Josh is the author of two bestselling memoirs, I Am Not Myself These Days, and The Bucolic Plague. From time to time, he shares new stories…

 

At the 1980 Wisconsin State Fair, I was honored by being chosen for the cover of Time Magazine.

Being only 11 years old, you can imagine my surprise at being selected not only for a cover, but for the very prestigious “Man of the Year” issue.

Naturally, I accepted their offer, and obediently sat for my portrait. As they adjusted a bright green background behind me, (how did they know my favorite color?…good journalism, that’s how!) I reflected on the many accomplishments that brought me to this moment…the “What Wisconsin Means to Me” statewide essay contest in which I placed Honorable Mention; my well received turn as Pappy Yokum in the Oconomowoc Junior High School run of “Little Abner;” the map I drew that included all of Oconomowoc’s historic buildings which hung for the entire month of June in the Municipal Library lobby.

It was humbling. Perhaps too humbling. I was young, and there was so, so much more I wanted to accomplish with my life.

So after the photographer and his assistant took their shot, I regretfully informed them that I would not be giving any photo approvals that day. “In fact,” I said, “I cannot accept this cover award at all.”

“You sure?” the assistant said. His dejection was as palpable as the gum he was smacking.

“Quite.”

“Well, if you change your mind, you can pick up your copy at the Main Gate anytime after 4pm.”

“I can assure you, I won’t.”

And with that, I turned towards the sun setting over the Swine Barn, and marched my way down the “Street of Wisconsin Yesterday” into my very bright future.

“Hey kid! I can put you on “Rolling Stone” instead!” the photographer shouted after me.

“Thank you, but no!” I shouted back. 2nd Chair bassoon was impressive. But hardly cover-worthy. “Try Barbara Mandrell on the Main Stage at 7:30! Good luck to you, sir!”

“Luck to you too!” he shouted back. Or something to that effect. It was hard to make out over the crowd.

by Josh Kilmer-Purcell

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HOLLY J OWEN

JOSH,I wishI knew you,as a friend back then,as I have written you on FB. I am from Oconomowoc,graduated in 1981,but had been gone due to being hospitalized,you might have known my sister. I read your book,as received it w/ a purchase with EVINE. I love BEEKMAN 1802,SADNNED THAT YOU WON’T BE WITH EVINE,but even after 30 years in CALI,I still miss Oconomowoc….SMALL WORLD!.sincerely,HOLLY J OWEN

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Heidi Meka

Hi Holly!Thank you for writing! We are sad to leave Evine too…but goodbye is never forever! I know that you receive our e-mails, so you will be the first to know of any exciting news in the future. Have a wonderful day and so glad to know that it is, indeed, still a small world 🙂

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HOLLY J OWEN

JOSH, I HAVE WRITTEN YOU BOTH,AM READING THE BOOK YOU SENT ALL OF US IN OUR BOUNTY BOX,THEN IN READING FOUND YOU MENTION WAUKESHA CO.,IN WISCONSIN.THOUGHT,WHAT? ONLY SOMEONE FROM THERE WOULD KNOW…I THEN FOUND THIS BLOG,I NOTED COUNTY FAIR,THEN READ ON…I THOUGHT ,MAYBE IF HE LIVED IN WAUKESHA CO.,HE’D KNOW OF MY HOMETOWN…I WAS BORN,LIVED IN OCONOMOWOC TILL I WAS 23,WENT ON TOSCHOOL AT UWM.I HAD FESOME KIND OF KINDRED WHEN I 1ST SAW YOU;TWO ON EVINE,SAW AND BOUGHT THE 1ST TIME YOU WERE ON EVINE. THIS ISTOO WEIRD,I GRADUATED OCONOMOWOC HS IN ’81,HAD TO BE RELEASED FROM THE HOSPITAL AS I HAD ANOREXIA AND WAS ONE OF THE 1ST DIAGNOSED IN OCONOMOWOC. THIS IS SO WEIRD AS I LOVE YOU AND BRENT AND YOUR IDEALOGY,FOUND IT SO MIDWESTERN…YOU CAN TAKE US OUT OF THE MIDWEST,BUT YOU CAN’T TAKE OUR WAYS OUT OF US..I HAVE NOW LIVED IN SF,CA FOR 20+ YRS.,BUT MY VALUES REMAIN WHOLESOME. HAPPY HOLIDAYS AND I’M SO GLAD TO FIND ANOTHER OCONOMOWOCIAN THRU IRONICALLY GOATS,YOU REALLY MAY HAVE BEEN A NEIGHBOR!…YOU AND BRENT BE HAPPY AND I HAVE A COUSIN NAMED BRENT,IN OHIO…BUT,I LOVE YOU;BOTH LIKE A BIG SISTER..SINCERELY,HOLLY OWEN

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Joyce

Ah, but second chair bassoon in a very fine ensemble, Josh! One of the best around at the time.

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Jim Vaughn

Thanks for this post Josh. This story is funny and nostalgic for me with all of your references. I lived up the hill from you on Hwy K, in fact, I think you were one of my sister’s first kiss!? Congrats on your success and happiness. -Jim

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