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Friday, May 31, 2002

Blogger is giving me the red ass...

Nevertheless...I'm a plane to Chicago in a few minutes and my mother is worried about me, although she won't say it. I think she's afraid of giant flying bombs on their way to big cities.

I am not.

Wednesday, May 29, 2002

A little of my weekend

For those who care...and maybe for those who do not.

T and Patti, makin' him a daddy

Mary M. looking as cute as she can

Me and Chelle at the main stage

Chelle at camp

C-fate relaxing after the Advance team assault

Late, late at night...the drum circle by firelight

The view from camp

Part of the crew watching the Holmes Brothers

The tradiational LEAF family picture.

Please come join the family, dear readers. We'll save you an October spot at Tent City.

Uh...let's try this again

I've spent the last few days on a constant hydration drip. I picked up a book to poke a few synapses in the eye. I think I'm on the verge of thinking again.

I won't bore non-LEAFer's with a weekend narrative. But it should be pointed out, I am a changed man (at least for the next few weeks).

It is very easy as we work our way through our workaday lives to fall into a pit of frustration. We try to escape by seeking refuge in weekend frivolity (usually in a dirty bar or on a back porch). We refugees find comfort in that respite, but within a day or so find ourselves screaming at people we love, constantly cursing our work, and living soley for the end of the week. I can say all this...because I'm a damned expert.

Over the past six days, I've taken on a different attittude. It didn't happen all at once. In between relaxed games of Euchre, the crack-swoosh of many beers, the tribal beat of hippie drums, and so many belly laughs my abs still ache...I found a peace. It is a peace of friendship, of relaxation, and of a life that rises above daily worthlessness.

Two posts ago, I wrote with vigor on the resiliancy of my mood. The future--then--was untapped. I've decided that perhaps the future still is untapped. Perhaps there is something greater ahead. And perhaps I should be excited right now.

Ahead lies a summer. Then a fall. Then a new year.

I won't be so optimistic as to predict a complete change-over from old grump to starry-eyed idealist. But I have some faith in the future now where I did not before.

Note: Brother Beaker's CODE ORANGE is defunct. He's very busy fixing up sick people and getting married.
Another note: The Texan has taken on some freelance design work. Check out his site for the link

Tuesday, May 28, 2002


Sometimes I make funny noises. The one that makes me giggle more often than not is an unsettling sort of gurgle (a la David Letterman/Butthead) that is closely associated with a deep un-understanding of something I am trying to accomplish.

Now back down the Mountain, my head has not yet cleared from four days of sheer bliss. And I am having a hard time comprehending all things associated with the Real World.

Soon I shall provide some pictures to show you what put me into this state. Until then...and until my head clears a little more...I'll just let this suffice.


Tuesday, May 21, 2002

Rocket Man and the search for human truths

Who would think that Elton John could inspire such laughter? Who would think I would ever inspire such...nevermind.

The simple fact is this: I am living in a state of suspended frivolity that will break out of its shell in a matter of 48 hours. It is LEAF time again and "up here, Jerry, I'm already gone."

Today I am surrounded by murder, evil, and various menaces to society. Illness has taken hold on my colleagues and family. Leeches are attacking my dog. My SUV (Emilio!) is almost out of gas. And my mind is somewhere called Black Mountain.

In front of me is 48 hours of live shots, ne'er-do-wells, general grumps, and tedious hours spent in a dimly-lit room watching video of man who looks and sounds strikingly like Elmer Fudd. I have packing, unpacking, and re-packing to do. There is coordination to coordinate. There are egos to stroke. There is rowdiness to stoke. In short, there is much to do and no time to do it.

And even shorter...I don't care.

What could very well be a very horrible day will pass easily. Each phone call forecasting doom and gloom, each evil stare from the non-vacationer, each mumble-grumble from the not-yet-excited will be a mere fading blip on my scope.

Now...I must embark on a day of pain with a head full of novicane.

And if this makes no sense to you...take Thursday through Sunday off, give me a call, and meet me on the Mountain.

Thursday, May 16, 2002

Don't tell me I'm going to die

President George Bush knew that the world's most prolific terrorist was planning to hijack an airliner. Attorney General John Ashcroft was advised to stop flying commercial airlines for the rest of his term. The FBI knew that several Muslims were taking flying lessons.

And for some reason we're all supposed to be angry that they didn't do something to stop the most horrific thing that has ever happened to our United States.

Am I supposed to believe that because the people in our federal government had intelligence reports indicating something horrible was about to happen...they are in some way responsible for the loss of lives in my country?

It seems like quite a leap to me.

Of course, the swells of patriotism couldn't last more than a few months. As guilty Americans we were sure to start internalizing our rage and finding something about ourselves that is obviously to blame. Forget that the September 11th attacks were one of the finest planned terrorists attacks in recent memory. Forget that we live in a country where we value our freedom...in part because we have more than most any country in the world. Forget that it is the same intelligence we are currently blaming that allowed us to track down some of the people responsible and bring them to justice. Forget it all. We've got to blame ourselves, especially when it is politically beneficial to do so.

Let us imagine the scene in mid-Summer 2001 if our government had acted differently:

July 26, 2001
CNN is reporting tonight that government officials are acknowledging 200 Muslim extemists have made their way into the United States. President George Bush said earlier today that the world's richest and most vituperative terrorist is planning to hijack a domestic airliner. As a result, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft is now traveling by leased jets on trips back home to Missouri. The FBI announced this morning that several men of Middle Eastern descent have been spotted taking flying lessons and one is actively trying to learn how to steer a jumbo jet. Government officials believe all of these combined could spell doom for the American people.

July 27, 2001
As a result of yesterday's revelations, more than half of America's flying public has canceled its flights. Domestic airlines are already talking about bankruptcy. Democrats are accusing President Bush of using alarmist rhetoric to bolster his perceived necessity to the American public and boost an already bulging military budget. In related news, several Middle Eastern men were beaten outside a New York eatery last night and Middle Eastern advocates are accusing the American government of racial profiling.

Do I believe the FBI is in the best shape? No. There is probably some need for reform, at least in the area of interagency and intra-agency communication. Do I believe our government is doing EVERYTHING right? By all means...nuh-uh.

But there is a reason secret intelligence is called secret intelligence. It's a secret. And my guess is most Americans don't want to be told they are about to die. How many people have your heard complain about the constant government warnings since September 11th that result in nothing. The general cry: "Tell me something when you know something. Otherwise, let me eat my barbeque, take my kids to soccer, and watch Star Wars."

About the only thing America could've done to stop the Setember 11th attacks was stop being America. Start discriminating against people for who they are and where they come from. Start restricting fine Americans freedom of movement.

And I don't think it's a big leap to suggest that Americans just don't like that kind of thing.

Wednesday, May 15, 2002

"I think I'll find me a younger woman."

Never...ever...say this to your wife.

Age probably didn't mean much to James and Sara when she was 20 and he was 19. It was a different time and a few months is a short bridge for a trip from fancy to passion.

It was the middle of World War II. 1943 to be exact. They wed. They had children. They watched that war pass, then two major military conflicts, then a short war, and then a so-called war on terror. It was around that time that they began a war of their own. The battle ground was a low-rent neighborhood surrounded by pimps, hookers, drug slingers, and other ne'er-do-wells.

It was on an evening that following May that Sara decided she was hungry...or so she said. She sent her grown daughter to the store for some food. It was around seven o'clock.

Unless you are a 78-year-old woman with a 77 year-old husband, it may be hard to understand what happened next. She had been through a lot, after all. Two strokes, a couple of heart attacks, and a laundry list of old woman maladies that defy a young man's comprehension.

Where it had not in 1943, age was starting to matter in about a dozen different ways. And husband James picked the wrong time to start pointing that out.

They sat alone in that house on a perfectly fine spring evening and James said the wrong damned thing. The exact wording is matter of discussion right now, but it went a little something like this:

"You're getting too old for me. I think I'll find me a younger woman."

On a television sitcom the wife probably would've responded with a joke about Viagra. Sara responded with the home's pistol. Two shots. One in James' head. One in his neck. Fifty-eight years of marriage bled out on the floor of their house.

If you believe the talk around the crime scene, 78 year-old Sara (who when wheeled in a wheelchair from the Sheriff's Office to a waiting car looked more timid than your grandmother ever did) actually used the following phrase when telling her daughter what she had just done:

"You're dad was talking shit, so I shot him."

You cannot listen to the story without asking a couple of gnawing questions. The answers are fairly unsatisfactory. Apart from her physical ailments, her family reports that she has no metal problems. And one report suggests James threatened to hit Sara at one point during the evening.

Tonight, 77-year-old James is in a county morgue. Seventy-eight year-old Sara is at home (she's too old and sick to sit in a jail cell).

Sometimes frustration is a creature that takes almost six decades to mature and takes either a gun or a younger woman to slay.

A reminder... Never--ever--say that to your wife.

Tuesday, May 14, 2002

Strap me in and take off

I didn't think much about it until this morning when the talk radio alarmists were giving the Fox News alarmists a lot of credit for a new way to alarm people.

In the next six months, I will strap myself into an airplane for a minimum of four trips, three of which are to major U.S. cities. These trips will fall on what the alarmists will surely at some point label The Summer of Fear. Two of the trips will bookend the anniversary of September 11th. I will fly the same airline that became a flying bomb last year.

The macho man is resiliant. I cannot be phased by fears of attacks on Independence Day. I will sleep on the flights. I will play games to see if I can pick which flier is the inflight security blanket. I am a man.

And I am a wussy with a capital W.

Caffeine is starting to treat me like an old man. At one point I could drink espresso until bed time and then fall right to sleep. Now, if I have a Diet Coke after 7pm I am up until 3am. That happened last night and I tossed and turned in bed contemplating my own demise. I do not truly believe any of my flights are in danger. Nor am I afraid of dying. But the entire process of contemplating your own death can really freak you out if you think about it long enough.

Chi-town, Sin City, St. Louie, all in my crosshairs.

Let's just hope no one else is looking down the same scope.

Friday, May 10, 2002

Salve for your fear, ointment for your loathing

Maybe I shouldn't have been surprised that my last entry (see below) struck a power chord with my few but tenacious readers. The comments section is bulging. Upon reading the comments I decided that I probably should've given you something a little lighter with which to jump into a May weekend. Maybe something a little more fluffy. I couldn't come up with anything fluffy, so decided on poofy.

Yes, dear friends, it is time for another discussion of my nipples.

Few have ever contradicted the poofiness of my man-nips. Most stare for a moment then decide they are uncomfortable. Because of that, few have ever come to truly know my nipples. Which is why, friends, I thought I would tell you of my nipples' pain. Yes, even mere man-bubbles have a lifetime of pain to discuss.

Let me take you back to room 616 of Laws Hall, University of Missouri, 65201. It was a gathering place of sorts. Those who could look past my rural roomie's perchant for wearing skin-tight Hanes underdrawers (and nothing else) liked to spend time there. We played video games. We drank beer. We sometimes watched pornography. It was college. There wasn't much more to do.

It was a fateful day. I had a baseball in my hand and nothing to do with it except drop it on the sensitive middle parts of a good friend.. A decade later, I still don't know why I did it. I didn't throw it. I just dropped it. It hit spot-on square. Ben writhed on the cheap tile floor. I wanted to hide, but the dorm rooms were small. And our mutal friends were already plotting his revenge.

For those who don't carry their life around in their pants, let me explain one very important thing about men. You never...ever...hit the boys. With anything. Don't throw a feather at them. And most certainly, don't drop a baseball on them.

I should've learned the lesson years before. Sweet Emily Kinney used to hit me in my boy parts once a week during second grade recess. Despite the fact I loved her for about 20 consecutive years after the infraction, it was wrong. And she likely knew that.

So why, after years of following the die-hard rule did I drop a ball on Ben's balls? I do not know. But I knew I had revenge coming.

Simple Rules of Manhood dictated that even though the infraction was beyond severe, even simple revenge could not include a retaliatory strike on my crotch. A Revenge Committee quickly convened and quickly decided that my nipples must be the target of retaliation. And a clothes pin was the weapon of choice.

The hastily drafted Resolution of Revenge read something like this:

Whereas Otis carelessly dropped a baseball on Ben's nuts, and
Whereas Otis most certainly knew that dropping a baseball on Ben's nuts is the greatest infraction of male bonding etiiquette, and
Whereas Ben has never done anything to deserve a baseball-nut-job...
Be it hereby resolved that Otis shall wear a clothes pin on his nipple for a period of 30 seconds.
Signed on this day of our Lord,
The Revenge Committee

I cannot describe the pain in any way other than this...it couldn't have hurt any more than Ben's crotch. I deserved every second of pain. The only plus-side of the entire debacle...that particlaur nipple wasn't poofy for about a day after that.

Years later, the Revenge Committee struck again. I woke up from a long night of drinking with duct tape on each nipple. We won't go into that.

A decade later, Ben survives. He works in a good job for a major American beer company. I still have poofy nipples.

Seems like he's still getting his revenge.

Thursday, May 09, 2002

Killing the fluffy bunnies

The Germans didn't learn from Napolean and we didn't listen to ol' Nappy Ulcer Boy either. And we're all about to pay for it. While we may not freeze to death in Russian winter, we have certainly walked down the road of overextension and we are about to reach the great destination called simple failure.

That lead could easily be interpreted as an unpatriotic rant about America's war on terror. But it is not. I am not educated in the finer points of American foreign policy. However, in the last three years I have received a bare knuckle education in the great failure of corporate America. Out of the mouth/fingers of this babe comes a dire prediction:

We are losing a fight against ourselves.

Three years ago my employer became a subsidiary/lap dog of a hyphenated corporate giant. We raised a giant flag of optimism over our hung-out shingle. We prettied ourselves up for our customers. Our giant spent hundreds of millions of dollars buying everything that was for sale. We had brothers and sisters all over the country working for a common cause. We were cross breeds of a worker bee and a fluffy bunny. And if the world wasn't our oyster, it was at the very least a nice clam fit for frying.

It wasn't long before the giant was in Russia and the December winds were beginning to howl. The supplies dried up. The giant canceled the holiday bonus. It cut the number of allowable sick days in half. The cost of living raise became laughable and the fluffy bunnies were only allowed enough extra money to pay for part of the company's insurance plan--which incidentally had doubled in cost.

We fluffy bunnies continued to work hard. It will all get better, the giant promised...even has it handed down unfunded mandates. Even though the corporate empire seemed to be collapsing under its own weight, the company produced pretty newsletters and promotional videos aimed at stockholders. The fluffy bunnies noticed their eyebrows reaching a peak. Funny how a company that always considered its customers first was now including stockholders in its mission statement.

That's when it started to get ugly.

I can only carry the fluffy bunny analogy so far without seeming silly, so I'm going to put this as simply as possible. We are all turning on each other. It is cannibalism. It is mutiny. It is a strawberry fascination and rotting sides of beef.

The brass don't respect the middle management. The middle management are handcuffed and can't respect the underlings. And the underlings (see: fluffy bunnies) are slowly dissecting each other...disrespecting the hard work of others, looking out for number one, and trying to figure out how they ended up getting screwed. If we were a sports team, the papers would diagnose our team as having that age old affliction: Low Morale.

I have to believe it is not just our industry. As corporate giants buy up smaller companies, buy more, make less, and try to do more with less, everyone suffers...the employee, the company, and most importantly...the customers.

I am a capitalist. I believe in the rules of supply and demand. I believe in the entrepreneurial spirit. I don't think there is another system as great as ours.

However, the fates may have discovered a chink in the capitalist armor. Capitalism has a really good chance of eating itself. Our system of free enterprise may be failing. We don't want the government to run our businesses, hospitals, television stations, etc. But it may be worth asking...are corporate empires any better for a free enterprise system than government running things.

Ultimately, I supposed we are forced to say yes, corporate empires are better than government. The free enterprise system runs on its own engine and if there isn't a market for the corporate empire, it will die on its own.

I suppose the coal miners, auto workers, and textile employees of decades ago probably had it a lot worse. Black lung, lost arms, lost lives...all working under corporate giants that made fortunes on the backs of hard working denizens of a growing society.

But as I sit in the fluffy bunny cage, warily eying the other bunnies to make sure they don't gnaw off my ear, I wonder if I'm watching the end of something very grand. And if I am watching the end, will I end up going down with the ship.

I'm going to go find a piece of lettuce to nibble on.

Monday, May 06, 2002


I was only mildly distracted by Mary Jane's chest during the rain scene of Spiderman. Somebody back in the nation's salad years said comic books were the top of a slippery slope that led to pornography. And while "slippery" is not a word I like to consider in this particular context, Spiderman's rain scene made me briefly believe those puritans of years gone by might have been on to something.

More striking--I thought--about Spidey and his great transformation from bus-chasing geek-boy to superhero was a word that I muttered a few times this weekend: Potential.

While a great tale of bravery on its own, Spiderman is a timeless tale of becoming more than one's current self...reaching an heretofore untapped greatness. It is a theme that we all could do well to recognize...and maybe realize.

Recently, I have found fascination in potential and people striving to achieve it. There are the minor league hockey players of the Greenville Grrrowl who play for pennies and take hockey lumber to the side of their heads. They more than likely enjoy the pain, knowing that each bruise and cut-open eye is one step closer to something greater...maybe a career in the NHL. There is a friend who set out to be a filmmaker. He's not an 18 year-old idealist. He's a 30-something man of dreams who understands potential and has mapped its path on his personal dayplanner. There are two good friends (featured below) who took simple love and turned it into a complex creature.

There is--admittedly--a certain comfort in the hobgoblin of little minds. If we wake up each day with a plan of consistancy, we have great assurance that the day will go as expected. Change nothing and nothing will change. Early to bed, early to rise, and all that other stuff.

Perhaps even more frightening...the fear of having no potential at all. I expect there is little that is more frustrating than chasing an unacheivable dream. Maybe that's why people eat cow ass on reality TV. At least if you fail there, it is over in an hour...including commercial breaks.

There are a few people who read this and send me monthly encouragements of potential. I probably wouldn't think much about it if people didn't remind me. Sometimes the idea me having potential makes me giggle. Sometimes it makes me hide. Sometimes it make me want to cry.

Maybe the greatest part about potential is trying to figure out what it is...that fascination with the great unknown.

Just ask Peter Parker...you never know what's going to happen, even when you're staring at Mary Jane's shirt protrusions in a rain storm.

Sunday, May 05, 2002

The Life of Reilly

I find myself touched sometimes by a the wail of a voice in the middle of a perfect song, by particular phrase turned just right--not over the top--at just the right moment, and by a private look, delivered when no one else can see.

And today, I find myself touched by two very tired people who have created something equal to their combined beauty. That little creation... Reilly Elizabeth Whims, born at 6:39 AM on May 5th to two of the finest people I have ever known.

My heart and congratulations go out to them.

Thursday, May 02, 2002

Tit for Tat

At a time when most young men were piercing their ears, I was afraid of panties.

My dad--always a good negotiator--offered me a compromise. I could get my ear pierced if I agreed to wear panties for the rest of the time I lived under his roof. At the time, that seemed like a bad deal. In retrospect, it probably would have allowed me to get in touch with my feminine side a lot easier and allowed me accept my poofy nipples before I reached an advanced age. If I had been wearing a lace thong in the locker room, the jocks probably wouldn't have paid much attention to my woman nips.

So now...more than a decade later...I am an unmarked human being. I have not pierced an ear, a nose, a navel, a poofy nipple, or my thingy. I watched several friends go under the needle. Frankie B. once spent a night in bed moaning and almost lost his damned mind when someone brushed his newly pierced nipple.

I also have never gotten a tattoo. Never a tweety bird on my ass. Never "MOM" on my arm. And if I wanted to now, I would have to leave the state of South Carolina. After another year of debate in the General Assembly, the House of Representatives has killed a bill to allow tattoo parlors in this state.

From the AP wire:

The House voted today to kill the bill, 55 to 48. West Columbia Representative Jake Knotts led the effort. He says he doesn't think people should mark up their bodies.

Well, thank you Jakie, for making sure we all follow your rules. Knotts is the type of man you would expect to say such a thing. He's a brash, loud-spoken, red-faced, portly man from the middle of our state. He shakes hands with a full pump of the arm and just won a dead man's seat in the state Senate. He is the roadrunner to my desire to put Wile E. Coyote on my forearm.

For about 45 seconds, I considered heading up to North Carolina (where Progressive is not a four-letter word) and getting a tat in protest. The only thing that stopped me (actually the same thing that has stopped me for the last ten years or so) is not knowing what in the hell I would have permanently printed on my body. A weather man friend of mine has a hurricane tattooed on his arm. That's cool. Me...I got nothing.

I could tattoo my wife's name on my chest, but where would I be when she finally discovers she's married to a half-man with poofy nipples and goes out to find Derek Jeter? I could tattoo my dog's name on my forearm, but I'd get tired of answering..."What the hell does Scoop mean?"

Maybe a permanent press pass, a bottle of Jager, or a broken guitar?

No...I got it. The perfect anti-South Carolina tattoo...a giant South Carolina Palmetto Tree on my back. Take that, you backward yokels. No tattos for me? I tattoo your state symbol on my back.

I wonder if ol' Jakie would feel any differently if the bill would've inlcuded an amendment requiring all South Carolinians to tattoo the Confederate Flag on their forehead?

Wednesday, May 01, 2002

Damn it

Mired in self-loathing, bleeding from all of my four major appendages (keep your snide comments to yourself, bucky), and cursing my lack of athletic ability I drove back to Mt. Willis last night. My two major errors in right-center field played a large part in our softball team's loss. Routine pop flies should be banned. If the ball isn't routine, at least you have a decent excuse for a bobbled ball. I bled a lot last night. Felt good at times, felt like an idiot on others. Some people should just stick with video games. I don't think I'll ever learn.

I had hoped that my teammates had forgotten by this morning. They had not. I resumed my self-loathing and considered hiding under my desk. I find the shade from the flourescents to be quite numbing. I eventually found myself alone and climbed back into my chair. And then I discovered something that I didn't really want to.

First...a quick reminder of last October...

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.

And now we know one other thing. Melissa was a hooker. She worked for three different escort services at once. Her boyfriend didn't kill her. A homicidal John did.

I feel sick.

Self-loathing comes in a lot of different forms, it seems. There are times I find myself subscribing to the theory that prostitution is the greatest form of feminist power. It stands as a fantastic symbol of a woman's power over men and in turn, power over herself. And then there are times...like today...that I find nothing more depressing than a woman selling her body to a man.

On most nights--especially if I have had a few--you can get me started on a long rant about victimless crime. Drugs, prostitution, etc. Why--if a woman wants to sell herself--should she not be able to? If no one gets hurt, what's the problem?

Melissa got hurt. She ended up dead--wrapped in a hotel bed sheet--in the trunk of her pimped out car. Now I know how she paid for the ride.


I know, I know. People die. People kill people. The leap from one murder to ALL prostitution being evil is a long one. Melissa didn't kill herself. A sick fuck did. But, damn it, if I didn't want her to have died doing something else.

I usually like to wrap these pieces up with a theme. I had planned on a nice self-loathing moral. But, screw it. You get the point.

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