Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Hair... and what drives me to succeed

My day started off interesting, as I watched a woman almost hit my car. I was at a gas station and I was walking back to my car. The woman was turning into the spot beside mine. As she was going for it, she stopped dangerously close to my car and corrected herself before she hit it. That was a tense couple seconds.

In other news, we think I have ringworm. There are no actual worms involved; it's just a gross-sounding name. It's kind of like athlete's foot, but on a patch of your skin. I'm applying a topical cream and it should clear up.

My hair is the longest it's been in a couple years. I really haven't had a particular hair style. Like The White Stripes said, "I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself." I realized the other day that I've basically just been growing my hair out and periodically cutting it for the last decade.

I got my hair cut in February 2003, when I was in the eleventh grade. I started growing it out my senior year of high school and didn't get it cut until right before college, in the summer of 2004. I didn't get a haircut my freshman year of college. I got two my sophomore year. From the spring of 2006 of my sophomore year until the summer of 2009 I only had an occasional hair trim.

If you're friends with me on Facebook, I have an album that is nothing but photos of my hair over the years. In early 2009 I was looking through my old facebook and noticed that you could pretty much see my hair growing in the pictures of me I had posted over the years. I decided to put some of the better ones in one album so you could see the progression from photo to photo. Then I cut my hair and the album was still there, so I occasionally post a random picture of my hair there to this day.

Click here to see a blog that includes a video of me walking into my mom's house unannounced after getting 3 years worth of hair cut off. Her reaction is pretty funny.

I sort of have a reason for getting my hair cut. It's the only reason I've gotten my hair cut over the last almost two years. Whenever I have another reason, I'll get it cut.

It was getting too long to just do nothing with. I tried to part it one day, but I was told by a reliable source - a gay guy I work with who wants to be a hairdresser - that the parted look wasn't working for me. So, I bought some gel and experimented with slicking it back. It seems to be a popular style for me. Aside from a few "Dapper Dan" jokes, people seem to like it.

Somewhat related to my hair (not really), I have been talking to people at Concord University and making arrangements to become a student again. I've wasted enough time, I might as well go do it. I'm only 20 hours away from graduating. I look at 2012 as the year that I slept through. What did I accomplish last year? Aside from working and not being a piece of shit, not much.

And I've learned that while a degree really is just a piece of paper, you need that piece of paper for people to respect you. I read a NY Times article recently that looked at how a college degree is basically the new high school diploma. You need it before you can advance anywhere in life. And I'd like to start advancing in life.

People usually make a set of career goals in life, things they want to accomplish. I have been making mine as I go, not really harping on them too much. I officially have two goals in life that I want to accomplish. They're both related.

On two occasions recently, I feel like I have been disrespected for the simple fact that I don't have a college degree. The only thing I want to do in life right now is accomplish so much that those people feel bad for what they did to me. I want those people to say, "Ya know, maybe I should have given him the courtesy of replying to his email."

I don't know if what I'm doing is bitterness. Anger? Jealousy? I don't think it's any of those things. I have a drive to succeed. I just don't have a drive to go to class and turn in homework. I need to start doing that so I can make other people feel as low as they made me feel.

It's probably not healthy, but it's what drives me.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Keep it on the Up High

Let's go back to a simpler time. Or something along those lines. The following story takes place in the Spring of 2003. I'm 16-years-old and probably very awkward.

During the eleventh grade, my mom and I briefly moved from Princeton back to Ripley, where we were originally from. We were staying with my grandpa. She occasionally made a few short-term trips back to Princeton during that time. So, for the most part it was just me and my grandpa, and his brother, my great-uncle, living there.

My grandpa had a cavernous, two-story house filled full of old, odd collectibles. So, I would often fill my free time by looking around at all of the stuff. It was during one of these scavenges that I stumbled across something that took me by complete surprise. Buried in a dresser drawer upstairs at my grandpa's house were five VHS tapes of pornography.

This was before the Internet pornographic industry was what it is today. This was still back in the days when you had to actually try to find porn. You know, now it's like, "Oh, there's some ancient tapes. Give me 3 seconds and I can pull something up on my phone." No, this was an amazing discovery, especially for a 16-year-old kid like me.

I remember opening the drawer and making the discovery. I couldn't move for a couple seconds. Even though I knew I was alone, I still cautiously looked around before slowly reaching my hand out and examining the tapes. Even with the VHS in my hand, I still wasn't sure what to do with it. I looked toward the VCR. I looked back down at the VHS, with its cheesy pornographic title. I walked over to the VCR and popped it in.

Without going into a lot of detail, let's just say that I had found a new hobby.

So, one evening several weeks later, I'm upstairs on the couch taking in a movie, when I hear a car pull up outside. Usually, only old people come over to see my grandpa. But, just in case I was needed downstairs, I turned the TV off and wandered over to the window to see who was there.

It’s my aunt, Mary. It's also my 11-year-old cousin, Jackie. I hear her running up the stairs. I'm running over to the television. It's turned off, but the VCR is still on. If you turn the TV on, I'm busted.

I'm standing in between her and the television. "Hey, what's up?" I meekly mutter. "Not much," she replies. "Let's watch TV." I suggest we go downstairs. As I'm tugging her arm down the steps she blurts out, "Why is the VCR on?" I ignore her.

All she wants to do is go back upstairs and I don't even know what to do. I'm trying to figure out every possible excuse to do something else or go somewhere else. Finally, she throws it out there - "Are you watching those videos in the drawer?"

I look at her for a second, not knowing how to respond. "Ummmm... Yeah, I just found them and thought I'd look at one." Luckily Jackie was still very innocent at this time. "I found those a while back and watched one. They're gross." I respond, "Yeah, I know."

"Sooooo… You're not going to tell anybody about this, right?" She says she won't. I ask her to keep this on the down low. She responds, "No, I'll keep it on the up high."

And that's how that inside joke started between the two of us. There were a few more times over the years where something would come up and we would say something about keeping it on the "up high." We'd give each other a smile or giggle and people would probably think we were dumb.

February 25, 2013 is the five-year anniversary of her death. Jackie died in a car accident. She was 16. I thought about ways to memorialize her. I wrote a few blogs about her back in the day. I thought about what else I could do.

The evening of May 8, 2008 I was sitting at my mom's house. I was alone. I had an idea in my head for a couple days. I was looking at myself in the mirror and imagining what this would look like on me. I decided to go for it. I walked down the street to the tattoo parlor and got Jackie memorialized on my chest.

The only thing that really sticks out about getting the tattoo was that the guy who did it was training an apprentice. He had the new guy shave a patch of hair on my chest. I joked and said that if he needed more practice he could do the rest. The tattoo artist asked if it was okay for the apprentice to put the stencil on me. I didn't have a problem with that, so I let him.

While he was tattooing me, he kept instructing the other guy, giving him pointers and things. He didn't say much to me. At one point, he asked if I smoked. The way he said "smoked," I think he was talking about marijuana. I said no and he awkwardly said, "Oh, okay."

Getting the tattoo was relaxing. It probably took about half an hour. It was only uncomfortable for a couple moments when he started tattooing near my armpit. When he finished he told me to take a couple days and if any spots needed touched up to come back and he'd fix it for free. He looked at the apprentice and said, "I tell them that so even if they're upset about something, they won't be as mad since I told them they can come back."

I walked home and checked myself out in the mirror. I remember calling my mom while I was standing in the bathroom and telling her about it. She got choked up and almost started crying. Then I went to the living room where my computer was and took a couple pictures on the webcam and posted them to MySpace. One of them is below.

That's the only one of my tattoos that really has a story behind it. I just thought the other ones would be cool. "Really? You thought a smiley face on the inside of your forearm would be cool?" Leave me alone.

Shake Me Down



One of my favorite bands right now. I like the message in this song.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Concord University Student Government meeting [02-13-13]

I guess the most prominent question is "Why?" Why do you keep going? You're not enrolled in classes. You're older than everybody. It's weird. Steven Davis used to make fun of you and say you'd be that 30-year-old guy still going to SGA meetings.

All that might be true. Except for that last sentence. So far I'm just the 26-year-old guy who goes to meetings. I'm a semester or two away from graduating, as soon as I make the decision to go back. The current plan is to go back in the fall. What the Student Government Association does right now will impact the fall semester, of which I hope to be a student. I've said it so much that I don't even know if people believe me - the SGA is the most important student organization at Concord University. There is so much potential for them to get things accomplished. What they accomplish is up to the student leaders presently in charge and the future ones learning underneath them.

I hung out after the meeting and had a nice conversation with Josh Hanna, the SGA President. I don't think I'd ever talked to him before. He seems like a nice guy. Insert Tommy Boy quote: "And all you can say is, 'hmmmmm, he seems like a nice guy.'"

Anyway, here's what happened at the SGA meeting. I took a picture before it started and tweeted it. Click here to see it. Josh is the guy in the middle, wearing the snazzy green sweater. Pretty lady sitting to his right is the Vice President, Chelsea Rowe. Portly guy in the back row wearing the gray jacket is the Technology committee chair. I don't know his name. He doesn't seem important. I just thought it would be funny to call him portly.

When I first got to the meeting, I thought to myself, "I hope there was a Board of Governors meeting on Tuesday." I'm a nerd, I know. So, I was very excited when the meeting kicked off with BOG student representative Adam Pauley giving a recap of Tuesday's 4 1/2 hour BOG meeting.

Adam said that the BOG talked about a gender equity plan for Concord athletics, pertaining to coaches and other positions.

I don't know all of the details, so forgive me if I get something wrong here. But he also spoke of a plan to broaden repair projects at North and South Towers from the original 3 million dollar price tag up to 12.5 million. Not sure when those projects will begin, or if they're still in the preliminary stages.

Pauley announced that Concord will be receiving an interest-free $5000 loan from the HEPC for various building repairs, giving the new roof on the science building as an example. The loan will be paid back over a period of five years.

Faculty Senate student representative Greg Stamp gave his report next. On a sidenote: Greg is one of the few students I remember from "back in my day" of reporting on SGA meetings. He brought up that the Faculty Senate brought up a potential new pay plan, which Greg said would be of a more equal scale. I don't know if this was a coincidence or not, but right after he said that, I noticed that SGA Faculty Advisor Dr. Charles Brichford whispered something to Vice President of Student Affairs Marjie Flanigan. They both quietly laughed.

In President Hanna's report, he noted that there was a banquet on the 25th and that three students were being honored. I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he said what the banquet was for and that I just didn't notice. The three students being honored were Adam Pauley, Jenn-Uhhh-Veev Hatcher, and Montana [something]. If anybody knows Montana's last name or how to spell Jenn-Uhhh-Veev's name, fill me in.

SGA Secretary Sam Dobson, giving the Higher Education committee's report, brought up a resolution for a petition to make sure that higher education is exempt from budget cuts. He noted that Marshall University made a similar petition. I'm not going to say anything about that until they figure out what they're doing. Apparently the resolution was written entirely wrong and Dr. Brichford stated in much nicer words, "If you don't know what the fuck you're doing, come ask me for help." But, that's essentially what he said.

The Publicity committee noted that they finally figured out the password to the SGA twitter and facebook accounts. They're going to put an ad in The Concordian so people will know to follow them. Regarding the SGA's attempts at social media over the years, imagine me giving a deep sigh and shaking my head. Read this blog I wrote in 2010 about SGA transparency. It still applies in 2013 - http://chrisslater.blogspot.com/2010/11/sga-transparency.html

Three budgets were passed.

Tau Kappa Epsilon received $1500 to attend a regional leadership conference.

The Roth 5K Walk/Run received $1441 for shirts and trophies and other similar materials.

Relay 4 Life received a $500 allocation. Technically, this was referred to as a donation. I don't know if they looked into this or not, but in 2010, there were issues with the SGA trying to donate money and found out that legally you cannot donate state funds. Maybe it's different because it's from one campus group to another. Because it's officially listed as a budgetary allocation, maybe that's the loophole to get around it. Relay 4 Life raises awareness for cancer research, for those who don't know. Walking is involved. Click here and read #5 on my list for more information about the SGA's 2010 donation issues.

That looks like everything from the meeting. If I missed anything or got anything wrong, let me know. If I have some more Wednesday afternoons free, I'll try to pop into a meeting here and there. Hopefully they'll get their facebook & twitter up and start telling me what's going on.

Here's my disclaimer:

I import these blogs into Facebook. That gives me the option to "tag" people, sending them an e-mail notification. I tag people for two reasons - 1) if I mention you by name & 2) if I think you will find this interesting. If you are tagged and don't want to be, let me know. If I don't tag you & you'd like to be tagged in the future, let me know.

There is a comment feature on this blog & I don't mind if you use it. It's cool to disagree, as long as it's kept civil. Anonymous comments are allowed, as long as it's relevant & mildly profanity free.

Friday, February 8, 2013

One Year Later: Walter Blankenship

One year ago. It has been one year since Walter Blankenship died. It seems incredible that a year has passed. A year has passed since one of the most vibrant and colorful personalities I’ve ever met died. Crazy.

February 4, 2012, I was laying on my bed/fouton, getting ready for my evening. Candace was in town visiting from Morgantown. We were going out for dinner. She was in the bathroom getting ready. I was killing time, goofing off on my phone. I received a text message from my friend, Harry. I didn't know him before he started working at Pizza Hut and I had only briefly seen him once after I quit working there. But, in those few months we worked together we got along really nicely and became good friends.

The text said, "Hey man did you hear about Walt?" I hadn't spoken to Walt since the previous November, and had only recently thought about him when I noticed that he had started tweeting again. I said no. He told me that Walt had died.

I didn't know what to think. I just stared at my phone screen for a second, not knowing what to do. I thanked Harry for telling me and asked if he knew anything else. He told me he didn't. Candace came out of the bathroom and I told her. While she didn't live in the area, she knew all of my coworkers and would hang out there while I was working. She didn't like Walt at first, but after she realized he wasn't as chauvinistic as he seemed, she warmed up to him.

I got on Facebook and tried to see if anybody was talking about Walt's death. I found a couple of my friends who had posted simple "RIP" messages, but nothing substantial aside from confirming what I had just heard. I was staring at my phone again trying to figure out who would know and who wouldn't. I knew Walt's inner circle would all know at that point, but I thought of a few Pizza Hut names who knew Walt but likely hadn't been informed. I texted them and filled them in on Walt.

In the next couple days, I kept my eyes posted to Facebook, trying to find out more information. I was trying to find a central place to get updates, but I wasn't finding much. Then I started to notice that one general spot where people were grieving Walt was on the Facebook wall of his on-again, off-again girlfriend, Kristian.

I've known Kristian for a couple years now. I've never had a problem with her. I've always enjoyed being around her. But, I know some of Walt's friends didn't like her. I don't really know any of the details behind any of that, but whatever. I could see some issues with some of Walt's friends not wanting to go there for updates and to post grievance messages.

I wanted to post some thoughts about Walt. I also had that video on my phone that I wanted to upload. I knew my blog could be seen as a more neutral place for his friends to go to. I posted the blog, simply titled Walter Blankenship. I posted the link to Facebook and tagged an assortment of people who I thought would be interested in it. With the exception of a wrestling blog that shows up prominently in search engines and a Concord blog that gets a lot of spam comments/views, my blog about Walter is the most popular I have ever written.

I was blown away by the reception. You can see the comments that people have left on the blog itself and also on the Facebook link to it, but there was so much more. I had people I hadn't talked to in months texting me to tell me that they appreciated that blog. A few members of Walt's family had sent friend requests and started talking to me. Four or five months after his death, I was at a bar and was introduced by a mutual friend to a guy I hadn't met. He studied me for a second before saying, "I don't wanna bring the mood down, but didn't you write that blog about Walt?"

A couple Walt stories…

If you frequent the blog here, you'll notice that I occasionally post a random music video, with little or no explanation. It's not quite as random as it seems. Every entry that looks like that has some sort of meaning to me. Either the lyrics have some sort of bearing to some situation in my life, or the song reminds me of a time in my life I want to remember. Usually, a post like that means that I want to say something but didn't know what to say. People who read my blog get to listen to a nice song. I get to listen to a nice song and also commemorate a time in my life that I don't want to forget.

Here’s a story behind one of those songs.

Sometime in early March, I saw a couple mutual friends for the first time since Walt's death. While that wasn't why we got together, the conversation eventually turned to Walt. We were sitting around drinking, shooting the shit. We were listening to music, set on shuffle. Queens of the Stone Age came on with their song, "Tangled Up in Plaid." I was bobbing my head along, listening. One of friends noted, "Walt loved this song." The other friend added, "Yeah, sometimes when he would get fucked up on drugs again he would sing the first line, 'I slipped. Didn't mean, didn't mean to do it that way.'"

The next day I posted a video of that song in my blog. The actual video that I posted is no longer up, so it just looks like a blank entry. But, here's a fresh link to the song - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yAs-UPKm3FE 

That takes us to kind of a related story…

I've written in the past briefly about my flirtation with snorting pills. It was something that I tried a little bit and didn't like it. It either made me extremely tired or made me puke. I don't like either of those feelings. It's a month of my life that I'd like to take back and do over again. There were, however, two occasions where the drugs had their intended effect - I felt that incredible sense of euphoria, that "I should do this more; where have you been all my life" feeling.

I had gotten off work and did it out in the parking lot. I felt amazing, on top of the world. I didn't do it with Walt, but he was there working. He told me to hang out with him. I sat in his car and rode around with him while he was delivering pizzas. I guess, in a weird way, he was trying to look out for me. As I sat there, he kept asking me how I felt, he kept telling me to relax and not worry about anything.

At one point, Walt looked at me and said, "Chris?" I looked over at him. He continued, "Don't become a junkie like us." I nodded my head. He looked away and so did I.

It took a lot for Walt to admit that he had a problem. It took a lot more for him to tell me to not wind up like him. And I didn't. I think he would like that.

I don't think about Walt every day. But when I do, I miss him. He was only in my life for a short period, but I'll never forget him. He was a good friend and I have a lot of happy memories associated with him.

I guess if there's one thing I want people to get out of this is that people who do drugs aren't bad people, they just have a bad problem. They either stop or they die. Walt died. Hopefully, if you're in that same situation you'll assess things and get out of that situation.