Tuesday, November 10, 2009

JP Patches

JP Patches was in the neighborhood the other day.

The clown was a childhood hero of a friend of mine, so although I grew up in the Midwest under the banner of Captain Kangaroo, I heard a lot about this Northwest funny man from her.

So when I saw the sign announcing his visit to somewhere close by, I put my 9-year-old in the car and went searching for him.

Following the signs, I discovered that he was doing an appearance at an assisted living center. I groaned, and told my daughter that I didn't want to go if that's where he was. (I'd thought he may be at the Trader Joe's or such nearby.) I figured this was the facility's way of bringing in new residents, and I had no intention of using them for a few decades yet ...

Now my daughter only knowledge of JP is climbing on his Fremont statue last spring, but she went into Child-Pleading mode. While I was turning around and bemoaning this, she was in the back seat launching into, "Mom, you can do this. We should go," over and over. And over.

I finally relented, turned around AGAIN, and soon pulled into the parking lot.

So we walk in and are immediately met by two nice young woman asking Jo if she wants a bag of popcorn. She perked right up and took a little bag, while I filled out the door-prize drawing slip for a blue ray player (which we didn't win).

We take a few more steps in and see a bunch of chairs set up with elderly residents, mostly listing slightly to the side or dozing. JP was at the front telling tales about the making of the show. (We learned that he wasn't the intended person to play JP Patches, and didn't want to do it. His boss asked him if he wanted his job, which he did, and the rest is television history.)

A few other kids were there, also brought in by their parents. One of the little girls (about 4 or 5) took it upon herself to run back and forth, waking up the dozers. JP thanked her.

JP spoke for about 15 minutes, which was just about right. He also invited the kids who were there to come up to play the Yes-No Game. My 9-year-old bounced forward first. The clown gave her a bag, and told her to say yes to whatever question he asked. When she did, he'd put a lollipop in the bag. "Do you understand?" he asked her. "No," Jolene answered.

JP rolled his eyes, the crowd laughed, and he tried again. This time Jo got it. The gist of the game is that he'd ask a nice innocent question, and THEN ask the kids something they DIDN'T want to say yes to -- such as "You got a spanking this morning, right?" or "You're really a little boy, right?"

Ultimately, it was a contest about who could hold out the longest before saying no -- and he'd take the bag back and hand over one lollipop, which was just about right.

After the talking with the audience (he was good at this; asked nice questions of the residents), he moved to the back table, where there were things like $1 buttons and $20 T-shirts to buy. I got Jo a button, which she wore for the rest of the day.

And there was cake! JP had been brought in for the center's 10th anniversary, and there was merriment all around. My 9-year-old honed right in on the cake, as well as the cotton candy machine. "Aren't you glad we came, Mom?"

Yes, it was a piece of Northwest history to go along with the cake.

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