Last Saturday we went to the Minneapolis Dragon Boat Festival. I know they have these events in cities all over the country. When we were back in Denver during our transition round, someone was trying to get us to volunteer at a similar event in Denver. Basically it’s an Asian heritage festival. The big draw is they have dragon boats, large 10-12 person canoe like structures that race up and down the riverside. I spent most of my time watching different martial arts demonstrations. It was fascinating. The rest of my team got up and walked away. It took me almost an hour to realize that they had left. I learned a lot about mixed martial arts fighting, like how to get out of a headlock (something that I was asked a couple days before and didn’t remember from my wrestling training) and I also learned all about the art of Tae Chi. It originally developed as a deadly martial art those teachings were highly guarded within a noble family. The slow dance like Tae Chi that I am more familiar with, developed at a time when much of the Chinese populate was sick and old. The form was revised and taught to the people in an attempt to strengthen the nation.
When the demonstrations were over, I walked around a bit until I was drawn to this booth filled with people wearing bright green t-shirts that read “Who’s Cliff.” A couple of my friends were there, trying to make sense of all of this. I had trouble following the lady in the booth’s story. Something about Cliff being the president of some company and one of the paddlers on a dragon boats, except he doesn’t like to paddle. I don’t know. None of this really made any sense. The lady then asked me if I wanted to participate in this contest to get people to come to their booth. Before I knew what this actually entailed, I was given a bunch of pieces of paper and one of the green t-shirts that had attracted me to the booth in the first place. All I wanted all along was one of the t-shirts. I didn’t care about Cliff or his contests. Then something happened at that very moment, something that changed my mind. It suddenly became as clear that it wmy destiny to win Cliff’s contest. This was like the fifth festival we had been to in Minneapolis. At every one of them, I filled out every ridiculous sweepstakes slip that I saw, in the hopes that before this summer was over I’d win something. Well, after every festival, my phone never rang and all I had to show was disappointment. This just ate away at me. Why wasn’t my name picked? What did I do wrong? Why did some other sap have to win? Why not me? Now, it was my turn. I was presented with this opportunity for a reason. Just like in The Goonies. I wasn’t gonna blow it. I was gonna win this fucking contest and claim my prize, a $50 gift certificate to the Home Depot. Do you know how much PVC pipe $50 buys? I did. A lot, and it was all mine.
All I had to do was write my name on these pieces of paper they gave to me, hand them out and get various people to bring them back to the booth. Simple enough. These people aren’t stupid. They don’t care about Cliff. But they are probably bored and want free t-shirts. So I handed out these papers to random people at the park, each time making up something involving Cliff and free t-shirts. It seemed to be work. I got more papers. I was told I was doing awesome, but I couldn’t emphasize the t-shirts because they were beginning to run out. That wasn’t a problem. I just added some fine-tuning to my newly created shbeel. Approach random person, and “Excuse me do you know who Cliff is? You don’t, wow, well do you wanna find out and posssssssibly (see I added the word possibly, hehe) get a free T-SHIRT! Yes! Well take this slip to the booth over there and when you get there ask them who Cliff is, ok, great!” It worked. I did this for an hour or so before my friends were ready to go home. I didn’t want to leave until the lady from the booth approached me and told me that I had easily gotten the most people to the booth and she was confident that I was gonna win the contest. She said that I was quite the salesman and asked if I was interested at working at American Home Mortgage. I took her card and a couple more papers to hand out on the way back to the car. Last Tuesday, my phone rang. I got the call I was waiting for. I had won. I did it. At last victory was mine.
This was just the first of many pleasant surprises. I also found out that I was going to be participating at the KaBoom build on Thursday. KaBoom is an organization that builds playgrounds for kids in a single day. They raise the money, organize sponsors and get a hundred or so people to volunteer their time. It is amazing to watch and even more amazing to participate in. Our Americorps team was there to help run activities for the kids. They had various arts and crafts and other activities for the kids to do while the playground is being built. Home Depot, which was sponsoring the event, donated a bunch of wood working crafts that we helped the kids build. During the day I even found time to help out with some of the playground construction. I assembled a tunnel and a tic-tac-toe board, which always seem to be present on playgrounds these days. To my utter amazement, these parts were completely assembled using little more then a couple pre packaged bags of screws and washers. Not a single tool. I know it hasn’t been all that long since I was a young lad stomping around on a playground myself, but I am quite certain that playground technology has greatly changed since I was a kid. I remember playgrounds as these massive wooden structures, resembling boats that managed to become beached on an island of gravel. These new play grounds are constructed with brightly colored plastics and metals and look more like lego sets. They don’t seem nearly as massive or fit for adventure. I miss the old playgrounds, like my old elementary school playground that both looked and felt natural.
The build was a lot of fun, although I couldn’t help but think that this is an easy and trivial service to provide, when the residents who watch out their windows, are in need of much more then a playground. A large number of the people living at this site are refugees and immigrants. Similar to the families I meet at my facility; they struggle everyday to find jobs and employers that will accept them. They encounter racism and numerous hardships to provide their families with many things that we would consider necessities, like food, clothing, transportation, and healthcare. While we try to entertain their children with various activities donated by the Home Depot, the mothers are busy stealing the white undershirts we intended to use for tie dying. I think to myself, what I suppose to do, tell them to stop. Playgrounds are good, but the people who are here are going to go home at the end of the day. A playground will be built, but the other needs will remain.
As the build came to an end I got another call. No, I hadn’t won another contest. This news was even better. It was a call from my team leader Jess informing me that I had to call Alyana from Americorps immediately. My latest article “No PRIDE” that I wrote for The Altitude, the Americorps newsletter, had turned some heads and prompted a meeting at campus. It turns out that not only will my article be published in the newsletter, but after reading it, the campus director changed the guidelines relating to ISP approval. This is all I know thus far. What this new change will do, I don’t know for certain. Hopefully, it will make ISP more inclusive of gay and lesbian related events. I promise to inform you of what changes have been made after I find out.
I think I’ll conclude this entry with a little bit of what I did this weekend. Friday night we went to a free concert downtown to listen to Howie Day. This was fun. There were a lot of people, almost to many and it was similar to all the other street fairs we’ve been to, like The Taste of Minnesota event on the July 4th. That event centered around free music (at that event we saw Boyz 2 Men and Smokey Robinson) and crappy carnival food too. You would think that at an event called “A Taste Of Minnesota” the food would either be A: Tasty or B: representative of the cultures and ethnicities of the people living in Minnesota. The food at this thing also sucked big time. Those bastards try using ticket prices instead of dollars to cover up how much it costs to buy some cheese curds. Those fools. I can do the conversion. Whatever. We left and got burritos the size of small babies at low and behold the best place ever, Pancheros.
Today was no small feet of its own. Get this, we went to The World Log Rolling Championships. Log Rolling! It’s great. Two people stand on a log and spin until one falls off. If that’s not enough, they sometimes spit and kick water at each other in an attempt to dislodge their opponent from the log. They even had a pool where we got to try it ourselves. My friend Nate and I went first. We collectively didn’t last more then three seconds, but I was the clear winner. Afterwards, I beat Jeffrey, also from my team, who beat Nate, so I declared myself log-rolling team champion. The event also had a bunch of renaissance fair slash lumberjack slash tradesmen slash reinactors. There was a blacksmith, a violinist, a marksman, a fur trader, a guy that made really cool clay pipes and a flint knapper. Flint knapping is the art of making primitive tools or arrowheads out of stones or things like obsidian. I know it more as a Neanderthal trade then a lumberjack craft. The guy, Blueberry was his name, was really nice and I spent over an hour with him trying to knapp an arrowhead out of a piece of stone. It’s freaking tough, a lot harder then it looks on those anthropology videos in college. I have a newfound respect for Homo Habolis and all subsequent cavemen and women. Good times. Thanks for reading.