Wednesday, April 9, 2014

US Cup: Santa Ynez Classic

Blah blah blah

More recently I’ve been debating with myself the purpose of all this cycling shit.  My friends are movie-goers, sports-lovers, comic-book-followers, and knowers of many things of which I find myself only loosely acquainted.  I did not view myself as someone so focused on cycling until friends said, “Ya, but you talk about it more than you think.”

Since that time I’ve backed it down.  Frankly, I could go for days talking about cyclocross, mountain biking, NASCAR, the recent changes in Formula 1, Moto GP, and pretty much anything else that involves wheels and speed, but for the sake of my friends, I keep the reigns on as much as I possibly can, allowing for only a few outbursts.  But this race, man, I've been wanting to blab about it!!!  

The Race

Nicole and I made the decision to race the Santa Ynez Classic only a week before.  We had spent time discussing the possibility, the logistics, and the course for a few weeks previously but I had never felt like we came to a final agreement.  I was anticipating roughly 50 miles for the endurance event and was, admittedly, nervous for Nicole.  This was partially because I remember my early attempts at racing bikes and being absolutely shelled and dejected, rain pouring down from the skies as the Cat 5 field left me behind 10 minutes into the race at the old Red Trolley course, and not wanting the same for her.  

The other part of me was nervous for Nicole because we signed up for the Boggs 9; an 8-hour race taking place in NorCal.  I was worried that, when Nicky got her ass kicked in Santa Ynez (an inevitability for every rider there) she would begin to have negative thoughts about her abilities, as well as the prospect of racing for an additional 3-4 hours.  

Still, on the Thursday before the race, we made the call.  Plans were set, and Sunday morning at 5 am we heard alarms sound, signaling for us the beginning of a long day.

Someone turned on the heat, because the moment we stepped out of our car, both Nicole and I could feel the temperatures rise.  As the gun went off, we were engulfed in low 80’s temps.  Toasty, and on the rise.

The course is essentially rad, broken up by 7 different sections of lung-busting climbs (if you pin it).  All of the climbs are fully exposed to the sun which would prove problematic for myself and (and I'm assuming) Nicole as the race progressed.  45 total miles and roughly 5800 feet of climbing.

Tinker Juarez disappeared almost immediately.  The course is, ostensibly, a climber’s course.  11.3 miles and 1500 feet of vertical each lap breaks the 100ft/mile rule comfortably.  The flat, winding single track off the starting line made an immediate u-turn and gave way to the first rise in elevation.  Tinker stood up and dropped the rest of us.  I took a peak backwards to check-in on Nicole, who had settled in nicely.  

It would’ve been nice to have pre-ridden the course, because the descents looked FUN!  The possibility for serious risk-taking and shredding was wide open but, probably because I was thinking about an upcoming trip to Peru with my lovely lady, I didn’t feel like opening it up 100%.  Or maybe I’m just a bit scurrrred.  The best section on the course came atop a switchback climb.  A fast downhill into two rolling bumps.  Many people were pumping these whoops, but I (as well as a few others) opted to treat them like a double.  After doubling through that section, you cross over a fire road and into the lens of Phil Beckman, waiting underneath the shade of a beautiful oak tree, or some kind of tree.  We are talking serious opportunities to flick that sled sideways.  Steeeeeez!  I'm tellin' you! IF ONLY I HAD A DOWNHILL BIKE!!  The table-top jump was short and most riders kept low, but man oh man, given a few more inches of travel, the entire table could’ve been cleared, as there was a downhill transition 15 more feet beyond.  

Racing and Stuff
The two dudes with the hydration packs tricked me.  Coming into the finish line, they politely informed me that, “the fucking Pro race is about to start!  Go!”  So we lit up the trail coming through the finish to start lap 2.   

This meant no stop for a bottle and no food.  Of course, this was the dumbest idea ever but, at the end of lap one, my legs had the sensations of FUCKING GREATNESS.  I was ready to catch EVERYONE including Tinker, which meant MORE GREATNESS.  

Of course, we made it a solid five minutes to the first switchback climb when the Pro field decimated all three of us.  We pulled off to the side of the trail allowing the xc race to run through without incident.  45 seconds went by and I could only think that those seconds would’ve been better spent down in the pits retrieving an icy cold bidon and a rice cake.  I stared at the other two as they sipped joyfully from their 100 oz reservoirs, snacking along on whatever goodness they had, munch-munching like it was a picnic.  How could I be so stupid?!

Long story short: if you are not eating or drinking you will pay for it.  Everyone knows that.  However, this was an enduro with multiple laps.  Nicole and I were taking care of our own feeds.  When you feel good, you feel like blowing through to pits.  Dreams of saved seconds adding up to minutes abound.  The body, however, is no fool, and when it needs something, it will tell you.  Muscle cramps in my hamstrings killed laps 3 and 4, as my times dropped dramatically.  It is what it is.  I hope I’ll learn from it, but, probably not.

Hilarity, Pt. 2
I finish up my near-joke of a race and crack an Anderson Valley amber.  Sitting under the tent, analyzing all my mistakes, I began searching for Nicole, knowing that she was definitely still very much in the heart of lap 4 and very much suffering.  In anticipation of her arrival, I made my way towards the finish line and podium area to cheer for her.  And then, seemingly out of nowhere, I hear, "In 3rd place, riding for Big Orange Cycling, Matt Smith!"

I immediately let loose a roar of laughter and pounded beer #1, opened #2, while carrying Nicole's beer, a gallon of water, and my phone, and jogged to the stage.  

"Clearly, no one else registered, " I thought to myself.  "How funny."

I knew what was coming.

"In 2nd place..." 

I waited.  I waited.

"And now for your winner, Tinker Juarez!!"  

And I about lost it.  Silly, I know, but Tinker is essentially the Thurlow Rogers of Mountain Biking: 2 time Olympian, Master's World Champion, 4-time 24-hour mountain bike US Champ, NORBA titles etc etc.  Local hero, shredder.  All of it. What makes it cooler is that he was one of the first dudes to take a bicycle into an empty pool and ride it.  

He is way before my time, but I still remember reading articles in BMX Action, or BMX Plus, or whatever those magazines were called.  So now I get to stand on the podium next to him, as if we were in the same fucking league...ever.  Him 53, me 27.  Ya.  Right.  Get real.  But it happened, and that is an awesome story and a cool opportunity to talk his ear off for a minute or two.

Cheers to Lauren and Nicole for representing for the ladies.  It was cool to see so many happy, rad people racing their asses off.  

Overall Times of (Relative) Importance
Tinker Juarez - 3:13:30
Matt Smith - 4:35:04
Nicole Meichtry - 5:05:10

Monday, March 3, 2014

Mr. Admeen Teaches the Teachers

He solved the gap alright.  A quick stitch was all it took, but the gap of pants that had opened up in the spot designed to conceal the lower testes area had been closed with a few safety pins.  Mr. Fissure  went on singing again and again.

"Now, I just have to leave the shirt untucked, and I'll be fine," he sang aloud.  "Fine, fine, fine-fine-fine. La-la-la-la!"

"Singing?  Again?"  Mr. Carter was not amused.

Mr. Carter was not amused because Mr. Carter was putting the finishing touches on an intricate webisode that he had spent his entire weekend crafting.  The webisode was designed to introduce his 11th grade Algebra-I-Remediation-and-Support class to the elementary and middle school topic of inequalities.  Something that, for some reason, was a new concept to his 11th graders.

"He should start singing about that stupid gap between his pants, is what he should be singing about," Carter huffed.

Mr. Carter was so much the glorious webisode maker that, in his spare time, he helped other teachers create their own webisodes. Super-Cooperative High School ™™®®™™ was really focused on technology.

More recently, his webisodes had gone unnoticed, and when an all-staff meeting was called two hours before the beginning of the school day, Carter felt as though his technology was being put further on the backburner.

"Technology?  Science?!" Mr. Admeen shouted.  "There will be science.  New science!  Fresh science!  Look!  We have beakers!"

And the teachers looked, and saw four large boxes full of different sized beakers, all emblazoned  with SCHS logos.

"What about English?" asked Ms. not Mrs. Cisneros.

"English?!  There will be English!  New English!  Look, we have new books!!!"  And with that exclamation, Mr. Admeen ripped open another box and tossed each teacher in the room a copy of Huckleberry Finn.  The teacher thumbed through the pages while Mr. Admeen looked on, licking his bottom lip and nodding his head in approval.

"What's on the pages?  Why is this on every-"

"You like those watermarks?" shouted Mr. Admeen.  "Ya, I figured you all would be pretty shocked.  The Education Office wasn't too thrilled with the idea of each and every page being watermarked, but I expressed, repeatedly, that it's entirely necessary for every single page to be watermarked so that our school's branding remains fresh and relevant.  It's really all in the branding."

"But you can barely see the words.  Why do the pages need to be watermarked directly in the center?  Isn't that confusing?"

"It might be confusing, for some.  But that's a concession I'm willing to make.  Not all students can read, this is true.  But what's more so truer is that all students need to be able to read the branding.  The logos, you know?  Brand recognition is paramount to student achievement.  We want this school to be recognizable, and to attract the best.  The very best.  Like professional athletes.  Think about it."

The teachers thought about it.

"Do professional athletes wear shoes without branding?"

The teachers thought.

Admeen continued.  "Do their jerseys remain a vacant lot?  The front of a race car, does it not display the brand's logo?"

The teachers thought about it.

"So why would kids want to go to school without a brand?  They wouldn't, that's the truth.  Haven't you ever thought about why kids hate going to school?"

"No brands?" asked Katy.

Admeen smiled.  "No brands, Katy.  No brands.  Well, I have given that to them.  The students are now part of something bigger, something more focused, and something clean.  Look at the detail on those hands."

And the teacher looked at the details on those hands, all 20 of them, forming a circle with fingertips in the middle, all touching.  It was near miraculous how the designers of the logo were able to fit 20 hands into a circular space only a few inches in diameter, but it was accomplished, nonetheless.

"Looks like a bunch of fuckin' toothpicks.  You can barely see the letters" added Katy.

"Toothpicks??  We have toothpicks.  Toothpicks and plates and forks and knives.  All covered in our branding!"  And with that Admeen began hurling boxes of toothpicks at the staff, laughing hysterically, before calling the teachers together to practice the Morning-Ritual-of-Thanks-and-Cheer™.

Mr. Carter kicked through the cardboard box of toothpicks, sending them scattering across the room.

"It's going to be a long year," he thought.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Insubordination! Insubordination!

Early Mornings
I came into the staff lounge and there was a newsletter with 7 or 8 not-so-wonderful pictures of your Humble Narrator, all smashed together.  My lanky body cut out of the shots, it was head, nose, beard, mustache, whatever.

"What the fuck?"

Meanwhile, at the end of the table, a co-worker of mine sat idly by.  He glanced up at me, quickly, with a short smirk and a twinkle of evil in his eye.

I hadn't an idea as to what all the words on the paper said.  I saw pictures of my face, saw his evil smile, and heard the sound of a furiously working printer.  I met my coworker's gaze with a most unsavory facial expression and  side-stepped from the collaboration room into the mailroom.

I heard giggles from the collaboration room as I saw, to my horror, every staff mailbox stuffed with that same piece of paper that had lots of writing and 7 or 8 not-so-wonderful pictures of your Humble Narrator crammed into the top.  The letters were strategically inserted into the mailbox so that my faces were the first things you saw upon reaching in for other things that you would end up throwing away later.

There came a voice from just beyond my right shoulder.

"I'm making extras, just in case."

"Why?  Why would you do this to me?" I yipped, "Don't you know what they'll do to me??"

"You haven't even read it," he said.  I felt a cold chill settle on my right hand.  "Here it is.  Have a look."

The icy sheet that landed on my hand was, in fact, not icy at all, but hot.  Rather hot.  The type of paper-heat reserved for a freshly made, color-copy of a computer document pumped out of a Canon printer.

"Whatever you put, it's not too late, man.  We can fix it.  I can take all of these out and no one will know.  Whatever you did, it's not too late." I was begging now.  "Please, dude, honestly, I didn't mean to trick you during that text-chain when you and Party God and CoCo thought I was mad.  Is that was this is all about?! I didn't mean it.  Joking was all.  I'll never do it again."

"Read it."

Whoever wrote it has the brain of an evil genius.  As each sentence led to the next, my anxiety grew.  My fingers curled until the paper crumbled.  No one was safe.  Not a soul, from rookie teacher to veteran administrator.

The newsletter seemed to be crafted in the vein of humor, but there was something darker lurking in between the lines.  The newsletter would, as I saw it then, be the undoing of a school that had worked so hard to undo itself previously.

All the quiet jokes, the comments, the secret deals behind the library, they all came to a front, printed out on a single 8.5x11 inch paper dispersed to the staff of Super-Cooperative High School™™®®™™ with the intent of bringing the whole thing down.  Maybe.

I finished the last sentence as my stomach moved into the back of my mouth.

"What have you done?  What have you done?!"

He smiled.

"It's simple, really," he replied.  "What I've done, you idiot, is craft the greatest satirical newsletter of all time.  Don't you see?"

I sat, trembling.  "I, I guess-"

"Think about it!  People have made comments in jest before.  People have made jokes before.  People have been made to feel that constructive criticism is safe on this campus, but, once the comments are made, the receivers of the message claim that they feel threatened!  Don't you see why this is the greatest satirical newsletter of all time?"

I had been unaware of my position and, during this time, my co-worker had backed me into the small space existing between the water cooler and the copy machine.  I sat on the blue recycling bin in the corner while he towered over me, madness raging in his pupils.

"Dude, this is seriously fucked.  Coal mines?  They might actually go for it!"

"No, you IDIOT!"

"And what about Schwa?  What happened with that?  I mean, the Vivar part was hilarious because I'm pretty sure I've heard him say that before, but come on, the noob?"

"That's not it, you MEGA-IDIOT!"

"Then why?  Why is it the greatest?  Because it will undo the culture of this school?  Because it will unravel the very fabric that we've spent the last few years stitching and weaving with our hands and sometimes our feet?  Because it will jeopardize the cohesion of our plans for Olympic Curling glory?  Because it will draw out the people on staff who never leave enough money to cover our tab at the 9-0-1 Bar?  Because that would actually be helpful!  Last summer I had to cover and extra 40 fucking dollars!"

He leaned in, closer still, as I shrank deeper into the corner, sitting on another cup of water mistakenly tossed into the recycling bin.

"No, you idiot," he whispered.

My eyes opened wider with fear.

"It's the greatest satirical newsletter of all time because I wrote all of this in like, one sitting. Like, 15 or 20 minutes tops, bro.  Don't you see?  People make satirical newsletters all the time, but not in 15 or 20 minutes.  No one can do that.  But I did, Smith, I did."

I searched for air, inhaling deeply because, during those few seconds, he had his hand locked around my throat.  And it was in those moments that I realized what had happened.  I walked into my room and remained silent for the rest of the day with images of MacBooks and iPads ablaze and Reading Counts scores erased in a snap.

(Written in 47 minutes.  Not good enough.)

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

10 Ways to Know If You're a Student at CSU Dominguez Hills

Here we go!  I would say that this presentation applies to about 8 out of every 10 students at Cal State Dominguez Hills.

**Edit Having never actually BEEN an undergraduate student at CSUDH, this list is compiled on a couple years of observations in my GRADUATE LEVEL classes.  Tisk-tisk, Toros, tisk-tisk.**

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you the most accurate top 10 of all time:

10. You surf the 'net throughout class, then raise your hand asking for clarification on assignments right before class is dismissed.

9. You write with mostly incorrect grammar, spelling, and syntax.

8. You complain about professors because, you know, "they so stupid."

7. You listen to music in class.  No.  Really.  You listen to music in class.

6. The professor in your class acknowledges that you're paying thousands of dollars to listen to music in class, makes eye contact with you, and realizes, "Why bother?  They're gonna end up at Starbucks anyways," and continues on with the lecture while a handful of students sit idly by, shocked that you would play your music out loud for the world to hear as if you were at the mall.

5. You transferred over from CSU Long Beach because "all the classes at Beach were like, so impacted.  Such an impacted program."

4. You don't know how to use Blackboard.  Ever.

3. You treat professors as if they were beneath you, giving them no shred of respect for their profession, the hours that went into obtaining a Doctorate, or the countless hours that they've poured into research that will better their field.  You firmly believe that your professors are, much like your high school teachers, nuisances and babysitters.

2. You talk over your professors because, like, your life is so important and, like, you're the one paying them, so whatever.

1. You were an absolute, unadulterated, disrespectful piece of shit in high school who just barely scored your diploma from a school that passed you out of mercy, and you ended up here.

Stay Classy, Toros.

Punk Rock and Responsibility

I can't say that I grew up completely punk rock.  With both parents being employed by the San Diego Police  Department, I didn't really have the wiggle room that a lot of teens are accustomed to having (then again, a lot of cop kids end up getting into serious trouble).  What I did have was MTV and a certain late night show that highlighted unknown or emerging artists.  It was the first time a heard a band called H2O.

H2O's song called "One Life, One Chance" was an anthem for me in high school.  Hanging out with Thomas Mawson late at night, watching that video for the first time, was a revelation.  I remember repeating the name of the band in my head over and over until I was able to get home and research more.  Pre-internet, I have not a clue as to how I tracked down their third record, "F.T.T.W." (Faster Than The World), but I was able to get my hands on it.  It was either at the old Music Trader near Broadway and Mollison, or a the Sam Goody in Parkway Plaza.  Either way, I was hooked.

From there, it was a stream of bands that all had some sort of connection.  I've always listened to music (and I'm not sure if this is normal or common) by the Record Label.  If a band was on the same label, I wanted it: Fat Wreck Chords, Epitaph, Kung Fu, Nitro, and one of my favorite labels of all time: SideOneDummy.

These punk rock labels had a lot of bands that were, more or less, anti-establishment and anti-authority. With a song like "Fuck Authority," nobody was confusing Hermosa Beach's Pennywise with a band from, say, Drive Thru Records.  

More recently, however, I noticed a different tone and message in these songs.  While the air of independence and "fuck off" is alive and well, it's clear that a lot of the bands on these record labels held one common belief: personal responsibility.

Now, before we get things twisted, let's not forget that there are plenty of songs blaming others, or the situation, or the government, for their problems.  But after sifting through older releases from Pennywise, H2O, and even 7 Seconds (legendary on SideOneDummy), one can see (feel?) a reverberating sense of personal responsibility.  These bands believed, wrote, and sang about the fact that no one is control of your destiny but you.

My school preaches personal responsibility, but rarely do we see kids stepping up to the plate.  This might be because they don't hear about personal responsibility in every facet of your life.  I was very fortunate to have solid teacher, amazing parents, trustworthy friends, and positive music to fill the gaps. It's beating a dead horse, for sure, but the facts remain the same: many students are listening to positive music.  The messages are not about taking control of life, but rather, avoiding that responsibility.  

My thesis: Bring Positive Hardcore and Punk Rock to the inner-city, and let's see what happens.

Meh.  Fuck it.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

I get one in, every now and then.

It took a record setting two (2) Winterbrauns before everything cleared-up.  And by "cleared-up," I mean the murky shit-storm that is finals week subsided for a few moments.

Moments of clarity.

Steve Cohen is a fucking legend.

Will the real Steve Cohen please stand up?

Catchy transition, right?  Eminem.  I met this guy (Steve, not Marshall Mathers) in the fall of 2011.  Or was it the Spring of 2012?  I'm not sure. He was there when the school was in its infancy.  He was there when my life changed a bit and he didn't even know that I was sleeping on a couch.  He was there to receive a can of crushed tomatoes as an award for being the funniest.  He always receives the Steven Cohen Lifetime Achievement Award because, if you think about it, how could he not?

He was always there, and maybe, just maybe, he'll be there forever.

We can only hope.

31 Days of (mother fuckin') Movies

I've been following Mr. Cohen's blog very closely.  The name is, to no one's surprise, Comedic Voice of a Generation.  And while the jury's still out as to whether or not this man is aging in Benjamin Button time, we are certain that he is in fact a representative of some generation.  He is a comedic mainstay with a propensity for comics.  He's a writer, a communicator, and a thinker.  He can dance and sing and dance the night away.  All true.

His words jump off the web page in ways that touch me deep, deep down inside.  Sort of like the way that Cohen's insults at work stab me deep down in my heart.  In time, I've gained a respect for this man that is unparalleled in my respect for others in society.  One time, Cohen and I shook hands.  And it was good.

A man of many goals, Steve decided to watch, and review, 31 different movies in as many days.  Surely, with Steve being a connoisseur of cinema, I expected to know nothing about any of these films.  After 10 days, my prediction remains true: I don't know shit about movies.

But when one does not know shit about movies, one turns to an aficionado.  And that aficionado is Steve Mufuggin' Cohen.

Before Midnight

Before Midnight is a movie that I don't plan on ever watching. It has this guy Ethan in it.  Ethan Hawke, or some shit like that. That guy plays this guy named Jesse.  But, as is the case, Ethan was acting, and so Ethan is actually Jesse, but not for reals.  For fakes.   I thought Ethan Hawke was the guy who played Obi-Juan Kenobi in the newer Star Wars movies.  But then someone told me that it's actually Obi-Wan Kenobi, and that he's not Mexican at all, and that it was actually Ewan McGregor, and not Ethan Hawke.  Although Ewan McGregor does not get enough credit for his documentary about riding motorcycles, Long Way Round, which would never appeal to anyone who does not like things involving two-wheels.  Although it might.

Apparently this movie was part of some kind of trilogy, which further led me to believe that Obi-Juan was in play, but again, nothing.  And apparently Ethan changed Jesse, which isn't cool in my book.

"The first thing one notices upon the commencement of the film is how different Jesse is. I don’t just mean physically (though Ethan Hawke does seem to have finally come out on the other side of his gaunt phase). Ethan Hawke’s portrayal of the character has changed as well. Jesse’s voice is deeper here, more gruff. And some of the light in his eyes has gone away. At first I considered this an error on Hawke’s part, but as the film proceeded I started to think twice about this."
(Cue high school English student):
"I really agree with this quote.  I agree with this quote because it shows that he changed.  I think that you should not have to change yerself in order to be someone that yer not.  You dont have to be with no one if you dont want to.  I think that this shows that Jesse doesnt really even respect him, because if he did we wudnt change"
Jesse sound stupid.

A lot of time has passed (nine years, to be exact), since Before Sunset ended.  This is frustrating for me, because I have yet to see both Before Sunrise and Before Sunset.  I don't think that I will see them.

(Editor's Note: it's 12:15 am.  I've three sips of Winterbraun left.  It's no longer before midnight.  Although, if you think about it, it IS before midnight.  That's really tripping me out, man)

What I would've seen in the development of these movies is that Jesse and his chick, Celine (not Dion) have developed within their relationship past the point where everything is cute and fun.  They're past the honeymoon phase, I gather, and definitely past the awkward first-sex entanglements.  So everything was running smooth during the nine-year hiatus, but now we pick up and they're just, you know, totally ok with everything, but not super pumped, and so that's going to draw us in.  Or so I read from Steve:

"By now, the blush is off the rose. Jesse and Celine are no longer acting like their ideal versions of themselves, the way one would at the genesis of a new romance. These two have been together for what might as well (in their minds) be an eternity. Jesse and Celine are at a point where they finally see the reality of who their partner is, but the really cool thing is that the viewer is as well. The three-ish hours that we spent with them prior to Midnight was all pretense. This is where the truth comes out."

He said 'genesis,' so I am inclined to agree.

And as I read through the review, imagining what it would be like to have seen the movie, I started to feel the urge to rent it.  Steve's descriptions of Jesse (not Obi-Juan-Wan) and Celine made me think about the development of my relationship (which is fucking amazing, by the way) and about how maybe watching this trilogy might be fun for a date night.  To watch Jesse and Celine wade through the waters of love and slowly, but surely, expose themselves to each other, something that we all (especially dudes) have a hard time in doing.  The fact that this movie doesn't come across overproduced and over the top makes me feel like it's something that I could get into:

"The fact that the films seem so real and effortless is a testament to his work. Especially in this third installment. Midnight is the most ambitious of the three films, and I think it may be my favorite...If I had any real problem with the film it would be that the ending doesn’t feel perfect. And honestly, what am I expecting? The ending doesn’t feel perfect? Jesus. Standards much?"
What we have here is both an honest interpretation of a seemingly honest movie, and a "much" joke.  And I am fans of both.  If he typed 'mumblecore' I would've lost my fucking brain all over the apartment.  So close, sir.  So close.

The Numbers Do Not Lie
Time for our review of Steve's review that is totally objective and honest and not fueled by beers packing an 8% punch in the ABV department.  But seriously.  Lost Coast was started by two women.  Support your local female operated breweries please.  That's rad.

Steve's Review of Before Midnight: An impossible 6 out of 5 star/asterisk things (command-8 on a Mac).  Nice, dude.

Tom and Kelsey retelling the story of Mr. McLain trying to get the party started, and not realizing that I've heard that story four million times, but still telling it with insane vigor and commitment even though you guys didn't realize that we were fucking with you: 5/5

Before Midnight: 2/5 *'s for not having Ewan McGregor and for not receiving a phone call from that bush-league sunuvabitch Richard Linklater to watch his movies and review them.  That sucks, bro.  Honestly.  And no light sabers or motorcycles.  Weak.

Friday, September 13, 2013


It’s not always what it seems, specifically when 7th period rolls around and kids are running in and out.  Not necessarily not normal, but definitely not standard.  What gives then?

Despite their best efforts, and mine, we’ve fine-tuned the program into something that resembles school.  Despite their best efforts, they’re improving.  Some drastically.  Some not so much.

This one kid has brought about a veritable shit-storm of epic proportions by doing one small, simple thing extremely, dare I say it, miraculously well: He doesn’t talk to us.

He doesn’t talk to us.

Epic doesn’t begin to describe it.  Sublime in his execution of a plan that is either perfectly contrived or completely improvised, he hasn’t said a damn word to any adult.  Really.  At the end of the fifth week of school, he has uttered no more than 10 words to an adult.  Total. 

Coming in with a questionable eligibility for services, the debate is still in the air.  Autism?  Specific Learning Disability?  Anger?  Most adults won’t admit to failure, but we’re stumped.  Nearly beat.  Nearly beaten down.  That was us.

That was until Ramo got to him.

Ramo might read this blog post one day.  Maybe.  But I’ll say it now: what he did today was nothing short of mother fucking legendary; the kind of shit that cannot be quantified by grades, percentages, or points.  I was so proud.  I still am. We were so proud.  We still are  Most importantly, he was proud.  I hope that he continues to feel that joy.

The Really, Really Quiet Kid (RRQK) had not said a meaningful word for five weeks.  Sure, he cussed out his paraprofessional a few times via an iPad writing app (‘Shut the fuck up, you cunty fuck.’  Or maybe he said ‘shut up fucker.’  Not sure).  Other than the occasional written outburst, he hasn’t said much.

Ramo don’t care.  Ramo don’t give a fuck.

Two weeks ago, Ramo came up to me and said the following.  Keep in mind, his English skills are still developing.  Grammar aside, there was a certain passion in his voice, even though he was laughing and joking.

“Hey mister!”
“Who’s that kid over there?  Why doesn’t he talk?”
“Oh.  That’s J.  He’s just a bit shy.”
“Oh ya?!  Okay.  I wanna talk with him.  I wanna make friends with him.”
“Well, you know what Ramo?  You should.”
“Okay.  Lemme think.  I think I will.  You know me.  I wanna be friends with everyone.”

A week passed by without Ramo making an attempt, but every so often in sixth period Ramo would take a look over towards J, and J would look back and crack a slight smile.  It was fascinating and exciting.  Fascinating because Ramo has the type of personality that makes you want to be happy.  You can’t explain it, but it happens.  Exciting, because the breakthrough that I had talked about, that I knew would come, despite other peoples’ doubts, was on the proverbial cliff, ready to tumble over like a big rig.  Little did we know that our student who struggled with mixed-numbers and citing evidence through direct quotes, was about to do something that a team of college-educated, degree carrying adults were unable to do: crack the RRQK.

Fast forward to Thursday, September 12, 2013.  I stayed up way too late the night before struggling with my greens.  It’s really hard to get the sauté and steam times right.  Spinach wilts extremely fast.  Collard greens take a while longer.  Kale, on the other, (specifically Tuscan Kale) is a tough wilt. 

The next morning was a blur all the way through sixth period.  Sixth period was the magic period. 

The boy was ready to go

Ramo came through full of curiosity.  And can you blame him?  There is a kid in class who doesn’t talk.  He doesn’t even talk to his support provider, Steve, who is unquestionably the funniest person on the planet.  Comedic Gods are crafted in his image.  Don't believe it?  Ask him.  He's also supporter of Insanity and will fillet you mercilessly if your jokes are not up to par.  We love him.   

Ramo came through full of curiosity.  You can’t blame him.  His strength lies in his personality.  He’s unstoppable in his likability.  His personality boils over every day.  A complete handful, to be sure, but he doesn’t let academic struggles get in the way of enjoying his life.  The only kid in South Central absolutely obsessed with the great schism between Dave Mustaine and Metallica.  He’s a legend, as well.

Ramo finished some of his work early, and with 25 minutes left in the period, asked me if he could talk to J. 

He leaned over right into J’s face, no closer than 6 inches apart, and started talking. 

“This kid’s going to freak out,” I thought.  “A student, possibly on the spectrum, trying to handle 110% of Ramo?  No way.”

I turned around to work with another student, and only focused back into the interaction when I heard voices.


Two voices.  And the louder one was not Ramo.  It was the RRQK.  He was talking.  He was smiling.  He was doing all of the things that we wanted him to do.  And Ramo was the reason.


“You did it!”

The students filed out of the room, but Ramo turned around in shock.

“What?  What happened?” 

(What happened?  Otherwise known as the Standard Ramo):

“Please stop talking and pay attention to the lecture.”
“What?  What happened?”

It was his standard remark.)

Smile More

“You did it Ramo!”

“What??  What happened?!?!  What’d I did?”

“You got him to talk!  You did it!  He had a conversation!!”

“It was because of me?”

“It was because of you dude!  You did it!  You did.  That was amazing!”

“Ya.  I just wanted to make friends, you know?  I want to be friends with everyone.  I can tell he want to talk, you know?  He wanted to be talking with us.  I could tell.”

And we all smiled.  Kelsey smiled.  Dante smiled.  I smiled. Ramo smiled.  And they weren’t ‘ha ha’ smiles.  It was success.  It was success of the human spirit.  It was the power of love and friendship and sunshine and all the good things in the world. This little kid made it happen for us.  He made our day for us, or at least, for me.  His smile was two times bigger than normal as he left the room, because he realized that he did something meaningful.  That he belonged.  That he succeeded.  And he brought out the best in someone else.

And it was good.

And I’ll never forget it.