Sunday, December 10, 2006

South Dakota Bars

This weekend we had a TFA professional development session in Rapid City. I was hoping to get out to Rapid on Friday night so that I could get a little extra taste of the big city and sleep a bit later on Friday morning before the session began. But alas, with my nose to the grindstone all week, I wasn't really in contact with anyone, and when I started to call folks up after school on Friday, I couldn't find anyone who planned on spending the night. So instead I joined my friends from He Dog at the R Bar in Vetal--a town which, as far as I can tell, consists of only this bar. The R Bar was hosting a "fun night," as the flyer advertised in, in which teams of three competed in indoor mini-golf, pool, and darts. I didn't arrive until competition was underway, so I spectated while the He-Doggers' golf ball wobbled its way back and forth across the very uneven hardwood bar floor; I especially enjoyed watching a team of cowboys in ten-gallon hats as they puttered their way through the mini-golf. This place was about as unpretentious as a bar can get, and the bartender had a few tricks up her sleeve which I will have to wait to reveal until a future date. We're hoping to bring back a larger crew for an All-TFA Tourney at the R Bar.

After a day of professional development and errands (I got a flashy new cell phone, which still fails to provide me quality service), we were supposed to all meet up for dinner at Chili's, followed by the unofficial TFA Rapid City Pub Crawl. As Jess and I were jumping in the car to head to dinner, we both decided we had little interest in Chili's a much greater interest in sushi. I've had sushi before, but never at a sushi bar. I don't know if Rapid City was the best place to start that experience, but it was good. Then it was on to tour Rapid City's bars.

The pub crawl begins at the Firehouse, South Dakota's first brew pub. Here I am enjoying a "Brown-Eyed Girl" while watching some good ol' rodeo on the television.

A few bars later, we ended up at Murphy's Sports Bar. As we were dancing on the dance floor, the MC started saying something about "who wants to be our guest DJ?" I kind of ignore this at first, but when he started calling for 5 volunteers, I led the charge out, dragging Wes and Dan into it to fill out the numbers. After two other random volunteers joined in, they held a "cheer-off" to decide who would be the guest DJ for fifteen minutes ("based purely on looks"). There was absolutely no noticeable difference in the volume of the cheers, but the MC seemingly randomly cut it down to me and a big fellow in a baseball cap. And then, again entirely randomly, I was crowned victor, and so found myself behind the laptop and in control of the dance floor. As many of you know, this is a position I relish.

Here I am winning the looks contest, which is ridiculous.

The DJ gives me the lowdown on how things operate: you click the "play" button on the laptop. Hhe wouldn't let me mess around with any of the fancier toys too much (no crossfades!), although here he is pointing out where the button for the smoke machine was.

Some teachers enjoying my music selection. If this teaching doesn't work out, I think I have a future rocking the dance clubs of South Dakota. Although I have to admit, mostly it was just my friends dancing. I guess South Dakota doesn't appreciate "My Love" as much as it should. And my fifteen minutes dried up just before I was going to play "Since U Been Gone." (I don't know if my music selection was what people were anticipating when they cheered for the guy in cowboy boots.)

Friday, December 01, 2006


Last weekend was the long weekend that got most of us through the fall, a nice four day break from teaching. Thanksgiving is also my favorite holiday. I certainly like being thankful; and I also like eating lots of food and sitting in front of the TV and hanging out with family. Unfortunately that wasn't really a choice this year, with plane flights costing upwards of $500 and not much time for travel. Instead, at the very generous invitation of Juliet, I joined a crew of homeless TFA-ers in Omaha.

This was my first trek to a city larger than Rapid since my arrival. Since I live in a time zone west of the rest of the Omaha crew, I had to drive myself and meet them there (although I passed them--twice--en route). The drive at first was standard West: open road, open planes, few cars. But by the time I hit central Nebraska I felt cramped and boxed in by all the cars on the road, and the 1,000 strong towns every ten or fifteen miles. You know things have changed in your life when you are overwhelmed by central Nebraska. Hitting the outskits of Omaha, though, felt like coming home: the lights, the cars, the unending pavement. Never before has four miles of strip malls felt so glorious.

The weekend was for the most part uneventful. We dined with a large group of family friends, and mostly took comfort in our ability to sleep late and easily access suburban amenities like Hollywood Videos and Indian restuarants. I managed to convince everyone that Thanksgiving was a great night at the bars, so we scoped out Omaha's hip downtown, Old Market.

I was a bit trigger happy with the camera, being back in the big city. This is a rather blurry rendition of the Christmas lights, just previously turned on, in Old Market.

He-Dog Elementary staff meeting at Billy Frogg's.

Dave is a master dart player. In the bottom picture he is celebrating his stats.

On Saturday, on the recommendation of various parties, we headed to the Omaha zoo. Not the least of these parties was Mara, Juliet's four-year-old cousin and our zoo companion.

Mara and Juliet at the zoo.

Omaha has the world's largest indoor rainforest.

I have an irrational fear of parrots. I think maybe my uncle's pet parrots scarred me as a child.

Omaha also has a giant desert dome. Here are some cute little deer like critters that live inside the dome.

Goats at the petting zoo.
We took pictures with the goats. Everyone else's picture came out good enough to use as their facebook photos. Then this is mine. How is that fair?

I went in anyway.
A Very TFA Christmas

It’s been quite a while, which I guess means that I’ve gotten accustomed enough to my life here that most weekends no longer seem notable; plus, at least until Thanksgiving, for the past few weekends I've just been re-treading old territory. Three weekends ago, over the three-day Veteran's Day weekend, I was supposed to go to Denver, which certainly would have been worthy of writing about, but a combination of snow, sick travellers, and weakened resolve beat that plans, and I ended up shuttling back and forth between Mission and Rapid City.

Two weeks ago I headed to Pierre; those of us who did not head to Vegas for a TFA conference had a TFA professional development session and Fall Social on Saturday, but a few of us headed into town Friday night to take in the night life. As far as we could tell, there was only one bar in town, which is why I was surprised that it was rather empty, mostly an older crowd, some country music, and a surly bartender. There was a downstairs that I suggested we check out, but we idled away a couple hours before finally going down. Here, it seemed, was every young person in Pierre, getting down to Snoop Dogg and 50 Cent. So we stuck it out for a while longer. That's almost as good as Vegas, right?

The first event the next morning was the decoration of the Teach For America Christmas tree in the state capitol. Non-profits from all over the state are invited to decorate Christmas trees, and, despite our lack of planning, I'm proud to say our tree was one of the two or three best in the place. Part of the reason I waited so long before posting was because I had no pictures to illustrate this, but now I do:

Prepping ornaments. Wes is sad because I crushed one, but that was only because they said they were shatterproof. But I guess not crush proof. This should offer some satisfaction to those of you who wanted to see a picture of me in my cowboy regalia. I'm not walking into a Wal-Mart here, but you've got a good view of a boots. Too bad I haven't worn them since this day, because after walking for a mile in them in the wrong socks they gave me a pretty brutal blister. I think I'm ready again, though.

Anna decorating the tree. Our theme was a "literacy tree," and Shannon made little miniature books and had pictures of her kids reading. She was the only one who brought ornaments.

Here I am topping the tree with a dream catcher.

The TFA Tree.