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Archive for February, 2009

The Rest of the Story – Rest in Peace

Saturday, February 28th, 2009

The Rest of the Story

Though my overall memories of school are fairly horrendous, there are parts that I recall quite fondly.  One of these would be the 45 minute-long  bus ride from my hometown of Maringouin to my school in the city of  New Roads.  My bus driver was a country music fan; a taste in genre I did not share with her or the vast majority of people in southern Louisiana.  The dial, therefore, was permanently set at 101.5, WYNK - a position that seemed to bother no one but myself.  To remedy this, I never boarded the bus without my trusty headphones and a cache of Def Leppard cassette tapes packed inside of my booksack.  Every ride home, I drowned out the cacophony that is a busload of hyper children and the twang of "today's greatest country" by blasting Hysteria at near-full volume.

The ride to school, however, was a different story.  Instead of of country music, mornings on WYNK featured Paul Harvey telling "The Rest of the Story" and other gems that I treasured listening to.  Most of the children were still half-asleep, so it wasn't hard to tune out the low buzz of talking and listen to Paul Harvey's genial, velvety voice.  His stories always made me smile, or think, and I didn't feel my day would be complete without his signature "Good day" at the end of his show.

Sometimes we would make it to school before the show was over, and I found myself waiting to be the last off the bus so that I could hear "the rest of the story" and the "good day" that always seemed to make mine just that.  I didn't know what Paul Harvey looked like (it wasn't as if I could go and look him up on the Internet in 1989, after all) but I imagined him always smiling, kindly and middle-aged with dark glasses (for some reason).  I remember hearing him talk about Bose speakers and being generally fascinated by any and every product he was happening to hawk on any particular show; the man was as amazing a salesman as he was a storyteller.

As Keith Pieper says, in his article "What Paul Harvey Might Say About Internet Advertising" at his website, Pay the Pieper:

His content is interesting, informative, and compelling. He remembers the small person. He features the big ones. He talks with you, not to you. Instead of cramming crap into a small space, he uses silence as a weapon of interest. He's someone you like. He has personality. He's someone you trust. He's someone who's impact cannot be measured.  - Keith Pieper

I couldn't have said it better myself.  Paul Harvey is a warm, fuzzy memory of my younger days - his voice brings back convivial feelings of an old friend with whom I spent many cold mornings riding along with to school.  He was a talented broadcaster whose full and smiling voice flowed through homes and out of cars in, literally, generations of families.  As I write this, the 90 year-old Paul Harvey is no longer with us - he passed away only a few hours ago.  It feels as if America has lost a dear friend...he will be missed.

You’ve Got a Little Something On Your Forehead

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

First thing this morning, I was sitting in my office getting ready to start the day.  The #2 in charge of the agency I work for was making his way down the hallway, greeting everyone as he walked by.

He stopped for a moment in my doorway; long enough to tell me good morning and to ask me how I was doing.

I immediately noticed he had - what looked like - an ink smudge on his face and wondered if I should say anything.  It was one of those, "If I had a booger, ink smudge, toilet paper on my heel, etc. I'd want someone to tell me" moments.

So, bravely and - thinking I'm being helpful - I blurted out, "Oh, um, you've got something, looks like an ink smudge...er, on your forehead."

To which he replied, "Oh no, that's my ashes.  For Lent."

*foreheadslap*

"Oh, oh god, I...," I stammered.  "Right.  Lent.  I'm sorry...I'm Methodist."

Good answer, eh? 0_O

The worse part was the look on his face as he explained his ashy forehead to me.  It was complete confusion; as if he couldn't figure out if I was serious (and very stupid or an atheist - or both) or joking (and had a fairly lame sense of humor).  Either way, I'd say his opinion of me likely dropped a few notches - which is great; I totally need one of the highest bosses in the office thinking I'm a half-witted, God-hating Bible-burner with a bad sense of humor.

Domains for Sale!

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

In case anyone were actually interested, I thought I should make note here of a few domain names I've picked up along the way that I would like to sell.  These are for sale at GoDaddy Auctions, and set on Buy Now or Bid status.  Get 'em while they're hot!

I also have thefringepress.com which I'm debating on putting up for sale or keeping.  I sort of like it.

Anyhow, if you're interested in any of the above domains, please visit GoDaddy Auctions or click on the domain links listed above to go directly to each domain name's individual buy/bid page.

The Future Mrs. Worm

Thursday, February 12th, 2009

I realize that - originally - this post was filled with Latin lorem ipsum and I apologize for that (if you're a writer or designer & don't know what 'lorem ipsum' is, I highly suggest clicking on that link).  I uploaded the photo of us in Nashville and forgot to "un-publish" the blog post until I could actually write something on it.  Here is what you should have been seeing:

On Christmas Day, as I sat - with a bad cold - feeling miserable at my computer desk and dreading the rest of the holidaze visiting and traveling we were going to have to do, Baret asked me how I felt.

"Like crap," I muttered.

He stepped out of the room, but I thought nothing of it until he returned holding a little black box.

My pace quickened as he handed it to me and asked, innocently, if that would make me feel better.

My mind was screaming, "Nooooo! That is terrifying!  Feel better?!  I feel like I may have a heart attack!"

But I simply nodded.  He opened the box, got on one knee and told me he loved our life, couldn't imagine living it without me, and that he wanted to let me know he meant it, he was serious, that I was the woman for him.  Then he asked me to marry him.

At this point, all I could stutter out was, "Are you serious?"  (Very romantic, I know)

He snapped the box shut, laughed, and put it on my desk, teasingly telling me, "No, not at all.  It was just a joke."

I smiled weakly and said, "OMFGWTFBBQ THIS IS NOT HAPPENING TO ME!" (in my head) and, "Yes", aloud.

I then stuck out my shaking hand, and he slid the ring - too big, he said we'd get it resized - onto my finger.

It felt like a 100 lb. weight.  We hugged and kissed; I cried a little.  I was...confused.  On one hand I was thrilled, excited, and so in love with my sweet, near-perfect man in that moment.  On the other, all of my previous fears about marriage (remember, I've never seen a happy one) were crushing down on me, and my childhood voice rung in my ears, "I'm never getting married!"

Saying "yes" was going against everything I'd ever sworn to myself.  It was a step I swore I would never take.

I reasoned with myself, though.  I will never - as long as I look - find another Baret.  Everyone wants one!  If I had a nickel for everytime someone said, "Everybody needs a Baret!" or "Everyone loves Baret!", I'd be able to quit my day job.  It's just that he really is that amazing.  And he loves me - adores me, even.  He takes care of me, helps me be more stable, and makes me laugh - constantly.  He lets me be myself, while also helping me improve my less responsible qualities.  I am a better person because of him, and that is simply the truth.  As much as I fight against his sage lessons about "being a grown-up", it does seep in and I do change - for the better.

Also, let's be honest - not many men are jumping at the chance to live with and take care of a semi-handicapped mate.  Besides the perk of lifetime good parking, there are a lot of cons that come with dating me.  Baret has been there since the beginning - before I was so disabled - and has helped me get to the point I am today (almost completely self-sufficient).  He doesn't mind pushing me around in a wheelchair when I need it or packing my seat-walker into the car.  He's not embarassed to walk beside me when I use my cane (which I'm supposed to always do, per my doctor, but which I generally don't because...well, would you want to?).

After the shock wore off, I became more comfortable with the idea; even a little excited about planning the wedding (which I, also, said I'd never do because Mom taught me at a young age that weddings were a "stupid waste of money").  That became deeply ingrained in me and I'm having a hard time with it.  As soon as I get excited about something wedding-related, a part of my brain begins to scold and mock me, "Stupid, stupid, stupid!"  But Baret and I talked it over, and he said he really wants a nice wedding - the whole me walking down the aisle towards him-bit.  He says he only ever plans to do this once (I never planned for even that much!) and the fact that he loves me enough to marry me means he wants to do it right.  That meant a lot to me.  Especially since most guys don't give a crap about the actual wedding and want nothing to do with its planning, but Baret has been excited and very patient as I drool over colors, flowers, décor, dresses, and locations in magazines and online.  He doesn't roll his eyes or look put-out when I discuss colors with him or go over the cake top we want.  He is genuinely interested in planning our wedding together.  I'd be a fool not to marry this guy, believe me, I know!

My sister is getting married in early October, so most family wedding planning is focused on her right now, which is awesome.  I can get some ideas helping her out (she made me cry when she asked me to be her maid-of-honor and of course I asked her to be mine...she's my sista!)  My sister deserves all the happiness in the world, she's suffered a lot, and the smile on her face these days brings joy to my heart.  She's very happy, and that makes us all happy.  Naturally, I wish she and Blake all the happiness in the world.

For me, I'm pretty convinced I've stumbled upon a goldmine of a guy.  Letting him go would be a mistake (not that he'd leave if I'd said "no" but still).  It's taking our relationship to the next level, making a promise to one another, showing the world how much we love one another.  After seven and a half years together, five of those actually living together, I don't expect there to be many surprises.  Still, I sort of get goose-bumpy thinking about tackling things in life as a married couple.  Now that I've let myself embrace the idea, it doesn't seem as horrifying as it once did.  I mean, I'm marrying Baret.  That right there makes it...totally cool.

Abuse of Power

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

I have a dear friend that lives his life inside the walls of the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola.  He is serving a life sentence for past transgressions, and I have been witness to his growth in the past 10+ years spiritually, mentally, and emotionally.  He is not the hot-headed, rash, and foolish young man that walked through those gates so long ago.  Today, he is a refined, retrospective, and calm man who centers his life around his spiritual devotions and in helping others.

His job at the prison is that of head baker; a position he loves and has worked hard to not only maintain but to excel in.  He is a model inmate, causing no problems, and who does his work from 1am until, often, 4 or 5pm the following evening without complaint.  He takes great pride in making the best baked goods ever tasted inside prison walls, and - from the compliments he receives - he just may be accomplishing this.

In the many years that I have been his friend and outside-voice, I have seen numerous abuses of power.  It is simply the way of prison life.  Saying it is a different world when you walk into those gates is a bit of an understatement.  It is not anything like the world we exist in out here.  There have been many times I have had to go to bat for him, to stand up for him and decry the unwarranted reproofs he was being subjected to.

Don't get me wrong.  It is impossible to be an angel and survive in such an environment.  Sometimes punishments were warranted, and he "took his licks", as he says, with nary a reproach.  It was the times that they were not that I am writing about.

Burl Cain runs a tight ship and, as far as prisons goes, Angola is a model that others often attempt to emulate.  Yet even with the most stringent of rules and policies, bad apples fall from the woodwork, worming their way through infrastructure and causing discord wherever they go.  To be a prison guard is a unqiue choice for occupation, let's be honest.  One could never call it "easy", and I can't imagine how difficult it must be to walk that fine line between being fair and tough; between doing your job and not losing your soul.  Inmates are not angelic creatures, and a great many of them are born con-artists.  How friendly and fair can you be without getting walked all over?  I would imagine it's a constant mental struggle.

That said, there are individuals that - I believe - go into the field of warders with less conscientious sets of mind.  Some enjoy the power; the authority over "lesser" persons that they can wield how they see fit while affecting actual lives with the bark of every order .  Others, natural bullies, relish the ability to constantly taunt people who cannot fight back.  There are more, but you get the point.

These types of people sicken me.  It takes a very lowly-type of person to kick others when they are down  and to hurt other human beings simply because you know they are powerless to defend themselves.  Can there be any good in such blackened hearts?

Do not forget; inmates are in prison as punishment.  In fact, that is their punishment.  It is not the guards' job to punish them further.  They are there to maintain order and peace; no more.  Regardless, there are those who set themselves into that very different world with its very savage rules and set about playing games as if it were all a giant chess board, and with the inmates as no more than pawns rather than the thinking, feeling human beings that they are.

It is because of one such individual - not the first I have encountered, by any means, but the latest - that I sit down to write this.  He is known as Major Groom and is a major over Camp C at Angola.  He has, for weeks now, tormented my friend and others.  For reasons known only to him, he feels it his duty - or perhaps it is simply his pleasure - to play dangerous games with the lives of his charges.  As my friend goes about his work, concentrating only on the job at hand, Major Groom is there with is sly comments and veiled threats.

It's nothing new nor is his type and so we chose to ignore it.  That is until yesterday when Major Groom preceded to leak a bold-faced lie to another inmate and label my friend a "rat".  I need not explain to you the implications of such a label in a prison environment.  Major Groom informed this other inmate that my friend - known inside as Pencil - had told him that a rack of eggs left on a counter were his.  This is a problem, as an entire rack of eggs left out for an inmate to use as his personal issue is forbidden and if an inmate where to do such a thing he would be written up for stealing.  This other inmate knew the eggs were not his and that he had not put them there, and - most importantly - that my friend would never, not even under the threat of torture, rat on anyone for anything.

This could have been serious.  Had this other inmate not personally known Pencil, had he not known Pencil is no rat and would never have done such a thing, that inmate could have taken umbrage with being called out like this (and possibly written-up over it).  As it stands, Major Groom called another kitchen staff member who informed him that she had put the eggs there; it was not the conspiracy he was trying to make it out to be.  What if this other inmate had attacked Pencil for ratting on him?  It is not out of the realm of possibility; in fact, in that world, it is the norm.

What could Major Groom gain by concocting such a lie?  To turn the inmates against one another?  Does he not realize the danger he possibly puts his other co-workers in by such irresponsible actions?  What if a fight had broken out over this?  In his attempt to ruin Pencil's reputation - or whatever else he was attempting to do - he could have cause a great deal of trouble.  And this isn't his first rodeo.

Other inmates have similar complaints against Major Groom; and apparently - though I cannot prove it - at least one of them has already written an ARP complaint on him for the same thing.  What does it mean when such rogues are allowed to continue such reckless games, and are accorded such a high rank to do so in?  If wardens are aware of his behavior, why has something not been done?

These are the questions I am posing to Angola tomorrow morning as I call and wait for answers.  I will put in a call to the warden of Camp C, and I am ready to take this to Burl Cain himself if need be.  There is little that riles me quite as much as abuse of power, and playing games with innocent peoples' lives.  These men are simply trying to do their time and make the best of it.  It would be more than unfair - and even unjust - to see them brought down - moved to a cellblock or lose their jobs - over lies and trouble stirred up by someone such as Major Groom.  I, for one, will not sit idly by and watch it happen yet again.

Please check back.  I will update this entry with the response I get from the warden.