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Sunday, July 27, 2003

Mr. A and The Big A

I couldn't help but think, "So, this is how it felt," as my plane made a gut-droppng bank over Manhatten. The buildings seemed too close. The plane seemed to low. I couldn't see an airport. But I played it cool, stared out the window with what I hoped was a reasonable facsimile of the look shared by frequent travelers to New York. Shea stadium looked big. The runway that appeared below me seemed to small.

The cabbie giggled more than he talked. He was taking curious pleasure in beeping his horn at no one in particular. My first bridge, Triborough, spanned the water between me and a city that, admittedly, scared the hell out of me. I watched the meter on the dash climb over ten, fifteen, and twenty dollars before settling at $21.

I never saw the cabby's face. I pulled a roll of cash out of my pocket, started throwing bills at whoever held out their hand. A tip here, a tip there, an elevator ride and I'm in an ultra-modern hotel room. The TV is big screen. The mini-bar has motion sensors. The hip managers traded pillow mints for Twizzlers. The Do Not Disturb sign reads "Fuhgeddabouddit."

So, here's the thing: I was alone and had four hours to kill. The bed was comfortable and the TV was big and the city was big and scary. What'd you expect me to do?

Midtown Manhatten, behind cheap sunglasses. I am, all at once, nobody. I am in a sea of color, smell, and noise. I'm not a city mouse, but I'm no tourist. I am Mr. Anonymous.

$3.50 buys me a hot dog and bottle of water on the edge of Central Park. The vendor wanted a small bill and I didn't have one. Again, I found myself with a wad of cash in my hand and trying to remember to stop flashing the roll around. It mattered not. The dog was as I'd hoped and three steps into the park introduced me to an unexpected but pleasing fact: The women in New york, especially en masse, are enough to stir the loins of the chilliest of men. I stood staring into a sea of sunbathing beauties, gold skin reflecting the sun--already reflected from a small lake. The initial guilt I felt staring vanished quickly. I was Mr. Anonymous. Ketchup, mustard, large unexpected rocks rising out of the park, women with next to nothing on. I moved from Utopia to the street.

Make no mistake. A horse's ass is no flower. Three dozen horses' asses make for an unfortunately smelly street.

For a block and a half, handsome cabs lined the street. Hot and tired horses licked their feed from the asphalt. Drivers napped in the carriages. The street made this part of the city smell like a barnyard. Street vendors ignored the musk and manure to hawk flowery signs bearing the buyer's name or three dollar "I Heart NY" shirts. Mr. Anonymous wanted no part of it. Mr. Anonymous wanted a beer.

It couldn't be just any bar. This was my first beer in the city. I wanted a dark, hole-in-the-wall where Mr. Anonymous would apreciate the atmosphere and slide into the shadows. I walked for a few blocks. Tourist trap, martini bar, hey, look, Carnegie Hall, Carnegie Deli. No bar. An Indian man lured me into his tourist trap. The four-foot hookah in the corner quickly gace away his real merchandise. It was a religous thing, I'm sure.

Martini bar, pizza joint, fancy restaurant...waitwaitwait...SALOON.

The sign hung from the side of a tall building. It had the look of an old-school watering hole, maybe barely still in business. At least, the sign did. It was a gimmick. I walked closer and realized the joint was just another place where they fold the napkins to look like sea shells. Mr. Anonymous was getting thirsty.

Other than the horse's ass, the first real scent of the city that turned my head came out of a place called Lace. Unintentionally, I had made my way to Times Square. I had recently passed NBC, CBS, and Radio City Music Hall. They were sights I hadn't intended to see. I was just the guy behind cheap sunglasses, being inconspicuous in plain sight. It was completely by accident (or some inate man-ness) that I found myself thirsty and nose-tingling in front of a strip club.

The rationale was actually pretty good: For the love of all that is holy, I was on a mission to find the perfect place to have my first beer in New York and I stumbled upon a strip club in Times Square. The story would be one I would tell my grandchildren.

The familiar smell of stripper perfume surfed out on the conditioned air. The sign read "Free admission 12-8pm." The bouncer at the door gave me a look that said, "Mr. Anonymous, we've been expecting you."

It was about that time I thought of author James McManus. While writing a book, he'd been on a trip to Vegas and had promised his wife he wouldn't visit a gentleman's club. McManus wrote in his book, "I've made promises." The line echoed in my head. I, too, had made promises about a year earlier. I've never understood my wife's disdain for strip clubs, but I figured at the time it was a reasonable promise to make her happy and, admittedly, to make her shut up.

I took one last look at the blacked out windows of Lace, breathed in the cheap perfume one last time, then looked around for a street vendor selling fake Gucci purses. I thought it would be a perfect gift for my wife. She could carry my testicles in it.

Mercifully, an Italian joint two block away infused the air with oregno. My mind sulked away from thoughts of passing up such a good opportunity for a story.


That was to be expected. After all, I was in Times Square, hell, I was in New York and I hadn't see one crazy person.

"Gotcha at your own game, BITCH!."

The skeleton man wasn't directing his comments at anyone in particular. He held his baby blue electric guitar above his head and broke into maniacal cartoon laughter."

"Gotcha, BITCH!"

The children walking out of the gigantic Toys-R-Us ignored skeleton man...as did Mr. Anonymous.

Still thirsty, confused of nose, and sufficiently bitched out, I abandoned my quest to find the perfect "first beer" joint and settled on the next available bar. That happened to be Hamburger Harry's. It had baskets of pretzels on the bar, cheap beer, and a cute bartendress. That should've been enough, but I still felt like a tourist in that place. Too bright. I drank my beer and left quickly. There was more city through which to flow anonymously. The sidewalks were full of the smoking set. The mayor kicked them out of most indoor areas (including bars) last year. They compete for space with the hot dog vendors. I couldn't help but smile and be satisfied when two unrelated but neat things happened on the same street corner.

First, two bike messengers crashed into each other, tangling together their metal, cursing, and blaming each other for the crash. Then, as if to even-out the ju-ju, an ice cream vendor stopped his truck at the curb and ordered a dog with kraut from a hot dog man. The dog man served Mr. Ice Cream through the truck's serving window. Ice Cream said thank you to Hot Dog, goodwill was resored to the corner, and all was right with the world. It felt like a good time to head to the hotel.

I should mention at this point, upon stepping foot in the city, I abandoned all worry about how I should dress. It became apparent very quickly that it just didn't matter. That's why on Saturday night, I felt at least basically comfortable slipping on a pair of gray slacks and a shirt that shows off my little chest hair, nipple-protrusions, and stark possibility of being a gay, white, male in America.

The subway and its almost constant stench of urine were as unremarkable as you might expect. Its ability to transform me into a 21 year old city boy...that had more merit. A ten-minute ride dumped me in The Village. Bohemia, full of glorious smells, beautiful women, and the kinds of rhythms that make me smile.

Lamb and pita bread for dinner, beer and acoustic music for dessert. The walk is head shops, fruit stands, and a sign that reads "Men and women, Best Back Rub in Town."

In Washington Square Park, the guy who sauntered by me was a man of wares and was not afraid of broadcasting his menu. In step, just like suppliers at Dead shows, he whispered, 'Smoke. Coke" and never broke stride. If I were shopping, it would've been my responsibility to turn around. But, I was content enough with my slight beer buzz, poofy nipples, and recently-recognized love for America's largest city.

Again, somehow, i found mysef in Times Sqaure. It was more crowded and it was daylight at midnight. The strippers lament had waned and I found myself with an understanding of the city that I didn't expect to find after only 36 hours. I, quited unexpectedly, liked the place. Anonymity is not only possible, it's almost required. I am nobody and at the same time a cog in a giant human engine. It is reality. Not my own, but one that in the past only existed in television dramas. As much as I expected a city full of aliens, I found neighbors.

From Central Park, to 5th Ave., to Bleeker St., I walked, rode, blended, smiled, drank, smelled, lamented, laughed, ate, and for a few precious hours stepped out of my life and into the shoes of Mr. Anonymous.

The plane banked hard over the city and turned back down the eastern coast and I went home...where, trite as this sounds...the heart is.

Thursday, July 24, 2003

My kinda town?

I'm a country mouse. You can see it in my whiskers and tail. Put a pair of blue jeans over my ass and watch me skitter through the haystack. On several occasions, this rodent of the backwater has found himself in the big city. He's skittered into the Windy City. He's poked his nose into Las Vegas. He crawled with the vermin in New Orleans. Even once, on a particularly unfortunate occasion, he rode the elevators of Los Angeles and turned away attempts to take off his country mouse clothes and play a new kind of reindeer game. The wild kingdom can live up to its name at times.

But in less than 24 hours, this rural rodent will find himself nibbling on the Big Apple, staying in a fancy hotel (with running water and all), and trying to figure out how the city mice live.

I should be concerned about a lot of things. Finding my way from the airport to my hotel should prove to be challenging enough. I should be worried about a presentation I have to give in front of 75 of the nation's best local journalists. And, vain little mouse that I am, I'm only thinking about what to pack.

Lookit: Chicago is a midwestern city. No matter how you look at it, the Windy Citizens are all still just a bunch of hayseed yokels with tall buildings. Las Vegas, while one of the greatest cities on earth, is a gaudy come as you are kind burg. New York City (said with all the gusto of an incredulous salsa taster) is a different breed of mouse.

Why, oh, why should I give a damn how I dress. I dunno. Call it Country Mouse Vanity.

I'm not terribly excited about this trip. It will be a fine adventure, I'm sure. But I'm pretty sure I'm in need of a Mouse Makeover.

Where's Mickey Maury Povich when I need him?

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Still fine. A little fat, but fine.
If I were you're wife (or husband) these would be my conversation topics at dinner tonight

I've grown to hate television. That's a bad thing for someone who works in the business. Creativity has seeped out of the dramas. Objectivity has dam-burst out of the news. Reality TV is not real.

I've started to wonder if my attempt to not drink sugared soda has led me to a strange diet soda caffeine addiction. I'm considering a major cutback.

I have another opportunity to go to Las Vegas. That could start trouble.

Once again, music has proved its healing power in my life. Last Saturday, I played with an old friend, a slightly new friend, and a couple of people I didn't know very well. And again, my theory that any woman is beautiful when she sings well was evident.

My brother is getting a dog. I think it's about time.

I think I need to buy some new clothes before I go to New York. They is fancy people there.

I love skull-rattling thunderstorm. It's like good sex for the atmosphere.

Pass the green beans, please.

Friday, July 18, 2003

Alright, alright

I've got to find a smooth, literary way to slip this in. I've got to make sure this is as cerebral as my few frequent readers have come to expect. If I'm ever going to rise to the level of a professional writer, I need to find literary devices to make the following statement seem less abrasive and more palatable for the occasional reader. Okay, here we go:

Fuck this shit.

There we go. Mood complete. Silliness vanquished. Inspiration returning.

Don't get me wrong, I'm still one messed up muchacho, but I'm back in a good frame of mind. I credit some battles of wit with a couple of people I know, some sideways streak lightning over Pickens County, and an inspiring and innovative pep talk I received last night.

Friday appearing so suddenly has helped, too. Some people don't get Fridays. I do.

More on my return from Planet Crackpot later. For now, take off your shoes and rub your toes in the grass. Walk like a five year old pretending he's six. Listen to a kid talk. Hold a puppy for a while. Smile for a couple of days.

Thursday, July 17, 2003

We'll be back in two and two

Last night as I was preparing for some night-putting, a michievious groundhog made his way into my house. He stole my ball, ran around with it for a while, and then grabbed one of my guitars. You know what he was singing and dancing to?

"I'm Alright" by Kenny Loggins.

Don't get me wrong, I appreciate the concern. I really do. I've learned even in the last six months that I am more loved than I ever knew I was. With that in mind, please know that there is nothing seriously wrong with me. I have not lost my mind. I have not gone off the deep end. I'm not depressed.

Those who love me have noticed symptoms of my demise. I have snapped a couple of times at work this week. Frankly, I believe the subjects of my snapping were snap-worthy. Out of character for me? Absolutely. Unsnappable? I don't think so. Sometimes even the most level-headed of people repress frustration too long and lets a good one go. It's therapeutic.

I've been writing really odd things in my blog. I know, I know. But give me a break. You're reading my diary. Again, it's therapeutic.

I haven't been sleeping very much. I've never slept much. Too much sleeps brings too many freaky dreams. Too much sleep, frankly, makes me sleepy. My muscles get sore. My head feels like it is wrapped in cheese cloth. I think sleep affects me like psychotropic (sp?) drugs affect the insane. Under control, but really, really numb. Plus, I have never been one to sleep at night. There is freedom in the solitude of 3AM. I'd much rather stay awake until four and sleep until noon. My life doesn't allow that right now. So, I sleep for five or six hours instead of eight. I seem to be getting by just fine.

Lest ye think I doth protest too much, I will allow that I'm likely going through some sort of phase. I may be acting a bit out of character. However, frankly I think my character has never been a really admirable one anyway. My psyche is just experimenting. I'm allowing it to happen.

But, really. Let's put this in perspective. In Orlando this week, TSA officials pulled a loaded .22-caliber Derringer out of a teddy bear carried by a ten year old boy. Yesterday, an octagenarian put his foot on the gas instead of the brake and plowed though a crowded farmers market. The cops have a arrested a guy for pretendeing to be a security guard, then fondling a young girl. And Tiger Woods lost his ball on his first shot at the British Open.

We live in a world where the crockpot is all to shit on a regular basis. People are going crazy with the ice everywhere we look. (Forgive the inside-joke catch phrases from my youth). Life, for a lot of people, is simply screwy.

My life is pretty damned good. I'm just experimenting with my future. Like any experimentation, it has the possibility of some strange side-effects.

No worries. The groundhog is just getting warmed up.

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Mini-series, continued

I've thought twice about this mini-series since I sat down the first time to write. Dear friends have provided what they called "lectures." Other friends have expressed sympathy. A select few, those who have my greatest respect, have terrified me by suggesting that I do the unthinkable: Acually do what I'll never do. Still, I think I'll continue at my own peril.

I call this: The Church of Otis (abbreviated to Chotis):

I don't want your money. I don't want love slaves (well, maybe a couple to keep me sane). I just want your ear. Listen, my people, and Otis shall set you free.

Please open your black and white composition books and turn to Annoyances, chapter one, verse one. "And he handed down from the reclining lounge chair the first commandment: Fix it, or Fuck it." My friends, they are the simple words of a simple man, but Otis knew of what he spoke. He knew that life is full of minor, unavoidable annoyances. He knew that we could not fix the unfixable. He knew that our happiness was dependant on our ability to cast aside life's little buggaboos.

Now, please open your hymnals to page 44. And let us sing: "Embrace your vice, my liver's turned to cheese. How great thy drink, how great thy drink." Neighbors, don't dare interpret this fine hymn as an excuse to drown your sorrows in alcohol. This was a cautionary hymn, one that recognized the both healing and destructive power of our sacramental libation. Use it, but don't let it use you. If you find it is using you, find something else to use. Otis suggested sex as an alternative.

If you'll look to your right, you'll notice our church deacons passing the offering plate down the aisle. Please keep your wallets in your pocket. Instead please write the name of person whose actions and opinions have no bearing on your life, and sign the promise sheet vowing to never again let that person fuck with your life. Put it in the plate and pass it to your left.

For our benediciton today, we've compiled a chorus of well-known disciples of Otis. Please sing along as you exit, with Jimmy Buffet, Paul Simon, Willie Nelson, James Taylor, Eddie from Ohio, Donna the Buffalo, John Gorka, Allen Ross, and the choir of Otisians.

We'll see you next week for Corona and lime Thursday. Otis be with you.

Sunday, July 13, 2003

What I'll never do...but would really like to
A mini-series

A few minutes ago I decided I must have had a fever and it was on its way out. I was sweating and shaking at the time. Within a few minutes I decided it wasn't a fever. It was an ugly sunburn. I spent three hours outside today pressure-washing my driveway. Why? Nothing much better to do. I have a long list of indoor chores that I don't want to do. Outside, there wasn't much to do but make my driveway look nice. Now, I'm sunburned and wishing I had done one of the things I'll never do. So, this week, when I feel like writing, I'll submit the things I wish I was doing, but know I probably never will.

I wouldn't have to pack much. A laptop computer, one of my acoustic guitars (more than likely my friend, Old Alverez), a black and white bound composition book, an atlas, a couple of good ink pens, a bottle of something (maybe scotch, maybe Tang), and a case of SweetTarts.

The atlas would sort of be a fail-safe. Frankly, I don't want to know where I'm going. I just want to hop in Emilio and drive until I'm tired. I want to find the nearest motel or campground, pull over, sleep, wake up and discover what that place is all about. The place doesn't matter. The "all about" part does.

The rules would be as such:

1) I am not allowed to pre-plan destinations.
2) While I won't slum on purpose, five-star hotels are out. Campgounds and small motels are preferred.
3) I'm not allowed to leave the town/city until I've written both a song and a short story about my time there.
4) As soon as Rule 3 has been completed, I get back and Emilio and drive until I don't feel like driving anymore.
5) Repeat rules 1-4 until I feel like going home.

I decided this afternoon (shooting highly-pressurized water at concrete can be a bit hypnotic) that my stagnant lifestyle is the reason my creative side has atrophied so much. Like I have most of my life, I feel like I have things to write, but I rarely want to share those things with anyone (this forum being a welcome exception). I think I need to be alone for a while before I can feel free to create.

Of course, hitting the road to write is something young, unmarried men do. It's the life of a tramp, the life of a wanderer with no ties. It's the life of a man who has either never had a job or just lost the only one he'll ever have.

Right after I wrote that last line, my mom called. I had talked to her briefly on the phone before I sat down to write. She'd been sitting at home stewing about the fact that the last few times we've talked I've had an odd tone in my voice. That's my mom. The ultimate lie detector. She asked what was wrong. I didn't have a really good answer for her. I would've told her if I really knew the answer. The best I could come up with is: I'm bored. That didn't seem to pacify her. She knew being bored was probably only half the truth. But I think she understood without me saying that I don't know what the other half is.

Maybe if I wrote about the places I've been I could understand the place I am.

Thursday, July 10, 2003

Mickey's deflowered virgin and Katie Couric's bass mouth

I never really thought I would be the one to take Britney Spears virtue. The way I saw it, if she was going to wait for two decades (about a decade longer than most girls from her home state of Lousiana) to take a ride on the love train, she probably was looking for something a little more than a caffeine-addled TV reporter with Jagermeister on his breath.

However, news that the young Spears allowed Justin Timberlake to slip her the high hard one just broke my heart. How degrading is that for a young girl of virtue? I mean, I can't imagine Timberlake can do anything of substance without the rest of his boy band there, and that would just take it to a whole new level for a sexual neophyte. I just shudder when I think about how Timberlake must have convinced her. I have to imagine he used a line like, "It's not sex. It's making love. And love doesn't take your virginity. Now where are the rest of the boys to sing back-up?"

While Spears never asked me who she should lose her virginity to, I had a really good guy in mind: Mickey Rourke. We saw what he could do in such films as "9 1/2 Weeks" and "Angel Heart." He's a dragon in the sack. And what could be more appropriate than a former employee of Mickey Mouse submitting to Mickey Rourke?

But I digress. I really write today to talk about what's happening to Katie Couric's lips. I'm no fan of her's. However, even the most unsympathetic viewer would have to be concerned with her current affliction. At some point in the last few weeks, two red slugs have set up shop below her nose. They're hiding her lips. I'm afraid if her make-up artists don't do their job, the slugs might leave a trail down her face, as they make their way from her noggin on their way back from serving as her brain.

Would someone please just send me a starlet I can respect, or at the very least, fear...in a good way?

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

When I finally start killing people...

...I'll probably get caught. Most killers get caught. The reason is pretty simple: If they can't control their impulses well enough to avoid killing someone, they probably don't have enough mental control to elude a bunch of people who are nothing but focused on catching the killer. That said, I stand a pretty good chance at avoiding capture longer than most, because...I have a plan.

The smartest killer is the random killer. Kill people you don't know when nobody esle is around. The chances of getting caught--especially if you've never been arrested before--are pretty slim. Ted Bundy killed women in four states before the law finally took him down. He was even arrested, put on trial for murder, allowed to escape, and go back on more random killing sprees. He killed for so long because he killed fairly randomly. I don't have to mention the number of unsolved murders out there. It's frightening.

However, if you're dumb enough to kill someone you know and you think there is any chance you'll be a suspect, you have to run. Immediately. You have to change your appearance in subtle ways. You have to be out of the country before anyone even suspects you. If not, you're screwed. If you stay in the country, you will eventually be caught.

That's why, if you think there is any chance you might start killing anytime soon, start learning a different language now. I suggest Spanish or Portuguese.

I only bring it up because of the dumb killers--ahem, alleged killers--in the news. They kill, they're suspected, they try to run. They get caught.

There was once a bad movie made out of a neat novella. I wont even bring up the title, becuase the movie you saw was nothing similar to the story....with the exception of the title. The premise was a television program that took a doomed man (criminal on death row or in prison for life) and set him free. Then, the program set loose the nation. A big reward went to whoever caught the man alive. If he escapes, he wins. If he doesn't, he goes back to prison. I heard some time ago that Matt Damon and Ben Affleck were trying to put together a reality series based on that idea (my guess is they would use someone other than a convict as the quarry). I'd watch. We never really loose the passion for a good game of Hide-and-Seek.

No real point to today's post. Just something to mull over while I ate my lunch. I should further point out, I have no intention of killing anyone ever. It just doesn't do anything for me.

Now bank robbery, jewel heists, and con games...there may be something there.

Tuesday, July 08, 2003

Your passport to the past

I opened the folder titled "The crockpot is all to shit." There was an oh-so-faint flicker of recognition. The phrase meant something. I could hear my friends, Brad and Gary, saying it with mock frustration. The folder's contents didn't help me remember the genesis, but it did contain a few off-the-wall short stories I must have written 12 or 13 years ago. My youth shows in the over-exuberant writing. Still, I enjoyed the unfinished tale of a church pastor named Earl Xerox. The story never goes anywhere, but there's a particularly cute chapter in which the 97 year old church secretary, Mrs. Feemish, throws lunch meat at the pastor and threatens to reveal his last name to the congregation.

Now, nearly three hours later, my sweat-soaked t-shirt is drying and I'm buried deep, deep in nostalgia.

It began around 9:45. I decided it was as good a time as any to find my passport (I'm thinking about running away and I might need it soon). I thought...thought...it was in a bag full of foreign money I brought back from Europe on the off-chance the dollar ever went belly-up and I needed to buy a soda. I thought...thought...that bag was in a footlocker with a bunch of other old stuff. After an hour of searching, I was surrounded by pictures of old girlfriends, old poetry anthologies, and about 700 pages of random writing I had done over the years, including the folder titled "the crockpot is all to shit."

No passport. Of course, it must be in the attic.

That's when I started sweating. It's hot up there. In the last box...EUREKA! The bag full of European change.

No passport.

I found five old cameras, a letter from a girl I never met in Chicago, a letter announcing a friend's death, and about 300 more pages of random writing.

Then came the junk searches. Box after box of random junk, hidden in random places. No more writing, and no fucking passport.

As I got ready to give up, I remembered a filing cabinet...my filing cabinet...in the garage. That's when things got odd.

When was the last time I used Sheik brand condoms? And why do I still have two of them? And are they still usable?

In the middle of 400 more random pages of writing...mother fucker. My passport.

Now, I'm hot, thinking about the past, ready to skip the country, and trying to hide from my angry wife (she gets annoyed when I stay up too late).

Maybe I should go get those condoms and see if they still work.

Or maybe I should come up with an ending to the Earl Xerox story.

Or maybe...just friggin' maybe...I should go to sleep.

Sunday, July 06, 2003

Eureka or something like it

I guess it all started this afternoon when I found the wildlife reserve of horrors in my back yard. While doing a little past due but routine yard cleaning, I found the following: One snake of the small but agile variety, one frog, one turtle, several dozen spiders, a couple of daddy long legs, and more slugs and leaches than I care to remember.

The epiphany started with a phrase that usually defines personal extraordinary frustration: Fuck me.

I'm embarassed to admit, I left some non-yard items in my back yard for too long. The oversight killed a large section of grass and provided a habitat for all things creepy. I spent the next three hours trying to figure out why I would let that happen to a yard in which I take some amount of pride. I settled on one word that has come to define my life and spirit.


Somehow I have let myself become the laziest person I know. I've stopped taking care of the things that matter to me. My personal possessions are a mess. My body has gone to hell. I don't challenge my mind very often. And, frankly, I've stopped working toward any goal.

I'm surrounded by inspiration. I have several friends who are losing weight. I have a few friends that are working hard on their careers. I have others that are working on killing their personal demons. I have others who are making goals to reach in the second half of their life. Me...I'm drinking a lot, sleeping too late, working when I have to, and putting off any major life decisions. Not because I'm a drunk, insomniac in a bad job that prevents me from living a real life. It's because I'm lazy.

Last night I stood under the light of a crescent moon and distant lighthouse. The Atlantic made little noise at low tide. My wife and a friend splashed about 30 feet from shore, while a girl I know stood ankle deep in the water, her hands above her head, her chest pushed out, her chin aimed at the moon. All three were at peace.

A friend stood next to me. He said something that I won't repeat here (the effect wouldn't be the same without the ambiance). But it struck me, because it made me realize he was both enjoying the moment and living 20 years from now...at the same. He can love an imperfect life because he's working toward perfection and has no doubt it is coming.

It's around this time that I would normally announce a SIP (Self Improvement Project) aimed at changing my life, if only for a couple of months. Frankly, those never work and I'm making no announcements.

Right now I'm going to let myself sleep with the realization that I may have just completed the first step in something good: Admitting I have a laziness problem.

I tell ya, if it weren't for little detours to the ocean, friends who live out dreams, and leaches...I don't know how I would live my life.

Wednesday, July 02, 2003

Call the police

In Liberia, English is the official language. That's no huge surprise, as it is a country founded by freed American slaves. That colonization, though, happened a long time ago. The country eventually found its way to independence. In recent years, the country has seen some frightening times. Tribal clans rose up againt the ruling party (descendents of American slaves) in a blood bath of a civil war. Then the previously ruling party rose back up, under the leadership of a guy by the deceptively unfrightening name of Charles Taylor.

Most of what I know of the country's history comes from the book Seek, by Northwestern author Denis Johnson , so I won't claim to be overly educated on the subject. But if I've learned anything, I've learned it is a frightening, lawless country.

Things are getting worse in Liberia. It's gotten bad enough that the United States is again considering being the world's police department. I'm seeking an education from my small readership, or anyone who might have run across this blog, on why it is necessary for U.S. troops to police this civil war-torn country.

In Monrovia (the capital city), the people were cheering today as news broke that six platoons of Marines were at the ready in Spain. Those troops could be in Monrovia within six hours of getting the call. Their stated purpose would be to protect the American embassy. I don't fear that as much. It's what comes next (read: Somolia) that gets be all jiggy-legged.

The United Nations believes it should move into Liberia to calm things down. The Liberians (at least those that want the country calmed down) would prefer to have Americans there (because we "have historical interests").

No doubt, the American military might could kncok the stuffing out of Liberian irregulars. But it wouldn't be pretty.

Yes, we should promote, support, and even defend democracy. Yes, we should protect human rights where possible. No, I'm not writing this simply as a response to having seen "Blackhawk Down."

We're in Afghanistan. We're in Iraq and its surrounding countries. We're trading yo-mamas with North Korea. Now may not be the time to play the world's police department.

Maybe I'm being a little ethnocentric. Maybe I'm being callous and too cautious. Maybe I'm ignorant.

If I am, please someone tell me. Because it won't matter if the official language of Liberia is English. Rocket propelled grenades sound the same in any langauage.

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Not just passing through

Today ends a complex journey of a 100 year old man named Strom Thurmond. Before the day's end he will be buried under Edgefield County, SC dirt, in a family plot, in the soil that holds more history than most living people can fathom.

I have not lived in this state long enough to fully appreciate the man's transformation, nor enough to despise him for views he held many decades before I was born. However, I made it a point to watch a portion of his funeral today. The eulogies ranged from terse, formulaic, and safe (read: Vice President Dick Cheney) to thought-provoking, a little dangerous, and inspiring (read: Delware Senator Joe Biden and South Carolina State Senator Kay Patterson).

Opinions Ol' Strom did not change in life, he will not change in death. However, he leaves behind a lesson (as imparted in his eulogies) that demands attention. It is one we would all be better not to ignore.

Lesson one (paraphrased from George Washington Carver, I believe): It is our duty to live our lives with the intention of leaving evidence that we existed.

Lesson two: We are never too old to change.

We are not just passing through. There is more here than just us chickens. We can only hear if we take the bananas out of our ears.

Maybe that's a little heady for wet day in the southeast. Maybe the people who got ticked that we showed an old man's funeral on TV instead of live Wimbeldon coverage were right. Maybe, but probably not.

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