Last Five

Here's my last five for April 22, 2007

1. Knucklehead - Grover Washington
2. Ride The Lightning - Metallica
3. Intergalactic - Beastie Boys
4. Not For You - Pearl Jam
5. Firestarter - Jimmy Eat World



When I first started junior high- thinking about how long ago that was -I tried to be a loner. I didn't hang out with anyone or tried out for anything. I was content to find my way through it all on my own. But along the way, I made a few very close friends, I found that I wanted to write and started acting. It was all a far cry from what I had originally intended.

I wasn't a popular kid, high school or junior high. I think I was known or at least recognized. High school for me was generally good, but I was quite lost, even after it was over. Still, I wasn't a loner. Never at one point did I figure that there were forces around me conspiring to make me look bad or to harm me. I was a bit of a non-conformist, yes, but I knew I had friends.

I wasn't the kind of guy girls just swooned after. I had a girlfriend in junior high how I broke up with after we reached high school. I had a couple of girlfriends after her. My senior year being the defining moment for me. And despite how bad with the women I was, I never thought that they were evil or that I would never find love.

So I get to looking at the media coverage about Virginia Tech and I can't identify...
Alright, let me be perfectly clear on one point before I continue. My heart goes out to the families of the 33 people who were needlessly gunned down last Monday. That being said, I'd like to continue.

There was so much coverage and now there's nothing but speculation. I don't want to see it anymore. I don't want them to analyse it anymore. People are grieving and 33 people are dead. Let the subject rest. But it got me thinking about people who have cross my life line that may have once felt like Seung-Hui Cho, the gunman who left his mark on the lives of those who were left to pick up the wreckage at Virginia Tech. Of course, I can't really say, with any degree of accuracy, who they were and when they came into and out of my life.

At some point in our lives, we are all misfits. Misunderstood by society, our families or friends... the world. Then there are those we just shut out. The ones we don't include. The ones we laugh at. The fat kid in gym class, I heard someone talking about around the office the other day. The one who gets picked last, if at all.

When I was in college, there was this skinny kid with glasses who liked to draw cartoons. He always came around the office right around the time that articles and ads were due. Tuesday or Wednesday, I think were those days. He wore a ball cap and had glasses and was rail-thin. A real scrawny kid. He would come into the den of wolves that was our newsroom and proceed to try and talk to one or all of us. None of us ever really gave him the time of day. With each visit he would leave us with a cartoon strip he drew, asking if we could run it in the paper. Someone would always take his cartoon and tell him we would look at it and see if we had room to run it.

After he'd leave, we would all take turns looking at the cartoon and reading it. The humor never came across, at least not to us. There were about four panels and the recurring characters were crudely drawn and badly outlined. There was no color and they were sometimes delivered on a piece of college-ruled paper. I can't, for the life of me, remember his name. But he was somewhat forgettable.

He delivered his cartoon to us each week. Sometimes he'd miss a week and we'd see him again the next. And each week we'd give him the same line. I felt bad sometimes, taking his cartoon, shoving it under a pile of papers and sometimes forgetting all about it. Then I'd find it there days later and we'd all cringe at the absurdities he'd drawn or question the humor or just shake our heads in confusion.

I always wondered why he never just came to work on the paper. The staff could be a bunch of real ball breakers, but at the end of the day, they were all great people to be around.

I can't remember why it was I wasn't there when he finally decided to chip in and help out one night to put the paper together. My advisor told me later that the night he helped out, he had an epileptic seizure and hit his head on a table on the way to the floor. No one was sure how to stabilize him, but they were able to get a pencil in his mouth to keep him from swallowing his tongue. We never saw him again. Probably didn't want to show back up there, afraid we would make fun of him or maybe just embarrassed. I can understand both those feelings.

It was weeks and weeks later that we were cleaning up the office as we did each semester when I found a notebook on a table near the darkroom. It was the scrawny kid's notebook. And it had some cartoons. The same cartoons he'd been submitting for publication week after week. Each of them made little sense and were never really funny. I flipped through the pages of the notebook when suddenly I found a letter he'd written. It was addressed to the staff of our paper. And it was darker than anything I thought he was capable of. He was angry. Very angry. Angry we never published his cartoons. That we never spoke to him or befriended him. That we were mean and that one day he would be a famous cartoonist despite our attempts to keep his work out of our paper. It was a one page letter. We all read it. I think I kept it for a while. I don't know what became of it and what ever became of him.

Sometimes it can feel like no one in the world understands you, much less, likes you. I'm not a stranger to those feelings. But there's a fine line that a person must cross to decide to arm themselves and take the lives of people who never caused him any harm. I think that's what happened at Virginia Tech. 32 people suffered the rage of a man who could not come to grips with his anger towards the world and ultimately, towards himself. Because if there's no love of self, there's no love for anything. Those people paid the price for his lack of faith in humanity. For his lack of love. For his lack of self.

Analysts can break it down anyway they want. They can read between the lines of his videos and letters and interpret his photos however they see fit. It won't change what's happened. And why let the loved ones left behind relive the day on continuous loop for the sake of ratings? Don't claim to inform me. Don't claim to protect me. Let the victim's families, friends and loved ones grieve. Please.

"Let us not live in timidity and ignorance. And in dying, we can say, we were dedicated to the most noble cause of all: the liberation of the human mind and spirit, beginning always with our own." - Maya Angelou.

I don't know why I felt compelled to tell the story of that shy kid from college. Maybe because I felt guilty. I don't know that he would have ever been pushed to that point. But then it doesn't take much for some people. And no matter how safe schools make thing sometimes, it won't change how one person decides to deal with the pressures of life. There is no predictability factor there.

To the families and friends of those who were lost at Virginia Tech: I hope the pain subsides one day.


I Believe I Can Fly

Recently, Christopher Reeve's costume from "Superman: The Movie" sold at auction for $115,000. If I was single, I would have sold my house to buy it. And, not that it would fit me, but I'd wear it at least once.


Last Five, April 10, 2007

iPods rule. Here's the Last Five for today.

1. Too Tough To Die - The Ramones
2. Run - Snow Patrol
3. It's Yours - Wu-Tang Clan
4. Stone Free - Eric Clapaton
5. Finish What Ya Started - Van Halen


A New Look

I thought it would be good to give the blog a new look. I dig it.

More to come.


Easter Means Chocolate Idols

Let me begin by pointing out what many of people who are close to me know about me. I am hardly a religious person. Spiritual, yes. Religious, no.

When people ask what faith I belong to, I usually reply, "Catholic by default."

That being said, when people ask me, "What are you doing for Easter?" I'm usually stumped by the question. My parents never took me to Easter egg hunts. We never really went to services that Sunday. Sometimes my mother would drag me along to an early, Spanish mass at Christ The King. I remember those days because there was a priest from South Africa, Father Bernie, who would sometimes do that service. His accent didn't always lend itself to the Spanish language.

Anyhow, back to the rant, already in progress.

My son, Terrance, and I had gone to see the absolutly awful "Hills Have Eyes 2" when he suggested we go to the Dollar Store and roam around a bit before we had to go home. Like most stores, Dollar Store had their massive collection of Easter paraphanailia. From plastic eggs to chocolate bunnies. But as we made our way through the holiday isles, I saw something that caught my eye.

They were made of chocolate, the praying hands. You know the ones I mean. You sometimes get the little prayer card with them at church or you see them adorning the rear window of some God-fearing person's Chevy Tahoe or Ford Explorer. Or maybe even tatood on some part of the body. Two hands, presumably of Jesus, I think. Outstretched, held together with a little bit of the sleeves showing.

Why not a chocolate Jesus? Or a chocolate crucifix? Christ on a chocolate chip cookie? Oreos with holy filling? Purified, bottled, holy water you can drink while working out? Come on, chocolate praying hands? Gimme a fucking break.


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