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Flood

So many people have been asking about how we are doing here in Baton Rouge since the flood. I’m sure I’ll sit down soon and reflect, but right now, there is just no time. It’s easier to update everyone this way, so here it is.

We are doing swimmingly!

I got to my house yesterday. (Been out since Friday.) I was at work. Gail got out about 7:30AM with her car and two duffle bags of clothes. Brock’s car was too low to drive through the water. It went from dry street, yard and neighborhood when I left, to two feet in the streets that fast. We had a little more than 5 feet of water inside. Everything else is gone.

Life is amazing. The number of people praying for us is the most humbling thing Gail and I have ever experienced. Everyone we know, and many people we don’t know have and are offering any help they can give. The best are just the silent hugs when words fail. We are safe, dry, and well-fed. Some friends have taken us in and offered us the 2nd floor of their home for as long as we need it. We have a roof, soft bed, and hot shower. We may never leave.
We got back into our house yesterday. Outside, it looks like God sifted a giant can of Chocolate Quik powder over the entire neighborhood. River silt everywhere. Brock’s car is no longer black. It’s chocolate. We’ve got this heavy-ass, 12-foot bench made with laminated beams. It takes 3 men to move it. Well, it walked across the back yard for a better view of the flowerbeds.
Inside, smells awful. Hell, you can actually smell it from outside. It looks like our living room furniture decided it was hungry and migrated to the kitchen for a snack. Everything is covered in the same slimy silt. All of the sheetrock will have to come down. The wood floors will have to go. All of the furniture, appliances, cabinets — hell, everything will have to go. But that’s no big deal, we were going to remodel our bathroom anyway.
We haven’t totally decided on the clothes yet, but we’re pretty sure after 3 days in that crap, the smell will never come out.
Before Gail left, she threw a bunch of pictures and sentimental crap on the top shelf of our bedroom closet. All of that is safe. We are so thankful for that.
We visited the house late yesterday after work. We haven’t begun the moving out party yet.
Thankfully, we are insured. The adjuster will be here Thursday or Friday. Gail and I will take that day off to begin the clean out. I can’t call it clean up because there aint much to clean.
My youngest son, Nick’s, home was also flooded. He is with us now. Thankfully, Brock is in North Carolina at Marine Combat Training. He has no electronic device of any kind and is blissfully unaware of all of this.
We are the lucky ones. We are alive. And we are in a home surrounded by friends instead of a shelter somewhere. The flood has not taken our jobs from us. We will not miss a paycheck. So many don’t even have work to occupy their minds for a few hours a day, and have only what’s not there to think about.
People can’t believe that Gail and I are so at peace with all this, but really, there is not much to be upset about. It is beyond our control, and our faith tells us that God is in control. The most upsetting part of this is that we are usually The Helpers. We are the ones cleaning out someone else’s home, cooking dinner for a family that has worked all day, or helping out at a shelter. This isn’t supposed to happen to The Helpers. But again, it is a chance for us to learn about God’s grace. To learn to be on the receiving end.
People ask constantly what we need. We are not at the point where we even know that much yet. What we need most are prayers. With everyone’s prayers, we will get through this. Hell, we have no choice, we have to find out what happens to Ethan Lovett.
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Crossfitter’s Psalm

I told you I joined a cult. And every cult needs a good Psalm. Something to offer up to the gods in praise and thanksgiving. Something to encourage it’s minions to press on through tough times. Something to reflect upon when times are good.

With that in mind, I give you The Crossfitter’s Psalm.

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The MURPH is my shepherd; I shall not quit.

He makes me lie down and do burpees: he leads me in muscle ups.

He rows for my soul: he leads me in paths of handstand walks for his name sake.

Yea as I walk through the valley of the Rogue Plates I shall fear no WOD for MURPH is with me; thy chalk and thy timer challenge me.

Thou prepare a Paleo table before me in the presence of all fad diets; and I will dwell in the box of the MURPH all the days of my life.

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I Joined A Cult

DCIM103GOPROI’ve joined a cult.

I hate to admit it, but it was inevitable, really.

My wife alls it my mid-life crisis. Last year, I ran my first obstacle course race. Okay, I ran my first seven OCRs.

I ran my first one mostly as a way to get me off of my ass and back into the gym. At 51 years and counting, working out wasn’t what it used to be. That was inevitable too, I guess. I’ve been in and out of gyms (mostly in) since I was 14 years old.

IArnold-Schwarzenegger-18t’s considerably different admiring the tight, toned muscles of a 20-something in the mirror after a good pump than it is the bulging, hairy stomach of a sweaty, heaving old fart.

It had become patently obvious that my inner Arnold Schwarzenegger  would never break free from my outer Louie Anderson. I was tired, listless, and when I stepped on the scale, it yelled, “Y’all get off!”

I knew that the only way I would stick to a training program was with a goal that was not weight,- or body-realted.

12191384_10206746163385582_8037757501077508401_oI started training on my own, and why not, I had 30+ years in the gym. When that didn’t work, I looked to Baton Rouge Bootcamp guru Jessie Lipoma to kick my ass and push me when I felt like calling in fat.

I pumped. I conditioned. I tabatta-ed. I ran through mud. Scaled walls. Climbed ropes. Threw spears. Toted sandbags. Jumped fire. Earned T-shirts. And was called a beast by my friends and family. I finished that year in the best shape of my life.

But it wasn’t enough.

I had been bitten by the OCR bug, and nothing short of a mud track and a mountain to climb would suffice.

But how could I reach the next level? I had already maxed out the possibilities at bootcamp. There are only so many burpees, stot-squats, and gorilla ropes a guy can do.

2014CFInvitational_rotatorSo, I joined a cult.

I started Crossfit this week. From now on, I will speak in AMRAPs, and Murphs. My gym is now a Box. My diet is now a caveman. Chalk is my best friend. Jerks are more difficult than raging assholes. A snatch is not just something in my porn. And rips are not just the enemy of my pants, but my palms as well.

My next OCR is just 5 months away. Stay tuned, and Hare Krishna.

 

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Death On The Car Lot

I pounded on the door with my fist, then waited. No answer.

It looked like this was going to take a while. I shuffled around in the dark, careful not to trip on mound of wires coiled at my feet, then had a seat.

It was my own fault I was here. In too much of a hurry.

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Sweat dripped off the tip of my nose as I waved off the thought of choking to death on exhaust fumes. You see, though the inside of a satellite truck is climate controlled and constantly monitored for lethal carbon monoxide, there are no such luxuries in the rack compartment in the back.

I waited for my eyes to adjust to the inky light that enveloped me. I could not see them, but I knew there were two 500-foot reels of tri-strand audio/dual video cables at my knees. Great if I were stranded 1000 feet up a mountain in my dish-topped hooptie. No help at all if I’m sitting at five feet above sea level.

Another tangle of electrical extension cords, various co-ax lines, and a pile of spaghettied audio cables sat atop the generator compartment. None of them had a handle that would open the back door and free me from my own stupidity. So I sat there and sweat.

The assignment had started simply enough. Take the dual purpose satellite/microwave van to a local car dealership to broadcast the grand prize drawing for 5 shiny new Lexus cars.

That’s when the trouble started. Little did I know, the great big patch panel that feeds the video signal from my camera to the microwave transmitter decided it would be a good day call it quits. It’s not a huge problem; I just had to climb in the back, disassemble the rack system, dig through 17 miles of spaghetti, and plug my camera directly into the transmitter.

And THAT is how I have come to be locked in the dark, slowly suffocating, in the back of my satellite truck — trapped by an evil gust of wind which saw opportunity in my poorly-timed excursion to disconnect my video line.

At my feet, I can hear the hiss of air exiting the compressor reservoir as the aluminum tubes of the microwave mast collapse above me. A small crease of light begins to appear in the seam between the two locked doors. And in the seam, I see it.

A door latch. I give it a yank. But alas, it belongs to the inside door. The wind has slammed the locking door on top of it. I am still, as Pookie might say, “stuck like Chuck.”

As I begin to grapple with the thought of death by dehydration, I scan the darkness for something, anything to open the doors of my dungeon and set me free. That’s when I remember the phone in my back pocket.

One quick text to my reporter outside, and I will be free!

If my reporter hasn’t left yet.

Which he has.

But just beyond my doors there is a dealership full of salesmen, and finance guys, and sales managers, and dejected contestants who did not win a car. Surely, one phone call there will free me.

No answer.

Sweat is pooling around my feet. I hope the person who finds my body puddled amongst the reels and wires and dust bunnies back here will know that I fought the good fight.

26587108814_52c9641e26_oMaybe I’ll take a selfie to commemorate my struggle.

It’s kinda dark. Better use the flash.

That’s when I remember. My phone doubles as a flashlight. Which I employed to find the correct door latch and free myself.

Self-made crisis averted.

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Devine Humor

They say be careful what you pray for, that God has a sense of humor.

As parents we pray. We pray even before we have kids. We pray to simply conceive. Then, one day, we see that faint blue line in that little window. We pray our pregnancy will be normal, that we can actually do this. We pray the morning sickness will pass.We pray for ten fingers and ten toes. We pray for health. And at 8 months, in the dead of summer, we pray this will hurry the hell up.

brock gail sleepWhen our first child was born, my wife and I prayed like all new parents do: for knowledge,  for happiness, for strength, and for sleep.

But it’s the little things most people never pray for: just for a normal kid. Or first son lived the first two years of his life with a big purple bruise in the center of his forehead. He just liked to bang his head on things. The floor, the wall, the table, the concrete driveway. Anything!

He clung to his mother. She was the only one who could feed him, take him for a walk, or put him to bed. He refused to let his grandparents (or pretty much anyone else) hold him.

“It’s a phase,” they said. “He’ll grow out of it.”

He didn’t. It got worse.

If we went grocery shopping, he worried that we would get locked in the store, or that we would not be able to find the car when we left. He worried we would get lost any time we drove anywhere. If there was a white cloud in the sky, it was going to rain, and we were all going to drown.

Through it all, we prayed. We prayed for a normal kid, one who could run and laugh and play with the other kids, a care-free kid who leave the house without looking at the sky. But we could see the fear on his face every time we dropped him at school or at a friend’s house.

God heard our prayers. He gave him a younger brother who took care of him, who calmed his fears, and kept the family sane

A psychologist finally diagnosed him with social anxiety. Banging his head had been the only way a toddler could cope with the overwhelming fear he felt. “He’ll out grow it,” he said.

clownsFor nearly 12 years, we prayed for something to free our son from the prison in his mind. Medication helped, but that brought on other side-effects. A fearless younger brother pushed him. Gymnastics gave him confidence in his body, but his mind still held him hostage. And we prayed. We didn’t want anything special for him, just a normal life.

The doctors were eventually right. By high school, he was a normal kid. He could finally hang with his friends without panicking. He could play in the rain. He could talk to anyone. When he walked into a room, he owned it. It didn’t matter who was there, jocks, geeks, emos, preppies, teachers, parents; they all loved the him.

DSC_0259Our prayers had finally been answered. We had our normal kid.

By the time college rolled around, he was the life of the party. And that first year of college was a party. We prayed our normal kid could balance everything. He could not.

When he dropped out, we prayed he could finally buckle down, find a job, and be responsible. It took us kicking him out for that to happen. As a parent, it was the hardest decision we had ever had to make.

Just because your kid leaves, doesn’t mean you stop praying. You pray more.

You pray he can make the rent, that he uses a designated driver when he goes out, that he doesn’t fall in with the wrong friends, that he doesn’t come home with a kid of his own, that he gets his act together, that he’s happy. And when your kid lived with crippling anxiety, you pray he stays strong, that he stays brave.

This week, we send that scared kid with the perpetual bruise on his forehead into the Marine Corps. Proud of the man he has become, and nervous for what lies ahead.

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And we pray. We pray for his safety, for our country, our leaders, and all those men and women serving with him. We already know God hears prayers. He’s given us the kid we’ve always prayed for.

DSC_0139And if there was any doubt, He sent him off with a party in the middle of one of worst thunderstorms ever to hit our house. Good one, Big Guy.

 

Categories: Life Or Something Like It, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

Want Fries With That?

“Hope you enjoy it.”

Those were the four words the dude in the paper hat uttered as he handed me a logoed paper bag speckled with grease blotches.

“You bet.” was all I could think to answer him.
jolieBut really, when was the last time anyone enjoyed a McDonald’s hamburger?

If I had wanted to enjoy my lunch, I could have stopped at Jolie Pearl and dined on exquisite Louisiana oysters char-grilled to perfection served with a cold beer in a frosty mug.

stroubeIf I had wanted a lunch to remember, I could have stepped across the street to Stroube’s for asparagus wrapped in prime rib, shrimp and tasso pasta, and a double shot of Woodford Reserve. I could have shared the joy with a fledgling reporter who would have graciously picked up the tab in exchange for my expertise and effort turning the meeting we just slept through into Must-See TV.

rufIf I had wanted lunch to be an experience, I could have made reservations at Ruffino’s for a pork belly appetizer and a pineapple martini. I could have followed that up with two bone-in, grilled pork cops and Bananas Foster. And the lobbist in the short skirt would have plied me with liquor in hopes of a fluff piece on her Save the Slugs legislation.

But I’m a photog. I don’t get to enjoy lunch.

On the news beat, lunch is something you swallow fast to keep the lining of your stomach from rubbing against itself. It’s something you chase with half a roll of Tums to keep from belching in your afternoon interview’s face.

Lunch is something you wield single-handed behind the wheel while trying to keep the mayo from splattering on your “good” logowear. It’s a necessity, like charged batteries, lens paper, or formatted SD cards. Lunch is something you slurp from your cup holder, remnants you pluck from your lap, debris you eat off the car seat.

FullSizeRenderLunch is something you hide from the Assignment Desk, lest you be sent chasing happenstance before you order hits the take-out window. It is something you gorge secretly. Shamefully. For no one should ever have to eat the garbage a newsie must swallow on the fly.

So, no. I will not enjoy my Big Mac. I will shove it down my neck without tasting it, and wash it down with a watery soda just as the News Gods intended!

But I gotta say, the plastic Mario figurine will look great on my dashboard.

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Jennifer the Damned — Damned Good

31cdfeaa564824bfc812e1f4a25e9ad0I don’t read stuff like this. The truth is, I would have never have picked up Jennifer the Damned if someone from my church had not asked me to check it out. Holy Crap! Am I glad I did.

Forget what you know about old-school Dracula and those sparkly, sex-crazed teenage vampires of late. First-time author Karen Ullo is about to set the vampire world on it’s head. Jennifer Carshaw is a sixteen-year-old who has gone to Catholic school all her life. In fact, for the last five years, she’s been raised by nuns in a convent. She’s also been hiding a secret.

She’s a vampire. And when she feels the urge to make her first kill (during math class no less) her world spins out of control.

Caught between the nuns who have raised her and loved her like her vampire mother never could, and her thirst for life-giving blood, Jennifer is thrust into a world of her mother’s choosing. But don’t be fooled. This is no Young Adult read. This, my friends, is literature, rich with vampire lore and intertwined with Catholic doctrine.

Jennifer battles her own demons as she struggles with her need to kill and her yearning for a soul.

Ullo is at her best in Jen’s kill scenes. Dark, horrifying, and at the same time beautiful. She give us reason to be repulsed, while reflecting on our own morality and the savagery that can be part of our world. She walks a fine line without ever becoming preachy.

Jennifer the Damned is a rich story with a lesson about love and forgiveness that even the most blood-thirsty can learn from. If I could give it six stars, I would.

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Bloody Copper, Roaring Lead — R.D. Harless

bcrl-cover-8-6What do you get when you combine a hard-boiled detective novel with a gritty western? If you’re reading R.D. Harless’ latest offering, you get a lot of fun.

It’s no secret I like this guy. He knocked his first novel, They Tell Me I’m a Bad Guy, (a post-modern sci-fi-ish, end-of-the-world thriller with cool characters and plenty of violence) out of the park. This time around, Harless trains both barrels on a genre-blending crime novel that delivers the goods in Blood Copper, Roaring Lead.

Horace Freem is as gritty as they come. A Chicago cop turned P.I. in prohibition era Chicago, Freem is hired by a family with money to burn to find its missing son. The trail of Thomas Hendricks Jr. goes cold in Nevada where Freem, a city cop out of his element, has to rely on his wits and brute strength, to deal with a host of western bad guys. Freem’s take-no-guff attitude doesn’t serve him well with the desert-hardened souls of the west, but with the help of the likable-yet-dangerous Sam Penny, he tracks down every lead to find Hendricks, his fabled copper mine, but what of the family’s $45,000?

And who the hell offed Hendricks? In a place where everyone is a suspect with motive and opportunity, Harless does a great job keeping all the balls in the air, and Freem on his toes until the very end.

In a genre meld in which one could easily overpower the other, Harless blends both western and dark detective novel into one cohesive story that is both true detective, and true western. It keeps you guessing until the end, and it’s fun to boot.

If you’re a fan of either genre, this is a novel that will make you a fan of the other.

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Shopping Carts of the Serengeti

photo-1Capistrano has its swallows, Tanzania, its water buffalo. Hell, even the causeway in New Orleans has it’s purple martins to signal the end of winter. Near the end of each February, my neighbors and I here in Baton Rouge get to witness a springtime ritual as old as the subdivision itself, the great shopping cart migration.

As new life springs forth from our gardens, the small-wheeled, wire buggies, begin their trek from shopping centers outside our neighborhood toward their ancestral breeding grounds near the back of our subdivision. How else would one explain the sheer number and variety of specimens found lurking in the overgrown no-man’s-land between our pristine estates and the Section-8 housing units across the fence?

photoAll manner of danger lurks along the ancient migratory path, and only the strongest carts survive. Why just making it off the Walmart lot is grounds for incarceration. Those with the wobbliest wheels are routinely picked off by the neighborhood’s top predator, the bag lady. She’s been known to lie in wait for hours, plastic bags filled with empty soda cans in one hand, week-old bread in the other, and rip the weakest from the heard as it passes.

The lucky ones, she domesticates then fills with all her worldly possessions: 3 left shoes, the 1987 phone directory, rumpled newspaper, 1 mangey cat, 17 chicken bones, vintage fast food wrappers, and a garden gnome pilfered from the yard of the Homeowner’s Association President. It aint easy schlepping all that crap around, but it’s better than the alternative. The unfit, she turns in for 37 cents per pound at the recycling plant.

photo-2Then, there are the hoodlums who rope the sturdier of the breeds and ride them bareback down the boulevard, and the handymen who saw off their baskets and use their disc-like appendages to wheel heavy objects around garages and wood shops.

For the life of me, I cannot understand why such noble objects would choose this life — unless it’s not a choice at all. Maybe it’s just the crack-heads living in the Section-8 hotel who can’t carry a handful of groceries three blocks without the help of four wheels and a wire basket, and are too damned lazy to drag their carts around the fence and into their own damned yard. But I’m no zoologist, so what do I know.

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Positively Neutral

1235486_10201351624165473_1061309330_nIt started as an experiment. A dare of sorts. If you’re my friend on Facebook, you know what I mean. Since January 1, I’ve been Mister Positive, a ray of sunshine in an otherwise dark universe. Alas, the boss has informed me that my incessant uplifting messages are ethically questionable.

It seems that in my fervor to find the brighter side of life’s little disappointments, I have failed to be fair to all other sides of the situation.

Looking back over 9 months of positivity, it is clear I’ve been a bad journalist. As early as January 9 when I posted. Positive update #33: Backed up toilet story! MY LUCKY DAY!!!! 

I thought I was simply psyching myself up to tackle a nasty project. I was forgetting the first rule of journalism, objectivity. What about all the toilets that were not backed up? What about all the other stories that I would not tell that day? Should I really be excited over a turd in someone’s living room? What about all the toilets that flushed properly on that rainy day. Sadly, I took a side, and I apologize to the newsgods.

And again on January 12, I posted: Positive Update #45: Breaking News. STAY INSIDE!!! Bright heavenly orb warms skin and makes eyes water! If you must exit your home, Use Caution! I thought sunshine after 17 days of rain was something positive. I failed to consider all the work boatbuilders and animal wranglers were doing in preparation for the global flood, and gave them short-shrift. It was nearsighted of me, and I apologize.

On February 15, I thought the end of racial acrimony in our city was a thing to celebrate and posted this: PositiveUpdate#225: News irony! Black community rallies against black mayor for firing white police chief . . . named White! I forgot about all the white supremacists that watch the news and ask that they forgive my lack of balance in that post.

325I also apologize for all those happy posts from the capitol during the latest legislative session: PositiveUpdate#507: I get to go back to the capitol again today! So if you see me wearing a goofy smirk, just shoot me. It was careless of me to add to the partisan attitude in the state house by only shedding light on the positive. I hope my negative brothers from the other side of the aisle will accept my sincerest apology and that we can go forward together in complete neutrality.

The summer was no different. On August 14, I posted: PositiveUpdate#952: I’M GOING TO THE CIRCUS!!!! Well, Port Allen City Council, same thing. It was shallow of me to take joy in my good fortune to take in the spectacle of the Port Allen City Council with such frenzy. I rubbed salt in the wound of all those who could not be there for the “witch hunt” and “acquisitions.”

1005338_10201351623685461_152351036_nAnd as recent as September 11, I ran afoul of journalistic objectivity. PositiveUpdate#1057: Record-setting pace by the EBR Metro council! 3 committees appointed in 1 meeting!  It was wrong of me to slight all the bad legislation the council actually passed that evening by only highlighting the good things the council failed to pass.

I know that a single blog post can never atone for the damage I have done to my professional reputation over the past 8+ months. I ask for your indulgence, and the indulgences of the news gods while I begin making amends.

Never again will I post anything positive, or negative for that matter. From now on call me Mr. Neutral.

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