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Posts Tagged ‘high school’

So, you may not believe this, but I know Wisconsin’s Secretary of State, Doug La Follette.  I could call him to have lunch, and he would probably say yes.  You see that thing on the floor?  Yup, that’s a name and I just dropped it.  You see, I love name dropping.  I get to name drop so rarely that any time I get to state a relationship with someone of importance, power, or influence, I jump at the chance.  Trust me, the old adage, “It’s not what you know, but who you know” is about as true as life gets.  And if you drop the right name at the right time, it is amazing what opportunities will open up for you that you never thought possible.

JJ, JT and some boob. Best Super Bowl Halftime EVER!

Depending on the venue will determine what names I am able to drop, and some names are more worthy of dropping than others.  I also never drop a name unless it makes sense to do so, and/or the situation requires it.  I don’t just walk into a room and say, “You know, Janet Jackson was at my high school graduation and heard me sing” – True story.  Now, if someone is telling a story about a famous person that was at their high school graduation, then I now have my ‘in’ to tell my Janet Jackson story.

So, today, when I was given the opportunity to drop a name, I was giddy as a school girl. About a week and half ago, my wife, Leah threw me a surprise birthday party.  Lots of people showed up, I was 95% surprised, and it was very cool.  And although I was not expecting any presents, I got a few.  One present was a gift card to one of my favorite restaurants, Tozinos.  Now it just so happens that the owners of this restaurant are my friends and are the ones that gave me the gift card.  They have several restaurant locations, and I drive close by one of them every weekend when I drop off and pick up my son from his mom.  Unfortunately, when I drive pass this restaurant it is either in the morning before it opens, or mid-afternoon and too early for dinner.  But, everytime I drive by when I am hungry, I almost always stop by to eat.  Today was one of those days.

I had just landed at Chicago O’Hare from Portland, Oregon.  I picked my son up from his mom’s house and was heading home.  I was starving.  I had my gift card in my car and was ready to get some pizza and broccoli salad, one of my favorite items from this restaurant’s buffet.  I handed the cashier my gift card and she attempted to swipe it.  It would not work.  She tried everything and the card would not register on her computer.  She finally told me “This is an invalid card.”  “Are you sure?”  I asked, thinking that this card is from the owner.  She finally said, “Sorry?”  And then she gave me a look as if to say, you got screwed, and said “Who gave you this card?”  “Perfect”, I thought.  I told her, “Who gave it to me?  Who gave it to me?  I will have you know that the very proprietor of this establishment bequeathed that card unto me.  The owners of this restaurant are personal friends of mine, and so you will show me some respect.  I will have you fired unless this matter isn’t resolved post-haste.”  I don’t know if I used those exact words, but it was something along those lines.  The cool thing about this situation was that the woman was clearly nervous, which I thought was awesome.

The woman talked to her supervisor, and then called the corporate office and left a message on my friend’s voicemail.  At this point, I’m thinking, I may have overplayed my “I know the owner” card.  Because at the end of the day, it really wasn’t a big deal.  I texted my friend, and he said that he would get the card fixed, but in the mean time, he gave me something far better than a gift card to a restaurant, he gave me a story.  And I love stories.  It is the gift that keeps on giving.  My son and I finished our meal.  Upon leaving, the cashier wanted to reassure me that she did everything possible to resolve the matter.  I told that she would get to keep her job, for now.  She kissed my ring and then we left.  All in all, the dining experience could not have gone any better.  Hmmm, who knows, maybe I will make a visit to the state capitol.

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My sister used to own a restaurant.  It is a good thing that I never lived anywhere near it.  Even when I visited the restaurant I didn’t expect to pay.  My thought was always, “Don’t you know who I am?  I’m your boss’ brother.  I’m your boss uncle.  I’m your buncle.  So fry me up some shrimp, or I’ll fire your behind!  I’m just sayin …

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So, if you want to piss me off, tell me what I can’t do.   I may not even want to do it, but if you tell me that I can’t, I will have no choice but to not only do it, but do it well.  This characteristic is both a blessing and a curse. 

I not only think I can, but I know I can.

On one hand, it has inspired me to excel in a number of things, especially academics.  For example, although I did not grow up in the civil rights era, I still had to contend with teachers that automatically assumed that I could not possibly be as smart as my white or Asian counterparts.

In middle school, we had a special day with our teachers to discuss future classes in high school.   I had a teacher tell me that I shouldn’t take AP (advanced placement) classes because it would be too difficult for me.  I took AP history and calculus in high school, and did well in both.  As a matter of fact, I was given a C in AP history, despite the fact that according to my records I should have had an A.  I talked to the teacher about it, showed him my records, showed him his grade policy and made it clear to him that my grade should not be a C, but an A.  The teacher changed the grade.  After he changed the grade, it pissed me off.  How could a teacher make an error in judgment that allows him to change a grade from a C to an A?  I have been a teacher now for approximately 15 years, and I have NEVER made an error that big.  As you can tell, this event that happened to me almost 25 years ago still bothers me.  It was clear that I was treated differently than my other classmates.  Another example occurred in high school, when for one semester, I was demoted to remedial English.  Granted, English was not my strongest subject, but remedial?  Even the teacher of the remedial English class did not understand why I was enrolled in her class.

I could easily turn this blog into a social commentary on how racism is alive and well and has held many students back simply based on the color of their skin.  I graduated from high school with a 3.9, I am in my high school’s hall of fame for track & field, and I graduated from UC Berkeley, and I still have multiple stories of people telling me that I was not smart enough to do things.  What about the black students that were B students, or C students, or even D students?  If as an A student I still faced obstacles, I can’t imagine what other students faced.  But this is not a blog about race, or not just about race, but about the obsession people have with what can’t be done.

Don’t tell me what I can’t do.  I can do anything, and just because you have chosen to limit yourself, don’t dare put that small thinking on me.  But, why are so many people concerned with other people’s opinions on what they can and can’t do?  And why am I not?  The easiest answer would be my parents, as I believe strongly that they instilled in me my “don’t give up” and the “don’t you dare tell me what to do” attitude.  But I want to go a little bit deeper.  In many ways it reminds me of ‘cultural legacy’ as described by Malcolm Gladwell in his book ‘Outliers: The Story of Success’.  I actually blogged about this book in My First Book Review.  In other words, do I have this attitude because of my culture?

In his book, ‘Outliers’ Gladwell describes a famous psychological experiment by Nisbett and Cohen.  They monitored reactions of people to being insulted.  Students were asked to answer a number of questions and then walk down a long, narrow hallway where unbeknownst to them, another person who was also part of the experiment would whisper the word “asshole” as they walked passed.  The researchers found that it did not matter if you were black, or white, rich or poor, a nerd or a jock, you responded to the insult the same, except for one surprising variable.  If you were from the South, regardless of your background, you reacted strongly to the comment, but students from the North actively calmed themselves when they heard the comment.  The author suggested that the “Culture of Honor” was passed down through generations of Southerners irrespective of almost any other environmental or genetic factor.

I think about the history of African-Americans in this country and wonder if I am the recipient of a “Culture of Rebellion”.  I think about the long list adversities that black people have suffered in this country, but yet have been inspired to create music, poetry, innovation, and various forms of success in spite of the obstacles placed in the way.  Although I would never compare my obstacles to slavery, lynch mobs, nor laws of discrimination, but the fact remains, I have a strong visceral response to people trying to prevent me from doing things.  Can culture be inherited?  If you have a cultural history in which the ‘sky was the limit’ or your ancestors had many options, maybe limitations would not be such a bad thing.  But if your ancestors were oppressed and limited by the dominant culture, self-imposed limitations would be counter-intuitive and very maladaptive to an oppressive environment.  As a matter of fact, under oppressive conditions, a spirit of rebellion would be necessary for upward mobility.  Quite frankly, if you examine history, some of the greatest innovations and social movements have come out of great adversity.   Maybe it is from my parents, maybe it is genetic, or maybe I have inherited a “Culture of Rebellion”, but I am glad I have it and I hope my kids will have it too, because no one should limit their potential by telling them what they can and cannot do.

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A couple of months ago Taco Bell was sued.  The lawsuit claimed that Taco Bell was wrong for calling their beef burritos, well, beef burritos because the burritos only contained 35% beef.  Taco Bell responded to the lawsuit by stating that their beef burritos contained 88% beef.  Soon after the news of the lawsuit became public and Taco Bell’s response, Taco Bell put their burritos on sale for 88 cents.  Don’t think this new price was lost on me, what about you?  Nonetheless, I have accepted the fact that their burritos are 88% beef.  It also makes me better appreciate McDonald’s for stating that their burgers are 100% beef.  Especially since I used to think that this was as stupid advertisement.  I often thought why would they tell me that their burgers were 100% beef? 

Remember this commercial?

What else would it be?  Turns out there are other options.  But here is my problem:  I actually don’t mind that Taco Bell beef burritos are not 100% beef.  But why won’t Taco Bell tell us what is in the remaining 12%? I haven’t eaten there since.  I’m just sayin …

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