Disney princess all along too.

For now, I’m Joel, this is my story or one of them anyway, thanks for listening.

FullSizeRender.jpg

3702 - Grandpa Sharpton

IMG_1968.PNG

My Grandpa Sharpton was the kind of mythological creature who could only exist pre-video cameras. There may be some 16 mm film out there somewhere in a cousin's attic rotting that holds the moving image of my paternal grandfather, but I doubt it, and I definitely haven't seen it.

He died in 1981, months before my 1st birthday. I met him, but I don't remember him. So, why I am telling you stories about him? Because the myth of the man, is as foundational to me as any biological imperative thrust upon me by my father's father and his father before him. The stories of the man are not only an imperfect reflection of who he really was (as distilled by those family members with more actual exposure to him and more grey in their temples than me to show for it), but more accurately, those stories tell me what my family wants us to be about and made of it. The story of where we hope we came from (or of what we hope we can do in a lifetime, perhaps).

My grandfather was born, Hershel Sharpton, he has another name but he liked it so little that he begged my father to keep it from his headstone, so I'll keep it out of this podcast too. The world of Alabama in the 1890's is about as hard for me to imagine as the world of Columbus or Aristotle for that matter. Nevermind the computers on which I am sending this message to you and earn my daily bread, but space travel, planes even automobiles weren't a reality when my father's father reckoned first what his place in the world might be.

His place, was that of a sharecropper, or so I'm told. Eventually rising to foreman and running other sharecroppers (mostly poor white farmers like Hershel, but also the occasional African-American farmer and family making their way in the post-reconstruction, Jim Crow era south). Imagining the relationship between the sons of former slave owners (my family doesn't have any record of slave ownership, but Al Sharpton's last name suggests some branch likely was involved in the illicit trade somewhere), and the sons of former slaves (or former slaves themselves) to be anything other than contentious is pretty hard. The historical records and reports I've read from the time, suggest "contentious" would be the kindest and gentlest way you could describe this era.

What kind of a man was Grandpa? A son of a bitch, to hear just about anyone tell it. An alcoholic, a fighter, a woman abuser when he had the chance (my grandmother held her own more often than not and prevented what would have surely been more serious incidents). Grandpa Sharpton was a hard man in a hard time.

A story for illustration, to make you laugh probably, but also to ensure that we don't think too highly of Grandpa, at least for the here and now.

Hershel had spent a night carousing and filling his liver when he was literally carried through the door of his home by his slightly less inebriated companion and long-time friend. Grandma Sharpton, Bertha Jewel McWaters Sharpton, all 5'2" of her stood there just inside the doorway in the dim light of the kitchen.

"Bertha, is that you?" the friend asked, struggling now under Hershel's weight. "Let me in the house. I'm gonna put Hershel in his bed for you."

"No, you're not." comes the answer from Bertha. "He's drunk and he'll piss the bed. I'm not gonna have it. You can let him sleep it off right there on the floor." She stood her ground.

The friend, now flabbergasted (and increasingly exhausted) shouts, "Bertha, this is Hershel's house, and that's his bed. Now I'm gonna put him in it and you're gonna get out my way."

Bertha raised what was now clearly a shotgun in her hands, pointing at the friend and answered, "No you're not. You're gonna lay him right there on the floor or I'm gonna shoot your balls off."

And, as Grandma confirmed to me many times in the years since when family would tell the story, she would have too.

That's the kind of woman it took to be married to Hershel in those years. She gave him two daughters early, and a daughter and son later, my father being the baby boy.

Alright, while we're all chuckling about Grandpa pissing the bed, and the friend pissing his pants thanks to Grandma's reserve and steady aim. The most important thing in my telling you that story isn't that it happened or not. I don't know to be honest. but it's a part of the myth that a family tells about a man. The "before" to the eventual "after".

So, what came after the booze, and the bumbling and the beast that was my grandfather once he hit the ripe old age of 40? A no-foolin' Damascus Road full-on conversion experience. Hershel Sharpton found Jesus, or more accurately, Jesus found him. And the only reason it happened, I remain convinced, is because my Grandmother was standing beside him shining the world's biggest lighthouse to ensure her Lord found her husband, and vice versa.

FullSizeRender.jpg

And, seemingly, it took. Not only did he stop drinking and fighting and beating on whoever might earn his wrath, but Hershel even surrendered himself to the call of the ministry and spent the rest of his life, building churches physically and from the pulpit.

A carpenter, a preacher and a hard-nosed man even in redemption, Grandpa left a big family and a bigger legacy. But he left enough broken memories and bad habits to cause complications for generations to come too. Thus is the way of father's, and thus our curse extends.

If there is Karma and the above story of the sharecropper is true, Grandpa paid his share, however late. In 1981, he and my grandmother were living in their retirement atop Chandler Mountain. Helping hang gliders was a common past-time of grandpas and one of his greatest joys in life. The activity itself was beyond his physical capacity, but watching humans take flight was still something that fascinated the man born before the airplane.

He was helping that day, as a group of hang gliders went off the cliff to the valley below. Finishing preparation for the next flight, he just ducked down instead of moving away completely as the glider went off. But it was windy. Unusually windy. Too windy to fly, probably but fly they did.

The glider went off the cliff but dipped to the side first, snagging my grandfather’s shirt, dragging him off the cliff as well. He was aware though, and actually grabbed a hold of the glider frame, balancing with the man strapped in and they actually might have succeeded in making it to the ground, but there was a tree in their path 20 or 30 feet from the cliff’s edge. They hit it, my grandfather came loose. The glider crash landed, breaking the pilot’s legs. Hershel Sharpton fell to his death.

I never knew the man. Which is strange as I carry on his name, give it to my children and dream of theirs someday far off in the future carrying that same simple name. Thus is the way of families, I suppose. Branded with our families deeds and misdeeds both culturally and genetically.

Frankly, I don't know how much the man that died in 1982 would have liked the man I am 36 years later, but I do imagine he'd have been impressed with the grinding wheels of time on his own tendencies and traits. What would he see that had lasted through the generational cycles? And what would be totally foreign? How much of my “myth” would he see in the man he’d meet in me?

I didn’t promise you answers, or neatly wrapped drops of knowledge in this series. I just promised you me. So for now, I’m Joel, this is my story or one of them anyway, thanks for listening.

FullSizeRender.jpg

3701 - Me and Mom’s Grand Prix

IMG_1962.PNG

My name is Joel Eutaw Sharpton. Eutaw with an E at the front a W at the end and a long story behind it for another day. I was born in Morehouse Parish General Hospital on the morning of September 21, 1981. 37 years ago today as I release this podcast episode.

I am, and have always been a poor southern red-faced white boy. I’m the son of a carpenter and a school teacher, the grandson of a preacher and a cafateria supervisor. I’m a podcaster, a writer a father of four and twice-married husband of one beautiful redhead. I love Jesus and justice and Lebron James.

I like Nintendo, and I love Nina Simone and I NEED to watch The Godfather series at least once every couple of years. I grew up on Alfred Hitchcock on Nick at Nite and 80’s comedies on HBO and country music on my parent’s radio. I love K.T. Oslin and Ricky Skaggs and Elvis singing gospel and it’s my Nana’s and Daddy’s and Mama’s faults respectively.

3 years ago I started my own business, 3 years from now I’ll be 40. To say I’m in the thick of it, is an understatement. But I love my life as much now as ever before, and every day is an exciting discovery.

I’ve been writing publicly since 2004, podcasting since 2012 and I never shut up. I’ve told my story a bunch of ways to a bunch of people but I’ve never told all of it, and I’ve never told it like this. I want my own voice, my own story for my own recollection if nothing else. Maybe someday my kids will enjoy the ability to stroll through dear old dad’s mind, in this snapshot in time.


So, here’s what you’ll get, if you’re along for the ride. 37 stories of me. One for every year so far and all before I celebrate another trip around the sun. The people who made me, the things I love, and how I got to where I am, in my head, in my heart and my home. 37 Sharpton Stories, Joel flavored, every one. And all starting now.

When I think of “my mom’s car” I picture two, no matter what she’s driving currently. I think of a Mitsibishi Expo “the marshmallow” which I might have a story for another day, and I think of the Grand Prix.

It was gold. Or champagne, or sickly yellow depending on who you’re asking or what picture you’re looking at. It was a two door, and it was (in my memory) roughly 30 feet long. In reality, I think it was a bit less. An early 80’s model, 81 or 82, it was Mom’s pride and joy before her loving children destroyed it slowly with “love” over the rest of the decade. But the destruction started that very first year, with my head and the dashboard trim.

I of course remember none of this, but I retell it as a reminder that I (and most or many of you likely) grew up at time when such a thing could happen.

Mom was carrying me (carseats weren’t mandatory) in the front seat (airbags didn’t exist) of the grand prix when she and dad had an accident and baby Joel was flung into the dashboard. Thankfully, driving while holding a baby was frowned upon even back then. So, I didn’t encounter the steering wheel. The dashboard of the early 80’s Pontiac Grand Prix was expansive, faux wood grain in this model and broken up only by a thick shiny silver plastic piece of trim right down the middle horizontally. My noggin, cracked the plastic trim dead center of the passenger side.

We rode that car to Alabama and Arkansas and all over Louisiana for more than a decade and the trim was never replaced. Thankfully, my noggin didn’t need replacing and other than a bruise and a minor scratch I was left with no permanent damage...that we know of.

Of course, I’d be lying if that was even the worst time they dropped me on my head! But that’s a different story. For a different episode.

These aren’t in order of importance, so if I don’t talk about you yet, don’t get your panties in a twist, I’m sure you’re coming further on down the road. For now, I’m Joel, this is my story or one of them anyway, thanks for listening.

Episode 17: How to Make Your (Podcasting) Hobby Pay, When Your Show Doesn't

Joel Sharpton speaks at PMx as part of Podcast Movement 2016 at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Chicago about his journey towards independence and how narrating audiobooks is one simple method many if not all podcasters can adopt. Thanks to Ramona Rice, host of The Sports Gal Pal podcast and Community Manager for Podcast Websites, for the introduction. Visit http://joelsharpton.com/pmx/ to download my Tips and Tricks. 

Episode 16: Why I Read Weird - 40 Years of Interview with the Vampire

As a kid I read anything and everything I could get my hands on. My sons both love to read but I wonder sometimes about how much I read when I was a kid versus what they read and how I was able to cram in so much. Then I remember there was no iPad or iPhone. The Gameboy lasted about three hours and took a million AA batteries to do it, and cartoons only came on on Saturdays.

So I read. I remember superfudge and Ramona quimby. Encyclopedia Brown, and the Babysitters club. And, while I was a big fraidy cat, I also loved "scary" books. First Bunnicula and The Celery Stalks at Night, then Goosebumps, then Christopher Pike's "Chainletter" and The Last Vampire.

Those Teen novels were my thing by the time I was ten, so when two summers later I found The Tale of the Body Thief at my aunt's house and read the prologue from Lestat, it made sense that I was instantly hooked.

Lestat was arrogant and impetuous. Powerful and prideful. Exotic and exhilarating. He was my favorite fictional character I'd ever found.

So, I asked my aunt what was up with this book and the French vampire with the funny name. She explained the series, four books at the time and now originally it was Lestat's partner Louis who began it all in Interview with the Vampire.

At the end of my trip to see my aunt, I visited the library back home and promptly searched the card catalog for this Anne Rice and her interviewed vampire. I found the large gold foil wrapped hardback copy and made my way to the desk to check it out.

But I was foiled! The librarian scoffed as I handed her my card and the book, telling me "That's an adult book. You have a child's card!"

What the hell sense did that make? If I could understand the words on the page then what business is it of hers of anyone else's how old I am?

Even now, a father of four myself I really don't get what the big deal was. But I played by the rules and waited until my mother came to pick me up, then got her to check it out for me.

Within a month I'd harangued my mother and the head librarian to get me an adult card of my own so that these sorts of misunderstandings wouldn't happen again.

Now, the whole wide world of fiction was open to me. And I read everything. Science fiction and fantasy. Detective novels and westerns. Classic books and modern pop paperbacks. Occasionally even some historical era would catch my fancy and I'd read a series of biographies to fulfill my curiosity.

But mostly, I stuck with Vampires. I read and read the Vampire chronicles from Anne rice. First checking them out then buying my own paperback copies then inevitably buying new ones when I wore the old ones out.

I'm fully happy with our modern digital world. I buy my movies on iTunes and my books on my ipad and I mostly don't miss the old way of doing things, but sometimes when I think about the way a well-loved paperback feels, folding back the spine to hold it open one handed, rolling the cover completely off the thing, duct tape holding the binding together. That stuff I miss.

As each new book in Anne's series would come out, I would wait in line, drop my money and race through it trying to swallow the new info about Lestat and the Children of the Savage Garden whole. But Anne never wrote fast enough to keep me satisfied. I read Brian Lumley and his Necroscope series, Laurel Hamilton and her Anita Blake series. Even the first three novels in the True Blood series along with roughly a million one off takes on the vampire myth from writers big and small, talented and less than so.

But no one ever replaced Lestat's voice. Not when he "slept" after the events of Memnoch, not when Anne put him away as she chased angels, not even when they made that terrible Queen of the Damned movie. That beautiful brat prince has always been in my periphery, whispering just in the next room, always hinting he'll be back. And then he was. Prince Lestat was a surprise for me when Rice announced it. I really never thought she'd return to this world of these characters and had resigned myself to that.

Was it different after so many years? Absolutely. I didn't wait in any lines, I clicked a preorder button in the iTunes Store. There's no well-worn paperback, just my trusty smartphone and the comforting yellowish glow of the books app keeping me up into the wee hours chasing Lestat once again.

I loved the new book, and can't wait to read the adventures promised by its conclusion. But the reason I'm nostalgically tracing my reading history here is that Interview with the Vampire will have been in print for 40 years this month. So, while we all know our favorite French fiend has been stalking the savage garden for 3 centuries, he's been in our collective conscious for 4 decades now. And I at least will be following his stories for as many more in the future as possible.

Happy birthday, Lestat, and thank you, Anne for all you've given us over the years.

Episode 15: What Makes Me Married

Joel Sharpton talks about his wife, Kelly, on their third anniversary. Check out the show notes to get links for Joel and Kelly's full story.

Modern American Love Story Part One: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/makesmeweird/2015/06/25/mag019-og1--modern-american-love-story-wkelly-sharpton

Modern American Love Story Part Two: http://alwayslisteningpod.com/makesmeweird/modernlovestory2

Modern American Love Story Part Three: http://alwayslisteningpod.com/makesmeweird/modernlovestory3

And Part Four coming someday...

Find more from Joel at http://JoelSharpton.com or follow him on Twitter @therogueslife

Episode 12: Netflix and Joel - an Audio Essay on a Visual Medium

Joel has loved Netflix for a long, long time. Hear him discuss his love affair with the little red envelope and what Netflix means today. Also, a personal announcement! and Teaser for upcoming episodes.

Follow everything Joel does and connect with him for your next voice project at http://JoelSharpton.com

Email the show at makesmeweird@gmail.com and share us with a friend to help the show grow.

Episode 7: What Makes Destiny Weird? with Josh Shirley

Episode 7: What Makes Destiny Weird? with Josh Shirley

Destiny, the latest next generation game from HALO developer Bungie, is the topic of discussion in this episode. Josh has been an avid gamer for years, while Joel hasn't played anything more complex than Mario since college. Listen as they discuss Joel's first shot at the game, the advancement in video game mechanics period, and what a newbie can find to enjoy in the midst of this major new franchise.

Episode 6: Modern American Love Story Part 2 with Kelly and Joel Sharpton

Episode 6: Modern American Love Story Part 2 with Kelly and Joel Sharpton

We're taking a break from our regular episodes to dip into Joel's personal archives and pull an episode from his first podcast, Two Guys, One Podcast. His (now) wife, Kelly, appeared on four total episodes, three of which detailed and dicsussed their relationship. In case you've missed the first episode, highlighting how they met, all the way to the wedding day (including a recitation of the vows, seriously, it's pretty awesome), then check out Modern American Love Story Part 1 right here: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/makesmeweird/2015/06/25/mag019-og1--modern-american-love-story-wkelly-sharpton