August 2000
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SSQQ Wins the 2000 Balloon Race, but Just Barely!!

The SSQQ Balloon Race 2000 is a relay race held annually at the SSQQ Beach Ball where two or more teams of 10 men and women kick a balloon from one end of the floor to the mirror and back. It is intense action that is usually lasts for about 5 minutes. Lending an air of unpredictability is the fact that balloons don't always go in the direction you kick them. Balloons react with the reliability of Scud Missiles, causing many talented athletes frustration as they realize kicking them straight is trickier than it looks. 

Due to some highly controversial methods used at last year's Balloon Race, I started the event this year with a stern lecture about no cheating. I told people they could kick the balloon, head the balloon, or bump it with their body, but no fair using arms and hands. Furthermore I told everyone they couldn't bite it, stick it up something (shame on you! I meant up a dress or shirt), stick it to something (ie, Velcro), or cheat in any way. 

Everyone nodded they understood. As a result it was the cleanest race in years, but after it was over I had to admit I missed all the shenanigans. What a let-down when everyone plays fair!!

Not only was it the cleanest race in years, it was also the closest race in years. Both teams were neck and neck throughout the race. 

I was pleased to see perpetual challengers Margaux and Carl Mann appear. They are as constant as the Rising Sun. Without them, the Race wouldn't be nearly as much fun. Sadly, just like the Harlem Globetrotters and their constant opponents the Washington Capitals, Margaux and Carl have been on the losing end of the stick for about 10 years in a row. I was a little worried they wouldn't show up this year, but good sports that they are, sure enough Captain Margaux appeared ready to recruit a team to challenge the SSQQ Empire. 

And Empire it is!! You can talk about the Houston Comets and their four straight victories, but that's nothing. Heck, Team SSQQ has won the Balloon Race for over 10 years in a row. That's pretty impressive when you consider kicking a balloon around the floor isn't exactly that difficult a skill to master. People wonder why Team SSQQ always wins. Such a mystery!

People speculate there must be a secret reason behind our success. Actually there is a reason. As official Team Captain, I believe our sole advantage is the special Zen training each racer receives before each match to become one with the balloon. This is our only edge. We are so focused on being the balloon that it becomes second nature. 

For example, half our team this year practiced kicking the balloon for the first time in their lives the night of the race. Team Margaux had just as many experienced racers as we did. In addition, Team Margaux's racers were allowed to practice and train right along with Team SSQQ. Furthermore we gave Team Margaux first choice of balloons and even ran a 9 year old kid as our starting racer. If anything, Team Margaux had the edge in preparedness. But Team SSQQ had a mantra to sustain it: keep my job, keep my job.

However for a while there it looked like the unemployment line was going to stretch out the door. Sure enough, Margaux's deep experience as a Hall of Fame Balloon Racer paid off as she gained a narrow lead against my daughter Samantha in the first position. Samantha actually popped her balloon last year, but this year she did much better and gave Margaux a real run for her money. 

Carl Mann raced Team SSQQ member Paul Foltyn even up for their match. Through two laps, Team Margaux had the lead. 

Running for Team Margaux, Carole Nelson, the blonde bombshell herself, slightly increased the lead racing against first-time Team SSQQ player Rachel Seff who did pretty good considering she was suffering intense rookie jitters. It was also Rachel's birthday - a significant one - and she said it was nerve-wracking having to race as an "older woman". 

Eric Watson was next up for Team Margaux. Considering he was a rookie, Eric did pretty darn good. He was racing against me and while it is true I made up some ground, Eric definitely held his ground on Lap 4. 

I thought the pivotal matchup was Lap 5. As rookie Bonita took off for Team Margaux and rookie Candi Angulo took off for Team SSQQ, the match was pretty much even-steven. However while Bonita kicked the balloon a little too cautiously, Candi aggressively beat the heck out of that balloon and grabbed a half-floor advantage for Team SSQQ. Now we were in the lead. Candi was voted Team SSQQ MVP for her outstanding performance!

Candi's husband Manny Angulo was next. He did pretty well considering he too was a rookie. However Mike for Team Margaux had his balloon all over the place. Once a spectator had to catch the balloon and put it back in play after an errant kick. Mike lost some ground to Manny and ended up a floor behind. Things looked bleak for Team Margaux. 

Racing for Team SSQQ was Patty Harrison, who has the most famous tummy in SSQQ Whip History (an inside joke). This was her first event and I thought she did well. However Beth Ann Maloney, also a rookie, established herself as a future star on the Balloon circuit by making up half a floor on Lap 7. Team Margaux was back in the hunt thanks to Beth Ann!

Joe Lachner took the relay from Patty and started out confidently for Team SSQQ. But Andy Pettigrew, voted MVP for Team Margaux, was fabulous. Despite starting half a floor behind Joe, Andy quickly made up the difference. By the time both men reached the mirror, the Race was tied! This baby was going down to the wire!  However, on the way back, Andy's balloon bounced high up in the air. This unfortunate twist of fate allowed Joe to regain a slight edge for the start of Lap 9.

Mo Hendrix, the star volleyball player, was also a rookie at this event. Since she is such a great athlete, I expected Mo to run away with the race, but to my surprise Cindy Surgent for Team Margaux quickly caught her and actually gained the lead!!  But then Cindy overran her balloon and Mo regained the lead. On the return trip from the mirror back to the chair, Mo put about a third of a floor distance between her and Cindy (who I thought raced very well!). 

Wil Coulbourn was entrusted to bring home the gold for the SSQQ Balloon Relay Team on the final Lap. Unfortunately Joe Pikas for Team Margaux was pretty good. At one point on the home stretch Joe was right on Wil's heels when, oops, Joe bopped the balloon in the air. As the balloon slowly came back to earth, that was the break we needed. Wil found another gear and brought it home. SSQQ won by a third of the floor. Two more kicks and 3 seconds later, Joe finished as well. The Race was very tight!

Except for two bad breaks - Joe kicking the balloon in the air and Andy doing likewise - I imagine we would have had a photo finish. It was a lot closer than I was comfortable with!!

Team SSQQ won the 2000 Balloon Race, but just barely. We had a lot of rookies, but they all came through in the clutch and will all be stronger for the experience next year. 

Now I would like to take a moment to applaud our competitors. Even though Team Margaux entered the race as big underdogs, the truth is they put up a huge fight. Take out Candi Angulo's exceptional Lap and Team Margaux out-raced Team SSQQ in the other nine Laps. They came back from a big deficit to even briefly take the Lead in Lap 9!!  But for a couple of bad bounces, Team Margaux would have been the champion of the world this year. I thought Team Margaux was a very worthy opponent and I am already worried about how we will ever beat them next year!!


Rick's 15 Seconds of Fame

I love the Houston Comets as does everyone else in the city. But I am a bigger fan that most people. I follow their deeds very closely in the Sports section and watch every televised game on videotape delay when I get home from work. I assumed I was the biggest Comets fan at SSQQ, but then I met Shine Chang. Shine is a U. of North Carolina-trained PhD biochemist who has made Houston her home while she does research at MD Anderson. She also loves to Swing Dance, which is how I met her. 

Shine is very outgoing. In her Beginner Swing class, she was my favorite student because she asked great questions and told interesting stories about where her unusual name came from. I told her she should get a dance partner named "Rise". One day we started talking about the Comets and we were both surprised to find out how much the other person knew. It appears that Shine grew up in the Boston-area and followed the Celtics very closely as a kid which explained her love of basketball. 

We started talking even more about the Comets when Cynthia Cooper dropped her July 4th bombshell about retiring at the end of the season. I thought Ms. Cooper handled making the announcement very poorly and told Shine so. I also said that Cynthia Cooper came off sounding selfish (even though I have never seen her "play selfish"). Shine on the other hand defended Cooper's actions, so a flurry of email started flying as we both took up our positions. 

That's when I found out that Shine was a season ticket holder. She said she had been a ticket holder since the Inaugural season. Goodness!  She is even her section leader, meaning she is in charge of boosting the noise in her particular section. Gracious!  I finally concluded Shine was a bigger Comets fan than I was. This decision made Shine very happy since I was a worthy opponent in the Biggest Fan Department due to my well-known capacity for distributing mass quantities of Hot Air. 

As a reward for my loyalty to the Comets, Shine invited me to go to see the Comets game last Saturday. This was the game where the Comets clinched their 4th Championship due largely to a big game from Sheryl Swoopes and a timely 3-pointer from Cynthia Cooper. I might add that Cynthia Cooper is the best woman's basketball player I have ever seen. Just because she is controversial doesn't mean I am not sick in my stomach at seeing her go while still in possession of so much talent!

Before the game, I emailed Shine to ask her if cameras were allowed. She said yes, so I brought two digital cameras (one was a videotape camera). When we got to the front door, we were stopped to inspect everything. I guess there was something suspicious about us. Sure enough, the digital videotape camera was discovered and much fuss was raised. The DV Camera was a definite no-no and we were told we would have to take it back to the car...except...for some odd reason the attendant changed his mind and told us to go on through. We guessed he didn't even know what a digital videotape camera really looked like.  

SSQQ was well represented at the game. In addition to the two of us, Sandy Baggett dropped by to say hi. I didn't recognize her since she is so slender now. She was wearing a basketball outfit and looked fit enough to get out there herself!  Steve (Tornado) Milton Vasquez and Siobhan Scott (Not a Girly Poof) ran into us in the parking lot. They are big Basketball buddies of Shine and discussed their pickup B-Ball games with me. I was mad at Steve for letting the girls win, but Steve reminded me it was 3 girls against 2 guys. Oh. 

Then we ran into Janis Howard at the game. Janis sits right next to Shine. Both met each other through Comets basketball. By coincidence, although both women take classes at SSQQ, neither one of them apparently talked the other into dance classes, but rather showed up independent of each other. I am sure one of them mentioned the studio to the other, but Shine denied it. Small world, I guess.  

Wow!  I did not know Shine had her season tickets on the ground floor of the Summit, oops Compaq Center!  Right across from us was many of NBC's camera crew.  Almost immediately Comets coach Van Chancellor walked by to greet some friends nearby. Comets/Rockets announcer Lisa Maloskey walked by too. Then I saw Rockets basketball player Matt Bullard just a couple rows away. There were celebrities all over the place. I was in with the in-crowd!!  Too cool!  Maybe I would get on National TV, I wondered to myself. 

The players were beginning to be introduced. I brought out my DV camera and started filming. Almost immediately the ground floor attendant frowned at me. She beckoned to the biggest security guard I have ever seen. He made me look like a midget. The attendant took one look at the camera and said I would have to check that camera in upstairs. I quickly concluded Compaq assigned the stupid people to the outer doors and put the people with brains closer to the action. She was not going to be fooled like the other guy for an instant. I started to protest when I noticed I was now moving due to a less-than-subtle nudge from the security guard. Shine and Janis both had their backs to me. They were doing their best impression of not ever having seen me before in their lives. What pals!!  As I was unceremoniously escorted out, I heard Shine asking Janis if she could get a ride later on in case I was taken out back and shot to death. Thanks a lot. It was Shine's email that had set me up for this humiliation in the first place. 

Fortunately they decided not to shoot me. After roughing me up a little, they confiscated the camera for the length of the game, then gave it back to me later on as I was leaving. 

The game was very suspenseful, but I had a difficult time seeing what was going on from the ground floor. For one thing people were walking to and fro the whole game which distracted me. All day long I kept pushing an imaginary "rewind" button only to realize I was watching it live. I decided later that night I was going to watch the game again to see what really happened on some of the controversial plays. 

Later that night as the game began on videotape, the first thing I saw on TV was me being rudely escorted from my seat by the attendant and the monster security guard as the NBC cameraman was "scanning the crowd". There I was, busted on National TV.  Fame!! 

I will be interviewing agents throughout this week. I am sure the talk shows will be calling soon to ask me how I felt about my rude treatment plus my insights into the complex psyche of Cynthia Cooper.

In the meantime Fair-Weather Friend Ms. SunShine has begun her new role as SSQQ Sports Columnist. (See Below). 


Two Reports on the Basketball Battle of the Sexes

Saturday, August 19th

(Editor's Note: This information was passed in from SSQQ Swing Dance Assistant and Comets Basketball Fan Extraordinaire Shine Chang:

So, on Saturday night, August 19, at 7 pm, Bruce, Steve, Siobhan and Ann (her friend who knows how to dance but not through our dance studio) and I (Shine Chang) played basketball. 

Bruce and Steve play regularly; Siobhan and Ann have played on basketball teams in the past. I have not improved my game since I last played in junior high school gym. Okay, I'm taller now and have increased my shooting ability, but that's not saying much.

Anyways, I got there a little late, so they played a game to 10 without me, which was good because they're better and it's to my advantage if they're tired. When they finally invited me to play, we decided girls against boys - it seemed reasonable because they could tell that I wasn't very good, which was okay because the guys were more skilled, and the challenge of the sexes is always amusing.

The boys won the first game but it was fairly challenging. I have a dark purple bruise the size of a quarter on my knee where my bones and Bruce's collided. I've been pointing this out to everyone both to elicit sympathy and trot out my athletic prowess! 

It's especially impressive because after a brief rest and water break, the girls came back and STOMPED the boys. Basically, we used an outside game (i.e., passing it around and then sinking baskets from further away, rather than from layups or rebounds) to get the score to 6-1.
Then we lost possession to the boys who brought up their score to tie the game. There were several impressive shots and one "in-your-face-Siobhan" dunk by Tornado Vasquez. It didn't last, though, as tempers started to flare and frustration on the boy's side revealed a disjointed strategic plan.

The girls had some trouble getting their shooting back, as Chang passed to the inside more, hoping that her teammates would draw some fouls while getting some baskets from inside.
However, impressive rebounding by forwards Ann and Siobhan resulted in possession and another chance to even the score and be in range for the win. Chang, after some coaching from teammate Siobhan, finally sunk the winning basket, an easy 3 pointer. 

Battle of the sexes now stands 1-1.

(Editor's Note: if my math is correct, does this mean two men had to play three women? And how fair is that? If I had known male honor was so deeply at stake, I would have been there to root for the boys...I think the men deserve a rematch.)

Wednesday, August 23rd

(Editor's note:  Encouraged by the fact that I printed her first attempt at sports reporting, Shine Chang decided to conjure up yet another report for a game on Wednesday, August 23rd. This second report however sounds like "Stream of Consciousness". Decipher at your own risk.)

Kirk, Thanks for inquiring about my health. Thanks also for the constant reminder that I have a right elbow. Every few minutes, when I sit at my desk, walk around, drive in my car, I feel a "twinge" that says, "Kirk was here!" Fortunately, I am no longer bleeding. But I'm not the only one who recognizes that I have elbows and knees. Today's color-of-the-day is purple. Not only do I have matching knees, this elbow has a most colorful effect on others: "HOW did you get that bruise?" and "WOW! That must HURT!"   (Editor's Note: After careful reading, I have concluded that possibly Ms. Chang was knocked to the ground in a collision with Kirk O'Brien and bruised her elbow.) 

Anyways, the group reconvened on Wednesday afternoon for a rematch in the Battle of the Sexes. During pregame email discussion, it sounded like there was going to be a surfeit of boys, which ended up being just one more, Special Shoes O'Brien (aka Kirk). Others in attendance were Tornado Vasquez (Milton Steve), Siobhan Scott ("Not a girly poof"), Scoot Suit Clark (Bruce), myself, and Anne Spam, who'd been up since 4:30 AM, suffered a long and horrible day that defied description, and raced back from Austin for this important basketball game.

In our pregame analysis, Kirk suggested that although he played in high school, has a steady diet of tennis, aerobics, and Judy's Zoot Suit (which should have been a tip-off because you HAVE to be on your toes in her class!) his basketball skills were not worth mentioning. Of course, this was a total lie, but we didn't know at the time. We ended up playing mixed games. 

I have to confess that of the first game, a 2-on-2 match up, I can't remember much except for suddenly lying on the ground on my left side with a burning sensation on my right arm and thinking, "Oh thank goodness my glasses are not broken because I'm not wearing them!" I think if I had not experienced trauma-induced amnesia, I would be able to recall fully the move that Special Shoes put on that caused us to collide. 

Later I also wondered whether I SHOULD have been wearing my glasses (Tornado: "It will help your eyesight NOT to wear them!" Mental note: ALWAYS WEAR YOUR GLASSES IF YOU NEED THEM TO SEE, PARTICULARLY IF YOU'RE PLAYING A SPORT IN WHICH YOU MAY COLLIDE WITH OTHER PLAYERS, NO MATTER HOW MUCH YOU WANT TO IMPROVE YOUR EYESIGHT.) because maybe I would have seen Special Shoes coming at me and been able to sidestep and let someone else take the tackle. Also, the court had a slick surface, particularly over the southwestern United States (nearest us), a colorful map painted on the court - good for honing skills in geography but not basketball. The next game was 3-on-3, but not the BOTS  that we'd convened to play. There was a low-energy feel to the day, so we teamed Anne Spam and Siobhan with Bruce up against Tornado Vasquez, Special Shoes and moi.

After starting the game with a panel discussion comparing and contrasting zone defense versus man-to-man, I was even more confused and sometimes couldn't remember who was even on my team or that we had possession. For the other team (TOT), Siobhan had some nice moves and quick passes inside to Anne who positioned herself strategically under the basket. Notably, there were no "in-your-face-Siobhan" dunks from Tornado this time around but the baskets were considerably higher.

Good passing all around for TOT, which is curious because they lost, 9-10. Our team (OT) used an interesting strategy, which included losing possession by passing the ball to me when I was under the basket. (Mental note: BE PREPARED TO CATCH THE BALL AT ANY TIME, PARTICULARLY WHEN UNDER THE BASKET.) However, between some good passing to the open man, Special Shoes and Tornado were able to put us in the lead and eventually give us the win.

Mental note about swing basketball with Siobhan: ALWAYS BE ON HER TEAM, because her loyalty seems to be rooted in the recent past, i.e., the last team she was on, NOT the best team she's been on (i.e., girls). I am NOT a great big girly-poof. I am the only person who hit the pavement and came up bleeding and bruised but continued to play. We're hoping for good Sunday morning plays - see you in the funny pages.

(Editor's Note: the story above was perhaps the oddest Sports Reporting I have read in the recent past. I believe if I re-read it four or five times, I might figure out who was on which team and who won, but for now I have concluded that either Team OT or Team TOT won and that will be sufficient. I also believe that despite its billing as another Battle of the Sexes, in the second game the teams appeared to be coed. Was there a BOTS in the first game?  If so, which Sex won??  These questions remained unanswered as the Sports Reporter draws attention to her injury. My suspicion is perhaps Ms. Chang was reporting for a more select audience who already knew what happened and that she somehow sent me the above report by mistake. The Editor has many questions. What does "see you in the funny pages" mean?  The Editor is also curious to know what a "girly poof" is. 

If any of our Readers would like information on joining this league, email the Editor at )


Suzy Kish wins the SSQQ Picture Puzzle Contest!

Suzy Kish, the lovely lady soon to be married to George Wallace on August 26th, won our recent Picture Puzzle Contest by a narrow margin over of Joseph Stuteville. Not only did she win, but she sent in 12 new puzzles of her own that she made up, none of which I was smart enough to figure out on my own. 

Suzy is not only beautiful, but she is clearly smart too. Lucky guy, that GeorgeÖ

Now Joseph is famous as the Flower Man. He must have a wonderful garden because he brings many flowers with him to present to all his girl friends at the studio. None of these ladies know it, but he has a different girl friend on every night at the studio. He has Swing girl friends, Salsa girl friends, and Kicker girl friends. On Sundays, he even has girl friends at 4:30 and a new shift of girl friends at 7. How he does it I don't know. Lately the flowers have disappeared at the studio so I assumed some of the girl friends found out what Joe was up to and Jimmy Hoffa-ed the guy, but then I got his excellent answers to the Picture Puzzle and figure he is just "laying low" as they say. 

Tying for third place were Sarah Damon and Eunice Laurent who weren't too far behind Joseph. Just what Joe needs - two more women on his tail!!  He must have neck problems from looking over his shoulder all the time. 

I never told any of the contestants this, but they did much better than I did when these picture puzzles were first given to me. The contestants also don't know it, but I published about 6 of the pictures not having a clue what the answers were. I used their answers instead. Don't tell them. As always, if you canít do it, teach it,  and if you canít solve it, be a judge. And if you don't know the answers, hold a contest!

Congratulations to our four winners!  And now if you too would like to try your hand at the SSQQ Picture Puzzle Contest, click here


Gary Bezemek and Elizabeth Monzingo get Engaged!

I was stopped in the hall at the studio by this lovely couple on Sunday. They said they had something to tell me, but one look at their grins gave the story away instantly. Gary and Elizabeth have officially announced their engagement. I will try to get more details soon. 



Mark Billingsley and Cindy Hansen get Engaged!

This just in from Ann Bush:

 Hey Rick:

Mark Billingsley proposed to Cindy outside the studio during break on Wednesday, July 26th.  She said yes and that is all I know for now.  I have not asked when or where they plan to wed.  I am a weak link when it comes to gossip.

(I don't recall anyone proposing at the studio before... but I am happy for both!  When it comes to dancing, Mark and Cindy have been practicing for some time. They should look terrific on the dance floor at their wedding!)  


Debora Moore and Don Bottling Get Engaged!

Debora Moore let the entire Universe know that she is engaged to a gentleman named Don Bottling (according to Sylvia Tucker, who says she is a weak link when it comes to gossip). Sylvia was quick to point out that Don is not an SSQQ guy yet, but is a very nice human being despite this one shortcoming. 

Now for Debora's message: 

Hello everyone!

I wanted to share my great news. Don proposed this weekend and I said
YES! Those of you who've met him, know how wonderful he is and for
those of you haven't, will soon understand why I'm so head-over-heals in

Don is a total romantic and surprised me by jumping out of a box at my
Mail Box Etc. location (the owner was in collusion).

I'm probably rambling a bit but wanted to share my joy and will be
catching up more in a few days.

Giant hugs to all!  debora

(The last time I saw Debora was at the Floppy Wizard. She was on crutches with a strange leg infection and her computer had a virus. She sure had a long face that day. What a difference a couple months make!   One word of advice, Debora, talk Don into learning to dance before the wedding. Congratulations!)


Peggy Sue is engaged to Anton Solovyov!

One of my favorite all-time songs is Buddy Holly's "Peggy Sue" and one of my all-time favorite movies is "Peggy Sue Got Married" with Kathleen Turner and Nicholas Gage. Of course my favorite scene is when Peggy Sue, having been transported back to High School Math Class from the future, turns in a blank math exam to her teacher and announces, "I know for a fact I will never need to know any of this when I grow up!" or something to that extent. With this in mind, I always call Peggy Head by the nickname "Peggy Sue". To my surprise, one day she told me her middle name really is "Sue". Well, how about that!  And now it turns out Peggy Sue has some good news for us! 

Hi Rick,

Anton and I read your Sadie Hawkins Man Chase article with much amusement. It was like reading a play-by-play sports article by Andy Rooney. I enjoyed playing the Manhunt Chase game but just like in real life, I wasn't very good at it. I only popped one balloon. I guess I lack the man-killer instinct of the she-devil, Monica. Maybe I just enjoy chasing the men more than catching them.

On another subject, I want to tell how to correct my name: It should read Peggy Sue IS GETTING Married. Yes, I'm getting married. It's hard to believe this after my being at SSQQ for over 7 years. Maybe I'm not too damaged after all ;-) 

By your power of keen observation, I'm sure you have guessed who my husband-to-be is. It is the famous, fleet-footed Anton Solovyov. Anton, by-the-way is from Russia and doesn't even know how to play American football (regarding your reference to his graceful football player-like escapes). I guess his ability to evade attacks of ferocious females is a natural gift. In light of that, I don't know how I was so lucky to capture his heart. 

Oh, by the way, congratulations on being the last losing man in the man chase??? Don't feel bad-it may sooth your feelings for you to realize that Anton was the second-to-last losing man in the game. I think you are both in great company!

Peggy Sue (Is GETTING Married)

(Congratulations to Peggy Sue and Anton!  By the way, if you would like to read about the Sadie Hawkins Manhunt that Peggy Sue refers to, click here)


Donnie Jacobs and Kimberly Bryson Get Married!

Donnie Jacobs dropped by the studio last night to generously make a contribution to help Ben and Diana. As he was talking with Susie Merrill, I decided to ask him about that "engagement" announcement that had been taking up space on my web site with for some time (;-}  If memory serves, this couple met at the studio so I was more than a little curious.

Donnie confirmed what I wanted to hear - Donnie Jacob and Kimberly Bryson got married in March of this year. My congratulations to both!  

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