09 May 2009

A different post...

My mother is dead. There. I said it, and now that's
out of the way. it probably does explain why i hate the day soooo much. Not very much fun to be reminded of the most important woman in my life insofar as making me the person that i am. as i sit here, it has occured to me that over the last few years, i have found myself in the doldrums on Mother's Day, as I seem to let the pomp and circumstance of the day get to me. But like the homosexual community has reclaimed the word "fag" (which the Brits call a cigarette, and even knowing that, the first time i heard it seemed strange nonetheless), i am going to take Mother's Day, and use it as a way to reflect on the life of my Mother, and to give you all a snapshot of the woman that gave me any of the positive aspects of my personality (any negative aspects i claim as my own, generated out of a little pocket i call "hate")...

my involvement in Speech and Debate has been the largest positive influence in my life. Period. It's given me a confidence i didn't have, in addition to a skill set as a speaker and researcher that has gotten me pretty far in life, including a means of gainful employment...and it wouldn't have happened without Ma Dukes (if you miss the reference, you need to listen to more rap music), for a couple of reasons, the first clearly obvious, and the second was much more subtle...

...i got into speech and debate by being bribed. yes, bribed. my parents (mom, dad was cool with me just playing sports and trying to achieve a
somewhat normal socialization process) wanted me to try Speech, and when asked initially, i laughed openly. I was a small, shy kid that did not enjoy the spotlight in any way, shape or form (not that different now, just replace shy with hate-filled). My mother seemed to believe public speaking would be something i would thrive in (she saw something i missed, apparently), and was willing to pay to make me give it a try...and Ma Dukes always paid cash. She offered me $1000, as Randy Moss would say, "straight cash, baby" to get me to join the team for my freshman year. Because I, like most Americans, had a price, and $1000 clearly fell in that price range (it's 1984-85), i joined the team, doing a little acting (an event called Humorous Interpretation) and a little quick thinking and speaking (an event called Impromptu Speaking), and even though I was not really enjoying it when i started, i realized the only way to access the money was to do it and not quit. Somewhere in the year, i began to really like doing speech, and was doing pretty decently. by the end of the year, i had moved up the food chain, guaranteeing myself the ability to enjoy all the perks and benefits of the speech and debate team (amazingly enough, we do travel more extensively than any other high school program). and i did get my thousand dollars, spent as foolishly as a 13 year old kid could do so (legally).

...but my freshman year, the loyola/redlands swing was the one tournament i really wanted to attend. I had been attending local tournaments for a few months, being at the time forced to give my "green pastures" HI for numerous weekend, and was getting OK, having moved up from novice to varsity, and having done relatively well in varsity. The Loyola/Redlands trip was a driving trip to Los Angeles to compete at Loyola Marymount University, and the for the debaters to drive to Redlands, CA to attend the University of Redlands high school debate tournament, while the rest of the kids went home. We had a ton of kids that wanted to go, and so did I. I also felt i deserved to go, having moved up the ranks quickly because of my hard work and a healthy dose of old fashion arrogance. when the list of kids going to Los Angeles was posted in the debate room, i was stunned to not find my name on the list. I was broken. But more importantly, i was spiteful, and if i couldn't go to a decent tournament, if i wasn't good enough to go to a place where i was going to spend my own money to go, then i wasn't worth the van space, and fuck them, and fuck this activity. i don't need $1000 badly enough to do this (hell, i'm 13, i live at home with literally no overhead, why do i need the money anyway? why did i let myself be bough?). well, when i got home, and told my mom how i felt (i'm sure i didn't pull punches, one of the things she made absolutely sure of was that i spoke what i needed to speak, and to leave nothing unsaid, as you never know). she told me to just relax, and to not worry about it. so i went back to doing my homework (yes, there was a time where that happened consistently, and it was long ago, so chill out, folks). the next morning, when i go to school, i find out there is an additional list for kids to go to Los Angeles, and that there's only one name on the list, and it's mine. well, i'll admit i thought it was pretty cool, i felt deserving (i did speak of my arrogance earlier, did i not) and so i just went about my merry way. it wasn't until i showed up at school the day we departed, bags in hand, did i find out what everyone else must have known, because in the driver seat of the van sat my mother...

mom really enjoyed some Gladys Knight and the Pips, so i will be interjecting a little now...

...the thing i do for a living could not make me happier, and i feel like it's a place where the things i love and the things i'm good at seem to align. i have a degree in Chemistry, and i can't imagine doing anything i would enjoy (maybe if life takes a bad turn, i'll make breaking bad into a documentary) anywhere near as much as i do this. when i told my mom i wanted to coach, she said, matter of factly, "i knew you'd end up being a teacher. just wanted to make sure you stayed open to lots of ideas, and that's what debate got you. it allowed you to find your space."

and you allowed me to find mine...thanks...i love you.


  1. D-money...that's one of the most awesome things I've ever read - for real...just remember, it isn't only the family you're born with that you have, it's also the family you choose...and a lot of us have mad love for ya'

  2. Amazing post. Thanks for sharing the pictures and the memories. Nice to know you had the same smile back then.