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Thursday, February 28, 2002

Medium on the Mount

Statistics show that most of you read this site between 9am and 2pm Monday through Friday. That means, as you read this, I am covering one of the oddest stories of my short career.

A little background first:

Jason was a freshman at a local university. He drove up to a local state park known for its fantastic hiking and spectacular views. He stopped for a Whopper on the way. He pulled through the guard shack, signed his name on the register, and parked his car.

Nobody--we know of--has seen him since.

That was a few years ago.

We know he didn't fill out a hiking form (the kind that says "If I don't come back down the mountain, come and find me"). We know he was a straight-laced Air Force ROTC member. We know his mom and dad don't get along very well. And we know very little of that matters very much because he's been gone for a long time and nobody really expects him to come back. Only a slightly higher percentage ever expects to find what is left of him.

As you read this, I am at that state park with my buddy/photographer Gulfman. I have a backpack full of granola bars, clothes made for layering, water, and other necessities I won't actually need unless the story drags me deep into the bush or high on the mountain and won't let me come down. I actually brought walkie talkies in case we all get split up.

Gulfman and I will spend the rest of this day following a small group of people around. This is not the group that years ago searched in vain for weeks through the underbrush, middlebrush, and overbrush for a young man they never found. Those volunteers have long ago made that experience something to think about in dark moments.

As you read this, Gulfman and I are following Jason's mother. She is following two people from a foundation for missing children. Those people are following a West Coast psychic who has been having dreams about Jason. I wish I could tell you where she is leading us, but I don't know. All I know is that I have clipped a microphone to whatever warm California clothes she brought with her and I am following her whereever the spirits lead her.

My friends have already run through all the jokes ("You think she already knows what questions you're going to ask her?", etc.), so don't bother. I'll admit, though I was offered this assignment and almost hedged on it, I am a little intrigued. There is no part of me that believes that what I am doing right now will do anything for Jason's mother other than get her son's name back in the news. There is no part of me that actually believes the West Coast psychic is doing any more than following the changing wind patterns at the base of the mountain for three days.

But that twisted part of my brain--that part that few people ever see and even fewer actually want to--is curious. It is that part of my brain that makes me have half-concious daydreams in the shower of standing over a pile of bones and having the West Coast Psychic look at me and say, "See? I told you so."

Of course, come Friday night (that's tonight to you, dear readers), I will roll back into the Villa of Green and roll my eyes as my huckster friends ask me what it was like. I''ll answer, "You've been to California. Whatta you think?" And then I will find a watering hole (hopefully the CP) and think about something else for a few hours.

And while I'm thinking about it...every man should have a bar where he feels comfortable. I don't care if it is TGIFridays (although I might laugh at you a little if that's your choice). Every man should have a dark corner to crawl into, where the music is almost always the same, the beer is always as cold, and the women look at you sideways when you head to the john.

IThat's where you'll find me tonight. At least, that's what the woman from the West Coast is telling me right now.

Wednesday, February 27, 2002

Frozen Nose Holes

It occurred to me this afternoon. I stood in a crematory parking lot and marveled at the 1500 degree temperature inside the incinerator. That's hot.

As I contemplated the incinerator's ability to get so hot it actually burns away the dead body smoke before it hits the chimney, a 22 degree wind chill took off my belt, pulled down my pants, and chapped my ass. I don't like winter.

That said...one thing I always appreciated about the two mile college freshman walk between Laws Hall and Middlebush Auditorium was my frozen nose holes.

Most Southern folk don't have a real appreciation for cold. If the weather man says it's going to be cold, they bring their pet deer inside, curl up next to a tin of burning sterno, and read passages to each other from a Danielle Steele novel. They rarely feel a cold so bitter it calls your mama a trollop and eats your spark plugs. Even more rare, a cold so bitter it turns your nose juice into ice crystals.

There is something very un-Southern about sucking winter in through two nose holes and needing an ice scraper to blow your schnozz. It's the same cold that makes you wish you didn't have toes. It is the same cold that redefines pain with a picture of a red, frozen earlobe. It is the same cold that actually makes it painful to put a body part into warm water.

It is cold in the land of cotten today. They say it is going to get really cold tonight...a "bitter" 17 degrees. Bah. That's southern cold.

Nevertheless, as I continue to hide my carpetbagging tendencies behind a veil of faux-southernism...I will bring Donnie the Deer in tonight, fire up the sterno, and break out the book. I like the ones with Fabio on the front.

Tuesday, February 26, 2002

Why Women Don't Understand Us

My mind has been in meltdown recently, in part, because of women's bodies.

While perhaps the greatest creation ever--with the curves, the rises, the falls--women's bodies are perhaps the most complex piece of machinery ever conceived. It is that complexity of mind, spirit, and physical health that turns men's brains into porridge.

The male body is a fairly simple engine. You feed it, oil it, and tell it you like it a couple of times a year. It runs almost as long as you like.

It is that simplicity that stumps the world's women.

I read somewhere that 90% of male communication is made up of one-liners from movies and insider jokes and phrases. The latter fascinates me.

I bond with my male friends with a collection of phrases that an outsider would never understand. For instance, while walking between the 12th and 13th holes on the Timmons Frolf course, there is a drainage pipe with a foot-sized whole in it. Almost every time I walk by, I mutter "Ankle-breaker." My friends don't have to respond. They know it is a quiet warning to watch their step.

The same thing applies to the Gold Bond Powder joke I referred to in my last post.

With that in mind...a brief collections of phrases you might hear me say...and definitions to help you understand my simplicity. And before you read...a warning...some of thse phrases are...um...not family-friendly.

Go crazy with the ice--At one point in high school, Brad, Gary, and I were preparing for a party of some sort. Somebody asked how bags of ice we needed. I responded with "Go crazy with the ice." The phrase now applies to any carte blache situation. "Should I buy a lot of beer or keep it low key?" GO CRAZY WITH THE ICE.

The SIP--An acronym for Self-Improvement Project. It is any foolhardy attempt to better one's self through exercise, diet, etc. The SIP almost always fails.

Elephants and Pteradactyls--In college, two friends who shall remain nameless had a...er...loud physical relationship. Their upstairs antics sounded like a prehistoric safari. The phrase now applies to any couple with enough love for themselves and the neighbors.

Breath-a-phone--A phrase coined by my friend Denise...who suggested we affix a breathalyzer to my cell phone to prevent late-night drunken phone calls to faraway friends. It can be used to speak about anyone who might be in danger of telephonically embarrassing themselves.

Fuck England--During a late-night college Independence Day celebration, my friends...lacking a fine way to celebrate their American heritage...used this phrase to celebrate the Fourth of July. This phrase can now be used to supplant any patritoic phrase (God Bless America, U-S-A!, etc).

The Woo--As descibed in an earlier post, The Woo is a way to describe an internal desire to cut loose and--if you will--go crazy with the ice. The word has morphed into "Pre-Wikkie-Woo" (aka Pre-Weekend-Woo) and "Pre-Vaca--Woo" (aka Pre-Vacation-Woo).

Is that a booger in your mashed potatoes?--An inside family joke to respond to any inappropriate or vulgar comment. Backstory: During a family Thanksgiving dinner, one notorious cousin told a completely inappropriate O.J. Simpson joke at the family dinner table. The punchline..."he likes to carve up the white meat." In shock, another cousin responded with the booger comment. It made no sense that the time, but clearly illustrated the inapprpriateness of the earlier joke.

My cock is THIS big--Use this phrase to stop almost any inappropriate conversation in midsentence. I coined it while one of my friend's racist neighbors was using a particularly offensive racial slur (over and over again) during a diatribe. About the eighth time she used the word (I had been trying to politely change the topic), I looked at her and with complete seriousness stretched my arms out wide and said "My cock is THIS BIG." We now use the phrase to stop almost any conversation that makes someone uncomfortable. The only time it has failed was during a conversation about the size of a friend's penis. Go figure.

This list is far from comprehensive, but gives you some insight into my simple communication skills. I invite all readers to contribute their own. Please use my comments section at your leisure.

Monday, February 25, 2002


Scoop looked up with eyes that said, "Okay, that's enough."

The redbrown mutt that wraps me around her sharp claws at every opportunity was tired. She had given up on following me around the house and had curled up on a messed up bed. She doesn't get tired very often. She runs pedal-down all day long and only collapses when she just can't stand to stand any longer.

It was endearing. I crawled onto the bed and nuzzled her with my nose. I don't know why I do that, but it makes me feel like a Daddy Dog. It made me happy.

Friday night I transformed myself into Purposeful Drunk. I watched hockey, I went to our bar, I went to a friend's house. I drank beer in all three places with many good friends.

As the evening began, G-Rob--a man with powerful sperm and a willingness to use them--bailed. His wife showed up as we were in pre-hockey preparations. She was carrying the kids. He melted and faded away into the weekend.

As he left, I yelled out a common barb: "I think Eckerd had Gold Bond Powder on sale if you want to pick some up on the way home!" I only use that joke when I think my male friends have developed a case of irritated female private parts. It's not a polite joke and I use it too much.

G-Rob took it in good humor and took his kids in his arms.

Only a day earlier, his new car had been t-boned by a big pickup. He wasn't carrying the kids at the time, but later reflected that if he had been, they might have been badly hurt.

Later that evening, as the hops and barley did its work, I started talking babies. I don't even recall what I said, but it ended with my wife saying, "You want a BABY."

I'm pretty damned sure I ain't a daddy. To paraphrase Sam Malone of Cheer's fame, "I haven't received any father's day cards recently." But, I'm starting to appreciate the idea behind fatherhood.

I'm in no position to have a child right now. I am far too irresponsible. I'm far too selfish. But, as I think about the young man who gave up a night of sports and drinking to go home and have dinner with his wife and young daughters, I think fatherhood may not be a bad thing.

There is no moral to this story. It is poorly-written and without a clear message.

But as I watched my dog collapse in exhaustion and felt no greater desire than to chill out with her for a few minutes, I understood a small percentage of what it must be like to care about something more than you care about yourself.

I can't guarantee I won't accuse G-Rob of having irritated female parts ever again. That can be really funny sometimes.

But I don't think I will chastise him for being a good daddy anymore.

Funny where a jaded guy will find nobility, huh?

Friday, February 22, 2002

The Disorganization Nation

Leaders at Mt. Willis have been in heated talks with nearby Disorganization Nation for eight weeks now.

It began in late December with several black-ops missions into Mt. Willis offices. Mt. Willis security forces were suffering under a post-holiday malaise and let down their collective guard for a few days. It gave the DNZ (Disorganization Nation Zealots) a perfect opprtunity to start a campaign of propoganda, misinformation, and general ugliness.

Within two weeks, the DNZ had scattered tax information, grocery lists, and cleaning decisions all over the mountain. Mt. Willis' chief security canine (Codename: Scoop) became confused and demoralized. Her late night secuirty patrols became less a life's mission and more a matter of tired habit. She found her only solace in collecting scattered socks from around the house and despositing them in a pile near her tired leaders' heads. There is nothing more sad than a secuirty canine with no purpose.

By late January, the DNZ's front lines had set up camp in the formerly secure Mt. Willis stronghold. Grocery lists seemed to be written on the back of W-2 tax forms. Cleaning supplies were hidden behind the cumin and tumeric in the spice cabinet. DNZ children were making paper airplanes out of checkbook ledgers. Disorganization Nation bombers were dropping propoganda pamphlets on the Mt. Willis children. The pamphlets featured a happy world where an organized lifestyle is a work of the devil.

During that time, leaders from both soveriegn nations began talks under a large tree on the Mt. Willis border. Local media have referred to the talks as the SumGum Summit. The DNZ insists that it only invades nations that really want to be overtaken. It insists that if Mt. Willis leaders truly want to raise a flag of organization, it only has to try.

Mt. Willis leaders are suspicious. They find themselves under a spell of misplaced paperwork and unwashed dishes. A formerly happy and organized place is floundering in purposeless disorganization.

There is late word this week, however, that Mt. Willis has dispatched an envoy to the border. Well-placed sources report that the envoy--known only as Purposeful Drunk--intends to call for a truce. The same sources report that PD intends to spend the greater part of Friday night locked in disorganized inebriation, then wake on Saturday with a patented sense of purpose.

There is a widespread belief that the Mt. Willis flag will fly alone on the mountain by Sunday.

Thursday, February 21, 2002

Don't listen to me

There is no way a Cop Shop beat reporter from Greenville, South Carolina can memorialize Wall Street Journal Asian Bureau reporter Daniel Pearl. "Harm's Way" is a phrase I use to describe the local cops' workplace. It is not a place I've been. My worst experience overseas was a French hostel bathroom. I've only been held at gunpoint by a postman who was angry at my tresspassing. My opinion doesn't and shouldn't count.

So, don't listen to me.

To even compare my job with his is silly. It's like comparing a high school waterboy to an NFL quarterback. I report on arguing state senators. He reports the stories people don't hear. And he dies on the job. Not because he stepped out in front of a car during an ice storm live shot. Not because he wrecked on the interstate on the way to a car vs. train wreck.

So, don't listen to me.

But, listen to this: There is nothing wrong with turning up your nose at stories about P. Diddy and O.J. Simpson. There are parts of this business that are embarassing. There are times I am ashamed to be associated with people who wear the badge of journalism. There are times I am ashamed to be doing what I do on a daily basis.

And there are times I am ashamed that I sometimes think that this entire business is full of glory-hungry cowards.

Because it is not.

I cannot memorialize Daniel Pearl. I didn't know him or even know OF him until he wound up in handcuffs with a cheap gun to his head. Memorializing him is not my place.

But don't let this story be background noise while you cook dinner tonight.

An idealist's demise

It was summer and the long-haired, crooked-nosed idealist was waking up at 3:00 pm...again. The sunlight was forcing its way through the smallest cracks of his mini-blinds. The young man rolled his bad breath away from his drool-soaked pillow and thanked his bed for letting him rest on his ideals for one more night.

The epiphany had come about 12 hours earlier in a moment of early morning grandiosity. Hopped up on living in the dark hours when most people sleep and an overdose of Lipton iced tea caffeine, the idealist had established a code for happy living: No money, no watches, no light. The money made people greedy, the watches made people starve for time, and light shined an ugly spotlight on all things evil.

The idealist would shake off the cobwebs just in time to have a nice home-cooked dinner with his family, make sweet love to his high school girlfriend, and then retire into a late summer night of new epiphanies and personal codes for happiness. He would not wake up for years.

That was me...a long time ago. It was a time when establishing temporary bans on money, watches, and light was really possible. Mom and Dad were footing food and rent, summer was getting shorter but was still endless, and when you sleep until three, there ain't much light about which to worry.

I hadn't thought about that particular code for happiness in a long time. Then I got up early this morning and went to meet with a multi-millionaire. Darla is one of these women who is frighteningly attractive even at an advanced age. Even when she is indoors, her hair looks like it is blowing in the wind; her eyes are vacant and full at the same time; and when she talks, it is like a lion orating about a silk sheet. It took significant effort not to think about being a down-on-his-luck pizza delivery boy/gigolo.

Darla is the head of a group of wealthy power brokers who wants to raise South Carolina's per capita personal income. In short, Richey Rich wants Joe Six-Pack to make more dough.

As I stood in the room full of power ties and hard coffee drinkers, I felt uncomfortable. I wanted to escape. Eventually, I did. As I stood in the parking lot soaking in the pre-Spring sun (yeah, I think I like light now), I started thinking about how it would be nice to translate my long-haired idealistic musings into my adult life.

But...there are realities we must confront. They are rock-solid and airy at the same time. We have to wake up, we have to scrape up overtime to pay for our pseudo-lavish lifestyle, and we have to wear sunglasses to shield our eyes from the bright deadlines that we face every day.

As it turns out, Richey Rich isn't going to make our news tonight. Trying to explain why would just depress you. But it has nothing to do with the validity of the story.

That summer, I would sit in my room at two in the morning listening to The Doors on a set of head phones.

Right now, I'm wearing a set of headphones (actually more of a headphone...one of the earpieces doesn't work) and listening to a South Carolina State Senate filibuster. Senators are fighting about money, counting the hours they are at work, in a room lit with flourescent light.

If only somebody would elect that long-haired crooked nosed idealist from Spingfield, MO...

Wednesday, February 20, 2002

My Entire Life Revolves Around a Urinal

Shortly after posting my honest pee-pee story, my high school chum Brad called. He was laughing. He knows my pee-pee problems.

In high school, Brad, Gary, Danny and I would race to the senior hallway men's room after gym class and take our appropriate space in front of the line of urinals. Mine was third from the right. Then--and I'm still not sure why we ever thought this was a good idea--we would race to see who could finish first. Or maybe we raced to see to see who could pee the longest. These things are hazy and I can't remember the rules. Nevertheless, it was a welcome diversion from gym class. I liked gym, but was always afraid to bare my poofy nipples in front of a locker room full of flat-nippled men.

My experience in front of the third urinal from the right set a precendent in my life. It is one of loyalty.

I almost can't make myself go unless I'm standing in front of the thrid urinal from the right. If there are only two...I take the farthest one to the right. If I go anywhere else, I feel like I'm cheating on my urinal.

I have transferred this loyalty to the pee-pot to my social life. Once I have a steady friend or woman, I do my best not to stray or break that trust. And when I do, I feel very guilty. The few times I've broken a sacred trust (read: Genivieve/Marty, Kelly/Attitude, and that girl named Amy from an party during a doomed relationship with a now ex-girlfriend...all the fourth urinals from the right) I have never forgiven myself.

The only problem with my Urinal Loyalty...Brother Beaker. Many years ago, he set out a list of rules for how men should behave in the rest room. It is a simple system of rest room etiquette. I'll let him lay out the rules for you. Suffice it to say, it often conflicts with my loyalties. I believe in his system, but I have a hard time sticking to it.

We all struggle to find meaning in our lives. Most of us fail in one way or another. But I have a few rules by which I do my best to live...be honest, be loyal to your true friends, and dance with the one who brung ya.

And if that means breaking a few social rules to stick by my urinal...well, then so be it.

Tuesday, February 19, 2002

How's this for honest? I can't hold my pee-pee

There's been a lot of debate recently among my blogging pals (see left) about the honesty of our blogs. Some say we hold too much back when we write in this public forum. Well, try this on like a tight pair of high school jeans...I almost urinated in my pants this afternoon.

If early childhood indications were any true warning, my brother would have been the child with the urinary problems. One of my mon's favorite pictures depicts my brother in full "I gotta pee-pee" mode, clutching his pepe (pronounced like La Pew), and looking into the lens with a look of dispair. Brother Beaker also maintains a certain amount of fame for a certain sleepwalking trip that ended badly for the sanitary nature of our family bath tub.

However, as it stands, the younger sibling with the stronger intellect also has a stronger bladder.

My job forced me to go to Columbia this morning (remind me to rant about my disdain for capital cities). I knew better than the drink a coke on the way back. Caffeine has ill effects on my boy bladder. By the time we hit the Laurens exit, I could feel my loins tightening up. It was already starting to feel like I had a rabbit behind my hoo-haw.

I ignored it. I read three more stories out of my newspaper. I shifted in my seat and the rabbit started playing tennis with my urethra.

I looked out the window. A pretty girl was driving beside us. I tried to think dirty thoughts...you know, give the rabbit a run for his money. No go. The rabbit jeered, flipped the pretty girl the bird, and started bowling. I won't talk about what he was using as bowling pins...but I'm pretty sure he hit three strikes in a row. Where I come from, we call that a turkey.

By the time we hit Simpsonville (a mere 20 miles from Home Base Bathroom) the rabbit was unconcious. I think the bowling ball had fallen on his head. Somehow, an otter had made its way into my bladder. He was kicking the rabbit around like a Cabbage Patch Doll.

I took off my seatbelt, collected my stuff, closed the latches on my briefcase/bag/man-purse and, sat on one of my feet. Home Base Bathroom drew closer.

We exited the interstate and hit three red lights in a row. The otter died of sheer glee, the rabbit woke up and started kicking the otter around. Somehow a moose made its way in there and started a moose version of Riverdance.

By the time we hit the third red light, I had to ask my photographer to pull into a pharmacy parking lot. We were two miles from Home Base and I knew I couldn't make it. I limped into the pharmacy and barely made it to the bathroom before the moose invited the rest of his herd in. It was about as close as it gets.

It would be okay if this were an isolated incident, but anyone who has taken a car ride of any length with me knows that I have serious problems. I pee in empty soda bottles. If I have no bottle, I pound on the dash board, scream at my passengers, and hold my pepe la pew in my famous rendition of the infamous pee-pee dance until I find a bathroom.

Every once in a while I take a look at that medicine for OBD...over-active bladder disorder...and think maybe it could kill the animals in my loins. Then I remember that nine times out of ten, my bladder disfunctions are my fault. If I could just refrain from drinking any fluids before going on trips everything would be fine.

But I'm a thirsty guy and those rabbits can be pretty good Frolf players.

So, there's your honesty for ya, sucko.

Now...I gotta go.


Monday, February 18, 2002


The 12-fingered, 12-toed baby gurgled.

I sat in what I started calling the Media Hole (a partitioned hallway's end, inhabited by several bleary-eyed reporters) and listened to the infant babble, gurgle, and slobber. I didn't know it had 24 digits. I only knew I had a job to do and the baby was distracting me.

I stood up, discontected my flacid tail (an earpiece through which I listened to the the on-going death penalty trial), and walked down the hallway. I wasn't going to say anything to the baby or the woman holding it. I just wanted to give them one of those movie-theatre "I'm trying to pay attention to this" ssshhh looks. Then I saw the child.

It was grasping a baby bottle with 12 fingers. It sat in the lap of the cop-killer's sister.

I felt guilty as my mental abacus ticked off the number of digits. It was my only means of confirmation. I had heard the rumor that Wood's baby had a few too-many fingers and toes. I had heard the security deputies calling the child "Rosemary's Baby." One walk down the hallway confirmed the rumor. And I felt guilty for stealing a glance at the hands.

The jury took three days to sentence the infant's father (I later learned they share a first name) to death. The child wasn't there when the verdict came down.

Sometimes kids are born with everything stacked against them. Not only is this child the infant son of a cop killer on his way to death row, he also will be confused as people ignore his angelic face and count his fingers.

I'm back from court now and back in the daily mix of the world's cruelties. Court was cruel enough. Today I barely escaped going to Noble, Georgia where authorites found around 200 bodies in a patch of woods behind a crematorium. The owner-operator says the incinerator was broken.

Instead, I'm back at my desk researching South Carolina's rules and regulations in the crematory industry.

A lot has happened in the last week or so. I haven't written much here. I may go back and recount a lot of what I saw and heard, or I may just let it fade into that dark hole.

Regardless, I'm back and will resume my daily blogging. I hope my few and distinguished readers will come back and read my blather.

Tuesday, February 12, 2002

Happy Mardi Gras

I can smell the muck on the floor of Checkpoint Charlie's. I can see the blue flames licking a sugared lemon atop a shot of grain alcohol. I can hear my late friend John dictating in a microcassette reporter (ala Hunter Thompson) as we stumble out of the bar and into the sunrise.

That morning we weren't even sure exactly where we were. We knew we had stumbled off Bourbon Street and through some back alleys. Checkpoint Charlie's wasn't the type of place you find in the Mardi Gras Tourist magazine. We weren't sure exactly where we were going to sleep or even if sleep was necessary. They were good times. There is a beautiful freedom in having no hotel room, a head full of booze, and only more debauchery ahead.

I have been to two New Orleans Mardi Gras celebrations. The first time I said you would have to tie me down every year to keep me from going. The second time I decided I might just watch from afar.

That second time, I stumbled out of my favorite bar (the Tropical Isle...the old one on Toulouse, not the fancy new drinkery) and into a street brawl. Rednecks hopped up on cheap trucker speed and mind erasers were hitting each other...hard. I took pictures. I still have a great shot of a Budweiser can in midflight...just as it careened off of a bald guy's noggin. You can actually see the amber spilling out of the mouth of the can.

That didn't scare me away. It takes a lot to scare a young man in the middle of a four-day binge.

Then I walked around the corner on to Bourbon Street. The masses were screaming at the drunks on the second floor baclonies. My eyes zeroed in on one guy just as he threw up his arms in beautiful "Woo!" fashion and fell off the balcony. I lost sight of him as he fell into the crowd. He sounded like a sack of potatoes hitting the road. I was sober in an instant.

I think the guy lived. He was bloody and dazed as they carried him off the street, but he didn't look dead.

Still, it wasn't long after that I decided I might prefer New Orleans at other times of the year (I confirmed this one year later when I went and had a fantastic time).

Regardless, Mardi Gras is one of the best celebrations on earth in one of the best cities on earth. I think everyone should be required to go once.

And in lieu of going to New Orleans, I encourage everyone to celebrate at home.

Mardi Gras is not a destination. It is a state of mind.

Monday, February 11, 2002


I woke up Saturday morning and I have slept about nine hours since then. I have a lengthy court case and an all-night poker game to thank.

After four and half days of testimony, a Greenville County jury found John Wood guilty of killing a state trooper.

Until I get my head back, I offer one account of what happened that day. That should explain what I've been doing with myself.

The writing isn't that hot, but the story is compelling.

Friday, February 08, 2002

Weekend in Court

Day five in the trial of accused trooper-killer John Wood. The jury checked into its hotel today and I'm about to check into mine...it's called the Greenville County Courthouse. There is no weekend for the weary.

My creative mind is so wrapped in courtroom protocol that I don't have much to report today.

Let's leave it at this...

After my post yesterday about sex, drugs, and rock and roll...I got a nice e-mail from a reader. I won't embarass her by identifying her here, but she had a good point that is worth mentioning. I won't even try to re-phrase it. Here's a portion of what she wrote:

I don't know that people in the 60s were actually
happier... but they seemed to believe that it was possible to be happier
than they were then. I guess what I always saw in the music of the time was
this: enjoy something from today, because there may be no tomorrow; and even
though today sucks, tomorrow just might be better. I guess it was a general
optimism that is lacking in our current culture... seems that now, the
message is everything sucks and is always going to suck, so why bother?
There's definitely something to be said for being happy just for the sake of
being happy.

With that in mind, folks...go into this weekend stroking the possibility that there are happy times ahead.

There are, you know.

Thursday, February 07, 2002

If we were all just doing drugs and having sex...

...then we'd all be smiling on on our brothers. At least, that's what video historians of the 60's would have us believe.

That's the problem with my generation. We have a perception that we missed out on the naked, puddle-swimming, have clean sex in a dirty tent while sharing a good toke off the hookah good times. And frankly, we're pissed off about it.

About the time most of us were losing our virginity, the world was waking up to some very good reasons why we should keep our hoo-hahs in our collective pants. About the time most of us went looking for something with which to experiment, a movie cowboy's wife-turned first lady was telling us to say unh-uh. About the time we were trying to find our musical voice, Dee Snider was feeling depressed and giving up on Twisted Sister. It wouldn't be long before Oliver Stone would make a movie starring that guy from Real Genius as Jim Morrision. This is the end, my only friend, yada yada, yada.

If this were a real gripe about missing out on the 60's, it would be about time to start lamenting the sad state of our musical and sexual affairs. However, this is not a real gripe about that.

Thing is...I have a sneaking suspicion that the 60's weren't that great for most people. I don't know. I have no proof, but I'm guessing that the legends of the 60's are perpetuated by people who like to make money off nostalgia; conspiracy theorists; and people who aren't sure we ever landed on the moon in the first place. I wasn't born until right after Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, and Jimi Hendrix all gave up the ghost. I grew up with the rest of my generation trying to figure out what a Bee-Gee was and what it had to do with getting some "act-shon." So, I guess I have little room to doubt the beauty of the 60's.

My focus is wandering here...so before I turn into Gloria Gaynor...the point:

I haven't found many happy people in the last few weeks. I like to find happy people, people who smile on their brothers, people who...if they can't be with the one they love...love the one they're with. For a long time I felt like I was rolling around with these people in a dirty tent. Seems like in the last few weeks, all of those people have bagged up their tents, started paying three dollars for a bottle of water, and started sniping about perceived injustices done to them.

In short...the happy hikers of yesteryear are the people with blisters on their feet today.

I don't know if people really liked each other more in the 60's than they do now. Looking back at the civil rights struggle, the assassination schedule, and the Vietnam War, I have to imagine...happy times were a commodity that didn't sit on store shelves long.

But...damn it, if their songs didn't make it sound like people were happy.

If you need me, I'll be in my tent.

Tuesday, February 05, 2002

"The Death Penalty is Great!"

Yeah, that's what she said.

I'm currently two days-deep into my third death penalty trial. Jury selection is an arduous process. Attorneys on both sides of the courtroom pull out the teeth of potential jurors, give them gum disease, then stick the teeth back in backward. Ostensibly, it is the process we must use to seat a fair and impartial jury. Under the covers, where the attorneys don't wear socks and the defendant is secretly wishing he had a tie to wear, it is the process by which attorneys make sure they seat the jury that will give them the nod come time for the sentencing phase.

Prosecutors in the south have it pretty easy. Most white folks here were born with their fingers on the injection plunger. God says "an eye for an eye" and who are they to split hairs? Black folks are a little more skeptical, because in their eyes--more often than not--the skin around the eye that will be taken for an eye is darker than the people who get off with a twenty-year stretch at Broad River Correctional. The statistics may prove otherwise. Of the 66 people on South Carolina's Death Row, 35 are white.

In today's case, skin color may be slightly more irrelevant. John Wood is as white as you'd like. He's short, skinny, and smiles too much for my liking. Some say he has a flair for drama as well. One cop says...when Wood jumped into his girlfriend's Jeep after shooting a state trooper...he said "We're going to die today." Very Hollywood.

In South Carolina capital cases jury selection can take up to a week. Attorneys probe potential jurors for predispositions about the death penalty, love or hate for cops, and what they generally eat for breakfast. Prosecutors work to find jurors who like the idea of putting a murderer to death, while public defenders with an affinity for John Lennon work to find people who would sooner kill themselves than vote for the death penalty. It is not an easy process...in part because the potential jurors don't understand the process. All the judge wants to hear is..."Of course, I could be fair to both sides and consider all the relvant facts before making my decision."

But jurors get led down a path they don't expect. Defense attorneys try to make the potential juror say any murderer should die. It's not that the defense attorneys actually believe that's what the potential juror wants to say. The attorney, in fact, wants to find some reason to disqualify the potential juror so he can move on to the next one...who will hopefully lean a little to the left politically. The prosecution does the exact opposite. That's why it takes days.

You end up with conversations like this:

Defense attorney: "If you had to characterize your feelings on the death penalty and its appropriateness in the case of a psycho, wacked out, drug-addled, puppy-hating, gun-toting redneck who for reasons only associated with greed shot and killed an upstanding member of our law enforcement communty...how would you say you feel about the death penalty?"

Potential juror: "I think the death penalty is great."

One young woman actually said that today. She was the same woman who had to answer questions about her "Abortion Kills" bumper sticker on her car. If anyone had any cognative dissonance about the conflict in her views, they didn't bring it up in court.

I feel very fortunate as I sit along press row. The good thing about living a journalist's life is that you learn to have an open mind. While I was raised to believe in certain core values, my rock-solid convictions are few. I can't get in any hard-core arguments about the big issues (death penalty, gun control, abortion) because I honestly see and appreciate both sides of the issues. There are people who will vehemently quote "If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything." I don't think that is true in most cases.

Conviction can be a crutch and I've never really liked crutches.

Friday, February 01, 2002

Forget the whales...SAVE THE CROTCH

I'm on the verge of real tears here, so you'll have to forgive me if I choke up.

I can handle the football challenge system. Three point line...I love it. Restrictor plates on NASCAR cars...those boys were moving to fast anyway. But I am a neo-purist and nobody...especially not some "I haven't seen a pair of panties in 20 years that didn't make me puke" Olympic ninny is going to make me appreciate a ban on crotch shots.

Before we get into the crux of the issue here (I don't think a pun was intended there), let's take a look at the "sport" of Olympic Figure Skating.

The hardest part of a skater/performer's job is to convince people that what they do is actually a sport. Sure, they train more than many athletes. Sure, what they do takes scads of skill. And sure I've never held a muscular woman above my head while I'm twirling in a twirly costume on a sheet of ice.

But...what these folks do is an exhibition and little more. I can justify this with one simple rule: If an event has subjective scoring (judges), it is a piece of performance art. If it has objective scoring (did the goon get the puck in goal), it is a sport. Simple as that.

Which brings me to the real point here.

The International Skaing Union (does this have anything to do with Jimmy Hoffa?) has put a ban on crotch shots. No splayed legs. No upside down, "hey I got quite a crotch on me" spin moves on top of your mail partner. No pelvic thrusts. And I have to assume they won't be allowed to churn the butter either. The Union (damn it) calls it...get this..."undignified" and it will penalize skaters a tenth of a point for every display of the good stuff.


Undignified is the best man kissing the new bride with tongue.

Undignified is writing your name in the snow with your own urine...in a church parking lot.

Undignified is simulated masturbation with a penguin.

I don't watch figure skating, sport dancing, or gymnastics on purpose...and if I do, I'm only there for the crotch. I only watch hot dog ski jumping because there's a good chance somebody will end tearing themselves into two pieces.

How is it that I can see Dennis Franz's ass on network television, but the Olympics are too pure to show panties?

I am not a dirty young man. I'm not there for the crotch itself. I am there for the principle of the crotch. It's almost better if the skater gives the camera a look that says...I have the freedom to show you my crotch and I would, but I also want you to know that I have the freedom to keep my panties to myself.

The Olympics have to be--in some part--about freedom.

What's next? Ankle-length denim skirts on tennis players? Full body-scarves for basketball players? And what about those tight-pants-no-underwear-wearing football players?

Freedom, ladies and gentleman, is showing your crotch at will.

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