Friday, May 29, 2009
Alexis: “Are there exercises to make you get taller?”
Janson: “Hey Brigs, do you know how much snow we’re supposed to get tomorrow?”
Me: “No I do not.”
Janson: “Is it supposed to be a lot?”
English 2 was doing a vocabulary activity for the word “accolade.” To help them understand the word, I listed a few celebrities and asked them what accolades each would win. Garrett answered those questions as follows:
Kobe Bryant – MVP trophy
Tom Hanks – Golden Globe
Mariah Carey – Platinum Record
Miley Cyrus – Nothing she should die.
Lindsay, in the midst of a word puzzle exercise, asks her friend with a dictionary the following question: “Hey, can you check W-O-R-D in there and see if it’s a word?”
Then, when I repeat this story for kids on the other side of the room who heard me laughing, Brie looks around confusedly and says, “I don’t get it.”
Sami, responding to an assignment where I asked them to write a letter to their future child: “I don’t want kids. I used to think I wanted to adopt, but now I want them to remove my eggs and put them inside somebody else because I don’t want cankles.”
From student summaries of Washington Irving’s “The Devil and Tom Walker”:
Nathan: “He then went to Boston and became a user.” (It’s supposed to be usurer, someone who provides loans).
Megan: “Tom was really mean about being a load shark.”
Today we did a scavenger hunt using reference books from the library. One of the questions was who got the Oscar for best director in 1983. Almost every kid in the class wrote down “Tears of Endearment.”
Samantha, to Mr. Nordstrom (who had grown out his beard for no-shave November): “Mr. Nordstrom, you look like a homo.”
Nordstrom: “What did you say?”
Sam: “Hobo! I meant hobo!”
After answering “false” to the FFA agriculture week trivia question, “True or False: Corn originated in North America,” I asked Jake to explain why he’d answer that way. He responded, “Because corn didn’t originate in North America. It originated in Mexico.”
From Zach’s English 3 test, an essay question about how to improve verbal skills in a speech: “The way you talk determines your audience’s attention. If you talk in broken or slow words, your audience will be very bored. Now if you jump on stage and throw candy and put some spunk in your speech, that will get the audience entertained and assertive of what you are talking about.”
Tyler: “When speaking vocally…” (does it even matter what the rest of that sentence is?)
Mr. Hewitt (the Driver’s Ed teacher): “Hey Brigs, you’re looking better today. Strong, like Lance Armstrong.”
Me, joking: “That’s because I overcame cancer twice.”
Alexis, overhearing the conversation: “And he walked on the moon.”
From Darwin’s “Grizzly Man” paper: “Timothy Treadwell was very crazy and individual. I think he may have been retarded or something.”
Lindsay, asking about a “confusing” test question: “I know there were only two characters in the story ‘Berenice,’ but was Egaeus the boy or the girl?”
Me: “What was the title of the story again?”
Lindsay: “Oh. Right.”
From Emilee’s storybook in Creative Writing: “And from that day on, Dr. Batty was vanished from the kingdom.”
Emilee’s vocabulary quiz: “I was told I need to be at school proximity five minutes early.”
We were giving award acceptance speeches in English 3 today, and Seth’s “Redneck Award” had me laughing so hard there were tears in my eyes:
“Thanks, Wink. There are many people to thank for this award. First, I want to thank my friend Wink for helping me gut, skin, and eat the animals I kill. Of course I want to thank my girlfriend Betsy, my four kids, Betty Lew, Bobby Jo, T-Bone, and Bubba, for filling me with the rage that I take out on small animals and other aspects of nature. I would also like to thank Wal-Mart for the $40,000 settlement they gave me for slipping on pee in the bathroom. They paid for my new truck, lift kit, big tires, and tank bumper. And even though they are using UFO’s to watch me, I would also like to thank the government because they are paying my bills because I’m disabled. Most of all, I would like to thank the RRR for this prestigious award. It is the greatest honor a guy with a fifth grade smart level could receive. My grandma always told me, “If you don’t graduate grade school you won’t be anything.” You were wrong, grandma. I’m now a record breaker, and I added to my record on the way here. I hit a herd of deer on Route 66. Thank you.”
Lindsay, in a class where we ended up talking about interracial relationships: “I’m not really attracted to Asian guys, but I would still marry one just so I can have Jon and Kate Plus Eight babies.”
Alex: “What is time but an inconsequential measurement of… um… time?”
Me: “You were screwed halfway through that sentence.”
From Mr. Hewitt: A couple of gems from Doug in the Driver Ed. car today:
Doug: “Yeah, me and my dad were in Minier yesterday.”
Me: “Oh really, Doug. And just what were you and your Dad doing in Minier?”
Doug: “Just checking out the scene. Looking at tractors.”
30 seconds later…
Doug: “There's a funny story about one of our cows.”
Me: “Do tell, Doug, do tell.”
Doug: “It got stuck in the birth canal too long. It's retarded. We had to pull it out.”
Me: (stunned silence followed by...) “That is quite a funny story, Doug.”
Chase, a sophomore Creative Writing student of mine, was writing a short story where four teenagers were camping in the woods and illegally consuming alcohol. Completely ignorant to how much alcohol is required to successfully inebriate four high school kids, he wrote that the group had packed along “Four 24-packs of beer and four bottles of vodka.” He apparently was hoping the autopsy would turn up with a BAL of 0.65.
From a batch of Becky’s research papers:
“It was here her two sisters became fatly ill with tuberculosis.”
“One of Sense and Sensibility’s moral lesions is the battle between greed and the heart.”
Doug: “Olive Garden is about as fancy as it gets.”
Doug: “What’s your favorite meal—breakfast, lunch, or dinner?”
Chara: “Lunch, probably.”
Doug: “Me too. Well, lunch and supper. And sometimes when you go to a restaurant for breakfast. And cinnamon rolls.”
From Melissa’s research paper on the California Gold Rush: "Gold fever was something common that people got in the west, but no one died from it."
Some more quotes from Becky’s little cherubs:
“Darwin was the psychologist Sigmund Freud. His theory of evolution and his own psychoanalysis had resulted in an affront to mankind’s naïve egoism.”
“Jane Austen grabbed hold of her rip writing atmosphere and took flit into an age defying author.”
Frank: “Did he get suspended?”
Frank: “Did he get suspelled?”
Me: “You mean expelled?”
Frank: “Whatever. Did he?”
Me: “Okay, Caitlin, it’s your turn to give your movie pitch.”
Caitlin: “I wrote it last night but I forgot to bring it with me to school.”
Me: “Well you still have to pitch it, kiddo.”
Emilee Mohr: “Just go up and there and talk out of your butt.”
Caitlin, stone serious and absolutely confused: “How am I supposed to talk out of my butt?”
Some more of Becky’s, from a “Jane Eyre” paper:
“The social class of Jane Eyre and of Victorian England is similar. They are both very difficult social class times.”
“Women were also the ones who were the most mistreated because of feminism.”
“In Victorian England time there was many different leaves of classes you could be in.”
Hayden: “Malcom married his sister Betty X in 1958 in Lansing, Michigan. His was very weird to read and think about. But I guess it was popular back then to marry a sibling.” (He clearly misunderstood what the book meant by “sister.”)
Me: “And what does narcotic mean?”
Crystal: “Isn’t that like when someone falls asleep uncontrollably?”
Thursday, May 28, 2009
I found myself watching baseball highlights early last evening, and when one watches the baseball highlights in the early evening, one only gets highlights for the day games. And no one plays more day games than the Chicago Cubs. Which is how I saw Big Z doing his temper tantrummy thing in front of the home crowd. That’s always good for some hoots and hollers, but what really made my day was seeing Zambrano actually toss the umpire out of the game. Obviously he can’t do that, but that’s what he did. Made the motion with his arm and everything. It was hilarious. What a nutcase.
My chance encounter with Zambrano after a Bulls game failed to end positively, and I’m not saying that just because I loathe and abhor the Cubs the way teenagers loathe and abhor chores and curfews and stuff. It ended negatively because, well… because Z just wasn’t really all that cool a guy.
Like many professional athletes, Zambrano has a posse, and they rolled down the United Center corridor like the crew from “Reservoir Dogs” you could almost imagine them in slow motion, smoky dry ice trailing behind their tattooed, leather-clad bodies. Sunglasses indoors. That kind of thing.
He and his boys were hoping to say hey to some of the guys on the basketball team, but they were still in the locker room, so they lingered. I, too, was lingering, so it felt like an appropriate time to introduce myself. NBA guys I’ve met in droves, but it’s not often I meet ace pitchers, even for teams that I hate.
So I said, “Hi Carlos. Nice to meet you. Did you guys enjoy the game?” Can you believe I had the audacity, the unmitigated gall, to say such a thing? Neither could Zambrano, who looked at me like a homeless person asking for a $20 bill and huffed a haughty laugh to himself while sharing glances with his equally aloof buddies. All that was missing was him throwing a thumb in my direction and chuckling a “Who does this guy think he is?” It was needlessly rude.
So it came as no surprise to me to see him tossed from a game today and then throw a tizzy fit the likes which I haven’t seen since I was six years old and my mother wouldn’t just buy the damn coloring book for me at the Walgreen’s. To be truthful, I needed no more reasons to dislike the Cubs, but Carlos Zambrano is the meniscus to my tall glass of Cubs Hate. If they somehow find a way to trade for the cast of “The View,” my cup shall overfloweth.
I can’t write about this anymore. I’m getting myself all worked up. Go Sox.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
These poor cats. Why is there always at least one cat video on these things? Because I love my kitties dearly and cat videos are so much finnier now than they used to be.
This is why I used to hate Joakim Noah. Now, of course, I love him:
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
In reading and reading and reading about this subject (Why? I really don’t know. I guess it was sort of a waste of time, but who cares. It was a fun process), the only conclusion I could really come to was that the history of hair varies by culture.
In Ancient Greece, for example, whether male or female you wore your hair long if you were rich and you shaved you your head if you were a slave. In the Old Testament, hair is a sign of strength (a la the story of Samson). Somehow over the years, it became culturally solidified that long hair was more feminine than short hair.
Over the course of the last thousand years or so, there have been fads and political statement and fashions that all directly resulted in the norms about hair being flipped on their head, so to speak.
So in short, there’s no real answer to the damn question, which has made me sort of upset. The answer is, basically, it’s just the way it’s sort of always been. Somewhere along the line someone thought long hair looked feminine, and there ya go. It’s sort of the way it’s been ever since.
So… yeah… sort of a waste of my time. But who cares. It was a fun process.
Friday, May 22, 2009
Still, we’ve had moments of clarity in the several months since they became permanent members of our little family where we wondered whether we could’ve been more creative in the naming process. The following is a top-five list of names we may have chosen instead (even though we’re pretty happy with them.) Be mindful that when I say “we,” I mostly mean “I.” Amy never would’ve approved of most of these.
#5 – Ozzie & Albert – What two guys better personify the White Sox and Cardinals than Senor Guillen and big Albert Pujols? This would’ve turned our little guys into mascots, which would’ve been fun. Now that the White Sox suck, however, I would only be painfully reminded of my favorite team’s futility every time I spoke the little guy’s name. Cool idea, but I couldn’t handle that for the next fifteen years.
#4 – Pork & Beans – Personally, I just love the ring of it. Buddy—our chunkier orange cat—would definitely be “Pork.”
#3 – Davey & Goliath – I’d probably find someway to bastardize “Goliath” into something like “Go-go” or “Goalie,” but when we’d tell people the names we’d picked out, people would crack a smile every time. “What’s your cats’ names?” they’d ask, and we’d respond, “Davey and Goliath.” And then we’d all laugh and have a beer together, remembering all the times when we talked about our cats being named Davey and Goliath. What more could a guy want?
#2 – Kobe & LeBron – Two iconic sports names, and easily the two best players in the NBA right now. Those wouldn’t get old. Ever. Amy and I actually talked about this a few months back wondered if it was too late for us to change it. I mean, cats don’t answer to their names anyway. The only thing stopping us was that we’d put their names on our most recent Christmas card. We didn’t want to confuse people. Plus, ya know, BB and Buddy are pretty cool when you come right down to it.
#1 – Cartman & Butters – I say this in retrospect, knowing our cats’ personalities. Beebs is definitely the Cartman of the relationship, always getting into trouble and plotting up ridiculous schemes, and Buddy just sort of tags along like Butters, cute and innocent, and entirely unaware for all the trouble the other kid’s going to get them both into. I would love it if our cats had these names. I would laugh out loud all the time thinking about it.
At the end of the day, they are who they are, and we can’t really imagine calling them anything but what they are. Their names grow into their personalities, and eventually it’s just impossible to switch. Even if they were called “Poop” and “Pee” we’d still love them. Well, maybe not the one called “Poop.” That’s just gross.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
The normal parties were what you’d expect—florescent lights, thunderous music, pools lined with tiki torches, guys in sport coats with gelled hair, groupies wearing clothes that could technically be classified as lingerie. But most importantly what these parties shared was a general sense of togetherness, entertainment, and flat-out good-spirited fun. Business like T-Mobile or Sprite or whomever would pay big bucks to make sure people had a good time, and occasionally you’d run into somebody cool, have a good laugh, and continue on with your evening.
Allen Iverson’s Reebok party, though, was not like the others. Not even a little bit.
Okay, so the beer was free and there was thunderous music, but the fun, the harmony, the brushing elbows—none of that happened here.
Pushing our way through the throngs at the bar en route to the dance floor, we quickly located Allen Iverson, but other than Larry Hughes we didn’t really see anybody else of note. We thought we’d go over and say hi, but as we approached, a couple of bouncers (who reminded me of Dot-Com and Grizz from “30 Rock”) let us know that this particular section of the party was off-limits.
We looked around, noticing that the entire dance floor area was divided in two by a long, undulating white sofa. On our side was an interesting combination of losers (including, of course, ourselves)—wannabe gangsters, average-to-unattractive ladies, and white partyboys looking for a good-looking girl to grind up against. On Iverson’s side stood Iverson, Hughes, a couple of dudes from each guys’ posse, and what looked to be the scantily-clad cast reunion from all of Jay-Z’s music videos.
I literally felt segregated, like when Chuck Berry got hot in the 50s and the concert crowd were cut in half, separated by cops, to keep the whites from the blacks. Only this wasn’t a racial thing. It was more like, those worthy versus those not worthy.
The truly strange thing was when Iverson, for seemingly no reason whatsoever, stood atop the dividing couch, right in the center of the room, and just stood there drinking his drink. Those average-to-unattractive ladies I mentioned earlier flocked to that zone of the couch and sort of did a reach-up thing like they were teeny-boppers in the front row of a Backstreet Boys concert. My two colleagues and I looked at each other after about fifteen minutes of trying to enjoy ourselves and left.
It was weird.
For all his talent, Iverson just isn’t the coolest dude I’ve ever met. I’m positive it wouldn’t hurt his feelings to hear me say this, but it’s simply the truth. But I come from a different world than he does, I suppose. We’re not supposed to get along. It’s the classic Romeo & Juliet plotline. Boy meets basketball star, but because of differing lifestyles they can never be friends. I think this ends with me either drinking poison or stabbing myself in the chest with a rapier. Either way, it would show A.I. my commitment to being let onto his side of the dance floor.
But who am I kidding? It was just one party, and my experiences at literally every other gathering that weekend were 100% positive. So one of them was weird? I’ll live. Unless, you know, I have to do the poison thing.
But otherwise, I’ll live.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
The Indian guy from "Human Giant" and "Parks and Recreation" is my new favorite bit character on comedy shows. This monkey thing cracked me up for some reason. Is it funny, or is it my imagination?
This one takes a little patience, but got me to chuckle out loud at the end. Andy Samberg is fantastic...
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Monday, May 18, 2009
Activities I consider “fun” are the ones I try and experience at least minimal success the first go-round. These include telling jokes, playing ping-pong, and being handsome. Sometimes you can just do stuff well, and as a result things are fun. This is why people like food. Anybody can eat good foods. I, for example, am naturally very good at eating, and as a result I find the process enjoyable.
But you don’t just have to be good at something right away to enjoy it. I’ll be the first to admit that it took me a long time to learn how to sing well and play the game of basketball properly (my first three years of YMCA ball I took only two shots and made only zero of them). But the thing about these was that they felt realistic somehow—like if I practiced enough it would eventually all come together, and then it would be fun.
Singing is now something I really like to do, especially when in my car and people can laugh at me as they pass by on the interstate. And basketball has become fun, too. I like doing stupid between-the-legs dribbles and shooting stupid threes. When one of those two things actually works, it’s positively euphoric.
Golf, however, isn’t like that. No matter how much you practice, you simply can’t master the game. I know this because I’ve watched Tiger Woods—one of the most amazing athletes alive—screw up royally on a number of golf courses a number of times. And he gets pissed off and throws his club around and curses out his caddy.
He’s the best in the world and he does this.
I am not the best in the world at anything, and I’m guessing I’m somewhere in the bottom 3% of the world’s golfers. This includes the elderly and toddlers of third-world countries who wouldn’t know a golf ball from a coconut. Athletic ability isn’t absent from my being, but I swing a golf club with about the same amount of confidence I’d have if I were disarming a nuclear warhead.
My golfing friends tell me things like, “Keep your head down. Square your shoulders. Eye on the ball. Bend your knees. Open the head of the club. Lock your thumbs. It’s all in the wrist. Follow through. Wash with delicates. Tumble dry low. Do not bleach.” But I’m unable to do all of those things at once. Two, maybe three of the times on that checklist I can focus on at once. But every time I bend my knees, I forget to square my shoulders. Every time I keep my eye on the ball, I straighten my legs and whiff at the ball. It’s frustrating as hell.
And it’s not like swinging a baseball bat. If you miss the ball the first time you still get two more chances. Even if you sort of hit the ball but you hit it wrong, they give you more chances. In golf, you get one shot, and that’s it. So you’re sitting there staring at the ball, feeling the sort of nerves you get before having to give a big speech in front of people, after having taken three perfect practice swings, you for some reason do things absolutely incorrectly when the pressure’s on, and your ball is either heading into an entirely different zip code or it’s rolling seven feet in front of you.
It’s frustrating as hell.
It’s also expensive as hell. If there were 18-hole golf courses just laying around where you could just hang out for a day and practice with your buddies (the same you would for literally every other sport that exists on the planet), maybe I’d have more fun with it. But knowing you just dropped $25 bucks ($40 if you’re getting a cart) makes it feel like you have to siphon every last drop of “fun” you can out of a day’s golfing excursion. And when you try to siphon drops of fun out of something it usually means that something won’t be very fun.
Think of all the things you could spend $40 on instead of a day doing something you suck at and don’t particularly enjoy—a really nice shirt (or two if you’re shopping at Old Navy), dinner at Chili’s with the Wife (plus dessert), see a quadruple-feature at the movie theater (plus popcorn and soda), or forty packages of those really good generic sour cherry candies in the snacks isle at the grocery store. Skip golfing twice and you could buy a new pair of shoes, a jacket, a Derrick Rose jersey, or an octuple-feature at the movie theater (plus popcorn and soda).
Skip three days of golf and you could afford the engagement ring I bought for my wife. Wait, that makes me sound cheap. Make that seven golfs. Yeah, seven.
And that doesn’t even include the cost of clubs (which I’ve never purchased because, as I’ve mentioned, I’ve got better things to do with my money), funny plaid pants, and a those grip gloves everybody seems to own except me. If all you had to do was buy a pair a golfing shorts and maybe one club to get through a round, I’d be a little less pessimistic, but that’s just not the case. Golfing, according to a survey that probably exists, is the most expensive sport. Too rich for my blood.
So if golf makes me so unhappy, how is that I still occasionally play? For one, the playing field, or “course” as it’s known in the business, is probably the most gorgeous playing field of any sport I’ve ever played. Few things are more beautiful than a well-groomed baseball diamond, but a well-groomed golf course is one of them. I worked at a golf course one semester in college, trimming sandtraps, changing garbage cans, refilling water coolers, etc., and when I would work at like 5:00am on Saturday mornings, before the sun even came up, I was always amazed by the pearly film of due on the short fairway grass, the steam rising up from the ponds, the ominous trees shadowing the greens. If you’re going to spend a beautiful day outside doing something active, golf isn’t the worst choice. If you like golf, of course.
The other reason is that so many of my friends and family really like golfing, and when given the choice of golfing with them or staying at home to watch TV or fiddle around on the internet, I’m going to hang out with the fellahs, even if it means paying all that money to play a game I hate, only to perform horribly and embarrass myself thoroughly. I love my friends and family, and I enjoy the quality time. If that means golf, that means golf. I’ll smile and drink the beers they snuck in for us to share, but I won’t enjoy the game. Don’t get me wrong; I’ll try. I’m too competitive not too. And once in a while I’ll hit a good shot and think, maybe I’m better at this than I thought. Maybe golf can be fun.
But then I screw up royally on the next hole, which results in me throwing one of my brother’s clubs farther than my ball even went. I think to myself, “What am I doing here?” and the rest of my day is spent hitting borrowed balls into tall, grassy swamps or bodies of water fifteen years behind the tee.
If I had a caddy, I’d curse him out. But that’s as close as I’ll ever be to Tiger Woods.
Friday, May 15, 2009
One night when I was a sophomore in college, my seven black suitemates and I sat in our living room area and roasted the hell out of each other for well over an hour. Just took turns ripping on each other. It was one of my favorite memories from that year, but like these sorts of roasts always do, insults eventually turned to mothers in a hypothetical sense. Some of these cracks I heard that night, and some were laid out by kids I went to elementary school, but they’re all classic. These are my favorite Yo Mama jokes of all time.
#10 – Yo mama is so fat, her belt size is equator.
#9 – Yo mama is so stupid, she could trip over a cordless phone.
#8 – Yo mama is so fat, she fell in love and broke it.
#7 – Yo mama is so ugly, even the tide won’t take her out.
#6 – Yo mama is so poor, she can’t afford to pay attention.
#5 – You mama is so old, when God said let there be light, she flicked the switch.
#4 – Yo mama is so fat, she eats Wheat Thicks.
#3 – Yo mama is so fat, when she steps on the scale it says, “To be continued…”
#2 – Yo mama is so stupid she got fired from the M&M factory for throwing away “W’s.”
#1 – Yo mama is so fat she has to use diet soap.
I know I pretend like cerebral humor is the only sort of humor worth crediting, but even stupid little jokes like this crack me up in the right mood. Admit it—you laughed at a few of these, right?
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Tuesday night was academic awards night at the high school—an event with increasingly scant attendance due to its reputation for being long and boring—which is my chance to thank publicly my three-year and four-year staffers for all their hard work over the course of their high school careers. This year I had two such kids to thank, but only the senior—my editor—showed up.
I gave her the gratitude she deserved, cracked a few jokes, people for clapped for her. It was pretty much what you’d expect from this sort of thing. But when I finished my spiel and sat back down in my cushy auditorium seat I realized that I didn’t even begin to come close to what I wanted to say. This is a young lady who donated four years of her life to helping me put together a book. Where so many of my staffers quit after a year or two in order to pursue part-time after-school employment or play sports, she stuck with it. I probably could’ve stood up and there and sung her praises for thirty minutes and still not had enough time.
And that’s just one kid. How impossible is it for teachers to tell every single student how important they are in front of an audience like that? It’s not just us who touch students’ lives, it goes the other way around. And so here I am at the end of my fifth year of teaching feeling as if I didn’t send off my seniors with the gusto they probably deserved.
For most people that don’t teach high school, the thought of spending several hours a day with hormone-driven adolescents doesn’t rank high on life’s Fun-o-meter, but something cool happens at the end of a kid’s senior year. All of a sudden you start to see who they’re going to be as adults. There are students in my classes right now that I can see as mothers and fathers. There are future nurses and mechanics and teachers and God knows what else. You can really start to see it. And compared to what these young people were as freshmen, at age 14, it’s really incredible to witness.
The really sad thing is that I miss these people when they’re gone. Thanks to Facebook I can sort of keep with a handful of them, but just the day-to-day of having enjoyable kids in class, joking and sharing knowledge and growing together—I always end up missing that, especially with the really, really amazing kids.
I said when I started teaching that I loved the idea of having a family several hundred people large, but now I realize I was being a little over-optimistic about how teaching works. Kids don’t often come back. Once in a while, sure, but for the most part they move on and forget all about you. And if they don’t forget about you, you hardly ever know. So it really is the end of an era when they graduate. It’s the last time I’ll have a personal relationship with an overwhelming majority of them.
I’ll probably spend my whole life wondering why that is, but in the meantime I’ll just be grateful to have been blessed with such wonderful seniors my first five years as a teacher, and hope that the rest of my life’s graduating classes will be just as fantastic.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
I can't help that cats crack me up.
What's more disturbing: the guy who comes to these things and photographs the Amazons, or the woman who is clearly a man in the latter portion of the clip? You decide (I'm still on the fence).
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Monday, May 11, 2009
He looked at me like I had purple skin and, at about 120 pounds, I told his gigantic, rotund, bully butt to pick the books up before somebody got hurt. I probably looked about as frightening as Spongebob Squarepants when I offered this threat, but because my knuckles were white and I was shaking with rage, the fat kid probably didn’t care to test my unpredictability. Knowing I wasn’t the sort of the kid who normally got into fights, and having about zero adrenaline coursing through his own veins at the time, he gave me a “Fine, geez” sort of look and picked up the books. I went to Biology next class shaking. It took my like fifteen minutes to settle down.
The second experience didn’t go over in a flash like the incident with the fat bully. It did, however, relate to my first near face-punching in that the near victim was also a bully who some could easily classify as overweight. But this guy wasn’t the sort of fat where you can imagine throwing a punch into his gut and losing your fist like you’d just punched a vat of pudding; he was fat the way old weight-lifters were in the 1800s—barrel-chested with a gut that wasn’t immediately recognizable as gut but as girth. For all I knew the man was just filled too full with muscle, like a glass filled so full with water it falls just short of dripping over the edge. Let’s just say I wouldn’t push him from behind no matter whose books he knocked to the floor.
As a rookie teacher I was thrown into the yearbook business because it was just part of the job, and it was through this extracurricular responsibility that I came into the contact with the man I’ve just spent about 150 words describing. He was my yearbook sales rep from the company we published through—we’ll call him Tom Dread for the sake of the story—and from the first time I met him he scared the piss out of me. People built like him are used to getting their way, and they know how to impose their will with their daunting physical presence. Total bully, through and through.
But despite the fact that I’d been bullied all throughout grade school and high school because I was a skinny goof that got good grades and liked choir and theater and books, I’d spent the last four years at college, where bullying really doesn’t occur in a conventional sense. I had been under the impression that my days of getting bullied were over, and I had adjusted my level of self-confidence to compensate for that. Having just gotten a job and started dating the hottie I’d eventually marry, I didn’t think I could ever feel more confident.
But this Dread guy always had something weird about him. He’d often say, “If you ever need anything just give me a call,” but it was in a way that insinuated that, “If you call me, it better damn well be because something’s on fire or someone’s dying, because anything less than that isn’t worth my time.” We all say, “Hey, if you ever need anything…” but how often do we really mean it, right? Well, helping me was this guy’s job, and I always had the distinct impression that helping me was absolutely the last thing on his list of priorities.
But he did a smart thing, at least from a business standpoint, by having me sign a four-year contract with him and his company within weeks of getting the job. I had absolutely no clue what that meant at the time, but I feared that by not signing something I’d ruin the yearbook in only my first few weeks with the job, and I didn’t want to do that. So I signed it, as Dread stood behind me ringing his hands, muttering, “Yes, yes… Just sign there. Yeeeeessss…” And he didn’t have a mustache but if he did he’d be twisting it like a true villain.
I later found out that my current contract wasn’t even up at that point and didn’t need to be renewed for another year, and that the standard contract extension is three years. Four years is absolutely unheard of. That son-of-a-gun swindled me.
Now, I didn’t trust Mr. Dread in the first place, but after finding out about this I felt really burned. But what can a guy do? He beat me, straight up. I’d just have to live with it.
Or so I thought.
It just so happened right around that time that a rep from another company asked if he could make a pitch for our business. Considering I viewed Dread as an abusive step-parent at the time, I agreed, though I felt really dirty about doing it. I’d never in a million years cheat on my wife, but I’m sure it feels something like it did to have another yearbook company come in and attempt to woo me away from Tom Dread and my current publisher.
This new rep—we’ll call him Joe Bright—came in with better software, better customer service, and most importantly an attitude and disposition that made me feel as if the sales rep paid to help me would actually be helping me. Immediately I clicked with the new guy and loved everything about his pitch.
“But,” I told him, “I’m only a year into a four-year contract with Tom Dread’s company.” Joe of course is very familiar with his biggest industry rival, and told me that the contracts schools sign with yearbook publishers can be broken extremely easily. It’s not in a company’s best interest from a PR standpoint to sue a school for wanting to switch publishers, regardless of what some contract says. What’s the best way to lose customers? How about sue your customers? Is that pretty high up there?
When I told Tom Dread as cordially as possible that I’d be leaving him to go with another company, threatening legal action was his first recourse. Imagine that in a marriage—“Honey, I want a divorce.” “I’m going to sue you so you’ll stay with me.” “Yes, because that will make both of us happy.” “It doesn’t matter because at least we’ll still be together.” “I hate you so much right now.”
Freaked completely out at that point, I called Joe Bright and said to forget the whole thing. I wanted to switch companies, but I didn’t want to get sued over it. Joe gave me a pep talk, and then I met with my principal and he gave me a pep talk and offered his support, so I called Dread back to say I meant what I said. I was changing companies.
That phone conversation went a lot longer than I’d hoped because Dread wanted to know the monetary details of my decision to leave so he could match them and alter our contract. I should’ve kept my mouth shut and told him to shove it, but as I’ve already mentioned the man had a way of getting what he wants, so he someone talked me into it. Begrudgingly I gave him the numbers and he agreed to better each and every one of them. At the end I told him, about as nervous I can ever recall being in my adult life, that I was switching anyway.
He hung up on me and drove to the school.
Dread came in and charmed the oblivious secretary into allowing him down to my room during prep period. He had with him a copy of our contract and a particularly unpleasant disposition with which he delivered it into my hands. Exhausted, I couldn’t get him to leave my room, but I kept telling him over and over that I wanted to switch companies and there was nothing he could do or say to change my mind. I had my principal behind me and everything. This was a done deal, and could you please leave. I said all this with the confidence of a six-year-old asking the pretty flower girl to dance at some uncle’s wedding.
“I mean,” I finally said, “You really want take this to court? That’s really the smartest move for you?”
“If that’s what it comes down to,” he said smugly, squeezed into one of my students’ desks, looking like a water balloon with a rubber band squeezing in the midsection.
After weeks of frustration and being bullied, my knuckles got white I started to shake with rage, but it’s not in my nature to fight, mostly because the idea of fighting scares me to death. So I sat there pissed off and completely silent. We sort of stared at each other in the quiet of the room for what felt like several minutes, and eventually, somehow, the man left without our having resolved the issue.
What did resolve it was my principal writing Mr. Tom Dread a letter asking him to never step foot on the school’s premises ever again without having been invited, and he CC’d it to the man’s higher ups to make sure they knew about it, too. At that point, he just never came back, and I was free to join Joe Bright and the new company, who I’ve been with ever since. I feel like a battered wife who finally found a man who spoke with his words instead of his fists.
To this day I still get newsletters and emails from Dread’s company, some of which feature his picture. I look at that picture a few years after last having seen him in person, and all I can think is, “Man, I’d still love to punch that guy in the face.” Or at least knock his books out of his arms in the hallway.
Friday, May 08, 2009
The point is that children are picky about what they eat. I’m not as bad as I used to be, but I can remember rooting through my Manwich to pick out all the non-meat additives, like the onion and pepper chunks. Needless to say, Manwich was far from my favorite childhood meal.
But there were some meals that I couldn’t seem to get enough of, and the following five are the best of those meals.
#5 – Chicken and Dumplings – More than anything I’ve just always enjoyed the rich, starchy taste of a good buttermilk biscuit, especially when it’s drenched in butter, jelly, and/or honey. And so in the context of a good chicken and dumplings meal, the dumpling is what makes it golden. I’d always save the bread part for last and savor it.
#4 – Macaroni & Cheese with Cut-Up Hot Dogs – Instant classic. Just try and argue with the delectable nature of this five-star dinner. On their own, hot dogs and Mac & Cheese are pretty solid, but together they form like Voltron to create an unstoppable mutant robot dinner that any kid would love.
#3 – Hamburgers on the Grill – It’s hard to screw up a burger, but dad has always had a really fantastic way of putting them together. He adds A1 steak sauce and an onion soup powder mix before slapping big third-pound meat loafs on the grill. Add the tasty hint of charcoal smoke, and you’ve got yourself an instant classic. Probably my all-time favorite summer meal.
#2 – Spaghetti – The secret was adding a pinch of sugar into the sauce, and also a pound of hamburger meat. Sauce alone on spaghetti just isn’t hearty enough. Add garlic bread and a tall, sweating glass of milk and it’s a picture of the all-American dinner. Except for the fact that it’s technically Italian.
#1 – Breakfast for Supper – If I was being truly diplomatic numbers one through five would’ve been some variation of breakfast for supper because there’s just so much to love about this. Let’s face it, 90% of breakfast foods are essentially desserts, so when you get to eat them for an actual evening meal you’re pretty blown away. Pancakes, waffles, eggs, bacon, sausage, biscuits and gravy, French toast… there are so many ways to go about it, but all of them are awesome. And delicious.
Honorable mentions for this include my Grandma Brigham’s goulash and porcupine balls. If you’re confused about what either of those is, goulash is a sort of soup/pasta hybrid, and porcupine balls are essentially seasoned meatballs with rice rolled into the fray. All good stuff.
Now, who’s hungry?
Thursday, May 07, 2009
Growing up, he was the guy that did play-by-play for all the Bulls championships, so in a strong majority of the Michael Jordan highlight reels you’ve ever seen in your life, he’s the one narrating you through sports history. Nobody can say “From downtown!” the way he does, then follow it with an effervescent “Yes!” when the shot actually falls. Doesn’t matter if it’s Ray Allen or Brian Scalabrine taking the shot; when it goes down, you’re excited, dammit.
Sure, he’s got the worst rug in the history of the toupee, but the man’s an icon, no matter how many women he bites in the back during sex.
Knowing his surly past I should’ve been a little more anxious when I finally met the guy, but I wasn’t. Amazingly enough, I’ve grown to the point where meeting the actual superstars of the NBA doesn’t cause me to urinate my boxer-briefs anymore, but meeting Albert gave me butterflies. Shaq, LeBron, D-Wade. I’m fine. Excited, but fine. But when I meet these extraneous personalities in the NBA—anybody who’s anybody that I might bump into unexpectedly—I grow more nervous than a junior high kid asking a cheerleader to dance.
Albert was an extremely gracious guy. After shaking his hand and telling him that I was a fan, he showed genuine gratitude. His toupee these days is better than the one he wore in the Jordan years, and it softens his facial expressions a bit. He’s not a particularly tall guy, especially compared to the players, but he carries himself like a big man on campus. Just think of all the incredible games he’s seen over the years… Definitely a cool dude.
As far as a list of people I’d love to have record my outgoing voicemail message, he’d be pretty far up there. Maybe I’ll start practicing his speech patterns so my students are more interested when I lecture in class. A kid will raise their hand to ask if they can use the bathroom, and you know what I’ll say? “Yes!” And it’ll never get old.
Wednesday, May 06, 2009
"The Final Countdown" is proably one of my top ten favorite songs ever, and this nerd makes it work with some unconventional instruments.
I can't explain to you how much I love Ron Artest sometimes.
Tuesday, May 05, 2009
We’ve all heard a thousand times that the Wright Brothers made their first flight in the latter portions of 1903, setting off a buzz for flight that graciously led to those wonderful Southwest Airlines television ads we’re treated to twice a commercial break. But those guys were beat to the skies not once, but twice.
It’s become generally accepted that a New Zealand farmer named Richard Pearse had been flying for a year-and-a-half when Willy or Orv did their thing. And this guy didn’t even need help; alone in his barn he put together a flying machine in 1902. But at least that puts the Wright Brothers as the first flyers in America, right?
Wrong-o. Over two years before the Kitty Hawk flight, a Connecticut man named Gustave Whitehead flew a half-mile. There are no blueprints for his machine, but as more and more evidence turns up to prove this guy did what his descendents say he did, it becomes harder and harder say it didn’t happen.
It did. And so did Pearse’s flight. Which means, as I’ve already stated, that the Wright Brothers flew third. They suck at life. Glory hogs.
Monday, May 04, 2009
But the second best? This Bulls/Celtics series, hands down. If you follow all the media coverage you already know the statistics—four overtime games in seven meetings, seven overtime periods, well over a hundred lead changes, and more last-second shots than any healthy human heart can tolerate.
When the Bulls finally lost the series on Saturday night, I felt horrible. Watching sports has extended beyond just entertainment value since I’ve been covering the games, because I actually know these guys. I don’t view the disappointment and jubilation of the players filtered through a television screen; I’ve been so close to it at times that I could actually smell it (it’s not always the most floral of scents, lemme tell ya).
Derrick Rose is a fantastic kid, and because I’ve got former students two or three years older than him I can’t help but see him the same way I see my kids. I root for him, I slap him on the back after an interview, and, at times, I’ve even told him I’m proud of him (like that should matter to him, but he knows I’m a teacher and it seems like when I say that, it actually does matter to him). After wins he manages to stay modest, but after a loss he hangs his head and his eyes get a little droopy. He’s hard on himself.
So is Ben Gordon, who is one of the more intelligent guys to chat with on the team (though you wouldn’t think so after hearing he turned down a $55 million contract last summer). He carries losses around on his shoulders like a backpack filled with stones. He hates losing, and he hates when the loss is in any way his fault.
After game five, when Brad Miller missed his free-throws after getting clobbered in the face, he talked later about he barely slept. This stuff matters to these guys, and because I’m on a first-name basis with these people, knowing the emotion and effort they put into a losing effort in this historic series has left me pretty bummed out.
It’s always a sad day when basketball season ends. Any time I make the drive to Chicago over the course of the next five months will feel empty without the usual trip to the United Center. It just sucks to be on the losing end of that much emotion. It’s like dating a girl for five years, asking her to marry you, and hearing her say “no.”
Covering a professional sports team changes the way you watch the game, and in a lot of ways I’m grateful for that. But because I’m in closer with the guys than I used to be, losses come that much more painfully. I’ll survive—it’s not like I’m the one who has to lose sleep over this thing—but there’s some vicarious disappointment to be experienced here.
Should you feel bad for me, you’ll have wasted your emotion. This is a swan song, that’s all. Welcome to Monday. I hope you’re thoroughly depressed now. Have a great week!
Friday, May 01, 2009
And so, doing all I can to not sound like a pedophile, my top five childhood crushes:
#5 – Soleil Moon Frye (“Punky Brewster)” – This is probably the first crush I can actually remember having as a kid. My little six-year old hormones apparently had a thing for multiple bandanas wrapped around jeans. The pigtails were cute, the freckles were cute, and I vaguely recall enjoying the raspy quality of her voice. I was already a picky guy, even at so young an age. It helps that she grew up hot, too.
#4 – April O’Neil (“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”) – Okay, she’s a cartoon. I get it. But if she was cool with the Turtles, she was definitely cool with me. If we’re being real, April’s probably the second hottest cartoon chick ever (the obvious winner being Ariel of “The Little Mermaid” fame), hence my life-long affinity for the color yellow.
#3 – Anna Chlumsky (“My Girl”) – Because I looked almost exactly like Macauly Culkin when this came out, and because his character and Veda made such a cute couple in the film, I sort of lived vicariously through him. I used to have dreams about she and I holding hands, but that was the extent of the affection I had the gumption to show, even in my dreams. I was sort of a lame kid.
#2 – Nicole Eggert (“Charles in Charge”) – Other than April O’Neil, Eggert has probably held up the best of anyone on this list. She was hot as the oldest sister on “Charles in Charge,” and she’s hot now. Where most of the girls on this list were more “cute” in my book, Eggert was probably the first gal I ever considered to be “hot.” There’s a big difference, and reruns of “Charles” helped me realize that. Of all the great things Scott Baio has contributed to my life, bringing her to the limelight is by far the most valuable.
#1 – Larisa Oleynik (“The Secret World of Alex Mack”) – The show was weird, I’ll be straight up about that. I don’t remember many of Alex’s superpowers, but the main one was that she could turn into a puddle of liquid mercury and float under doors. God, what a lame concept, especially in retrospect. But at age 12 I was really starting to get some idea of what it meant to be in love, and this chick was probably my first real experience with that. She got hotter in a cameo on “Third Rock from the Sun,” and hotter still in “10 Things I Hate About You.” Her character may have been able to melt into a puddle of liquid mercury, but the thing she melted most, was my heart.
Now I’m sure this opens up some memories of your own, so hit up the comments section and your own childhood crushes. Come on. Don’t be shy. You know you want to…