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

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Monday, April 29, 2002

Rip Start

My lawn mower (some would call it a grass cutter) has a priming problem. The priming bubble has a hole in it. It doesn't make a lot of difference to me. I learned quickly about the joys of starting fluid. It is an aerosol crystal meth for engines. A couple of shots, one good rip start, and I'm ready to cut.

That's a lot like how I like to start my summers. Prime the fun engine with something flamable, rip start the season with a good live show, and head into the summer months with a full head of fun steam. I rip started last Thursday night and feel pretty good about the months ahead.

It is traditionally this time of year when I shake off career concerns. I work for the play hours and play hard when they finally come. I hope this summer works as well as past summers have. I fear, however, that my fun times might be tempered by an incredible sense of loathing for my chosen profession. My fun engine died this morning after a weekend of running hard. The basic fear here...my fun priming bubble has a hole in it and I can't find a drop of starting fluid.

Sometimes when it feels like my lawn mower is dying, I distract it by lifting the blade off the tall grass or tilting the fuel resevior enough to make it cough back to life. I think my fun engine is in need of distraction.

So, my friends, ruminate with me about a life less frustrating...a life devoid of professional concerns. Mayhaps, my friends, I could be...

*A drunken, middle-aged bar singer. It takes talent to be a real musician. However, it takes little more than an ability to drink with the college kids and kick out a few cover tunes to be a drunken, middle-aged bar singer. One spends his days sipping on cheap beer and thinking of catchy/dirty song lyrics to lure in the college drunks and inspire them to nothing. I may just have that kind of skill.

*A stay at home husband. My wife has more professional/personal drive than I do. And while I pretend to know very little about housekeeping, I was trained by one of the best and can really hold my own (stop giggling) when I put my mind to it. Imagine it...a perpetually clean house. A gorgeous lawn appointed with arbors and fine roses. A finely-cooked meal each night of the week. And maybe I could start working out. Aerobics. Or maybe a Jenny Craig program. I could write a weekly soap opera digest for house husbands all over the country.

*A e-commerce entrepreneur. I'm thinking about selling undergarments with dogs on them. I think everybody likes to wear clothes with dogs on them, but nobody really wants anybody to see the pooch-wear. I could sell jack russell boxers. Great Dane thongs. Bras with puppies on the cups. I think it would all sell very well. Pooch Panties. Heh.

Okay, okay. Enough rumination. Lunch time is over and I have to go back to my job. But don't be surprised if--somewhere in the middle of a good rip start--you click on the internet and see PoochPanties.com. There's a future somewhere, my friends, and I intend to find it.

I really hope it is near a bar.

Wednesday, April 24, 2002

Tipping over

In one part of the suburb without a city a man who speaks little English is stuffing guacamole and chimichangas into a plastic sack. Across town a woman with short hair is stuffing a chicken salad sandwich and a baked chicken salad into a similar bag. When they are finished, they both get paid for their food with a debit card. But Mexican Eatery Man gets a two dollar tip when he is done. Short-Haired Woman gets nothing extra. And it is all because of an extra line on the Mexican credit card receipt. That line says...TIP.

It's a long-running fight at Mt. Willis: Who deserves a tip? I'm a bit of a miser in that regard. I believe people should receive adequate tips for service above and beyond the all of duty. My wife is a bit different. She tips as a defense against spit in her future meals.

I spent a summer waiting tables and have the greatest amount of respect for servers. Servers deal with several tables at once. They are keeping track of a dozen different orders, filling drinks, yelling at the cooks to hurry up, and still serving food in a timely manner. If they do their job well, they deserve between 15 and 20 percent extra at the end of the meal.

I think the same thing applies to some delivery people. The heavy-lifters deserve a tip. The flower delivery guy deserves a thank you.

It is a pretty simple system and it doesn't include tipping for take out food. I don't tip the girl at Wendy's. I don't tip the girl at the deli. And I don't tip the guy at the Mexican restaurant when I'm getting takeout...even if the credit card receipt offers me the opportunity.

I am a good tipper when it is warranted..and expected. In a few months, I'm going to Las Vegas. People there tip for EVERYTHING and I will too.

Perhaps I should applaud my wife's generosity. She recently defended herself by saying they gave her something to drink while she waited for takeout. But I wonder...if there hadn't been a line for a TIP on the debit card receipt, would she have said..."Oh, here's two bucks for all your hard work."

Am I getting cheap?

Monday, April 22, 2002

Indian Joe and Why I'm Nuts

I was alone in a dirty little cabin somewhere in the middle of my home state. I was a college student and working for the middle-Missouri NBC affiliate. It was really dark. Everywhere. My camera batteries were on charge. I had one beer in me (all I would let myself drink in the town's only bar and still drive the station's embarassing mini-new-vans). The little bit of alcohol wasn't doing the trick. I couldn't sleep. It was--in part--because a crazed and homicidal mountain man was somewhere in the woods around me and--in part--because I was so excited to be the guy on the story.

Alis Ben Johns (AKA Indian Joe, Joe Johns) was the real-life equivalent of the feaky mountain men you see in Hollywood movies. His beards alone were enough to frighten small children. His mother (I found her in an assisted living facility out in the middle of nowhere--she invited me in and sat down for an interview) described her son as slow, but the type of man who could live in the woods for weeks at a time. He was the type of guy who could be three feet from you in the woods...and you would never know it. His mother wanted him to come home. "They'll kill him," she said.

He was wanted by about a half dozen different police jurisdictions. He killed out of jealousy. He killed for money. He killed three different people in three different far away cities and every new organization in Missouri wanted a piece of the story. CBS's 48 Hours had a four-person crew in the middle of Benton County, Missouri.

The three weeks previous I had been all over middle-Missouri. I had been down the long dirt roads, in the gun shops where scared people were buying .45's, in the home of one of Johns' victims (the Sheriff thought that was as good a place as any to set up a command post), and into that Benton County bar that the Sheriff there had turned into media central. Every few hours the cameras would circle around the young man and he would update us. You can hear my voice in the "48 Hours" story, doing my best not to sound breathless as I asked "Regarding his movement...?"

It was the manhunt of manhunts. The authorities thought they had a pretty good idea where he was and they weren't letting up. Unfortunately, after that one dark night in that dark cabin's bed, I had to let up. I was a college student working for a low-budget station. Until that point, I had the freedom to roam Missouri looking for the killer and the people who knew him. But the run came to an end about two days too early. College students have classes to deal with.

I was actually in the TV station when the word came in. I was in a back room learning "how to become a reporter." (I now know that if I wanted to be a real reporter, I never should've left Benton County). Someone walked in the door and looked directly at me. They knew I had lived and breathed Alis Ben Johns for about six weeks.

"They got him."

I'm not sure how many bad words I said as I grabbed my stuff and ran out the door. I don't know how many laws I broke as I flew toward Cole Camp Creek in that embarassing little mini-van. I only know that I was soon standing in an emergency room and may have been doing so illegally. The hospital had cordoned off the emergency room door, but not a back door that a maintenance man led me to. Once I was inside, the good Sheriff didn't make me leave and fed me juicy tidbits. Water Patrol officers had shot Johns' as he held his girlfriend at gunpoint. I was soon providing a phone report to my employer and my home town station KY3. It was a fine moment for me, but not as fine as if I had been there.

And that's why I'm nuts.

It's like a dog seeing the leash but not getting the walk. Or an alcoholic seeing sobriety at the bottom of a bottle. The culmination was cut short. Money shot interuptus.

I don't think about Indian Joe very much anymore. When I do it both excites and depresses me.

It reminds me of the time when I wanted nothing more than to do my job.

That is both exciting...and depressing.

Related: Alis Ben Johns

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Thursday, April 18, 2002

From South Carolina to Texas...

...the crazed 25 year-old drove with the eyes of technology following him the entire way. He drove his father's car. His roommate drove the other family ride. Their long trek would end in a sleepy Texas town in the middle of Crockett County.

The elderly couple obviously didn't see anything coming. They left church on Sunday night after inviting a fellow member of the congregation to dinner later in the week. That night their home's alarm alerted deputies. When dispatchers called the house, somone identified himself as the home's owner. Everything was fine, he said. Everything was not fine. That large home's lot, surrounded by foothills trees and the winding water of the Saluda River, had changed immeasurabley. The home owners were non-smokers, but cigarette butts where everywhere. The woman of the house was a fine housekeeper, but there was mud all over the place. Their two cars were gone and so were they.

It was what some have already called an aged Brady Bunch house. The husband and wife both had children by a previous marriage. He was a Forestry Service scientist. She was a retired school teacher. Her children seemed to pose no threat to their upper middle class low mountain lifestyle. His son...some have said he had a problem with his mind...may have posed the greatest threat of all.

By Tuesday morning investigators were already whispering about the worst. The cars were gone. The son was gone. The couple was gone. Deputies went through what has become a familiar process. They entered the cars' tags into the National Crime Information Center computers. They did the same with the couple's credit and ATM cards. Smart and sane criminals find these investigatory tools mere annoyances. The man skating across Highway 67 in southwest Texas ultimately found those tools to be means to his end.

If film is a good indicator, the Texas Rangers are not a group with which to be trifled. The Bad Son must not have realized this as he apparently used his dad's ATM card as he crossed the Lone Star State. Technology can be a real bitch when you're a man on the run. In times gone by, he might have been a dark man on a horse, spotted by a saloon owner as he mistakenly showed his face...just for the want of a quick shot of whiskey. The Bad Son didn't bed down on the Texas plains or ride in on his dark horse. He might as well have taped his wanted poster to his chest as he punched in the family ATM code and drew out his last allowance.

When the Rangers pulled in behind the car he must have already decided what he was going to do. Texas must have seemed like as good a place as any to die. There was no High Noon shoot out. He just shot himself in his damned head leaving his roommate...a younger kid at 21...to throw out his hands to hand cuffs and end up in the county lock up. Some folks from far away are calling Ozona, TX a sleepy little town where a New York-born detective from South Carolina is now trying to solve a mystery. His best clue is on a slab in the morgue.

The chief suspect is dead. His buddy may or may not be talking. Thing is...that couple is gone. Bloodhounds are finding more on which to urinate than to track the trail of the missing people. A person familiar with the South can probably imagine the trail the Bad Son took. Back roads through Upstate South Carolina, maybe down to I-20 through Georgia, to Birmingham...maybe then down to Pascagoula, MS, across the Mississippi River, through Louisiana...though Houston...and San Antonio. Never made it to El Paso. If that couple is dead, they could be anywhere. Mountain roads are plenty. The Mississippi River is deep and full of ancient, angry catfish. The Gulf of Mexico is where the dead things end up, and currents along the coast can drag things for hundreds of miles. Sometimes people just disappear. And unless not-so-insane buddy is trying to save his ass, the good half-siblings in South Carolina may spend the rest of their lives wondering.

Stories that stretch from the foothills of Upper South Carolina to towns that only Texans know about fascinate me. What I've just jotted down is what I have heard around the newsroom in the last couple of days. Though I would usually be chin-deep in incident reports and bloodhound musk, I am sadly so faraway from this story that I can only ruminate about it from my messy desk. I was away when the story began and decency dictates that my able colleague (a fantastic reporter who knows more about cops than I do) finish what he started.

I must be a sick man to be fascinated by such madness. My desire to cover and report such stories must be the product of mad synapses. I've discovered that everyone has a chink in their anti-professional-desire armor. Some of my colleagues want to tell good stories. Some want to change the world. Some want to see their face on TV. I want to find the sickest most depraved madmen that walk among us. They are everywhere, even if they haven't yet fully realized the depths of their insanity. And though I'm just about as balanced as the next guy, my desire to find these jokers has to put me somewhere in their category.

Tuesday, April 16, 2002

Shut up, shut up, shut up

A quick confession before we begin...I am a sucker for talk radio. It's a rabid conservative in the morning, a Libertarian in the afternoon, and a smart left coaster in the evening. I don't even really like the stuff (with the exception of a few guests on the Hugh Hewitt show). But I listen and I can't help it.

I stop at a dirty little convenience store on many mornings before work. I need some caffeine and a Grandma's Oatmeal Raisin cookie. The morning clerk listens to the same show. And I'm growing to hate her.

I've almost made myself late to work by avoiding the check-out counter. I dawdle at the drink cooler. I peruse the cookie rack. I know I will be forced into the world of Conservative Parrot woman.

It goes a little like this...

CONSERVATIVE PARROT WOMAN: "I think taxes are bad."
CTSH: "We should all pay for what we use and no more."
CPW: "I think we should all pay for what use. And you know what? No more than that."
CTSH: "I am a heterosexual male."
CPW: "I am a heterosexual male...or I'd really like to be."

The woman does not maintain one shred of orgininal thought and she feels like I think she is smarter if she can recite what she has just learned while I pay her for my morning snack. And I find that scary. I listen to CTSH because it gives me insight into that way of thinking. She listens to form her agenda. If it weren't for talk radio, she wouldn't know what to think. It generally makes me so sick that I turn on a classic rock station when I return to the parking lot and groove on some Aerosmith. . If I don't, I feel like she is with me in the car.

We all have to learn somewhere. I listen attentively when my friends talk about sports. I know some stuff, but not nearly as much as they do and I learn by listening to them. If I feel like they are full of it, I stop listening.

People should just stop talking every once in a while. If this woman doesn't shut up soon, I'm going to turn her radio station over to Rock 101. At least when I go in for my morning snack, I'll only have to listen to her mumble, "WALK THIS WAY! TALK THIS WAY!"

Friday, April 12, 2002

Three Years

Last night, I stepped into a smokeless room and saw the aging, pudgy man with glasses on stage. He had a Fender Strat strapped across his chest and a hitch in his voice that was impossible to not remember. A lot has changed since the last time I saw this guy. I've moved three times, found a wife and dog, bought a house, and signed a three year contract that promised me nothing and strapped me to a reporter's chair.

Brian Henneman ordered a shot of Jose. He didn't care who bought it, but he needed one on stage. Two arrived shortly, one in a glass, the other in a South Carolina standard mini-bottle. He was just abobut to drink, then put the shot back down.

"I just about broke a band rule," he said with a smirk. "I can't take that shot until we play this song." He told a story of too much tequila in Lexington, KY and getting his fingers wedged between his Strat's strings. He knocked out "Welfare Music" then took his shot.

I stood in back of the small crowd, a beer in hand, and tried to figure out what had changed about the Bottle Rockets. The band had lost one member and the sound was a little hollow. Henneman--who has put on some weight--explained that the former band member was driving a transportation van for elderly people in St. Louis. "He thought that was a better idea than playing rock and roll," the frontman said. The crowd laughed.

I was watching in a town that knew little about the band--as opposed to inside a crowded, smoke-filled Columbia, MO Blue Note. I had a couple of friends there, but not the rowdy, liquored-up buddies of college days. Things had certainly changed. But Henneman's voice and guitar chops were the same, and that made it all worthwhile.

I poured out of the bar and into a freedom I didn't recognize until this morning. That three-year contract expired at midnight. I am no longer contractually obligated to do anything. I still have to show up at work if I want to get paid. But if I choose a simpler life, I can leave whenever I want.

A more sober writer might suggest that it would've been nice to be offered a renewed contract with a hefty raise attached to it. The same sober writer might suggest that he would've been happy to sign on for another three years if management had seen fit to open its wallet and pay for the work it gets out of the man. That sober guy might suggest that he would've continued to put every effort into producing a solid journalistic product every day...if only he had some sort of incentive. He would suggest that it would almost be incentive enough to see people appreicated for the work they do...or more to the point...people reprimanded for the work they DO NOT do.

Fortunately for all of us, that sober writer fell off a cliff of insanity three months ago. We don't think he died. More than likely, he is hobbling around down at the bottom of some ravine, sucking on a wet pay stub, and shooting the bird at local wildlife.

(A quick aside here...Ralph Machio was a bit of a chump in Crossroads. You just can't take the Karate Kid as a serious bluesman. But Crossroads was still a kick ass movie. I think I may watch it this weekend.)

Three years, a couple dozen gray hairs, one Emmy nomination, a gross sense of the lack of work ethic in this world, just enough money to pay the bills and have a little bit of a good time in the process.

There is a certain amount of fear in being cut loose. It's like your wife saying...go out and do whatever you want tonight. The freedom is so severe it straps you to the couch.

Wednesday, April 10, 2002

Important changes

A couple of things regular readers may want to pay attention to...

One...I have changed my comments provider. I like this system better and it doesn't crash as often. Take a look and comment as you like.
Editor's note...I switched back to my original provider after my new provider crashed...but the look has still changed a little. Please comment.

Second...one of the people who got me started writing has been blogging secretly since October. Now...we have uncovered The Unrepentant Texan. Give him a read. I'm still trying to catch up on months of his writing.

Read and comment away, folks.

The Quest For Otis

I am an idiot.

Nicknames--especially those we give ourselves--mean nothing. They are quick pseudonyms that are only used to hide the fact you don't know someone's real name....or you don't like the name they carry around. In college, we had one too many Mark's. We started calling one Monk. I'd still call him that if I had any idea where he was.

I have written countless times about my useless collection of unused nicknames...OG, Otis, etc. Only a few people use them and they do it more to humor me than anything else. And yet...I am on a quest...and I am an idiot.

Three times a day, I hop on Ebay and run a search for Otis Elevator. Not because I want an elevator, or a an old company stock certificate, or a brass control plate from a 1920's era elevator (those are the things I usually find). I want an Otis Elevator uniform shirt. The green kind with a big, square OTIS patch on the breast. And that makes me an idiot.

I would probably wear the shirt once...maybe at LEAF. It would end up in mothballs with my Antlers NIGHTTRAIN jersey, my ACE Kinky Jalapeno jersey, and all those stupid t-shirts I bought at Dead shows just before Jerry died.

I have gone to silly lengths to find such a shirt. I actually wrote the Otis Elevator company and asked if I could buy one. A customer service rep politely informed me that due to security concerns for their customers, they don't sell company uniforms to strange men who use vaguely anonymous e-mails to request secure material. My friend Tjake actually got my started on the quest by trying to buy the uniform shirt off a guy at the airport. He was rebuffed as well.

And now...I am so desperate...I'm actually kicking myself for not paying the 16 bucks for the shirt I saw on Ebay a month ago. I thought--oh so naively!--that people would be selling them by the truckload on Ebay. Nada. Now, I see the occasional denim shirt with the Otis company logo on it (an ugly spinning globe-looking thing) and that's about it. That's not what I want. I want the green shirt with the big OTIS patch on it.

I am an idiot.

I find myself wondering if I am not trying to avoid some subconcious issue (maybe my dad really DIDN'T take me to the circus!) by focussing on odd and mundane quests. There must be something wrong with a grown man searching for a sense of false identity in the form of some guy's used work shirt.

I've even considered looking for a bowling jersey or grease monkey work shirt with Otis on it, but I have decided that just won't do.

I am an idiot.

Tuesday, April 09, 2002

Stop and think...

My dad has a lot of brothers. There's the mysterious one that I have come to believe is either a CIA operative or an American connection to South American drug lords. There's the one who gets married once every half decade. There's the one I never see and if I do, it is always surrounded by whispers from the rest of the family. And then there are my two favorites...a set of twins...Connie Mack and Ronnie. They are the fun ones, the smart ones, the smiling ones.

More to the point...they are the brothers (my uncles) that always seemed to treat my dad like a brother. I'm not quite sure what that means to everybody else, but it's true on its face. And what happened to one of those brothers (and what has happened to a young boy I don't even know) is why I sat down to write.

I hesitate to put this down here because I know it will bring up painful memories for one of my most encouraging readers. This is not my story and I probably don't have much right to put it down on a computer screen. But I'm going to talk about my small part anyway and I hope it doesn't...doesn't do whatever I hope it doesn't do.

I was a young kid at the time and I don't remember the specifics. I'm glad I don't. The memory is quick movie scenes...a phone call, a moment of helplessness, a realization that my dad could cry.

My grandpa called when my parents weren't home. He was a lot younger then and his voice commanded attention. He said my Uncle Ronnie had been in a car wreck. He was working at the time and he was in a bad car wreck. My family needed my dad. I didn't know how to get hold of him. It was a time before cell phones and pagers. I didn't know what to do and to this day can't remember how or if I ever did. My dad found out and the next memory I have is standing out behind my mom's black Ford Ranger pick up truck with my dad. He was crying and didn't want me to see it happen.

It seems like an unjustice to skip over the next few years. But I have to...simply because I can't adequately explain what they were like. My uncle lived, but he changed. I can't even say how. He was in a coma for a long time and after he gradually woke up he went though years of rehabilitation. He is in a wheelchair now. His mind is sharp. His speech is slurred. You can still see in Uncle Ronnie in his eyes, but there's a lot missing.

For a family...there is little that can compare to that kind of change. Even a similar story is no comparison...but it is a similar story--and what I have read about it--that got me to stop and think today.

Ryan Cockrell is 12 years old. He loves baseball. He's a pitcher. Just a few weeks ago, his coach put him in the game. He threw two pitches. The second pitch became a line drive. The line drive hit Ryan in the temple. He's been through three brain surgeries. It happened right around here and I didn't think about it very much when it happened. Then I happened upon his family's website. His family is...in a way...blogging about his progress and it sounds really familiar. What strikes me most is the family's undying hope that Ryan will get better, that a Grandfather's visit and Sportscenter on TV is enough to bring light into the kids eye.

When the rain falls, the temperature falls, and Spring seems to be on hiatus, there is an urge to focus on your fat ass, your dead end job, your messy house. You're pretty sure your life sucks and there ain't much that is going to change that. But stop and think.

I've only seen my dad cry twice. Both of those times were really--for the lack of a better word--bad. Thing is...I've still got the same dad I had all those years ago. And I have a lot more. There may be a moral here somewhere, but it is not my place to deliver it. I only ask that you stop and think about Ryan Cockrell for two seconds after you finish this. And if you feel so moved, sign his guest book. All you have to do is click on the words "family's website" up above.

Monday, April 08, 2002

An Apology

I owe all of my frequent readers an apology. You've been reading real tripe here for the last few weeks and I have no excuse (although i'm about to offer several).

I made myself a deal when I started writing this thing. Write as often as you can. Write even when you don't have anything to write about. Write about nothing if you have to, but write. Because writers write and if you want to write you need to write. Right?

That mandate has led to some really bad writing. Even now, I'm writing poorly about an inability to write.

My life has also been pretty boring (read: uneventfully fun) recently. I'm having a good time, but it's nothing to write home about.

Maybe one of the biggest problems is...the people who read this know me pretty well. If you didn't before, you do now. And much like any relationship, you've almost gotten to the point where you've heard all my stories.

I seek a remedy. I don't know where to go from here. My best plan is to just wait. Wait until something occurs to me. That seems to work most times. And if it doesn't...well then I don't know what I'll do.

Until then...I dunno. Don't read this as an obituary for Rapid Eye Reality. I'm not giving up.

I'm just thinking.

Friday, April 05, 2002

A man who appreciates a porch

I require a porch...or a deck...or a slab of concrete. I require a nearby fridge...a trusty cooler...or a big tub of ice. I require sunshine...soulshine...or moonshine.

Spring is a slinky, ladies and gentlemen and Daylight Saving Time is upon us. That means BBQ's, late night drink-sipping, and games of Euchre on patio tables.

I might not have thought of it...but a man that holds a great deal of my respect has started up a blog. You'll find it at the left...or by clicking the last two words of this post...

Porch Sitting.

Thursday, April 04, 2002

Just call me Ace

Sometimes great ideas spring from a title. Something like a guy thinking, "You know, 'War and Peace' would be a great title for a book. Maybe I should write that."

That happened on a much grander scale in the early 1990's. A man named Dunning (he went by several pseudonyms, including Alan Bennett), decided Kinky Jalepenos would be a great name for a softball team. A few months later, a wonderfully sub-par softball team was born. Each of the players (most of them fantastically bad in their own right) was too embarrassed to put his own name on the back of his jersey. They all fashioned nicknames. Dunning's jersey read "Some people call me the space cowboy." Mine simply read, "Ace."

I'd always wanted a really good nickname and I thought Ace was perfect.

For several years, this team stunk up southwest Missouri softball fields. Errors were more common than base hits. The second basemen had sexual relations with the right center fielder's girlfriend (although, in the second basemen's defense, the girlfriend was his first...things just didn't die down as early as they should...and the right center fielder was a real prick anyway). Ace never hit a homerun. Some People Call Me the Space Cowboy was an all star...who would eventually break Ace's nose with a rocket-armed throw during a dimly-lit game of catch.

Soon after the demise of the Kinky Jalepenos, I put the nickname Ace to bed. People on the outside never really understood and it usually took too long to explain. I took on other names as the years went on...OG, Otis, etc. I had almost forgotten the pseudonym of old.

Until last night.

I was on hole #13 of the Timmons Park frolf course. The sun was setting. I was sweating. We were playing quickly, trying to fit in a whole 18 holes before dark. I let my disc fly and it had no choice but to fly from the tee pad into the basket. That's a hole in one...or as we in the frolf world call it...an ACE.

It was my first ever. CJ has four. Gordon has one. Timmy has one (although, parathetically, we should mention that it was witnessed only by a myterious and elusive Guy on Bike).

Now, here's the thing...nobody with the exception of the WFA (WYFF Frolf Association) will know--or for that matter care--about my frolf skills (or lack thereof). It's a lot like the Kinky Jalepenos...you couldn't appreciate it unless you were there.

And maybe that's what makes it special.

Tuesday, April 02, 2002

The Drought

Upstate South Carolina is a mass of red clay. The banks of our lakes are longer and wider than they used to be. Boat docks are now picnic tables, underwater forests are dangerous midwater pilings. No matter how hard the skies spit, the drought is one mean mother.

High winds spark red flag alerts that warn of massive forest fires. Deer and bears are carrying Evian bottles. Fish are begging for an aquarium refugee camp.

The ground is dry, my wet-stated friends, and so is the news business.

It might startle many Upstate viewers and readers to know that despite four and half hours of daily local television news, a morning newspaper, and two weekly tabloids...there is nothing going on in or around Greenville city proper. Simply put...you are living in a newless region.

My good friend Quackers the Duck is quick to point out that "No news is good news." Of course, he is imaginary and rides around on my head like a hat, so his opinion is less than credible.

No news is simply no news. Everybody is sane, politicians are politicians, developers are developing.

This does not frighten the non-newsies. The less news they see, the more comfortable their suburban lives are. For me and my colleagues, the situation is a heart attack waiting to happen.

Imagine for a moment...your boss. She is looking at you with wild eyes, drool dripping from her fangs, her man-hands clutching empty air like a choking victim reaching for life. "I want the project," she says.

You check your day timer, your palm pilot, your desk blotter. Nothing. There is no project. Your boss is writhing, a serpent with a need to constrict.

You venture: "The project?"

Your boss grabs you by your neck and crotch and the same time, squeezing. She moves her hand and shoves a long long thumbnail into your navel. "I want..."

"...the project," you finish. Of course. This is just like yesterday. You have a nameless, formless, impossible project. And it is due in seven hours. Scratch that...

"And I want it by noon," she says, misting into nothingness, only to re-appear at the same time tomorrow.

Our boss is The Beast and we have to feed it daily. It gets increasingly hard when the news drought strikes. Local news is dehydrated and we need news-water to make Tang. We haven't had the sweet orange liquid for a year.

The real rains are starting to fall again. It's not enough to fill the lakes, but it is helping. As a young man in the sharp clutches of The Beast, I can only help the news-water is going to come down. Otherwise, I may just acquiesce.

Monday, April 01, 2002

Your April Fool

The Spring sun cut slyly through the mini-blinds, a voyeur before the internet made voyeurism a public pastime. It was an April Fools Day sun falling on the greatest April Fool of them all.

I did not look at a calender that morning. I knew it was 1991. I knew I was 17 years old. I knew that something needed to happen and what day it was really didn't matter to me. In retrospect, I should've taken a look at a day planner or something.

Each April Fools Day since that spring afternoon, I have taken a moment to reflect on my folly. What, indeed, was I thinking? It would be like England deciding on July 4th that it was a good time to pay those Yankee bastards back for that American Revolution thing.

It was a moment that defines a man. It was my first baseball glove, receiving touchdown, and drag race all wrapped in one. And much like who made the glove (Rawlings), who I scored the touchdown against (Ozark High), or what I was driving during the race (1973 Cougar), the partner in that day's crime (a foul-mouthed poet named Amy) is more just a matter of record and less important than the moment itself. That sounds crass, but there is a certain amount of history that marriage requires we don't relate.

Here we reach the point is this little tale where I must make a decision. Common sense dictates a quick mention of the event. Creative juices beg a detailed accounting. Fortunately, I feel a certain degree of sensiblity today.

I lost my virginity on April Fools Day.

Looking back, there was probably no way I could've waited any longer. Spring is a dangerous time for high school hormones and there wasn't much more than a thin layer of denim seperating me from the the population of Willard High School. Nevertheless, April Fools day was an unfortunate choice and probably set up a lifetime of intimate pranks for my already humorous male form.

I feel I squandered a lot of potential by not waiting for another day. Just imagine what a force I could've been had I chosen something like Columbus Day (ah, the great discoverer!), Thanksgiving Day (no, thank YOU), or George Washington's birthday (you can't get anything for a buck these days). But, I picked a day for pranksters. Still, more than a decade later, I am surprised that the foul-mouthed poet didn't look up in to my swimming eyes and say, "April Fools!"

I would like to end this little missive by saying "April Fools! I actually lost my virginity on Bastille Day." However, I am an honest man (and a man I am), and the only fool around these parts is yours truly.

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