OMG I made my first public debut!

It was scary and thrilling at the same time. I put on my make up, dress and cute witches hat, sat down and recorded an entire episode of my podcast not as him but as me. It was hard. It was exciting. It was fun!

I knew someday Stephanie was going to be out. I don’t know if she will ever get to take over our life but I want to ensure she gets to be herself more than ever before. It hasn’t been easy for me getting to this point. In fact it’s been extremely tumultuous. No agonizing. No, oh there probably isn’t a word for it. Is there a word for this feeling you have doing the absolutely most terrifying soul-crushing thing that is at the same time the most liberating and soul-freeing? I don’t know whatever that word is, that’s how I felt.

I made my first full public appearance in drag on The Dark Web Podcast. I told my audience Stephanie was coming a few weeks ago. I said she is real, she is me, but she is shy. I finally began making strides towards this about a year and a half ago when I came out officially to a female friend of mine. I decided I couldn’t hold it in any longer. Ever since that day I have been slowing giving in to being more and more Stephanie each day.

I finally got to wear I am comfortable enough painting my toe nails and wearing my flip flops sans socks in public. I’ve done that two weeks in a row now and pushed past the gut-wrenching fear. I’ve slowly begun getting used to clothes shopping, although when it comes to under things well I am still overly discrete. Dresses, blouses and even skirts I can grab without too much agony but panties and bras, well I still have a ways to go.

Things are improving. But last night I sat in front of the camera and was doing so, for the first time, comfortable in my skin, comfortable with who I am and who I’ve always wanted to be.

I will be defining more what the limits of Stephanie are in the coming days and weeks. I suspect I will set some boundaries but there is a very real chance, well now that she is out she isn’t going back in so there is a chance I let her live a little and take a back seat for a while.

If this sounds confusing trust me it is for me too. It’s not like she is a voice inside my head or a separate person or anything like that. She is me, I am her. But, well I’ve had to live a certain lie, build a life around a mask. Therefore Stephanie has a right to live, and she will! But The Rat also has to manage thing for her out of necessity for the time being.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ffVemmSPh2Q

Anyways, hey check out my video where I am totally rocking that cute dress I spent all friggin day shopping for. Stay Cool.

Retropalooza is now two weeks away

I am two weeks away from attending my first ever convention. This year I will be going to Retropalooza, a retro video game convention held in Alrington, Texas. I chose this one to be my first because it was the easiest one to get to considering I am about an hour away from Arlington.

I decided since this will be my first convention I would double it as an opportunity to do my first cosplay. Since that is the case I will be going both as THERAT and Stephanie to this thing. I am not sure what it will be like walking around in public for the first time dressed as a woman but I am excited for it. I am trying to build up anticipation so that I don’t chicken out.

Gearing up for the trip I have set up an interview with a YouTuber who is known as a Transgender gamer. She will be making an appearance on my podcast to talk about being trans and a geek, plus gamer stuff and other topics. I am so looking forward to this much needed vacation. Stay Cool.

Displaying painted nails in public, a personal breakthrough

I will keep this short and sweet. Saturday afternoon I drove to town on three different occasions wearing flip flops without socks. This isn’t a particularly out of the ordinary thing for me, except I had previously painted my toe nails purple and decided I wasn’t hiding it anymore.

It was a little awkward walking around town displaying my painted toes. I tried to hide them by curling my toes everywhere but by the time I got to the third store I had stopped doing this. I decided I wasn’t looking at other people’s feet, why would they be looking at mine? Well that was how I got through it. I even walked over to my sisters house that same day still displaying my painted nails. It was a small breakthrough for me. Consider it a minor victory for Stephanie Bri. Stay Cool.

Discovering my place in the world

These last two years have been the most complicated time in my entire life. I have spent a tremendous amount of my life trying to figure out who I was. What I was. Where I fit in. Two years ago I started coming to terms with things I had kept hidden for most of my life. Things I was either afraid of, or ashamed to admit. That is no longer the case. I don’t have to talk about things that are personal, things that are nobody’s business, but I want to get things off my chest, as they say set the record straight.

When I was 11 years old I discovered I had an inclination to explore the taboo world of cross-dressing. At first I considered the implications. Does this make me gay? Well I was attracted to females so I thought if it did I must be a lesbian. I continued to struggle.

I had a friend who was a cross-dresser turned transwoman who eventually transitioned fully. After I discovered the internet I began exploring other things. Seeking different perspectives and opinions. I never how to come to terms with my confusing sexual identity with my strong Christian faith. It was a struggle I had to discover for my self. It took years of agonizing over this one fact, my personal relationship with the Lord is, in fact, between me and God. Once I came to terms with I didn’t need to let people run my life. I know who I am now. I know what I am now. I am a Christian. I am a gender queer person with masculine and feminine tendencies and I am still a Christian. I am not homosexual, not in the strictest sense. At least I don’t know fully since I do question my own gender identity obviously this causes some confusion in the rest.

But, I determined it is my life to struggle with. I am the one who has to make the decisions. I am the one who has to decide who to let in, and who to cut out, of my life. I have decided that my life is my business. Of course I have to reconcile my choices with my beliefs but again, that’s for me to decide. God will judge me and I am comfortable with my relationship with him. I am comfortable in my unwavering faith.

Now as for the rest. Here is my stance. I am not going to undergo surgery or transition to becoming a woman. For a number of reasons I don’t want to discuss here, I don’t need to go through with that. I don’t want to be a drag queen in public either. You might be wondering if I am going to basically keep it, well to myself in private why bother coming clean? Well every individual who harbors these out of the ordinary feelings has to find their own voice. Every person’s struggle is personal. Does this mean I am “coming out of the closet” well if that term helps you understand what I am saying sure why not. Does it mean I am gay, trans, or gender fluid? Well again whatever helps you sleep at night.

No, what I want to make sure is this, I am who I am and I don’t care what other people think. I don’t want to hide anymore. As far as why I wrote this. I had to. I needed to make sure I set the record straight. I am not entirely gay nor am I completely straight. I am not entirely trans nor am I entirely gender fluid but I am not going to fit into a box. That is all.

There is another person living inside my mind, heart and soul. Her name is Stephanie Bri. I don’t give her a voice as often as she would like. But I have come to accept she isn’t a part of me, or rather a separate part of me. She is me. We are one. One person, one mind, with one goal. You will likely hear more from Stephanie in the future. At the very least I can finally admit she is real and I am okay with that.

Remembering political icon Ross Perot

I was in grade school the first time I saw Ross Perot on TV. I was instantly enamored by the way he spoke. Even at a young age I knew I was fascinated by the things he talked about. I was young enough I didn’t fully understand, after all I was barely in the 3rd grade. But he is absolutely the reason I became so fascinated not only in politics but also business. The way he presented his argument with those charts, it just mesmerized me.

It wasn’t long before I started developing that interest in politics into a passion. I still remember Nickelodeon making fun of Perot in a number of skits as part of its All That program. The show might have contributed to my awareness of the individual. While I was in 5th grade my interest in how our government works increased tremendously following a field trip to the state capital. It was one of those times where I knew whatever life threw my way I was going to find a way to be involved in politics one way or another.

When I was in high school I turned my interest in politics into a term as student council president of my entire school. That experience was a game changer for me. I distinctly remember the first time we sat down in a room to discuss something as simple as hosting a dance for the school. It turned into a divisive yelling match that demonstrated how polarizing politicking can be at even a young age. Ultimately we never came to terms on the dance and it was handed down to the eighth grade body who took it over while we washed our hands of it. It wasn’t the high note of my young political career. It was a hardy reminder of how different people can be and how hard it is to get them to agree on even something as basic as hiring a DJ.

Even following his passing I was reminded how complex people can be listening to all the responses of others who had their own memories of the man. I admittedly never met him nor did I have any work related to his life. I have interviewed politicians before for my newspaper but never Ross Perot, sadly. Based on the stories I was told by colleagues who had that opportunity I can say I kind of wish I had been given a chance to cover him at some point but alas it is not to be.

I don’t want to write an editorial on his life or even a commentary on his political views. Rather I just want to remember as fondly as I can how one man’s campaign for president inspired me to get interested in politics in general.

The darkest days of my life

In order for this story to make sense you have to step into your time machine and head back to the late 90s. It was most likely around 1999 or maybe even into 2000. Hard to say.

During that time in my life my friend and I were spending most of our days sitting around listening to hard core gangsta rap. Mostly 2Pac but we dabbled in Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, N.W.A., and others. My friend had gotten himself into a crime ring. I won’t go into the specifics but he got caught and I kind of stood up for him. This wasn’t the first time I stuck my neck out to keep a good friend out of trouble. It won’t be the last.

There was a young girl he kind of had a crush on. I was about four years older than he, he was about 2 years older then her, so I was beyond crushing on a child. But he did a job for her step-dad. Nothing major like fixing a bike or mowing the lawn, kids stuff. He ended up not getting paid for the job and the girl talked some trash or something. In the end my friend ended up taking a knife from a tool box laying in the alley. He wasn’t 100 percent who’s knife it was but he took it and gave it to me not so much for safe keeping but as a token of our friendship or something along those lines.

I don’t want to dig too deep into the power I felt holding that knife in my hands. My lust for power mostly centered on my desire to not be bullied or pushed around anymore. I wasn’t a gun person but that knife gave me an edge. I took it with me everywhere. It was more or less a hunting knife I told myself. I don’t know a whole hell of a lot about knives. Honestly it was just a thing a friend gave me. But there always lingered in the back of mind, partly because the origin of the knife, partly well other things. I always feared if I lost it and it was used for I don’t know something bad, I would get blamed, or at the very least questioned.

I chose to ignore it. I put it my pocket where it lived. I would take it with me everywhere I went. Sometimes I would flip it out if I thought doing so would back up my claim of please don’t mess with me I am not stable. I was always perfectly stable but I had some anguish over things from my childhood. There was also me dropping out of high school and going right into the work force unprepared. I struggled to find my bliss.

Let’s get to the point. Now that you have the background let’s discuss the events leading up to the darkest days of my life. In 2010 I had basically been kicked out of truck driving school. With no education beyond a GED which I fumbled my way through and mostly experience bouncing around from job to job, town to town, I wasn’t on a solid path in this world. I kept my faith in God but I was losing my faith in myself. God forgives us for our sins, I was beginning to rely more on the forgiveness part less on the stay away from it altogether.

In 2011 I got my life turned around. I was accepted into a university where I studied Broadcasting. My dream, or one of them, had been to get into television production or film making. I figured I would major in broadcasting and minor in theater. I changed minors basically every semester but things started to finally look up in my life. The days of me losing my temper over stupid things were gone. I held onto the skeletons from my past but they were safely tucked away in the closet where they belonged. That is until one day.

I woke up from a dream. I was back in 6th grade. For the first time in my life I was looking at my 6th grade self from the eyes of an adult. I no longer saw this innocent child who had his spirit beat down by kids who thought they were better than him or whatever it was. I saw a dirty kid who didn’t follow the rules, swore way too much, pushed people out of his way and wore torn clothes despite his parents buying him better things than that. In other words I saw the mangled, troubled youth I was pretending not to be for the first time. This prompted me to seek counseling. I was tired of not knowing how to talk to people, especially females. If you have ever seen that TV show The Big Bang Theory, I was Raj. That was me. If two or more people were in the same space as I, my voice turned off and I sat there, a wallflower wishing I could connect with people.

At first the therapy was going well. I was on a new medication and I was talking to people. I was making friends, using my social skills not relying on close proximity in class or leeching on my sister’s friends. I was finally getting my life in order. Everything felt good. Until that fateful day.

I literally, truly, 100 percent honestly cannot revisit in my mind exactly the chain of events. Somehow I either blocked part of it out or it happened so fast I never processed it properly. Here is how I do remember it.

Monday I call the counselor, who always told me in our sessions going was optional, I was feeling better. I didn’t need the visits anymore I was going to wing myself off the medication and go back to normal. We talked about the side effects and I figured I had improved. I was happy. I didn’t, nor did I ever actually want the pills.

What ended up happen next I can’t be too certain. Somehow it escalated into them searching my apartment. Then going to my mom asking her invasive questions she didn’t care to answer. They threatened both of us, my mom was also attending school. I don’t know how she talked me into it but the counselor got me to turn  my friends knife over to campus police. They cited some no tolerance policy or whatever. I had never threatened anyone and explained it was a damn souvenir  it didn’t have any sinister meaning. Still they wanted it for evidence or whatever. Then someone in the faculty, they never told me who, accused me of lying and making threats. I got defensive and scared. I was being kicked out of school and my campus apartment. I was being told I would be homeless and unemployed without a proper education. I was having flash backs to the life I was saved from. College was supposed to prepare me for the real world and all it did was send me back to the life I was escaping. Fine but the story takes a nasty twist.

I don’t know who it was or how it happened but the police were called. I was asked, not court ordered but asked by the school if I checked myself into a mental health clinic for 24 hour evaluation if I was cleared I could go back to school and stay in my apartment and it would all be over. I did as I was asked.

Day one was a nightmare. I paced the walls of my, they called it a room I called it a cell. I had a room mate who sat on his bed crying the whole time. I couldn’t leave the room. I had a bathroom I could use but that was it. We had designated social sessions, group therapy and individual visits with their therapist. My parents visited me late at night when they were allowed. I had nothing, no phone, no watch nothing to occupy my mind. By the end of the first day it felt like I had been in there fore days. I was resisting. I wanted out but I knew I did nothing wrong. Nobody, not my college, not the state, not my parents had a right to deny me my personal freedom without just cause. I didn’t even have a proper accuser. I just kept following suit. Do what they tell you. Eat breakfast, do chores, sit in group, ask questions, socialize. It sucked. There were people in there that NEEDED to be. People who were fighting real demons. I was a kid from Kansas who moved around a lot. I didn’t have real struggles. I never did drugs. I was a Dean’s list student. You know any problems I had I knew were internal. Still I was there and there was nothing I could do to get out.

Day two.

I keep pacing the floor. I tried reading the books on the shelf. I was allowed to bring one from home, a school book from my film class. My film class I was failing because I couldn’t attend. I was saddened, and angered by this. Frustration. Fear. Despair. These began to compound. I went in knowing I had to get out. By the end of the second day I was afraid I was saying the wrong things. I had seen enough horror movies to know you can get stuck in these places if you don’t learn to say the right things.

The therapist asked me a thousand and one questions. I answered honestly. He asked me if I was lying. I said I had no motive to do so. I said I want out. I have no reason to be here. I explained how my life was going good, counseling school they were all the tings I needed. I asked why they were taking this away from me?

He said he didn’t have any reason to keep me but the deal with the school went from 24 hours to three days. It was only day 2.

This man, I never knew his name, I never cared. He told me I needed to stop pacing the floor. Not reading the books. He said socialize more. He said if I wanted to be released I had to prove I was sociable. He said if I did that it would look better. So I did. But the problem was those people. They were damaged. They were broken. They belonged there. I was normal. I had trouble talking to females but other than that I had no voices in my head. I had no drugs in my blood. I had no thoughts of ending my life. Not the first or second day.

Day Three.

I am getting really irritated. Why does it take so long to meet with the therapist? Why do they drag their damn feet? How much longer is this going to take? They said I could check myself out anytime I wanted. Finally the man came to me and pulled me into the private room. I have been there before I knew something was wrong. He told me point blank their staff didn’t see anything wrong with me. He said the school has something else going on but he couldn’t say what. He could say, he told me, they were NOT going to honor their agreement and if I wanted out I needed to start the process or they were going to put me past the voluntary watch and keep me there another week just to be safe. I pulled myself out and went home.

As I sat here putting these words down I realized I wasn’t able to go into all of my details that I thought. I realized there was no chance in hell I was going to open that scar and share my actual inner thoughts. Not if I am to put this dark past where it belongs. In the past. I knew someday I would need to work through it. I know someday further I will probably even find myself completely healed from it. Still, there is the small part of me that wants to scream on top of my lungs until they flatten like a tire with a nail in it. I don’t suppose that day will be today but I imagine it is coming.

The story has a somewhat happy ending in that it pushed me to be a better person. However, I can honestly say it also put the fear in me. I now know to be far more careful the things you say and who you say it to.

Every word of this is true to the best of my recollection. Of course there are details I am leaving out. But I can also say it is not intentional it is how my fuzzy brain remembers it. Stay Cool.

Facing depression, self esteem and our inner demons- THE RAT

Every once in a while I decide to take on a more serious topic. This week on the podcast I am sure to be discussing PiewDiePie and the mass shooting in New Zealand. However, before I get to that I wanted to take a look at some personal issues I have always faced in my own personal life regarding self esteem and depression. This is something I think most people can relate to. I am only now starting to get to the point in my life where I can sort things out. I hope that if someone were to read this article it might help them reflect on their own lives.

I want to put something into perspective. Why do I struggle so much with connecting to other people? What makes it so damn difficult for me to learn names to go with the endless sea of faces? Read below to get a little insight into the twisted mind that is cluttered with a spider’s web of confusion and frustration.

Let me start with stating I am currently 36-years-old as of the time of this writing. I have lived in more than 36 towns or cities over the years. I attended almost half that many schools growing up. I have moved damn near every year of my life either to a new town, new house or some other major change has occurred. Last year alone I move three times.

At 36 years of age I have already had more than 40 jobs over the span of my life. I began work at age 12. I started as a kid shoveling snow, mowing lawns, racking leaves and helping pull weeds in gardens of elderly individuals in the neighborhood. I also threw newspapers at people’s porches and in the summer I worked in the corn field for the farmers. I sat down recently once, more than a decade ago, to count the number of places I have lived, jobs I have worked and schools I attended. That as a decade ago and I was already over 35 jobs worked, 28 towns and twice that many houses. I forget how many schools it was because that was before college. Speaking of college, I attended 4four years of university. I attended three different colleges over that time. There have been times I was juggling two, or more, jobs at a time. So when I tell people I have a hard time remembering where I was in June of 2017 I can assure you it’s not because of drugs or alcohol.

Speaking of vices let’s put those on the table. I do not drink alcohol. I will have a drink but it is very rare. I have consumed literally, I checked, no more than what would be the equivalent of a 24 pack of 12 oz cans of beer. I have had maybe fewer than 12 total shots of hard liquor and less than 20 beers in my entire life. Alcohol is not an issue. I have smoked no more than what would amount to half, at best, a pack of cigarettes spread out over at least 20 or more years of trying to give it a shot. Vaping and chew I have at zero experience with save for second hand smoke and accidentally taking a drink from a soda can some asshole spit his chew into that one time.

What about sex? I am a devout Christian. I have remained fully celibate my entire life. Fully is not a stretch. I avoid situations where I might be compromised. I have never even been to a strip club and the extent of my exposure to pornography, outside brief nudity in slasher films, is being at a party with friends who had the videos playing on their computer. I have glanced at some out of curiosity before moving into a mind of withdrawal. I recuse myself from those situations that would tempt me into digging deeper.

None of this is to say I am perfect. Ha, far from it. Listen to my podcast and it takes no more than the intro before I am dropping the infamous F-bomb. I have lost my temper and engaged in, mostly defensive, physical violence. I say mostly. I was defending my sisters honor that one time I caught a former friend jumping out of her bedroom window. That was aggressive in nature but the cops sided with  me so there was no arrest. Punches were thrown I cannot lie but charges were not filed. In fact I have never been arrested in my entire life. I have been questioned. I have been detained. I have been interviewed. But I have never been charged with a crime. Not that I have committed any crimes either, aside from skirmishes the local law enforcement chose to chalk up to a learning experience in being a man.

If you asked some of the ultra-right wing religious folks in my life I am a vile person because I watch hard R-rated gory horror films, listen to graphic gangsta rap and so-called Satanic Heavy Metal rock music. I am not perfect by any means. I had a friend introduce me to file sharing. There is a certain gray area in the law regarding some things, especially digital backups and time shifting, but I dabbled in the gray areas a until I got a muddy then cleansed myself off. I do, however, dig unashamedly into the world of roms and emulation.

What is the point of this, what is it a confession or soul searching? Honestly I don’t know. I realized today in my examination of my self why I have such a hard time taking the time to get to know people. Not to mention I have severe social anxiety and next to little self esteem.

I have other vices, if you will, secrets I keep to my self. My own skeletons I hide in the closet where they shall stay until Judgement day I suppose. I was raised baptist for the most part. Although even that is a stretch. You see I have attended likely as many churches as I have lived in towns because, well every time we moved I had to find a new church.

I am currently in the process of becoming Catholic. That is to say I have begun attending the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults. I have been given permission to begin the process of coming into the church at the upcoming Easter Vigil. A part of what has drawn me to make this life altering change of direction is in fact my longing for something that has a real deep history. The Catholic faith goes directly back 2000 years as an established religion and several thousand more as an off shoot of the more ancient Judaism. I don’t use my religion to judge others or attack people I disagree with. In fact, doing just that goes against all Christian teaching regardless of which denomination a person adheres to. The truth is we’re told not to judge instead to love our enemies. I can say many of the so-called Christians who don’t share in that value are probably not true followers of the teachings of the Christ who they claim to follow. Turn the other cheek hardly sounds the same as some of the hatred people spew online.

The other stuff, the darker stuff that lurks in the hearts of the sinful man, well that’s why I need to attend Christs’s church. I want to shed my evil self and make every effort to become a better person, while simultaneously loving everyone and letting them live their lives in accordance with their own convictions.

Dust in the Wind- The life not lived~

There is this song that really rips my heart a part when I hear it. It is by the band, Kansas it is called “Dust in the Wind.” I am sure it is popular enough most have heard it at some point in their lives.

Human emotions are probably the most prolific and obnoxious part of being a living person. Having to feel everything we do or see can complicated our experiences. I don’t often discuss emotional issues or topics, outside of anger which I express quite often in my rants. Still there is a deep sadness to losing a loved one we all face in our lives. At some point you have to look back not at the connections you made that were severed, but also mourn those missed opportunities to connect with the right people.

When I was in high school I knew this girl, her name was Lacy. She was a very smart, pretty and strong willed female classmate of mine. She was class president, and student council vice president. The story how she became student council VP is partially my fault. You see I attended a very small high school, roughly 120 students K-12 to be exact. So when I say there was little interest in student government I mean it was basically non existent. I signed up to run for student council president because of TV, I thought it would make my name known and as a person who couldn’t connect with other kids I saw it as an attempt to expand my social circle. Fortunately, for me, nobody else signed up so we skipped the election process and they just gave the office to me. The first day of the new school year we had three others sign up for SC positions, Lacy put her name down for President, the other two one was made treasurer and one was some other position I can’t recall of the top of my head.

The student advisor gave Lacy the bad news. Because I had signed up for it the previous year I was first in line. Lacy asked me if we could have an election because she really wanted it. I knew as popular and smart and good looking as she was she would have other moments to shine, this was my time so I declined. I knew if we held an election not only would she destroy me, I would most likely drop out of the race entirely. The advisor left it up to me and I told her sorry I really want it. The teacher said instead of holding an election she gave her Vice President. Lacy never voiced any resentment she let me lead and I let her take as much of the credit as she was willing to snake from me. We got along quite well but the truth is, we were leading a class which was indifferent.

When it came to selecting a class representative she put her name in the hat for junior class president. It was supposedly against the rules because the class president wasn’t supposed to be the same as someone serving on the council representing the whole school. Needless to say since we were already bending the rules the advisor allowed it so we reversed roles at the class level. It was a fair compromise. That is what Lacy was like, recognizing the strengths and weaknesses of her peers and helping them work together. By way of knowing her I was introduced to new people as well as student government. That spark she ignited in me lives on today as I work as a journalist for a daily newspaper often covering school board and city government meetings.

I remember going to class meetings after school. It was the responsibility of the junior class to put on prom for the seniors. It was a responsibility we took very seriously. Fortunately for us Lacy’s parents were big shots at the largest casino in town, so she was able to get her dad to comp the ballroom for us to host the prom. The previous proms had been held either in the school gym, or at the rec center, which was really the lobby of the indoor swimming pool and not much else. It was a major victory for our class to show the graduating seniors we cared enough about them to give them a prom they would never forget.

I don’t have a lot of other personal memories with Lacy. I have a few near-misses. She was friends with a good friend of mine who we sometimes crossed paths. Her parents were good friends with my moms uncle, my great-uncle who was also a person I saw from time to time. There were occasions our paths crossed but most of the time we just passed each other in the hall way.

One day the school set up this program called Every 15 Minutes. It was to teach kids the dangers of drinking and driving. The police would set up a car crash outside of the high school and place a teenager in the wreckage, cut them from the vehicle using the jaws of life and put the teen into a body bag. Then they taped it all. The cops would go to the parents house and tell them their kid died in a car accident alcohol related and gather the town at the gym for the funeral. The police and teachers were supposed to let the parents know it was a ruse. Lacy said no, don’t tell her mom it had to be real she wanted to see her moms emotions. It was devastating. The whole day was heartbreaking. We, the student leadership knew it was a ruse. The student body did not. We had tears flowing until the afternoon assembly when Lacy walked back out, alive, in her makeup to tell everyone it was to demonstrate how harsh alcohol related fatalities really were.

The final edited video played to images of her lifeless body being dragged from a mangled car to the tune of Dust in the Wind by Kansas. At the time it was the most chilling thing I had ever seen. I met with Lacy afterwards and gave her a hug because she had been through hell and got to come back to life. It was very emotional for everyone involved. A few years later Lacy had a child out of wedlock and her baby daddy wasn’t around. We crossed paths a few more times before she married another friend of mine, a guy who worked for the city I became connected to through my work.

In 2011 I was sitting in my parents house on the couch when I got the phone call nobody wanted. Lacy had been killed in a vehicle accident. This time it was not fake. This time there was no coming back from the dead. A life that shined bright in a small town was extinguished for good. Suddenly that song, Dust in the Wind, took on a whole new meaning. I cried, I can’t lie. Not just because a life was gone, but because as I looked back I saw not only the moments we shared, I realized all the moments we missed. I had gotten to be good friends with her sister as she dated my best friend for a long time. Yet somehow I never used that connection to get any closer to Lacy. Looking back on it now, I still cherish the moments we shared while I long for those we should have. In the end life is nothing more than a collection of memories. It is our responsibility to filter out the memories we that don’t do us any good while clinging to the ones that make us better people.

I will never forget Lacy. She was a good person and I hope anyone who did cross paths with her was touched more by her life than even I was.

Happy New Year!

This is it, the end of 2018.

Some people are going to say it was a good year for them. Others will argue it wasn’t. It was certainly a roller coaster for me.

I am still planning on recording a proper, New Year’s Special Anniversary episode of The Dark Web Podcast. Think of this as my not preview of that but the stuff that isn’t likely to get deep discussion on the podcast.

I can’t confirm this because I haven’t dug deep yet but this could be the first year in video game history a new console or platform hasn’t launched. I did a closer look a year ago and I discovered, even if you restrict yourself to the United States, there was a new video game product or platform (new machine or way to play games) every single year since the first game consoles launched, those being the Pong and Odyssey system’s respectively.

I didn’t find any information on anything significant launching this year. Granted, in my previous analysis I did not count retro consoles that played only old games, so the Playstation Classic or other Plug and Play systems were not on my list. Surprisingly enough I still discovered a new, even often failed, console launched in some form every single year.

Even still, for me, the year was more about reconnecting with my retro roots than it was about discovering new games. Most of the year was spent trying to get back on my feet after a shake up in my personal life left me unemployed for nearly three months of the year.

I purchased a Sega Genesis earlier in the year and then by the end of the year I picked up a Nintendo Entertainment System. The best part of those two consoles was they were the two systems I owned as a kid. Technically we had a machine that played Atari 2600 games but since it wasn’t officially mine and it wasn’t an actual Atari branded product, I don’t count it as something I wish to explore. Maybe someday, as I expand my collecting but for now I want to focus on the systems I have an emotional connection with.

I started with the Sega Genesis because it had a profound impact on my upbringing. It was the first system my parents gave to me that was mine alone. I didn’t have to share it with my sisters at all. They were relegated to the NES. This didn’t stop me from inviting them to enjoy it nor did it stop me from going backwards to the Nintendo, it just meant this was a starting point for me. I can also say the Genesis, along with Sonic 2, played a role in my first exploratory encounter of a female partner. I won’t dig into the details but I will say it helped introduce me to new experiences in that regard.

Then there is Mortal Kombat. I talk a lot about the impact this game had on me as a teenager. Specifically as an angry teenager who was tired of being picked on at school I finally had an outlet for my aggression that wasn’t going to land me in detention, or worse. This game became my therapy for a good many years. I was fortunate my parents purchased me Mortal Kombat 1 and Mortal Kombat 2 on the same Christmas morning. Oh it was a great day for me.

Over the years my love for the Sega Genesis continued to grow. Unlike, say a Turbo Grafix 16 where a person would have to defend it entirely on the basis of nostalgia, the Genesis was a true contender to the crown. It didn’t have every exact game it’s competition did, but more often than not it had a comparable counterpart, and in many cases a superior alternative to boot. The system is quite easily a true equal to the Nintendo machine it fought against.

I went through the middle part of the year in a slump, so to speak. I left my job to pursue a new career. I migrated from Texas to California in the hopes of getting back into Television. I studied Broadcasting in college and got my start in the media business working for a TV station.

I ended up taking a detour to hell, known by locals as Jackpot, Nevada. I can’t quite wrap my head around how exactly it happened but in the end it was the motivation I needed to get my life back. I turned right around back to Texas and landed a better job than I left to pursue. It worked out in the end but it was a rough couple of months in the middle.

Once I got financially back on my feet I made a conscious decision to begin collecting NES games again. I made a payment plan with a local used video game store to get an NES and I picked it up the week of Christmas. It was perfect timing too. I got my first NES for Christmas in 1988. This was exactly 30 years later and it was such a sigh of relief being able to wash my depressing year away with a fondly remembered item from my childhood.

I didn’t get all the games I wanted but I got only good games with a meaningful attachment for me. Look for a separate YouTube video soon on the pickups and then an in depth article closely behind on what each game means to me.

The year was also a time for trying new ideas. I stated the year strong with a brand new podcast and a YouTube video series to go along with it. I started The Dark Web Podcast as a replacement for The Spiders Lair Podcast I killed only months prior. I also began doing a broadcast TV style news show called The Dark Web TV. It proved to be too cumbersome to produce a 30 minute broadcast and a 2 hour podcast each week so I had to kill the videos to keep the podcast alive.

Facing burn out I stopped doing YouTube videos entirely outside of a couple vlog’s here and there. I did a few pick ups throughout the year but nothing meaningful.

Things improved when I got motivated to start The Dark Web Daily Show, a daily radio style news broadcast once a day to supplement the weekly podcast and replace the lacking web videos. I finally killed that off once I went back to work full time at a daily newspaper. By late October I found a new format for videos to breath new life into the channel.

I am now doing those consistently with a format I can manage. I took a little break to spend some time with family over the holidays. I am now going into the new year refreshed and revived.

In a personal development I dated a girl for a couple of weeks before realizing it wasn’t working out for me. I had to restructure my church life too. As a result I began exploring denominations I had previously considered off limits. I won’t get into the details here but I had a calling awaken me to a new spiritual light. I am trying to go into 2019 with a renewed focus on my faith. That shouldn’t have any impact, negatively I hope, on the work I am doing here, on the podcast or over at the YouTube channel.

That is all for today. Check out the podcast by visiting http://www.thespiderslair.podbean.com and watch my Christmas movies video here:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0WqbYuBra8k

Subscribe to the channel for more Christmas and New Year’s videos coming soon!

Billy chokes on a peanut- A Short Story

It was sometime in the early 1990’s. The Phrogs were on their family vacation. Billy was the oldest of the cousins. He was one of those scrawny kids who was always getting into trouble.

Billy Phrog was walking around the campsite chasing lightning bugs when he tripped on a stick on the road.

“Damn it!” he shouted.

He scrapped his knee on the way down. He picked up the stick and noticed there was something strange about it. It was in the shape of a cane. He figured it was a wizard staff so he began pretending it as such. His imagination used to run wild.

He quickly lost interest in the lightning bugs as he ran around waving his ‘wizard staff’ and everything and everybody.

“Would you stop that, Billy, you look like a jack-ass.” his dad hollered.

“I zap the evil from within you! Magic Spell do your…”thud.

It was momma. She smacked Billy in the back of the head.

“You mind your dad you hear me.” she said.

Billy was shaken but not deterred. He tossed the stick down onto the ground. He sat down in the grass, leaned up against a tree and began humming to himself.

Later that night it was getting cold. Dad had let the fire burn. Billy was wrapped up in his sleeping bag trying his darnedest to stay warm. He wasn’t having any luck.

Billy Phrogg got out of his tent and began pacing the campsite. He was trying real hard not to make any noise for fear of waking one of the adults.

He walked over to the lake. There he sat down at the very edge of the dock. He dipped his toes into the water, looked up at the moon and began day-dreaming once again.

“Some day, I’m going to live in a big mansion at the top of a tall mountain and everybody is going to take me seriously then.” he muttered to himself.

There was a splash in the water. It was a fish leaping to get one of the lightning bugs. Billy remembered back to earlier in the weekend when his sister Brandy was trying to fill a jar with those magical little critters.

A few minutes go by. Billy quickly realizes he wasn’t exactly getting away from the cold by dipping is feet into the cold water. He had forgotten how he had gotten out of bed because of the cold in the first place.

“I wish I had my wizard cane. Then I could summon some warmer weather.” he said.

Billy began walking back towards the campsite. He heard a dog howling off in the distance. He decided he wasn’t ready to go back to bed just yet. He slowly began circling the campsite looking for his cane he dropped earlier. He heard a crackling. He looked up. It was his dad. Standing there with a flashlight in one hand and a belt in the other. Billy new what was about to happen next.

“What in blazes are you doing out of bed, boy!” his dad exclaimed.

“It was too cold.” he said with a quiver of fear in his voice.

“How’s about I warm up your back side with this here belt. That might take care of the cold now won’t it.” he said. Billy took the swatting on the bottom and crawled back into his tent.

The next day Billy was sitting on a tree stump eating breakfast. It was cold eggs and toast. Mom always cooked the eggs and toast before she woke the kids up. Dad had to have his hot, the rest could eat cold food.

Brandy walked up to Billy and asked if he wanted to go play by the beach. He nodded in excitement.

He knew the grown ups were going fishing. He always hated going fishing so he would rather explore the beach with his little sister anyways.

“What you so sad for? she asked.

“Nothing.” he whispered, with his head looking down at the ground as he walked, kicking the dust along the way.

“Are you sure? I’m your best friend you can tell me.” she said.

“I said it’s nothing can you forget it?” he snapped.

“Geesh, don’t bite my head off will ya, I was just trying to be nice.” she said

“Hey, I, um I am sorry Brandy. Dad woke up last night and whooped me for being out of bed. I was kinda dwelling on it that’s all. I didn’t mean to snap at ya.” he said.

Later that day the kids were digging in the sand when Billy came across a bag of peanuts buried on the sand.

“Hey lookie here, still a few fresh nuts in this bag you want to share, Brandy, Sally?” he asked?

“Ew, gross put that thing in the trash you sicko.” Sally snapped.

Brandy’s only response was to shake her head with a look of disgust on her face.

Billy sniffed the bag.

“Smells okay to me. Suit yourself more for me.” he said as he swallowed a mouthful whole.

Suddenly Billy began chocking on one of the nuts. Brandy started crying, rubbing her brothers back while Sally darted back to the camp site looking for a grown up.

She ran into aunt Tammy.

“Aunty, come quick Billy’s chocking!” she exclaimed.

The woman ran to the spot where her nephew lay gasping for air.

Billy was holding onto his throat when he saw his aunt leaning over him. Then he blacked out.

Billy woke up in a hospital bed. He noticed his dad was sitting on the little chair next to the bed. He looked sad. Billy smiled seeing his dad there crying for his sake.

“Hey dad, look I’m okay. How you doing” he asked.

His dad didn’t even look up. He laid his head in his hands sobbing. Billy looked over and saw his sister was also crying on the floor. His gaze kept turning towards his right hand. There by his bedside was his mother holding his hand. He couldn’t feel her hand upon his. Nobody was responding to to his pleas. Fear was beginning to sink in.

Then he noticed something. The doctor came in and tapped mother on the shoulder. He could hear the doctor telling his parents Billy wasn’t in a coma anymore. He was completely brain dead and they were going to have to take him off life support. He was in shock. How could they not see him laying there, alive, awake in the hospital bed.

He followed his parents out of the hospital as the doctors covered his body up. He walked beside his mom to his own funeral where he watched his family members all sobbing over his being gone.

“Hey, what the hell are you doing out here.” a voice called.

Billy turned around and it was his dad. He looked up from the water. Fear in his eyes.

“Dad, it was cold so I walked down to the lake. Please don’t be mad at me.” he pleaded.

“It’s okay son. I was just worried about you. It’s late you know. This lake is dangerous for a young boy at night.” his dad said.

Billy sat there with his dad thinking back to the day dream he just had of dying.

“Dad, can you sit here with me for a bit before we go back to bed? he asked.

“Sure thing son.” he said.

The two watched the fish jumping up to snag them some lightning bugs. Looking back on his life Billy regarded that camping trip as one of his best memories in life.