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Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Well, color me up

I did a lot of bitching about 2003. I even said earlier this year that besides the birth of L'il Otis, 2004 wasn't much better.

Well, I guess the squeaky wheel gets the grease.

Sorry about so much poker stuff, but this is about the coolest non-family thing that's happened to me since...well, since I got the paid blogging gig.

2004 is ending well, and 2005 looks damned good.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Pauly's wish, a community's reality

I met this guy a few weeks ago. Actually, I knew who Pauly was already. I'd been reading his blog for quite a while. But, I met him face to face a few weeks ago. When I finally shook his hand, slapped his back, and shared a few hours with him, I realized his was as real as his blog might have you believe. That was refreshing. I don't know how many people are just as cool in person as they might seem on their blog.

In the final days before Christmas, Pauly blogged a wish. He wanted 50 people in his blogging community and 50 blog readers to go buy a gift for a sick kid for the holidays. One hundred gifts for 100 sick kids. Not a bad idea.

So, I decided I was going to do it. Even if I was the only one who helped Pauly along, at least one kid would be a little happier. I sat back and tried to decide what I was going to buy, where I was going to take it, and when I'd actually find the time to do it.

And then I had an idea.

Those who know me know that I work in television news. More often than not, I spend my days dealing with dead people and politicians. While I always try to do something that benefits my community, more often than not, I'm reporting bad news. Ugly news. Dregs of humanity kinds of news.

This time of year, the office works on a skeleton crew, which means if I'm not covering the dead people, no one is. Still, I had to pitch the idea to the bosses. And they bought it.

Rather than simply buy a gift, I decided to encourage everyone who watches TV every night around here to go out and donate. That could've been accomplished in a couple minutes on one night by simply making the appeal. However, I thought that was a cheap cop out. Instead, I wanted to spend four days introducing everybody around here to some people they might not have known otherwise.

Funny thing....it worked. And as I understand it, Pauly got more than his wish. So, nice job Pauly.

And those people I met? Well, they were more of an inspiration than the dead people I tend to deal with. And their stories are worth repeating.



There are a lot of sick kids out there. All of their stories are hard to take. I met Kelsey last Tuesday. The doctor put her in the hospital a week before Christmas. Her only worry: That her hospitalization would ruin the holiday for her siblings. When I asked her what her Christmas wish was, she said it was to get out of the hospital in time for the holiday. And what if she doesn't get out in time? That was easy for her. All she wanted was for all the other sick kids to have a nice Christmas.

I've been inordiniately sappy recently, I'll admit. But that probably would've brought tears to my eyes anyway.


Allen was hooked on coke and hated himself for it. More than that, he was tired. He was tired of being up all night, in his words, "wondering where I was." Although, I didn't ask, I'm pretty sure he was speaking both figuratively and literally.

Finally, in one ultimate moment of fatigue, he wrote two letters, one to his mom and one to his kids. He apologized for being a father and son in absentia. He laid one letter on his right and one on his left. His roommate had an appointment and Allen knew he would be alone long enough. He opened a bottle and took 32 sleeping pills. He said the moments as he fell unconscious were the most peaceful he'd had in as long as he could remember.

As it turned out, his friend's appointment was canceled and she showed up to find Allen near death. She got him to the hospital, where doctors saved his life. Now, he's just a couple months away from graduating from a six-month rehab lock-up program. The problem, because he and the 50 other men in the program are restricted from doing anything but getting clean, they couldn't work to buy gifts for their kids.

Fortunately, 24 hours after Allen told his story, two truckloads of gifts showed up and no kid went without.


The other stories are nice, too. Bubba the dog saved a family froom dying but couldn't save their home. Mom had grown senile and forgot to pay the insurance premium. As such, not only was there little in the way of Christmas, but there was little in the ay of a home.

And then there was the mother of four who fell so far into addiction, she watched social services come and take her youngest. Now, she's two weeks from graduatinng from her rehab program and thanks to the public, has some gifts to give the kids she hopes to be with again soon.


Those were the poeple I just don't get to meet everyday. That is, they are people who have seen the end and doubled back to find the beginning again. You can judge those folks, but it doesn't do anybody any good. All you can do is respect them, hope your life doesn't take such a turn, and hope you have the strength to overcome if it does.

Thanks, Pauly for the idea.

Monday, December 20, 2004

2005, a year for dressing like Mr. T

I'm not the kind of guy to make New Year's resolutions. They are no more than a tool by which we can hate ourselves more than we already do. Not only do we already suck on a thousand different levels, we choose to doom ourselves to failure by resolving to accomplish impossible tasks.

Fortunately, an advertising agency with which I have an inadequate relationship has solved all my problems. The agency is famous for its clever holiday greeting cards. This year the ad wizards have allowed me to lampoon resolutions without having to try.

The card is designed like a Mad-Lib. The front of the card has a few holes and instructions on how to fill it in with names, objects, etc. After filling mine out in the car this morning, this is how it turned out.

In the year 2005, I resolve to work on my appearance. I'm going to get a mullet haircut to draw attention away from my hips. I'm also going to start dressing like Mr. T and eating peaches every day.

I'll shower four times a day, scrubbing with a toothbruth and Mr. Clean for the really dirty parts. Or maybe I'll just get a nosejob.

I also resolve to visit Fark.com less than 20 times a day and I'll quit signing Marty up for those naughty websites.

Have a snarky New Year.

Now, those are some resolutions I can guaran-damn-tee ya I won't be meeting. With the exception of dressing up like Mr. T and eating some peaches. Because that just sounds like fun.

So, what am I supposed to do with this information

It's 6am and I've just downed a glass of Guinness. Inside it was a half-shot of Makers and half-shot of Baileys. It's breakfast, after all.

I've propped myself up by my elbows on the bar and am sitting within whispering distance of a guy I'd first met face-to-face only six or so hours before.

"Otis, you should write a book."

The sun is coming up and it's painting the guy's face with an awkward mix of natural and fake light that would drive a professional photographer batty. Somewhere, a few seats down, a guy they call Big Mike is negotiating with the bartender to whip up another batch of what we just had.

I should write a book, they say.

I take a swig from the bottle sitting in front of me, scan the room for anybody who may be listening, and say half-outloud, but more to myself...

"A book. About what?"


The past six months have been an interesting time for me. I've endured a professional hellstorm of indifference. I've been blessed with the birth of my son. I've watched Mrs. Otis transform herself from porfessional woman, to mother, to a lovely amalgum of both.

And I've been writing quite a bit.

When I was in kindergarten, I didn't have much of a way to express myself. With crayola, I drew a particulary maudlin sketch of myself in a coffin. It was Memorial Day, after all. The picture landed me with a school counsellor.

By third grade, I was scribbling out the first of what would be reams of little stories. The first one, as I think I've written her before, was titled "The Ants" and chronicled a nasty little camping trip during which the family camper was invaded by big black ants. Write what you know, they say.

By my early high school years I was writing short stories about love lost and murderous thoughts. It's the kind of writing that today would get me kicked out of school and put on a police watch list for homicidal teenagers.

In college, I wrote, but I still don't know what it was all about. I have several notebooks that, in retropect, were little more than a paper-based blog. Looking back, it's probably good that I didn't have a blog back then. A lot of that stuff would've been perfectly embarassing to have out here in public view (as if breakfast Car Bombs aren't emabrassing enough for a 31 year old child).

Once I left college, I dispatched monthly e-mails to friends back home. I called them Deep South Updates. I recall one where I was so lonely and enamored with boneless, skinnless chicken breasts that I puzzled over whether salmonella could be considered a sexually transmitted disease.

And then I made it to where I am now. I met a lovely woman named Susannah who encouraged me to start a blog. That's this.

Then came Up For Poker. Then a local magazine. Then ALL IN magazine.

Then, yesterday, I wandered through Barnes and Noble on a Christmas shopping trip and happened to find a copy of a magazine on the shelf. Sure enough, there it was. My name on a couple of articles.

That was odd.

I stood in the perodical section and flipped through the magazine (the latest issue of ALL IN) and tried to get hold of the idea that I'm...

Well, shit, I don't want to get into that right now.

This is just an odd time for me.

I don't think it's any real secret that I've danced around the idea of being a writer for most of my life. I've always found an excuse, good or bad, not to play with the idea very much.

And, now, I find myself actually considering the possibility.

And, that friends, is a little spooky.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Now, this is the kind of post I like to write...

Editor's note: This post has been cross-blogged at Up For Poker for obvious reasons. It's included here...well, for obvious reasons

Let's talk a little bit about karma for a second.

I've always been a big believer in what comes around goes around. That goes for good and bad. If some malevolent creature conspires to hurt me or a friend, I feel like, regardless of the outcome, that creature will someday get her's.

It goes for good, too. And that's the good thing about karma. Pauly half-joked last week that he made it a point to give handouts to as many homeless people as he could find in hopes the poker gods would shine down on him in Vegas.

Karma can be a fun thing to consider as you live your humdrum lives. Perhaps more than that, it can be a good way to live your life. It's sort of an off-shoot of the golden rule. Do unto others, yada, yada, yada.

Now, I need to talk to you about Wil Wheaton a little bit.

As any poker blog reader knows, Wil is a poker playing uber blogger with the grandest of hearts. If you've read his latest book as I have, you'll find that despite his cheery insistances on his blog, he suffers many of the same slings and arrows as us regular shlubs. He gets interviews, auditions, nibbles from possible employers. And he gets turned down. Just like a regular human being.

Though I don't think he's ever stated it outright, Wil seems to live his life with karma in mind. He's lived a life of success and failure in a short thirty-something years and knows the outright orgasmic feeling of success as well as the chug some gin with some sleeping pills type of failure. Maybe that's what makes him human. More than that, that's what makes him the approachable and fantasically good person he is.

So, why, when I have to write about ten more installments of the trip report have I chosen this moment to kiss Wil's ass? Well, it goes a little something like this:

In the hours before I left for Vegas last Thursday night, I got a strange comment here on Up For Poker. It came from a familiar name. It asked that I send him an e-mail so we could discuss something.

At the time, I thought it was a joke. Bloggers and blog readers tend to be the lead dogs in the practical joke pack. But just in case it wasn't a joke, I shot off an e-mail to the commenter and tried to catch a few winks before I had to leave for the airport.

After three hours of restless sleep, I got up, showered, checked the clock, and realized I had time to check my e-mail before I hit the road.

At 4am Friday morning, I sat in my home office and had to fight the dog from gnawing on something that had fallen on the floor. That something was my jaw. It somehow fell off my face as I stared in amazement at the screen.

I'd now been instructed to call the commenter on his private cell phone line. Four in the morning seemed like an inappropriate time to make such a call, so I headed for the airport and tried to put the possibility out of my head.

Several hours later, just minutes after finding the bloggers in the Excalbur poker room, I slipped out into the lobby and made the call. It seemed to confirm that this wasn't a joke. This was for real and it was, in short, way cool.

It appeared I was up for a freelance writing/blogging gig. The commenter asked me to send him a short proposal by Monday. So, Sunday morning before heading to Mandalay for football and poker, I pulled up the high speed access in my room and sent of the proposal.

Last night, I got another e-mail telling me I got the job.


On January 4th, I'll be flying to the Bahamas to blog the Poker Stars Caribbean Adventure poker tournament. This will be a World Poker Tour event that eventually will be televised as part of the WPT series.

Jon Vorhaus did much the same thing for Ultimate Bet's Aruba Classic earlier this year.

After a lot of consideration about the possibilities of this blog and blogging in general, it's made me think about the future of the bloggiing medium and how important it can eventually be. I know that I've had discussions with a number of the blogging elite about the future of our poker blogging community. I can only hope this latest project can add to where we're going.

Oh, I never got around to why I'm kissing Wheaton's ass.

As it turned out, I wasn't Poker Stars first choice. They wanted Wil, but he had a conflict. Instead of sending Poker Stars the way of some famous guy's cousin, he pointed the site to me. And as a result, I get to add one more thing to my growing freelance resume. And it appears I'm going to have a damned ball in the process.

Wheaton, friends, is good people.

So, that's that. I'll have more details about the PCA blog in the coming days, where you'll find it, etc.

Thursday, December 16, 2004


It was around 3am Tuesday. I was in a Vegas poker room that in the previous three hours had suffered a brawl and a flood from the ceiling. I had profited about $200 in the previous hour and was feeling a familiar high that comes from several days without sleep and winning several pots in a row.

I was sitting at a poker table with two fellow bloggers, talking away our final hours in Vegas.

I looked at one of the bloggers and said, "You need to post more. I'm tired of waiting for a week or more between posts."

Another blogger looked across the table at me and gave me look that said, "You're one to talk."

And it was then, amid the smell of flood water and fight sweat that I realized he was right.

I started Rapid Eye Reality more than three years ago. I posted nearly every day, regardless of whether I had anything to say.

In the past several months, I've fallen off in my posts. As I've dedicated more and more of my life to poker, I've neglected writing about the other important things in my life. I think that sucks.

So, as I sat at this poker table, I decided on Pauly's urging to rededicate myself to Rapid Eye Reality.

I'm not sure what form that's going to take, but I'm excited about the prospect.

What's more, I have an exciting announcement to make in the next day or so.

In the meantime, I'm trying to purge my brain of my recent trip to Vegas and will be posting a great deal at Up For Poker.

I'm also trying to figure out--upon some other bloggers' urgings--how to syndicate RER. I think I may have accomplished it via Atom and Feedburner, but I'm not sure. So, any help more professional syndicators can offer would be much appreciated.

Below you'll find the links that I generated when I fumbled around with the syndication services. If somebody knows how I should proceed past that, shoot me an e-mail or drop me a comment.



Monday, December 06, 2004

Putting my money where my McNuggets are

Maybe not everybody has had those relationships where some of starkest memories are those of screaming, throwing glass dolphins, searching the house for missing psychedelic drugs, coming back later to retrieve borrowed VCRs, and driving nude. They are relationships best left unmentioned, especially since many of us have moved on to good partners who don't like screaming and have never thrown anything in anger.

However, even after we've moved on from years-long partnerships in pain, we sometimes find we've taken things away from the relationship that we didn't expect and from which we can't extricate ourselves. For instance, from the above-described relationship I took away an occasional desire to drown lima beans in butter and black pepper. I don't understand it. I'd never had lima beans before I started dating the girl and I've probably only had them a dozen times since. Perhaps it says a lot about the relationship that this is one of the most powerful memories I retain.

Well, there is one more. And it's what brings me here today.

During the 21 months we spent together, we ate a lot of fast food (another sign a relationship may be on its way into the great grease vat in the sky). McDonalds was a common meal for us. This particular girl got me started dipping my french fries in chicken McNugget sauce. Sometimes hot mustard. Sometimes sweet and sour sauce. Rarely, but occasionally, BBQ sauce.

And so for years after we parted ways, every time I order fries, I asked for a couple of McNugget sauces.

Anyone who knows me knows that almost five years ago a local McDonalds franchise took it upon itself to charge me for McNugget sauce. And anyone who knows me knows what happened as a result. We called it the McBoycott and its the longest-running boycott among my group of friends. During the past five years, I've estimated we've cost McDonalds thousands in dollars in lost revenue as a result of the twenty cents it charged me for McNugget sauce.

I had no plans to ever lift the McBoycott. I've not missed McDonald's food (with the exception of the McRib, which for some reason always made me quite happy). My health has been better as a result. And it narrows down my choices for the horrible food I have to to eat sometimes because my job doesn't allow for many sit-down lunches. It's also helped me find many great dining establishments that I otherwise might not have looked for. One of those places is a great Japanese grill and sushi place called Joy of Tokyo. I get takeout from there once or twice a month.

A few weeks ago, Mrs. Otis came home with The Joy. I greeted her like a dog that's been left alone all day. But instead of rubbing my belly when I rolled over, Mrs. Otis looked at me gravely.

"We have a problem," she said.

"Is it that I peed on the carpet when you came in? Because that only happens every once in a while."

In fact, the problem was worse than I'd expected. The Joy had charged Mrs. Otis for additional sauces.

I sat picking at my food, lost in thought, trying to ignore the obvious.

"You know what this means," the wife said.

I knew. What's good for the goose is good for The Joy.

So, I was faced with a choice. I either had to make that my last supper of Joy or call off the McBoycott.

I've weighed the decision for the past few weeks. After a lot of thought, I decided McDonalds has paid its penance. My friends and I will likely live several months longer as a result of our not eating the food.

I'm still quite conflicted about my decision. And I don't have any really good reasons for it. However, in my heart, I know I'm making the right call.

So...as of December 24th of this year (the five year anniversary of the McBoycott), the boycott is off.

I still encourage everyone to consider the reasons behind our actions and avoid eating too much of the horrible food that will eventually kill you if you make a habit of eating it.

My thanks to everyone who joined me in this endeavor. You made a difference. Your heart and arteries thank you. And I thank you.

Now, if you need me, I'll be dipping my sushi in McNugget sauce.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

The Breath-a-Phone

The bar was packed to the rafters. The Reverend Horton Heat was about to take the stage for some preachin'. Somebody had just bought the fifth or six rounds of Jager shots. The Cigar Store Indians were on tap for later in the night and the crew of HeCon: Atlanta was in full effect.

Much of the day is a blur. I'd just finished up a laborious three-day roadtrip to Richmond, VA, driven back to GreenVegas, drafted my XFL Fantasy League Team, apologized to my wife, and driven to Hotlanta. Once there, the crew of HeCon: Atlanta turned me into a blithering idiot. Before the end of the day I would be challenging an entire bar full of people to money games of billiards, cramming into an insta-photo booth with six guys, trying to defend G-Rob's honor against a short guy in a leather jacket, and stumbling into traffic.

Somewhere in the middle of it all, I found myself on the phone with Missouri. Not just a few people in Missouri. I had almost everybody in the state on the phone at one point or another. Most of the conversations began with the expected phrase, "Dude, I'm in Atlanta and I am wasted."

I'd like to to write it all off to misspent youth, but, in reality, this was only a few years ago. If it had only been annoying my friends in Missouri and racking up a helluva cell phone bill, it would've only been embarassing. Of course, that's leaving out the thing that almost got my cell phone privleges revoked.

We six guys stood in a loosely-formed circle, downing shots, buying expensive beers, waiting for the Rev to preach us something good. That's when I turned to G-Rob and handed him my cell phone.

"What's this?" he asked over the din.

"It's your wife," I said, as if it was the most reasonable thing in the world.

Yes. That's right. I had drunk-dialed G-Rob's house, perhaps forgetting for the moment that he was standing right next to me. His wife had answered and I thought, "Well, maybe G-Rob would like to talk to his wife, and what with him being all wasted and such, Mrs. G-Rob would certainly like to talk to him."

It was then (actually a couple of days later) that I had what alcoholics call "a moment of clarity."

I have a problem.

I'm a Drunk-Dialer.

It never used to be a big problem for me. In the past, everybody I knew was usually with me when I was drunk. But as I grew up and moved from state to state, most of my old drinking buddies were scattered about the country. I missed those folks and thought they'd love to share in my revelry.

So, as the years passed, I tried to confront my problem. In an intervention of sorts, my friends formed a short campaign of drunk-dialing me at all hours of the night. You know, just so I would know what it's like to be on the other end of the line. They employed all the old tricks:

"Man, I'm in X-city and I am wasted."
"Dude, I really wish you were here, man!"
"Man, this is just like the old days!"
"Hey, do you want to talk to my drunk friends? Here, let me pass the phone around!"

Looking back, I was quite the asshole. It's the things you don't realize until later that make you feel like a heel.

Much like the zenith of all addicitions, this one comes to a head in a particularly bloody fashion.

It was Christmas Party season a few years ago. My company had the most tiresome Christmas parties. All of the fun had been sucked out of them by corporate structuring and mandates. The only thing left to do was sit with my boss, drink scotch, and wait for it to be over. By the time we left, I was lit up, but acting at least somewhat responsible. My wife and I went to an after-party where I continued the binge. Within a couple of hours, word began to circulate that I had disappeared. When my wife found me, I was in a very precarious position.

That's right, friends, I was on the phone.

Now, I could've lied and said I was ordering a pizza or checking the time and temp. Hell, I could've lied and said I was on the phone with Marty. Or G-Rob's wife. But, as it is my crutch, I told the truth. I was on the phone with Stacy Lampe.

Lampe was a friend of mine from college. She and I never had a romantic relationship, though I'll admit pining for her during my freshman year. At some point during the evening, I got to thinking, "I wonder whatever happened to Lampe?"

The great enabler of all Drunk-Dialers is Directory Assistance. Within a few minutes, I had found Lampe's number and got her on the phone. Turned out, she was married like me. No word on how her husband felt about the midnight call.

At the time, I didn't see what the big deal was. However, as Mrs. Otis left me to stew in my own juices at the party, I began to realize that my Drunk-Dialing had risen to the level that it was affecting my family. I had to put an end to it. Right then and there.

Some friends decided that cell phone companies could make a mint if they'd develop the Breath-a-Phone, a cell with a built-in Blood Alcohol Content analyzer. Any BAC over .08 and the phone won't dial out except to 911.

It actually became a bit of a joke after that. Anytime I started tying one on, my friends would casually mention the Breath-a-Phone and I would dial back my silliness.

Since that time, I'm proud to say that I am now several years into Drunk-Dial sobriety. In the few times I've been able to get lit in the past year, I've only dialed out for taxi cabs.

Then, when I arrived at work this morning, Zip had e-mailed me an article.

Ever woken up one morning with a raging hangover that was promptly worsened by the memory of the drunken cell phone call to the ex at 3 a.m.?

If the memory is not painful enough, the aftermath--potentially involving apologies, restraining orders, a "friendly visit" from the ex's new partner (who is probably either a black belt in Zen Do Kai or a leading underworld figure) and sundry other humiliations--adds to the agony.

Amid the flurry of capped plans, bundling and discounting characterizing the pre-Christmas mobile marketplace, Australia's Virgin Mobile has sought to differentiate itself with a service tailored to help people avoid making those embarrassing drunken calls.

A survey of 409 people by Virgin Mobile, a joint venture of The Virgin Group and Optus, found 95 percent made drunken phone calls. Of those calls, 30 percent were to ex-partners, 19 percent to current partners, and 36 percent to other people, including their bosses.

The company said that, beginning Wednesday, Virgin Mobile customers could dial 333 plus a phone number they don't want to call when drunk. Virgin Mobile would--for a 25-cent fee--stop all calls to that number by blacklisting it until 6 a.m. the following day.

Finally, a cell phone company that recognizes the problems we DDers face.

Now, if I could just find a company that would keep me from doing shots of Jim Beam with G-Rob...now that would be a service I'd pay for.

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Rapid Eye Reality is the personal blog of writer Brad Willis, aka Otis.
All poker stories, travelogues, food writing, parenting and marriage advice, crime stories, and other writing should be taken with a grain of salt. It is also all protected under a Creative Commons license