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

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Wednesday, July 31, 2002

The Return of Ju-Ju

The heat slithered into our air a few weeks ago and its been giving us the ol' what-for for the better part of that time. Sweat is wrinkling our shirts. Sunburns are creasing our skin. Humidity is turning our hair to birds' nests.

And if the heat hasn't made its way under our collar yet, I'd be really surprised.

The avid reader of RER will remember a time about eight months ago when Bad Ju-Ju made a mess of the group dynamic around Mt. Willis. It was cold then, so I cannot blame the heat. To be fair (to the heat, anyway), Ju-Ju, especially the bad variety, runs on its own malevolent engine.

Now, the Ju-Ju has returned. The people with whom I surround myself are looking sideways at one another and it is all I can do to hide in the corner and wait for the Ju-Ju to pass.

I've seen it happen several times in my short life. People spend a lot of time around one another. They all love eachother , but they get to a point where they've just about had enough. Frustrations build to anger, anger builds to hurt feelings, hurt feelings can inspire something just short of hate. It is an ugly situation and it is all I can do to avoid it.

But, I fear, dear reader, that the Ju-Ju has a hold on this dynamic that is greater than before. I fear that real damage may be done this time.

Perhaps it is just the jetwash of my anger from earlier in the week (incidentally, that has passed and I don't feel as much like a wookie anymore). Perhaps I'm simply paranoid and overreacting. After all, there are some very good times ahead. This weekend should be top-choice. My brother will be in town. I will celebrate both his and my wife's birthday and hope my friends choose to join us. And in the weeks after that, fun of untold proportions lies ahead.

I've never been a big fan of change. I can handle a change for the better. I loathe a change for the worst. I want to free my friends from the Ju-Ju.

Any suggestions on how?

Monday, July 29, 2002

Primal scream

I have to imagine the caveman was one of the most emotionally balanced of all bipeds. Cave is messy? Scream a little bit. Dinosaurs making a mess of the front yard? Scream a little more. Former babbling brook becomes raging river that prevents movement to the hunting fields? Scream a lot.

To put it simply (for the cave people in the reading audience), there wasn't a lot of time for sitting around and brooding about the bullshit that went on around the cave. You just yell, let that primal scream get rid of all the worthlessness, and get back to kicking some mastadon ass.

Somewhere between the time our foreheads were really big and the time doctors started prescribing Prozac, I was born.

Of all virtues I maintain, patience is the the most prized. It takes a lot to set me off. And I'm proud of that. That's how I maintain so many relationships. I have very few enemies (that I am aware of, anyway) and I like to keep it that way.

But recently, I've become a bit of a caveman. And it is starting to freak me out a little bit. What used to take weeks to light my fuse now takes about three days. And the fuse doesn't burn as long anymore.

I can't explain it. Usually I have pretty darned good explanations for everything I understand. This current malady, I have nothing. Zilch.

All I know is that things that used to only annoy me have started making me mad.

Dime-store shrinks might explain it away as me having internalized too many emotions. They might say if I had allowed myself to get mad a little more over the past ten years that I might be a little more emotionally balanced right now. They might even say that a little well-placed rage is good for the mind.

I tend not to listen to pop psychology, though. And until I come up with a good explanation, don't be surprised if you hear me screaming like a wookie in heat.

Thursday, July 25, 2002

My porn

Men tend to fantasize about that of which they are not getting enough at home. You'll find them melted into the padded rail on the stage at Jugs-o-Rama. You'll find them slipping into and out of shady places that cater to people with outlandish fetishes. You'll find them slipping their wedding rings into their pockets, then slipping into a singles bar (forgetting that women still look for the tan line on thie ring finger).

It often leads to problems at home. The wife catches the man in the middle of watching "Kittens--Purrs and Moans." The wife gets a call that her husband's car is sitting outside of "Chicks With No Clothes On." The wife develops a complex. It can destroy a marriage.

I got caught last night.

I was alone, the room was dark, and the screen was tantilizing me. It was pink, sometimes a deep red, not too much fat. I was salivating.

I tried to pretend like I was only flipping though the channels, but my wife knew my agenda. I tried to pay her disdain the respect it deserved, but my eyes kept drifting back to the screen. I couldn't turn off the TV.

Finally, she snapped. "Sure, you give me your attention when a commercial comes on. But as soon as the beef is back on the screen, I'm nothing!"

My wife caught me watching Beef Porn.

Emeril Lagasse can be a great enabler. Last night's "Emeril Live" was all about beef. The sirloin, the t-bone, the chuck, the round, the flank (oh, the sexy flank). At one point, he cut slits in a giant roast and shoved huge cloves of garlic into the holes. I perspired.

Background: My wife stopped eating red meat when she went to a vegetarian training camp. She was in her teens and very impressionable. I can't blame her. Brain-washing is a time-honored technique. I've done all I can to de-program her. Nothing has worked.

And I have slipped into the life of Beef Porn. Several butchers have caught me stealing quick touches of the ground chuck (so sexy underneath the plastic wrap!) in the middle of grocery stores. When my wife goes out of town--though the guilt kills me--I fire up the grill and have a medium rare porterhouse, all alone in my home. I hide the big t-bone (after I suck the remaining marrow, of course) and hope my wife won't notice the juices on my collar when she does the wash.

I'm considering some kind of therapy or beef counseling. There must be some sort of 12-step program for this kind of thing. First step: Admit you have a problem with Beef.

I can only hope my marriage survives.

Tuesday, July 23, 2002

On tolerance

She looked emaciated and tired. And she looked at me with suspicious eyes.

I didn't belong there. My two o'clock shadow and decidedly masculine voice should have stopped me at the back door.

She walked around me, making sure to keep a good distance between us, and asked an employee for the key to the medicine cabinet.

"I need my daughter's Ritalin," she explained, but not to me.

There are few places where a man is do decidedly out of place than a battered woman's shelter.

I was there to interview a pretty blonde woman about her experience as a domestic violence counselor. She had sat beside a domestic violence victim in this past weekend's trial. Less than 24 hours after the verdict, one of the counselor's former clients was murdered by her boyfriend. The cycle started again.

I've been in two independent conversations today about my level of tolerance for stupidity. I have a high tolerance. It takes a lot to send me over the edge.

However, my level of tolerance is much lower when it comes to evil. There is no place in this writer's mind for anyone hitting a woman, child, or elderly person. I can understand a lot of criminals and their activities. I cannot appreciate someone who attacks something more vulnerable than themselves...no matter whether it is an animal or a human being.

I was in the shelter for only 45 minutes. Most of that time I was in closed room. When I emerged, the emaciated woman and her daughter were gone. I don't know if they were hiding from me or if they had gone back out into the world.

Either way...it is sad.

Monday, July 22, 2002

The News Man

It is a common judge's admonition: "If you feel you cannot contain your emotions when the sentence is read, please leave the courtroom. Any outburst will be contempt of this court and I will have you incarcerated."

What is not so common is the raw emotion surrounding a capital murder case. Even less common is a courtroom so full of bare-nerved people...family members of two people who suffered a brutal baseball bat beating...family members of the man who swung that baseball bat 18 times, crushing his two victims' skulls.

One man got up and started walking out of the courtroom. He was the murderer's little brother, a burly, bearded man.

"That's a good idea," I commented to my fellow news people. I had been watching little brother for five days and knew he was the most volatile in the room.

Little brother couldn't hear my analysis. Part of the court's news pool arrangement with the media relegated TV reporters to the hallway, where my recording device gobbled a closed circuit feed.

I should have known little brother would be coming my way. For days, people who had been locked out of the courtroom had been ignoring the rules and watching the trial on my monitor. I didn't care that much. They couldn't hear anyway. Part of the news pool arrangement required reporters to listen to the proceedings with head phones.

Within seconds, little brother was beside me. I could smell the tension on his breath as it made its way past his graying, scraggly beard. I could hear his chest clutch and unclutch as he breathed. I could feel him in my gut.

I have covered four death penalty trials in that courthouse. Each time the verdict comes down my stomach turns inside out. This time was no different. When the judge said, "death," my heart stopped beating for two seconds.

Little brother's breathing didn't change. I still felt his nerve endings on the back of my neck. He was so close and he was so dead to what I had just heard.

Then it occured to me...he doesn't know. He can't hear what I just heard. He can only see the close-up picture of his big brother's emotionless face.

As part of my trial ritual, I always make a quick note in my notebook just before the verdict comes down. VERDICT--.

When I hear the magic words, I write GUILTY, NOT GUILTY, LIFE, DEATH.

I started writing...D-E-A-T.

I felt little brother shift and stopped writing. I turned over my notes and looked at the wall in front of me. Then, on the screen, big brother's face turned to an unseen family member and mouthed the words, "Mama, I'm all right."

Little brother spoke, "Did they read the verdict?"

I couldn't talk. I nodded.

"What was it?"

Then I turned to the man, looked him in the eye, and told him his big brother was going to South Carolina's death chamber.

That was more than three hours ago. Since that time I've watched the murderer's 23-year-old son scream in agony as he ran at a dead sprint down the courthouse hallway. I've watched a dozen grown men twist themelves into a cacophony of rural South Carolina, gut-wrenching sobs. I've watched women nearly collapse into their own spilled tears.

Little brother never said anything. He stood up and walked away. I didn't see where he went.

I stopped doing my job long enough to lean against the courthouse wall and wonder if I would ever again have to tell a man his brother was going to die.

It is now 1:30AM and I'm sitting at my office desk, tie knot pulled down to my sternum, sleaves rolled up, back in a twist of spent nerves and emotion. I can't make myself go home. My wife is asleep and if I go home I'm going to have to talk. There is a part of me that wants to sit here until the workday begins in eight hours.

I have discovered tonight...Insomnia's coy games of sleeplessness have nothing on the effects of a long, hand-in-hand walk with death's living victims.

Thursday, July 18, 2002

On the Death Clock

I'll be blogging occasionally--but not regularly--for the next few days. I'm covering a death penalty trial and am away from computers most of the time.

Be good until I return.

Tuesday, July 16, 2002

Marching to the finish line

A ponderable for you this morning: If an atheist and a politician both march to Washington, which one will get to hell first?

Conservative talk radio couldn't control itself this morning. Word of a Godless Americans March (what great GAMs they have!) sent our local right-winger into a tizzy. His co-host spent a good amount of time expressing disbelief that 30 million Americans classify themselves as atheist, agnostic, humanist, of free-thinkers. Egad. Apparently, the vocal atheist set has decided that if Martin Luther King can march, if a million men can march, if a million moms can march...by God--er, by something--they can march, too. I have it on good authority that the chant "Hell no, we won't go!" has already been stricken from the agenda.

I've never been much of a marcher. I spent four hours marching in a Christmas parade once. I really had to pee, so I don't remember much of the marching. Everytime I heard "Sleep in heavenly peace," I couldn't help but think, "Sleep after heavenly pee." Does that make me a heathen?

Discussions of religion always make me uncomfortable. Don't ask why, because I don't know. That could be the reason that most of my really good discussions about religion have come when I was a tad on the inebriated side. I recall two very clearly. One was bellied up to a bar with a friend of mine who recently found a church to his liking. The other conversation took place over a bottle of Southern Comfort and a 12 pack of Natural Lite beer in room 616 of Laws Hall in Columbia, MO. That one lasted for hours and I recall a lot of loud voices. So much for hitting the town and looking for chicks. Five guys in a room, getting drunk on cheap beer and peach whiskey, talking about the ups and downs of conventional religion. Now that is a Saturday night.
(continued below...damned Blogger)

Thing is, I have friends of all ilks. I have my atheist friends, my agnostic friends, my universalist friends, my quiet Christian friends, my not-so-quiet Christian friends. Hell--er, heck--I once lived on the same dorm floor with a guy who played in a Christian Death Metal band. Talk about cogntive dissonance.

And in this short moment of reflection (I can reflect, can't I), you might have noticed I have not mentioned one thing about my religious past. I'll give you this much. I went to a Baptist church when I was a kid. I was married by a Methodist minister. Past that, you're going to have to guess. I can respect when people talk about their beliefs or lack thereof. But you won't hear me talking about it. Unless I've had too much to drink, of course.

Now...back to that orginial question. I have no answer, but here is a way to think about it. One of the two marchers doesn't believe in hell, but apparently is damned to go there because he doesn't believe in it. The other marcher espouses a great fear of hell, but is a little unclear about the rules of how one ends up there. That is a march I would like to watch.

From a distance.

Monday, July 15, 2002

Age and the Monkey Man

Twenty-eight years old and I'm already experiencing unexplained maladies.

Years of self-abuse (no snickering, please) have apparently led to a minor body revolt. For the past 16 hours, I've had a giant monkey fist pounding on the muscles under my right shoulder blade. Primates--especially those with big fists--are no joke, my friends.

I never have been a big fan of my physical form. In my teens, I was too skinny. The biggest things on my body were my nose and my nipples. Then, while I was in college, my toes started getting wider. That was frightening. You look down at your Birkenstocked feet and your toes look like bratwurst. It only got worse when my beer belly grew so large that I had to start leaning over to look at my sausage toes.

After college, I went through a period of self-betterment. The beer gut got smaller (somewhat anyway), the poofy nipples became less of as issue (no gym class for the working class), and I started hanging out with Karl Malden look-alikes to make my nose look smaller.

My toes still look like italian sausages.

But this monkey fist thing is a new issue. Before, I just didn't like my body. Now my body doesn't like me.

My hair (an adornment, if you listen to some of my colleagues) has ceased cooperating with me. My back is sending quick messages that I may not enjoy the next 50 or so years. My knees make a curious creaking noise when I bend down to pet the dog.

I'm 28 years old and 38 isn't sounding so good.

I am the Monkey Man, my friends. Goo-goo-ga-choo.

Editor's note: A quick HELLO to all the new readers who have recently found Rapid Eye Reality. I'm not quite sure how you're all arriving here, but all the new e-mails and comments on the blog are quite welcome. That includes a helpful physical therapy hint on how to deal with my monkey fist.

Friday, July 12, 2002

Predicting the future

I turned off the TV. When they are re-running cooking shows and the TV news sounds like a re-run, it's time to find a new form of entertainment.

I finished the book I was reading and went looking for another. Nothing piqued my interest.

I came in the office to write and had nothing about which to scribble. I almost gave up and stared at the wall when I thought of something.

When you aren't interested in anything anybody else has to write, read yourself.

Thing is, I only write here and at work and none of that is too interesting. However, I spent five years in college and I kept a journal for much of that time. That, my friends, while not very good writing, is darned interesting. Well, it's interesting if you're me, anyway.

So, I've spen the last hour and a half flipping through journal entries held together in those old black and white composition books. I've been though the girlfriends, the depression, the substance abuse, and some really funny entries written while on a spontaneous road trip to Chicago.

One entry though made me raise my eyebrows. The first line: "I haven't been sleeping much recently."

That, my friends, is not just a blast from the past. It's today. It's tonight. It's right friggin' now.

Not that you care, but I thought I'd put in the entry from February 15th, 1995. Nearly eight years have passed since then and in the journal entry I was making a ten-year prediction for myself.


I haven't slept much recently.

There are a couple of hours I can sleep on a regular basis. If six a.m. comes around, sleep is often required. That will usually last 'til eight--then the day begins again. Since Sunday I have had probably ten hours. I have become an ephedrine and caffeine junkie. Last night, somwhere around 3AM, I found myself cleaning my room at a sweat-breaking pace. My grades are good...my heart, lungs, eyes, and mental stability are falling apart. There is a beautiful German girl sitting three feet from me.

I think I am hallucinating.

So, when it all comes down, say ten years from now, there will be one thing that will convince the jury to believe me insane.

"So, you can see, ladies and gentlemen, as much as ten years before Brad ate the sauteed pituitary glands of the U.S. legislature, he was already destroying his brain with stimulants and half-baked attempts at journalistic grandeur."

"I object. The defendent never mentioned journalistic grandeur in his writings."


"But, your honor, the simple fact that he was writing--"

"Counsel, may I see you at sidebar?"

"FUCK NO! Your honor, my client is a fucking psychotic--anyone who would use peppered blood as an ingredient in a Bloody Mary--"

"Objection, your honor. The pepper was actually in the vodka--the blood was just added for color."

"Sustained. Madame Reporter, strike that."

"YOUR HONOR! My client spent six years trying to figure out how to make an 8 square foot loaf of bread. When he finally achieved this goal, he cut it into slices, kidnapped the late Mr. Ted Kennedy, and ate him on a sandwich with mustard and mayonaise."

"Mustard and mayonaise?"

"Yes, your honor."

"This is indeed a pained man."

"Yes, your honor."

"Kennedys are typically served w/ cream cheese."

"And that is the prime reason my client should not be held accountable for his actions."

"I agree, case dismissed."

I'd like to think a lot has changed in my life since that time. But, I guess the only thing that has changed is that I was a lot more honest with myself back in those days.

Fortunately, that was a ten year prediction and 2005 seems like a long way away.

We can only hope that Mr. Ted Kennedy finds a way to avoid me until then.

Thursday, July 11, 2002

Culley's Pub

Every man of proper stock has a bar in each of his chosen home towns where he feels comfortable. In Greenville, SC, mine is the Corner Pocket. In Columbia, MO it was Johnny's Beanery. And in Springfield MO, it was Culley's Pub.

I probably didn't spend as many hours in Culley's as I have the other bars. In fact, my memories of Culley's are made up of a few specific nights, most of which are draped in a haze of Jager shots. Nevertheless, those times are precious.

I will not re-tell this story here, because nearly everybody I know has heard it three times already. Suffice it to say, I asked my wife to marry me while the guy on the left in this picture sang a song called "How Do You Say Fuck You In Spanish?" Mine is not a story book tale, but Culley's fits in with my life story pretty well.

I've thought about the place a lot recently and was only mildy surprised to read today that a couple of independent film guys have made a film about Culley's called "Pub." It premiered this week.

Now, if I could just introduce the director to Johnnys and the Corner Pocket, the trilogy of my young life would be complete.

Tuesday, July 09, 2002

Chicken pot, chicken pot, chicken pot pie

I looked like the bored husband and my wife wasn't even there. I had draped myself over the handle-end of a shopping cart and the only thing keeping me moving was the ever-so-slow rules of gravity. The more I leaned, the more the shopping cart went. I was trying really hard to not think about how southerners call shopping carts "buggies." For some reason that really gets under my skin.

I was staring listlessly at the boneless, skinless chicken breasts when I thought I heard my name. I thought first of my lips. Pull them in, man! When you think, your lips fall open. You look like a yokel. Pull in your lips!

I reeled in my lips, made sure I wasn't drooling, and focused harder on the chicken.

"That's Mr. Willis," the voice said. 'Do you see him?"

This can't be for real. I'm wearing a dirty t-shirt, a pair of busted-up sandals, and shorts that are three sizes too big for me. And I'm making eye-contact-love with chicken breasts. Go away, people.

I heard my name again. I had to turn.

The kid was hanging off the business end of his mom's shopping cart. Her name turned out to be Helen.

The provocateur, however, was a girl I know. Business contact named Melinda. We talk sometimes. She was being funny. Pick on the TV guy. I was amused until I realized that I was still standing in front of the chicken and had no place to go and no excuse for my pooching lips. It was only chicken, after all.

"Whatcha doin?" she asked.

"Staring aimlessly at chicken." Simple enough answer, but my mind is racing. I want to talk to the kid, make sure he's on board with the plan.

"Did you get sent out for chicken?" She's being coy now, I understand. Don't fall for it. You're a bigger man than that. So are your lips and nose.

"Got sent out for dog food. Decided I needed chicken. Chicken always confuses me." I don't know what that means, but it stalls long enough for me to get a good look at the kid. He's gotta be around five, mop top, small hands that probably won't be able to maintain a grip on the shopping cart for very long. Gotta work quick.

"Chicken can be confusing." She's playing along now. I think she may be on board, or at the very least, getting bored. "This is Helen."

I probably could've guessed the name in three tries. Melinda saved me the effort.

"Helen...Brad" I shook her hand. She smiled nicely. No doubt, she's the Mop Top's mom. She's taller than Melinda, but not so tall as to frighten me. Her cart isn't too full yet.

All of sudden, it's either talk more about the chicken or get down to work with the kid.

I babbled about chicken for a few more sentences. I think I said something about preferring the breast to the thigh and how I could go with the bone or boneless. I obviously wasn't making much sense because I sensed Melinda was starting to get nervous. She couldn't see where I was going with this one. She never has been able to get a really good feel for me and my rambling.

I wanted to break for it, but I had to give it a try. Talking was out of the question. I had babbled enough and my lips obviously weren't cooperating with me. I had to get to the kid another way. I tried telepathy.

"Alright kid, here's the deal: Your mom--Helen over here--is going to try to convince you that thing you're hanging off of is called a buggy. It's not. Don't fall for it. Buggies get dragged behind horses. People push shopping carts. Got that?"

I sensed a slight moment of recognition. I tried to confirm it with a simple greeting.

"So, you...how you doing?"

The kid stopped hanging on to the cart long enough to give me a casual, "Goooooood."

"Good, glad to hear that," I said and threw two packages of chicken in my cart with the dog food.

There's no really good way to break from a conversation like that. I decided to stick with the theme.

"Now I just have to figure out what to do with it," I said as I pushed my cart away. Melinda looked at me cautiously. I think she wanted to respond, but what do you say to that? I think I scared her.

I really didn't know what to do with the chicken, so I spent the next ten minutes pushing the light-load cart around the store, trying to figure out if I was losing it or if I had just had an entire conversation about how confusing chicken can be. Nevermind the Mop Top telepathy.

Before I knew it, Melinda, Mop Top, and Mama Helen were all through the check-out counter and I was alone with my chicken. I bought two packages of biscuits, a couple of bags of frozen vegetables, and came home.

Chicken Pot Pie for dinner. Homemade. I guess I knew what to do with it after all.

Now if I could just work on my telepathy, lip pooching, and general disdain for the word "buggy," I might be all set.


Monday, July 08, 2002

Good times

If you live in a world of selfish disregard for yourself and others, you don't see it. You don't see the sideways looks, exasperated sighs, or veiled references of general disgust. Simply put...recognition of your selfishness spells its doom. And who wants to give up on living a life just for himself?

It is only when you take a moment to look around and assess what's really going on that you start to notice that all the good times aren't quite as good as you're imagining. Oh, they were at one time, when good times came at a premium and were seperated by the mundane on a routine basis. But sometime between then and now, you're starting to realize that good times all the time really equate to one thing...a bad time.

Still...you don't want to admit it. How in the world, after living good times so long, could good times actually equal bad times? It just doesn't make sense. So, you rationalize. I deserve my selfishness. I earn it. After a while, though, even those rationalizations start to ring a little hollow. And then its time to start figuring things out.

So, you spend a few weeks evaluating the situation. Where, exactly, did things go so wrong? How did it all get out of hand so quickly? And most importantly, is there any way to salvage future good times?

The quick evaluation ends up like this: Things are messed up, they gotta be fixed, and there has to be some way to fix them.

The longer term evaluation and solution takes a little more explanation: Things are messed up, they gotta be fixed, and here's how we're going to fix them. To appreciate the good times, one must accept that good times--the truly good times and not the manufactured good times--do not happen all the time.
continued below

So, you start to establish a few rules for yourself.

Rule #1--Stop manufacturing good times. Instead of attempting to make every time better than the last, simply accept and appreciate the fact that some times are simply going to be okay. In that, start attempting to recognize those okay times and live for them. Eventually you will start to recognize that the okay times are better than you thought.

Rule #2--Recognize and adequately prepare for the good times to come. Simple eradication of those times will do nothing but make you resent everything else. So, pinpoint when those times are on their way, know they are coming, and when you have to live through an okay time, remind yourself that you are going to live a good time one day. That should be enough juice to keep you in check.

Rule #3--When the good times arrive, don't treat each one as it has to be better than the last. After a while, you can't get much better and you just start going backward. Eventually good times turn into bad ones and then you don't have much left.

If you're the kind of person who has lived good times until they start getting bad, you might have some idea what the hell I'm talking about. If you're not, just accept the fact that there are some things I don't like to talk about and some things I still need to get off my chest.

So, here's to the okay times. Here's to the good times.

And here's to you.

Friday, July 05, 2002

Libertarianism and naughty despots

If I had a town crier and a particularly tall tower, I would send that little monkey up the stairs to declare, "The Naughty Despot from the kingdom of Mt. Willis speaks today...NO NEW LAWS! Hear ye, hear ye...NO NEW LAWS in the kingdom of Mt. Willis. The Naughty Despot has spoken!."

Unfortunately, no matter how strong a voice my monkey maintains, people will not listen. There are people out there who want new laws. We must be protected from our own stupidity, you understand. Three kids die after riding in the back of a pick-up equates to calls for a new law banning pick-up bed riding. Dead motorcyclists dirty up the road with gray matter, make'em wear helmets. Guy starts injecting roosted red peppers for that sweet high it gives him, ban the red peppers and all roasting implements.

The longevity of the American Idiocy gene is unparalleled. You just can't mutate (or evolve) from sheer recklessness and stupidity and no matter what laws you pass, people are going to find ways to mess up their lives and the lives around them. The Naughty Despot, of course, recognizes the cost we all pay. People splatter themselves on the highway, we all pay higher insurance premiums as a result. Roasted Red Pepper addicts buy their black market vegetables in some back alley, they're probably supporting some criminal enterprise--or as the new TV ad indicates--helping to kill a judge.

Evil lurks in this world and we're not going to get rid of it. (And as an aside here...do we really want a world full of shiny happy people? Can you imagine everybody actually doing the right thing and smiling on their brothers 365 to 366 days a year? The sheer boredom factor alone would be enough to turn the world inside out).

Let the Naughty Despot make one thing quite clear. Despite what he might have thought at an early age, he is not an anarchist. There is a great place in this kingdom for laws. Government is necessary. After all, we would just waste all our tax money if we didn't have any Government to send it to...or at least that's what I've heard.

The Naughty Despot fears, though, if he had his own little town crying monkey, there might be some sort of coup. So the decree might be a little more like this: NO NEW LAWS...unless they contribute to the naughty fun of the Despot and his minions. (continued below)

So, beginning on the first day of the kingdom of Mt. Willis fiscal year...these new laws shall be enacted:

*MANDANTORY NUDITY FRIDAYS--On each second Friday, of each second month all denizens of Mt. Willis shall be nude for a period of eight waking hours.
*THE FOUR-DAY WORK WEEK--On each first Friday of each month, denizens of Mt. Willis shall take a state-imposed holiday lasting no less than eight working hours. Employees shall be paid double-time for this time they did not work.
*THE ABSOLUTION 31ST--On each month that has 31 days, all denizens shall be absolved of all state crimes that did not directly affect another citizen of the kingdom. This statute should be interpreted to include all so-called victimless crimes, including but not limited to failure to wear a seat-belt, using one's motorcyle helmet to make soup, walking around nude in public on a day that is not designated as a mandantory nudity day, etc.

Have a good weekend. I am now off to find a talking monkey.

Thursday, July 04, 2002

Independence Day

I am a punk of the first order. Yet, I have the best friends in the world. I have a family that will support me in any way I like.

I know nothing of oppression, save the heat and humidity of Mississippi summers. I know nothing of slavery, save the poor wages of the television news business. I know nothing of royal tyranny, save the waning hold the Kennedy's still maintain on American politics.

I am a man who appreciates his independence.

The Fourth of July has always been one of my favorite days of the year. From bottle rockets at Grandpa and Grandma Price's house, to bottle rocket fights with my old neighborhood's ne'er-do-wells, to drunkenly singing Lee Greenwood songs with 50 of my closest friends at 1931 Juniper Circle and screaming "Fuck England" at the top of our lungs just to prove how much we love our country and the right to scream such things...Independence Day has always held a special appeal for me.

The last few years I've worked on the Fourth. The past two years I've interviewed the same woman about her niece who disappeared on Independence Day 1999. She doesn't enjoy the holiday anymore. It is a day of Missing Persons posters and wondering where all her niece's friends have gone. Brooke disappeared three years ago and her friends pretty much disappeared after that. They found a way to put it all in the back of their collective mind. Independence, of sorts.

I've spent the last few days hinged to the word "appreciation." I don't have a lot to give the people and fates that have given me so much. I routinely disrespect all I've been given. I selfishly wallowing in my own interests. The only way I can rationalize my indiscretions is to let everyone and everything know how much I appreciate them.

I'm not sure I can change who I am. I'm not sure if I really want to.

continued below

This morning I watched a TV news story about a family with such a love for Wiffle Ball that the dad and son built a wiffle ball park in their front yard. It has a left field wall, a Green Monster of sorts, a scoreboard, flood lights. Just about everything it needs. And it sits in the middle of a a well-to-do neighborhood. Bob Costas flew in with his son to pitch a few innings.

That is Independence.

If you look below, you'll see the fall out from my version of independence. Most guests will tell you it's just me trying to find another excuse to party all night long. And they're right, to a degree. But it is also me being me...for better or worse. It is Independent Brad.

There is so much more to this holiday than me finding myself. It is love of country, love of freedom, respect for those who gave it to us and for those who maintain it for us.

But it is something special to me. I appreciate all those things. I appreciate the people those things have given me.

That's about all I can do.

Monday, July 01, 2002

Bradoween--The Fallout

Party lasts until 5AM--Shot Count Still Uncertain
(Greenville, SC)

Authorities are still trying to piece together the events of June 29th and 30th. What police are calling Bradoween kept neighbors awake until Sunday morning, scared the neighborhood animals, and left a strange odor lurking about the Greenville suburban neighborhood. The official guest count is not in yet, but rough estimates put the number between 45 and 50. Our photographers were able to snap a few pictures and gather these brief descriptions.







More later after the dust settles.

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Rapid Eye Reality is the personal blog of writer Brad Willis, aka Otis.
All poker stories, travelogues, food writing, parenting and marriage advice, crime stories, and other writing should be taken with a grain of salt. It is also all protected under a Creative Commons license