Still Learning How to Fly ~ Chapter Twelve: "That Toddlin' Town" (Pt. 1)

Ken Painter By Ken Painter, 16th Oct 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Biography & Autobiography

My family and I complete our move to the greater Chicago area which requires a LOT of changes on our part, some good and some not so good. As time progresses I go through many. MANY personal and professional changes . . .

Reconnaissance and Move

Just prior to moving to Chicagoland, Nancy and I took a reconnaissance trip to check out the lay of the land and look for possible apartments and just where we might settle ourselves. I would be working in the edge of Downer’s Grove in DuPage County in the western suburbs, and so we centered our search around the work area and went from there. We also wanted to move into a town that had a local congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses. So armed with a phone book from the motel where we were staying we got into our car and just started driving around through the area and kept circling around until we came to what looked a lot like home, Naperville. It was close to where I would be working and it was love at first sight, and as it would turn out it was also called Yuppieville (for a good reason), and it was later voted by several entities as one of the best communities in America in which to raise a family, certainly well-deserved. But it was beautiful, and we fell in love instantly, and that was that.

We made our way to the Kingdom Hall that morning and wouldn’t you know it there happened to be some brothers and sisters working outside on some of the yard work that fall, and we explained our situation, and a couple of them, an elder and his wife hopped in their vehicle and led us around the area until we’d secured a lease on our new apartment within the community and our job was finished. Everything was tied up nicely and neatly all in a bow.

Shortly thereafter we completed the move to Illinois, and I began my new job with the major distributor of pneumatic parts. I was to continue with inside sales, but only until my new boss could get the education department off the ground.

In the meantime, Nancy and I enrolled Cubby in the 6th grade, and now that we’d moved to Illinois preferred he to be called Frank, and so we would make this transition at his request as we enrolled him in middle school. This would prove to be a difficult transition for him. While Frank had been an all A and B student back in Mason in Michigan finally getting caught up and excelling in many things switching to a different area and state didn’t work. And in Naperville we soon found out that if you weren’t college bound the teachers at his school didn’t really seem to care all that much what happened to him as a student, and that was a fair assessment of the brush-off I got from my contact with Frank’s teachers those first few weeks. One thing we knew about Frank is that whatever he chose to do, it probably didn’t involve college, it most likely would involve trade school. When this was communicated to them via Nancy and myself basically their response was they didn’t give a shit. Our response was RADICAL.

In Illinois it was legal to home school, and I knew how to develop a curriculum, and so that’s exactly what we did. Nancy’s sister Sharon was already doing this with her girls through an excellent home school program out of Missouri, and so we signed on with them for Frank’s 6th thru 8th grade years. I then developed his 6th grade curriculum which having been a 6th grade teacher I was certainly qualified to do, and we went out and bought the books, and then Nancy and I taught him ourselves. While I wouldn’t recommend this for everyone, it worked for us.

As time wore on, we found others in the area who were doing the very same thing and we networked with them for social outings for the children, so they could get those “out of the classroom” experiences, plus getting together with other kids to feel not so only. We would make this a regular part of the class fabric. And eventually when it came time for him to get to the high school grades, I found that I had another plan.

Meanwhile, back at my new job, as time wore on things weren’t looking so good. All the things I had been promised and that I had come to the area for were not coming to fruition with the exception of the salary I was promised. As the six-month mark neared I still had not been reimbursed for my moving expenses, and despite repeated conferences about what the proposed new education department which I was supposed to head and for which I’d drawn up initial plans, I was still answering phones as an inside salesperson and basically sitting around twiddling my thumbs half of the day doing nothing and feeling guilty about it. We had plenty of inside sales people. And I got to feeling very skittish because I could see that this was never going to happen - that for whatever reason the same powers-that-be that had nixed the New York situation were doing the same job here, and maybe I should just mosey on.

I drove by the Allstate Insurance regional office on my way to work everyday, and they were looking for new agents, so one day I stopped to inquire, and I secured an interview and they liked me. It would mean a big pay drop to $16 grand a year until I could start getting some commissions of my own, but they would train me on everything from property & casualty and health, and they’d put me in an office with an established agent all on their dime. I couldn’t refuse. And so I gave my two weeks notice in Downer’s Grove to work in Lisle (much closer to home). My old boss said no need, I could leave immediately. He was pissed. Not as pissed as I was. I burned that bridge. He lied; I didn’t.

The Trip ~ Part 2

Sometime in the first few months after we moved over after I’d quit and went to Allstate, because it was in the spring of the new year, Mike came over for a visit . . . with a friend in tow. A male friend about his age. We had kept in touch up to this point in time and so he knew where we were and what was going on in our lives, but I’d been keeping it low-key. I was glad to see he had found a friend, and though I would never know the nature of their relationship, I didn’t have to. He was growing up whatever he was doing, and for that I was satisfied. We were both moving on with our lives. And after that weekend we would eventually lose track of each other forever. But for that I am profoundly sorry.

Floor Show

The gym membership that I had in Michigan was a lifetime one, but it didn’t transfer to any of the gyms in the area to which I’d moved, and so I was welcome at the Bally’s in the area for only the first year I was there without paying, so I took advantage of it for as long as I could, but I couldn’t afford the expense of a membership over there. It’s just as well. It would have gotten me into major trouble. The gyms in this area were where I suddenly learned what cruising was all about, because when I came to the area as a fit 38 year old male, I suddenly found myself being cruised - something which had never happened to me before.

Not all of them were hustlers, but I’m sure Valente was. He was a 24 year old, built little Mexican guy who did naked push-ups on the floor of the steam room in front of me so many times on so many occasions, and kept asking me so many personal questions, and I just kept letting him so that we had this little game going. I guess he thought I was rich. I just kept enjoying the floor show for a few weeks until he finally got the idea that he couldn’t have me, but I sure was tempted. There were a lot of other guys who cruised me too, and I finally stopped going to the gym, because at some point my willpower was going to cave. Every last one of them I wanted to do something with. Every one was desirable, but I was not ready . . . yet. I was still in the looking stage.

And look I did. I was in Chicagoland. I took a visit one afternoon to the Boystown area down Addison and Belmont way in Chicago, and I just had to visit the Bijou Theater on North Wells in Old Town. They were playing a Kristen Bjorn porn flick on the big screen, and it was here that I saw my first glory hole (a hole in the partition between stalls) up close and personal in the john though nobody stuck any body parts through it for oral or anal sex. Probably a good thing for me, because as conflicted as I was about being there, to this very day, I’m not at all certain what I’d have done had anything come on through. I guess you could call that afternoon my Gay Field Trip! It certainly was educational.

Building a Clientele From Scratch

Since I was now making even less money to start as an Allstate agent than I’d been making back at the engineering firm in Michigan before we left, Nancy decided to take a couple of kids into our home during the day while their parents were at work. Her babysitting fees would help pick up the slack for what we were losing while I was trying to build my business during that first year. Allstate was training me in all the areas of Property & Casualty, and also Life & Health, and I had no trouble passing the exam and getting my agent’s license. Piece of cake.

Building a clientele from scratch even with the leads they furnished me was another matter however. The established agent I shared the office with was a wonderful person, but she appeared to be having her own problems building her own book of business as well. She’d been trying for over a year rather unsuccessfully to jump start her side of the business, and by bringing me in was their attempt to help her. We would often share our successes and failures together.

Spiritual Drama

I had become an elder at the Naperville Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses as I had been back in Mason with my recommendation having been sent over and acted upon. But these were the years of my growing complacency within myself. As previously noted, I was thinking about my gay side and wrestling with it, and it was really bothering me. It was certainly on my mind. Additionally, there happened to be a local porn shop in the area which was easily accessible and where I could park my car out of sight and slip inside on a rare occasion just to peruse the male magazines when I got the itch to feed that side of myself. Plus I’d had the drama of being cruised at the gym, but after a few months I’d stopped going altogether. But by this time, I constantly had gay sex on my mind even though I was doing nothing about it.

Thrown into the mix was the added drama that Frank at one point decided that he wanted to become baptized as one of Jehovah‘s Witnesses, and so Nancy and I prepared the necessary questions he would have to answer before three individual elders prior to the event. Well, they passed judgment that he wasn’t ready (at the age of 13). Never in all my years as an elder had I seen or heard of this happening, and I got pissed, and I told them so. Of course, they didn’t know my additional underlying reasons, but after a few more months, I resigned being an elder . . . for good. I’d had it! Thus began the real commencement of my slide with the organization known as The Watchtower Bible & Tract Society, but it was for a lot of spiritual reasons . . . a lot more than anyone would ever realize until many, many years later when I finally exited the organization. The reason I gave at the time was that I needed to spend more time on the spiritual aspects of my own family rather than on those of the congregation’s. And that was truthful to a degree. And I did. Frank eventually did get baptized, though he waited until he was 16 to do so, such was his scarring from those guys, but eventually he felt up to it.

Finding a Home . . . Finally!

I kept diligently trying to build my book of business with Allstate, and they were really great to work for, and they were patient with me, but after a year at it I could see I was going nowhere. One of the elders in the congregation who happened to be a really great guy and was particularly close to Nancy and me took me aside one day and made a suggestion that would change my life. He asked me the question, “What prevents you from going back to teaching?”

My answer was, “Over here, probably nothing other than getting the Illinois certificate.” Up till that point in time I’d never even given it a thought.

“Would that be a problem?”

“I doubt it,” I replied. “I’d have to check.”

“The reason I ask,” he went on, “is that I happen to know that in Chicago Public Schools which really isn’t that far away, they’re always in need of teachers. You’d have no problem getting a job, and I even have a contact.”

Wow, I thought. A connection.

And that’s how it began. Within the week I’d begun the information gathering process to get the whole thing rolling. I found that I needed to take an Illinois teacher’s test which was something akin to the NTE (National Teacher’s Exam) like I’d already taken in South Carolina, so I enrolled for the next one and paid my fee.

Additionally I had to furnish the state my college credentials, and after I passed the teacher’s test really high after all those years I was awarded a full Illinois teacher’s certificate. Hallelujah! God is good! I’d also secured a substitute certificate just to cover all bases. I had them both for whatever reason. I wasn’t taking any chances.

By this time it was summer, and I’d begun looking for teaching jobs. However I’d been out of action for a long time, and I realized that I had a lot of baggage. But I came armed with letters of recommendation from Mr. Honshell in Charlotte, Michigan, from my principal at the State Prison, and from my old superintendent back in Allendale, South Carolina. Three positive letters of recommendation! Yup! I’d written them all! I may have had baggage, but it was good baggage I was bringing with me, and they all remembered me. They were surprised as hell to hear from me, but they all gave me positive responses and wished me well. My guardian angel was flapping those wings on my behalf.

The good folks at Allstate were sorry to see me go. I was the next to the last holdout of my class of sales agents. We all had been having a tough time of it. But my supervisor understood, and he wished me well, and my partner at the office, well, she would continue on for a time by herself until she eventually closed up shop.

By the time the school year began, of course, I hadn’t secured a full-time job, but I was on the substitute’s list everywhere in the area within forty miles of my home including Chicago Public. I’d taken advantage of my friend’s contact there also. On the third day of the school year, I answered the phone and subbed in the Aurora Public Schools not far from my home. I don’t recall what I did, but I survived, of course. That was a Friday. The following Monday on the fourth day of the school year, I answered the phone. It was a subbing assignment in Chicago. I took it, and the rest as they say is ancient history. I would stay there for the next 13 years. I’d come home.

(In the next installment and conclusion to Chapter 12, find out how I begin my career at this wonderful school!)

Link to next installment. . .

Link to last installment . . .

Link to beginning of book . . .


Autobiography, Gay, Gay Community, Gay Experience, Gay Lesbian And Bisexual, Gay Men, Gays, Glbt, Lgbt, Memoir, Memoirs, Memories, Non Fiction, Non-Fiction, Nonfiction, Porno, Pornography, Teach, Teach Children, Teacher, Teachers, Teaching, Teaching Children, True Experiences, True Stories, True Story

Meet the author

author avatar Ken Painter
Retired Chicago public school teacher. Singer, songwriter, musician, author, & opinionated old curmudgeon. Married to my husband & living in Colorado, USA. Also a father & grandfather.

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