Friday, November 21, 2008

Mr. Quinn

On Monday a co-worker at my school died after a long, valiant fight with brain cancer. I will not be able to attend his life celebration this afternoon, or his memorial service tomorrow due some family scheduling problems. So I thought that I would honor his memory with a story about Mr. Quinn that I will always treasure.

Warning- if you are easily offended you should stop reading now and visit these cute little puppies instead.

I have known Mr. Quinn for a long time, about 18 years. Throughout all that time, one incident stands out above all the others- the day he introduced me to Karaoke Roulette.

Karaoke Roulette is the name I came up with for a game that you can play with or without your friends' knowledge. You usually just need a Karaoke machine, a group of friends, some alcohol, and a variety of songs.

For the longest time, my school used to have end of the year parties. One year an assistant principal let use her house way out in Pungo, which is a place in Virginia Beach that is basically a farming area. Houses are spread out with fields in between and you can get a little loud, if you are into that.

This particular year we had a tent set up with food, a volleyball court, and a DJ that had a Karaoke machine. If you can imagine, after a few hours at the cookout people started to get a little loose.

Then it was Karaoke time. Karaoke always begins with one or two brave people who think they can sing, and then everyone else realizes that it is ok to try because no one else can really sing either. People began to enjoy themselves and roll with it.

This was when Mr. Quinn made his move. Karaoke DJs always pass around the big notebooks full of songs and slips of paper. If you want a song, you write down the number of the song and your name. No one ever says you can’t pick songs for other people. Mr. Quinn picked out a song and wrote my name down.

It is at this time that I am feeling pretty good, standing off to the side running my mouth about something stupid (I am guessing because that is what I usually do at parties) when the DJ announces it is my turn to come up and sing. This threw me into confusion because I knew that I did not put my name in to sing anything.

I protest but the crowd is ignoring me and pushing me up to the microphone. Suddenly, I find myself in front of the monitor when the title and artist rolls across the screen, Big Balls, by ACDC (youtube). Of course this cracked me up, and I look over and Mr. Quinn is rolling around in his beach chair laughing. I know I have been had. No matter what I do at this point I look like an idiot. If I sing the song I will I look stupid, or I can refuse and look like a party pooper.

Never being one to back down from a challenge, I sang my song proudly- "I've got the biggest balls of them all!" -in front of my assistant principals and the rest of the staff that were still hanging out at the party. Luckily, people have short memories when everyone is misbehaving, and the incident was forgotten by everyone- but me.

Thank you for the fun and laughter Mr. Quinn. You will be missed.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Bean Head

Last week I got a bad haircut. It makes my head look like the shape of one of those chocolate covered goobers. I've come to realize that I'm not comfortable seeing parts of my own scalp.
Sharde', my former hairstylist, has apparently left town. The rumor is that she has run off to Georgia with her boyfriend. Or at least that's what they tell me at the Hair Cuttery up the street.

We had an odd business relationship. She was a student who used to attend the school that I still work at, and while she was an adult, I still saw her as a child.

We would talk about the people that she remembered from school and I would fill her in on the latest news. Sometimes she would tell me how things were going in her life I would have to resist the urge to give advice. Once, she told me about a new tattoo that she was getting to match her boyfriend's tattoo. I smiled and said something like, "That is nice," and hoped she wouldn't. Not that there is anything wrong with tattoos. Matching tattoos just seemed to be something that she might someday regret.

I would always wait for her to cut my hair. One time I waited for an hour. I never wait for anyone or anything, but for her I felt obligated to do that to support her independence. Somehow, seeing her do well made me feel better.

As loyal as I was to her, even lining up my family to get hair cuts just from her, she didn't give the greatest haircut ever. I didn't mind that my oldest son's hair line in the back was cut at a 10 degree angle. I didn't care that my hair was not always uniformly cut and had spots that were obviously longer than all of the neighboring hairs. I was happy just knowing that she was still doing ok.

Last week, I got a hair cut that I am just not happy with, I mean it is short and relatively uniform, but it is weird. I think that it is strange because someone new cut my hair and I am a tougher critic of her work.

The family was all out of the house and everyone was still under control, so I decided to go to a new place- still cheap, but I had never been there before. The girl seemed nice enough, but she used the number four clipper straight up the side of my head. It is like a long buzz cut or something. The bad thing about a haircut is that often by the time you know things are wrong; it is way too late to say anything. She left sideburns on me. Sure, I have always toyed with the idea of some Captain Kirk side burns that come to a point, and giggled about possibly growing some fat 70's Elvis styled side burns, but as a rule, I opt out of that kind of facial hair.

While this girl (and I really don't use that term in a negative way- she was young, but definitely an adult) was cutting my hair, my daughter was watching very closely, and standing 2 to 3 feet away. This really seemed to distract my new hairstylist. At the time she was working on the over the ears part and the back hairline. It seems that she looked away at some point while working on my left side because it is higher than the other side and has a little knick in it. So I can't really fix the sideburns without drawing attention the larger nicked up gap on the left side.

So now I am out there in the giant hair grooming world trying to find someone who understands what I want. I just want my hair shorter and I really don't want to talk about it. I know that I don't want it to look stupid but I also know that there are some things that other people need to help me with- that is why I am not trying to cut my own hair in front of a mirror. I know that normally Sharde' would use a number 4 clipper cover and kind of taper it up from the bottom. All the rest of the hair would get trimmed and she would never say something like, "Do you want me to trim your eyebrows?" - I was furious when I heard that! I also don't want anyone to bring attention the fact that my hair is pulling back from my face like the tide. If a bald spot is forming where I can't see it, my hair person should not ask me, "When did the aliens land?"

I think it is also important to talk to me, and to laugh at half of any jokes that I tell. When I say that my hair is turning blond again, just like when I was a child, my hair stylist should laugh like it is the funniest thing they have ever heard, and say, "Yes, it is getting more blond!" I feel better about tipping when my stupid jokes get laughs.

Until my next haircut, I am just going to keep a low profile. Really, how close do people get to you to see all of the little imperfections of your hair? If you stay far away, no one can even tell that your hair looks bad. I will just try to stay at least 20 yards from everyone for about 3 more weeks.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Burn My Shorts

My lucky Redskins underwear failed me- yet again! In order to equalize the karma in the world, and please the football overlords, I must cleanse my underwear with purifying flame.
This year I will only be able to attend one Redskins game. The game was this past Monday night's defeat at the hands of the Steelers.

In many ways this game was very different from the other Redskins games I have attended. This one cost me almost nothing! Technically that is not true because I had to use my credit card for 8 years to build up the points, and then I traded the points for the tickets. Getting two tickets that way is a lot less expensive than getting the same tickets from scalpers or from Stub Hub. The face value for the two tickets I got was $99 a ticket. The same tickets on Stub Hub would have gone for $325 or more a ticket.

This is far better than the other things you can get for the Redskins points on my credit card. Redskins clothes and things are priced at stadium prices, which is more than online prices and means a t-shirt (at bottom left $19.99) can cost you more than a similar shirt at Kohl's ($11.20) or some other more reasonable retail outlet. Then there is the strange conversion that they use for dollars to points. For every dollar you spend you get a point, but turning the points back into dollars is not something that can be easily understood. I am not a math person but there seems to be an obvious fluctuation in how items are valued with points. If a $20 t-shirt costs 3,300 pts, why does a pair of good $200 tickets to a game cost 25,000 pts.? Shouldn't the tickets cost 33,000 pts.? Please don't tell Daniel Snyder. The tickets are already too expensive.
I am not complaining, as the the difference seems to have worked out to my benefit, but I did learn something important. Don't buy the t-shirts and the crap you can get anywhere! Hold out for the tickets.

Over the past few years, I have become spoiled by the tickets my friend PR and I have normally been able to get. We have been able to enjoy the luxury of the club level seats. Oh yes, we paid for the difference (in the neighborhood of $300 a ticket including parking pass) but there is something to be said about having an enclosed area on the club level with marble floors and a higher toilet to patron ratio. I was reminded of this sometime in the middle of the 1st half.

The seats we were able to get were in the lower bowl in the last row Section 239. Great seats on the Redskins side of the field staring straight down the five yard line.

I am in the middle with a beer. the Steelers fan with BO is on the right in the white shirt.

People are also more polite and less drunk in the club level seats. It is rare to hear cursing screamed in any area of the club level. I had forgotten how common that is in other seats. People are falling down, incoherently drunk before they even get into the stadium. I remember those days!

Perhaps the fact that I only had a couple of beers all night contributed to me noticing more at my most recent visit to FedEx field. I have to say it was difficult not to notice the swarm of Steelers fans at the game. It was embarrassing. The stadium holds 90,000 people. I am guessing that 30,000 were Steelers fans. They have a right to buy available tickets, but the fans that own the tickets should be ashamed. I did travel with a Steelers fan on Monday night and I have nothing against any other fans (except the guy I was seated next to who had serious body odor and kept sticking his armpit in my face. Next to that, getting towel whipped every 30 seconds was nothing- which he also also did.), but there is something very wrong with allowing your home field to become a neutral site.

I have to blame Daniel Snyder because he dictates the cost of the seats. The ticket prices go up every year and you must purchase seat licenses to go with your seats. All total, if you were to buy 3 season tickets in the club level section, it would cost you $25,000 for 8 regular season games and 3 preseason games. There is no price fixing, so the price goes up next year.

A couple of years ago, Mr. Snyder graciously allowed seats to be sold on Stub Hub. Before then, you could lose your seat if you were found to be giving your tickets to anyone else. Bad behavior or supporting the wrong team could cost you your seats. Now the price of the seats is such that the vast majority of people can not afford to lose the money that the tickets represent, and they are encouraged to pass them on. By the way, how can Stub Hub not be seen as a glorified scalper? They are the middle man that makes the transaction happen. Must be a legal loophole that gives Snyder even more money.

I think the days of me spending my hard earned teaching salary on travel, and as many games as I can get tickets for, is forever over. I am too financially challenged for such extravagant living. Besides, HD TV is awesome (sour grapes)!

The most interesting/frustrating part of the trip was the 16 mile excursion to the stadium that took 2 and half hours. We didn't travel on the beltway because I was told that it would take too long. What? Seriously? If the trip took any longer we could have just walked. I was told that the traffic that we went through was normal, everyday traffic at that time of the day. The only thing I could think is- why do you live here?

The important thing is that I really did have a good time. If I had the chance, I would do it again in a heartbeat. Spending time with my friends and going to sports heaven, it doesn't get much better than that. The Redskins did lose, but the loss didn't really hurt them that badly- it was out of the division and conference so it counted less. The Skins are on a bye this week and should come back healthier and hungrier for their next opponent- Dallas at Fed Ex.

Too bad I am going to have to buy new lucky underwear.