category: There Will Come Soft Rains

Steal This Base

Anyone who’s ever talked to me about playing baseball as a kid has inevitably heard my “two baseball stories” (mentioned in passing a couple years ago). To those of you, I’m sorry, but here we go again (you may want to scroll to the bottom, though, for the nifty video link). To the rest of you… beware as my head’s about to grow quite large from bragging.

Story #1

Picture it… 1987… the Major T-Shirt league… the first game of the season. Major T-Shirt was nice because it was the first year where the coaches didn’t pitch and base-stealing was allowed. At that point in my life, I was quick… I was never the biggest or most physically talented, but I was always really fast as a kid, especially in short bursts. Just the skills one needs for base-stealing on unsuspecting peers. The first game of the season, I stole every base—including home—three times. I couldn’t be stopped. I ended the year with 45 stolen bases, nine of them in that first game. “The White Vince Coleman,” they called me. Or I called myself. I can’t remember.

Story #2

In a league whose name I can’t remember—it was the one for 8th and 9th graders, but wasn’t connected to school in any way—I was playing in one of my last two seasons of baseball. I was still speedy and often taunted the pitcher and catcher by taking such a huge lead off of the base that I was literally halfway to the next base by the time the pitcher threw his pitch.

A few games into the season, the coaches saw that I was an alright fielder and a decent pitcher, but a pretty lousy hitter. I wasn’t the worst, but I was certainly in the bottom half of the team. At this point, they had me batting dead last in the line-up because I had started the year with an abysmal batting average. In the last inning, our team was down by two runs with two outs and the bases were loaded. I was up. Can you hear the dramatic music playing in the background? I can now, but then all I could hear was the coaches and my teammates groaning as Mr. Dead-Last-in-the-Lineup stepped to the plate. I didn’t even have much confidence in myself, really. But one or two pitches into the count, I swung and cracked one into deep left field, well over the head of the left fielder. The ball landed and rolled to the left field fence. One run came in easily, and so did the next. The winning run rounded third base and made it in before the throw was even in the air. Even though the game was over by professional standards, the play continued. I rounded home at top speed without even looking for the ball and made it into home, standing. A grand-slam game-winner from the last batter in the lineup. It’s the stuff great endings are made of.

The next game I was batting clean-up, but went oh-fer.

Now the video… I don’t have footage of either of the two stories above, so you’ll just have to take my word that they happened. But I do have a little footage from a Little League game in 1988 where I was playing left field and made a pretty bad ass throw to home plate. Please right-click and save the clip so you can save my bandwidth and enjoy the amazing play over and over.

(In case there was ever any doubt as to my eternal dorkiness, even after a good play, notice how when I run in from left field and jump up in triumph that I knock my own cap off. DORK!)

Adjusting misconceptions

I’ve been following the recent news about Texas sodomy laws and have just been astounded. Seriously, though, isn’t it amazing that this is still an issue? Good Lord… we have certain senators saying that no, he has no problem with homosexuals… the problem is with homosexual acts! Oooooh… that clears it up.

I’d like to think we’ve advanced far enough as a society that sexual preference and practices between consenting adults are no longer issues, but alas, they still are in many states and to many people. “Live and let live” is just too much for some people.

I’m convinced that humans, in general, aren’t happy unless they have something or someone to hate, even if it’s with little or no reason. I remember a time in middle school that I had to write an essay about prejudices. I had a really hard time… everyone else in my class found it so easy to pick out a group to write about, but I had to actually make something up about a group of people and a reason that I felt a prejudice against them. I felt out of place.

That said, I admittedly had an unfriendly attitude towards homosexuals in high school. Throughout my life, I never knew anyone that was outwardly gay. I didn’t feel like I had any bad feelings towards people with different sexual preferences, but when a male from a nearby high school hit on me, a lot of unfamiliar feelings started to pop up.

A friend and I went to a nearby high school to interview for a possible DJing gig for a dance sponsored by the school’s Army ROTC program. A student slightly older than me named Raphael interviewed us. He seemed nice enough and the interview went well. It looked like my friend and I were going to have no problem securing the gig. That night, Raphael called me at home.

The conversation started normally enough. We chatted a bit about the interview, about the types of music to play and such. But a few minutes in, things took a weird turn. “You know,” he said to me. “You’re really attractive.”

A bit confused, I stammered, “Uh… ok. Thanks…?”

“Really. You are. Hey,” Raphael said, “what are you wearing?”

I was getting a bit nervous, but acted confused to cover up my anxiousness. “Huh?”

“Are you naked right now?”

Trying to hide how freaked out I was at the moment, I told him, “Alright… you’re making me really uncomfortable right now. I’m straight, dude.” I really said “dude.”

“Oh, come on. Are you naked?”

“Gotta go,” I said, and hung up. I had to go babysit, but I was a bit flustered, not sure what I was feeling.

We didn’t end up DJing the dance. Raphael never called back, and I didn’t bother to, either. In the months that followed, I told the friend of mine that introduced me to Raphael what had happened. He took it up with Raphael, who denied it. I told my friend that “I don’t want you to do anything to him, I just wanted you to know why we’re not DJing that dance.” But inside, I was angry. Angry with something that was unfamiliar to me, really just because it was unfamiliar. At the time, though, I just said, “I don’t hate gays… but they better not hit on me.” And I used the “f” word a few times, too, always feeling vaguely uncomfortable when I said it.

That was the first (and, I think, only) time that I was hit on by another guy. Honestly, it wouldn’t have been a big deal except it was also my first experience with anyone that was outwardly gay. Since then, I’ve gone to school with, met, and become friends with any number of gay men and women and, thankfully, my outlook has done a 180 versus my original reaction to Raphael. It was because I was unaware that I was angry and afraid. What I went through was no different than what women go through when they’re hit on by a man they have no interest in. But at the time, I didn’t realize that.

It’s been ten years since my encounter with Raphael and looking back, I can’t believe I was that person. I hate the fact that I had hate in my heart because of something as inconsequential as sexual preference. I’m amazed that I somehow thought my rights as a straight person to feel comfortable usurped Raphael’s rights as a gay person to express an attraction to me. It’s all such silly shit we worry about sometimes… and I’m really thankful that time and experience has opened up those areas of my brain that were shut so tightly before. It’s a lot of work to hate… it’s much easier to just let people do their thing.

Perhaps all Representative Santorum needs is some “experience” and some time to process it. Raphael: if you stumble upon this page, you can reach Mr. Santorum at (202) 224-63…

A Place to Call Home

One thing I enjoy most about visiting my parents’ house is the silence at night, a silence that’s punctuated only by the sounds of crickets chirping. Crickets are weird beasts… they can be incredibly annoying, chirping away in your basement while you just search for the damn thing, but when there are dozens of them outside in the woods at night, reminding you that they’re there, they make sleeping a little bit easier.

I moved to Virginia four years ago after college and I looked for that feeling I get when I visit my parents’ house, laying in bed with the window open. I continued to look for that contented feeling two years ago when Huyen and I bought our house. But that peace eluded me… like I couldn’t find that quiet, meditative nature at night without being in the woods, back in New Jersey. But, a few weeks ago, I noticed something.

There are crickets here, too.

It was one of the first cool nights after a long summer of obnoxiously hot ones. The window was open, I was laying in bed, and Huyen was checking her e-mail. I paused for a moment, and felt the tightness in my shoulders relax a bit. My mind stopped racing, thinking about work, all the things that I owed people, all the coming weekends that were booked.

And I listened to the crickets.

They’re out there. Not in full force like at my parents’ house, but there’s still an army out there, chirping away, somewhere in the distance. And when I took notice that they had followed me to Virginia, I really felt like I was home. Like this is where I’m meant to be right now, and that that peaceful feeling is within reach, wherever I may be, physically. Maybe even when the crickets aren’t there.

It’s like when you first move out of your parents’ house and when you’re going back to visit them, you tell people, “I’m going home,” even though you don’t live there anymore. It takes a while to realize that home isn’t a place you used to live or are going to live someday… it’s where you are when you come to that realization.

When I make trips to New Jersey for movies or to visit family, I doubt I’ll slip at the lip anymore. I won’t accidentally answer, “I’m headed home” when someone asks what I’m doing this weekend. Instead, I’ll say, “I’m headed to New Jersey.”

“I’ll be back home on Sunday.”

My Dream Job

There are a few dreams I have in life… one is to live in a log cabin with a big front porch and huge kitchen, on a lake in the woods somewhere in southern New England (in other words, the perfect 1980s slasher movie setting). My other dream is to own the kind of business that I would love to visit on a daily basis: a record shop/diner/tea room/movie theatre.

Picture it… you walk in the front door and to your right there’s a small, diner-type area set up. At the counter there are seven or eight stools, and in the remainder of the space there are three or four booths. The smells from the diner are overwhelming, but not from the odors of steak or chicken, but from the aromas of falafel, curried chickpeas, and veggie burgers. This diner serves up strictly vegetarian fare, and the menu specifies which dishes are vegan. All the ingredients are organic and purchased from local growers. There’s a variety of ethnic fare, including ital Jamaican dishes and traditional Southeast Asian dishes. And yeah, that’s me you see behind the counter, cooking.

In addition, the drink menu offers a wide variety of loose teas for the connoisseurs, served in one of many authentic Yixing teapots. Gong fu brewing is available on request. There are green teas, white teas (all available varieties), Assams, oolongs, and Jasmines in addition to some of the more common black teas. The tea will be decaffienated by request.

An artist's rendering of my business.

An artist’s rendering of my business.

The diner’s hopping with music, but it’s not the typical rotation of country & western and oldies. A little further back in the shop is a live DJ, spinning classic jazz in the morning, downtempo breakbeats and electronica during the day, and hip-hop and reggae during the evenings. Think Fat Beats. Local DJs are given a chance to do their thing and monthly DJ competitions are held for turntablists that come up from New York City to battle in this unique environment. At the end of each workweek is “Old School Friday” where pre-1990 hip-hop is spun, exclusively. If someone in the group didn’t have a high-top fade, an African pendant, a fat gold chain, or a four-finger ring, chances are it won’t be played.

Beginning where the DJ is set up and stretching to the visible end of the shop are records and CDs, mainly of the underground, independent variety, but also offering up some of the more palatable mainstream selections. There is a large section for mixtapes by local DJs and DJs from around the country spinning music of regional interest. Of course, there is a long table set up with three sets of turntables and mixers so vinyl shoppers can test out a pair of vinyl before buying it. There are also two CD and cassette listening stations available to preview anything in the store. There is no security system in place. We trust our customers.

The counter of the record shop has fliers advertising local cultural events as well as activist meetings and rallies. The walls of this part of the shop are decorated by young grafitti artists.

As you get to the further back of the store, where all the obscure, out-of-print spoken word records are (DJs come from far and wide to see what’s in stock each week), is a door that says, “NOW SHOWING…” Behind the door is a small movie theatre. The screen’s not huge, but it’s more than big enough to project films on for the 15 seats. There is a quality Dolby 6.1 surround system installed, even though most of the movies shown will never make use of all the channels. The movies in rotation are all cult and horror films dating back to the silent era and running through the current times. Today there’s a Alexander Jodorwosky festival, running Holy Mountain, El Topo, and Santa Sangre back-to-back-to-back. Fulci’s Zombie runs every night at 10pm. And there’s an automated hot-air popper providing free popcorn to anyone that sits down to watch a movie.

The clientele varies wildly. Some nights, Rastas will come in while there’s roots reggae is spinning. They’ll order some ital food, burn a little incense, and reason. Other nights, hip-hop heads show up and impromptu freestyle ciphers break out at the counter. Families come in on the weekends for breakfast and horror movie freaks swing by occasionally to see the “coming soon” marquee outside the mini-theatre. Lots of DJs show up to pick up new vinyl before their Friday night gig and old Asian women stop by on their lunch hour to have the finest Silver Needle White Tea and an order of fresh spring rolls.

Of course, the store has a strong web presence. In addition to streaming audio from the live DJs, the listening stations are also be connected to the Net, so web site visitors can listen to what the customers are previewing. A full menu is available (delivery is not, though—come to the store for the full experience) and real-time inventory (including all the mix tapes) makes online ordering easy and accurate.

Store hours? 7am (for those early breakfasts) until midnight, every day. All night on New Year’s.

Jobs available? Diner waitresses (must call people “hon” yet be able to learn the ways of Yixing and Gong fu tea preparation), record shop attendants (can never have worked at Best Buy and must “know their shit,” as deemed by me), projectionist (must actually like the movies being shown), and custodial staff (who will be paid more than any other custodial staff in town… No English? No problem.). And if you think you have a talent I could use, talk to me and we’ll see what we can do.

So… who’s coming? And who’ll fund me?

The Proper September 11th Commemoration

A year ago, most Americans couldn’t tell you where Afghanistan was.

A year ago, most of us felt pretty secure.

Since a year ago, things have happened that we’d like to forget, but we haven’t been given a minute to… as if we could.

We’ll be commemorating that terrible event of one year ago tomorrow. There will be quiet memorials, large gatherings with music and prayers, and an all-out assault by the media on television… it’s this media assault that I’m bothered by. Surprise.

I’ve already made the decision that I’m not going to watch any tributes tomorrow evening. I doubt that I’ll be attending any either. I don’t want to find myself getting angry at how a tribute is done, rather than focusing on what it’s actually about. I won’t deny that televised tributes have their place, clearly there will be millions watching. And local gatherings will be absolutely essential to those that feel as alone this September 11th as they did last September 11th. But a commemoration of this magnitude so soon after the event is easy to do the wrong way and nearly impossible to do the right way. Especially on television.

What I Don’t Want in a September 11th Commemoration

  • A “Rah-rah America!” tone. I’m not exactly feeling patriotic these days thanks to the Republibush form of government. And, please, spare me the “be thankful for what you have!” speech. I am. Very. But that doesn’t mean I can’t be angered and upset at the way our country handles itself in foreign affairs. Blinding chanting “Go America!” without realizing that our country’s policies encourage disdain of our country’s ideals is bordering on jingoism. And don’t get me started on the limiting of our liberties… folks, security and personal freedoms are not mutually exclusive. I don’t want to be reminded of how angry and cynical I’ve gotten about world affairs in the last year, and I’m afraid lots of flag waving and “God Bless America” will do just that.
  • A focus on the Taliban, the terrorists, or anything else that makes Islam look like some inherently “evil” religion.
  • Endless footage of the attacks. We had enough a year ago. Are the images of suffering what we need to commemorate?
  • Famous people talking about the attacks. Or politicians talking about the attacks. Or newscasters talking about the attacks.
  • Musical tributes.

What I Do Want in a September 11th Commemoration, If I Were to Watch

  • A commemoration that doesn’t dwell on the attack or any of the politics surrounding it: just a focus on the victims, allowing family and friends to openly share memories of people they lost. NPR’s Sonic Memorial does this extremely well.
  • An advertisement-free zone. From what I’ve heard, this is going to happen in a lot of cases.
  • A quiet, reflective—but not overdramatic—tone.
  • A single well-sung, heartfelt version of the “Star Spangled Banner.” Apparently Kelly Clarkson will be taking care of this. Good for her.

Tomorrow night, I’m not going to be in front of the TV with the rest of the country. But mind you, it’s not an act of defiance. Instead, I’ll be outside, eating dinner on the porch and going for a walk with my wife. I’ll be enjoying the final days of summer and being mindful of the lives that were lost and the lives that were changed. I’ll be giving thanks, saying silent prayers, and looking more deeply at my surroundings and the people near me. I don’t want to be riled up, I don’t want to be angry, and I don’t want to be told how to remember what happened. I have my own way, and I’m quite happy doing it that way.

Peace.

“But whatsoever, after due examination and analysis, you find to be conductive to the good, the benefit, the welfare of all beings—that doctrine believe and cling to, and take it as your guide.” -the Buddha

Profane High School Play

During my senior year of high school, I took semesterized English classes instead of regular full-year English. One of the half-year classes that I took was titled “Explorations in Writing.” The class was basically a creative writing class, but was structured much more like a college class than a high school class. As a result, we were allowed much more freedom of speech than usual and our projects ranged from writing short stories to penning and performing plays.

One of the plays I co-wrote had me “starring” as a rapping devil… mighty appropriate, some might say. At least I wasn’t a friggin’ rapping owl. Interestingly, all of the people featured in the play (except for one) are in this “reunion” picture.

I found a copy of the play on my trusty old Apple II compatible. After talking about it with everybody involved in the original play, I decided I had to transfer it over and post it to the web for the world to gawk at and insult.

Enjoy our nameless creation… and notice the total lack of a “Scene 3.”

Characters:
Brian M. as himself.
Jason M. as the Hell Friend
Amy K. as Brian’s girlfriend
Becky H. as the Angel
Ryan M. as Satan and the priest
Amy R. as the counselor, devil’s helper, and a hundred other parts

SCENE 1 — In counselor’s office

(Amy & counselor talking, at the end of the conversation; Amy shows razor blade)

Amy: … and besides the fact he’s depressed because his mother died I found drugs and… (pause) … this in his room.

(Counselor looks intellectual and thoughtful)

Counselor: Why don’t you bring him with you to our next session — it will be beneficial to his well-being and yours.

Amy: (sarcastically sad) Oh!… okay.

(Lights go out, strobe light goes on Brian — he is cowering and shuddering in corner of the room, then he whips out a razor blade and slices his wrists.)

SCENE 2 — At Brian’s funeral

(Brian’s grave is next to his mother’s. People are crying, priest is addressing all.)

(crying & whimpering from crowd)

Priest: Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to unite these two… sorry wrong page.

(action moves to Brian in Hell, in disbelief)

Brian: What’s going on? Where the Hell am I? I can’t be dead.

(Devil appears — same person as priest)

Who are you? What’s going on?

Devil: Give it up — you’re in Hell now, kid,
You wonder how it happened it’s because of what you did.
You can call me S-A-T-A-N,
I ain’t got no friends, but I gots a Benz,
‘Cause Hell is filled with the earthly pleasures,
I find it ironic how some take drastic measures,
To avoid coming here, but yet they give in,
To sex drugs and money while they’re living.

Jason: (strolls in, nods to devil) ‘Sup!

Brian: Jay? Jay? Is that you? You’re… dead.

Jason: Yeah, it’s me. And yeah, I’m dead. Wanna make something off it?

Brian: No… I’m just lost. I don’t know what’s going on, and Mr. Satan here just told me that I’m dead.

Jason: No, man, you ain’t dead! (like Church Lady) You will be, though, if you give into the temptations of SATAN!

Angel: Hello. I’m a Heavenly body.

(sexy music)

Jason: Hey, baby! (looks her up and down) Oops — that’s the kind of stuff that got me here.

Brian: Why are you here?

Angel: I’m here to save your sexy sweet soul, sweetheart.

Brian: Whoa baby! If I didn’t have a girl already, I’d let you do more than that!

Angel: Calm down, stud, I’m an angel and I got man.

Brian: Oh yeah? Who?

Angel: St. Peter! And that’s of no concern to you, Tough Guy! The reason I’m here is to teach you a lesson!

Brian: Oh… really? In that case…

Angel: Don’t sass me. I’m here to help you. So listen up!

Brian: OK, why don’t you come a little closer and talk into my ear.

Angel: That’s it! One more smart remark like that I’ll let you fry.

Brian: (embarrassed) OK.

Angel: Now that we have that straight, you have to make a decision: Heaven or Hell?

Brian: I don’t want to go to Heaven or Hell, I want to go to earth! I’m not good enough for Heaven, but I’m not bad enough for Hell!

Angel: The pleasures of heaven could be at your fingertips.

Devil: Yes but listen to the King of the Underworld,
I’m hot as Hell and I gots all the girls,

(Amy & Amy strut out to devil)

If you join me here enjoy the pleasures of the flesh,
Hot women, hot oils, and LOTS of sex!

(Amy & Amy disappear)

Angel: Don’t listen to that rapping fool, just look what you’re missing out on!

(Amy R. comes out as Brian’s mom)

Brian: Mom? What’s going on here?

Mom: You’re not ready for Heaven. You have not experienced enough. Your eyes haven’t seen the world. I want you to live a good life and then come to Heaven.

(Mom disappears)

Devil: Come on, kid, why would you go back,
When you got hot women all up on your bozack?

(Amy & Amy all over devil)

The best looking women are here, no holds barred
‘Cause Hell is the place that **self-censored**.

(Devil smiles wickedly)

(Amy & Amy exit)

Devil: So, what’s it gonna be, kid?

Angel: What’s your decision?

Brian: I don’t know! It’s too much to decide! I’m not ready for this tough of a decision!

Angel: That’s all I needed to hear, Brian. You’re not set for death yet. I’m going to return you to earth…

Devil: I’ll be damned if I let you take him from me,
He’s staying here in Hell ’cause he’s a stupid ass dummy.

(points to Angel)

Peace, honey, you’re out, catch ya late,
I’m keeping him in Hell and ain’t nothing you can do, babe.

Angel: Oh, is that so.

(smiles, turns around slowly, and bends over)

(Devil’s jaw drops)

Angel: Come on, Brian, hurry — I’m sending you back to earth!

(Angel and Brian run off set)

Devil: Aw! Aw… da-a-a-mn!

(Devil exits)

SCENE 4 — Brian’s room

(Brian slowly wakes up on his bed)

Brian: I’m… I’m alive!

(Amy enters as Brian’s mom)

Step-Mom: (in Betty/Jim voice) Well, hello son. Nice to have you back on earth with us, son, it’s been sixteen hours since you fell asleep.

Brian: It was all a dream? But… but that’s a corny ending…

(Angel does her little fluttering-fly by and waves at Brian — she exits set)

Brian: (smiles) Much better.

Stop Screwing Apatow!

A few years ago, Judd Apatow created what I consider to be the best television show in the last decade: Freaks and Geeks (episode guide). It told the real story of high school, for those of us that weren’t Dawson’s Creek-type kids. There were no laugh tracks, but it was funny. The music wasn’t overly dramatic, but there was drama. Turns out, a show focused around nerds, dorks, freaks, and—yes—geeks, was by far more “real” than the carefully orchestrated reality that came from the worthless “reality show” trend. They didn’t need to do “issue” shows to make a point. “[W]hen we did Freaks And Geeks, there was drug use, and a lot of pot being smoked, but we certainly took a position that it was screwing up all of these kids’ lives, without saying it explicitly in a way that would make you feel like you were watching a very special Diff’rent Strokes,” Apatow said in an interview with The Onion last year.

Bill Haverchuck

The actors and actresses were cast perfectly in their roles, especially Martin Starr, who played the role of quintessential geek Bill Haverchuck. In one episode, Haverchuck decided to get back at his gym teacher, who constantly picks on him during class. He decides to crank call Coach Fredricks, barely disgusing his voice: “Fredricks, you’re a turd… a stinky f-fat turd, go sniff a jock strap, you poop head. You love patting boys butts… butt… you butt patter. You’re a perv and a loser and a stinky t-turd!” With Freaks and Geeks, Apatow managed to create a world so much like the high school we all remember, it was nearly impossible not to latch onto a character and empathize.

Freaks and Geeks, unfortunately, was doomed from the start by the programming wizards at NBC. It originally aired on Saturday night prime time, otherwise known as “instant death,” no matter how good the show. After only five episodes, NBC pulled the show for nearly two months before bringing it back, this time on Monday nights. While the time slot was a bit better, and the show’s ratings improved slightly, NBC pulled it after five more episodes, waiting another month before bringing it back again. At this point, the show was simply doomed—viewers weren’t sure when and if it was going to be on. Two more episodes aired in March, then Freaks and Geeks disappeared from TV until its three-episode series finale nearly four months later. Three completed episodes went unaired.

In a move that pleased fans, FOX Family picked up the show and aired reruns after the show’s demise, including the three episodes that NBC never bothered showing. While the shows were censored a bit (for simple words like “ass”), they aired each episode a number of times, giving people ample opportunity to see the full series in all its glory. It also gave me a chance to put every episode on video, to hold me over until someone with some sense declares it time to put the series’ sole season on DVD.

The Undeclared crew

In 2001, FOX announced a new Apatow series, Undeclared (episode guide), which featured a number of Freaks and Geeks alumni in regular roles and others in guest spots or recurring roles. Critics loved it, fans loved it, but yet again, it seems the network had it in for Undeclared from the start. With almost no promotion after the original show aired, the series did respectibly in the ratings and ran almost uninterrupted for 16 episodes (the show’s contract was cut from 22 episodes to 17 episodes by FOX). Then, in March, FOX aired mid-season replacement Andy Richter Controls the Universe in the Undelcared time slot. Once again, it seems that Judd Apatow was screwed, despite having one of the best new shows of the fall lineup. FOX didn’t renew Undeclared for Fall 2002 (but they decided to keep the Godawful Grounded for Life) and never bothered to air the final episode, titled “God Visits.”

Undeclared fans should visit the official “Behind the Scenes” site of the finale episode before it’s removed. The site has deleted scenes, photos, and behind the scenes video.

Television has a history of airing crappy shows for too many years (Will & Grace anyone? Surivivor? Freaking Becker?) and crushing creative, entertaining, mold-breaking shows. Why this is, I’m not quite sure. These shows always have loyal followers that petition, rarely successfully, to keep their favorite show on the air. Maybe it’s like Apatow himself says, “If people wanted to watch Nova more than The Chair, we’d have Nova five times a week. Unfortunately at this time in our great nation’s history the citizens of our land will gladly watch people eating a pig’s anus on Fear Factor.”

According to Zap2It, FOX hasn’t given up on Apatow (or is it that he hasn’t given up on them?). This fall, there are talks for a new Apatow creation titled “Life on Parole” about a parole officer whose best friend is one of his parolees. Let’s cross our fingers for Judd. Every success he has is another vote for television that doesn’t suck.

No Balls

When I was in college, I worked on campus during the school year as a desk aide. Desk aides had a pretty cushy job: we sat at the front desk of the dorm and enforced the school’s sign-in policy. It wasn’t brain surgery, and a lot of students were annoyed by the process, but it helped ensure some level of security. Plus it gave a bunch of us minimum wage jobs that didn’t require cars.

During my freshman year, I was a regular desk aide, working alongside a staff of similarly clueless freshman. For the remaining three years, I was a head desk aide, leading a staff of 6 or 7 people in the dorm I lived in. It was a good gig, and I had good staffs, for the most part. I had to fire people two different times for showing up to the desk drunk (and not just “kinda drunk,” but “way drunk”). Another time, I had a desk aide whose personal vendetta against me drove her to complain to my boss (who was also my girlfriend) about the way I did my job… fellow MWC students will remember Ms. K. Beara well.

There are two highlights to my desk aide career, though. The first happened one weekend morning when I was sitting the first shift of the day. Only a few doors down from the front desk, a girl was having relations with her boyfriend. Very loud relations. For a very long time. I was subject to every moan, scream, and “Oh God!” for a good portion of my shift. Oddly, a couple years later I came back to the same dorm to visit some friends. As I was standing in the hallway talking to the desk aide, the floor’s RA (who, apparently, had a penchant for rough sex) was going at it full gear with her boyfriend. If this wasn’t bad enough, it was Parents’ Weekend and a father was covering his son’s ears while waiting in the common area across the hall from Nympho RA.

The high point, though, came during my sophomore year. The end of the second semester was approaching and I had to apply for a job during my junior year. I did interviews at three or four separate dorms for their head desk aide position. One of them was at Ball Hall, the upperclass, all-female dorm. The three interviewers looked a bit surprised when I came for the interview that day, but they went ahead and interviewed me like they did every other candidate. The main question they were interested in, though, was “Why do you want to be a head desk aide… at Ball Hall?”

My answer involved something about liking the fact it was a quiet hall and that the community seemed tight-knit. I don’t believe that I said anything about Ball Hall “having a lot of hot chicks.” We discussed what would happen if I were hired. Clearly, I wouldn’t be allowed to live in Ball Hall, but I would probably be housed in the adjacent Madison Hall or Custis Hall instead.

I wasn’t offered the position at Ball Hall. However, I was given a little inside information: I placed third out of four candidates for the HDA position, meaning I beat out at least one person with a distinct advantage since birth. Not bad. And perhaps I was a trend setter. That next year, South Hall (the only all male hall on campus) had a female Head Resident living there.

I, on the other hand, accepted an offer at Madison Hall with my significant other as my boss. The rest, as they say, is desk aide history.

An Interview with Phyllis Wilcox About Henry Lee Lucas

In July of 2000, I posted a Daily Ping about serial killer Henry Lee Lucas. That particular Ping has attracted some of the most interesting visitors the site has seen. Victims’ families have chimed in as did students doing reports. But the most interesting visitor contacted me via e-mail. She was Phyllis Wilcox, a friend of Henry Lee Lucas’ that made headlines when she posed as Lucas’ cousin/wife/victim Becky Powell to try and help him beat a murder rap. One person even wrote a song about her (third song). I interviewed her over e-mail for several months about her relationship with one of this nation’s most notorious serial killers.

This particular interview was pretty difficult for me. On one hand, I had been interested in Henry Lee Lucas’ case for a decade, ever since I did a report on him in high school. On the other hand, was it morbid or disrespectful of the victims to interview someone that was close with Lucas? Would putting an interview like this on my web site somehow promote the horrendous murders that Lucas committed?

After a lot of thought and after a few months of putting the interview with Ms. Wilcox on pause, I decided it would be best to go ahead and post it. I don’t condone Lucas’ horrific crimes, nor do I raise him to the level of someone to be admired. I do, however, find his case interesting from a true crime perspective and think that this interview with Ms. Wilcox will give a unique perspective on Lucas’ life and his influence on others.

Below is a transcription of the e-mail interview conducted with Ms. Wilcox in 2001. No content has been altered and the only changes made were for readability. Be forewarned: some of the descriptions of murder are graphic and disturbing.

I had many more questions for Ms. Wilcox, but unfortunately, her e-mail address stopped working not long after this section of the interview was completed. I hope to resume it at some time if I can get back in touch with her.

Ms. Wilcox’s e-mail became invalid after a few questions had been answered. Despite the fact the interview below is incomplete, I decided to post it anyway with hopes that Ms. Wilcox would get back in touch with me. Well, she has, and I am currently conducting the remainder of the interview, which will be posted when it is finished.

 

Give me a little background on yourself.

I am 48 years old, married, moved to Perry, Florida in February, 1996 after living all my life in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. I have two grown daughers and three grandkids. I work in Tallahassee, Florida at a convenience store.

How did you come to know Henry Lee Lucas?

I came to know Henry in September 1991 after reading a book about him. I wrote a letter to him and he responded. He had me put on his visiting list and I went to Huntsville, Texas in January 1992 and met with Henry for the first time. We had a wonderful visit and I went several more times that year and the next year. We came to know each other quite well and became very close through our many letters to each other and our many visits.

Henry Lee Lucas

Henry Lee Lucas

What was your first visit like? What did you talk about?

I was extremely nervous because I had never been to a prison before and especially talking face to face with such a dangerous man. He was brought out in handcuffs surrounded by guards. I couldn’t help but to stare. It wasn’t a contact visit. There was thick screen in between us. Well, Henry sat down and smiled at me and then told me that I can ask him anything that I want to. I asked him about Becky Powell and he told me that she left him at a truck stop in Denton, Texas. That he had gone to look for a trucker to take them back to Jacksonville, Florida and when he returned to where he had left Becky waiting for him, he saw her getting into a truck with a man and leaving with him. That was the last time Henry saw Becky. He said that he told the authorities that he killed her so they wouldn’t go looking for her to tie her in on the murders that he is accused of. Then I asked him about Kate Rich. He told me that woman was nuts and that he had no idea what happened to her. He said they claim that he killed her and cut her body up into little bitty pieces and burned her up in an old stove behind the House of Prayer. Henry said that Kate Rich was a big fat woman and it would take more than just him to cut her body up and that the bones they claim they found in that stove were just chicken bones. He said that old stove didn’t get hot enough to burn up a human body. Then I asked him about Orange Socks and he told me that the hand prints around her neck where she had been strangled were much bigger than his hands and the tire tracks that were found by her body was from a dairy truck traced back to a dairy out of Houston, Texas. Well, we visited for four hours straight and it only seemed like ten minutes to me. I enjoyed it so much and Henry was the most wonderful man that I ever met.

I thought that it would be interesting to get letters from him just to see what he had to say. Well, his letters were so friendly and the only murder that he said that he committed was the one where he killed his mother. I got to the point to where Henry was all that was on my mind 24 hours. I even dreamed about him when I slept. He was all I talked about at work. It got so bad that my boss at work told me to find another job on the count of it. I wrote and told Henry that I think that I am falling in love with him and told him about him being on my mind 24 hours. He wrote back telling me that he was having the same feelings towards me. I knew that I had to meet this man and see if my feelings were real. Well, after our first meeting, my feelings for Henry were stronger than ever before. I had really fallen in love with him and I had to fight to keep Texas from taking him away from me.

Were you married/did you have kids when you started writing to Henry?

Yes I was married and had my daughters when I started writing to Henry. Actually it was my husband’s idea that I write to him. My husband went with me on one of my visits with Henry and my youngest daughter went with me on another one of my visits. My oldest daughter would not go. She disapproved of mine and Henry’s relationship and tried to stay out of it even though she was in on the hoax when I tried to get Henry off of death row. My husband knew that I had fallen in love with Henry but he said that he knew Henry would never get out of prison so he didn’t feel threatened.

Henry Lee Lucas

Henry Lee Lucas

At the time of his death Lucas was convicted of nine murders. Do you believe what Henry said about his mother being his only victim?

In all honesty, I now believe that Henry has killed before but there is no way that he killed all the people that he confessed to. There was a time when I did believe that Henry was totally innocent. I know for a fact that Henry did not kill Orange Socks, but I do think that he killed Kate Rich. Henry knew that it was Ottis Toole who killed Adam Walsh because Henry told me that Ottis bragged about killing a little boy and Ottis took Henry and showed Henry the body but Henry said that the head and the genitals were cut off and gone. Even though Henry said that he killed his mother, I dont believe that he did. Henry and his mother was staying with his siser. Henry came in drunk one night and he passed out on the bed. Henry told me that his mother started beating him in the head with a broom handle and Henry jumped up off the bed and punched her in the face and she fell backwards on the floor and Henry got scared and ran. He was later arrested because when they found his mother on the floor she was dead. I later learned that Viola, his mother, had been stabbed several times and that is what caused her death. Henry said he never had a knife. What I think is that the sister had come home and she is the one who killed her.

Did Henry talk much about his childhood?

Henry talked much about his childhood. Henry said no matter what, he still loved his mother and has forgiven her for all the things that she has done. He told me that she used to dress him like a girl and send him to school that way and the other kids would laugh and make fun. He told me that she shot and killed his pet mule that he loved dearly. She was a prostitute and would bring in men and have sex with them in front of Henry and his dad. Henry told me that he never has gotten over the death of his dad. Him and his dad were real close. It is so sad to think that any child should have to go through what Henry went through.

 

For more on Henry Lee Lucas:

This article is copyright ©2002 by Ryan A. MacMichael and may not be reproduced in any means without permission. Please direct all inquiries to [email protected].

Tales from the Yearbook

Way back in 1996 I scanned and posted my high school yearbook entry to my web site. Not a terribly original idea, given that I didn’t really offer up much explanation around it (sort of like the scanned image of a label of longans that I had as a banner for a while around the same time). But recently, good ol’ Matt Wilson posted his and offered up a translation that led to some nice, embarassing stories.

Now I’m biting his idea and doing the same thing with mine… I figure with the text I wrote, there’s got to be some sort of interesting stories hiding in there somewhere.

My high school yearbook entry

Bowling 2:
In my sophomore year, I was on the bowling team. Why only my sophomore year? Remember this story?

Track (2 days yo’!):
I had played baseball and soccer for a number of years as a kid, but didn’t consider myself good enough for either in high school. Since I needed something athletic to do, I apparently thought I could hack track. “They” say that the first few days are the toughest, when they weed out those that can’t take it… well, it worked: they weeded me out. What a nightmare. The only thing in my life that I stuck with for such a short time was my job at AAA, but that’s another story for another time.

SADD 23:
Students Against Drunk Driving. I never drank and never knew anyone that had died in a drunk driving accident, but I still enjoyed my time with SADD, especially during the mock car crash. I believe I first joined because my short-term high school girlfriend did. I know I was bitter when her interview appeared on the local news after the mock car crash but mine didn’t.

Lit Mag 4:
Of the few clubs I belonged to in high school, I liked the Lit Mag the best, mainly because it was headed by one of my favorite teachers, Mr. Moran. He was a hell of a guy, one of those teachers you see on TV that you wish you had… the “cool, eccentric, creative English teacher.” I wasn’t really down with the other students on the Lit Mag, but still had a great time. Unfortunately, I have no clue where any copies of the Lit Mag from that year are.

Newspaper 1:
I was a typist during my freshman year. That’s it.

National Honor Society 34:
I wuz a smart wun.

(Mr. Active, for real, tho’!):
Yes, I actually talked like that. Being the school’s only rapper, I had to portray at least a little of the stereotype.

family:
My mom threatened to kick me out if they weren’t represented in my yearbook entry. She was such a witch.

D—:
My sole significant other in high school. There are too many stories to tell here, but I’ll sum it up this way: we were much better as friends than anything more. She was my best friend for a good two years of high school.

Jim:
Jim was a great guy. I met him through the bowling league I belonged to in middle school and through a mutual friend, Keith. Jim always had some pretty bad luck… when he went to college, he, his roommate, and his roommate’s friend were in a hotel room together. All of a sudden, his roommate’s friend goes berzerk and stabs his roommate in the stomach multiple times, right in front of Jim. The roommate lived, but I’d imagine Jim was pretty affected by all this. I had been out of touch with Jim almost entirely throughout college, up until late 2000 when I found out he hosted a pro wrestling radio show. We met up for the first time in years after his own pro wrestling debut.

Will:
Will was a friend since back in middle school. He was one of my goofier friends and we always got along really well (aside from one big argument we had in Algebra II… over what, I’m not sure). Our inside joke was that Jeff Feagles (then the punter for the Philadelphia Eagles) could probably do better against opponents on his own than with the rest of the team. Why that’s funny, who knows, but one time Will gave me a Jeff Feagles football card as a gift… it still cracks me up when I look at it. He and I talk periodically.

Ryder:
My man… my best man, actually. We shared an interest in horror films and had the same shirt, so naturally we got along. My favorite story to tell about Ryder is the time during lunch when he took chocolate pudding and rubbed it all over his face. He proceeded to yell, “I love poopie!” until everyone in the cafeteria turned and stared at him.

& Lunch crew:
We had some sick puppies at our lunch table senior year. One of the guys had a fondness for making fake used tampons out of napkins with red Slush Puppies and then tossing them on the lunchroom floor.

Rachel:
Rachel was a good friend in high school, though we didn’t hang out too frequently outside of school. She’s the one that made me cupcakes on my 18th birthday, something that really meant a lot during that “the whole world is against me” period. She’s now engaged and living on Long Island.

Charley:
Charley always complained right along with me about being without a girlfriend. Difference is, I had a legitimate beef.

Amy:
Another good friend I’ve unfortunately lost touch with. I called her the “50 Foot Woman.” She was really 5’9″.

Steph x2:
Two of my ex-girlfriend’s best friends. I still talk with one of them periodically, the other (who I did my fair share of flirting with) not at all.

Qwik:
Also known as Dave, the other half of the Lyrical Prophets. We fought like a married couple, but managed to come together to record dozens of songs during high school.

Motion PT:
I was a Physical Therpist Aide for a year-and-a-half during high school. It was a fun job and was where I initially met my ex-girlfriend. One time I microwaved a donut hole (you know, those little donut balls) for something like two minutes. The thing was burnt to a crisp and sent black smoke throughout the office.

all those who always stayed on the real:
“On the Reel” was the name of my mini-record label with Qwik-Cut and “on the real” was one of my favorite phrases, even though everyone I thought it described, it really didn’t.

JDD:
“Junior Dinner Dance” — the Junior Prom. A generally miserable time as my date/significant other was feeling ill. I even got a limo and everything.

Senior Prom x2:
My girlfriend’s senior prom was the first — we broke up three days later. I actually had a halfway decent time, though, because I got along well with all of her friends. I embarassed the hell out of myself on the prom video, but I won’t go into that. My senior prom was a little better, and that’s recounted here.

Florida:
Our senior class trip was to Disneyworld. I roomed with Will (above), Greg, and Dave. We had a good time and Greg ate soap. I remember trying to chase down this one really hot girl I saw in the park one night. No luck.

4 (5?) albums:
One of things that remained constant throughout high school was that I was always writing and recording. And we did get that fifth album out by that summer.

Expl./Writing:
Explorations in Writing, a very cool half-year class that I took senior year with Natalie Gaffin, who was also my freshman homeroom teacher. I remember getting comments back from Gaf about a poem I wrote and rather than making corrections, returning them to her telling her why I disagreed. She was glad I did that and ended up talking about it at parents’ night.

Poetry:
Another great class, this time with Mr. Moran. I actually wrote a paper that quoted Paris (the militant black power rapper) and love poetry by Theodore Roethke. I did well on it.

CP2:
In my sophomore year, I skipped Computer Programming 1 and went right to Computer Programming 2, the school’s highest computer class. Just to show you how sad my school’s computer cirriculum was, we learned on Apple IIe’s. I enjoyed the class, though, because everyone else was a senior… it was very awkward at first, but I eventually fit in.

Am. Minorities:
American Minorities was another one of the great half-year classes that I took. This was taught by a friend’s dad and was so much more interesting than a typical history class. It helped cultivate my interest in the civil rights movement of the 60’s. We took a field trip to Ellis Island, but only walked around the island (we didn’t take any tours or anything), which was OK with most of us.

shores ’93:
I made a number of memorable trips to the Jersey shore that year, including this one.

DJing:
Though it sounds like I did a lot of gigs, I really only had two. One was a party that Qwik and I did together freshman year. The cops ended up coming because the party got rowdy (drunk kids everywhere, people stealing our cassettes, etc.)… oddly, the kid’s parents were right upstairs. I think I made $25. The other time was at another friend’s party where I “borrowed” some speaker equipment from our high school without asking. I returned it safely, but man was I nervous that I’d get caught. I rocked the spot that night and actually made a recording.

Times w/D—:
Self-explanatory.

Dead/Alive:
A very influential movie for Ryder and me in high school.

lunch 234:
Apparently my freshman year lunch table sucked. … Yeah, it did, now that I think about it. No poopie pudding or Slush Puppie tampons that year, I guess.

ups and downs of live & love:
I’m pretty sure this was a typo on the yearbook’s part. Yup, lots of ups and downs… gotta love teen angst.

FUTURE PLANS: “College-Marry for love, not money,- Most of all: stay true to myself and those close to me.”:
Hey, it’s better than “Candlelight shone, shadows distorted, thoughts still cluttered, again how I try…”