Saturday, January 29, 2011

Excerpt from 'Second Chances'

Edit made Friday, December 9, 2011: Click here to read my second excerpt from this book.

(This is a short excerpt from my literary project titled Second Chances. It has been more than a year in the making, and I figure it'll take me a few more before this will materialize into a full-length novel I can publish. In addition, this piece may not reflect the final content of the forthcoming edition. End disclaimer. Meanwhile, the following is a dialogue between two characters – an unnamed beau and a girl named Taylor – talking about the husband of a friend of Taylor's when he and Taylor went to high school together. I wrote this piece last night – Friday, January 28, 2011 – as I was listening to Thriller by Michael Jackson. Enjoy.)

"Thanks for meeting me on such short notice."

"No problem, Taylor. What's up?"

"I gotta come clean. There's a lot of stuff that has been weighing on my mind, and I just don't think it's fair for either you or me to keep things under wraps. Especially considering how long we've known each other."

"It's been several years, I think."

"At least. Anyway, I need to get several things out in the open. For my sake, for your sake, for our sake."

"Fire away. Where would you like to start?"

"With Paige's husband."



"What do you have against him?"

"He forced himself upon me when we were in high school."

"I'm so sorry."

"It was brutal. I first met him when we were freshmen. He was so innocent back then. We had a class together, and we were academically superior to the rest of our peers. One day near the end of the school year, I guess he had the courage to come up to me and ask if I wanted to go out with him. I initially declined. Then he asked me for my phone number. Again, I told him no. I wasn't interested. Figuring he was on his final strike, he took out a notecard, or something of similar size, and wrote down his number and handed it to me. He said that we weren't going anywhere because our intelligence would keep pairing us up. 'The sooner you figure that out, the less of a struggle it'll be.' I went home, thought about it for a while, and eventually dropped the matter like a lead balloon. But he was right.

"That first day back sophomore year, we were in four classes together, two of which we sat next to each other. If you were there, you would've sworn it was meant to be. 'Cause in retrospect, that's what I thought. At the end of the day, after our seventh period European history class, he tapped me on the shoulder, and said 'What'd I tell you', as if he saw this coming. More or less, I told him to go find someone else to bother. Again, he was relentless. He gently grabbed me by the arm, and told me a sob story about how he and his parents moved down from New York a few years ago and how much he wanted some female companions because his mother was frequently beaten into submission by his father, a Catholic priest of all things. I found out later that he was telling the truth, but I didn't believe him at the time. I said that if he didn't leave me alone, I would talk to the Dean of Student Services and have him transfer me out of all my classes with Vince. I never did so."

"How come?"

"Because it was an impossibility to switch around those classes without causing a number of scheduling conflicts, primarily. But as that second year wore on, a friendly rivalry also began to bud. We frequently got the highest grades in our classes together, and we started competing amongst ourselves in every venture. Homework, tests, projects, research paper. You name it. I actually looked forward to classes with him when we came back from Christmas break. And when summer vacation was just around the corner, I pulled a one-eighty and gave him my phone number. Needless to say, he felt accomplished that day."

"Did Vince ever make any more female friends aside from you?"

"He did, actually. As it turned out, he was quite popular with the girls at our school, which I found ironic considering his demeanor toward me."

"Had he ever mentioned at any point in time that you reminded him of his mother?"

"I never caught that, no. But when we started going out later that summer, it kinda felt like he was trying to impress his mother."

"How so?"

"On every date I can recall, he was well-dressed, well-groomed, and he always gave me a single gladiola as a token of appreciation."

"Sounds chivalrous."

"Indeed, but whatever he did must've worked. On our third date, we went to an outdoor BBQ and concert at a park the day before the Fourth of July. The food was great, but I couldn't say the same for the band playing that night. I think they were a local indie group gigging around, trying to catch a break. The point to this story was that after they stopped sounding like a jam session on LSD, the lights went out and a fireworks show got started on the other side of the lake where we were standing. He held my hand for a minute then, out of nowhere, he kissed me on the lips. If that had happened any other time, I would've pushed him away. But when we stood liplocked underneath the twinkling stars and colorful bursts of light, I felt like I stepped into a movie or some romance novel that was written especially for me. The scene couldn't have been scripted any better, and while I sound like I've shown no interest beyond a friendship, I gradually became mesmerized by him in the months and weeks leading up to that moment. When it happened, I began to fall in love with him."

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Rock On... President Obama's State of the Union Address

Not even three months ago, President Barack Obama's political prestige was in dire straits. People began salivating over the November 2010 elections as an omen for 2012, though I find it suprising no one drowned in their own drool. But then, the unthinkable happened: he didn't cower. Instead, he and the lameduck 111th Congres signed several new pieces of legislation, which included a passing of continued tax cuts and unemployment benefits, the repealment of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", and the New START treaty to reduce the number of nuclear arms in both the U.S. and Russia (among others). What had transpired leading up to last night's State of the Union address is nothing short of remarkable. After all, no president has been under more scrutiny than Obama. No president has been mocked during his tenure greater than Obama. No president has been subjected to more bigoted vitriol than Obama. To have him come back the way he did is an inherent quality of a true leader. And last night, President Obama capitalized on the momentum by delivering a rousing, bipartisan speech that should make any American feel proud to have him as our leader. As such, here are a "Pick Six" of premises I felt were noteworthy from last night's address.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Damon, Ramirez Provide Ray of Hope in Tampa Bay

Call it a fire sale, call it open season, call it anything you want. The 2010-2011 offseason for the Tampa Bay Rays has been anything but sunny. Not even three months after the World Series concluded with the San Francisco Giants beating the Texas Rangers, the Rays have already lost Joaquin Benoit, Carlos Peña, Jason Bartlett, Gabe Kapler, Grant Balfour, Matt Garza, Rafael Soriano, and (perhaps the biggest fish of them all in) Carl Crawford to either free agency or in trades made for future prospects.

It makes you wonder, do the Rays have anything to offer big name ballplayers?

As it turns out, they do (somehow). Pending physical examinations, the Rays have signed free agent outfielders Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez to one-year deals on Friday.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Rock On... Contemporary Relationships

With about 3 1/2 weeks to go until Valentine's Day, it comes that time in the year where I reflect on the importance of intimacy and the lessons I’ve learned about women from my past relationships... until I realize that I've had none (so far).

Zero. Zilch. Nada.

What few encounters I've had were DOA, either because the girl of my interest already had a boyfriend (and kept it incognito) or thought I was too much of a friend to be taken seriously.

Swing and a miss, every time. As a result, my lifetime batting average with the opposite sex is 0.000. Even Mario Mendoza thinks I've got no game.

But before you write me off as yet another male spurned by the nuances of females taking to the Internet to blow off some steam, allow me to share with y'all the method behind my madness.

In the time I have spent musing on my singleness and observing countless couples dating around my age and older, I've noticed one common thread amongst the majority that weave the fabric of contemporary relationships: they don't know what they want from each other.

You heard me right. People fall in love for all the wrong reasons nowadays and pervert the right ones, to boot. And here's the way I see it.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Czech Mates Spruce Uprooted Christmas Trees as Recycled Art

The holiday season has come and gone, and we're more than half a month into the new year. By now, those who celebrate Christmas have either boxed up their seasonal pine tree or found a way to properly dispose of them.

Unless you have creative ambitions and live in central Europe. Such is the case for two artists from the Czech Republic who found a way to keep the Christmas spirit alive, if only for a few more weeks.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

An Impromptu with Jehovah's Witnesses

(The following conversation I list is not verbatim. In fact, some parts may be paraphrased because I didn't have a recorder on hand to capture the full conversation. However, this is the best I can come up with based on my recollection on the couple who came to visit me one Saturday morning...)

Yesterday, I got up at around half-past ten and was expecting yet another quotidian day. After putting on a pair of jeans and some sneakers, I went out to the front yard to water the grass, as is my custom to do once a week this time of the year. I had just finished adjusting the appropriate water pressure to cover each area when I notice a man and a woman walking into my driveway. From the outset, they look like a couple of real estate agents.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Australian Teen Sacrifices Own Life to Save Brother During Flood

As one nation was reeling from a senseless shooting, another one was dealing with torrential floods ravaging its towns. The state of Queensland, in northeast Australia, has been hit with tons of water unleashed since late last December, and the destruction wrought upon the land down under is devastating. Among other things, tens of thousands of homes are without electricity, the cost to repair the damages in Queensland will be at least $5 billion, and the death toll as of Thursday is up to least 25.

One of those victims was Jordan Rice, a 13 year-old boy who selflessly put his 10 year-old brother up to be rescued, then drowned when the rope he hung onto snapped as he was carried away by the current this past Monday.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Haley's Meteoric Rise Continues as S.C.'s First Female Governor

Once every 75 to 76 years, Halley's Comet is visible from Earth in our inner solar system and presents itself as a once-in-a-lifetime event to behold and wonder. Now, another phenomenon is taking place no one in South Carolina would ever believe could happen in their lifetime: the inauguration of a female governor. That precedent is now history as Nikki Haley was sworn in earlier today as the 116th governor of South Carolina and the state's first female governor.

She also becomes just the fifth Republican governor of South Carolina under the state's Constitution of 1895. All five have been elected within the last forty years. Little did anyone know, it was also during this time that Haley would go from unknown businesswoman to the highest political office in the Palmetto State.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Cocked and Loaded: South Carolina Ready to Capitalize on Banner Year

In Chinese astrology, the New Year begins anywhere from late January to mid February, accompanied by an animal zodiac. According to the Chinese, 2010 was the year of the tiger. But for those following the football team fielded by the University of South Carolina, 2010 felt more like the year of the gamecock. Save their final two losses to Auburn and Florida State in December, this past season was one for the ages. First, it was the 35-21 upset at home over then #1 Alabama back in October for the Gamecocks’ first win against a top-ranked football team. Then, in November, the Gamecocks won in Gainesville for the first time as they swamped the Florida Gators, 36-14, and earned their first berth to the SEC title game. Later that month, South Carolina went on the road and dominated Clemson, 29-7, to win consecutive games against their hated in-state rival for the first time since 1970.

This is no anomaly, folks. The South Carolina Gamecocks are for real.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords Survives Murderous Rampage

(I apologize for the predominant sports posts the past several days. I confess, I'm a sports nut. Now, onto some serious stuff...)

In what was a truly tragic event today, there is a silver lining among this very dark cloud hovering over Tucson, Arizona. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, a Democratic member of the United States House of Representatives serving Arizona's eighth congressional district, has undergone brain surgery following a deadly shooting with a "very optimistic" chance for recovery, as one of her surgeons put it.

Sweetness in Seattle as Seahawks Stun Saints

Since the Seattle Seahawks defeated the St. Louis Rams in Week 17 to win the NFC West, their mere presence in the NFL postseason has been ridiculed. After all, the Seahawks became the first team in NFL history to win their division with an overall losing record (7-9) in a non-strike season heading into the playoffs. Despite their meager efforts, they still got to host a playoff game against, of all teams, the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints. Even that was ludicrous. Not only had the Saints have a better winning record than the Seahawks with a +4 win differential, New Orleans already beat them earlier in the regular season 34-19. Everything was going the Saints’ way, until the game got started. Now, it is the Seahawks getting the last laugh as they upset the Saints 41-36 on Saturday.

So forget Starbucks, the Seahawks’ victory proved to be Seattle’s best.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

HOF Voters Take a Bite Out of Crime Dog's Candidacy

When the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame made its selections for the Class of 2011 yesterday, it was a bittersweet announcement. This year’s inductees, Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven, are certainly worthy of the honor, though each were elected as polar opposites: Alomar on his second try, while Blyleven got in on his second-to-last try. Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro, notable players linked to rampant steroid use during the late 1990s through the mid 2000s, were on less than twenty percent of the voters' ballots. (Seventy five percent is needed to make the Hall, while five percent is needed to stay on the ballot altogether.) Others left out of Cooperstown this year include Barry Larkin (with 62.1 percent of the votes), Jack Morris (with 53.5 percent), and Lee Smith (with 45.3 percent).

And then there’s Fred McGriff. Remember him?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Masseuses Sack Brett Favre, New York Jets with Sexual Harassment Suit

Not even 48 hours after Brett Favre finished a tumultuous 2010 season which saw his NFL-record consecutive games streak snap at 297, the future Hall of Famer has been hit with yet another lawsuit. This suit – filed by Christina Scavo and Shannon O’Toole – is a sexual harassment charge against the quarterback, as well as the New York Jets and a massage coordinator for the Jets, when the massage therapists claimed they lost their part-time jobs while working for the Jets during Favre’s lone season with New York back in 2008. The lawsuit is primarily targeted towards Favre who, allegedly, sent sexually subjective text messages to them during their employment with the team, including one in which he wanted an orgy with the two accusers and a third unnamed therapist.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Fowl Play: A Mystery for the Ornithologists

Shortly before midnight this past New Year’s Eve, at least 1,000 red-wing blackbirds are believed to have suddenly, and eerily, died while in flight. Upwards of 5,000 bird carcasses have been collected by the end of New Year’s Day, from the streets to people’s rooftops. The birds all collapsed and perished within a span of one mile between each other in Beebe, Arkansas, a small town of just under 5,000 residents approximately 40 miles northeast of Little Rock. The massacre has given the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission a morbid, albeit not uncommon, investigation to pursue as this new year unfolds.

As soon as this story made breaking news, a laundry list of explanations were given for the birds' mysterious death, ranging from a lightning strike or high-altitude hail to UFOs, as one CNN viewer saw it. (People still believe in them?) However, the growing consensus for this phenomenon is that the birds died from massive trauma caused by flying into themselves, other hard objects, or simply crashing to the ground because they were startled by fireworks in the area.

This conclusion, if corroborated, certainly presents an unusual circumstance. I never knew fireworks could cause such severe trauma for a whole flock of birds, ultimately leading to their untimely deaths. I’ve heard of fireworks blowing off people’s arms and blowing away people’s mailboxes, but never being the demise of a substantial number for a whole species. For this, there’s bound to be a whole new set of questions to answer. What kinds of fireworks triggered this outcome? And if these fireworks were elaborate and caused all this trouble, should they be banned? Or were the birds, like many unfortunate victims, simply in the wrong place at the wrong time?

Either way, trying to sort this whole mess out could turn into a real can of worms for concerned citizens once living innocently in this podunk town.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Welcome to Rock Talk

Hello, all you incognito readers out there. This is the inaugural post of Rock Talk, managed by yours truly, Rock. Pun aside, this blog is my latest venture into social media and will document all my thoughts, opinions, and beliefs longer than 140 characters. It is my intention to have three posts up per week: twice on the weekdays and once on the weekend. The weekday posts will typically be short, contemplative pieces on contemporary issues and stories that intrigue me. My weekend post will usually be a column-like piece on a predetermined topic of choice. Talking points will range from the serious – like religion and politics – to the silly, such as escapades to the Dollar Tree. However, I may go over or under this limit of three weekly posts at any time. Remember, this blog of mine is nothing more than a hobby I wish to partake while both a full-time student and working a part-time job. I am merely using this as a tool to express myself in this growing digital age. With that being said, have a happy, healthy new year in 2011, and I look forward to having y’all read my written work. God bless.