Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Last Assignment.

My photographer grunted in frustration as he forced the lever into second gear, "This old car fallin' apart! Ah tell them it can't make these kinda drives!"

To me, he always seemed apologetic about the condition of his old Nissan. At least, that's how he came across to me. The car was old - I'll give him that - but I didn't see the need for him to offer any explanations. This was the same car that got us to and from assignments in the Diego Martin hills and around the hairpin turns of the North Coast Road leading to Maracas. Now, we were weaving our way through the hills of Belmont on our way to a murder scene.

"Hmph..." was all I replied to his complaint. This was... IS my usual response to any statement I didn't feel warranted me actually thinking of something to say. Instead I focused my attention on the view outside my window. I had never been this far inside Belmont before and I wanted to take it in.

In most places, on either side of the road, the land sloped gently upward. There were few areas that were more built-up than others, but other than that, it was your typical hillside community with houses nestled against the sloping landscape, surrounded by trees and tall grass. It was still the dry season then and the sun was making it's presence felt, but since the season wasn't as harsh this year, there was still a lot of green everywhere. Many of the properties were unfenced, which I assume was mostly because they were squatter homes that had been regularized by some government or the other. Others either saw no need or didn't have the funds to put up fences.

Eventually, we managed to find our assignment, despite the crude directions the officer at the Belmont police station gave me. Of course, the row of police vehicles and the yellow tape cordoning the street where the shooting took place helped.

The entire street was taped off. About halfway in - I estimate about 20 feet - forensics officers were standing over something in the tall grass on the side of the road. That was our body. It was hard to make out, even through the zoomed-in view of my photographer's camera.

There were other reporters already on the scene and I asked one of them, Cee, a reporter I knew from previous assignments, what they found out. She nodded and shrugged and she pulled another cigarette from her bag. I wasn't actually expecting her to share any juicy info she might have picked up. I was new to the reporting gig but I wasn't an idiot. Fortunately, I knew one of the officers on the scene, so I waited until his superiors had moved off a bit and approached him.

"I already told Cee everything we know," he said.

"Yeah, okay, but just give me the short version. In case she "forgets" to tell me something. I prefer to get my info first hand anyway."

He looked at me for a few seconds and I, in turn, raised my eyebrows expectantly and put my pen to my notebook. He sighed...

The victim's identity wasn't verified but it look as if it was a gang-style execution. That, he assured me, was all they knew at that time. After I thanked him, I went over to my photographer to see what luck he was having in getting a good photo. He told me that unless they were done and ready to move the body he wasn't going to get a decent shot from our distance. So all we could do was wait.

Not good news. The day was hot and we had to rely on the what little shade an overhanging tree could provide us.
It wasn't much, but it was better than nothing.
It wasn't long before Cee and most of the others decided they'd had enough and it was time to leave. It didn't look like they planned on moving the body anytime soon so we left as well.

Not long after we pulled off, my photographer began groaning in frustration again as he struggled with his old Nissan's manual transmission and we talked about the problems he was having with the finance company to get a loan for his new car. Maybe it was because I was so new to journalism, but I found that even these morbid and seemingly wasted trips were still a little exhilarating.

Too bad they were already planning on firing me the next day...
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Friday, July 27, 2012


The only time I get to leave the house these days are for my morning sessions at the gym. Early mornings there aren't very crowded. I usually see the same five guys there most mornings. There are a few women regulars too, but they spend most of their time on the aerobics floor.

We all basically do our own thing, unless someone needs help and sometimes we talk about the news, or the weather or some other meaningless crap... Just your basic guy stuff I guess. Everyone gets along and normally we all have a pretty good workout.

When it comes to the free weights, there are some guys there who lift more than I do, but it's not by much. It gives me a goal to chase. I can tell myself that, with a little more work I can work up to that level. Then there are one or two who aren't lifting as much weight as I am. So I can safely say I'm somewhere in the middle. But, all-in-all though, everyone's pretty average - no superheroes - and, by the end of our individual workouts, you could say we all leave pretty confident in our progress:
Great workout! Catch ya later, Eddie.
Thus, peace and harmony reigned in the land and all was good... Well... it was good... Before the day he walked in...
No one knows his name, or where he came from. I think we're all too afraid to talk to him. And with good reason, seeing as he's about three times my size - height and width. Yeah... he's big. His first day there he walked up to the rack of free weights...
From this rack he selected the three heaviest pairs. Those are the 95, 85 and 75 pound dumbbells. Nobody ever used those before! I always thought they were for display. I tried to lift one of the 95lb ones once, but it never budged, so, I just assumed they were welded down or something (logical conclusion, right?). I normally go with something lighter, anyway.
See that little 20 pounder over there in the middle? That one's mine. Isn't she cute?!
Anyway, the big guy takes the dumbbells over to a free bench and lines them up on the floor like he's spreading out a meal. Then he sits down and emasculates us curls each set of weights, rests like 5 seconds and does it all over again... THREE TIMES... by himself (not that any one of us could have helped him if he did need it)

The rest of us continued our own workout while trying not to stare (we failed miserably, by the way). Eventually, he finished his set and walked over to the machines. As he did so, he looked over at us, smiled and said, "S'up, fellas?"

I don't know I he was genuinely being friendly or just a smug asshole, but what I do know is by the end of that morning, we weren't quite as confident in our progress as we normally were.
source: YouTube
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Monday, July 23, 2012

The Obligatory "Writer's Block" Post.

I know! I know! I've been gone almost two weeks without a word. I think that's actually a new record for me. I blame it on that damn blinking cursor that greets me when I open up my 'Compose' screen. Pretentious little sonofabitch, huh? I just got tired of staring at that thing. I mean it just sits there, mocking me... blinking. Daring me and jeering me. It says, "Go ahead! Write something. Bet you can't. Bet you just sit there and do nothing."

I hate that cursor.

As you're well aware, it's an unofficial rule when you have a blog is that you should write on said blog from time to time. It's kind of expected, to be honest. Darn rules! I wish I could say it's because I've been sooo damn busy that I've barely had time to breath, let along write, but the truth of the matter is I've hardly been doing much of anything.

Besides staring at a blinking cursor, that is.

Actually, that's kind of the problem. It's hard to relay my new adventures when I haven't been having any. Sitting at home all day doesn't exactly provide much in the way of blog fodder.

I know what you're going to say, "But, Vinny, what about Sprocket Ink? You've still been writing over at Sprocket Ink."

Yes, I have. So, technically, I guess I don't really have writer's block... Wait! You guys have been checking out my posts over at Sprocket, have you?


I... I don't believe this. How..? Why..? Don't make me use my signature "Scowl of Disapproval".
There's still chance to redeem yourselves. I put in an extra post today (Sorry. Site's gone now). It's up right now and don't forget tomorrow's post too. Don't make me give you the other half of that scowl.

Anyway, I figure if I could waste your time with the last few paragraphs just writing about my inability to write then I'm full of it I can snap out of it. Expect me back... soon.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Vinny Unplugged.

For those of you who have been wondering why things have been so quite around here the past few days, I've was forcibly removed from the Matrix again. That's right! Our internet was down... AGAIN! This time, it was completely gone for FIVE WHOLE DAYS!!! Don't ask me how I survived. I don't know either. At first, I did take it the same way I always do...
Eventually, though, I snapped out of it. I decided to busy myself with other things. I'm a trooper like that.

Hey! Did you guys know there are other uses for a computer besides surfing the web? I know it sounds crazy, but stay with me on this. Among other things, I actually played games and music on it. It's like a giant cellphone!

I even went outside a few times. And not because I had to. It was just for the heck of it. I know! Crazy, right? I like to take chances every now and then. By the way, has anyone else noticed there's this giant ball of fire in the sky?
Between you and me, I don't think it comes in peace.

But my internet returned and I'm back! And I'm making up for lost time with a brand spankin' new post over at Sprocket Ink. Today, we're talking about one of my favorite topics: Coffee!
Awesome mug courtesy of Nubian. Being put to good use, as you can see.
The results on a new study on how the magic bean can help protect us from the fiery overlord looming overhead have been released and I couldn't wait to share the good news. So, as always, just click here and enjoy. In fact, go make a cup of coffee to sip while you read. You'll thank me later.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Me Vs. Nature: Part II - Natural Enemy.

MONDAY - 2:21AM: I sit, unable to sleep. Sleep was taken from me tonight by the incursion of an old enemy. Hopefully, by the time you're reading this I'll finally be able to go to bed. I suppose I'd better start at the beginning.

Mrs. C and I had settled down for bed. The lights were off, the room was cozy, everything was right. Sleep didn't come as quickly as it normally would, but eventually I began to feel consciousness slowly slip away. Like an old movie reel slowly whirring into operation, the random images that would be my dreams began to flicker in my mind. Sleep was coming, and I gladly welcomed it.


But this was not to last. From the part of my mind that was still semi-conscious, I could sense a disturbance. This was further emphasized when heard my wife next to me growl in frustration. It was then I came to just enough to hear what it was. Something had gotten all the dogs on the street riled up and they were all barking their heads off. Not the first time. I decided to ignore it and apparently so did Mrs. C.

Soon the lights in my brain began to flicker again as images began to fill my subconscious. I wasn't fully asleep when I felt it. A prickly feeling move across the back of my hand. In the dark my eyes opened as I flung my hand upward. That's right! A COCKROACH had just run across my hand!

cockroach - The Infiltrator !!! :)
I knew what it was instantly. At that moment, all it took was one fluid motion for me to be up, out of bed and flicking on the light switch. At this point I should point out that I'm not one to go into a panic when I see one of these things, but I will not - under any circumstances - tolerating them actually touching me. All this stems from something that happened a long time ago. An event that has been indelibly etched into my brain and may forever haunt me...

You see (*lays down on couch, clasps hands on chest and looks up at ceiling*) it all began when I was about 5 years old. I remember it well. I was getting ready for bed and putting my PJs. I had just buttoned up my shirt when I felt this strange prickling sensation on my stomach. Curious, I undid the buttons to see what was the cause of this sensation and there, running up my little chest, you can guess... Our gazes met, I shrieked, it flew away. I've been scarred since. It was a brief encounter but, since then, I've made it my mission to kill any of these creatures once they dared to venture into my personal space.

You understand.

Anyway, during this most recent encounter, my movements woke Mrs. C just enough to ask me what had happened. I told her what was going on and she, not being overly concerned, pulled her covers again.

I know, right? You'd think she'd at least be worried, especially since the hand the bug crawled over was the one that was thrown over her shoulder, which meant it was only inches from her face. Nothing! She wanted to sleep and nothing was going to stop her. Or at least she tried to. When she realized I wasn't taking the light off until I found the bug, she decided to use the opportunity to go to the bathroom.

It didn't take me long to find it. I've discovered over the years that cockroaches aren't very good at hiding when they're spooked and usually scamper around the place like crazy. This time was no exception. I grabbed a slipper and brought its existence to a quick end. By the time Mrs. C came back into the room I was already back in bed, satisfied that I had made the world a safer place. My wife, however, just gave me this kinda look and nodded before she flipped the light off again.

Honestly, she should have been thanking me. No appreciation whatsoever!

We settle in again. Several minutes passed as we lay in the dark. Satisfied that the ordeal was over I tried not to let the earlier excitement get to me and waited for sleep to come. Then... I heard a familiar fluttering.

Me: Son of a bitch!
Mrs. C: What?
Me: Another one just flew right above my head!
Mrs. C: GROAN!!!

Needless to say, the light was again. Only, this time Mrs C didn't bother to get up. She decided she was going to leave me to face my demons alone. This new invader was smarter than the last one and stayed hidden. After a few minutes I decided to call it quits and go back to bed. But it was no good. Did you know that if it's quiet enough, you can head them scurrying about? Well if you didn't, yes, you most certainly can. It was decided. I wasn't getting to sleep this night.

The cause? My best guess is that, for the first time in days, it rained yesterday. And this wasn't just any sprinkle either. The rains came early in the morning, poured for a long time and never really stopped until evening. Even when it lightened up, it continued all day. This, I suspect drove them from the vacant overgrown lot next door, seeking drier ground. Our open window was just the invitation they needed.

As for me, I got up, grabbed the can of bug spray and went into the living room where I surfed the web until sunrise. I couldn't spray the room since Mrs. C is still peacefully asleep in there so here I am. The bug spray is in case they decide to follow me outside too.

I'll sleep when the sun comes up. I'll be safe then.
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