Monday, February 4, 2013

Our Interview with Joe "Cornflake" Light, Part I!

Editor's note: Because Mr. Light had a long interview and talks ridiculously fast--during the 23-odd minutes, an average of 2.6 words were said every second, a figure which includes "dead time"--we're splitting it up into three parts, which will air Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday of this week. It also means that each of these parts will be rather long for this blog, but hey, at least you don't have to listen to me talk.

Andy Tisdel: Tell the world your name.

The Undersigned: My name is Joe Light.

AT: What’s your real name?

JL: My name is Cornflake—

AT: That’s better!

JL: Vagrant Cornflake, Homeless Cornflake, really any variation on that that isn’t hurtful.

AT: Ah, that’s where the line is. So Pornsnake is out.

JL: Do not call me Pornsnake.

AT: Okay, uh… tell us a little bit about yourself.

JL: I am from Des Moines, Iowa. Grew up in a small town in the suburbs. Pretty easygoing kinda guy. I like being outdoors, I like helping people, I like being around friends… I like working hard. Before I came to Americorps, I was working on a farm, and as a local meat clerk, cutting meat at a local grocery store. I had just finished my two-year associate’s degree, an Associate of Arts, and, then I came here.

AT: What was your degree in?

JL: It was an Associate of Arts. So basically, not General Studies, but just kinda general education devices. Get that out of the way before I went to university.

AT: What are your plans about that? Where do you want to go?

JL: I was originally an education major, actually, and in my last semester of college I changed to biology. I took a biology lab that I really loved, and that’s the way I looked at it.

AT: Do you have a specific university you want to go to?

JL: Probably somewhere in Iowa. I don’t mind. There’s three state schools there, it doesn’t really matter to me which one.

AT: So are you planning to go straight there after FEMA Corps?

JL: No, actually. After FEMA Corps, there’s another program that I want to do in six months. So I’ll get a job for those six months, but after that, the next program I want to do is the Minnesota Conservation Corps.

AT: Is that for sure?

JL: Well, I applied for it and was selected for it this year, but due to the start date I had to turn it down. But they said they’d look forward to hearing from me next year, so I’m fairly confident that I’ll be able to get it again next year.

AT: Okay. What about being a TL? Is that still something you want to do?

JL: In the future, yeah. I like FEMA Corps. I like working with FEMA, and I think the work is very meaningful. It’ll be a really good program to be in, in the future…

AT: You don’t have to sugarcoat it.

JL: No, no, I really do feel this way. I’m not sugarcoating it. Obviously originally I applied for regular N-triple-C, and, I don’t know. I feel like the Conservation Corps is an extreme of NCCC, so that’s why I want to do it. And then potentially go back and be a team leader for FEMA Corps. More than anything, I want to get more experience working with FEMA, because I want to apply to be a Reservist.

AT: Really!

JL: In the future. Whether it’s when I go back to school, or just to have it on the side, and then if I get called to do something, see where it goes from there.

AT: So why a Reservist?

JL: Well, like I said, I really like the work we do, especially in CR, I’d like to do the things we do as a CR Specialist as a Reservist. You know, getting out in the communities, talking with people that were affected by the disaster, you know, being kind of that first wave of people that’s getting out there and helping, the first face of people they see. You can tell that they really look to you for information, help, stuff like that, and it’s very rewarding.

AT: Okay. What are some moments in your career as CR so far where you’ve been out in the community?

JL: Well, I feel like getting both ends of the spectrum is important. You’ll get some people who are extremely happy to see you, especially if they feel like they have a question they can’t get the answer to, whether they can’t get through on the 1-800 number or they don’t want to stand in like at the DRC for eight hours, and you show up at the doorway, and you give ‘em the perfect answer that kind of puts ‘em at ease, you know, and at the same time you won’t always have the answer, so you end up knocking on somebody’s door who’s not had a good experience with FEMA, or they’re upset, or something like that. And while that is kinda difficult, and it’s gonna stink to deal with people when they’re really crotchety, I think it is important—it’s an important experience to have, to experience both of those.

AT: So can you talk about a time where you had a specific CR experience that was meaningful to you? No names, obviously, but…

JL: We had one woman who hadn’t registered with FEMA yet, She didn’t really understand the process yet, and her house was very, very messed up, and her son had just gotten back a few days before from a deployment with the Air Force. So obviously she was more concerned about having her son home then all this, but like I said, her house—she had just bought her dream car the year before, she’d been working her whole life for it, and her insurance was only going to cover a tiny amount of it. It was completely destroyed. She had a half-dozen rescue dogs, and easily another dozen miscellaneous rescue animals that was living in her house. Very sweet woman. She was just, you know, very confused about the process, was very worried about her options, she didn’t know what FEMA would be able to do for her, how it would work with her insurance and all that. I was probably there for a good hour, answering all kinds of the questions she had. And at the end, she started crying, and then she gave me a hug and kissed me on the cheek, and… it felt pretty good. That was… that was a good moment.

AT: Glad to hear it. Um… Let’s talk about being on a team. What do you-what are your favorite things about being on a team?

JL: My favorite things about being on a team are a lot of the… Just the kinda aspect of a team where you’re all working together. It’s the same as in sports, one person can have a bad game or a bad day, and the rest of the team can turn around and—they’re a support system. They can turn around and pick up the slack, and make sure the other person knows that sure, we’ve got your back. They act as a kind of accountability net. Especially for me. I feel that I’m more, more inclined to work hard and to achieve things when I’m around these like-minded people on my team, who are driven to achieve and to go out and work really hard.

AT: I think you’ve said as much when we’ve talked previously. Um… *pause* I actually don’t have any prepared questions. I’m just winging this. *both laugh* So… what do you want to talk about? Is there anything you’d like to tell me?

JL: When I was living in Atlanta, I had a strange rash in my armpit—

AT: (Laughs) I remember that…

JL: For two months…

AT: And I shared a bed with him, by the way, for most of that time (he said, pointing at the camera).

JL: Um… Give me a moment to think…

AT: This is going to go in the transcript as just dot-dot-dot, dot-dot-dot. 

Which seems like an appropriate place to take a breather. Tune in Tuesday for Part II! 

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