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Wednesday, October 30, 2002


If my last post seemed exceedingly vague, I apologize.

See, they're out to get me.

They--a shadowy group of ne'er-do-wells from the past--have set their sights on yours truly and they've chosen to scare me with Lawn Terrorism, the most vicious form of suburban warfare.

They tried to get my attention last year by planting some broadleaf weeds. I shrugged it off to mere windblown weed seed. Plus, I'm a journalist. I fear no ne'er-do-well, no matter how many punctuation marks their description requires.

But now...something akin to chemical warefare is happening all over the lawns of Mt. Willis. I don't even know what to call it. It's not a fungus. It doesn't look much like a weed.

It's an organic grass eating hair net.

I first noticed it mid-summer when I tried to pluck a weed and it plucked back. I pulled, it pulled back. I stomped it and it smiled.

Despite my assurances that the Organic Grass-Eating Hair Net is an herbivore, my puppy refuses to step into the grass for long. Fear, you see, that her wiry frame might be confused for a wispy piece of fescue. She hides under the deck (where the ground is only carpet-staining red clay) and does her business, then quickly hops up the stairs and hides under a tattered blanket.

At the current rate of growth, the entire Mt. Willis compound will be under the Hair Net by July of 2003.

See, I must be vague. Because they are out to get me. First my lawn, then my wife.

I should've been afraid much sooner.

Monday, October 28, 2002

In a strange land

I didn't know what I expected. It happened so quickly that I didn't have time to form a real vision of what the New York attorney might look like. I thought he might be older, but I suspected he wouldn't be. And he wasn't. Maybe a couple of years older than me, goateed, good looking, in blue jeans, nice shoes, and a comfortable jacket.

His hands seemed to shake, either from an unusual Southern chill or a bit of nervousness. He was about to do something he'd been waiting a year to do .

He was a stranger here and he knew it. He seemed uncomfortable and I probably shouldn't blame him for it. He's come to challenge the structure of southern law and its shadowy past. And he fears that could be dangerous.

He is in debt, behind in his real work, and on a mission that he knows could be sheer folly. But if it is not, he know it could be the beginning of something very just.

I, too, was nervous. While I didn't have much to lose, I saw in the meeting a chance to do something greater than I am.

This man and his mission have been on my mind--almost exclusively--for the past week.

And I suspect they both will be on my mind for a long time.

Saturday, October 26, 2002

Thursday, October 24, 2002

Where's the beef?

I am destined to go down that long road. It is worn by tired feet and littered with so many discarded catch phrases that fad-clearing snow plows have to rumble through once a week. The "Where's the Beef" lady ran down that mortal coil. Mikey from Life cereal found his way back, but just long enough to be ridiculed for attempting to continue his popularity.

Soon...the Truth Check Guy will offer his last bit of faux-wisdom.

Oh, sure. Right now it's all fun and games. The liquor store clerk is discounting my booze. Semi-important people are taking my calls. My bosses give me carte blanche...or at the very least carte biege. But, like all good fad diets and good old Eagles tunes, this moment shall fade.

For those who have not yet heard (all 11 billion of you), I have spent the last three months of my life digging for the ultimate truths of poltics. Before you laugh, it is possible. And my colleagues and I have found a way to turn into a TV segment. Truth Check. The Truth behind the skulduggery.

The upcoming South Carolina election will put a merciful end to the life of Truth Check Guy if some others don't do the dirty deed first. I've already heard death threats. It is only a matter of time.

Sure, there may be some syndicated version on FOX someday. Sandwiched in between "Who Wants to Marry the Rally Monkey?" and "Survivor: Brady Bunch" the Truth Check Guy will host his own show in which he seeks for higher truths in the form of wacky stunts performed by pez dispensers.

Until then, Truth Check Guy will shuffle down the trail head to where that long, lonely road begins, muttering the phrases that won him six months of daily bread. And while he's said "There's more to this claim," more times than he cares to count, he knows very well that soon there will be no more.

I wonder if the "Where's the Beef" lady needs a roommate?

Well how about that?

That thing I said about the sniper not being stupid...

Forget I said that.

Tuesday, October 22, 2002

Who (What) the Beltway Sniper Is (Isn't)
A profile by a know-nothing

The man (undoubtedly a man, because women are more often than not courageous in their hostility and like to be face to face with someone when they do their dirty work) is more than likely not married. Even the most naive of wives might start to get curious if every time their husband left to buy a loaf of bread or six pack of beer the national news starts talking about another victim of the sniper. If the sniper is married, his wife should be brought up on conspiracy charges. Or if she for some reason hasn't figured it out, she should be brought up on charges of stupidity.

The sniper is not under the age of 24. His ugly work is not impetuous. It requires weeks--if not months--of planning. Think about it. He had to buy his .223 shells months in advance and with cash. He has to have a clean gun that has never been used for any crime before. He has to have stockpiled months worth of spending cash to avoid credit/debit card receipts. Otherwise, Big Brother would be spanking him already. Why 24? That's an aribitrary age I picked out of the air. But, from my own personal experience, I was about that old when I started planning more than a week in advance for anything. And I'm a pretty average guy.

The sniper is not an idiot and will not move out of the Washington D.C. / Maryland / Virginia area. He has to be able to get back home to avoid staying in hotels, campgrounds, or sleeping in his car. If he should move out of that area, it will not be far. And if he moves far, it will be his downfall. A good law enforcement agency will do credit card searches at every hotel, send beat cops to toss campgrounds, and send the state police to every rest stop to check for sleeping malcontents.

So...who is he? He's a white guy in his early to mid 30's. He's former military or law enforcement or he has been denied access to one of those jobs due to a mental or physical problem. He's a single guy who might have had some luck with women, but not enough to keep him satisfied and nothing long-term. There is a chance he was once married, but is now divorced or seperated. He probably spent some time target shooting on other living things (deer, birds, squirrels, etc). He more than likely cools his conscience with some for of depressant (for this guy it is probably booze).

Or...probably not. Maybe he's married guy from another country who really doesn't like your average American. Maybe. But I doubt it.

Monday, October 21, 2002

Lower elevations

...back down from the mountain with freshly popped ears and a body begging for respite.

Often after a weekend of carelessness, the responsiblities of real life seem overwhelming. Through puffy eyes I see a desk covered in muck and television screens covered with much of the same.

In Virginia, Maryland, and the whole D.C. area, confusing messages abound. From the media, from the police, and reportedly from the sniper himself. It's hard to take in.

Even the cop-wannabe in me is lost for good theories. I fall back into the world of the dumb viewers and even more ignorant broadcasters.

Life, I must remind myself, is more precious than it is overwhelming. But on a day where so much seems to wait in the wings, it's hard to maintain the rosy outlook on which I pride myself.

Wednesday, October 16, 2002

Affliction and the anti-avarice

In Boston, a pretty girl with a distinctive laugh sits chained in a law school library.

In Ft. Meyers, a man sits hobbled by illness. Medication and plane tickets rest on opposite sides of a delicate balance.

In Greenville, a man's forehead burns at 103 degrees. The steam coming off his head spells out the words..."Get me to the mountain."

Again, friends, it is time for LEAF. From Ohio, from Indiana, from Massachusetts, from Florida, from Georgia, and from South Carolina, the denizens of Tent City will begin their trek toward the mountain.

It is this time the we seek to discard our daily dogging for dollars and look only to across a foggy lake at the unseen musical notes that spill out of a big white tent.

We could lose some of our crew to illness or to other duties.

Suffice it to say, we will be thinking of you and will dance a jig for you at some point in the next four days.

Until that time, RER and its sick fascination with the Beltway Sniper will be on vacation.

Tuesday, October 15, 2002

Armchair cop, armchair reporter

I was an invisible as a man who lived in a house with three other guys could be. Boxer shorts, stinky t-shirt, unshaven, surrounded by empty food containers and a funk that could only be described as...curious.

I was several months deep into an O.J. Simpson vigil. I knew all the characters. Rosa Lopez, the house maid, was my favorite. I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to find a Rosa Lopez action figure to play with during commercials. I was hooked on the junk. I was addicted to all things O.J.

It is an embarassing admission now...that I wasted several months of my life on perhaps one of the most useless human beings ever to ride in a Ford Bronco.

I rose above it. When the acquittal came, I threw a plastic shark across the room, drank a skunky Rolling Rock and sped away to my Criminology class. I seethed for a while and eventually decided it all wasn't worth my time.

I stopped watching most nationl news for a while. I deviated from my semi-boycott a bit during the 2000 election, but have held steadfast in my disdain for all things sensational.

But, all junkies find a way back down that dark road. My road is paved by a coward with a long gun and .223 bullets.

I have set the Turbo function of my remote control to all the national news networks. I am categorizing the coverage into several categories: bad, a little better than bad, and maybe could be called decent journalism.

I hope to find my way out of this hole soon. This may just be a brief relapse. Nevertheless, humor me on these observations:

Phil Donahue should not be anchoring anything but a boat. He took irresponisble journalism to a whole new level last night as he and MSNBC blew up a non-story of an ex-Marine detained in Baltimore on suspicion of being the Sniper. At the same moment Donahue was shifting in his seat and yelling at confusing moments...the Sniper was killing a 47 year old woman in a Home Depot parking garage.

WRC television (the local Washington D.C. NBC affiliate) does a decent job with breaking news and is the only saving grace of MSNBC. Once Joe Johns (a good Capitol Hill reporter, but not the best with crime stuff) made his way through traffic and put the network on the scene, MSNBC broke away from WRC coverage (co-starring a former collegue of mine in Chopper 4), it lost all punch and moved into the world of specualtion.

FOX news (never my favorite) has the best netowrk ground reporter on the scene. Bill (maybe Bob) Alexander refuses to be pushed into sensational speculation by his cross-eyed colleagues.

Okay, enough.

Anyone know how to thread coax cable into an artery?

Monday, October 14, 2002

The Good Big Brother

Beer cups at your feet, revelers around you, street lamps painting your beer-flushed face, you have no expectation of privacy. You stand, inebriated, on a street corner. You are not at home.

In your underwear, unshaven, bleary-eyed and wandering, you body surf the web. You bigfoot through the etheral streets and leave your footprints where you step. You are screen-hypnotized on a pseudo-street corner. You are at home, but you're not at home.

I bring it up only to generalize a recent revelation. Rapid Eye Reality is available to the world. And it is being watched.

While the nation's law enforcement most likely don't give a diddley-damn about my drunken college days or tired work disatisfaction, someone in the nation's military was a little curious about my recent writings on the Washinton Sniper.

Someone with access to military computer servers (I believe specifically the Department of Defense) spent 2:28 on RER after having searched for things involving the Washington Sniper.

Maybe I'm wrong...maybe someone I know just happens to have a neato military computer serve through which they read RER. If so, tell me who you are. If not...

Howdy, Big Bro.

And good luck.

Friday, October 11, 2002

The Bowler and The Eyewitness

Karrie's Kafe has about the best chicken salad in Upstate South Carolina. Karrie's is about two miles from where I work. My travel time between the greatest chicken salad and my desk and back...about five total minutes.

In that time I counted 18 different white vans.

As the Washington D.C. area hides its children, covers its head, and cancels Homecoming Friday night football games, one thing stands out...or perhaps, doesn't stand out.

The White Van.

This is day nine of the serial sniper shootings and the best description investigators are providing publicly is a white van. This begs two theories from a wanna-be investigator who has done no more for law enforcement than receive poorly formed insults from criminals.

Theory #1--The Eyewitness

One man sees a white van at the scene of the first shooting. The media and investigators broadcast the white van description. Now, everybody sees a white van. Look at the roads from the sky cams along I-95...count the white vans. Theory #1 goes like this...the shooter isn't in a white van and is working freely in a Honda Civic, Mitsubishi Eclipse, or Volkswagon Bug.

Theory #2--The Bowler

In the "Thomas Crown Affair" a savvy thief makes his way into a museum and does his dirty work right under the watchful eye of police who know exactly what he looks like. He does it by flooding the museum with men who wear the exact same bowler hat as he wore.

Theory #2 is even more scary, because it means the sniper is smarter and more diabolical than first thought. He drives a white van because the vehicle blends in better than any vehicle on the road. Every delivery van, soccer mom car pool machine, and cable guy masks his deadly work.

National, sensational news usually bores and disgusts me.

This killer fascinates me. And I can't wait to see him go down.

Tuesday, October 08, 2002


My dog, though a dainty little bitch, goes by the name Bubba Franks on Monday nights. She's a pretty good tight end (great with the ten yard curl patterns) but not so good when it comes to a wide receiver's duties.

A child's clown bank sits on the top of my computer. It only recently came into my possession. However, it has found a way to encourage me to save money. It laughs at me when I pay my bills and celebrates with me when I come into some extra money.

My vehicle goes by the name Emilio. He encourages me with the incessant "Come on, man! Let's go!" in his imperfect south-of-the-border accent. He likes Santana and minor league hockey. Especially the Charlotte Checkers.

This list is painfully incomplete. Nearly 50 percent of the inanimate or non-human things in my life come alive in my head as human companions.

Is this a sign of lonliness? Boredom? Madness?

Lt. Death Head, the Breaking News Hawk (actually an eagle), Marty Moose, the Coconut Monkey...they all grace my work desk as the hall monitors of my mind. Lt. Death head (actually a pez dispenser) keeps track of dead people. The Breaking News Hawk supplies adrenaline. The Coconut Monkey monitors the police scanner (while dreaming of a life in New Orleans). Marty Moose doesn't do much but fall off the edge of my cubicle partition. That always makes me sad.

Insanity? Lost childhood? Too much time in the sun?

No time to decide. Emilio is babbling about Santana's newest instrumental. I think he may leave without me for the next hockey game.

Monday, October 07, 2002


...there are some issues. And I'm not only talking about my psyche.

We here at Mt. Willis had a minor crash that has meant the demise of the Mt. Willis Cam for the time being.

Currently the managers at Mt. Willis are considering whether to rebuild the Mt. Willis cam alone or to embark on a redesign.

Your thoughts?

Feeling sideways

Sometimes I wish I were one of those people who doesn't dream.

This morning, my wife nudged me out of a powerful dream involving serial killers, rich benefactors, high school reunions, a father's love, an unknown crush, a teacher's martial infidelity with a student, missed birthdays, fear of the future, and a big bunch of balloons.

I didn't go back to sleep. It was a little much.

Then, trapped in traffic, a chicken plant's stench in my nose hairs, I found myself awake and thinking about my future. The ambitious part of me tried to drift off into another dream...one of a full wallet, a meaningful job, freedom of movement, a house in the mountains, a writing room that overlooks a stream, guitars on a mountain back porch, a happy little dog, a non-working wife tending to a happy little baby, family within a half-day's drive.

Somebody honked. A school bus belched out a bunch of black smoke. I looked around and my car was covered with crumpled TV scripts, empty caffeine containers, and a torn-up Burger King bag.

Yes, sometimes I wish I didn't dream.

But...at the same time, as I tried to make my way through the rush hour mess, I looked up over the strip mall and six lane roads, and I saw the sun (a big orange ball this morning) rising up over the horizon.

It was a least one moment when reality rivaled the dream.

Wednesday, October 02, 2002

Eying it up

I must be a Grade A idiot.

Hurricane Lili (in certain parts of the South, that's Hurrikun Lili) currently gusts at 165 mph. She threatens to turn from a Category 4 to Category 5 storm, turning sand into bullets, bayous into oceans, casinos into splinters. She is a tight, raging bitch and she is set to teach the parrishes on the Lousiana coast the true meaning of the word "perish."

And I, the Uber Idiot, sit several hundred miles away, trying to find a good excuse to drive to dangerous parts West.

It is a chemical imbalance, a hormonal anomoly, and mid-life crisis all wrapped into one. It is the man in me. The man who wants what he cannot have.

I have never seen a tornado. I have never seen a bear (even in a zoo). And I have never stood naked as a hurricane with a woman's name beat the hell of me. And to be fair, I've never see any sort of hurricane. The closest I ever came was Non-Hurricane Dennis and a lonely waterspout that lasted about as long as my fascination with the storm that spawned it.

If Lili threated the South Carolina coast, I would be on my knees, begging my bosses to send me into harms way. It isn't a death wish. It's an adrenaline wish. I want nature to scare me. I want to hear the creaking boards, strained ten-penny nails, and howling house eves. I want to crouch behind hotel beds as windows blow in and the storm surge carries my luggage out into the Gulf.

Alas, Lili has her sights set on a Cajun man. And while I maybe ragin'...I ain't Cajun.

Be safe, people of Lousiana. Be careful of Lili's spite. Be wary of her scorn.

And I'm sorry you must endure it.

It was meant for me.

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