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Thursday, November 28, 2002

What doesn't change

I had a few minutes on this workday (you call it Thanksgiving) to ruminate on the working man's holiday. In an attempt to find inspiration, I looked back at what I wrote last Thanksgiving. I found that little has changed. The good and the bad. I like to remember the good. I might write more later today, but for now, I'll just reprise last year. Because...it's all still true.

From Thanksgiving 2001 on Thanksgiving 2002

Why I'm lucky...and thankful...

I have a wife who almost likes getting sick when I'm sick. She does it so she can empathize with my pain. We've both been sniffling, coughing, puking mounds for the last week and a half. She surprises me by breaking out baking skills that I didn't know she had. She learns new languages and humors me when I try to remember my old French classes and try to conjugate the verb avoir. And she feels like she's been bad when she stays up late.

I have a dog...Scoop...who doesn't care when I'm sick. She doesn't care that we're not making Thanksgiving dinner tonight. As long as somebody plays fetch with her and doesn't move her off of her space in bed, she'll wag her tail and be happy.

I have two parents who try to make me feel like I never left home. Mom calls every phone I have to wish me a Happy Thanksgiving and leaves three of the same good tidings messages. When I call back, Dad gets on the phone we we talk about the Missouri Tigers fantastic win last night. It's almost like I'm rolling out of bed in southwest Missouri, smelling my mom's food, sharing a cup of joe with my dad and getting ready for the Willis Thanksgiving Marathon.

I have a brother who fills in for me when I can't be home. The extended family will be wowed by his tales from the ER. He'll fill them in on what he's doing and some of what I'm doing. Then he'll e-mail me and tell me about all the silliness I missed. I'm proud of him and his success. It's rough having a best friend who lives six states away.

And I've got a lot of good friends. Many of them read RER. They come from my childhood, my college years, and my pseudo-adult years. They keep all parts of me sane.

Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Confessions of a hooligan

With seconds to go in a fairly meaningless game, the chant rose above the din.

"They can't arrest us all! They can't arrest us all!"

It was true and we damned well knew it. There were about 40 law enforcement officers and tens of thousands of fans. Only the very unlucky or the very stupid would get pinched.

The goals posts were coming down. The fans would march the post sections through town. Young capitalists with hacksaws would saw up the metal tubes. Everyone would be happy.

They were the good times, my friends. The times of hardcore tailgate parties. The times of Grieb puking up a whole bottle of schnapps (and legend has it, an unchewed bratwurst). The times of tearing down the goalposts.

It all seemed fairly reasonable at the time. But looking at the past weekend of bacchanalia in the neigborhoods around Ohio State's 'Shoe and Clemson's Death Valley, I'm questioning who was more reasonable at the time...Missouri fans or Missouri police? Or both?

Ohio State Fans were okay until they started burning couches in the street. Clemson fans were fine until they started stepping on a deputy's head.

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Perhaps, we should look at the law enforcement response in both of those towns. Buckeye cops sprayed fans with firehoses full of pepper spray. Clemson cops (actually many were Anderson County deputies) actually said, "We staged around the goalposts."

Smart. Very smart.

If you want to make a bunch of drunk college kids mad, what do you do? You spray them with pepper spray or stand in the way of the one goal they have for the day...tearing down the goalposts.

After a few days of thinking (and some damned good fever-induced hallucinations), I've come up with some solutions. First, don't try to stop people from coming on the field. All you have to do is take away their reason to come on the field. Many schools (including the Univeristy of Missouri) have employed the use of collapsible goalposts. Pull one pin and the big tubes tilt over and rest on the turf. It takes all the fun out of rushing the goalposts. Second, don't try to protect the field or the goalposts. Protect your people. Put your law enforcement officers around the teams and coaches and escort them off the field.

There is no defense for hurting a law enforcement officer. Nor is there any defense for burning a perfectly comfortable couch in the middle of the street.

At the same time, there is no defense for podunk law enforcement officers' complaints when their ill-conceived crowd control stategies fail so miserably on national TV.

I learned my lesson. When the goalposts toppled in Missouri, the base piece nearly took off my man parts. Lesson learned. Mobs are dangerous.

Now its time for the cops to learn the same lesson.

Or maybe they did this weekend.

Monday, November 25, 2002

The opposite of cranky

I have a growth poking out from my left temple. When I woke up ths morning, I thought it was a serious problem. I almost called in sick to work (which is something I very rarely do). As it turned out, I just have an exceptionally ugly pimple. I'm calling him Hector.

I laid in bed being careful not to roll over on Hector and seriously thought about staying there for the day. Though the sun had beaten its way through the shades, my wife was cleaning the house, and even the dog was up roaming aroud Mt. Willis, I wanted to hide. And I wasn't entirely sure why. In the end, I got up, shaved, showered, and went to work.

I spent the morning walking around in a familiar daze. It's the one I face every Monday after a long weekend of pretending I'm 23 again and then going to bed too early on Sunday night. Twenty-three...ah, what a year. I was stupid then, but not stupid enough to injure officers of the law after a sports victory. I'll never understand the desire to burn things and pelt cops with bottles in celebration.

I seek clarity. I'm appreciative of all the kind responses I've received to my last entry here. That's the beauty of an online journal...feedback.

My wife has been trying to figure out what happened to the regular Otis for the last week or so. I think I've finally figured it out.

In an effort to figure out my life, I have temporarily stopped thinking so much about what's going on around me. As a result, I'm not as cranky as I usually am.

I am the opposite of cranky.

Unfortunately, that means I'm a little numb. I've gotta work on that.

But first, I have to work on finding Hector a new home.

Friday, November 22, 2002


Life had been like a well-paved one-way street for our hero. Each step he took was well-marked, a Twister board with footprints of the same color and direction. Educational choices were preordained. Career choices fell at his feet. Romance was never easy but always seemed to work out its issues before our hero had time to grow too-long a beard.

The Fates were always in communication on the Mexican Radio, broadcasting pirated versions of other people's lives. Our hero listened, followed direction, and never feared. Greek tragedies--Oedipus and the like--always seemed like the work of old guys in robes who had a bit too much of the monks' beer.

Now, our hero walks down that road and the Mexican Radio is broadcasting a constant loop from a drug cartel. The cartel has taken over all the airwaves and the Fates are incommunicado. I never trusted the Mexican government to hold on.

Our hero's hair is long, his five o'clock shadow is becoming evident, and the Fates aren't talking. The only clarity comes in a message from inside our hero's head: It's all on you now, Chopstick.

What a screw job.

If Life As a Lucky Guy had a manual, Chapter 13 would be titled "Hah! We Got You, Sucka."

A message to my future children: Never take the easy stream for granted, for some day it will divide into 87 different tributaries and all of them will be a Class 5 rapid.

(Editor's note: If this disjointed blather has you scratching your head, your comments should be directed to this question: Any idea what the hell I should do with my life?)

Thursday, November 21, 2002

The Springfield Connection

Someone I once knew called Springfield, Missouri "a suburb without a city."

Surrounded by farmland, teased by the Ozark Mountains, and built on holy limestone, Springfield is Hometown, USA. One of its most dubious traits is its ability to spawn the most average white men in the world.

I happen to be one of those men. Average height. Average weight (no snickering). Average, average, average. It gets pretty boring.

But every once in a while, Springfield spits out someone who grabs the country's attention.

Take for instance, Mr. Flashinthepan Aaron Buerge. He is the average white boy banker who became The Bachelor.

I won't spend much time on Buerge (a name too difficult to spell, let alone come from Springfield) because I didn't watch one second of his romp through 25 women on ABC. I know guys who make it through 25 women in one TV season. They generally look happy but usually end up with some social disease...more often than not a really bad case of Arrogance.

He reminds me a lot of Bubba.

He's the guy from my adopted hometown of Greenville, SC who licked up his 15 minutes on ESPN's reality show "Beg, Borrow, and Deal." After winning the show, Bubba now spends his time in Greenville bars asking women if they saw him on TV and ruminating on what he'll do with the portion of the million dollars his team won (ESPN's web site mentions nothing about a cash prize...hmmm...pick up line, maybe). He also says he shot a pilot for the HGTV. Way to go, Bubba. Hope Tiki Bob's is cutting you some free drinks for your celebrity.

Springfield also spawned Brad Pitt. Despite the fact we share a first name, a hometown, and a journalism school (I graduated and he did not), Pitt has morphed from average white guy to a guy who can grow a long beard and oily hair and women will fawn. Women love a good actor.

Perhaps the moral is this: I grew up feeling sub-average in Springfield and thought I had risen above the envy for the status of the big boys in town.

Turns out...I'm still a high school freshman with poofy nipples, relegated to the sidelines by good sense, common decency, and a healthy disdain for unearned fame.

Boy...that sounded bitchy.

Wednesday, November 20, 2002

The Drunk

The photographers are on amphetamines. The producers are stocked with ephedrine tabs. The sound guys are operating with a caffeine IV.

The show opens with a sweeping boom shot of Mt. Willis. Jam band music slips out the poorly-sealed windows. People mill in and out of the back door. The camera magicly slides through an open door and pans the room. There's food. There's booze. And there are people.

And in the middle of the room...our star, Otis.

He looks like he's pacing himself. He has a bottle of lite beer cradled in the nook of two fingers. He's smiling and eying up the room. Who will be the night's victor?

This is the sneak-peak of a new reality show on WNGB...The Drunk.

The rules are simple. Show up at the party between 8 and 11pm. Then out-drink, out-smile, and out-last the host...Otis.

It is not an easy prospect. Otis has spent years honing a skill of outlasting even the heartiest of partiers. When people try to sneak away, he spots them with an eagle eye, and mouths something derogatory. Bunch of panty-waists.

Otis labors under the misguided notion that as long as the party lasts, the fun will never end. It makes him a fierce competitor.

Several people have challenged our host--our star--in recent years. On a precious few occasions, a couple have actually won the grand prize: A moster hangover and a really confused look from Otis.

Otis is a sick individual. That could be why WNGB is working so hard to lock him into another three year contract.

Viewers love to watch a horror show like The Drunk.

Wednesday, November 13, 2002

Needless and needful

My parents are the consumate Christmas professionals.

My mother can draw an eye-popping Santa Claus. My Dad was Clark Griswold before Chevy Chase ever perfected the art of Christmas decor. Christmas at Mt. Willis was Rockwellian while other homes languished in more Orwellian tones.

Santa Claus never really died. Even in the past decade I've lived away from home, I would always walk back into the Christmas home to find the fruit of countless hours of shopping. Mom and Dad really liked to find good Christmas gifts. It always seemed to bring them a joy that I've never found in giving. Maybe I'm just too selfish.

In recent years I have come to discover that I need nothing that gifts can offer. It's always nice to get something, but when I need something I usually just go out and buy it. I have conveyed this to my parents, but that has never stopped them from loading me down with gifts every time I go home. It seems giving to their children is they way they give to themselves. They came from nothing and they will live their lives making sure their children will never be able to say, "I came from nothing."

Last week my mom called me, and though she didn't say it out loud, I knew why she was calling.

Two months ago, my dad's dad suffered a major heart attack. My grandpa is in his mid-eighties and according to doctors probably shouldn't have survived. But he did. My family is one big group of survivors and Grandpa Willis is living proof.
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But survival does not mean a life as he knew it. Grandpa is still not healthy and now requires round the clock care. Grandma can't do it, becuase she, too, is frail. Grandpa is too sick to move into an assisted living home and Grandma refuses, as yet, to allow a live-in nurse in their home of many, many decades.

So, for the past several weeks my parents have been living with my grandparents. My parents have moved from their elaborate semi-retirement home into an old house that is about the size of a two-bedroom apartment. They don't sleep much and they don't have much time for the things they like to do at Christmas time. They don't complain, but I hear the stress in their voices.

When my mom called, I knew what she wanted to say. She wanted to tell me she had no time to shop for Christmas gifts like she has for the past 29 years. No amount of explanation that I didn't need anything or even want anything would really comfort her.

I tend to get really wrapped up in my life and how much I would like it to change. Sometimes I stop remembering the people who let me get to where I am in the first place.

There's nothing I can really do to give my folks the gift of giving this holiday season...except to tell them...they've given me more than I will ever be able to use...

Most of all...they've shown me what giving is all about.

And it has nothing to do with gifts.

Tuesday, November 12, 2002

Mt. Willis Cam Lives

After several weeks without Mt. Willis Cam, Rapid Eye Reality is happy to announce the none-too-live camera is back in operation.

We begin with 25 pictures from in and around the life of RER's editor, Otis.

More to come soon.

Friday, November 08, 2002


Almost three years ago, I began what I call...The McBoycott.

You can read about that boycott and its history here

Since its institution in 1999, the McBoycott has been practiced in several states, including Hawaii. And thanks to a suggestion by my father, many of the Boycott Crew practice the McFlush (only stopping at a McDonalds to use the bathroom, thus costing the company more on its water bill).

I have not eaten bite of Ronald's food since that time three years ago.

Today, I saw this and smelled victory (actually, it might have been special sauce).

Click here and discover what victory smells like.

More later...after I stop jumping around and cussing the name of that damned clown.

Oh yeah...and screw Grimace for being so damned funny.

Wednesday, November 06, 2002

The Challenger

I'd like to thank you all for coming out on this rainy night. We put up a good fight. We could never have come so far without your contributions, your volunteer-spirit, and your grass-roots get out the vote effort.

Just before I arrived here tonight, I phoned my opponent to congratulate him on a good race and a decided victory. While not all of the votes have been counted, it appears we're going to come up just a little short.

For the last four years I have served you with what I hoped would be a good mix of self-deprecating humor, good work ethic, and tireless friendship. I have stood my ground on such vital issues as honesty, integrity, and the ability to drink the extra four pitchers of unordered beer the waitress brought as we were preparing to depart. I have led us into such battles as "The Great Mountain Assault" and "The Keep-Up the Wife with Incessant Guitar Playing Campaign."

However, as the returns continue to flash on the screen, it appears my opponent will now lead us. I have never believed in his platform of well-deserved sleep, healthy-living, home-cooked meals, and an organized lifestyle. He and his campaign slogan "Fatigue--Accept It" always seemed self-indulgent and gratuitous.

But like all great citizens of Mt. Willis, we must now rally behind our new leader. Dissention will only result in gridlock. While we can continue to stand on our firm belief in a case of beer in every fridge, a greasy hamburger wrapper on every floorboard, and double bags under every eye, we must work with our new leader to advance the greater good.

So, tonight, I thank you for your support and I again congratulate my opponent, your new leader.

But, take heart as you go to bed tonight, friends. By Friday, my re-election campaign team will be re-organizing for our next campaign. Weather permitting, we'll meet on a backyard deck and develop a new campaign slogan that we'll use to win the next election.

Your slogan suggestions are appreciated.

Monday, November 04, 2002

Pent up

This is where it gets dangerous.

This is why friends, family, animals, and bosses can't completely rely on me. It's why success--if ever in my weak grasp--tends to hide in the shadows.

There is a part of me, a blue-jean wearing, no-shaving, rockstar-responsiblity part of me that can only be shackled with an overload of work. When the works gets heavy, the irresponsible guy can't breathe. He's pissed off. He's liquored up. He vows revenge.

This is where it gets dangerous.

This is where the convertible-top-in-the-middle-of-autumn, drinking-before-noon, wandering-morals, anti-social-mores part of me starts causing problems.

I do my best. I pack my bag with as much work as I can find. I shame that other part of myself into submission.

But like an animal, it takes the blows and just gets more pissed off.

In the past I've let this bastard win. This time I need a new strategy. I've tried everything I know. It never works.

This is where it gets dangerous.

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