Thursday, September 27, 2007

A Tragic Coming-Of-Age Tale

Yesterday morning I turned on the news while getting ready for work and one of the top stories was about a double homicide which had just been committed the night before. A 21 year old guy drives up to the house his ex-girlfriend is at, smashes into her parked car with his car 'till the rear end of her car is mush, shoots his way through the sliding glass door and proceeds to gun down his ex, and two other friends in the house. The shooter then drives back to his apartment where police apprehend him later that morning.

If this were New Orleans, this would be a weekly event. Domestic murders were very common. (At least when I lived there.) But here it's kinda rare. The last big killing involving such young killers and victims was the Deltona X-Box killings a couple years ago. Several friends in their early 20's were beaten to death with a baseball bat over an argument stemming from a dispute about an X-Box game system.

This weeks killing was in Oviedo, not far from Deltona (in fact, if traveling by major roads between those 2 towns about 20 miles apart, you drive right by Lake Mary!).

But the really chilling thing was the fact that when the TV news showed the "alleged" murderer on video tape shot at the county jail, I nearly spit out my Crystal Light.

I knew him!

Andrew was in my initial training classes at Convergys back in 2005. He sat in the seat just to the right of me and during the next 3 weeks of training, when we were paired up to do breakout training lessons, I had usually been partnered with him. Over the course of the next 11 months of my employment there, Andrew and I saw each other from time to time as we had both been on the same shift for a while and even after I switched shifts, the shifts overlapped somewhat so I saw him from time to time. I think he even gave me a ride home one time.

I would not say we were friends. He was very quiet and kept to himself for the most part. I don't think he had any friends there. Plus, he was a young kid and I started becoming friends with co-workers near my own age like Phil, Sharon and Charles.

But I remember him clearly since he always seemed to be a bit weird. (Well, who at Convergys wasn't, really?) He drove this big white car like a Crown Vic or something and it had a spotlight installed by the driver side window, like you'd find on a police cruiser. Weird. When he did talk he expressed his interest and expertise in computers and networking.

After seeing the news reports, I wanted to see what other news providers were saying about the incident so I googled his name and lo-and-behold he had his own web site under the domain "www.andrewallread.com". I clicked the link and saw it was just a shell of a site with just a white page with the notation..."I am out of here..." on it. I was able to click through the "pub" folders like an FTP site and clicked through the directories to access the remaining few files on the site. This included eerie screenshots of blog pages and a rambling copy of an IM thread graphically displaying a romantic breakup and a possible new fling that the victim Tiffany had been chatting provocatively with...perhaps one of the other 2 victims in the house that night...one who died and another who is still living with a bullet wound to the leg. Probably most disturbing was a picture of Tiffany candidly taken during, no doubt, happier times while she slurped ramen noodles from a plastic container while sitting in the bathtub. (Picture was taken from behind so it's just a photo of innocence and youth, not sexually explicit).

Of course, it wasn't long before the site was finally shut down for good and none of this is any longer available.

It's sad when you hear of stupid, senseless violence like this. Weird when it pertains to someone you circumstantially knew.

This case is pretty much cut and dry since he made a racket smashing the car and shooting in a suburban neighborhood where he was known. He had been there before and lived only a few blocks away. There were plenty of witnesses, including some reported 10 or so people in the house at the time. They were apparently continuing a party which had started the night before at Andrews house. You see, they were celebrating the 21st and 22nd birthdays of Andrew and his friend Michael. It was at Michael's house the killings took place. Tiffany and Michael. Shot dead.

Man, what a waste! Lord knows I've had my own issues with alcohol-induced bad decisions, but to get wasted at your 21st birthday party and then get a gun and shoot your friend and girlfriend in a rage. Man, that's bad!

Well, Happy Birthday Andrew! The State of Florida may be providing you with an unexpected birthday gift...a little sit-down time in "Old Sparky". Or, at least, a place to stay...for the rest of your life.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez

Ric and I had a great time in New Orleans this past weekend. I was a little nervous at first thinking it would just throw us into a number of ugly arguments, but things went fine. BTW, he didn't need to be in a sling so was pretty ambulatory.

We flew out early Saturday morning, started drinking virtually as soon as we landed (sooner for Ric, he had a beer on the plane...at 8:30 am...okay can you say "lush"?)

After check-in, we went to Harrah's Casino, right across the street from where we were staying (New Orleans Hilton-Riverside).

Come to find out, Ric is extremely vulnerable to becoming a gambling addict.

We both played 25 cent slots for a few minutes and before you knew it, I won double my investment and he won almost that as well. People were sneering at us (yes, there were a few people in the casino so early in the morning) with disdain.

But, almost an hour later, I broke even and Ric had lost all his earnings and about $40 more.

He kept wanting to stay to win it back but I finally pulled him outta there.

We then went down Decatur St. to Jackson Square and Ric seemed impressed by all the old architecture and layout of the "Riverside" area of the Quarter, but he really shined once we moved on to the layout of all the bars on Bourbon St. a few blocks "Lakeside".

We went to Bourbon Pub, one of the prominent gay clubs in the Quarter, but being so early, it was dead. We had a couple of drinks and moved down Bourbon, stopping at various bars and daiquiri shops.

I had already made reservations for us at The Court of Two Sisters, so we were seated right away at noon for our Jazz Brunch. I had grits and grillades, broiled catfish, Creole jambalaya, Duck a l'Orange, Shrimp Etouffee, boiled shrimp with Creole remoulade sauce, and Roast Beef, carved to order and served with natural au jus, topped off with a dessert of Southern Pecan Pie with Praline Sauce and Bananas Foster. I ordered a Bloody Mary but Ric also ordered champagne for the both of us.

Can you say "Decadently Delicious!"?

Ric picked up the $90 check here as (partial) payment toward the hotel costs (remember, I had originally booked this vacation for myself, and then he wanted to go so he bought airfare on the same flights as me but never paid for the hotel part of the package.)

After brunch, we strolled Bourbon Street, chatted with bartenders at various places and got slowly, but surely, shit faced.

We took a very sad walking Haunted Tour which seemed like a total rip-off. We ditched it halfway through. Afterwards, at dusk, we took a mule drawn carriage ride thru the Quarter with a really great tour guide.

Come 8:00 pm, I was still raring to go, but Ric had all sorts of aches and pains due to his injuries and his usual drinking "headache", so he needed to go back to the hotel. I stayed out at the gay bars for another hour or so, went to Krystals, scoffed down 6 cheese Krystals and went back to the hotel room by 10:00.

The next day it was I who was in pain...hungover and with virtually no muscle power, it was very difficult to walk.

Ric was obsessed with finding a sports bar to watch the football games, but after several inquiries, the best offered was the Cajun Cabin bar. But before we went there we had a great lunch at Johnny White's Bar, where I had red beans & rice with Andouille sausage and Ric had Bourbon Chicken Wings which he said were good. Ric and I took a few good pictures of each other with his cell phone...I should post them here eventually. At the Cajun Cabin, Ric ordered more wings and some fried gator.

Ric had more stamina than me today, so I had to bow out around 6:30. Ric napped back at the hotel with me too, but he went out around 8:00 back to Oz, Bourbon Pub and Lafite in Exile without me for another couple hours.

Monday, we had a final shopping excursion at Riverwalk, and ate lunch of gumbo and Po Boys at Kappy's right in the hotel.

Our early afternoon flight got us back to Florida in time to cap off the day with dinner at Chili's in Lake Mary.

It was a great vacation and I think both of us got a lot of fun outta it.

It was just so hard getting back to the work "grindstone" on Tuesday!

Oh well, we "let the good times roll" where and when we want them!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Eh, What's Up Doc?

Okay, so I just got back from my follow up appointment to the doctors. It was supposed to be a full exam but he postponed that because he wanted to go over the blood test and MRI results. No big surprises...onset Type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and abnormal liver lipids. More evidence that suggest I am fat. Duh! Yea, my mirror tells me that!

Just got off the phone with Ric...he had his MRI today for his banged-up sholder from the accident. Turns out it's not just sprained, his sholder bone is broken. He's probably gonna be outta work for a few more weeks now. He still wants to go to New Orleans next weekend though, yet he'll probably be in a sling.

I'm on lunch at work, but I'm not eating because I went to the McDonald's right next to the doctors office this morning and had 2 egg McMuffins. Just the thing for my health, right? Oh brother!

I'm really thinking of making the new Orleans trip my "Last Fling" for decadence in eating and drinking behavior.

And I say behavior rather than just simply eating or drinking because my problems stem mostly from the way I use food and alcohol, not the food and alcohol themselves. It's the behavior that must change. The correct food choices and severely limited alcohol use will follow.

Or should I get all Draconian and just force myself on a severe diet and total absintence from drinking all at once?

This doctor has me going for ultrasound for my liver, classes for diabetes and twice weekly physical therapy sessions for my frozen shoulder. Man, I'm gonna be a busy beaver!

Well, almost time to start my training class for the new hire (I do training specifically on the BE product).

I'll try to stay alive 'till the next post!