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Posts Tagged ‘tattoos’

-Blog post by Reed Sandridge of Washington, D.C.

Before we get started with today’s volunteer experience, I want to remind you that today is the United Nation’s International Volunteer Day. I’m teaming up with Meridian International, Washington Parks and People and DC Green Corps to plant 61 trees in Oxon Run Park located in Southeast D.C. If you don’t have a volunteer project scheduled for today, make a commitment to volunteer at least once before the end of the year.

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A group crosses the finish line together

Now close your eyes and imagine this. It’s a  chilly October morning and you and your friends are gathered at ski resort getting ready to run a ten-mile course peppered with 25 insane obstacles that I probably wouldn’t want to do by themselves, much less after I’ve been running for hours.

To quote their website, “Tough Mudder is not your average lame-ass mud run or spirit-crushing ‘endurance’ road race. It’s Ironman meets Burning Man.” I’m not sure that’s how I would describe this extreme race designed by an ex British Special Forces commando, but it is not for the week at heart.

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A woman collapses as her body absorbs some 10,000 volts as she tries to navigate the dreaded electrical guantlet.

The sunlight  breaks through the trees while rumors of daunting tasks such as traversing logs floating in freezing pools of water and sprinting through a gauntlet of live electrical wires, some of which are charged with more than 10,000 volts, circulate amongst the participants. I’m just thankful that I am not actually running this race. That’s right, I’m volunteering in this madness.

The event, one of a series of international races that Tough Mudder puts on, is being held at Wintergreen Ski Resort nestled in the picturesque Blue Ridge Mountains in Central Virginia. I drove down the night before in stayed at the Acorn Inn – a wonderful European style inn run by Kathy and Martin, charming hosts who make you feel like you never want to leave.

I spent my day of service primarily at the finish line – watching exhausted participants triumphantly complete their mission. We handed out fruit and energy bars as well as water and sports drinks to the dazed athletes who wandered around trying to recover. Those who finished also were awarded a t-shirt and a free beer sponsored by Dos Equis.

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Tattoos and mohawks are free to particpants.

In addition to the race, several other Tough Mudder related activities were going on. You could get a mohawk style haircut or a mullet, have the Tough Mudder logo tattooed on your body or donate your mud encased shoes to charity. The haircuts and tattoos are free too!

“It’s all for a good cause,” said one exhausted racer who had driven up from North Carolina the night before, “the money goes to help the Wounded Warrior Project.” Well, that is partly true. Some money, nearly $2 million to date, does benefit the charity – and that’s the reason I agreed to volunteer. But as I handed out bananas to weary runners my mind raced off to calculate how much money these guys are making on all of this craziness. Let’s just say they are doing quite well – and I am totally ok with for profit companies doing well while also doing good. The business is so going so well that next year they will double the number of Tough Mudders.

I captured LOTS of images from the event – some of them show the euphoria of crossing the finish line – others show near defeat as the race begins to take its toll. I also got a few good shots of some brave souls who got tattoosmohawks, and mullets. You can check out all of my photographs from the weekend here.

DSC_0127.jpgIf you think you are Tough Mudder material – check out their website for an event near you! They have races in North America, Europe,Japan and Australia – chances are there is one near you!

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Day 202 – John W.

John at his job at Home Depot (photo: Reed)

As you remember from yesterday’s post, I was out in Manassas helping my friend Tom remodel his bathroom.  We took several trips to home improvement stores.  On Day 201 we went to Lowe’s, where I met George.  Well, on Day 202 we went to the Home Depot in Manassas and I met John.

He was behind the counter dressed in a striped shirt, a black Home Depot hat that covered a bandana on his head and a the standard issue orange apron.  Across the front of his apron the name John was written in black permanent marker. 

Prior to coming to Home Depot five years ago he and his wife worked on horse farms down in Georgia.  He seems to like his job but I get the sense that work has taken over his life.  “Sometimes I feel like I just come to work, go home, eat dinner, go to sleep, get up and come back here and do it all over again,” he says.  And I bet you could pretty much work every day at a place that only closes on Thanksgiving and Christmas. 

John is the type of guy I need to find when I go to Home Depot.  He grew up helping his father with projects and doing mechanic work since he was eight so he has good experience with home projects and is comfortable working with tools, etc.  I am getting better, but let’s just say that I have a long way to go.

Some of John's 140 tattoos. (photo: Reed)

His short sleeves reveal two fully tattooed arms.  “I started getting tattoos in 1992.  I’ve got 140 total.”  I learned that he hasn’t gotten any tattoos though in about ten years.  So 140 tattoos in eight years comes out to be one about every three weeks.  Wow…that’s intense!  So how much would that cost?  John estimates that he has invested between $6-10,000 in body art over the years.  “I’ll probably still get another one some day,” he admits.  He says the most painful one was a tattoo that he got on his left inner thigh.  I took a look at his arms.  Many of them depict Native American scenes inspired by his Sioux Indian heritage. 

He shared with me that when he started at Home Depot that the big question was if he was going to have to wear long sleeve shirts in order to cover his tattoos.  “After about a week they decided that it was OK because there was nothing offensive about the tattoos and they couldn’t really discriminate against me just because I had tattoos.”  Reminds me a little of when I was in high school I got a job a clothing store at the mall called Chess King.  Bill the manager asked me in the interview if there was anything that might prohibit me from performing the job.  “Well, I am color-blind,” I told him.  Bill looked pretty dumbfounded and said that he wasn’t sure they could hire me because of that.  But they did.  Apparently they were a little concerned about potential discrimination claims.  I did ok there.  Everything goes with jeans!

John (photo: Reed)

I looked down at the $10 and asked him what he planned on doing with it.  He thought about it for a little bit and decided to deposit it into his money market account.  He is saving money to hopefully retire in 15 years at 65.

John and his wife live with his 83-year-old father whose activities have been significantly curtailed after he suffered a broken hip.  He says that in the next month or two the doctors will determine if they can fix his father’s hip.  He paused as he told me this next part and his eyes went to the ground and then back up to me.  If they are unable to fix his father’s hip John will have to stop working in order to stay home and take care of his father.  “That’s OK, we’ll figure something out.  My dad raised me and I owe it to him to take care of him.  He did it for me.”

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Have you ever wondered how your life would have turned out if you had dropped out of school your freshman year of high school?  Well today’s recipient Kylie knows the answer to that question first-hand.  She did it.

Kylie in front of the fountain at Dupont Circle (Photo: Reed)

Kylie, who turned 21 on Friday, decided half way through her freshman year of high school that she didn’t want to go any more.  Probably we have all thought about dropping out, but she actually did it.  Then she visited three or four other schools to see if she liked them any more, but didn’t find what she was looking for.  She tried home schooling for a while, but that didn’t work out either.  So what did she do?  She says she ended up hanging out with some friends that were freshmen at a Delaware college.  They too were not going to class much either.  She “experimented with lots of things” she said and wound up finding herself.  She discovered that she really liked to write.

Today, she is taking classes at American University and hopes to open creative writing centers in youth correctional facilities.  She has already started the process but has a way to go to launch her first center.

I asked Kylie to describe herself and she said, “I am empathetic to a fault.  I’m maybe a little lost…but definitely passionate.” I felt her passion when we spoke about our mothers.  “I love her more than anything,” she said about her mother.  She asked about my mother and I shared with her what a wonderful person my mother was.  She started to cry.  “I don’t know what I would do if I lost my mom” she said fighting away a tear.

Photo: Reed

I was interested in Kylie’s tattoos.  She has seven “professional” tattoos and one “prison” tattoo.  I call it a “prison” tattoo because it was one that a friend did with a BIC pen.  Ouch!  That one didn’t look so good either.  On her right arm she has a large tattoo that says “Love Killer.”  It hurts me just to look at it as I imagine the tattoo needle hammering into the veins that ran along her forearm.  She got this tattoo because of an ex-boyfriend she had.  She shared with me the details of a couple of past relationships.  “Who was the Love Killer,” I asked.  “Maybe I was” she answered.  

Something she said about two former boyfriends stayed with me.  “The one guy I loved, but I never told him that I loved him.  The other one I never loved, but I told him that I did.”  Ironic isn’t it.  “I sometimes regret not telling him that I loved him.”  I asked her if she thought that things would have ended up different if she had told him that she loved him and she shook her head to tell me “no.”  “In that case” I said, “it doesn’t really matter, does it?”

Kylie told me that she was going to give the $10 to somebody else.  As for ways that you can help Kylie, she said she would give that some thought and see if she came up with something.

Photo: Reed

We were heading in the same direction, so we walked through Dupont Circle and headed toward the Metro entrance.  On the way over we passed a woman sitting on a crate panhandling.  Kylie pulled the $10 out of her pocket and dropped it in the woman’s bucket and kept on walking.  “I had to get rid of it!  I didn’t want to be tempted to spend it.”  I sneaked a peak back at the woman…her face was pleasantly shocked.

Happy 21st birthday Kylie!

By the way, check out what Start from Day 126 did with the $10 I gave him…he posted his experience today on his website!

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