The Cable Guy

Normally, I avoid using corporations' names in my blog posts. If they want me to advertise their name, they can pay me heftily, though in many cases, I still wouldn't do it. Today, however, I'm going to make an exception: Time Warner. I'll say it again: Time Warner. Yes, this post is all about Time Warner. And how I hate them.

Currently, my house does not have an internet connection. Sometimes, I can pick up a neighbor's signal, but its inconsistent at best. Our current provider wants to charge us a large amount to fix our connection, and we find that ludicrous, so we decided to investigate other options. Time Warner, as we discovered, offers a cable/phone/internet package that would cost less than our current crappy phone/internet service, so why wouldn't we want to receive cable, too? Sounds like a winning plan. Thank you, Time Warner, thank you.

Time Warner expressed that they were more than happy to become our provider and set up a day to install. Sisco waited around for the cable guy, who eventually showed up, but insisted he couldn't install anything without Shea, the person who ordered the package, present. Previously, Time Warner never told us that this was their policy. In fact, when we called later to ask what the deal with was this surprise, the customer service representative insisted that that is not their policy at all and suggested that maybe the cable guy "had an attitude." I don't know how we're supposed to take that directive, but at any rate we reschedule for another day.

On the second day, Shea and I waited at home the entire time. When no one showed up, we called Time Warner, and they informed us that someone had stopped by. We knew this was bullshit because we were there the entire time and had someone knocked even lightly, I was close enough to have heard it. Besides, the dogs would have barked had they spied a stranger. So Shea protested as Time Warner tried to blame us, until a customer service representative admitted that sometimes the cable guys don't actually come to the house and say they do. It's amazing how the company will defend their employee until it looks like it will jeopardize their standing with a customer, in which case they will throw em under the bus. Shea cursed and told Time Warner where they can go, but ultimately agreed to reschedule since it would be such a great deal and he didn't want to lose the offer.

It was my last day of summer, my last day of freedom, and with all of the many things I should be doing to prepare for the school year, I was homebound, waiting for the cable guy. He showed up fairly early in the allotted hours, which made me happy. He then proceeded to tell me that he was not qualified to do wireless internet, insisting that his form said he only had to connect a modem to a PC, which with seven people in a house, was not what we requested. I asked him if he could do what I asked, but he said he wasn't qualified. Then he asked where our previous cable connection was. I told him we didn't have cable previously. "I only do reinstallations," he said. "That's what I have you down for." I sigh. "Again, that's not what we asked for, obviously. Are you sure you have the right house?" He apologized, and promised to have someone else who was "qualified" come to the house in an hour.

More than an hour passed, so I called Time Warner. After more than half an hour of being on hold, I relayed my story about the cable guy saying he wasn't qualified and promising to send someone else. She couldn't believe what I told her. "We don't send people out who aren't qualified to do that work." Exactly! That's why I was dumbfounded, too. After another half hour on hold, the customer service representative admitted that no one had been called to come to my house and, though she wouldn't admit they were wrong altogether, said that what occurred "shouldn't have happened" and that a different cable guy would come within an hour.

I waited an hour, then another. I was on hold another half hour, forced to listen to commercials for Time Warner products while I wait. Like they have the least bit of incentive to help me in a timely manner. I called to ask where the cable guy was. After another twenty minutes on hold, I received no explanation as to why no one came, only an accusation that we could not have the service installed anyway without having a wireless internet router. I explained that not only did I show the first cable guy the router, but I explained that we had a router to the last Time Warner representative I spoke to and I was promised that was all I needed, so clearly the real issue was that no one would show up to properly hook these things up, not whatever he was trying to pin on me. Without getting too angry, I recounted how my housemates and I have already stayed home for three days now and we needed someone to come today or we would no longer obtain their services. The representative said he would do what he could do, put me on hold another twenty minutes only to tell me that I "called too late in the day" to have anyone come see me. Of course, that sets me off. "I'm not calling too late in the day! I'm just calling again after waiting all day!" So I tell him that that's it and I want a refund (since we already paid about $100 for an installation that will never happen, which he won't accept at first, because of course they want the money, so he pushes rescheduling for a third time, and I explain that we all work and will have no more free days to contribute something. He keeps trying to talk me out of a refund, but I'm persistent, at one point so exasperated that I exclaim, "It'd be easier to cure cancer than obtain your services!" That seemed to make my point, and though the Time Warner guy didn't give in immediately, I continued to raise my voice, get pissy, hold firm, and finally got our money back. I should use some of these strategies when disciplining my class.

Oh, and one more time, fuck Time Warner.


Proof Positive

It's been a while since I've attended a 90 Proof show. When I received an email about a show this past Saturday, I skipped about giddily until I learned that my regular 90 Proof-going-friends RJ and Allison were both on the east coast -- boring! Though I've hyped these concerts to other friends in the past, they've never opted to go; I still listen to Ace of Base, so I don't really blame them for questioning my musical taste. Fortunately, this time several first-timers Katy, Kat, Jessica, and Michael Michael said they were finally down to enjoy the 90 covers music, so we joined our friend Laura at the bar for the show.

The regular drummer was not able to make this show. Instead, a female vocalist joined the band for the evening, a pleasant addition to the usual set, since it allowed for songs that the band doesn't typically play by females who rocked in the 90s like Sheryl Crow, Alanis Morissette, Lisa Loeb, Fiona Apple, and the Cranberries. It was indeed amazing. Thankfully, all the first-time attendees loved it, too. I never really doubted that they would like it, but it's nice to receive validation, even if its in the form of a drunken slur.

It was the rowdiest non-Pitzer show I've seen the band play, thanks in good part to our contingent loudly screaming along, dancing, hollering, and interacting with the townies. Yes, we even befriended some townies, and by "we," I really mean the rest of my friends since I'm not as friendly with strangers as they are, or quite as drunk as them for that matter.

In this bar, each small bathroom (one for men, one for women - how passe) had an uncommon feature: two adjacent toilets, but no stalls. This layout inspired Jessica and Katy to engage in a simultaneous urination session, which brought them much elation. Kat wanted to follow suit with Laura, who was initially hesitant. I've never seen a more peculiar form of peer pressure as watching one person persuade another to pee in unison. After offering Laura her first pick of the toilets, Kat succeeded. Alas, it must not have been as fulfilling for Laura, because when Kat asked for a round two about an hour later, Laura declined. Instead, Kat found the female restroom occupied and entered the men's restroom. (Who does such a thing?) Within a moment, however, a man entered the men's room and found Kat seated on a toilet. Following an awkward exchange, they found themselves peeing simultaneously, too.

After the show, we made our usual post-show chatter with the band, then headed for the cars. Somehow, Michael Michael ended up in the trunk of Katy's car and insisted that it would be safer if he rode in there. We had sober drivers, so it's not as if that was an issue, but it took a bit of coaxing to get him out of the trunk. In the meantime, I had to pee, but didn't want to go back in and use one of those two-toilet, no-protection facilities. I'm not about to put on a show in public. So, you know, I peed in the parking lot instead.


Who Were My Students?

In another week, I'm going to start a new school year with a new bunch of new students. In reflecting on my successes and failures, I've also looked back at how deceptively cute my students were on their first day. I gave them questionnaires so I could learn more about them and their responses are largely hilarious. Here is a sampling of some of the more memorable questions and answers (typed exactly as written, spelling errors and all) I received in no particular order:

What are three words that best describe you?

Buddhist, vegetarian, nice
loud, dork, mean
funny, weird, idiotic
guy, bored, different
I don't like describing myself
confident, friendly, muscular
boy, indipendent, friendly
athletic, sexy, charming
spontainis, outgoing, confused
hungry, tired, lazy
easily entertained
hardworking, blonde, smart

What would your English teacher from last year say about you?

I forgot what she said, but she liked me
something about my grade
excelent student works hard, very intelegent (not to be concieted, that's what she told my parents)
I don't know really she was a wakko (pardon me)
that I might try to hard or do to much
that I'm always tardy
very intristed in english
"stop going in the closet"
Your totally cool. Probably the coolest person in the world. Even cooler than Mr. [Kevin]
He loved me
Miss Walker
funny, need to stop sleeping in his class
smart but distracting
fun - never do anything in class
don't remember English teacher
favorite student
always sleeps in class
I'm passionet
argumentative but have good points
he's my worst student

What do you read for pleasure?

I don't really read for pleasure, just for money.
young communist league newsletter
report card because it's always good

What are your goals for after high school?

4 year college, be an anesthisiologist
graphics programmer for video games
cosmetologist first choice. Second to become a chef. Overall to become an author.
join Army
become a brain surgeon, or work in the nureological department, or becoming the first African American women president
masters or doctrine degree
college to be a nurse, interior designer, fashion design, or flight attendant
becoming an FBI agent
become an author & a cosmetologist
go to UCSD, teach 2nd grade, have a family
to go to college and become a child therapist and open a bar
To go to skewl & become a math teacher for [this school]
getting my license for cosmetology and going to college to become an interior designer
go to college and be a top model
taking over all fast food industries
go to a good univeristy & majoring in dance & then become a marin biologist
major in bussines management
I have to make it there first.

What celebrity do you despise?

Nicole Richie's bones
Bob Barker
everybody famous
A famous person that I disgust is Brittany Spears
scientologists, emo bands, hillary clinton
Nicole Richie - too skinny
Jack Black - that guy is dirty in so many ways
I don't really pay attention to famous people.

Describe a strange dream you've had.

There was a ride at Disneyland dedicated to Rick James
I was a gorilla getting chased by an angry mob
My grandparent's house was made of ice
I once rip out my brothers tongue, and spiders chased me into a hot tub, where they dragged me to the bottom
When I was little, I often dreamed my room was flooding with BBQ sauce and I was trapped floating on a little BBQ Grill in the corner of my room
I was being chased by a broom.
When I fell off a tree. Then I fell off my bed.
I was being attack by ducks.
I was drowning in a pool of soda and Michael Jackson laughed at me
I had a strange dream that my little sister was taller than me
I don't have time for dreams
I farted and blew up the world.
My sister was attacked by a giant apple.
went to school w/out books
My band teacher was riding a giant pharret and was chasing me around
There were children playing in a carosel and it was in a colorless image and all I hear is a voice of a man repeatedly say "mistake."
I got married "LOL"
I was boxing Mike Tyson
platypus in a rave
paintballing with polar bears
I dream that my girlfriend was my sister.
I was a midget!

What type of sense of humor do you have?

I laugh at almost everything I understand
no type of sense of humor
anything makes me laugh
I tend to seem rude when being funny, I've been told I smile with my eyes, not with my teeth
Not a very good one because I'll laugh at anything
I laugh at things that are misfortunate to the expense of others depending on who it is like if its someone I loathe.
I humor myself
I love pranks
any I'm a sense of humor person

What are your hobbies?
legos, playing with dogs
taking care of my baby brother
exotic make-up
bowling, horse riding, working on engines
sports, video games, girls
I like to party and be with cute females
mechanical stuff
sewing, acting, texting, singing

What is your favorite joke's punchline

The guy died
I don't tell jokes.
yo momma
Because the skeleton had no guts
it's a dirty joke
Michael was-a-nigger
that's what she said
go tie your shoes cause you be trippin
If you were both squirrles would you let me bust a nut in you hole.

What do you want to learn this year?

everything you can teach me
what is so great about language art
Basically, I want to learn everything this year.
to like writing
as much as I can, I just want an A
how 2 write better papers & stuff like that
How to make a bomb of cheese
How to drive
hands off learning
improve my penmanship and spelling

Write a random sentence.

I have to change my feet.
Look to Jared Leto dance to mariachi!
My cousin colors on the walls.
Juice pig!
I think it's cute when old people go jogging, or when they dance.
Potatos rule when toasters dance with smoofs!!!
Your mom is strange.
My bologna has a first name, its OSCAR.
you got antz in your pantz and I got five toes
Dancing monkeys will take over the world.
I have a superman backpack.
I am retarted.
I wear tight pants.
What color are you sock?
I have NO beef w/ you.
You are a kitten as little.
The goblins are comming.
Writing a random sentence.
I hate the cow smell
If you eat the chicken, they will drink ink!
The chicken smelled funny.
I love chicken.
The house are flying but the windows aren't because they went to the store to get a bag of chips but it had water in it.

What makes you unique?

I dance around with no music all the time
I can understand three languages
I have very sensative skin so if you just pinch me I will get a welt/bruise
I have no idea
If someone kicked me above my right ankle, my foot would start hurting because I have nerve damage on my right ankle.
I hope to be vegan soon.
I adore shoes!
I speak Swedish.
I have a very huge family. But hey I'm Mexican!
I am a kind person in class, but differ outside.
I'm Nigerian
I may not look like a kid that goes nuts and crazy, but I actually am.
I'm about 4'9" and very intelligent
give good advice
I have a beard that goes under my chin, not on it.
straight up weird, I'm the weirdest to the weirdest
I have multiple personalities
Im darker then everybody
I love my fam
I'm craze I guess (haha)
I had 2 plates and 8 screws taken out of my arm
I a unique individual who loves punk rock and thinks of it as a way of life
I can stay quiet for a whole week in everyon one of my classes if I'm not called on and I'm probouably the most random thinker.
Well im very honust I see no point in lieing
working on body to be a model
I have a name that is the most common dog name.
I never enoy other people. At least I never did because I'm happy of what I am.
I have a twin

After you die, what would you like to be remembered for?

4 being crazy but smart
something good like Audrey Hepburn helping UNICEF
I would like to be remembered for curing the common cold, no more sick days!
Being alive
for being a fabulous leader
caring for my generation and trying to change it
My jokes
being funny and black
For my prettyness
for being the coolest person on earth
being the first black female president
being a beautiful actress inside and out


Brown People

In New York, I spent most of my time with Heather and Ted, both friends from Pitzer, though their paths have rarely crossed in the past. And yet they have so much in common: they work close to one another, they both wrestle hobos, and they enjoy the art of finger painting. Furthermore, both are bad with directions. Heather "knew a place" and took us on a wild goose chase of Manhattan looking for a specific bar. Eventually we gave up and decided to find some other place. Mexican? Sure thing! In California, Mexican foot is omnipresent and, with exceptions, generally reasonably priced. This place was pricy, however: two pitchers of margaritas, each smaller than what you would find at Margarita Mondays for less than a third of the price, wound up costing us $56. It's a good thing the drinks left me reasonably giddy after such a steep cost. While we sat down to eat, Briel, a friend of high school who now lives and works in the city, called and we discussed possibly meeting up. As chance would have it, she was on the same street we accidentally wound up on, proving that getting lost can have its benefits.

As an added perk, Briel brought along two of her nice "brown friends." As Briel recounted for all of us, a few years ago before Briel moved to NYC, Briel said she was making a trip to the city because she had a lot of "brown friends there" in an Instant Messenger chat I had with her. It took me by surprise: even though our hometown is overwhelmingly white, I didn't know her to be an Ingra. Several minutes passed as I contemplated how to respond to the racist statement. I went so far as rationalizing that she probably didn't think it could be construed as racist since, you know, she's friends with brown people. Suddenly, it occurred to me what I was failing to grasp: Briel attended Brown University, which would make her friends "Brown friends." So I finally broke the awkward silence by confessing my confusion and we had a good laugh. I don't know why I fell prey to that misunderstanding in the first place -- of course Briel wouldn't have any dark-skinned friends, or at least none that she'd take the time to visit anyway.

So the six of us decided to grab a drink - or additional drinks for the margarita lovers in the group. But where? Ted immediately spotted a bar a door away, but Briel and friends looked a bit concerned by the place. I must admit, for such an expensive area of Manhattan, I am impressed that Ted so effortlessly found a somewhat questionable dive bar. I would be willing to guess that it is the only establishment of its sort in a seven block radius. Mind you, it didn't look dangerous or anything, but if you didn't typically frequent dive bars (when did my life come to this?), I can see why it would be disconcerting. Apprehensive, Briel and friends entered the place and we made pleasant chitchat. After her friends got drinks, they commented that they were concerned the bartender was so old "he might die." I assumed that since they are all involved in theater, they were just being dramatic and exaggerating the situation. When I went to buy a round myself, however, I found their description to be true and then some. He could be retired twice over. Picture Anna Nicole Smith's old fogey dead husband back when he was barely alive or perhaps even shortly after he was dead. As he struggled to pour the drinks, I was tempted to call an ambulance as a precautionary measure.

After hooting, hollering, and consuming enough alcohol that it would be unwise to stand near an open flame, we parted ways with our friends, both new and old (and really, really fucking old for that matter), white and "brown," severely intoxicated and those too intimidated to get a real buzz on. I was still drunk when I boarded the train about eight hours later. Thanks for the nice trip, y'all.

** This post was edited to fix the point that I was in Manhattan, not Brooklyn, as Heather pointed out. Who was lost? Sorry.


Food for Thought

Part 3 of my trip to NYC

While walking through Times Square, someone approaches me as if ey know me. Even though it's raining, I slow down and smile. "You seem like a friendly person," ey says. Immediately, I know what is up - this person wants money; I regret making eye contact. I desperately want to reply to eir comment that I look friendly by saying, "Actually, I'm an asshole," but I'm not an asshole, and since so many people in NYC genuinely are, I don't want to appear as though I am conforming. "Can I have a moment of your time?" ey asks. Again, I should lie, but I am killing the next hour until Heather gets off work, so, yes, I can offer a moment.

"Are you over 18?" Yes. "Are you employed?" Yes. "Do you like children?" Sort of. My last answer makes me chuckle aloud since I'm a teacher, but I don't want to explain this fact in fear of looking like the asshole I swear I am not. This ambassador for one of those feed starving children abroad programs, begins eir spiel about how fabulous, cheap, and rewarding sponsoring a kid is.

Ey wants to know if I've ever sponsored a kid previously. That's a funny story, actually, I say. When I was about fourteen, my church's youth group sponsored two kids, one from South America, the other from Africa. For a couple of months, we brought money to each meeting, pooling our donations to pay for the kids' food and water. On the third month, both kids "got worms." Since each kid was registered under a different person's name, we got near identical letters requesting that we send a significant amount of extra money to pay for the kids' doctor bills. It was quite a coincidence for two kids in two different continents to just happen to get ill at the same time, with the same ailment no less. It's funny how the organization didn't try to make it sound like a more legitimate medical condition, instead resorting to a generic and unconvincing "got worms."

When we compared the letters, it was decided unanimously that this organization was a scam and we would discontinue our contributions. I can still picture my friend Nicole angrily standing up, placing eir hands on eir hips, and spouting, "They did NOT both get worms!"

Shortly thereafter, our youth group instead involved itself with Heifer International. I have yet to find a charitable organization's mission that I believe in more. Though most charities offer no long-term solutions to the people they help, instead offering temporary relief to an ongoing problem, Heifer International actually provides families with long-lasting stability, employing the old adage of "give a man a fish, feed him for a day, teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime." Each family receives an animal that helps the family to become self-sufficient. For example, if you give a family milk, once they finish the milk, they are stuck waiting for milk until they are given more. If you give them a cow, however, they have a consistent supply of milk to drink as well as sell and share with others. Furthermore, they teach struggling communities to become agriculturally sound and sustainable. It is not necessary for Heifer International to remain in the communities to ensure success. Most individuals who receive an animal proceed to breed their livestock and give the offspring to another family in need, making them a partner in the organization, not just a beneficiary. Plus, it incorporates environmentally friendliness and gender equity into its programs. I highly encourage everyone to check out the website linked above, and give your support. I promise you'll be impressed.

So here I am, in the rain, preaching self-reliance and sustainability to the handout seeking individual on one of the world's busiest streets. Ey promises that eir organization employs similar philosophies, so I ask for a brochure to verify, but ey doesn't have anything visual for me to look at. Then ey wants my credit card number, which I refuse to give. I can tell this person is crushed, having spent so much time on me and not securing the sale. I apologize, explaining that I need to learn about the organization first and am not comfortable giving my credit card number to a stranger on the street. "What don't you trust about me?" ey asks. That's a pretty forward question, but I'll bite: "The last person I spoke to on the street was shirtless and told me to repent because Jesus was coming soon." That's the truth, even. For the record, I didn't give that person money either. Next time someone publicly asks me for a charitable donation, I intend to excuse myself, citing that I've "got worms."


The Zoo

Part 2 of my NYC adventure

Having some hours to kill until Heather and Ted got off of work, I searched a public map for anything of interest, spying a botanical garden about a mile away. It's peculiar as normally I'm not particularly taken by flowers, but in a grimy city environment, I hankered for the beauty of a flower like never before. Rather than take the subway, I decided to walk a mile and a half since time was not an issue. En route, I nearly stepped on a dead rat fetus (if that's not what it was, that's what it looked like) and I wanted to see a flower even more, perhaps to lay beside this creature. After quite a trek, I finally found the botanical gardens, but every gate was closed, so I walked endlessly around the perimeter in search of an entrance. Though I couldn't find a way in, I eventually spotted a zoo across the street and rethought my excitement for life forms that didn't move, at least not without the aid of a gentle breeze. The zoo it is!

Upon entering, I found that this zoo was hardly the Bronx Zoo or anything of significant stature. Had the operators located the dead rat fetus before me, they probably would have put it in a glass case for viewing. I did not initially pick up a map since the zoo seemed small enough not to warrant one, but then the first building I entered wound up being the Snack Bar, which featured a couple of tables and a series of vending machines. The next building I entered offered animals -- as portrayed through art. I suppose it's cheaper for them to commission high school art students to depict their favorite animals than get the real things. I watched one parent hold up eir child and say, "Look at the monkey!" Ah yes, it was a nice charcoal drawing of a monkey. After taking in two dioramas, I was frightened to find that the next glass case actually had a living, breathing animal in it. It was a meerkat, and damn was it cute. I stared at it for several minutes, but it avoided eye contact with me; meerkats instinctually look to the sky most of the time in search of hawks -- never mind they've probably never encountered a hawk in their lives.

Next, I encountered an exhibit that allowed me to smell things that animals liked to smell. I sniffed the same thing a tiger would enjoy smelling - if they were actually present at the zoo. I proceeded onto a discovery walk where a very aggressive employee followed me around trying to assist me in my enjoyment. "Can you see the wallaby?" ey asked. I didn't give a crap about the wallaby, but didn't want to express that, so I allowed him to keep pointing and encouraging me to see it until I finally spotted it lounging behind a bush. "Oh wow," I tried to say genuinely, but I think my poor delivery was enough motivation to push him off to a family with a carriage nearby. "Do you want to touch a goose feather?" ey asked one of the parents. The parent tried to decline politely at first, but when the employee persisted, the parent finally exclaimed, "I'm not going to touch something dirty and risk getting my baby sick!" The employee was dumbfounded, while I discreetly smiled. If this worker were to be useful, ey should feed emself to one of the animals. On second thought, I can't recall any carnivorous creatures on the premises.

When I first arrived, virtually no one was at the zoo. Within half an hour, however, the place was filled with people, most about the age of seven. Families, camps, and schools took the zoo by storm. I am pretty confident in saying that I was the oldest person in attendance not accompanying a minor (or miner for that matter). As I sat down on a bench to consider my options, I heard a counselor say, "All right everybody, let's go sit down on the bench over there." Instantaneously, a pack of kindergartners swarmed the bench, invading my personal space and being even more annoying than the "look at the wallaby" person. As it turns out, little kids might be my least favorite type of creature in the animal kingdom. I became a bit territorial, not wanting to give up the space I had claimed before they did, but they outnumbered me, and by the time a couple thought it would be fun to touch me (this was not a petting zoo!), I got up and left. In retrospect, I should have peed on the bench to mark my territory: given the ages of the parties involved, I probably would not be high on the suspect list.

The last part of the zoo featured barnyard animals. Growing up in Connecticut, I've had my fair share of opportunities to interact with farm animals. Less than a week prior, I helped my cousin pick up about ten chickens and bring them to their coop once it started raining. The idea that seeing chickens was somehow zoo-worthy seemed dumb to me, but then I remembered if you're a city kid, you might have never seen a cow before, so maybe it was exciting to feature these animals. This hypothesis was promptly proven wrong by the large percentage of kids who sobbed uncontrollably at the sight of the cows, sheep, and llamas. Although I couldn't stand the shrill sounds, I found it fairly amusing to watch parents who tried in vain to have their kids grow to love the animals when that was clearly not about to happen. For that matter, I realized that I too was not going to come to like this sad display of animals, so it was probably time for me to mosey on out. I located the nearest exit, and immediately across from the street from where I exited, I found the open front gate to the botanical garden.

Sigh. Next time, I'm choosing the company of flowers.


Shear Me Up

Part 1 of my amusingly eventful 36 hour trip to NYC

I spent the first night on Ted's couch, waking up as he left for work. Before exiting, Ted left me directions to a "nearby" subway station. The directions began "leave apartment," which I found cute. Then, however, he instructed me to go toward 5th avenue and then 6th avenue, directions that wound up being mutually exclusive as his apartment was located in between 5th and 6th avenue. I chose 6th, as that was the place Ted seemed to want me to end up, then walked looking for my next route marker a "church across from a big block of store." As it turns out, there are churches on about every other corner, these New Yorkers are a pious bunch, and though I couldn't even tell you what the hell a "big block of store" meant, I encountered nothing matching that description.

After walking more than a mile and recognizing I am no longer "nearby" as promised, the impending feeling I had been pushing aside finally came to fruition: I'm lost. As panic set in, I resolved that, no, I cannot be lost when I have no ultimate destination. When I need to be some place and can't find my way there, then I'll be lost, but not when I'm looking to kill some time. I began to suspect I was on the wrong street entirely, a theory confirmed to me later, so I decided to turn and proceed toward a more industrialized area than the residential zone I was in. While meandering, I encountered a barber shop, wherein I spotted a butch woman receiving a haircut; I am excited, as this occasion is the first one where I've seen a woman utilizing a barber shop. Then I thought to myself, hmm, that short length is about what I want for a back-to-school crop. After further consideration, I realized that an opportunity to get a "women's" haircut might not ever present itself so readily again.

Though I thought my request might at least elicit a laugh, the barber barely blinked when I asked for "what the lady had," which I suppose is exactly what should have happened. Here I was looking to be shocking, but I was hardly cutting edge to the person literally cutting edges into my head. What more so impressed the barber was that I reside in Los Angeles; he took delight in having the opportunity to shear someone "in the movies," since, you know, a good assumption would be that everyone who lives in Los Angeles is a Hollywood star.

On my way out, I asked the barber for directions, which he was able to do clearly and concisely. Without problem, I made my way to the subway, yet decided not to use it -- after all my previous trouble, it just seemed too easy. Besides, I'm not really lost... I just have a lesbian haircut.


A Gut-Wrenching Tale

Reclining on the couch, she lazily clicks the channel up button while pondering what might happen if anyone were to channel surf using the down button instead, though she's still too disinterested to give it a try. Her head is angled against the crevice between two cushions, leaving a slight indentation on her face from the seam. She hears the door open behind her, but pretends as though she hasn't, waiting for her roommate to initiate a greeting instead. After ten seconds pass without a hello, irritated, she peers her head over the couch to confront her roommate as to why she's being snubbed.

A masked figure, lacking the breasts necessary to be her roommate, clomps aimlessly, apparently searching for something. She ducks her head back down against a cushion, hoping she hadn't been spotted. Petrified with fear, her hand goes limp, causing the remote control to crash against the hardwood floor below; the resulting noise is audible over the television's, prompting the masked figure to approach the couch. In the following seconds, her head fills with regrets. She regrets not locking her door. She regrets deciding to let her cellphone die, unwilling to stand up and walk the four feet to plug it in. She regrets that she hadn't pressed the channel up button at least one more time so that the last thing on television she might ever watch is anything other than a golf tournament.

As she looks toward the ceiling trying to regulate her breathing, the masked face appears above her, staring at her with evil eyes. Though the mask obscures his eyes, she just knows they must be evil. She contemplates letting out a scream, but thinks it too cliche. They each wait for the other to make the first move. After thirty uneventful seconds pass, she contemplates getting up to plug her in phone, or at least flipping the channel.

When she doesn't attempt to flee as he expects, he figures he has to do something more intimidating. He reaches out to grab her with his hands, one palm noticeably hairier than the other. She kicks upward at him with her left leg, the sudden motion sending her flip-flop airborne. The sandal in his masked face does little to deter him. He touches her awkwardly and delicately, trying to demonstrate that his intentions are violent and not sexual. She slaps the less hairy of his palms until his grip loosens and she flees from the couch.

The lack of equilibrium from wearing only one flip-flop causes her to fall after racing just a few steps away. The masked figure successfully corners her, leaving her unable to access either exit. Bravely, she stands up, wanting to face her assailant rather than meet her fate lying down; for once, her mother would be proud of her posture.

From his pocket, the masked figure removes a knife. Realizing this spelled almost certain doom, she contemplates throwing her remaining sandal at him as some sort of last moral victory. He interrupts her line of thought with a gruff remark.

"I'm going to stab you in the tummy."

Her heavy breaths of terror transform into laughter. "What did you say?" she asks.

The masked figure begins to jitter, confused by this response, but makes sure to make his voice even more harsh this time. "I said, 'I'm going to stab you in the stomach.'"

"No you didn't. You said, 'I'm going to stab you in the tummy.'" She refuses to stifle her laughter, repeating between giggles, "In the tummy."

"I... look... I'm not kidding... I..." he stutters.

Embarrassed, the masked figure exits, never to return.


Beauty and the Beasts

In the community where I teach, beauty pageants are ridiculously popular. It's peculiar, considering it was never a part of my reality growing up, but these kids gossip and endlessly discuss who the fair's princess will be and whether or not said girl is "pretty enough" to hold the title. There's no wonder as to why it's so important to them, seeing as they start them early: the town sponsors competitions for all ages, ranging from infant to high school. As diverse as the community is, all of the participants are Caucasian or could at least pass as one. On occasions when I've heard a non-white student complain about this racial disparity, I've come close to encouraging said student to participate in the competition, but then I think better of it, deciding I'd rather have this antiquated tradition continue being racist than subject one of my students who wouldn't otherwise to stoop to that level.

The competitors in these pageants are hardly my favorite students. They are the girls who can smile sweetly to our face as they plot to wreak havoc on you a moment later, then just as easily lie about their involvement later. They are the girls who can't be convinced to look at book for half the time they spend looking at a mirror. They are the girls whose parents give them whatever they want regardless of their grades because they are the family's pride and joy for being so attractive. They are the girls who will never leave town, instead starting a family with their high school sweethearts (who they stole from their best friend) hoping to one day raise a fair princess of their own, or failing that, instead earn the prestigious title of home-wrecker.

Perhaps I over-generalize. After all, every cheerleading troop has its comma momma, but I have yet to meet the student who is looking to take down the pageant from the inside. Furthermore, I can't be too critical. At my students' age, I watched beauty pageants on television. Hell, I scored them. When I was real young, I based my judgments on their outfits, but as I got older, their scores seemed to correlate more closely with their breasts. My favorite competition was Miss Universe. In addition to having an annual crush on the Trinidad and Tobago contestant (they sure grow 'em pretty there), naively, I bought into the hype of political progress being made each time they announced an Islamic country was now permitting its women to compete. Finally, women were free to be objectified, though I suppose part of freedom is allowing people to make decisions to demean themselves, too. Instead, the aspect that concerned me was that if they called the pageant "Miss Universe," then I hoped they were at least sending messages out to space, inviting other life forms to participate in order to give the pageant some sort of legitimacy. In 8th grade science, when I learned how they used codes comprised of zeroes and ones to try and make communication, I decided that this method must be how they accomplish this feat. For whatever reason, I honestly did spend a lot of time pondering this issue. I eventually gave up on the Miss Universe bullshit when I realized that Miss USA never failed to make the top ten and often, certainly disproportionally, won the whole shebang.

Why does all of this matter? Well, you see, my grandmother is a former beauty queen.

The revelation of this fact yesterday changed my perspective. I've always perceived her as a socially conservative woman who once rinsed my mouth out with soap -- I no longer recall the verbal offense, but I know I wasn't swearing at that point, so it was probably "shut up" or something ridiculous. If only I had known I was being scolded by a pageant girl: participating in a beauty contest seems far dirtier than my crime.

Before you start imagining Miss America or something, I should specify that she was the queen of an agricultural fair. The very first queen of the agricultural fair, no less. That fair will now be celebrating 70 years of schoolgirl queens, commemorating the event by inviting all of the previous queens to gather for a photo opportunity. They suggested my grandmother wear a cocktail dress. I would bet every prized pie at that fair that my grandmother does not even own a cocktail dress.

The organizers very much want my grandmother to attend, as it would be a special treat to have the inaugural crown holder. Alas, she is not interested in going. She's no hussy, I'll have you know. I'm not sure of her motivations, but she cited "failing health" as her reason in a letter sending her regards. My dad suggested she should be indignant in the missive and explain how she refuses to participate as it is degrading to women. "I like that," my grandmother responded, but ultimately sent "best wishes" to the contestants instead.

Though my initial reaction was to judge my grandmother (and I don't mean on a scale from 1-10), I realize it's not fair to apply my gender-progressive perspective seventy years later. As the first queen in the first competition of its kind in the area, she couldn't have known what she was getting into, as evidenced by the fact that her reward was participating in a parade that consisted of wading through a field of tall grass, following immediately behind a procession of cows. I only wish there was a similar prize for the beauty pageants of my students today: I would be there front and center, wildly applauding my conceited darlings as they struggled to avoid stepping in manure in their high heels.



Travis and I are driving.

Travis: That's the second dead raccoon we've passed.
Kevin: That? That looked like a cat to me.
Travis: No, it was a raccoon.
Kevin: Cat.
Travis: Okay, we'll check when we pass it again later.
Kevin: All right. Loser has to touch it.
Travis: You're on. I've always wanted to touch a raccoon!
Kevin: Yeah, but if you lose, you'll just be touching a dead cat.
Travis: Oh that's gross.

Guess who had to touch a dead raccoon. Karma?


Yes, It Gets Even Worse

In my younger years, I eagerly perused the tabloids closely while waiting in line at the supermarket, finding the sensational headlines paired with awful photos perversely pleasurable. Lately, however, I can barely muster up the interest to give the newsstands a glance; at this point, I feel I've heard it all in terms of celebrity gossip, tired of the same recycled trash. The most recent Us Weekly cover, however, certainly caught my attention:

No, it wasn't just Zac Efron giving himself a mammogram in the top right corner. (He sat immediately behind me on a roller coaster at Six Flags, though I didn't know his name until I looked it up later. It goes without saying that it was one of the most significantly insignificant events of my life.) But that cover story, my goodness, how over the top can they get? While the headline, "My Twisted Night With Brit" immediately clues us in that there's bound to be defamatory content, it was the subheading that made me chuckle aloud: "Yes, it gets even worse." IT'S LIKE US WEEKLY IS SAYING WHAT WE'RE THINKING! I mean, not really, but that bit of editorializing is certainly comical. And just when you think the following line could not get any better, the three most beautiful adjectives that could ever be juxtaposed begin the next sentence: "Topless, drunk and lonely." I think if we're being honest, we'd all admit to being topless, drunk, and lonely at some point in our lives. But we're not being honest, we're being judgmental, so seeing Britney in such a condition is deplorable.

I feel most sorry for the victims. Firstly, there's the unidentified college student. They don't just let anyone in to college, you know? He's undoubtedly smart, the hope for the next generation. For such a person to be unfairly seduced at the hands of a lonely pop star, that's just uncalled for. Secondly, there's little Jayden. Did you not read the sidebar? HE'S OUT AT 10:30 PM! He's so sleep deprived, he's gnawing his own hand off. He must be malnourished. Where are Britty's titties when he needs a meal? Oh, apparently they're bare and bobbing in a pool, being groped by a frat boy rather than nursing. Thirdly, there's Kevin Federline. When I last "cared" about this drama, I'm pretty sure Kevin was labeled the scum of the earth by the media, yet now he's some freaking hero, "rush[ing] to save his boys." Certainly an interesting transformation: it's really gone that downhill for Brit, huh?

I've become so involved in this saga, I figured it was only appropriate to insert myself into the story.

While we're on the subject of Spears, (I'd like to just discuss it now so that I don't have to bring her up again), I failed to mention there was a fatality on our Claremont Grammarians float this past year. In her second consecutive year in the parade, Britney brought up the rear, delicately pronouncing "Ain't ain't a word!"

Michael Michael takes issue with this sign, citing that "ain't" technically is a word since it's in the dictionary. I actually agree with this reasoning, but the Grammarians are parody: I don't truly believe that "fragments fragment families" for that matter. In my opinion, Britney has as pivotal a part to the crew as the grammar mannequin. Unfortunately, somewhere along the route, Britney, unseen by the cheering Grammarians, apparently detached from the truck and was most likely trampled to death by those miserable junior high cheerleaders.

It's been tough parting with her. That flashy Britney banner was one of my first ever thrift store buys, purchased five years ago. I got it because it portrayed her as exceedingly innocent and I found it ironic considering her image transformation. At that point, it was amusing since she exposed a lot of cleavage and probably wasn't a virgin -- I'm not sure what I would have thought if I had known one day she'd devolve to the condition of "topless, drunk and lonely."

At college, I proudly hung the banner outside of my window. Since the student body was decidedly anti-mainstream and against everything Spears stands for, I got a kick out of displaying it in a high-pedestrian-traffic area. Occasionally, someone would mention, "Can you believe someone has a Britney Spears poster on the dorm?" I would laugh, and confess that it was mine, at which point its presence became acceptable because its intent was a parody of your more typical college campus rather than a celebration of her image and music. A couple of months ago when Andrew learned it was mine, he guffawed. Evidently, when he was considering coming to the college, he saw the sign and thought twice about coming to an institution with such a decoration. Knowing that actually makes me regret hanging in the first place, actually, because if someone awesome like Andrew was so turned off by it, there might be some other prospective students with whom the same Britney poster was a factor in them not coming and, consequently, me missing out on their friendships, all for some dumb Britney joke.

During my junior year when I lived in a different dormitory building, I hung the same banner from my second story balcony. It wasn't as a prime as a location as the previous year, so I didn't hear anymore comments about it. Well, not of the verbal variety, anyway. One day, I spotted a sizable brown stain on the Britney banner. I alerted a friend and thought it funny that someone would throw mud at her, a clear gesture of eir displeasure toward the singer. When I made an attempt to clean it, however, I fast discovered it was not mud. No, mud doesn't smell like shit. Shit smells like shit, though. At first my suitemates doubted that someone would throw poop at the banner until I challenged them to take the sniff test. Thereafter, everyone had to concede, someone threw shit at Britney. I'm not quite sure who would be so upset that they would poop, or perhaps find and handle poop, then throw it at Britney, but I'm guessing they were drunk. Maybe lonely. And likely topless. At least that's one college student that didn't give in to the seductions of Britney.

RIP Britney Banner.


Fourth and Broadway

A bunch of newly-graduated teacher folk gather at a restaurant last evening before some of them head out of the area for greener pastures. Though I would have to be late to join, Priya encourages me to come. Although she does not know where there ultimate destination is exactly, she tells me to drive on the 10W toward Santa Monica until I am closer to receive further instruction. I admit to being apprehensive about that plan, considering that I am notoriously poor with directions, but Priya vows that she will help me get there.

My extreme lack of a sense of direction is no exaggeration as anyone who has ridden with me or expected me to play navigator as a passenger can testify. Routinely, I end up making more U-Turns than a "W." (You know, a "double-U," in essence, twice the number of U-ies, right? Yeah, yeah, I know. "Kevin, forget about a sense of direction, you call that a sense of humor?" Shut it!) When I was younger, my parents used to joke that when I got my license, they were going to need to tie a string from the car to my house so I could eventually find my way back home. If it had been remotely practical, I probably would have taken them up on that. Once I was more than two streets away from my house, I might as well have been completely lost. I used to attribute this condition to the fact that I always had my nose in a book while riding in the car so I never became familiar with the roads. Later, however, when I was driving, and therefore not reading at the same time, I still couldn't get a grasp on the lay of the land just two minutes from my house.

At any rate, I get in my car and head toward Santa Monica. I bring my Polyphonic Spree CD with me (the band's concertwas yet again amazing and life-altering, by the way) to keep me chipper as I drive without the aid of MapQuest. The music works: I cheerfully sing along as I am proud of how much of the route I remember. Maybe I am figuring out LA! Maybe I can handle city navigation!

Per instructions, I call Priya for my exit. She refers me to Lauren, who is more versed in the area. After some initial confusion, it is determined that my exit is Fourth Street, which I've already passed a couple miles back. No problem, I say, exiting and re-entering the freeway to backtrack still keeping my cool. I can do this.

I exit at Fourth and take a right, as told. Several miles later, I hit a dead end. Maybe it was a left then? I call Priya for the restaurant's precise address. "1445," she says. In addition to not remembering directions, I also can't remember four digit numbers apparently. A minute later I must call back. "That address again?" "Here's how we'll remember it," Priya offers. "Think about dating. Someone who is 14? That's too young! But wait, someone who is 45 is too old!" I'm not sure how that helps, wondering why the number couldn't just as easily be 1260 with that logic, but it seems to work. I putter about, having to find my way on my own after two police detours, and finally locate the corner I'm looking for: Fourth and Broadway.

I feel really dumb, because I'm at the precise location, and still can't spot the restaurant. Surely, I can't be that directionally challenged. I place another phone call. Lauren offers to exit the restaurant and meet me outside. Though we both claim to be standing on the corner of Fourth and Broadway, we do not see each other. "Do you see the bus?" "Yes, I see the bus." "I'm standing right next to it." "But I don't see you!" "I'm waving." "I'm waving, too - where are you?" We spend nearly ten minutes puzzled looking for one another, both adamantly claiming to be in the same location. In describing landmarks we see, there are enough similarities and discrepancies to thoroughly confuse us. Finally, Lauren asks a passerby whether there is another a Broadway and Fourth intersection elsewhere. "In LA," the person says. "You aren't in LA?" Lauren asks, laughing. "No, I'm in Santa Monica! I think..." "Maybe you should ask someone what city you're in."

As I contemplate how absurd it is that it has come to me actually having to ask what city I am in, before I embarrass myself by speaking to someone, I see a sign referring to this area as "Historic Los Angeles." I really am in the wrong city. As much as I've been lost in my life, I don't think I've ever been in a position where I could swear I was in the right location and end up being in an entirely different city.

I need a map.


He Died Doing What He Loved

After one our epic, so-loud-the-neighbors-call-the-cops arguments, Andrew stormed off and left me for Indonesia last Friday, I guess to prove some sort of point. As he'll tell it, however, he had long planned to go after winning a scholarship award blah-blah-blah. I'm not buying it. Andrew clearly switched hemispheres as an affront to me. And I already miss him. Asshole.

Before we came to fisticuffs, Andrew shared an amusing conversation he had with his parent about the prospect of dying while in Indonesia. In the case of his demise, he had specific instructions for his tombstone. No matter the situation, Andrew wants to be remembered as "doing what he loved" -- for example, "Andrew died doing what he loved: being chased by a cheetah." His already nervous parent, however, did not much appreciate his morbid humor. I, on the other hand, am in love with it, and trembled with laughter at each subsequent suggestion we came up with.

"Andrew died doing what he loved: battling Dengue Fever."
"Andrew died doing what he loved: drowning."
"Andrew died doing what he loved: undergoing chemotherapy."
"Andrew died doing what he loved: hanging himself."
"Andrew died doing what he loved: playing hide-and-seek in abandoned refrigerator."

The prospects were not only endless, but endlessly amusing. It provided me with so much inappropriate joy that it almost makes me want a tombstone, were I not so opposed to them. If the world is going to insist on breeding at this excessive rate, its going to at least stop devoting large plots of land to cemeteries to immortalize the deceased. There's room for either your new babies or your dead parents, not both. That said, if Andrew is to have a fatal run-in with a cheetah (fingers crossed, Andrew!), I'd be willing to overlook my perspective in order to permanently etch such hilarity into stone.

If anyone has other thoughts on how Andrew might die doing what he loves, please share in the comments section.


Boy Meets Cult

Since posting about my shirt pertaining sexual relations with Ben Savage about a month ago, Alice told me that eir coworker's friend is now dating Ben Savage. Ben Savage, you get around. Apparently, I could have put the shirt on eBay and made money off it from the inevitably competitive bids. So much for maintaining only one love throughout his life, as he did on Boy Meets World with Topanga.

Growing up, I loved TGIF, the Friday night television line up that featured such gems as Family Matters, Full House, Step by Step, and, of course, Boy Meets World. It was appointment television. I remember having a second cousin who told me he went to church dances every Friday night. My immediate reaction was to ask why he would go to dances at the same time TGIF was on. He answered "girls," so I immediately felt dorky, but I still, silently, had trouble understanding why dances took precedence over Boy Meets World.

Like most family programming, Boy Meets World is often preachy, including significant life lessons such as the importance of studying, being honest, relying on your neighbor, and not joining cults. Yes, even not joining cults. Though I had seen the episode only once, it's stuck with me more than a decade later. It's definitely always been my favorite episode because it's so extremist and out-of-character; I imagine it was billed as a "very special" episode for the whole family. Rather than the typical "Corey snuck out after curfew" plot line, Shawn inexplicably gets sucked in by a cult.

Whenever the topic of Boy Meets World comes up, I always bring up this episode in the hopes that someone can discuss how ridiculous it is with me. Alas, no one ever seems to recall it (sounds like a case of cultish brainwashing to me), so I started to wonder if I had perhaps made it up. Fortunately, I found it on YouTube today and had an opportunity to watch the show in its entirety.

Remember, this is a show for the whole family, so gather your nearest and dearest around to watch this one, and be prepared to discuss the weighty issues at its conclusion. Or, at least, it's more fun to chuckle at its absurdity with someone else.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Not only is the message dumb, but it's pretty sloppily produced, as well. Shawn goes from disinterested in the cult to fully immersed. The cult is watered down and hardly frightening, its activities seemingly consisting of little more than hanging out and giving hugs. Nevertheless, everyone Shawn knows responds hostilely to his participation in the cult. In my opinion, the cult gets a bad rap by the main characters, and their judgmental, blind intolerance of Shawn making new friends implicitly gives the message that the cult might actually be right. I know that's not the episode's ultimate point, but when everyone is quick to raise eir voice and tell Shawn he's wrong instead of attempting to understand his perspective, it seems to prove the cult right. In order for the message to come across, the cult should have been vilified far more and the friends who supposedly love Shawn "better" should have demonstrated some compassion. Furthermore, if the goal is to portray the cult as scary, the show probably should have axed the laugh track to stress the levity of the situation.

In spite of that negative review, now that I work with high schoolers, I would still screen this episode for my students. Teenagers deal with a lot of issues these days, most of which revolve around joining cults. Every time I see my students hug, I give a call home to the parents to make sure their children haven't been exhibiting other cultish behavior. Thank you, Boy Meets World, for bravely addressing a topic that ravages our teenage population, but is so often ignored.


Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday, Kevin Babbles. My blog celebrates two years of being on the World Wide Web today. Hopefully, Kevin Babbles will avoid the whole terrible twos phase and not reduce itself to a plethora of nonsensical tantrums, but I make no promises. (Save the sarcastic, "From your posts lately, I would have guessed the blog was already two" comments, poopheads.) With that in mind, let's reminisce on the good adequate times to distract from a potentially crudtastic future.

I present you a fifteen post retrospective of highlights from the past year:

The time I blacked out in Vegas.
The time I was mistaken for the Del Taco guy.
The time I spoke to sixth graders about poop, Full House, meth, and dicks.
The time I set a fire in my classroom while my principal watched.
The time I expose Helen Keller for the true wench she was.
The time I incited family drama at "Thanksgiving."
The time I made my students create HAND BEASTS!
The time I flew next to an especially nervous passenger.
The time I encountered a mystery through a pyramid scheme.
The time I won a radio dating show - with a twist.
The time I sent a stranger a cryptic, yet suggestive text message.
The time I pondered religion.
The time I pulled a knife on a friend's grandmother.
The time I contemplated the gay bomb.
The time I spread grammar to townsfolk.

Oh, and if you haven't been reading Kevin Babbles for the full two years, you might be interested in the 1 year and 6 month retrospectives, too.

I'm currently working on adding labels to appropriate posts for easier navigation, but this is proving to be a time consuming process, so I'll probably just do a bit at a time. Still, it shows my commitment to you, and moreover, myself. I don't think I would have expected that I wouldn't have tired of this whole blog project by now two years ago, so I do consider its longevity an accomplishment, perhaps to an unnatural extent. Is it sad that I'm more interested in celebrating my blog's birthday than my own? Hmmmm.