Rapid Eye Reality -- Home of Brad Willis' writing on family life, travel adventures, and life inside the poker world

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Wednesday, October 31, 2001

My Ego

It's not that late, but I feel sleepy. I'm crediting my fatigue with my amazement over a recent phenomenon.

I should start by telling you, I started RER for my own personal enjoyment. Su got me started and helped me until I got hooked. Frankly, I would post a little something here everyday if only one other person would read it. But, I have to admit that I am curious about how many people read what I write. I guess I wouldn't be human if I didn't.

That's why I was knocked out of my chair a few minutes ago (the dog scrambled to get out of the way and is now hiding under a down comforter in the next room). Like many bloggers out there, I keep track of how many people log on each day. Ordinarily, I get about 15 unique page views per day, give or take. That equals out to about 80% of the people I told about the site back in August. If I get 15 a day, I am slap-happy.

So tonight I come home from an Irish pub that doesn't seem at all Irish and barely qualifies as a pub. I only stayed so long because there were five ladies dressed as Catholic school girls. Just so happens my buddy CJ is dressed as a priest. Good fortune, I guess. So, I come home and log on to check out a few blogs, check the news that's happened since I left work, check a few football happenings, and finally just before I'm about to log off...check my monitoring site.

Remember...I usually get about 15 unique page views a day. Today...170. One hundred seventy.

I spent the last few minutes trying to figure out exactly how that happened and I can only come to one conclusion. Yesterday, a woman I don't know but have come to read about everyday was nice enough to push her daily readers toward RER. Her name is Meredith. You can find her at that crazy casbah jive.

So, without any greater explanation than that and with many thanks to the editor over at the casbah, I will now put my ego (which strained a tendon or two in the last hour or so) back in that little mini-bottle Crown Royal bag (remind me to tell you that story some day) and head off toward bed...or at least the couch to watch the rest of the ball game. Wait, it looks like the D-backs may be about to put the Yanks to bed. Maybe I should just sit here for a few minutes.

You know, there's little reason to get up from a computer anymore. You can listen to the game-online, bore your readers with inane ego trips, get the news of the day, and if you're really lonely look up some dirty pictures.

Okay, that's it. 'night.

**two minutes later...homer to center field. Two runs score. Tied up. Go figure.**

Halloween and Femininity

It seemed like a good idea at the time. I was a young boy, not completely sure of myself, but just ballsy enough to say, "Indeed, I do want to be a woman for Halloween." My mom--obviously not afraid her son (the same son who played kiss chase in kindergarten and asked his second grade teacher to marry him) might actually want to be a woman--was overjoyed. She had run out of baby-making ingredients and never popped out a girl. So, for once, she would get to do some hair, put on some make up, and pick out a dress. It was quite a moment for mother and son. The shade of lipstick was just my color.

How was I to know that I would make such a convincing lady? When I looked in the mirror, I saw an ugly girl looking back at me (how was I to know that I would see so many of those reflections during my first college years?). I looked like a woman and I made the decision there and then...there would be no trick-or-treating. I would cry like the woman I was and do without the reeces cups and box-o-dots (man, I loved the dots).

My father, though, is a man. Mix Bruce Willis and James Coburn and you've got Papa John. And so while I was stumbling about on my heels, trying to figure out how girls wear stockings without their testicles itching, and watching my finely-tuned make-up run down my little face...my father donned a dress, a wig, a finer make-up job...and he dragged my ass out the door. Two women on the town, asking for candy from complete strangers, and shaking their hind-ends like ladies of the evening.

I think this probably set the stage for later days.

There are far too many pictures of me (most from college) wearing wigs, lipstick, garter belts and the like. At one point I started wearing my hair long. Very long. It was a dark period in my life and I don't like to discuss it. But for the purposes of this story, its necessary.

I looked horrible. The pictures prove that. Plus, I was eating a lot of Taco Bell and drinking a lot of beer in those days and weighed about 20 pounds more than I do now. I looked like hell.

Few people ever discouraged me, though, so my hair kept growing. It reached my shoulders and probably would've reached my waist. And then it came time for a BBQ.

I was at the butcher looking for a good piece of meat. I must have been hypnotized by the bratwurst, because the butcher couldn't get my attention. Finally, he said in a much too loud voice, "Ma'am! Can I help you with anything?"

My hair came off shortly after that.

Depsite my clearly heterosexual status, I am half woman.

Ask anybody. I'm sensitive, have a love for sweet smells, and my nipples are poofy.

Maybe I can blame Dad for this.

Say burrito really fast

My wife is cracking me up.

Her drive to expand her horizons is admirable. I have a hard time expanding anything more than my waist line. She has taken it upon herself to become a fast Spanish speaker. She started taking classes a couple of months ago. Two days a week she gets up with the sun, stumbles into a classroom, and speaks Spanish for a couple of hours before work. Last night before bed, she looked at me with these cute little sleepy eyes and said, "Necessito agua." I wasn't quite sure what she meant. I knew agua is water. Necessito sounded like she needed some. But I wasn't sure what to do from there. So I did what every husband in America would do. I rolled over and started dreaming. I'm a real prick sometimes.

Now, when I come home from work the TV is turned to Univision. As it turns out, my wife is watching Spanish soap operas on her lunch break. It is apparently an attempt to be able to understand her soccer companions when they talk about Maria's new baby and how she doesn't know who the father is on "The Bold and Burrito" or "The Young and the Relleno."

She really is quite a senorita.

Tuesday, October 30, 2001

Moons over Mt. Willis

Tomorrow night...Halloween. Day of dread, devils, dastardly deeds. It will also be the first time in 46 years that a full moon will rise over the holiday. Scientists are predicting...due to atmospheric conditions...that the moon will look like a jack-o-lantern. Also in the sky, the Seven Sisters constellation...often pointed to by doomsdayers as a sign of the end of the world.

I am shutting down Mt. Willis for the night. Just before last Halloween, we moved into Mt. Willis. I bought 18 bags of candy. That, I figured, was enough for the kiddos and enough for me. Then the trucks started coming down off the mountain (that's the real Mountain, not Mt. Willis). If ever I needed an illustration of the word "horde," I got it that night. The 18 bags were gone in an hour. I abandoned the doorbell procedure and just sat on my front porch and threw candy at the masses. When the 18 bags were gone, I ran up to the local drug store (a chain franchise monster) and bought ten more bags. Gone in another hour. I turned off my porchlight and the rest of the lights in my house and peered through my miniblinds at hundreds of angry batmen and ghosts. I was scared and still am today.

So, Mt. Willis will be closed for business tomorrow night. If you want candy, you can steal it from the little monsters that will be camped outside my house. I'm just not taking any chances on that debacle being fueled by a full moon and the Seven Sisters.

Melissa's father made both of his appointments this morning. First the mortuary (a $4000 expense), then an interview with a local TV reporter who is admittedly conflicted.

Little secret about some TV reporters...sometimes we're not sensationalist vultures.

My problem today...I know a lot more than I feel comfortable telling. For instance, I know the victim in this case was a nude dancer, a single mother who got pregnant when she was 16 and never finished high school. I know she was dating a married man and her family believes that may have contributed to her death. I know that as early as three weeks ago she was telling family members what to do in the event of her death.

But I also know that I sat for 30 minutes today talking with a very Christian man, who spent nine years as a traveling circus clown, who raised this girl since she was one year old, and who can't say out loud that his daughter was a stripper. She was a poet, a mother, a sister, a daughter.

Now...there are some who say that I should tell all I know, that I'm not doing my business justice if I don't. And to a degree I agree with that.

But...besides being good for ratings...are all the sleazy things really all that relevant to the story? I dunno. I mean, this guy took time out of his funeral preparations to come at my request to our station to do an interview. Somebody strangled his daughter and left her in the trunk of her own car. He smelled her body when he found the Honda Accord in a strip mall parking lot. Am I going to feel like I've done my job if I go on TV and say his daughter was a stripper slut who got mixed up with the wrong people?

In my defense, I don't have my sleazy information from a credible source. That is to say, I know it to be true, but I don't have enough supporting the facts to put it on TV without the fear of being sued.

I'm quite conflicted. Hard-nosed reporter, my ass.

I've been writing all of this off and on for the last two hours. I started before the victim's father got here, then went and got lunch, then came back to write some more. I'm neck deep in Karrie's Kafe chicken salad.

It has a therapeutic herb in it (I think) that will help me make my decisions.

Monday, October 29, 2001

Chicken soup, dead dancers, and wasabi fingers

My belly is full. I just enjoyed a bowl and a half of chicken and rice soup that I made with my wife last night. It was better tonight than last. Now, I'm hunkering down for a long night of playing on the computer. But first, a couple of things from my day.

Melissa has been missing since Wednesday. She was 23 years old, drove a green Honda Accord with alloy wheels, and according to certain people had been dating a married man for a while.

Yesterday afternoon her family got a call. The caller said Melissa's car was in the parking lot of a local strip mall. So the family went. That's when a cousin saw that the large stereo speaker that usually sits in Melissa's trunk was in the back seat. The cousin relayed that to the deputies on the scene. One opened the trunk, saw a white sheet, and slammed the trunk lid back onto its lock. Melissa was dead inside. Somebody strangled her.

I deal with death a lot. I talk to a lot of grieving moms, dads, brothers, sisters, and kids. It is never fun and I rarely feel well after I finish.

Late today I was at the Sheriff's Office. A woman recognized me and asked if I was covering the story. I said I was. She told me she was Melissa's cousin. Melissa was a dancer. I learned soon that she wasn't talking ballet. I gave her my card. Tonight, after I got home a young producer called and said the dead dancer's dad had called for me. Normally, I would've waited until morning to return the call. For some reason tonight...I didn't.

A man who sounded quite old and quite tired answered the phone. I asked for him by name and he said that was him. I told him I was sorry he was going through such a rough time and asked him what I could do for him. The conversation isn't much to write here about. What was more striking was the background noise. I find it very familiar, even though I've only experienced it a few times myself.

There was a low rumble seeping through the phone receiver. A child was babbling like he didn't know or couldn't appreciate what was going on.. Adults were talking in low voices, but there were a lot of them so it made enough noise to be heard. The tired, old man was straining to hear me over the phone. I'm sure the room was full of cigarette smoke. There was probably an ashtray that someone had already emptied once tonight. The coffee pot barely has time to cool off before someone is making a new pot. They are the sounds, smells, and temperatures of death in a lower middle class family. The time when a family will come together and talk quietly, smoke cigarettes, drink coffee, and wait to feel better.

Our conversation lasted less than five minutes. I became his second appointment in the morning.

He's going to the mortuary first.

On a lighter note (actually a bit of a light green)...we all know to be careful of the wasabi. It looks quite innocent, but it can really mess your mouth up. And I learned something new today.

Wasabi must have some kind of water-repelling oil in its molecules. I swear I had washed my hands two times before I stepped into the bathroom.

Note to all of you and myself...the next time I handle wasabi with my bare hands, I'm wearing gloves before I take anything out of my pants.

Friday, October 26, 2001

Tongue Laces and babbling

If only I could find a company that would make shoe laces out of my tongue.

I have no problem being tongue tied. Talking to incredibly attractive or intelligent people, explaining to my wife why I need one more drink at 3AM, trying to say Julio Jaurez Gonzalez on the air. I can tie those things up very well. But I can't keep my shoes tied to save my life.

I feel like a two year old. I tie my shoes They come untied. My shoes laugh at me.

I bought new laces. I didn't know they came from the same cartel of shoe-lace makers who make laces that stay tied just long enough to give you a false sense of secuity that you're not about to lose your shoes in front of a Main Street full of well-tied professionals.

Friday. It's Friday. I can't concentrate. I'm going to kick off my shoes (they're already untied), lie under my desk and listen to some old Eddie from Ohio.

It's chilly out. Three out-of-towners are in-towners tonight. Holly from Washinton, Hoyt from Chicago, Rozic from Atlanta. We're planning beer, pizza, and Scrappy Hamilton. They last time Hoyt was here, we drank Jager until the Corner Pocket put the felt covers on the tables. I wandered off and pondered life under the Sum Gum Tree (I learned later that it was a Sweet Gum Tree. Go figure).

I couldn't sleep last night. No storms blew in. I kept my wife awake too long. I let her fall alseep around 1AM. I couldn't sleep. I couldn't stop wondering where home was.

I own my house here. I have friends here. My parents live in Springfield, Missouri. Other friends live in KC, St. Louis, Denver. I'm a dirty white collar nomad and nowhere is home anymore. I don't think that's a real problem, but it's really hard to figure out what I'm longing for when I get homesick.

I couldn't figure it out, so I got up at 1:45 and paid my bills and balanced my checkbook. At 3AM I crawled back in bed and started wondering if I should start some sort of self-improvement program (SIP). SIP's suck and they're always doomed to failure. By 3:45 I was tired of thinking and stared at the ceiling. I woke up a few hours later.

Strange...I'm not tired today. But I can't keep my shoes tied and I find that troubling.

But not so much that I'm not completely happy with my life.

Thursday, October 25, 2001

Tongue-tied fingers

After see-sawing on my job satisfaction this week, I decided not to post anything at all yesterday. My mother always said that thing about not saying anything if you can't say anything good. But, Daddy always said, "If it don't fit, force it." So, I'll try to write something today. I'm not even sure what I'm about to write.

Here's something...

One thing I miss about life in Missouri is that loud cackle that would rise out of KTTS County Radio in the waning summer months. We'd be out on our blacktopped driveways, playing horse or a violent game of Buffalo Basketball (somebody always came away quite injured) and that sound would squelch out of my dad's radio. It was a combination of a WWII-era bomb alert and a wailing child who wants that slimy thing that just fell out of his crib. In short, we knew the ball game was about to be postponed.

The harsh KTTS waa-waaing was a harbinger of something violent, loud, angry, and uniquely Midwest. Soon, there would be a storm that would scare people on the southeastern coast underground. The sky would split open in brilliant blue light, the thunder would rattle the dishes in the cupboard, and the rain drops would fall sideways and sometimes upside down.

On a lot of those evenings, I'd sit with my dad and brother and watch the ominous wall clouds beat the horizon into submission. We watched for funnel clouds. We'd rather experience one of those than a funnel cake from the Ozark Empire Fair. Sometimes Brad, Gary, Alex and the other boys from the neighborhood would sit with us. We sometimes would move into the garage when the rain got too thick to see. If it got really violent (which by southeastern standards is defined as armageddon), we'd move into our little hallway and listen as our house struggled to maintain its roof. A few times we drove to the St. Johns Hospital parking garage. I'll admit...a few times I got scared. And I miss that feeling a lot.

When my wife and I moved here we fell in love with the mountains. The autumn leaves, rolling hillsides, apple cider...they all gave us something new to appreciate about the world. We learned quickly, though, the mountains were a mean buffer. As those Midwestern storms rolled through Kentucky, Tennessee and Georgia they got discourged by the peaks and valleys. They gave up, turned into puny rainstorms and did nothing but make our grass grow faster.

But every once in while, those storms flip the middle storm finger to the mountains, barrel across, and beat us into submission.

Last night around midnight I saw the first lights break through my miniblinds. Usually the light peters out and the rain starts. I opened the windows anyway. The dog started barking at whatever she barks at when I open windows. And then it started. A beautiful cacophony of light, sound, wind, and rain. The dog shut up. In her three years on earth, she's never seen anything like it. I figured she thought...whatever I've been barking at out there must be smart enough to move inside, so I'll quit barking at it until this armageddon lets up.

My wife and I laid back in bed, the dog curled up on my wife's legs and we fell asleep to it. When we woke up this morning, it felt like fall again. The sun was out, the leaves were falling, and the mountains were licking their wounds.

It probably won't happen again for a year or so. But I wish it would. And I wish a radio station in this market would contact KTTS about getting that raid siren. I'd love to hear it again.

Tuesday, October 23, 2001

Blimp Boy

As much as I let my tongue slip and slam my line of work, it does provide me with oppotunties I wouldn't have if I worked behind a desk.

In my short career I have traveled to the Mojave Desert, watched Mississippi Klan leaders sentenced to life in prison, flown multiple times in a helicopter, stood in a tropical storm (next time I'd like to try something more intimate...but that's another story all together), hung out with the Rainbow Family in a national forest, walked through the ruins of Thomas Wolfe's burned childhood home, spent two months searching through the Ozark Mountains for a deranged mountain man, listened as murderers confessed their crimes to me, spoken to world leaders, spoken one-on-one with a boy who killed two girls in a school shooting, discovered a sick mortality we all posess, sat up all night under the crackle of gunfire as a crazy man shot at police during a standoff, sat outside a maximum security prison (all night again) as two men held prison guards at bay, learned how to shoot a .40 calibre pistol...among other things that don't come to mind right now.

Today, I climbed into the world's largest commercial airship...that's a blimp to you and me. Fuji Film's blimp has been given the cold shoulder by sporting events due to the events of September 11th. This week it flew into our little state (where no one is playing any kind of major sporting event) to visit its Greenwood plant. And they offered me a ride. A ride that...if I were a desk jockey (no offense, my desk jockey friends) I would not have been offered. Their insurance company won't let them take the general public for rides. I guess news reporters' lives are worth less than everybody else.

This thing is huge. Almost as big as a jet airliner. If you had 44 million tennis balls, you could fit them all in the big bag of helium. It seats more people than my living room and has a bathroom...er...lavatory...in the back. I spent two hours on the road, thrity minutes in the air, skipped breakfast and lunch, and turned out a one minute story.

Commercial blimps have been flying in the United States since 1928. In that time, only three million people have flown in one. That's not very many if figure that around that many people fly on the major airliners in a month or so.

So make me the 3,000,001st person.

The news business is a strange one. No glamour. Stupid hours. Low self respect. But you get to do unique things from time to time. Some good, some bad. But they all teach you something. That's why I'm going to have a hard time getting out of this business.

No news is...

I've mentioned this before, but it feels more and more significant every day. September 11 is arguably the biggest news story of all time. That makes all other news seem puny. That means we in the news business (that's the local news business) don't have much to do that means anything. We're struggling to come up with anything that will make our viewers watch. I'm discouraged.

What's worse, since I came off my short vacation I have been...um...less than motivated. Work feels so much like work.

Today, the only thing that may give me my jilly-jollies (not sure where that word came from) is the potential that I could take a ride in the world's largest commercial blimp. Ordinarily I don't take blimp rides as a part of my daily duties. And I never really wished for a blimp ride. But, the possiblity exists today and it would be a welcome diversion.

Now that my four days in the mountain have passed, I don't have much to look forward to. I'm going to see a neat band on Friday, there's a costume party on Saturday. I'm just less than rowdy right now.

My adrenal glands are on their way to atrophy.

Monday, October 22, 2001

Euchre, Book Binder, and Laughing

LEAF weekend (a four day event this season) twists about in my head as little five minute memories. The anti-freeze probably has something to do with the lack of full scale stories, but the greater reason, I think, is that most of our life-long memories are not epics. They are snippets and we cherish them. So here are some snippets of my snippets from Fall LEAF 2001...

It's past cold. It's freezing. My wife has covered everything on her body except her eyes and she's trying to find a way to do that. We are the four-person advance team, sent up a night early to secure our spot for Tent City. We survive only because of some browish liquid in a clear bottle marked Jim Beam. My wife beds down early. The rest of the advance team toys with the idea of finishing the bottle...and gets close.

Morning warms Tent City and the rest of the 25-person crew begins to arrive. They bring more provisions. Not many hours pass before we have turned a tupperware tub over and turned it into a Euchre-playing table. The game goes on for hours. We'll be going for many more.

Roy Book Binder has a great moustache and a better hat. He's wearing neat glasses and telling stories about the Rev. Gary Davis from Gray Court and Pink Anderson from Spartanburg. His fingers do something amazing to a 1939 guitar. He sings a song written in 1904. I'm sitting on a hard wooden floor and I don't care how bad my ass hurts. I'm not getting up until he's finished. He finishes sooner than I'd like. As he leaves, he tells us he "feels like an oxymoron. I'm a blues singer with a web site."

A hundred people must have drums around this giant bonfire. People scream every once in a while. Very primal. I've hiked a mile or so up hill to watch this through glassy eyes. People dance and scream and pound. The guy standing next to me (I met him just the day before) looks at me, pulls out a square piece of paper. "Put this on your tongue," he says. I look at him in disbelief. I never have and don't intend to start now. Plus, the anti-freeze has already done its work on my head. He hands one to my buddy who eagerly pops it in his mouth. I look at him. Bad idea, buddy. It's already after midnight. "It's hot," he says. But he looks refreshed. Turns out, Listerine is making these new little paper-looking flavor tabs that dissolve in your mouth. I feel a little silly.

It's 2 AM and I can't stop laughing. A buddy is imitating Cartman, which usually doesn't make me laugh. But he's threatening to go up to a tent inside the Tent City compound and ask if there's any more of that summer sausage. He refuses to stop and I only stop laughing because my stomach hurts too much.

I'm back now but my head is not. I want you folks to consider coming down. I'd like the people of my past to experience life out here. LEAF is every May and October. Start thinking about it.

I need a blood transfusion

We struggled back down the Mountain yesterday afternoon and capped off our weekend with a giant calzone.

LEAF was quite a success. Lotsa good music and lotsa other stuff that I'll relate when I stop seeing double.

Anybody know the number for Betty Ford?

Thursday, October 18, 2001

Dirty hippie?

My buddy Marty is an occasional reader of RER. He writes today..."Are you turning into a hippie?"

I dunno. Probably not.

Nevertheless, I'm at LEAF. Won't be posting for a few days. Check back on Sunday or Monday. Hopefully I'll have some documentation and some stories that will convince all of you to join us at LEAF in May.

It's going to be cold tonight. 33 degrees.

Got anti-freeze?

Tuesday, October 16, 2001

On my mind

I just spent a few minutes re-stringing my guitar (or guit-fiddle as some call it). More on that in moment...but first (in TV talk, that's the beginning of what we call an umbrella lead)...why I procrastinate.

I've discovered, I let things go longer than I should. My grass hasn't been cut in three and half weeks. Until I wandered into the Regency Barber Shop this morning (best $10 hair cut in town) I had gone about a month and half since my last cut. And while I try to treat my guitar with the greatest of care, I hadn't re-strung it in months. In short, my lawn looks horrible, I had grown sideburns (not quite mutton-chops, but people were starting to give me that..."you aren't Brandon or Dylan" look), and my guitar sounded like an old man who just wanted some more soup and was going to mumble and whine until he got some.

Maybe you call me lazy. But after almost three decades on this planet, I've got it figured out. I let things go until they look really bad, so they'll look/sound a thousand times better when I finally get around to my responsibilties. My hair looks better and (getting back to the other half of the umbrella lead) my guitar has that perfectly wooden-metal sound. When I drag it up the mountain Thursday (to plug in the five-song jukebox and annoy that lady in the tent who can scream "It's 1 o'clock in the morning!!!" much lounder than I've ever played) it will sound great.

On that note...I came home to a great message on my machine tonight.

"Hi, guys, it's Janice and Brett and Mary. We're coming to LEAF!"

Last time I saw the couple and their baby they were shaking off a perfectly terrible rear-end collision. Some drunk guy in a Porsche ran up under their pick-up on Tybee Island. His accelerator locked up and he hit them again. Baby Mary was in the cab and everybody was worried about them. But they were troopers. now I'll be seeing them on Friday. Fantastic.

A couple other things of note...

The good folks over at what I appreciatively abbreviate as The Casbah have provided us with a different kind of link (I think she got it from somebody else, but I'll give her credit for tonight). Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the Belief-O-Matic. Not so sure about your faith? Or maybe you'd like to test yourself. Just log and take a five minute quiz and it will give you a list of about two dozen religions that fit closest to your beliefs. I won't tell you how I came out, but I will say that I wasn't surprised and anybody who kows me wouldn't be either.

And then there's this...

I have this very vague recollection of sitting in a house when I was a kid. I can't even remember whose house it was. I was in the kitchen with this guy. We were writing together. He'd write a paragraph, then I'd write a paragraph. I can't remember what the story was about, but it was a bit macabre and I remember describing a Mobil Gas sign...or mabye it was Exxon. Don't know.

I didn't have an older brother and probably would never have wanted one. Nevertheless, as a youth I looked up to that one particular guy who took the time to write a story with me and who seems to be a regular reader of RER (at least, he...unlike SOME PEOPLE!! uses the reality check section). I won't name him because his responses to my ramblings have been in private e-mails. Nevertheless, he was the guy that made me want to write...who encouraged my guitar playing...and who has built a family like I someday hope to (sorry about that preposition there). What's neat...I hadn't seen him or talked to him in years until he showed up at our wedding in 2000. Since then we've e-mailed back and forth. Now he reads RER and sends back these amazing responses. Like he reads every word I write, thinks about it, has the courage to tell me when I'm wrong, and the courtesy to tell me when I'm right. Thanks to Susuannah I'm keeping this on-line journal. Now, I sort of feel like I'm back in that kitchen or dining room again. It's pretty neat. Maybe he should consider starting up a blog...hmmmm.

Now it's time to pick up the old guit-fiddle and strum a bit before people in the house start getting sleepy.

You know it's strange...I've written more for myself in the last month and half than I have in the last five years combined.

I'll have a Dead Body Photo with a sick twist

I'm starting to get a little loopy. The trip is just two days away. My mutiple personalities have stopped doggedly trying to defeat my rowdiness. I've decided, despite being upset about Mike's departure, I'm going to have a good time.

In light of such loopiness, I thought I'd share something off the AP wire.

(Cincinnati-AP) -- A jury in Cincinnati has convicted a former
deputy coroner and a photographer on charges of abuse of a corpse
-- for posing bodies in the morgue with various objects and then
taking pictures of them.

Jonathan Tobias, a former deputy coroner in training, was
convicted of two counts and faces a maximum two-year sentence.

But Thomas Condon, a commercial photographer, was found guilty
of eight counts and could be sentenced to up to eight years in

And you were embarassed about what you did in college.

A little help

I know there are a thousand ways to help out folks affected by the events on 9/11.
Here's one more
The band is Eddie from Ohio. The album is called "9eleven."
There's only a few tracks on it, but I think they'll be very good.
And it is only $10.
And if you don't already know Eddie from Ohio, you should.
Ask me. I'll rave.

This space intentionally left blank

I'm still stewing about my buddy. But now it doesn't have to do with my disappointment over him missing our camping trip. Now it's some other things that are less definable and maybe less superficial.

I talked to him briefly on the phone tonight. I didn't want to talk too long because I learned he has about seven hours left to spend with his new wife before hopping on some troop carrier and heading off to places unknown. He leaves behind bills, a pug dog, a pretty wife, and a steady job. I couldn't quite define the tone in his voice. I wish I could. It might make me understand how he's feeling right now.

It makes you wonder. Most of us (at least the few souls who find time daily to stop by here) have not lived in a time when we were duty-bound to do anything. The greatest obligation most of us have is a mortgage and a slack-jawed pet to feed. Some of us have taken on a greater duty...that of the two-legged, drooling variety. The kind that eats crayons and then melts your heart by spitting out the saliva-mixed wax into what looks like "I love you, Mommy," on the new carpet. I assume that is a great duty...but not exactly what I had in mind.

We have had the luxury of growing up in a time when army gear was grunge-faux-fashion and grunge kings overdosing on buckshot was a great tragedy. In short, we're softies.

I should say before I piss off any Kurt Cobain fans or former army-jacket wearers (I'm not talking to you, Ben Dayo) that there isn't anything wrong with us being soft. Or perhaps I should say...we had little choice.

I was talking with my wife tonight (she and the dog are snoozing right now) about the biggest news stories of our generation...or at least the one's that got the most attention. I randomly started with the 80's. Reagan catching a bullet. Challenger blowing up. Berlin Wall and the fall of the Soviet Union. Gulf War. Waco/OK City (I don't know why I link those). And now this. This which is likely the biggest thing that will happen in any of our lives.

Now think about our grandparents and parents...WWI, Prohibition (that's life without a snoot-full to you and me), the Great Depression, WWII, Korea, Kennedy, Vietnam, Kennedy, King, the moon...and then us (acutally some of us came before the moon, but I won't count if you don't).

Now, compare the two. We spent the last ten years trying to convince our parents we were a tough generation. But I'm not sure we could've compared our lives to theirs until the last few months. Given, our generation changed the world for the better. People much smarter and more creative than me created a whole new world. But...can we credit ourselves for the great change if we did it in such a slutty time? I mean, if the 90's had been any easier, that girl I knew in high school wouldn't hold the title of...well, I'm digressing.

Actually this whole thing has been a digression. I just started typing and didn't read back over what I wrote until just now. I think I should erase most of it, but I'm not going to. I told myself that if I started editing what I wrote because I didn't want you to see it that I would scrap this entire thing.

I think the point I started off to make here goes something like this: Maybe we should be working for something greater than we are.

I'm not sure what it is and maybe we're doing it and I just don't realize it.

I just know that right now, I'd like to take my wife on a family and friend hugging tour. I want to go hug my mom and dad. I want hug my buddies from high school and college (that's a manly one-armed hug by the way. none of that Sissy stuff). And I want to climb up into the mountains, listen to good music, and drink beer with...wait I'm doing that in three days. Fantastic.

I should go sleep.

One more thing...if you get a moment...think about those people who are leaving their families right now and don't know when they're coming home. Then ask youself what you'd do if someone asked you to do the same.

I'd like to think we could all do it.

Monday, October 15, 2001


I had a long post all worked up in my head. I'm eight days into a murder trial that will end (except for the sentenceing phase) this afternoon. I'd planned a long rant about various powery substances...flour, baking powder, baking soda, rat poison, cocaine...and how I was fairly sure someone sprinkled Anthrax on my popcorn when I went to see Bandits the other night. But...I'm going to leave it all alone for now.

See, last week I threw out a long post about how happy I was that my buddy Mike was going to be able to go to LEAF with us. As it turns out...in his words: "I'll be sleeping at Ft. Bragg this weekend instead of Black Mountain." My buddy got the call.

So...no levity for now. I know each and every LEAFer will have a good time. We missed Daly last LEAF when he was in boot camp and we'll remember him this time. My friend Susannah put it best. In her words..."it won't be the same without him." Last LEAF Su designed red can coozies (those things you use to keep your beer cold) with Mike's initials and the word "Remember." It was sort of a joke then. Now, it doesn't seem like as much of one. But, I'm going to dig mine out and take it with me.

That's it for now I guess.

Sunday, October 14, 2001

Maybe I need to take a day off

Threw a party Friday night for Whims...a friend who decided to leave the workplace for much greener pastures. The party was about two hours old. The beer was walking on its own from the fridge to the guests' hands. Then someone on the deck whispered, "The police are here."

I felt like I was in college again. I'm old enough to have friends with two walking-age children and the police are at my house. What the hell is going on in my life?

Then my pseudo-knowledge of local law enforcement rules kicked into play.

"Is the car blue or white?" I asked, looking around to make sure nothing too illegal was going on.


I felt somewhat safer. The city's white cars would be out of their jurisdiction if they were in my neighborhood. Only the County's blue cars would be arresting me or anybody else there. I still looked around to make sure that ritual sacrifice that the guests were talking about hadn't started yet.

"Is the number on the car 31?" I asked...with a little less urgency this time.

"Doesn't look like it."

That was good. Corporal Donnie Greenway drives car 31. He lives down the street. We know each other in passing, but he's not the the type of guy to just drop by. If he was at my house it was probably because the neighbors asked him to come put a scare in me. After all...I do have a bad...bad reputation.

Then...the blue lights came on and painted my little 'burbian house in police colors. What the hell? I heard the familiar crack of the loud speaker microphone being keyed. Then, echoing through my neighborhood, "WE'RE LOOKING FOR WHIMS!" I looked around for Whims. I didn't see him.

There was just about half a second of fear...followed by fantastic relief. I knew the voice. The car's domelight popped on...I knew the faces.

In my inebraition I had forgotten that our graphics guy at work was married to a 14 year vet of the police department.

It was one of the better laughs I'd had in a long time. We all stayed up much to late congratulating our buddy.

Then... I had to get to up to cover the murder trial I wrote about last week. The jury is sequestered...so we're working on the weekend. Part of the testimony involved what the cops found when they went inside...including a bowl of half-eaten brown rice.

My stomach growled.

I'm so jaded, tired, and hungover that the first reaction my body has (after testimony about two women were beaten, tied up, and stabbed to death) is to a bowl of rice.

Maybe I should've eaten breakfast.

Or maybe I'm just a sick twist who needs to go on vacation.

Thursday, October 11, 2001

I have a bad...bad reputation

I'm not a social butterfly. I don't flit around from party to party looking to see and be seen. When I go to bars, I look for dark corners and friendly bartenders. I choose my drinking buddies wisely and choose my good friends even more carefully.

All that having been said, I do have a problem.

In college, my friends and I hosted about one party per month. Some were rowdy. Others small. Regardless, all were events.

My wife and I have continued that tradition here by opening the doors at Mt. Willis to some of our better friends. We host two big parties a year...New Years Eve and Bradoween (more on that at a later date). But, we also host other get-togethers...often under the guise of Game Night.

That's your background.

So, if you're a regular RER reader, you know we hosted our first garage sale last weekend. It was part of a neighborhood event.

One of my colleagues came over to the 'hood to do some garage-saling (he's a bit of an E-bay fanatic). One woman recognized him.

"We have one of your co-workers who lives here," she tells him.

"Oh, you must mean Brad. He lives here," my friend says.

"I don't really remember his name," she says, "but he's the one that always has cars all around his house on the weekend."

Am I the neighborhood nuisance?

Coconut Monkey

My desk is a mess.

I clean it up about once a week and it takes about a day to get really messy again. But, the mess is framed by the things I keep around to remind me of good work times and better free-time-times. So, for lack of something better to do...

The Shakes Cup--As you walk away from the Mizzou campus, you start to smell it. If you don't smell well, you can see a bearded guy named Fin with a sandwich board over his shoulders. He's promoting Shakespeare's Pizza. They give away free cups with every beer and soda. Every poor college student who couldn't afford real glasses or preferred to save his money for more beer has a huge collection of these cups. I still have a few. One sits on the rail of my cubicle to remind me of all the pizza and beer I put down with my college buddies...and remind me of one of the first dinners I shared with the girl who would someday be my wife.

The Coconut Monkey--My wife and I spent some time in Hawaii. We brought back a few coconuts that had been fashioned into apes. My ape wears wire-rimmed glasses and smokes a pipe made out of coconut shell.

Woman Kissing Telescope--One of my finer works...a picture of my wife kissing one of those face-looking telescope viewers that overlooks the Atlantic Ocen on the coast of Tybee Island.

Your Mom--The mugshot of the bankrobber who mouthed off to me. He has a talk-bubble coming out of his mouth that says "Your Mom."

Woo Sheep--A while back some buddies and I were sitting at a little joint called Zorba's Lounge. It's the type of place where everything is made of red vinyl and the owners keep statues of naked tribal people on the shelves. We were trying to get a feel for how we felt. Did we feel like going out on the town or sitting back in some quiet place. At some point we started gauging our mood based on how many arms we wanted to pump in the air in drunken excitement. Two arms in the air classified a full WOO MOOD. As in "Woooooooooo, I'm crazy, I'm crazy!" A few weeks later, a buddy noticed that my Far Side cartoon of the day pictured a sheep with both arms extended in the air. "Sheep's got the woo," he said. As it turns out, that sounds a whole lot like "She's Got the Look." A few weeks later, my friends and I are at another buddy's house. And whatta ya know, we all start singing "baa-baa-baa-baa-baa, baa-baa-baa-baa-baa, baa-baa-baa-baa-baa-baa, SHEEP'S GOT THE WOO!" (This would make a lot more sense of you could heard me humming along).

There's a lot more on the desk, but I should be working.

Wednesday, October 10, 2001

Is my head on fire?

People keep turning on the heat. Autumn is giving us taste of what South Carolina winter feels like. The dog doesn't like to go outside at night. The maintenance men are cranking up the thermostats. The air in every room I enter is dry.

And everything smells like burning hair.

I don't get sick very often (he types as he virtually knocks wood). But the heaters are giving me that droopy feeling. I'm not sick but I feel like I have just come off a three-day flu and tried to go back to work. My brain is wrapped in cheese cloth. My muscles (little as they may be) are atrophied. And I think about little more than stumbling back into my house for a nap.

The only thing that's keeping me going right now is LEAF. A week from tomorrow I'll be on my way up to Black Mountain, North Carolina's Camp Rockmont. My friends will be in front of me, behind me, beside me on I-26 as we navigate the inevitable traffic (the fall leaves are turning and people can't keep their eyes on the road).

But...I got some very bad news last night.

My friend Mike (one of the family group that opened hearts and coolers to me and my wife) got the call. He's in his mid-30's and missed Spring LEAF because he was in boot camp. He had his own reason for going into the National Guard at such a late age and I admired him for them. But my heart got really heavy last night when I heard his commander had called and said Mike would likely be on his way to Ft. Bragg in the coming days. It meant he would not be sitting around tent city next week, telling his stories, and making me wish I was as good as man as he. I slept heavy.

Mike is one of those rare people. Life and its many downers don't weigh on his spirit. He seems to thrive on the things that drag the rest of the world down. He has this inner fuel that you don't find in other people. He rarely stops moving, finds spirit in the mundane, and makes everyone feel like his best friend. Last LEAF, Susannah made memorial can coozies so we wouldn't forget that Mike was neck-deep in mud under five strings of barbed wire...while we were neck-deep in live music and six sheets to the wind. Another LEAF without Mike would've been...not bad...but, again, missing something.

Then, I got some very good news this morning. Commander called back. The orders aren't coming for now. Which means Mike is coming to LEAF.

In the short time it has taken me to pound this post out, the room doesn't feel as hot. I don't feel as atrophied. The cheese cloth is ripping open and I feel like I can think (at least a little bit).

You ever wonder if you miss what matters in life while you're sitting around wondering what matters in life?

Tuesday, October 09, 2001

Posts from the arctic
A quick post before I return to the great white courtroom (it seems the judge's robe is insulated. It must be 42 degrees in there).

The public defender (AKA Foghorn Leghorn) has now driven the judge to near-madness. I wouldn't be surprised if we end up on network news tonight.

We have a breaking story out of a little burg called Greenville. A circuit judge in an aparrent fit of dispair and loopiness has severed the arms of a local public defender. We're getting word that the the attorney's last words before being attacked were..."I say--I say...the boy just ain't right in the head!"

No time for creativity. Maybe I'll start scripting out my posts on my yellow legal pad and transcribing them later.

Monday, October 08, 2001

Michael Laney and the Godfrey-Hancock murders

My second home
I'm going to be spending a lot of time in a courtroom over the next couple of weeks. If you don't see a lot of posts, that's why.
Below is a synopsis of what I'll be doing.


Summer had waned in the weeks before and by nine o’clock it was dark at the corner of Bennett and Montclair. Inside a house on the corner, 86 year-old Dorothy “Dot” Hancock and her neighbor 82 year-old Thelma Godfrey were visiting.

Everybody in the neighborhood knew Dot Hancock.

“She was in Sunday school class with my wife, a circle class with my wife, a community club with my wife,” her neighbor Paul Dunn said.

Every Sunday and Wednesday, parishioners found Hancock in the fifth row back, sitting at the end of her pew at Northgate Baptist Church. Just the day before, on September 24, Hancock sat in her spot and listened to Dr. Robert Whaley preach.

“I remember she went out the door on Sunday morning. She had one of her Sunday school class members by the arm, helping her down the steps,” Whaley said.

Godfrey was a widow. Her husband, a retired police detective, had died years before. Her son, Larry, worked as Greenville’s Fire Marshal.

Both ladies lived in Greenville’s historic North Main neighborhood, home to elderly people who have lived there for years and young professionals looking for an escape from prefabricated homes.

In the weeks before that night, a lot of neighbors had seen a man with fiery red hair walking the streets. He was looking for work.

Neighbor Penny Miller said, “He approached me and said ‘I’m looking for work. I need work. I need food.’”

A few neighbors—including Hancock—hired the man who told people he was trying to escape his past.
“He told me the very first day that he had been in trouble, been in jail.” Miller said. “He was trying to lead a new life.”

Hancock and her neighbors helped. They hired the man. Hancock even asked people at Northgate Baptist for some extra clothes for the man to wear to church.

Around nine one of Hancock’s neighbors heard a crash. He looked out his window and saw a hole where Hancock’s garage door used to be. When he ran across the street, he realized Hancock’s car was gone and the garage was on fire. The neighbor called 911. Firefighters showed up in a few minutes. The fire had almost put itself out, but firefighters still had a job to do.

They had to call Greenville’s homicide unit.

Dot Hancock was dead in her garage. Someone had raped her, tied her up, and killed her. Thelma Godfrey was in an upstairs bedroom.

“(She was) bound by her arms. Her legs were bound to a footstool and she also had her throat cut,” Greenville Police Detective Collis Flavel said.

Detectives found an empty gas can in an upstairs bathroom. They decided someone had killed the two elderly women, took some things from the home, set the house on fire, stole Hancock’s car and escaped.

It wasn’t long before neighbors pointed them in the direction of the yard man with fiery red hair. Neighbors said, they thought the transient had been breaking into homes and garages.

His name was Michael Laney.

Michael Laney was the product of a 1968 drunken one-night stand.

Psychiatrists who interviewed Laney and his family say his father was an alcoholic. When Laney’s mother discovered she was pregnant, she told her one-time lover that she he was too drunk to marry.

When Laney was born, psychologists think he likely suffered from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. The same doctors say the infant also had a prolapsed umbilical cord that wrapped around his neck and cut off his oxygen.

In the months before he turned two years old Laney went to the hospital twice. Once he had chemical burns inside his mouth. The next time, doctors said the toddler had overdosed on Phenobarbital, a sedative sometimes used to treat patients with seizures.

Social workers said Laney was abused by a female caregiver as a young child. When his mother discovered the abuse, she took her child back.

Once back in his mother’s home, social workers said Laney’s older brothers and stepfather abused him and a neighbor sexually abused Laney and his sister.

Laney told doctors he started using drugs in the third grade after a friend’s father died. By the time Laney was in his teens he had graduated to harder drugs. He told his doctors that he huffed (inhaled) the fumes of glue and a product called Gob. He said he used marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and LSD.

Psychologist started testing Laney’s intelligence when he was in his teens. Over the years, his IQ consistently registered in the low 70’s.

Psychiatrist Dr. Donna Watts said of Laney’s IQ, “Basically it’s a bit smarter than mental retardation, but certainly below average.”

At some point, a jury in Winston-Salem, NC convicted Michael Laney of manslaughter. While in prison, Laney got his GED and started making physical complaints that would become quite common.

A North Carolina Department of Corrections doctor once wrote in Laney’s file, “Laney is overly concerned about his body and convinced he’s had a heart attack.”

Laney’s doctors say he has a long list of mental illnesses including psychotic problems. Laney’s attorneys say he complains of a chronic headache and other problems that are impossible to diagnose.

Dr. Mark Cunningham, a psychologist who interviewed Laney said, “(He thinks) he’s about to have a heart attack, or that he had kidney disease, or that his insides are rotting out.”

The closest doctors have come to diagnoses over the years has been to say that Laney has peptic ulcer disease in remission and diverticulitis, a stomach illness that includes stomach cramps.

Sometime in January 2000, after getting out of the North Carolina prison, Laney moved to Greenville, SC. He moved between a flophouse motel and a Salvation Army shelter and started looking for work.

Around the same time, Greenville police started looking for a red-haired burglary suspect named Michael.


In the hours after firefighters found Hancock and Godfrey’s bodies, detectives started looking for Michael Laney. They knew his mother and stepfather lived in Rowan County, NC and alerted deputies there to start looking for Hancock’s 1982 gold Buick Regal.

Less than 24 hours later, Rowan County deputies found Michael Laney. Greenville Police Chief Willie Johnson—appointed to the office just two months
before—made a quick announcement to his city.

“Michael Laney was arrested driving one of the victims’ car, a knife was found in the car. There was blood on the car. We have identified the killer in this case,” he said.

That Wednesday night the congregation at Northgate Baptist heard a sermon the preacher called “Why Bad Things Happen to God’s People.”

Pastor Whaley told the people in the pews, “We must keep in mind that bad things do happen to good and godly people.”

Within a few weeks, 13th Circuit Solicitor Bob Ariail announced he would seek the death penalty in the double murder case.

Laney has no money. A judge appointed two attorneys for him. Since his arrest, Laney has not cooperated with his attorneys and does little more than complain about his headache.

Doctors at the state hospital say he told them his body hurts so bad, he’d rather die than live and he doesn’t see any reason to cooperate with his attorneys.

“What’s the use? I’ll get death or life in prison. I think it’s too late for any chance.” Laney said, according to doctors. “Whenever I go in there (the courtroom), I just want to crawl up under the world and hide.”


The Chicken Salad Years and other random realities

I tried chicken salad for the first time sometime during my youth. Whoever made it put apples and raisins and nuts in it. It was like some poultry dessert. I hated it so I swore off chicken salad (with all suppologies to my fine, feathered friends).

But something happened recently. I can't quite say what it is. I spent years--decades--thinking chicken salad was sweet and full of fruit chunks.

Guess what? It's not.

I've been on a Greenville, SC chicken sald tour for the last month. I rarely eat anything but the creamy poultry lunch. I'm hooked and right now stuffed with chicken.

The Bachelor (Blank) Night turned out badly.

Instead of putting names in a hat, we drew cards after a monster game of Euchre. The nine of spades got to be the bachelor. After some argument and a re-draw, my friend Todd (a true-to-life bachelor) became the Bachelor for the Night.

The problem...for about an hour before the draw, I had been acting like the party was for me.

In short, I acted like a college freshman Saturday night and embarassed myself. The Bachelor ended up making sure I didn't get arrested or killed.

It's time I start acting like an adult.

Except for maybe LEAF weekend.

Saturday, October 06, 2001

Um...I think I'm broken

I think something has gone terribly wrong with RER. More precisely, I think Bellsouth.Net (the isp I use to host my images) sucks. It has always sucked.

I was taking a nap a little while ago and I woke up with a fake word in my head.

Suppologyn.--The apology given by a person who cannot figure out exactly why they are apologizing, but supposes they should anywayAlso see suppologetic.

My suppoligies to you for the broken image links.

Capitalism, Egotism, and Alcoholis...I mean good times!

Well, we did it. After sitting up half the night drinking beer by myself and watching network dramas I had taped from earlier in the week, the wife and I rolled out of bed at 6:00...no, 6:30...actually closer to 7AM (darned snooze button).

I opened my garage door and a guy said, "Good mornin'! Take fifty cents for those?"

The First Annual Mt. Willis Garage Sale was underway. I had almost canceled it. A cold front was blowing through and the ground was wet. But, those eager people would have none of it. Within three hours, they took most of our junk and gave us $200 for it. We just gave the rest of the mess to the Salvation Army. That's $200 of food and drink for LEAF...coming up in 13 days.

I was reminded of something in the last couple of days that I sometimes forget.

The first to broach this subject with me was a guy by the named of Joey Two-Hands. Late one night after much too much Yucca (ask for the recipe of you like lemon drinks) he said, "We've been friends for a long time and I never have figured out why you're so depressed all the time." He then broke into a long description of times he watched me brood and wanted to kick my ass for it. (note: Joey is a nice guy and not prone to violence. Yucca is just a powerful libation and I was being a bit of a ninny).

The thing is...I've led just about the most fortunate life of anybody I know. My parents are still married. My grandparents are still living. My family has been successful. And I've got a great wife, great dog, and great friends. You can't ask for much more than that.

Anyway, Joey was the first and recently I've had others remind me of the same. The reminder is always welcome.

Someday I will figure out why I brood. Unitl then, you'll have to alternate between silly anecdotes of my silly life and the silly broodings of a...well, whatever I am.

We're trying something new tonight.

My wife and a bunch of girls are taking a friend of ours out for her bacheorette party. The thing is, the bachelorette's bachelor is in LA. That means we ape-like creatures have nothing to do.

We tossed a few ideas back and forth but couldn't come up with much. Then a couple of guys came up with the best idea I've heard in weeks.

We're calling it "Bachelor (Blank) Weekend."

Tonight at 7pm, all the stranded apes are coming over to Mt. Willis. We're all going to put our names in a hat. Whichever name gets drawn out gets to be the bachelor for the night. I may or may not let you know how it comes out.

Okay...the cold front is really cussing up a storm now. The wind against the vinyl siding sounds like an angry train whistle and an ice cream truck is driving below my window. It's playing "Old McDonald" complete with quacks for the quack-quack-here and there parts.

I can't decide if it's too cold to go out and ask for a Slush Pop.

Friday, October 05, 2001


[Editor's note: This thing has a point, it just takes a while to get to it.]

My parents were good to me as a kid. I was born in Missouri's capital (crystalizing my sometimes tenuous relationship with freaky politics), but they moved me into my childhood home before I could recognize the face of each president by a picture out of a cereal box (I learned how to do that at a very young age and now have a hard time picking between Gerald Ford and a Ford Festiva). Most of all, they showed me how important family can be.

They kept me in that home thoughout my school years and I made damned good friends in that time. The best of them were Gary and Brad. Brad and I never fought. Gary and I only had it out once when I accused him at throwing cookies at me. We did everything together. Threw bottles at speed limit signs, stole yard reflectors that we called Pixies, and made an independent film with a working title of "Brad's Big Brother Might Take off His Girlfriend's Top in the Howard Johnson's Swimming Pool." We might as well have been family. We lived at each other's houses. Then, I went to college and stopped seeing them as much. We still remain close. Brad married and has two kids. Gary married and has a littl'un.

In college I made another group of fantastic friends. Marty the Italian Malcontent. Ben, who let college corrupt him delightfully. Cappy, Stoker, Frank, Sandra, Su, Joey Two-Hands, Uncle Brian, Boozie, Aerin, Josh, Grieb, Skip...jeez, the list could go on forever. My brother even came to college and we became better friends than we ever were. Most of us lived together at one point or another and even referred to ourselves as "family" a lot of the time. Now Marty is a prosecutor, Ben works for Anheuser-Busch (a fantastic turn of events), Cappy, Su, and Joey Two-Hands are trying to establish an urban commune in Denver, and my brother is in Med school. He delivered his first baby a few weeks ago. Almost all of them are married and the one's that aren't are living the single life becuase they want to. I moved away from them about four years ago.

I moved to Mississippi where I spent about 8 months alone. It was healthy, but it made me realize how much I needed some kind of family. My then fiancee and now wife joined me there and we realized together, it was time to move on and find a new family.

So we did. The people here (who were a family long before we arrived) opened their arms and beer coolers and welcomed us in. And for the last two and half years have made us feel like part of a family again.

I guess this is the point coming up.

Here's the thing...since we moved here, some folks have moved away, others have gotten married, and now people are starting to have kids. And today "The Note" came out. While I've known for a while that this was going to happen, the official "Tim is leaving News Four" note actully came out via company e-mail. He's been here since I was in college and is moving on to much greener pastures. It made me realize something.

I'm very close to doing what my parents did around three decades ago. Someday, I will be teaching my kid how important a family can be. After many years of learning about family, it's getting time to pass some of that on.

Don't get me wrong. I have an oven, but have no desire to cook any buns yet. My wife and I still have a lot to experience together before Kiddo Time.

What you've just read is far from poetic or even good prose...it's just me realizing that life has a timeline that I would not have predicted years ago when I was dodging fast-moving cookies in my front yard.

Thursday, October 04, 2001

Cold night, family pictures, bright lights on the dead

I thought I was done blogging and working for the night. But, I was just about finished watching West Wing when the phone rang.

The next thing I know, I'm deep into the night, standing on a just-mowed lawn, staring inside a house at a table full of family pictures. They belong to the 77 year-old woman who was dead on the floor, her son who found her, and her husband who is in a local hospital recovering from some knife wounds.

It looks like her husband suffers from some sort of paranoid dementia. He thought she was out to get him and he stabbed her in the chest with a kitchen knife.

It's one of those things that will get little attention even on our local news. But you have to think, despite how enormous the recent tragedy is, it will likely take a backseat for that son. A grown man who walks in, finds his old mother dead, and finds out his dad did it.

There is no sense on the Tragedy Scale.

I'm going home now to hug my wife and let my dog lick me on the face.

Wednesday, October 03, 2001

It never ends

Seems like I've been posting a lot today. You'd think I haven't been doing anything at all. Now I'm stuck at work with nothing to do. I was supposed to go home an hour ago, but America's Fear (and I say that without any disdain for the fear itself) and an idiot with a cell phone got the best of us.

I got stuck with the stranded Greyhound passengers today. The big grey dog wasn't running because a crazy Croatian (and I say that with no disdain for Croatians) went nuts and attacked a bus driver in Tennessee. Six people died and Greyhound shut down.

When the dog went running again, someone in Atlanta called in on a cell phone and said there was a bomb on a particular bus. We (or...I should say, the South Carolina Highway Patrol) had the misfortune of finding it. For the last three and half hours we've been watching a bus and waiting for it to blow up. The poor passengers were cuffed and stuffed and led backward into a field. Their luggage is laid out all over the highway.

So, I'm stuck at work. I can't go home until everybody is sure the dog isn't going to blow. We all know there's little chance of anything happening, but we can't leave.

As I log off here (only to wander around our newsroom looking for something to do) I pose this question: Now that the biggest news events of our lives has happened, will anything else ever be significant? And, is there any use for my job anymore?

That's what I thought.

The Fever

The first word Tim Harmon ever said to me had four letters in it and started with an F. That was all he said and he looked menacing when he said it. He marched by me and I spent a few months wondering whether I should fear him. He works in my building and looks a bit like the Unabomber.

After knowing him for about two and half years, I've realized he's actually quite a nice guy and prone to coming up with ideas and phrases I couldn't come up with on my own. I ran into him today on the back loading dock of our building. As he walked toward the building he asked me, "If you happen to see my motivation out here, would you bring it in with you?"

I wasn't quite sure what he meant and I asked him to repeat himself. Then I got it. He was going through the same thing I am right now. A complete lack of desire to work.

Then he said, "You know, nobody ever talks about Fall Fever. There's all this talk about the Spring, but this time of year, I've got the fever."

Me too.

A side note here...if you love good music and you're looking for another way to help the folks out in New York, check out this site. They're some of the best out there.

The Five-Song Juke Box

I've been called a lot of things in my day. When I was in sixth-grade, a girl at Fastnight Swimming Pool looked at my crotch and called me pencil-d*ck. I took it in stride. In fact, I used that callous statement to formulate a rule for all men. When dancing close with a woman, never carry any of the following things in your pocket: Miniature golf pencils, a package of Certs, a single Vienna Sausage, etc.

Recently, I've earned a new nickname...The Five-Song Juke Box.

I come from a long line of mediocre musicians. My Grandpa in his day could pick a mean guitar. I've got uncles who play mandolin, cousins who can sing so it will melt your heart, a Dad who can turn out a pretty good version of The Flying Burrito Brothers' "Sin City," and a long list of pseudo-uncles and cousins who can turn a guitar into something quite listenable.

So, when I was 12, I picked up my Dad's old Kay (the strings sat about two feet off the neck), some chicken-scratch directions my Dad wrote, and taught myself to play. Years passed before I could play any song from beginning to end. But I got better and better.

I helped form a garage band. The Flaming Puppies (working album title: "Pet us. It won't Burn"). We had fun, learned a lot, and the bass player married my 7th grade girlfriend. We don't talk much anymore.

I went to college and spent years on decks and back porches playing for my friends. I wrote dirty songs about oral sex and baseball players who all the girls wanted to sleep with. There was a time I knew about 100 songs word for word, note for note. I could sit on a porch and play for three or four hours without playing the same song twice. Most people were encouraging. But it was about that time that I realized, the back porch guitar player can get a little annoying.

After college, I contained my guitar-rambling to myself for a few years. My short career as an un-paid medorice public musician was on hiatus.

Then I moved here and fell in with some riff-raff (also known as my very good friends) who owned and sometimes played guitar, drums, piano, etc. I broke the old guit-fiddle back out and started playing again. I realized quickly that my 100-song repertoire had fallen on hard times. I still remembered a lot, but a lot was lost in the bottom of a Stag beer bottle.

I kept playing, even kicked out a new song about a friend who is too virile for his own good. But, those old lingering feelings about being Annoying Guitar Guy kept coming up. I started doing my best to limit my performances. But it came back and bit me in the ass.

Virile Friend dubbed me the Five Song Jukebox. The implication...or maybe it is an inferrence...is that I only know five songs and it gets pretty annoying listening to them over and over again.

I don't know what to do with this nickname. I mean, over the years, I've annoyed a lot of people. My parents who had to go through the years of learning. Willard High School basketball fans who couldn't undertsand why the rhythm section of the jazz band was mounting a mutiny and playing something much louder and crunchier than the Tiger of San Pedro. Neighbors who were trying to figure out why three guys were singing the lyric "Tude likes to show his penis" over and over again. Drunken party-goers who had heard one too many requests for some Indigo Girls. And now...this.

So now I have a decision to make...do I re-learn the 100 songs I once knew or unplug the juke box for a while?

This all made a little more sense when I was an underaged drunk who could pick up girls with a piece of wood and six metal strings.

Tuesday, October 02, 2001

Big Puffy Man Update

[Note: If you haven't read the story of the big, puffy man, scroll down a few stories then read this]

I don't have the heart to write this out in its entirety.

Let's just say, the folks at the Westin Poinsett thought a 103 year-old icon of tiremaking was...trash.


Apart from the part...

[Editor's note: It looks like Strom will remain in the suspended animation state for a while longer. That gives me a couple of minutes.]

Here's the thing.

When I was in college, I was a bit of a long-hair for a few years. It grew and grew. I looked worse and worse. Before it was all said and done, a butcher called me "ma'am."

I cut my hair my junior year in college and have been wearing it basically the same way ever since. Short hair, parted on my left. Box cut in the back, trim it up nice over the ears, and cut those sideburns up about halfway.

I was feeling a little saucy Saturday night. I was taking my wife out for a date. While she was in the shower, I decided to part my hair on the other side. It was a an act of defiance unparalleled in recent memory. I thought I looked completely different, but she didn't notice at first.

We went out for California rolls and tapanyaki. I spent about 45 minutes attempting to eat every roll they had. California rolls, spring rolls, Vietnamese spring rolls. Even a roll of toilet paper. My face was buried in my plate for so long, I thought she would have a good chance to look at the top of my head. Nothing.

We went to a movie, went home, went to bed. Nothing.

So, for the last four days, I've been parting my hair on my right. Nobody has noticed. I've hung out with people I've known for years (including my wife) for hours at a time. Nothing.

I hate the way I look. I look silly with my hair parted on the right. But I refuse to switch it back until somebody mentions something.

And here's the parting shot...do people just avoid looking at my hair (are they looking somewhere else?) or am I just so average that moderate changes in my appearance don't register with people?


I have a lot of things I'd like to write about right now...

However, I live in South Carolina. I work in the news businesses.

And Strom Thurmond just collapsed on the U.S. Senate Floor.

More later.

Monday, October 01, 2001

Missing...big, puffy man...103 years old

They say he's capable. He's a worldly sort who survived through 103 years of war, economic downturns, and lawsuit-happy societies. They say he knows his way around.

But I'm worried...because, in today's world, you just don't know how safe you can feel if a 103 year-old puffy icon is missing and one of the world's largest corporations can't find him.

Bidendum, commonly known as Mr. Bibs or The Michelin Man is missing. He's been gone for two weeks.

He was due to show up on September 17th and one of Greenville's nicest hotels, the Westin Poinset. One has to imagine he wanted to be there. He's big, white and poofy. The Westin's bed comforters are big, white and poofy. It was a match made in heaven.

He chose to arrive via the Big Brown Truck (known to you and me as the UPS van). Somebody signed for him, he made it into the hotel and hasn't been seen since. A local sports mascot--The Furman Paladin--covered for him in his absence, but it just wasn't the same. And it hasn't been for two weeks.

Bidendum...Mr. Bibs is missing.

Police can't imagine he'd just wander off. From what we understand, after 103 years with the company, Mr. Bibs is quite loyal and rarely misses work for anything but under-inflation.

Police have a suspect, but I don't think they're getting anywhere.

More later...I have to call America's Most Wanted.

Of bed sores and blubber

I slept a lot in college. Actually, to be fair, I slept as much or little as anyone else. I just scattered my sleeping time around and it happened to fall at the times when a lot of other people were awake. For this...I earned the none-too-flattering nickname...Bed Sore.

Since college I've taken a job with semi-regular hours and am forced to get up before lunch. My self-esteem has recovered and I can now look back and smile at the idea of being called Bed Sore. Except for days like today. Days I've wasted.

I did as close to nothing as a man can do today. It's now around a quarter 'til one in the morning. I've been out of bed for around 14 hours. In that time, I haven't showered. I haven't shaved. I did brush my teeth, but that was out of a renewed love for oral-health that I will describe at a later date. I watched a lot of bad football. I ate a lot of bad food. In short, I've done next to nothing.

And I think I'm starting to stink.

A man can only sink into couch cushions for so many hours before he starts stewing in his own juices. I'm wearing the same blue jeans I put on Friday night before I tipped back too many brown bottles. In fact, now that I look, I'm wearing the same shirt I was wearing Friday night. I found it hanging on my bed post this morning and I thought...hey, why dirty-up another shirt. This one already stinks.

And I think I'm putting on weight.

About two years ago I realized that I had ballooned to my largest weight ever. I stopped eating McDonald's (for reasons of principle about which you can read in Southern Comfort's Boycott section). I stopped drinking soda that had sugar in it. I dropped about 20 pounds and was satisfied. But...after my day on the couch, I think my body is involuntarily wintering. It's like my body knows it's about to get cold and it wants to protect my innards.

Or it could be that I'm just getting fat and lazy.

So...now it's getting closer to 1AM. I should've been asleep an hour ago

I'm going to hit the sack and try not to dream about those days when my college buddies would poke my belly and scream for me to giggle like the Pilsbury Dough Boy.

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Rapid Eye Reality is the personal blog of writer Brad Willis, aka Otis.
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