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Friday, August 30, 2002

See this? It's my middle finger

Let us commence with the Cable Guy's Lament. Let us commit immoral acts in the face of Charter Cable, Charter High Speed Internet Access, and the cable industry as a whole (or is that "hole?"). Let us extend our middle fingers and breathe an extended sigh of untold relief.

In eight days, Mt. Willis will be Charter-free. The cable box at the corner of the property will just be a phallic reminder of the poor customer service, high prices, pathetic programming, and constant telemarketing calls. This message to all Charter representatives: "Suck it."

For the same price I'm paying for my extended basic service plus HBO (gotta watch The Sopranos) with Charter, I will soon receive every channel DirecTV has to offer (with the exception of "the adult channels," the sales rep informed me with a note of dispair) plus...plus...oh, Lord, I'm salivating on myself...plus NFL Sunday Ticket. That is, I will get up to 14 games every Sunday. I may develop ass atrophy.

Sure, after four months, I lose the premium channels. But, the price drops by twenty bucks a month, too.

With the recent installion of my Bellsouth DSL connection (another flip of the bird to Charter Pipline service) and the dish that will soon sit atop my roof, Mt. Willis will be Charter-free. I will not pay another cent to that company. Plus, any time I refer anybody to the new system, I get 20 bucks (I'll split it with you if you want to go that direction).

I might just be slightly aroused right now.


Thursday, August 29, 2002

One Year

When I graduated from high school I had but one spoken aspiration...I would be a G-Man, an FBI agent specializing in behavioral psychology. I would study the minds of the most twisted of individuals. I would know evil.

That may have been the last life plan I ever spoke out loud.

Somewhere in the middle of a college malaise, my potential for government work faded. Plans, though they seemed still necessary, were elusive. And a fairly regular stream of unplanned successes--no matter how minor--convinced me that an unplanned life may be the happiest.

I had many plans for tonight. I would pay the bills. I would work on some fantasy football draft material. And would finish a massive re-design of Rapid Eye Reality.

Why?

As of 12:21am on August 29th, RER is one year old. Three hundred sixty-five days ago (almost to the hour) I scribbled out my first post on this blog. The initial idea was to transcribe the images of the previous night's dream in the morning, followed by whatever reality I experienced during that day. It sounded catchy. That idea--that plan--didn't last very long.

But something else happened. I found myself writing quite a bit. Sometimes more than once a day. And something else--quite strange--happened as well. People were reading. It started off with a few folks from the blogging community. My wife joined them as soon as I let her in on the secret. She let the secret slip to a few folks (remind me to thank her for that later). Then others found out. Now, people I don't even know count themselves as readers (among my favorite new folks is a saucy gal from the West Coast who uses the word "fuck" a lot when she writes and some girl from Canada who has remained fairly quiet since she started reading).

But, that massive re-design didn't happen tonight. While I had planned on a grand opening that you all might see when you wake up in the morning, plans changed. A friend needed a friend tonight and I abandoned all the plans. The bills will get paid tomorrow. Fantasy football draft material will be worked out before Saturday. The re-design...maybe in the next week or so.

While out with my buddy, the idea of plans came up again. What am I going to do with my life? It took a few beers, but I let him in on a few ideas (you'll likely hear of them later). But our conversation reminded me of another plan.

Just about a year ago I told myself that if I were to start this blog, it had to be for a reason. I decided the reason would be this: Write as often as you can for a year...just to see if you can do it. It doesn't matter if the writing is good or it sucks. Just write. It is your journal and it doesn't matter if anyone reads it. Write to write.

As it turns out, some people actually do read. And as it turns out, it does actually matter to me if people read. I love comments. I love to hear people talk about what I write. The only thing I love more...is the actual writing.

Which brings me to now...what is the plan now? I have written for a year. I can do it. So what now?

Well, as I have said many times over the last year...I dunno. But, I have some plans. Thing is, I have about four plans and they all seem like nice ideas. So, maybe I'll just write here for another year. Again...I dunno.

But, the hour grows a tad late and the beers of therapy I shared with my buddy are making my eye lashes a bit heavy.

Before I bed down though...a few thank yous to the people who unknowingly helped me complete this one-year goal (and if this sounds like an Emmy speech to you, go suck an egg, because I really do appreciate these people):

Susannah...the girl who got me started on this thing.
Chelle...who believes much more than I do.
Ronnnie...one who relates on a scary level of similarity.
And each of those people (that pretty much constitutes the rest if you regular reading folks) who have stroked my ego over the past year with your compliments...perhaps especially to the one who may some day kiss my wife.

Now...on to another year.

Wednesday, August 28, 2002

The Hitchin'

Through a lens of pride and amber (that's hops, barley, and maybe some rice to you and me) I watched a weekend that I will never forget. However, just in case age or alcohol takes a toll on my brain, I took a few pictures. Unfortunately, I took just that...a few. Here are a few of the few.



The Bride and Groom...actually, groom and bride.



Marty, Su, Skip, and Chelle



Joe, Grieb, and a story I HAVE to hear later



A crew in need of a few more of what Ben is holding



And to everyone I spoke to this weekend (and if you read this, you know that menas you), I already miss the hell out of you folks.

Tuesday, August 27, 2002

Uh-oh...I'm awake

It was too many hours ago that I started awake. A dream-vision (nothing akin to my dream girl, by the way) had touched my knee in a provocative way and pointed a finger toward what she described as a "Gentleman's Entrance" to an upstairs watering hole. I was seconds away from devining her motives when a guilty (or self-preserving) part of my psyche shoved me into the land of of the waking.

That's a big part of my problem, I think. I have such a fear of straying from what is commonly regarded as decency that I have a hard time fantasizing or dreaming about a life less ordinary. Don't get me wrong...the concious writer you are reading right now believes there is little excuse for acting on certain fantasies of that less ordinary life. However, I would think that "healthy fantasy" spells out its own definition.

While you may read this as the lament of a late 20-something sexual malcontent, that's not exactly what I'm talking about. While recognizing and appreciating the role of sexuality in our society (and appreciate it, I do), my larger issues deal with fantasy of another sort. I have a hard time envisioning myself in a public role other than that which I have not-so-carefully crafted for myself. That is to say, I'm a bit handcuffed to the idea of maintaining strict responsiblity for what falls under my jurisdiction. That means earning a steady--if quite small--paycheck and making sure the bills are paid on time (which by the way, I'm late on one right now and it is eating me alive).

Nonetheless, there are times (usually just before I start longing to fall into that rarely blissful sleep of the fantastic dead) that my brain allows me to consider new venues, new paths, new destinations. I usually have a hard time sleeping after that. Dreams of coitus interuptus are almost welcome after three hours spent watching the LED read-out of my much-too-bright clock.

Life pitter-pats toward purpose, I suppose. However slow it may be, I suppose I should learn to live with the idea that I may, indeed, have to be a man of my own making instead of a creature of destiny. I prefer destiny, though.

And I'd like to think that girl in the dream...you know, the one touching me and pointing to doors unknown...I'd like to think her name might be Destiny.

And if not...maybe Pebbles.

How's that for disjointed?

Thursday, August 22, 2002

Truth Check: Troglodyte

It's a case of "I can call my girlfriend a bitch, but you cannot."

Normally I don't use this forum to discuss political issues in my adopted home state. However, this struck was as funny.

From the Marin (CA) Independent Journal...

A Republican candidate for U.S. Senate from South Carolina demanded an apology yesterday over remarks made about Sen. Strom Thurmond during a recent Democratic fund-raiser in Sausalito.

Citing an article in Friday┬╣s editions of the Marin Independent Journal, U.S. Rep. Lindsey Graham said his Democratic opponent, Alex Sanders, should "renounce and apologize" for the remarks of his Sausalito host, who called the 99-year-old Thurmond a "political troglodyte."

The article goes on to cite a dictionary's definition of the word: "A member of a fabulous or prehistoric race of people that lived in caves, dens or holes" or "a person considered to be reclusive, reactionary, out of date, or brutish."

Whether the 99 year old senator is a member of a prehistoric race may be a matter of debate. He was, in fact, a Dixiecrat who openly supported segregation until it was politically beneficial to start supporting civil rights. Many folks in the state of South Cacalacky will argue he truly had a change of heart. I'll let that one go.

Lived in caves? Well, he was the man to physically grab a handful of a female reporter's ass during an interview in the 1990s. He was also the man who when attending the grand opening of Greenwood, SC's Fuji plant was heard to ask--fairly loudly--"Where are all the geisha girls?" Caveman...perhaps, but I'll let that one go too.

Reclusive, out of date...the man can't walk on the Senate floor without collapsing and now lives...LIVES at a hospital.

The problem is this: Real South Carolinians (and that doesn't include me, by the way...it's like the mafia...you have to be born into it) can joke all they want about Ol' Strom. However, when someone from California dares to make a fairly obvious statement, it is time to call for retractions, recompensations, and repairations. Again, my girlfriend is a bitch, but don't let me hear you saying that.

Don't get me wrong. I'm pulling for the old guy. The way I see it, any man who can live through a half century in Washinton deserves all the Weekend at Bernies Pt. 3 animatronics his people can find. I hope he lives to be 120 and grabs my wife's ass on his birthday.

But a troglodyte? It may the first time I have ever whole-heartedly agreed with a political operative from California.

Wednesday, August 21, 2002

The Speech

Each day I stand in front of thousands of people and tell them things I think they need to know. I speak for two to four minutes and end with the unspoken promise that I'll be back the next day with something else to tell them. Despite the fact that I'm standing in front of thousands of smart people, dumb people, potential hecklers, pretty girls, and people I admire, I do not get nervous at all. I stand there. I talk. I go home with dry shorts.

Saturday evening, I will stand in front of 240 people. I will know 65% of them. I've gotten drunk with about 15% of them. I've slept in the same bed with a slightly smaller percentage. I will talk for two to four minutes and I fully expect to hyperventilate and unirnate in my pants somewhere around the beginning of the second minute.

I have been a best man twice before. I've held the bride's ring in my hand. I've donned the tux. I've done my job.

Saturday I will be the best man for the third time. My brother is getting married and I will give The Speech. And for some reason I'm as nervous as a whore in church.

For years I have joked (sort of) about my brother's inborn ability to be good at everything. He is success personified. He is trim, good looking, smart, driven, and successful. He's also a few years younger than me and unintentionally outshines his elder sibling. I do not begrudge him for it. I admire him more than I will ever be able to say. But, it should be pointed out, it takes a lot for an older brother to admit he looks up to his little brother.

We call him Crazy Smart Guy. He's an insane partier, insanely smart, and insanely driven. When you speak of perfect moderation, you generally think of a man who does nothing to excess and balances his life on that lack of excess. My brother is different. He does everything to excess. In that he finds a perfect balance. He goes out so far on both ends of the board that the fulcrum has no choice but to balance.

So, just in case I soil myself and collapse for lack of air on Saturday night, I'd appreciate it if someone would tell my newly married brother that I love and respect him.

Monday, August 19, 2002

The Focal Point

Airborne electricty fried my TV. One minute it was on. The next it was not. I wept for a few seconds. Then I decided never to watch television again. It all sucks anyway. Then the DT's started. I shook all the way to Circuit City.

People who maintain a penis will accept this: Why go for a TV that requires an entertainment center when you can buy a TV that is an entertainment center in itself? I was ready to fit 50 inches of electified goodness in the corner of my living room.

The Focal Point Police then entered the picture. The conversation went a little like this:

Me: "I'm going to buy a big ol' TV."
FPP: "The TV is not going to be the focal point of our living area. You're going to buy one that fits in the armoire."
Me: "The TV is not going to be the focal point of our living area. I'm going to buy one that fits in the armoire."

My penis shrank by 50%. The TV shrank by a little less than that.

I put on my small penis hat yesterday and made the rounds. Circuit City, Sears, Best Buy. Back to Circuit City. Back to Best Buy. Stopped off at Planet Smoothie for a Leapin' Lizard. Then back to Circuit City.

Tomorrow night I'm going to pick up a 32" flat screen TV. I'm hoping it fills 99% of the armoire space, leaving just enough that I can point to the open space as a great symbol of my ability to compromise.

I hate to be crude, but I wonder how the Focal Point Police would react if somehow I ended up with a 50" penis (some sort of ginseng root anomoly or something). You think I would hear, "The Penis is not going to be the focal point of our sleeping area. You're going to maintain one that fits in a pair of Fruit o' the Looms."

I'll leave that for discussion as I go out in search of ginseng and a Teletubbies DVD.

Friday, August 16, 2002

On the mend

"I'm going to try to put you somewhere between the scene and the sun."

Maybe it was the cold medicine. Maybe it was the altitude. But that phrase seemed like poetry to me, despite the fact it was muttered by my helicopter pilot.

I spent the next few hours mulling that phrase as we dipped in and out of rain storms, slipping into sunlight long enough to get a good view of an ailing apple orchard, and maintaining enough altitude that a lost buzzard didn't fly into our tail rotor.

Spending my life between the scene and the sun. That is a song lyric if I've ever heard one.

The Scene, if you were wondering, generally refers to the spot where the news is happening. Even when the news is too insignificant to merit the interest of Joe Blow, we'll still call it the scene. "Otis is on scene, the live shot should be up in two minutes, get ready to go."

My life is spent on or near the scene. More precisely, my life is spent between the scene and the sun.

On the return trip to the airport, we encountered another rain storm. And poking up from the ground, into the rain...a rainbow. I've never looked down on a rainbow. I would've called that the neatest thing I've seen in a long time. But two minutes later, the rainbow became full, stretching over us and hitting the ground on either side of us. We tried to fly underneath it, but the odd effects of rain and light kept pushing the rainbow farther away.

I spent my afternoon chasing rainbows between the scene and the sun.

It is time to get off this cold medicine.

Wednesday, August 14, 2002

Inebriated at work

The reason I don't take medicine during my regular daily life is that it typically makes me feel a lot like I feel at 2am on a Saturday morning after a long night of partying.

Sometimes, though, the illness takes hold and demands medication.

I'm now on a drug that simultaneously acts as a upper and a downer. My brain (necessary for work) is caught somewhere in between.

While the pharmacist was dead-on right about the upper and downer counteracting each other, he negelcted to mention that I might feel like someone slipped me something that turns off rational thought during 12 hours of time-released goodness.

This would probably be a good feeling if my job didn't require thinking, talking, or performing in front of hundreds of thousands of people twice a day.

Tuesday, August 13, 2002

Revolt

I opened the fridge and noticed that the leftovers had formed an off-Broadway version of "Annie Get Your Gun." The rotting chicken was playing Buffalo Bill. I think Tom Wopat might have been in there somewhere. It was a good indication that I have been paying far too little attention to the homestead.

I struck the stage in the crisper, thus cleaning everything out. There is now some bread, some condiments, and Tom Wopat left. You never really plan on cleaning out your fridge. It just happens.

Within about an hour, I was feeling a bit like ass. The nose started dripping. The head started filling up. A sneeze or two on the half hour. Runny eyes. I think Luke Duke poisoned me.

Sometimes your body just reaches out, taps you on the shoulder, and says, "Hey, Chico. Slow it down a little."

I've been running at full speed recently and there is no end of the fun in sight. As one of my new-found bands (Yonder Mountain Sting Band) likes to proclaim, "There's still ramblin' in the rambler, let'em go!"

Now, I just want to crawl into bed. But, in a moment of great and sick paranoia, I believe my bed sheets are conspiring with the poison fridge. I sense small dust particles in the duvet cover. They're clogging my sinuses. I would collapse on the couch but I think the dust is there as well. I may check into a hotel until I am well enough to clean.

In the meantime, I hear the cast of "Annie Get Your Gun" will soon be putting on a production of "Cabaret."

I can't wait to see who the package of frozen hotdogs plays.


Monday, August 12, 2002

Sometimes someone else will say it for you


If you've been feeling culturally void recently...read this


Clockwork

The calendar pages have flipped by like a time-lapsed scene of an old Western. I hadn't seen some of the guys in several years. They've had kids. They've been married and divorced. They've become big shots in their own right. They are spread out all over the country.

They all converged on St. Louis to give my brother one last night on the town before he enters the world of marriage...a fine institution, but one that often precludes freedom from answering questions about a night on the town with the boys.

I have just returned from a fine weekend along the Mississippi River. I spent it with nearly 30 guys with whom my brother and I share a past. The are high school friends. College friends. All of them are life-long buddies who share an unbreakable bond. And while trying to coordinate more than two dozen men in the middle of one night of freedom can be challenging, everything went quite well. Even a $460 bar tab before the evening officially began didn't phase the crew.

That's the only way things have changed. In years gone by, everyone would've closely watched their wallets and eyed their neighbor suspiciously. "Is he kicking for tax and tip or is he only paying for the three chicken wings he ate?" was not an unfamiliar question in the old days.

Now...my brother walks down that final two-week road of planning, cold feet, and...oh, yes, planning. Can't forget the planning.

Thanks to all the guys who made this weekend so fun for my brother. I know he appreciated it.

Thursday, August 08, 2002

The touch, the feel of Otis

Open your door and breath in the tailgate weather. It's the smell of early-morning beer-drinking, brats on the grill, the pigskin flying through dewy air. It's the sound of a co-eds laugh, of a football cheer, of a keg tap being screwed to its home.

I stepped into that feel this morning. Upstate South Carolina summer is giving me a taste of the autumn to come. My soul stirred (I won't mention what other parts of me perked up as well) with the smell of the air. It is the same smell of the mornings--too many years ago--I would drag myself to a parkling lot cul-de-sac, literally sit on a tailgate, and drink beer while staring at pretty girls. The football sucked, but the good times made up for it all. It is tailgate weather and few things make me more rowdy.

I'm feeling a bit sensually nostalgic this morning. By this time tomorrow I will be on a flight to St. Louis. I will see all my old friends and we will spend three days sending my brother into the world of married life. It is a three-day, two-night bachelor party, complete with a party bus. I'm expecting many, many people...most of whom are me and my sibling's mututal friends.

Life in the last 24 hours has been simply good. I nailed a good investigatve story. I shot a 57 on the frolf course (a tie for my record game). I got broadband service at my house. And a very cute girl keeps calling me a biped (which I find interminably endearing).

There are many reasons to find fault with this suck-hole world. But there are many more reasons to appreciate the good, simple stuff.

You won't hear from me for a few days. And that is a good thing.

My good mood might make you sick.


Wednesday, August 07, 2002

Inflate this

Not much time for good writing here so I'l keep my seathing to a minimum.

While working on a highly technical investigative story on South Carolina education funding I found myself using an inflation calulator.

Curiosity started sucking on my brain through a straw. "What if," the morbid little bastard of a personality quirk asked, "you calculated your beginning salary in your current job and adjusted it for inflation to 2002?"

I was in the middle of a vulnerable moment. It was a lot like being 13 beers into a drinking binge when a buddy decides he wants to buy shots of Jack Daniels. You don't think. You just drink.

I typed in my beginning salary with this company in 1999 and adjusted for inflation to 2002. Turns out (at this point my malevolent curiosity was pouring drinks for all my other personality quirks) I'm making a base salary of about $100 more per year than I was three years ago when adjusted for inflation.

I suppose it's a good thing I like my job.

Maybe it is a better thing that I don't have a bottle of jack in my bottom desk drawer.

Tuesday, August 06, 2002

Pride

It was dark as we made our way through a lake of hippies. The scents of ultra-content people rose above the soccer-field-turned-campground. All around us, drums tripped and popped, smoke drifted through the tents, and laughter exploded from a campsite in the middle of the field. I would soon meet a man named Daly who was in the middle of telling stories.

An avid reader of RER will remember Daly. In his mid-30's he decided to complete a life goal. He joined the Army. Boot camp is tough for 18 year-old punks. Daly came through it with a few scars and a thousand smiles. He got married and expected to take care of that one weekend a month and two weeks out of the year his service required.

Then on a sunny September morning, the world shifted. A month later, Daly put on his fatigues and headed to a military base in this country. He's not been home for more than a few days in the last 10 months.

He is now just a month or so from coming home. His tour is about over. He's planning to go to Las Vegas with me and 20-some guys. At least, that is the plan.

Plans, as he has discovered over the past year, have a tendency to change.

Daly is now leaving for Afghanistan. It promises to be a short trip. He has expertise in an area that some of the younger soliders need. He will teach and hopefully come home as soon as promised.

Promises, like plans, tend to change.

That's why today I'm feeling proud to know this guy. I'm proud of all my friends' accomplishments. But, Daly--the best story-teller I know--holds an odd mystique for me. I've said this before and I'll say it again...he makes me want to make more of myself.

So, over the next few days, keep a guy named Daly in mind. And maybe some day I'll get him to tell you the chihuahua story.

I laugh every time I hear it.

Friday, August 02, 2002

Friday Fun-Licking

My colleagues were understandably confused. I bounded into the office with this phrase: "Get ready for some Friday fun-licking!" The lady who sits next to me gave me a half-curious look over her shoulder then returned to her desktop. The guy who sits behind me raised his eyebrows. I think I've said enough stupid stuff in my day that the mere possiblity of licking fun on Friday didn't seem too extreme. (Mental note: Start avoiding these people when I'm drinking...perhaps then my sober comments might be more inspiring).

I stole the phrase from a band called Moxy Fruvous, a Canadian group that is full of good harmony and social commentary. They do a version of the Spider Man theme song that somewhat indicts the superhero for the as yet unwritten self-help project called Fun-Licking. "Spidey the Fun-licker!" they proclaim.

I thought it about it and decided fun-licking must be a lot like toad-licking without all the attached social stigma. Lick some fun, especially on a Friday, and slip into a naturally-released pool of good-time endorphins.

Fun-licking Friday was born...at least in my mind.

Then my project for the fell through. Bureaucratic bull shit squelched a perfectly good, timely, and proactive news story on crime prevention. That died within 15 minutes of my fun-licking proclamation. I still had faith in the fun-licking though.

I dove into a world of pretty girls with beautiful children. The mother had found drugs in an old mill community and decided to take her kids along for the ride. Daddy was understandbly frustrated. While he was most concerned about his kids, he even seemed willing for drug-crazed wife to come back home. The police were concerned as well. But frankly, in a time when random acts of violence and madness occur on a fairly regular basis, the plight of a young father who hooked up with the wrong woman just isn't big news.

Fun-licking was taking a major hit on its first foray into a Friday.

Now...I'm considering calling off the whole fun-licking project until we can form some sort of committee to study the effects of prolonged fun-licking on the endorphin pool.

I haven't eaten a real meal in more than 24 hours. In that time I had a few beers, half a slice of old pizza, and three french fries. There is a mini-Moon Pie sitting next to me. Despite my longing for licking, I don't think I'm going to touch the thing.

Perhaps, if I can find the fun, I can lick it in lieu of a meal.

Thursday, August 01, 2002

Square pegs

I'm sure the guy's company had a name. I'm sure he had a name. We never knew either of them. We simply called him the Ding-Ding man. That was the sound his ice-cream Jeep's bell made as he idled down Yulan Drive. Ding-ding, ding-ding.

If we had the change and a taste for treats, we'd run out to the roadside, flag him down, and buy a slush pop, a bomb pop, or a drumstick. Our parents might watch from the porch or they might not. They trusted the Ding-Ding Man and so did we. There was no reason not to.

Now, I'm 28 years old. I have my own house and a new Yulan Drive. The Ding-Ding man has been replaced by the fat guy in the dirty t-shirt who drives a panel van with pictures of ice cream on the side. It plays a blood curdling loop of children's music. Occsionally some ill-conceived attention-getter-machine screams out a barely-human sounding "Hello!" He often skulks through the neighborhood at dusk. And if I had kids, I would buy their popsicles from a grocery store.

This was set to be a long diatribe about my lack of trust in people supposedly falling victim to crime (parents of kidnapped children, etc). I'm going to back off that for right now, because I'm slipping into quick fear of an otherworld society.

I'll leave it at this...I want to live in a world where I can trust my neighbor. And I'm tired of people telling me I cannot.

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