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I’ve Become a Sissy


Tonight seemed like any other night, minus the fact that I had the urge to get out of my apartment and take part in some physical exercise.

I started my run towards the neighborhood behind my complex when my sister called in, which then became my excuse to stop running and just chat away to catch up on life.

I had done my loop and finished sharing with my sister the dream I had about attending Kanye West’s birthday party with my parents when a sweet couple walks up to me and asks for help.

“We don’t know what to do, he isn’t well,” they said as I pulled out my headphone and looked at the black vehicle that seemed parked on the side of the road.

They took me to the drivers side and there sat a man slumped over in a position that no one in a heathy state would be in. That’s when my heart began racing and all I could think was, “This man is dead!?”

I worked in newspaper for six years doing the crime beat so this isn’t the first dead body I’ve seen. But for some reason this was the first time pure panic crept over me.

I couldn’t touch him, all I could do was yell at the rolled down driver’s window, “Sir! Sir!”

I asked the kind man who pulled me aside if the man felt cold to the touch. He said yes. Then I asked if he had felt for a pulse and his face contorted a little when he said no he hadn’t done that but he had already called 9-1-1.

Obviously, touching his neck to feel for a pulse wouldn’t save his life, but it would have brought clarity. But try as I might I couldn’t bring myself to do anything beyond yelling sir and asking if I should call 9-1-1 again.

While we were waiting another neighbor came up and asked about what was happening. We then asked if he would like to feel for a pulse and unlike us sissys this man went for it – but the man in the car’s body was too contorted to get to a pulse without moving his body.

That’s when the man in the car moved a little. I don’t know if it can be described as a jerk – but it was more than just his body falling further down. He was alive!

That’s when the other man helping noticed the car, which was running, was also in drive. Somehow the man passed out in his car with his foot wedged on the break – by the grace of God alone.

“We need to put this in park,” the man said.

I felt my pulse quicken as I realized the four of us were about to device a plan to reach into the car to make sure it didn’t suddenly start rolling away adding more to the already scary situation.

But just when I thought some action was about to be taken the beautiful sound of sirens began coming closer and closer.

Shout out to the Orange County Fire Department for the quickest response time. They immediately pulled in and rushed to turn off the car and get the man out. Loaded him on the stretcher and began making efforts to get him back to.

Unfortunately, I won’t know the end of the man’s story. He had a weak pulse and was whisked away to the nearest emergency room. The kind couple can rest assured that if he lives, they are responsible.

I, however, walked the rest of the way home realizing that the hardened journalist who was quick to jump in the car at the sound of possible death is now a big sissy. I couldn’t even touch the guy!

Geesh. What have I become.


Oh Bother

Sometimes life is surreal.

One week I’m talking to people about the death of a beautiful family and the next week I’m looking up into a tree of bears. (Read it!)

I like that.

I like that while I may cry and cry over the sadness of lost lives, I can also have a time were I’m talking to a new homeowner about the unexpected wildlife preserve in his backyard.

Never expect anything to be normal if you become a journalist. Never expect an easy day, or a boring assignment.

If I’ve learned anything, it’s that being a reporter means you’re in for a lot of curve balls.

Here’s To You, Todd Agnew

I tend to hold grudges. It’s a weakness, I’m aware.

But recent events have made me begin to start thinking about life. I keep thinking about how fragile and precious the human life is and how, at any moment, this life could end.

This lead to me thinking about all the grudges I’ve been holding. I still roll my eyes at officers who didn’t give me information a year ago, I gag when a reporter from another paper who got to a story before me is on the scene with me and I change the station whenever Todd Agnew comes on.

Let me explain.

It’s been about two years since Todd Agnew (until I let it go at the end of this post please read the name Aaagg-knew with a whiny voice because that’s how I’ve been saying it) came to my church.

Todd Agnew is a Christian singer and I volunteered to work the merchandise booth for him. He was one of three artists to come to the church.

I worked hard, selling his CD’s, hawking his T-shirts and even showing the kids how cool the light-up bouncy ball was so they would want it. You’re welcome, Todd Agnew.

At the end of the concert the other booth workers were visited by the singers whose items they sold and had their picture taken, were given signed CDs and a complimentary shirt.

Todd Agnew came up to my booth, spoke with his employee who I had worked with and then left.

That’s right: I got no “Thank you for hawking my crap,” no free CD, I didn’t even get looked at.

Since that day I have quickly changed the station when his songs came up and have said his name as if I swallowed some terrible lemon juice.

But today, right now, I’m letting that go.

Todd Agnew you are forgiven. Terrible landlord’s who yelled at me, said I had an attitude and called me some selective words I will choose not to repeat, I forgive you.

Rude secretaries, mean officers and stupid employees – I forgive you all.

That about sums this up. It feels good to let it go.

‘I’m a Reporter …’

Without fail, when people ask what I do there are two basic reactions to my answer.

The first, and most popular, is the inevitable: So, how much longer do you think the paper will last?

My response is always something like, “(Ha ha) I know, the newspaper is struggling, but here’s what’s doing well …”

The second, and most annoying, is a complaint about anything and everything happening in the community, the nation or the world — because my journalism connections can do anything – yeah right.

I enjoy what I do for the most part. I like knowing when some issue goes to print it will likely lead to something.

For example, I wrote a story about a family living off a dirt road. Whenever there was a hard rain the family was stuck because the road flooded.

The next day, I was at a commission meeting and the story was brought up and a motion was approved to start fixing the roads.

I helped make that happen.

But, I do not have the ability to change taxes, get someone out of jail for beating someone up or stop the oil companies from releasing people from their services.

Sorry, Charlie.

Angry Birds & Angry Men

I’m sure you’ve already heard of a little game called Angry Birds. It’s kind of amazing and I’m kind of obsessed.

I downloaded it this weekend because I was bored and my father, who tends to also get bored easily, was with me and needed a distraction from my mother and sister shopping.

We played, we conquered, we became enthralled.

I digress.

I was at a commission meeting this evening with only one point to cover, which of course was at the very end of the agenda.

So, what do you do when you’re stuck in a room, phone on silent, just waiting for your turn: Play Angry Birds.

While I was attempting to launch the white bird and drop the egg at just the right moment to destroy the evil pigs fortress I heard a man say, “I can smell human feces.”

He had my attention.

The man preceded, for nearly 45 minutes, to discuss his septic tank issues, what said issues looked like in his yard and continued to give details as to how said issues smelled.

Kill me.

I’m not typically queasy, I write about terrible things all day long. But feces talk makes me want to gag.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, was my work day.

Remembering Jenny

I went to a memorial service today for a woman I’ve never met.

I sat in the second row of the church next to a woman who knew zero of the words being sung, but sang louder than anyone else. I listened as person after person talked about Jenny, a homeless woman who was killed when she was hit by an oncoming vehicle.

Jenny was 57 when she died. Her family hadn’t seen her in years. She was a drifter and had only recently come into the area where her ashes are now laid to rest.

I listened as the preacher told the crowd of church members, Jenny’s family and homeless men and women about their debates on the merits of cream and sugar in coffee — if you’re curious, Jenny was in favor.

I teared up as I looked at the family seated in front of me. Tears rolled down each of their cheeks as people stood to share their Jenny stories.

I never met Jenny and, even if she hadn’t been killed, the likelihood of meeting her would have been slim to none, but Jenny was still able to effect even me.

After the service today I spoke with her younger sister, Nona. She said something that had me thinking the whole way back to the newsroom.

She said that she knew her sister lived a good life, while not what society would deem as normal. I asked how she knew and she looked around the room at the clusters of people talking about her big sister.

“You always hope that you will be that kind of person, the kind that makes an impression in people’s lives. From today, I know Jenny did.”

Makes you think.

Fake Pot, Who Knew

I’m still really perplexed and amazed that there has been a “fake pot” on the market since 2006 and it’s just now getting the attention of the government.

I don’t love business stories and I’m not awesome at cops, but this story I really enjoyed learning about and writing.

I digress, I decided to post the story on the blog. For photos and comments, go to nwfdailynews.com



Northwest Florida Daily News

It’s been just over a month since Woodstock Alternative Sensations opened in a small, standalone building on State Road 85.

The herbal alternative store is the fifth to open in the area, all under the same local ownership. But its motto, “We sell fun,” may be less true in the coming months.

Last week, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration announced that the store’s best-selling items — chemical-laced herbal blends that mimic the effects of illegal drugs like cocaine and marijuana — will soon be banned. That means customers won’t be able to legally buy L-tab, Party Powder or Euphoria.

General manager Lauren Cramer said she’s not thinking too much past the next month, which she expects will be “deadly” — her term for insanely busy.

“We offer an alternative to the illegal drugs,” Cramer said. “We sell fun. That’s what we’re all about, and until it’s made illegal we’re still going to be here selling it.”

Local law enforcement officials, however, call the products “bad news” and risky, and the federal government agrees.

The DEA is banning five chemicals that are used to produce these “smokable herbal blends,” according to a Nov. 24 press release. In addition to substitutes for marijuana and cocaine, herbal versions of Lortab, methamphetamine and Ecstasy are for sale. The ban cannot go into effect for at least 30 days.

“Makers of these harmful products mislead their customers into thinking that ‘fake pot’ is a harmless alternative to illegal drugs, but that is not the case,” said DEA Acting Administrator Michele M. Leonhart in the release.

The ban covers the sale and use of those chemicals and the actual products for at least one year to allow authorities to further study the products.

Cramer said that the DEA’s ban is unfounded and that the merchandise sold at Woodstock, gas stations and other herbal alternative stores around the area should remain legal. She explained that what is sold at her store is not meant for human consumption.

She said that some of the products are meant to be burned as incense, rather than smoked directly, and that the bath salts — another common form — are actually meant for the bathtub.

The products hit the same receptors as illegal drugs, she said.

“You just become happy,” she said. “Your anxiety is withered away.”

She added that if customers talk about abusing the products they are banned from the store and that visitors are carded to make sure they are 18 or older.

Sgt. Joey Forgione with the Niceville Police Department said over the past year the numbers of arrests and burglaries that coincide with the alternative herbs has been on the rise.

“They’re using these bath salts as cocaine, crushing them up and snorting them,” Forgione said. “Everybody has their opinions. On the law enforcement side, I see an epidemic.

“The stuff’s bad news, especially since they don’t know what’s in it.”

The American Association of Poison Control Centers reported that “synthetic marijuana products” have spurred more than 2,000 calls to U.S. poison control centers just in 2010, according to a recent release.

Lt. Michael Card with the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office said the products arrive without a list of what they are made of and when they are misused, the effects can be deadly.

“These chemicals have not been tested long-term,” Card said. “These people are playing Russian roulette; they don’t know what they’re going to get when they smoke that package.”

He added that although stores argue that it’s meant to be used as incense, its price and packaging suggest otherwise.

“How many other kinds of incense do you buy by the gram and pay $40 for?” he said.

But Cramer blames over regulation, not the product, for its bad rap.

“Anything that makes you happy and euphoric, they take it away,” she said. “That’s just the man.”