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Wednesday, April 13, 2005

What's that knocking?

When I lived in Jackson, Mississippi, I endured the 18 longest, lonliest months of my life. I lived in a one-bedroom, third-floor apartment. Bowel-challenged geese cluttered the sidewalk outside. The only thing that really made me want to live on any given day was Homer's BBQ and Little Willie's BBQ. Oh, and the chance that I may someday escape the only real urban landscape in a dirty, Mississippi River delta state. Before I left, the Governor declared me an honorary Mississippian. So, I've got that going for me.

But before that, I discovered belly button cancer.

Some of you have heard this story. I spent an inordinate amount of time laying on a dirty, blue sectional sofa in nothing but my boxer shorts. More and more, I found myself staring into my navel. Before long, I discovered a freckle in my belly button that, over time, I truly believed was some early onset of cancer.

Now, it wasn't cancer. But it wasn't a joke. As a friend of mine who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer will tell you, you don't go joking about the Big C (incidentally, Felicia is getting ready to endure surgery and chemo, so any good thoughts you have, spare a few for her).

I eventually came to refer to the unexplainable, irrational fear of death and/or sickness as Belly Button Cancer. That is, any time you spend too much time staring at something or overexamining something, you're gonna find something wrong with it and you're bound to think it could lead to your eventual demise. My wife is guilty of it with L'il Otis. I'm guilty of it with the dog.

Now, please note, I've never really had a fear of death. I've lived a damned good life already and if I died tomorrow, I'd feel like I've been granted more good fortune than just about anybody I know.

That said, I spent a little time with an attorney today ironing out my will.

Now, I know. I'm 31 years old. I likely ain't going to die anytime soon. I should've died back in 1996 when I rode with an exceptionally drunk friend in the wrong lane of the highway between Columbia and Moberly. I should've died before that when I regularly drove a 1973 Mercury Cougar convertible down Farm Road 135 in Greene County at 125 mph. Hell, I probably should've died in January when I fell off the big fake rock. When I woke up the next day, I sure felt like I'd kissed death's ass a couple of times.

Still, as I sat in the attorney's office today talking about international plane crashes, fiery car wrecks, and unexpected deadly illnesses, I couldn't help but peek up the skirt of my own mortality.

For instance, this afternoon, I was scarfing some fast food and I had a brief series of chest pains that radiated into my left arm. A sure heart attack? Likely eating my food too fast.

My tailbone has been aching quite a bit lately, as has my left femur. Bone cancer? Likely just the remains of my fall in January and the amount of time I spend on my ass at a computer these days.

Just a few minutes ago, the local TV news showed a story about a high school where a man dressed as the Grim Reaper walked around the classrooms all day, pulling out students, and declaring them dead from a drunken driving crash. They had a very real looking funeral and everything. Spooky.

I guess this is the way it goes. I spent thirty years feeling invincable. I did a lot of supid things with the firm belief that ol' Reaper man had better people to kill off.

Now, though, my professional life is coming around to where I want it to be (would you believe I bought stock in MYSELF today?). My family is beautiful and a new joy every day. Even my dog seems to love me a bit more.

And get this...I don't feel invincable anymore.

Now, it's probably just a combination of Felicia's battle, the changes in my life, and the death talk with the attorney. Nonetheless, I'm feeling a little weird.

Of course, I can only do one thing and that's live this perfect little life the best I can and hope it lasts as ong as I want.

Which is forever, by the way.

Monday, April 11, 2005

BAR: Otis

If I'd pinched L'il Otis, the little scream couldn't have come at a better time. I was on Tryon Street in Charlotte, in a Methodist church. The preacher was getting the ceremony underway and using the word Christian twice in each sentence.

"We are gathered here in this Christian place to join these two Christians in Christian marriage. Um...I missed one. Um...Christian. There."

The beautiful bride walked in and joined her smiling redheaded husband at the altar. A bunch of overweight people sat in the pews.

I had L'il Otis on my lap. We sat at the end of the pew for a quick exit of necessary. The preacher got through a few Christians, then moved on to the preliminary "I-do" phase. I don't know what it is, but I always throught the "I-do" phase came at the end. Seems like every time I go to a wedding these days, the preacher is getting the couple to say "I do" about the time the grandmothers are getting ushered in. I think I actually heard about one preacher going back into the dressing room when the bride was half-naked, poking his head in and saying, "I do, right? Good. Oh, by the way...Christian."

So, the bride and the groom were "I doing" it really well when L'il Otis said, "Baaaaaaaaa."

I whispered, "No, son, you mean, 'I do.'"


I glanced at the wife who gave me the nod. Seconds later, I was out on Tryon Street with the kid. I thanked him for saving me from an in-law hitchin'. He kicked off his shoe and answered, "Ba."

A bum walked by and said something through a slur of cheap wine and funk. I had to ask him to repeat himself.

"Ba," he said.


"That boy," he said, "sure looks like his daddy."

I wanted to ask how in the world the drunk knew what the kid's daddy looked like, but that joke only gets a rise out of my wife. So, I said thanks and continued feeding the kid his bottle.

Eventually, L'il Otis didn't feel like bench sitting anymore, so we went for a drive. By and by, we passed a place with a sign that simply read "BAR" in big letters. I recognized the sign. A few years ago, there were (and maybe still are) a number of bars in a chain that went under the very original name "BAR." I spent some time in BAR: St. Louis during one very long bachelor party. I guess I was looking at BAR: Charlotte.

I don't spend much time in bars anymore. A lot of it has to do with the fact that L'il Otis isn't much of a drinker and I spend almost every night with him when Mrs. Otis is at work. Sure, he and I will sit around and have a few father and son brewskies, but he's a really cranky drunk, so I usually limit him to three or fourteen. Wait...that's not right.

Anyway, while I love my kid dearly and wouldn't trade him for unlimited bar revelry, I still misss those long nights of bellying up to a bar, fallling asleep on dirty tables, and waiting to see which of my friends will go outside to puke first.

By Sunday, we'd all made it home from the hitchin' and I'd taken to doing my first yard work of the year. Suburban lawn mowing is very therapeutic. Lot of time to think.

I'd forgotten to charge my iPod, so I was relegated to listening to the pounding unoiled motor of my lawnmower.

And I got to thinking.

A few years ago, my mom sent me a news clip about a guy who missed the bar scene. So, he opened up his little home bar. Everyyone was invited. Anytime he turned on his Corona sign, all neighbors and friends were welcome to come by for a drink.

And I got to thinking again.

I don't know if I can make it happen, but I'm thinking about doing the same thing on Mt. Willis. The plan is in its early stages, but I'm thinking about building a poker table, buying a few cases of beer, putting them on ice, and opening BAR: Otis every Friday night after L'il Otis goes to bed. Wanna play cards? Play cards. Wanna drink yourself silly? Be my guest. Wanna play guitars under the stars? Give me a second, and I'll grab my six-string.

It has to be better for my married friends than spending $100 a night and looking at girls they aren't allowed to touch.

Or maybe I'll just crawl back in my hole until L'il Otis is old enough to go buy beer for me.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Bradoween 5

No time for a big details-filled announcement. Just a heads-up for those who want to make travel plans.

Bradoween 5 (aka Bradoween V), will be August 20th, 2005, on Mt. Willis. For poker players, there will be a tournament early Saturday afternoon, followed by the Bradoween festivities that evening and into the next morning.

Futon and floor sleeping space will be available, but very limited due to the addition of L'il Otis. I suspect we could sleep around eight extra people on couches, big chairs, futons, and floors.

Please indicate interest about hotel rooms and I'll inquire locally.

Advertisting inquiries to:
blackjack terminology
New canadian casino online poker web, which is owned by 888 casino announced launching before a few months. They are focusing only on Canadians and their specific needs (e.g. payment methods etc.),so you are able to play online games such as poker comfortably in your national background.

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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