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Wednesday, December 31, 2003

This just in...

2003, the Year of My Ass, sucked. Hitler balls.

That is about as profane as I like to get here on Rapid Eye Reality.

Perhaps I should've known. January of 2003 was full of plane crashes and young volunteer firefighter hottie one upsmanship parties (I still think my wife wishes I had some turnout gear). Perhaps that month should've been a tipoff.

But, no. I was a naive young pup. I thought by winning Best of Show in the National Headliner Awards, I could somehow skirt the impending doom that was the Year of My Ass. And don't forget the Hitler balls.

So, here in chronological order are the top...um...four reasons 2003 sucked (with my apologies to the Fark.com ensuing crowd).

1) Otis falls on face. Bleeding ensues--Something about the physics of blood pumping and my tendency toward falling led to this early Spring calamity. I still have the scar to show for it.

2) Otis accused of racism. Corporate silliness ensues--Mumble, grumble, mumble grumble. That's about all I can say about that.

3) Dad's brain explodes. Three surgeries ensue--While this was this worst thing that's ever happened in my life (thankfully), it has turned out okay. I just saw my dad and he's looking really good for a guy who lost most of his left frontal lobe and almost died.

4) Friend finds faith in false freedom, falls on face, feels fucked. Foot up ass ensues-- This is still a sensitive subject. I may be the only one who is sensitive about it, but it's still sensitive. Suffice it to say, it's a royal fuckshow of the first order. Someday I'll write all about it. But for now...fuck.

So, there ya go. Four reasons (in too little detail) why 2003 was down on its knees and sucking like a champ. That's not to mention the suffering my friend Cappy is going through right now with his family.

There were some good things, though. I got to hang with the best of friends and family on a couple different occasions. I did win that big award. My dad did survive a massive and certainly life threatening brain...thing. I met some good people. Some other people found themselves and introduced us to themselves. Other people, already good friends, proved to be better friends.

But, on balance, I could've done without the Year of My Ass.

Adversity teaches us, however, to appreciate the things in life we take for granted. Family. Honesty. Talent. Etc.

To those who know I love them, thank you for knowing. For those who suspect I don't, you're wrong. For those who want me to love them, stop trying so hard. And for those who hate, fuck you and your mother.

Hallmark bought that one.

I'm actually happier than I might sound. Tonight I plan to find 2004 and I hope for it to embrace me with a hug and open-mouthed kiss.

Until then, the Year of My Ass can kiss mine.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Save the...oh, forget it. Just steal everything

If I were Christopher Moore I'd be a little on the miffed side. I wonder if he drinks Mountain Dew?

Fluke is one helluva book. Forgive me, but it is a whale of a good story. Its originality alone sets it apart from most of the fiction on the market today.

That's why I get such a red ass when ad people (heartless, soulless creatures that they are) decide to steal. Moore wrote a great book. An ad guy took some of the book's greatest elements, built a quick little commercial with some BBC whale footage, and now is trying to sell Mt. Dew with an idea that is not only now lacking in originality, but stinking off a rip-off artist's grubby hands.

{--Mt. Dew-~-Moore--}

I don't blame the Dew people as much as I do the ad people. My guess is the Dew folks don't have any idea they are marketing their product with the stolen booty of another man's soul.

Or something like that.

Moore is a class act. I shot him an e-mail (he still uses an AOL address) and asked him how many e-mails he had gotten about the ad. He wrote back and said he had gotten a lot and his attorney had fired off what he called a "hey, cut it out letter."

The ad wizards that produced it work at BBDO, one of the big Madison Avenue agencies that gets a lot of work on an international stage. The creative director, Bill Bruce, is fairly famous in the business. I suspect he doesn't read very much. I've e-mailed the agency asking for on-the-record comment. However, as my indignation can only be aired in blog form (and not in my role as Mr. Honest TV Reporter Fella), I suspect I'll be summarily dismissed.

After the James Garner, "Nobody Knows it But Me" poem and "Terry Tate and the Great Felcher Conspiracy" I felt like maybe I'd had my fill of irresponsible admen. I guess not.

If anything, it has given me the opportunity to communicate ever-so-briefly with one of my favorite authors. And I got to use the phrase "stolen booty of another man's soul."

That's gotta be worth something.

I'm no conspiracy theorist...

...but I just don't buy it.

Let me start off by saying, "MOO! MOOOOOOO! I'm angry! I'm maaaad! MOO!"

When the world first started learning of Mad Cow disease years ago, one of my favorite things to do was impersonate a miffed moo-cow. "MOO!"

Now, on to what I don't buy. To be honest, I don't even know. But something just doesn't seem right. So. here are my top five conspiracy theories (in no particular order) as they relate to Mad Cow and the announcement that Mad Cow disease has flopped itself in the pastures of the American northwest.

(Drumroll) From the home office in..."MOOO! I'm angry!"

Okay. Sorry.

1) The terrorist chatter had gotten WAY too strong and it forced the American government to raise the security warning from chartreuse to mauve. It was the last thing the feds wanted to do around the holidays. Instead of holiday shopping and how well the economy was doing, the headlines were screaming about how we can't take care of the terror problem. Insert one sickly cow (conveniently tested a while back) and change the headlines to something less terrifying. Sure, it's not figgy pudding and Santa, but at least the turkeys and pigs aren't sick.

2) Forget about the terrorists, we've got some sick cows. That's going to be a problem when America finally finds out about it. When is the best time to slip it in under the radar? Try a couple days before Christmas when NOBODY or her brother is watching TV or reading the newspapers. By the time they wake up from their long winter's nap, we'll have eradicated half the beef population in the country, and apart from McDonalds being pissed off at us, we'll be heroes for solving the problem so quickly.

3) Those beef producers are getting a little uppity. So is that damned Ronald McDonald. Let's kill all beef exports and drive down the price of a good filet.

4) Something bad but not earth-shattering is going to happen in the next couple of days. Somebody is going to announce Bush has the clap. And (gasp!) so does Condoleeza Rice! Somebody get that Mad Cow out of the canteen fridge. Somebody get the Governor of Washington on the phone. Somebody still has those pictures of him and Michael Jackson, right?

5) "Jose Padilla's attorney is on line one, Mr. President. He says his client would like a guided tour of Air Force One and a ride back to Chicago. Yes, sir. We raised the terror alert level. The news stopped reporting the Jose story, but started reporting about the terror threat. No, sir, nobody expected they would do that. We figured it would be a quick diversion. We even planted the holiday shopping story with our guy at the Post. The story got spiked. Mad Cow? Mr. President, I think that would be a bad idea. I mean, the terror alert thing sort of backfired on us. Yes, sir, that Ronald McDonald is getting a little uppity. But, you are friends with the beef industry, sir. You're from Texas. They like meat there. Okay, okay. Mad Cow it is. What should I tell Mr. Padilla's attorney? Yes, sir, I think a gift certificate for Omaha Steaks is a fine gift."

Again, I'm no conspiracy theorist. I don't really believe any of the above. But I have a strange feeling we just don't know the whole story.

To which I can only offer: MOO!!!! MOOOOOOOO!

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Non-fiction Pt. Two

On March 24, 2003 Carolina Investors closed its doors after nearly 40 years in business.

Representatives of the investment company told nearly 8,000 customers they weren't sure how Carolina Investors could repay the nearly $280 million customers had invested.

Since that time, Carolina Investors and its parent company, HomeGold Financial, have filed for bankruptcy protection, leaving Carolina Investors' customers in the dark about whether they will ever see their money again.

In November 2003, the South Carolina statewide grand jury indicted Carolina Investors president and CEO, Larry Owen. So far, Owen is the only person to be criminally charged in the case.


There is a reason cliches become cliches. More often than not, cliches have a track record of being true. In the last nine months, Larry Owen has been clinging to one trite phrase as he builds his defense against securities fraud charges.

"Hindsight is always 20/20," Owen will say. "In hindsight it looks a lot different now than it did coming through it. You look back and you say, would you do anything different?"

Owen just isn't sure. He can't pinpoint a moment in the last eight or nine years where he would've taken a different road, knowing what he knew then. Knowing what he knows now is a different story, but that tale is for cups of coffee and long laments over the unfairness of the whole thing.

For now, Owen will have to answer for what he knew every day from the moment Carolina Investors and its parent company HomeGold came together in what he now considers the unholiest of unions.

"They raped our company," Owen said.

It will be up to a jury to decide whether Owen stood by and let the collapse happen, whether he actively participated in the downfall, or whether he was an unwilling pawn in a game of high stakes businessman's chess.


Owen was on top of the world in when the 1990s began. He was the president of a successful investment company in a fine area of South Carolina. His family lived all around him. He had a nice home and the prospects of ending his career with one of the most respected companies in the county.

By 1991, Carolina Investors owner Dwight Holder decided to get rid of the company that had made him rich. He had no sons to give it to, but he did have a group of wealthy investors who were willing to buy the then-28 year old company. The investors had recently come into possession of an old railroad corporation and were looking for opportunities. Carolina Investors seemed solid. Its managers were doing well. By 1991, Holder had sold Carolina Investors and Larry Owen had a new boss. Or, more accurately, Owen had a lot more bosses.

Within a few years, those investors--whose company was now known as Emergent--had expanded the reach of Carolina Investors' lending departments. What was once a strictly Palmetto State operation, now reached across the Georgia border and into the mountains of North Carolina.

By 1994, Emergent had purchased a few more companies and put them under its corporate umbrella. All the lending that was once approved by Carolina Investors agents, and ultimately Larry Owen, was moved to Emergent's home office.

The man who had once run everything had just been relegated to the role of what some people would someday see as a glorified bagman. He took in investments and handed them over to his corporate bosses. It's the role he would play for another nine years and the role that would eventually end his career.


The big business world of blitzkrieg expansion didn't sit right with Larry Owen. Emergent was on its way to becoming HomeGold. Within a couple of years, the corporate bosses would decide to expand north and west. Offices would open in Ohio and Arizona. Owen said he didn't feel the growth was as controlled as it should've been. At the same time, he saw profits.

"I was satisfied with it to an extent because my stock was increasing in value and the business was making money," Owen said.

Owen said while the business decisions of the corporate bosses were not his to make, he tried to speak up in 1996 about the rapid expansion plans.

"If it got mentioned in the wrong circles, you were accused of not being a team player," Owen said. "At one point I was accused of not being a team player. It was quite disturbing."

Still, the company seemed to be making money. In 1997, an initial public offering and a bond issue brought in loads of cash. The mortgage business seemed to be doing well.

So, Owen kept bringing in the money and handing it to his bosses.

Under South Carolina state securities laws, Carolina Investors had to prepare a prospectus every year. The multi-page document, while heavy on financial language, was supposed to give investors a good idea of the company's financial state. Owen's rubber stamp was required on the prospectus every year when he took it to Columbia for regulators' approval.

By 1998, Owen noted what would become a serious problem. HomeGold's source for cash, the subprime lending market, had just fallen in the gutter. It didn't take long for HomeGold to start spilling red ink all over its accounting books. Never before had Carolina Investors' cash been so important to the continued operation of the business.

It was the first flashing red light that warned of impending disaster.

"That gave me concern," Owen said, "but at the same time they (HomeGold) were laying people off, cutting expenses and doing things to get back to profitability."

The problems became public enough to warrant news reports. Carolina Investors' customers started to get antsy and ask for their deposits. Eventually, though, the problems seemed to pass and Owen continued to take cash at Carolina Investors offices.

Owen was startled, but he says, blinded by HomeGold's optimism.

"I had doubts occasionally as to whether they could really make it work," Owen said, "But they always came to our board meetings with some rosy plans."

Though the dark clouds had cleared after the 1998 scare, HomeGold continued to lose money.

At first, a 1999 merger with the Columbia-based company HomeSense seemed like it would be the saving grace of HomeGold and--by extension--Carolina Investors. HomeSense owner, Ronnie Sheppard, signed on as the new HomeGold CEO. He did not believe in how HomeGold had been doing business. He disliked the wholesale mortgage business and saw a bigger future in in retail mortgage lending.

"Everything that HomeGold had been doing, he just decided he didn't want to do it anymore," Owen said.

More than that, Sheppard was about growth. HomeGold offices in other states that had closed were re-opened,

It didn't work and the Carolina Investors balance sheets Larry Owen reviewed every day started to look worse and worse


HomeGold's accountants didn't like what they were seeing. The company's losses were getting worse. Its debt to Carolina Investors was growing every day.

On March 14, 2002 Owen found himself sitting around a conference table with just about anybody who had a say in the future of HomeGold and Carolina Investors. Inside the walls of the Wyche, Burgess, Freeman, and Parham, P.A. overlooking Greenville's Reedy River, accountants from Elliot Davis, LLP started talking about the one thing nobody wanted to talk about.

First, Elliot Davis intended to included a "going concern" statement in the companies' upcoming prospectuses. It would be a signal flare to any savvy investor that the companies had serious problems.

Second, Elliot Davis said the one thing Larry Owen didn't want to hear.

"They felt like they were going to have to impair the HomeGold debt with Carolina Investors," Owen recalled. "They just didn't feel like at that time that HomeGold was going to be able to repay all that money."

HomeGold hired companies to appraise the company assets and Owen said he was encouraged by those appraisals. Even when news stories broke of HomeGold's financial problems and Carolina Investors customers again came looking for their money, Owen said he still had faith.

In August and September of 2002, customers withdrew more than $20 million.

"It did scare me," Owen said, "At the same time, we hung our faith on the value of those appraisals."


Owen decided to take matters into his own hands.

The prospectus that Carolina Investors was forced to issue had some scary language that could scare away potential investors. What's more, the language was complicated and difficult to understand for many of the less sophisticated investors. So, Owen wrote a letter of his own and started slipping it in to each prospectus that went out.

It addressed the risk factors outlined in the Carolina Investors prospectus, explaining away some of the scarier financial language. Owen made sure to include that the accountants' concerns were "certainly not a prediction of failure."

It continued to explain the moves HomeGold was taking to return to profitability, including word that a "very large bank on the west coast" had offered to purchase part of HomeGold's assets. Owen explained the money made from that sale would provide more than enough cash than was needed to pay back Carolina Investors customers. Owen wrote that South Carolina regulators were "delighted" by the sale.

Owen closed by saying he believed the sale would close by Thanksgiving.

No one can say how many of those letters went out, or how many people heard the same information verbally from Owen. Regardless, by late November, Carolina Investor's attorney caught wind of the circulating letter and fired off a quick admonition and ordered Owen to discontinue use of the letter.

The letter from the Wyche law firm reads in part:

"(The letter) may not represent the facts as we understand them to have been in August or at any time since August. We are not aware of the letter from a 'very large bank' which is referred to. The use of this letter may constitute serious misconduct under state securities laws."

Owen said he immediately quit sending out the letter, but it appeared as far as the Wyche law firm was concerned, the damage had been done. By January 10, 2003 the Wyche firm sent another dispatch to Owen's offices indicating it would no longer serve as legal counsel to Carolina Investors.

Owen said he doesn't feel like he did anything wrong by including the letter with the prospectus and said after the fact he allowed a state regulator to review the letter.

"He said he didn't see any problem with it,' Owen said. "It was intended to make sure that (customers) read both sides of the story and then make up their own mind."


"The earliest recollection I have of any conversation concerning anything about a bankruptcy occurred on January the 7th," Owen said.

Owen maintains he never seriously considered the possibility HomeGold and Carolina Investors would go bankrupt until he met with a HomeGold boss in early January. Even then, Owen insists the HomeGold official said the bankruptcy talks were only a precautionary measure.

"I had no idea it was anywhere in the making or that they had ever given it any serious consideration," Owen said.

Further, Owen said at a February 26, 2003 board meeting, HomeGold's top officials gave a glowing report. The room was full of optimism. Owen said HomeGold was selling part of the company back to one-time CEO Ronnie Sheppard and planned to build Carolina Investors cash account back up to $5 million. Owen said he was surprised at the level of optimism, but believed it.

The optimism only last another three weeks.

In the coming months, attorneys will argue over what happened in Carolina Investors' last week in business. Some officials within HomeGold are expected to testify that they ordered Owen to shut down business on Wednesday March 19, 2003, but Owen refused.

"My employees can verify different than that and so can the board of directors," Owen said.

Owen insists he was not contacted about a possible shutdown until Thursday March 20. He said HomeGold didn't instruct him to stop doing business until 2:00pm on Friday March 21, 2003.

After years of playing the role of fundraiser for HomeGold, Owen said he now feels like the scapegoat.

"They sucked Carolina Investors dry and they sucked me and my family dry," Owen said. "I want to see justice done."

He can't help but wonder if he could've done anything differently. The only thing he is sure of is that he wishes he could go back and take a job he was offered in 2000.

It offered a pay raise and a job for his wife.

"I left a lot of cash on the table when I decided to stay with Carolina Investors," Owen said. "I stayed out of allegiance to our investors."

Again, graciously reprinted from The Carolina Channel


I'm not one of those people who believe the alpha and omega balance on a fulcrum called sport. Sure, I'd like the Chiefs to go to the Superbowl. Sure, I'd like Missouri to win the border war tonight. But, if neither happens and nobody pours sugar in my gas tank, I'll still call it a good week.

At the same time, I'm not the type of guy who looks down his nose at people with a love of them game. I have NFL Sunday Ticket. I've spent more than a few hours in a more than a few sports bars.

Last, I'm not the type of guy who thinks he knows everything about sports. My major deficiencies lie in hockey and pro basketball. What's more, I'm pretty much a dunce at all sports when it comes down to the nitty gritty of stats an history.

So, there's your full disclosure before what many might call a naive or otherwise emotion-based statement:

Brett Favre is a class act, grade-A, mother fucking hero.

There, I said it and I feel better for having said it.

If Monday night's performance under the weight of his father's death wasn't indication enough, consider the following two points:

1) He's started more than 200 consecutive games. That is, when he's sick, he goes to work. When he's hurt, he goes to work. When he doesn't feel like going to work, he goes to fucking work. Oh, and by the way, he can throw the ball off his back foot farther than you can run without getting winded.

2) So far this year he has not signed a ball with a Sharpie, called home from the end zone, or held up a sign begging the NFL not to fine him. There is no such dance as the Favre-Shuffle. He does not wear a headband to piss off the brass. And, pardon me for saying so, but I bet when he's in his 60s and back in Green Bay for a veterans night, he probably won't get drunk and hit on the female sideline reporter. Woops. Looks like I said it out loud.

There's a reason why people like Keyshawn Johnson make a lot of money. They use it to buy neighborhood respect and then their ticket into hell.

At least when Favre picks up his paycheck he can say he earned it.

Monday, December 22, 2003

A little non-fiction from work

On March 24, 2003 Carolina Investors closed its doors after nearly 40 years in business.

Representatives of the investment company told nearly 8,000 customers they weren't sure how Carolina Investors could repay the nearly $280 million customers had invested.

Since that time, Carolina Investors and its parent company, HomeGold Financial, have filed for bankruptcy protection, leaving Carolina Investors' customers in the dark about whether they will ever see their money again.

In November 2003, the South Carolina statewide grand jury indicted Carolina Investors president and CEO, Larry Owen. So far, Owen is the only person to be criminally charged in the case.


To hold the degree of respect Larry Owen harnessed in Pickens County, most people would've needed to take their first breath inside the county line. The hardworking people of Pickens County don't just give their life savings to someone who rides in on a rail and starts asking for money. People need to know they're putting their money in hands worthy of South Carolina trust, someone who has lived their whole life within a few miles of the county seat. That's part of what makes Larry Owen's story so remarkable.

Owen's first memories are of mountains. Born in Brevard, NC in 1943, Owen lived his first 14 years in the little community of Balsam Grove, situated beneath the Blue Ridge Parkway and surrounded by some of Transylvania County's best waterfalls. It could've been a grand place to live out one's life. Instead, his family followed Owen's father down the mountain and into Easley, SC.

Owen enrolled in Easley High School and graduated in the early 1960s. Instead of riding down Highway 123 to Clemson or making the greater journey to the University of South Carolina, Owen found his future in Easley's First National Bank. Five years later, the United States Treasury Department hired Owen as a federal bank examiner.

For three years, Owen traveled all over the country inspecting banks for the federal government. At home in Easley, he married and eventually fathered a daughter.

"I'd be gone for a couple weeks at a time," Owen said, "and when I'd come home I'd see how she had grown and I missed that."

Watching a child grow in two-week snapshots was not Owen's vision of fatherhood. He bade the feds goodbye and signed on with a young Pickens County company called Carolina Investors.

The date was March 17th, 1970.

Owen settled back into his Easley home and worked as Carolina Investors' Easley branch manager until 1974. In four years, he had earned enough trust to be named Executive Vice President. With his promotion came the responsibility of running the daily operation of the entire company. Though he might not have known it, that promotion came with one more unspoken title: King of the County. He was now controlling the several million dollars worth of investors' money.

Owen hadn't lived in South Carolina for two decades when his business sense and honor became the purse for a community's life savings.

His career with Carolina Investors would span another 29 years, during which time he would eventually be crowned company president and CEO.

"As far as I know, in the 33 years I was there," Owen said, "I never had an enemy as an investor. I was very, very proud of that."


The circumstances that led to Carolina Investors eventual bankruptcy are still a matter of debate (CLICK HERE TO READ THE STORY OF THE DOWNFALL). Larry Owen's role in the crisis is similarly confounding (Coming Tuesday: What Owen Knew and When). The exact details of responsibility aside, according to Larry Owen, the final moment came down to one final phone call.

Owen said the phone rang at 2pm, Friday March 21. The phone line ran from Columbia, SC to some satellite in the sky, to Larry Owen's Pickens County office. The voice traveling the many miles belonged to the CFO of Carolina Investors' parent company, HomeGold. The message was as clear as it was devastating.

"They were out of money," Owen recalled the voice saying. "They would not be able to fund Carolina Investors anymore and we needed to seek a conservatorship."

Carolina Investors reputation sat on a bedrock of nearly 40 years of honest business. It collapsed under the weight of that final phone call.

"I was crying like a baby," Owen said.

He recalled seeing the blood drain out of a Carolina Investors' board member's face, then calling all of his offices and telling the managers to put a sign on the door saying all employees would be in a staff meeting until the end of the day.

"And we all went home," Owen said, his voice cracking. "That weekend was pure hell."

Owen spent a frantic two days trying to reach an attorney who was on a ski trip in Colorado. When he finally found an attorney who would speak to him, the only advice he could find was not to show up at Carolina Investors' offices on Monday morning.

"It wouldn't be safe," Owen recalled the attorney saying.

The attorney eventually gave the wording for a sign that he instructed Owen to put on every office door. It was the same wording that Carolina Investor's customers would hear over and over again when they reached an office answering machine. It began, "We are devasted," and continued with simple language that explained the situation as Owen understood it. HomeGold was out of money and Carolina Investors' customers may be as well.

Late that Sunday night, Owen and his wife sneaked out into the Pickens County night and attached the signs to all the office doors. At 1:30 in the morning, they fell into bed and prepared to begin a new life of hell.


By the following Tuesday morning, the local news papers and television stations had already been running the story with the story for 24 hours. People Owen had known for years were calling with panicked questions. As company president, Owen knew he would have to start answering.

He eventually found himself at the Easley office, patching a broken window. He explained to those who asked that a woman shoved her fist through the glass after reading the sign on the door.

"I probably would've done the same thing," he said.

For those who showed up in the parking lot, Owen did his best to answer their questions. He could only promise to do everything he could to get their money back.

The next day he received another call from HomeGold CFO, Karen Miller. She asked him to meet with her and some other people at HomeGold's Columbia office. When he asked her why, he recalls her saying, "You'll see when you get here."

Within a few hours, he was seated around a conference table as Miller delivered the news.

"She told us that they were going to go ahead and file bankruptcy and they felt like Carolina Investors needed to do the same thing," Owen said. "I used an expletive and slammed my hand on the table and said 'No, it's not going to happen.' I was madder than hell to be quite honest with you."

The assembled attorneys explained to Owen that if his customers were going to get anything back, it would only be through the bankruptcy process. Grudgingly, Owen asked for the name of a good bankruptcy lawyer and started the process by which Carolina Investors' would be dismantled.

Though he wasn't sure whether to think it at the time, after a few months of consideration, he couldn't help but think the people he'd been taking advice from were the same people he would eventually blame for the downfall.

"They raped our company," Owen said.


Owen said the following nine months were like a nightmare from which he couldn't awake. Rumors filtered in and out of public conversation. Somebody said Owen had checked himself into a mental hospital. Somebody else said he had a heart attack. There was also the rumor Owen and his wife had cleaned out their house, taken all of Carolina Investors money, and fled to California.

In fact, Owen was still in his house, not necessarily hiding, but not advertising his continued residence in the county.

"We can't go out to a restaurant and eat in Easley or Pickens," Owen said.

And then there was the death threat. A single page of type that said the writer had a certificate that was supposed to mature in August of 2003. It continued, "if I don't get my money, you will be dead one year from that date."

The one-time king of the county had become a pariah. His job, obviously, was gone. So was the $70,000 and 52,000 shares of stock he had in Carolina Investors. His family lost a combined $750,000. Worse than that, nobody liked him anymore.

"My 42-year reputation is gone," Owen said.

To make ends meet, he and his wife, who also worked for Carolina Investors, filed for unemployment and started trying to sell insurance to a community that believed the husband and wife were liars and cheats.

Business has not been good.


Bad news tended to come by phone.

Owen was driving to Spartanburg when his attorney phoned in November. The South Carolina statewide grand jury had indicted Owen on 23 counts of securities fraud. According to Owen, SLED was preparing to send two agents to Pickens County to arrest him. He suspected he would spend the night in jail and then be paraded in an orange jumpsuit in front of television camera the next morning.

"Thank goodness that didn't happen," Owen said.

Somebody pulled some strings and allowed Owen to surrender himself in Columbia the next morning. There, in front of the television cameras, Owen stood before a judge, indicted and on his way to trial.

Through tears, Owen said, "I never in my wildest dreams ever thought my life would be reduced to this. I've never had any brushes with the law more than a speeding ticket in my life. It's just not right. I feel like I'm the sacrificial lamb."

Sometime in the next year, Owen expects to tell his story in front of a jury. He said his honesty and integrity are his best defense.

"If I ran a letter through the postage machine at the office, I put 37 cents in the petty cash drawer," Owen said.

If Owen should convince a jury to spare him a conviction, he will still face, perhaps, a greater challenge: Convincing the people who once thought him a king to once again trust and respect him.

"You know, with my reputation having been slammed like it has, no financial institution is going to hire me," Owen admitted. "But I'll do something. I'll survive and hopefully be happy."

Graciously reprinted fromThe Carolina Channel

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

The dog ate my homework

Today I met quite a pooch. I'd driven into a general aviation airport's restricted area and stepped out of my vehicle without looking both ways. The dog didn't even let out a bark before it charged. It surprised me with its ability to close on my knocking knees so quickly. A blinding, black blur, the dog covered thirty yard before I could think.

I don't know what I expected to happen, but I didn't expect the dog to be named Misty. Nor did I expect it to hit the ground in a skydiver's roll and beg to have her belly rubbed. I guess that's a toy poodle for ya.

So, that's my point. My life has becoming exceedingly uninteresting to me. At a time when I have confronted some of life's most honest but horrible eccentricities, I find the daily life about which I used to write a little mundane. In 60 days I have faced down some of the biggest challenges of my life. I have conquered fear, pain, and addictive manipulation. I have come to accept life is a game of choices.

Most of that stuff I'm not yet ready to write down. Some of it is still too fresh, some of it doesn't really belong to me. The rest is about as boring as not being attacked by a toy poodle named Misty.

Around me, the state of South Carolina faces its demons. One of its elder statesmen (okay, oldest and deadest statesmen) turned out to be less a racist and more a hypocrite. Around me, my friends face their demons. I'm still trying to decide if I sharpened their demon's pitchfork.

And me, I'm rubbing toy poodles on the belly. (Did I mention the dog had painted toenails--fire engine red to match her Christmas collar).

So, I lie in bed coming up with harebrained money making schemes (imagine...Personalized bobble-head dolls for the mass market...that's gold) to avoid facing the the real life questions: Stay or go, raise or fold, drink or be drunk.

Of course, all of the above makes me no different than anybody I know. It makes my life no worse or difficult with which to deal. However, it does really affect this blog.

In days of old, when life were boring, I found some of my daily stuff extraordinary.

Take that for instance. Besides offering a more-than-adequate profile of my schnozz, that picture shows me doing something few people get to do.

The man in the middle (aka the one without the badge or giant nose) surrendered to the cops less than 24 hours before this picture was taken. No one other than a couple cops yet spoken to him about why he thought it was fine idea to kill two law enforcement officers, then shoot at another 50 for about 14 hours.

So, this is Mr. Bixby getting pulled out of a cop car on his way to his first public appearance. Thanks to knowing the right guy, I happened to be in the right place to be the first guy to ask Mr. Bixby what made his trigger finger itchy.

A few years ago this kind of experience got me off. I remember one time when a guy who had raped and killed a 17 year-old girl took a swing at me, then offered to put a TV camera in a very uncomfortable place. One of my first posts was about a bank robber insulting my mother. Call me a madman, but I thought I could live forever as the guy who tried to get beaten up by killers and thieves.

Mr. Bixby (you wouldn't like him when he's angry) didn't care much about me. He told me he was not guilty and that the Governor or Attorney General could've stopped the killing. By the time I'd asked him how two elected officials could've stopped him from killing two cops, Bixby gone inside to continue being a wack-job.

I only wrote about it tonight because I found the picture online.

The moral of this poorly thought-out tale is this: I'm sorry for feeding you dime-store fiction. I just don't find my life all that interesting right now.

Of course, perhaps the queen protest too much. Maybe I'm just looking for a little emotional hand job.

If that's the case...well, so be it.

Sunday, December 14, 2003

A slightly less brief moment of fiction

Christmas in Vinyl-ville

The neighborhood Christmas parade inched up Park Road (Jenny liked to call it Park Avenue) in a much too jerky fashion. The grand marshal's bullhorn tore at window screens and scared sleeping dogs from slumber. The sirens from the Park Point Fire Department trucks screamed more of impending disaster than a merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.

Jerry didn't much give a damn, though. He was inside and not feeling in a holiday spirit. The TV talked and talked, and Ed Bradley moved his mouth in time with the words. Joey--Jenny had named him after learning what a baby kangaroo was called--had stretched out in front of the TV and stared up Ed's nose.

And Jerry sat with a glass of ginger ale in his hand.

"Merry Christmas, Park Point! Merry Christmas! Woooo!" Jerry didn't know the woman's name, nor would he recognize her face in the grocery store. But he did know the voice. He knew it by it's slow, nasal drawl and three years of living in the sprawling expanse of vinyl siding known as Park Point. Each year, that voice rode at the front of the holiday parade and called out to the Park Point residents. Jerry could tell by the sound of the voice that its owner was just pleased as Christmas punch to have such a grand responsibility.


It had been a little more than a year since the first time he heard the voice through anything other than a bullhorn. He'd had a bottle of Johnny Walker red in his hand. Sam's Liquor Hut had wide aisles that seemed to go on for miles. When Jerry was ten years younger, he was sure the long aisles were passageways to a more troubled, and hence more interesting existence.

Nine years later, as Sam took down his Thanksgiving special displays, Jerry stood with the bottle in his hand and stared toward the beer cooler wondering if he shouldn't buy a twelve pack in case the weather got bad that night. One aisle over, he heard the bullhorn voice.

"...I heard he drinks before he..."

It was a half-sentence, but enough to make Jerry stop looking at the Keystone in the cooler. That voice should be wishing him a Merry Christmas and happy fucking New Year. Instead, he was fairly sure it was using him as the subject of a little Park Place gossip.

"...Jenny said if he doesn't..."

Jerry put the bottle of Johnny red back on the shelf and walked for the door, making every effort not to see the face connected to the voice. Sam tried to say something from behind a cardboard turkey cutout but a paper feather poked him in the eye. Jerry was out the door and at home sitting in his recliner before Sam stopped cussing.

Two and a half weeks later, the voice came riding up the road, an ugly siren's call to the neighborhood kids to come out and see Santa. Jenny looked up from her magazine and then over at Jerry. The sweat from the glass of ginger ale was trickling down over his fingers.

"You okay?" his wife asked.

"Yeah. Sure."

"Okay." Back to the magazine.

Jerry hadn't told his wife that he was going on the wagon. He just did it. Cold turkey. He poured a half bottle of scotch and four beers down the sink early in the morning after the incident at Sam's. The same morning he went to the grocery store, bought a 12-pack of ginger ale, and had been nursing three or four glasses a night since then.

It was a sober Christmas, and a sober New Year. She kissed him under the mistletoe and at the stroke of midnight. Though she never said it, Jenny seemed pleased at the unexpected sobriety.

They had met in a bar six years before. He kissed her on the forehead the first night. By their third meeting his invitation to return to his apartment rode on a wave of scotch fumes. She accepted and started what Jerry would someday describe to Sam as three great years of careless monkey sex.

Three years later they married and pooled their resources. Together they had enough to buy a cookie cutter and cut out their slice of vinyl in Park Point. It was suburban bliss on .63 acres.

Jenny never once complained--not one word--about Jerry's frequent visits with Sam, Mr. Walker, and the Keystone cops. Not a peep when he was at a bar too late. Not even a whisper when he slept it off on Saturday and Sunday mornings. It wasn't until Jerry heard the Bullhorn Voice sans bullhorn that he thought he might have a problem.


After ten good years of hard core drinking, Jerry actually considered himself an accomplished, if not entirely committed drunk. So, once Madame Bullhorn decided to gossip within earshot, and once Jerry had rid himself of Johnny (and poor turkey-eyed Sam), a bit of animosity started to build in Jerry's heart and liver. What the hell did that woman know that he didn't? After a few conversations with Jenny, it seemed apparent the Grand Marshal and his wife (the Grand Poobah), had never spoken. And now he was sober.

Still, the following year went fairly well. Promotion at work. Lost some weight. Joey the kangaroo dog didn't bite him. All in all, while grudgingly clean and sober, Jerry was fairly happy.

It was that happiness and a sense that he could again be around booze without wanting to drink it that led Jerry to believe he owed old Sam an explanation. After all, Jerry had been buying his booze at the Liquor Hut for a decade and then one night he just disappeared. Sam probably thought he was dead.

"I thought you were dead." Sam was carefully pulling the cardboard turkey out of a Crown Royal box, paying close attention to the paper feather on the tail.

"Sam, for a couple of months I thought I was. Turns out--"

"...she's very unhappy..." It was her. Buried deep down the drink mixer aisle, the bullhorn woman was gabbing. Jerry couldn't see her, but he knew the voice. It was the voice that put a cork on his liver.

"...she said she's going to give it until after Thanksgiving..."

When Sam finished tacking the turkey to the wall, he turned around and Jerry was gone.

At home in his recliner an hour later, ginger ale half-gone and the dog on the floor, Jerry had looked up at his wife and asked for the first time in his marriage, "Hon, are we okay?"

Jenny had looked up from her magazine and said, "Okay? Of course, we are. Why would you ask a question like that?"

Jerry didn't answer. He just shrugged his shoulders and smiled at her as if to say, "I get a little paranoid when I'm sober."

She smiled back and dropped her eyes back to the glossy pages of Southern Living.

It started to make sense to Jerry. Bullhorn Breath had been wrong about how Jenny felt about his drinking. The old bat (he guessed she was old, anyway) probably made up the whole story just to bend the ear of some other biddy at Sam's. Probably made them feel a lot better about buying their booze, knowing there was a drunk who lived around the corner.

Lying, stupid bitch.

That evening, two nights before Thanksgiving, Jerry sat back in his recliner and smiled at the dog. He smiled at his wife. He sipped his ginger ale and thought about how he might go outside for the neighborhood Christmas parade this year. Just to flip the bird to that bitch with the bullhorn.

* * *

Jonathan Jerome (aka Jerry) Nix wondered why Jenny didn't think to use his first name in the note she left tacked to the fridge. "Dear Jerry," wasn't nearly as funny as "Dear John" would've been. Then again, Jenny was never much one for being clever.

It was only a few lines long.

Dear Jerry,

It breaks my heart to leave like this. You have always been a good husband. But my heart needs more. The first years of our marriage filled my heart with excitement. Now, our marriage feels stale and it will kill us both if I stay.

I love you,

Jerry held the letter in his hand as the Christmas parade wound through the streets. The sweat from the ginger ale glass had dripped onto the paper and smudged his name. In the distance, he could hear the bullhorn crackle as the procession rounded a corner.

"Merry Christmas, Park Point! Merry Christmas! Wooooo!"

"You got one thing right, you old bitch." Jerry said it as he stood up from the recliner. He wadded up the letter and tossed on the coffee table next to the stack of magazines.

He thought he might go see if Sam needed some help taking that old paper turkey off the wall.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003


"It's one of those nights," she said. She was lighting a menthol off the end of a smoking butt. The cash register hummed just underneath the buzz of the overhead fluorescents. Together, the noises almost masked the sounds of the crickets. Their little love song sang through the open door and it was getting on Little Liza's nerves.

"Crickets again, huh?" That was Randy. He never offered much in the way of conversation, but he certainly knew what the midnight crickets sounded like and he certainly knew how Little Liza felt about it.

"It's like they forgot to start coming on to each other when the sun went down and now they're waking up all horny." Daddy didn't call her "princess" for nothing.

Randy wanted to laugh, because her little joke was a little funny. His tired mind had somehow conjured up a picture of a cricket with morning wood. He knew if he opened his mouth, the picture would spill out in words and he would be embarrassed as only a 34 year-old married man can be.

Teresa didn't know that Randy's first stop on his way to work was the L'il Cricket on Highway 29. She knew he had to buy coffee somewhere, but she never asked where and she never asked who he bought it from. She thought pretty highly of her trusting nature. She considered it a virtue above most others. And if some little slut came on to Randy, well, he certainly knew better than to come back on. He was married, after all.

"I figure it this way..." Randy could hear the girl continuing as he walked to the coffee machine. Past the frappa-whatever, past the latte, past the frothy-milky-whatizt and straight to the tarry stuff on the far right.

"The big lights at the diner go on about the time the sun goes down. Then the diner closes at eleven. Billy shuts off the lights. By the time midnight rolls around, they feel like they've missed half their night, and they're screaming for some lovin'."

"The crickets or the people at the diner?" That was the best Randy could do as he put the lid on his coffee.

"What do you think, Smarty?" Little Liza had laid her cigarette in an ashtray by the register and turned to the wall of smokes behind her. "Need them tonight?"

Did he ever. Teresa had sucked out his breath tonight as he was getting ready for work.

* * *

"I stopped by the L'il Cricket this morning," she had said. "That Liza Gamble was there."

Randy continued brushing his teeth and grunted in time with the flush of the toilet. Teresa walked out of the bathroom, talking as she went. "I don't think she's a very nice girl."

Teresa opened the daycare in Anderson five days a week. She went in around 6am, a few hours before Randy got off, and about the time Liza Gamble was getting ready to go home.

Randy was spitting in the sink when Teresa poked her head back in the bathroom, "You know who she is, don't you?"

"Um...no, I don't think I do." As he wiped his mouth, he looked around a room for a razor to cut his throat. Damned mouth spoke before he could think. What the hell did his mouth know, anyway?

"Little girl, about 5'3" or so? Smokes those menthols and puts her elbows on the counter like a little girl?"

Think, goddammit.

"Jesus, honey. It's almost midnight." Randy rushed past her and out of the house into the driveway.

As he shoved the key into the ignition, he would've sworn he heard his wife call out from the porch, "I think she's a slut!"
* * *

"Hard pack right?" Liza Gamble looked over her shoulder with her hand on the row of Camels. "One or two?"

"Two." Randy fumbled in his pocket and pulled out a ten.

"So, you figure they like to get it on or nature just makes them do it? Six ninety." She barely looked at her fingers as they punched in the prices.

"What do you think?" Randy laid his ten on the counter and watched her take a drag off the cigarette.

"I figure it's a little of both. Three ten's your change" Exhale, menthol smoke slipping under Randy's hat and into his hair. He'd smell it there two hours later and be forced to take one of the three smoke breaks he was permitted during his shift.

"I guess you're probably right," he said taking the three ones and dime from the counter. He stood one half second longer then he'd planned to, then turned on his bootheels and walked for the open door.

"Your wife was in yesterday morning."

Randy tried not to stop like a cartoon character, boots squeaking and coffee leaking out from underneath the lid. He was not very successful. How casual could he possibly be?

"Oh, yeah?"

"Yeah, acted sort of strange. Said she thought her husband came in here every once in a while. Asked if I knew you." The menthol was almost out.

"Oh, yeah?" Randy could think of no more to say. He almost made a joke about cricket morning wood just to change the subject.

"Yeah. I told her I didn't think I'd ever seen you. Maybe you stopped at Elliot's Exxon or something."

"That right?" Randy was trying to hear the crickets over the breath in his chest.

"Yeah." Little Liza lit another menthol off the butt of the one she was smoking. "See you tomorrow night."

The air outside was warm and made his coffee cup seem warmer. Randy's truck engine was still ticking when he got back to his parking space. Inside, Liza put her elbows on the counter and looked out the window toward him like she did every night the crickets sang their midnight song.

Friday, December 05, 2003

If you buy this book...

I will never speak to you again.

First, let's wipe our shoes before we walk in the house.

There. Now that we've gotten the mess out of our boot waffles, let's talk about why this sucks.

Jayson Blair, foe to journalists and black people everywhere, is not only published, but now a little on the financially comfortable side. Taking in a reported half million dollars, he can now afford to doff his respectable New York Times tie and don a comfortable t-shirt for the cover of his book Burning Down My Master's House: My Life at The New York Times.

If you don't know the backstory, it's a simple as this. Blair lied his way into a job, lied about what he was doing when he was at work, and eventually lied to every one of the times 1.4 million subscribers about the stories on which he reported.

It was at once the worst thing that could have ever happened to journalism. The promotion and publication of a compulsive liar and cheat. The punishment should've been a lifetime working at McDonalds. The reward was, instead, a book deal.

The book's publisher defends his decision to publish an admitted liar and cheat as (paraphrasing here), "Well, he's not the first bad boy to get a deal."

I wish someone would please open an ethics book and show me the section on how precedent makes something that is clearly wrong right.

Burning down my master's house? Blair blatantly used America's system for making good on years of oppression to rise to the level of the national desk at the New York friggin' Times. And he takes a slavery shot? Pardon me, but fuck him.

The worst thing about people like Blair (read: liars who get caught then blame the people who caught them) is they expect to be rewarded for finally telling the truth. Blair takes it one step further, apparently, by not only asking for a reward, but blaming the accuser for his telling the lies in the first place.

I know a guy who writes pretty damned well. His political leanings don't always jibe with mine, but I've never held that against anybody. Especially when they tell the truth. And he does (as he sees it). He's written a few books. Publishers routinely ignore him. This guy has worked hard into his 50s. He lost his wife to cancer. Now he's living with his new dog and his writing. A $500,000 book deal would make his life a lot better.

I would love to buy Jayson Blair a drink only so I could throw it in his face.

It's one thing to lie, get caught, and apologize. It's another to lie, get caught, then make a living off it.

So, if you already bought me the book for Christmas, I'd suggest you return it. If the store gives you a merchandise credit, buy a copy of the book below and send it to Jayson Blair.

Thursday, December 04, 2003

My Own Private Suburbia

The pizza from Pebble Creek hung in that precarious spot between a tastebud exotic massage and burning the holy hell out of the roof of my mouth. The antici...pation(when I allowed myself that pleasure) always got to me. So, understand, I hung in the balance between the culinary equivalent of some good teenage sex and painful oblivion.

That's why the ringing phone gave me the red ass.

Who calls at this hour anyway? We're not too far away from Monday Night Football's kickoff, the dog is eying my pizza pie, and my tastebuds now have blue balls. I worried less about tastebud testicles and more about my own when I heard the voice on the other end of the line.

"Mr. Willis?" It was raspy, cigarette tarry, and only a little on the feminine side. That's why the woman on the other end of the line made my testicles curl up close to my body in an example of how over time evolution has taught nuts to protect themselves.

"Yes?" I ventured, my pizza pie forgotten, my dog looking smug, my manparts seeking greater refuge in the confines of a nearby coat closet.

Again in the Clint-Eastwood-meets-The-Terminator voice, "This is your Wreath Captain."

When a man loses control of his bladder in the middle of his own living room at the sound of an old woman's voice, the Constitution should mandate a photo be taken to help Webster illustrate the word "wuss."

It was my Wreath Captain, for the love of all that's holy.

Through my tremors I offered with the meekest of voices, "I don't have mine up yet?"

"No you do not."

"I'll put it up tonight?"

"Yes, you will."

These are the terrors that come from being a mere pawn in the Great Suburban Conspiracy. I am the Wreath Bearer (much like a wedding's ring bearer, but with fewer satin pillows). Above me there is a Street Captain. And above us all sits the Wreath Captain.

Every year on a date to be designated by the Great and Terrible Wreath Captain, each Wreath Bearer must drag his butt out in the cold and attach a fairly cheap-looking Christmas wreath to the street sign on his/her corner. The entire job takes all of 90 seconds. I had forgotten. What's more, the wreath under my responsibility was currently in use as a decoration for a bar I built in my garage.

My involvement in The Great Suburban Conspiracy wasn't necessarily what I had envisioned for myself ten years ago. I figured when midnight of my 30th birthday surprised me I'd either be dead or living in some secluded hermit hovel in the Ozark Mountains, picking nits out of my beard and fancying new ways to open cans of Vienna Sausages.

But now I sit on the second floor of my cookie cutter home, warm-footed from central heating, and listening to sleet peck at my windows. It was exactly one year ago tonight as my 28th year turned into my 29th that Addo the Armageddon Ice Storm lit up Mt. Willis and ruined my entire 29th year (see also: father has ruptured brain aneurysm and good friend toys with chaos theory).

As I try to go to sleep as a 30 year old child, I'll wonder if I'll be waking up again to a frozen world. Or, will the 29th year finally thaw and offer something on the side of "hey, let's do this life thing right this year!"

Maybe I'm getting a head start. Tonight I decorated a Christmas tree with my wife for the first time in three years. It was pleasantly normal and fit right in with the Great Suburban Conspiracy. Last night I talked to my dad on the phone for 15 minutes and I had to remind myself he was still recovering from three brain surgeries. He's doing so well that the doctors and therapists are moving on to people who really need a lot more help.

As I grudgingly make my way into my third decade, I recognize that my life and view of it have changed. My psyche is not going quietly. In the past two days I've yelled at people I respect and nearly broken down in tears at television promos. For the first time in 30 years I think I actually have found a reason to go nuts.

My tenuous grip on sanity notwithstanding, I have found optimism in a place I wouldn't have ever expected to find it: Right smack dab in the middle of the Great Suburban Conspiracy. Who knows what the next ten years will hold? Frankly, as Return of Addo the Armageddon Ice Storm brews over Paris Mountain, I don't really care what happens in the next decade, as long as I live it right.

My wreath is holding on against the winter storm. In 27 days, I'm sure the Wreath Captain will call and rouse me from my New Year's hangover and tell me to go get the wreath and put it back on my bar. Maybe I'll still be here to take it down.

Hell, I may even be here next year to put it up again.

Because if the last 365 days are any indication, being 30 has to be better than being 29.

Monday, December 01, 2003

Remember when I used to post?

So do I. Those were fine times, the bees knees, and the salad years. You logged on while sucking down a cheesesteak or healthy alternative tofu product. I wrote about the mundane but ubiquitous normalcies around me. It was a relationship worth holding on to. It was a union that could've resulted in something nice. Like a blog about cheesesteaks or tofu.

My last three posts have been about insomnia, Glenn Campbell, and television ratings. Anyone out there get the feeling I'm not writing honestly? Anyone out there think maybe I doth protest a little too much on the ratings wars? Maybe missed the boat on the real tragedy and symbolism behind Campbell's arrest and embarassment?

Yeah, me too.

One night--back when life was mundane and normal--I bought an child's old bank at an estate auction. It was an impulse buy based entirely on belief I could resell it on eBay for a larger sum than the few bucks I paid for it. It is a painted, wooden clown. I never sold it. It now sits on the edge of my desk and smiles at me. I don't know why I like it so much. But for some reason I've come to value it as much as I would if it had belonged to me as a child.

I catch myself every now and then wanting to slip into a brooder's lament about how everything I know and everything I loved has changed in the last six weeks. If I weren't so grateful for my dad still being alive, I think I'd be pretty pissed off at everything else that's gone on around me.

But you know, I'm not pissed. I'm not depressed. I'm not even all that disturbed. I'm simply way-tired and a little confused. And as a result, I'm having a bear of a time writing.

It's not for a lack of stories, because I have a lot.

A man, nearing 90, wanting to find a job. He wants a tiller to turn his garden this spring. Nine months ago he had $240,000 and could've bought as many tillers as he wanted. Now he has nothing. 2003's answer to robber barons took it all and left him and his sweet old wife with nothing but a little brick house and creased bible.

Two brothers who look very different are repeatedly mistaken for twins. Four years separate them. Somehow they become adults at the very same moment.

A man, seemingly happy in his life, finds himself on the verge of losing everything and doesn't understand why.

Colleagues disappearing, friends discovering themselves, a wife getting very, very sick.

I could write until the sun comes up and still not be close to finished.

But for some reason I can't. I start and it looks fake on the screen.

And still, in the light of only the computer screen, that little clown still smiles and clutches the orange ball in his hand. He knows that everything is going to be okay. He knows that life is too good to be bad.

And if he could talk, I think he might say out loud...we are too good to be bad to life.

If only we can all remember that.

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