May 2000
Home Up June 2000

2000 Newsletters

January February March April May June
July August September October November December


Memorial Day Volleyball !!

Wow!!  That was a lot of volleyball!  My Thanks to all of you for coming!

The Round Robin started a little after 10:30 am. Not all of the players were there at the start, but enough made it for the first game to get off to a good start. We had four teams:

Team 1:  John Paliatsos, Captain, Nakia Harrison, Gillian Tilbury, Michael Brockmyre (no show), Chris Meyer, and Rocky Kneten.

Team 2:  Reza Taherian, Captain, Deepak Jain, Tracy Gonzalez (no show), Tom Easley, Marty Shea, Rick Archer.

Team 3:  Steve Frolich, Captain, Andrew Gordon, Michele Brekke, Angela Alvarado, Brent Barker, Mike Gerstenberger.

Team 4:  Mo Hendrix, Captain, Glen Hilford, Mike Ruland, Louis Farmacka, Richard Weisberg, Len Messina.


Game 1:  Team 2 beat Team 1
Game 2:  Team 4 beat Team 3
Game 3:  Team 2 beat Team 3
Game 4:  Team 4 beat Team 1
Game 5:  Team 1 beat Team 3
Game 6:  Team 2 beat Team 4.

Tournament MVP: Deepak Jain.  Deepak has been on vacation over in the Far East, so we haven’t seen him at our games in over a month. However his deft touch on “placement shots” got Team 2 out of one jam after another. His superb play led Team 2 to an undefeated record.

Team Most Resembling the Astros: Team 3 led in every game it played, only to see the other team make a remarkable comeback each time. No, contrary to rumors, Billy Wagner did not play for Team 3. Despite its record, 4 players from this team made the Mega Game, the most from any team. Don’t ask me to figure it out!

Close But No Cigar: Team 4 was tough! They rallied to win their first two matches, but got in an early hole in the Championship Game and started to press… things just got worse despite a good timeout by Captain Mo. Unfortunately, the Mo wasn’t reversed. Nevertheless, Second Place had to feel pretty good considering the caliber of the teams they did beat!

Shoulda, Coulda: An argument could be made that Team 1 was the best team on paper, but my guess was they were hurt by the no-show of its Number One Draft Choice.

Overall, I thought the Round Robin was fun. It gave everyone a chance to play some very competitive volleyball for three hours!  Every game except one was extremely close.

After the Round Robin, the four captains went into seclusion to pick 4 new teams.

For the Exhibition Game, Gillian Tilbury’s team included Chris Meyer, Deepak Jain, Glen Hilford, Richard Weisberg, and a last-minute substitute for Marty (Angela perhaps??) who left to go watch the Knicks play. Wherever Marty is today, I am sure he has a smile on his face. 

Brent Barker’s team included Andrew Gordon, Mike Ruland, Tom Easley, a substitute (Mitch Istre I think), and poor Jill Banta. Jill accidentally got blind-sided trying to set a ball and got knocked to her knees. She will probably be wearing pants to work today because she got her left knee skinned pretty badly. Richard Weisberg was sweet enough to get an ice-pack and he held it personally against Jill’s knee till the knee felt better. Rumor has it that he either kissed the bruise to make it feel better or the threat of Richard kissing it stirred Jill’s amazing recovery to participate in the Exhibition Game. I never got the full story.

Alas, the Exhibition Game did not go well. The teams were uneven. I wasn’t paying very good attention, I must admit, but I think someone on Brent’s team went to use the restroom in the middle of the game and everyone else used this as an excuse to quit playing. It was a little bizarre, but no matter. 

At this point the guests were starting to arrive. We had a couple Putzer Games, and then we played a cruel practical joke on some of the guests. We asked several men if they wouldn’t mind playing on the Macho Man All-Star team. Surprisingly, every man save one accepted the offer. Sorrell Warren was very skeptical, but when the crowd egged him on, he accepted. Other Macho Men besides Sorrell included Ben Liles, Mitch Istre, Joe Pikas, Richard Bevis, and Tom Flaherty. The look of consternation that came over their faces when they saw their opponents was priceless: taking the field opposite them were 6 women including Mo Hendrix, Nakia Harrison, Jill Banta, Gillian Tilbury, Michele Brekke, and Angela Alvarado. The Macho Men were facing a team consisting of six Lady Allstars from our Volleyball League.

I thought the game might be closer, but I learned my lesson. No, the game was not close. It was not even kind of close. The ladies won handily. Their superior ball-handling skills made it “no contest”. I must say the men took their drubbing pretty gracefully, although they shot a few daggers in my direction for setting them up for the kill. The ladies enjoyed themselves thoroughly, even challenging the Backyard Guys to a match at one point. I doubt they were serious…or were they?

We had some more free play games, and then came the Mega Match. The 4 Captains had teamed up and picked the two strongest teams they could from the Round Robin group of 22.

John Paliatsos and Reza Taherian chose Len Messina, Michele Brekke, Rocky Kneten, and Angela Alvarado for their team. Mo Hendrix and Steve Frolich chose Nakia Harrison, Louis Farmacka, Mike Gerstenberger, and me for the other team.

Alas, John and Reza’s team won both games. The teams were well-chosen and everyone played hard. I can attest that there were few cheap points!! Both defenses were terrific. Unfortunately, the dual firepower of Mega MVP John and his friend Len were too much for Steve and Mo’s team to combat. In addition, I thought Rocky Kneten played well – he hit several sneaky cross-court shots that really took the wind out of our sails. The winners were very gracious. Several players mentioned to me that they had to play as hard as they could to eke out two close victories. I might add a couple of the spectators said that was the best volleyball they had ever seen!!  Nice compliment!

Now I am quite aware that the Backyard Gang is not Level One USVBA as a complete group, but we have several players who can compete at that level. I would add that if we aren’t the best, the line ahead of us isn’t very long either. There was some very good volleyball played on Memorial Day!  And a big Thank you to all of those who were nice enough to participate in making the day a success… and that includes all you spectators too!  Thanks for coming!


The Amazing Mud Volleyball Tournament!

On Saturday, May 20th, 4 wild and crazy members from our Backyard Gang played in the Pasadena Mud Volleyball tournament. The lunatics included Nakia Harrison, Louis Farmacka, Mike Gerstenberger, and myself. An artistic success it wasn’t. None of us resembled Karch Kiraly out there. Now that I think of it, we didn’t even resemble ourselves either. It was a fascinating event nonetheless. The psychological benefits alone made the entire day a growth experience. In fact, I have noticed several new growths….(just kidding). 

Just my luck it was the Muddiest “Mud Volleyball” tournament of all time. The huge rains that flooded Liberty the night before stopped just shortly before the tournament began. As a result the mud pits were twice as deep in water. Normally the water covers your ankles, but this time it was up to our knees in places. There was Zero mobility. You could dive, but you couldn’t really take two steps to get the ball. If you had good footing you could take perhaps a small step to your left or right, but that was about it. You were likely to slip if you took more than half a step. Back-pedaling was out of the question. Moving forward was possible, but very difficult. Even getting into the mud pit was an adventure – the sidelines had become quagmire after last night’s rains. You couldn’t even get to your court without stepping in the deepest mud imaginable. As I looked for my team, I wondered at what I had gotten myself into. This was awful!

I got there late for the first Match. When I arrived, I found my team, “Lock and Load”, had just dropped the first game. They had only 6 players while the other team had the proper number of eight. To show “solidarity” I jumped in and immersed myself up to my neck. I wanted to be sure to get disgusting early so there wouldn’t be any reason not to dive at a ball if the opportunity presented itself. I knew only dirty players were successful in this league. No such thing as a clean victory here.

Just having one more player made a lot of difference. After losing the first game 11-2, we turned around and won our last two games to take the match. Nice comeback!! I quickly learned that spiking and setting were out of the question. The only play that made any sense at all was to get two hands on the heavy, wet ball and use all your power to send it back over the net. Even doing that wasn’t very easy!!  Plus bumping the ball was difficult since the water was right at the level where the platform would normally work.

I quickly discovered why the court played 8 instead of the usual 6. Since no one could move, the only way to cover the court was to have more players. The lack of enough players would dog us all day. Louis had recruited two excellent players who suddenly informed him at 5 pm Friday that they had been ordered to report to work on Saturday. Mike sent out urgent emergency emails for new players to join us, but like Custer, no one came to our rescue. Unlike a land court where a quick player can cover extra territory, losing a player in this game was huge because there was no mobility to speak of. If the ball was hit to an open area, all we could do was watch helplessly as it flew by and hit the water with an irritating splash. After a while, all of us began lunging at balls other players might have had a better shot at because we figured anything within reach demanded a desperation try. Playing short-handed created a lot of mistakes. 

For the second match we snuck in an illegal “eighth” player. This guy was from another team that was waiting for their next game. Unfortunately he wasn’t very good. Plus we accidentally chose the bad side (deeper water, more uneven surface). Even though we won the coin toss, we took the serve. In retrospect this was a very bad move since it meant we played two of our three games on the bad side. The team playing on the “good side” won each time, which meant we lost the Match. This was a particularly galling loss because we beat them handily when we played on the good side, so it is likely we would have won this Match if we had chosen this side. It also turned out this was a pretty good team. Later that day I found that this team was still undefeated as I left. Despite all our handicaps, we had played them pretty close. In fact we should have beaten them. 

The pits are dug out by earth movers. My guess is the careful, scientific leveling of the surface after the earth removal is ignored. There were a couple spots where my foot never actually quite discovered the bottom!!  Before each play I would shift around till I found one spot where my feet were reasonably sure of the footing. Just standing up was an accomplishment at times. 

As Nakia and I sat on the sidelines fuming from our narrow loss, we were muddy, we were cold, and we were wondering what had ever possessed us to do this. My hair was sticky with mud, my white shirt was now brown from being soaked in the muddy water, and there were little gritty rocks in my wet shoes that drove me mad!  Nakia and I talked openly about how we were glad we lost the last game because now we could deliberately lose the next match and go home (double elimination tournament). Plus we had to just sit there for half an hour or more waiting for our next game. Since the bleachers had no support for our backs, we got stiff and sore just sitting there. It was a good thing I had Nakia to sit next to. Misery loves company. 

Then the sun came out!!  Our spirits lifted noticeably. When the third match presented itself, I actually had a bounce in my step as I entered the water. Win or lose, I was getting more comfortable with these strange conditions. This time we kicked serious butt. Louis had recruited an excellent player from another team to fill the 8th spot. With our team’s enormous hole plugged by a talented player, we began to click. We won both games easily by 11-3 scores. What a difference having 8 good players made!!  Without a hole to cover, we learned to lay off shots we could barely get to. Everyone played their position and our team got hot! 

So now we had foolishly lived to play another game. Despite all our grumbling about throwing the next game, the moment Nakia and I entered the muddy water, some bizarre Will to Win would mysteriously overcome us. I imagine the poor, miserable men who won the Revolutionary War went through similar mind games.  

As we waited on the bleachers for Match 4, Nakia and I now fully expected to win several more games after our excellent victory in the previous game. At this point, something strange was happening in my brain. I had actually enjoyed playing the previous game. With time on my hands, I looked around and noticed that as teams got eliminated, some of the mud pits were not being used. Players from the eliminated teams began jumping in the open pits and starting playing pick-up games. To my astonishment, I felt drawn to join them. Only my need to conserve energy and my desire to watch my bag with its expensive video camera prevented me from joining them. I realized once you got the hang of this, Mud Volleyball could be FUN!  I was stunned at this revelation. I couldn’t wait to play the next game!! I was pumped!

Then bad luck struck again. The referees discovered both teams were in the area. Their job was to get the games in as fast as possible. It didn’t matter that we weren’t scheduled to begin for 10 more minutes. In their minds, the teams are here so let’s get it on. They ordered us to begin play. The only problem was our excellent 8th man was still playing for his regular team in another mud pit. If we had started on time, his game would have been over and he could have joined us. No such luck. It would have looked very suspicious to have this dripping, muddy guy suddenly show up in the middle of the match. We had to play 7 again. 

So we did our best, but now we had to lunge for balls again and watch other balls hit the empty spot where there was no player at all. The other team wasn’t stupid – they knew where the holes were and had the nerve to aim at them. I played lousy too. I got overconfident and actually thought I could spike a couple, but the ball was so wet it never went where I aimed. We played both games close, but went down to a good team 2 straight. The Magnificent Seven stumbled. We were eliminated. 

I cleaned off and trudged home. As I drove down I-10, I fumed at how good we could have been. Both losses were narrow and could easily have been reversed had we played at full strength. The one game where we had 8 good players, we were awesome. “Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda” was the day’s fight song. I was a Mud Dud. 

Next year I want the Backyard Gang to field a team, maybe even two teams!! The tournament has 112 teams. Our goal will be to meet in the Finals. I have to tell you, 8 solid players from our Backyard Gang would have made it VERY far into this tournament. There were no teams I saw that we couldn’t have handled. My guess is there might have been a few teams with 8 actual volleyball players somewhere, but I never saw them. Or maybe the mud hid their talents. However, based on what I saw, the Backyard Gang would have made a formidable opponent for anyone. Plus we would have had a ball going into battle together!!  The mud would have bonded us together…perhaps even permanently! 

I want Revenge. Next year, we take Pasadena!!  Circle the third Saturday in May, 2001, on your calendar right now. We can advertise our match at the dance studio and have people come to root for us and throw dirt balls at the other team. We can videotape the games and make a big documentary about our triumphant juggernaut. We will Twostep into the Mud Pits and call ourselves the “Urban Mud Volleyball Cowboys.”  Sounds catchy.

By the way, our next Saturday Volleyball event will be a Water Volleyball day at Tom Easley’s house. Unlike mud volleyball, water volleyball is clean, cool, and fun in Tom’s beautiful sparkling pool. Nakia and I won’t know how to behave. If we start digging up Tom’s flower bed and tossing dirt in the pool, don’t hurt us – it is a plea for help. 



Bram Weisman is a Father!

SSQQ Student and 1999 Groom, Bram Weisman emails us:

Joseph Lyu Weisman was born on March 25, 2000 @ 6:08 am.  6 lbs 11 oz and 19.5 inches long.  Joseph is Hebrew meaning "God will increase" and is my father's god father's name.  Lyu (Prounounce the Ly like the Le in Leo) is Japanese and means Dragon.  This is the first picture taken on the day ofhis birth.  Joseph had to be re-admitted to the hospital due to extreme Jaundice (seems to run in both families), but he's OK now.  My Wife Katsumi is doing fine. 
Best Wishes, Bram

(Editors Note: Congratulations! My only regret is this stupid cigar custom. I think a first-time Dad should give out tickets to Rockets Games or perhaps tickets to the next Olympics!)

Somebody is a new Grand Dad ?!?

A well-known member of the SSQQ Community is a first-time Grandfather as of Monday, May 08. However I am sworn to absolute secrecy as to the Grandfather's name or I am in big trouble. Sorry.

Conrad Anderson dies in Tragic Accident

Conrad Anderson took several Whip and Western classes at SSQQ in 1999. In addition, Robert Curtis remembers him as a frequent attendee of our Tuesday Longhorn events. I remember Conrad as a ruggedly handsome, likeable guy. He worked out a lot and had a physique reminiscent of Sylvester Stallone with big shoulders and a narrow waist. He was also an accomplished Martial Arts practitioner. In fact, I heard he was either an expert or close to it. An engineer, he was currently working for Paragon Engineering here in Houston at the time of his death. 

Conrad was tragically killed in a Car/Bicycle accident. As related in the Houston Chronicle, on Sunday, May 7th, Conrad and his friend were out riding their bicycles Sunday morning at 8:15 am when they were both struck by a vehicle traveling a high rate of speed in northwest Harris County. 

The accident occurred along FM 2920, Waller-Tomball Road. Conrad was dead at the scene and Cynthia suffered a broken leg. She is hospitalized at Memorial Hermann Hospital in fair condition. 

A 16-year-old Tomball boy was driving the car that struck the cyclists. The teen's Cadillac was traveling at a high rate of speed when it approached a curve and spun out of control. 

Dawn Elliott was another of Conrad's friends here at the studio. As she wrote to me, his death served as a serious "reality check" for her. We are reminded once again that whether it's going good or going bad, it could all be over in a matter of seconds. 

He is survived by at least one daughter - Amanda Curtis. Oddly, his last message to her was an email regarding GRACE and an acrostic he had made up based on those letters...GRACE = God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. 

Although I did not know Conrad well, his passing is indeed very tragic because he was a good man who was in the prime of his life. His loss of course is yet another painful reminder to cherish our lives and to embrace those who are close to us.


Back to Grapevine Home Page



SSQQ Front Page Parties/Calendar of Events Jokes
SSQQ Information Schedule of Classes Writeups
SSQQ Archive Newsletter History of SSQQ