Monday, September 29, 2014

Armageddon At McDonald's

I don't know when it started or how it exactly happened. I was on my way home from work and decided to stop in at McDonald's for a bite to eat. I thought about going through the drive-thru but the line was too long and it was just too hot and muggy out, so I went inside.

Everything becomes blank the moment I entered the doors. The next thing I know, I'm waking up and lying on the floor. Dozens of people scattered everywhere. Are they alive? Are they dead? Am I?

I slowly got to my feet and stumbled out the door. Everything was flattened in the blast. Well, almost everything. A few buildings still stood, and as I turned around, so too stood the Mickey D's. "No super-size today." I reckoned out loud and to myself.

Soon, others began to regain consciousness. Still unsure as to what exactly happened, theories began to form from our now small and dysfunctional group of survivors. "A holocaust?" One person suggested.

"Not likely." Another one remarked. This sparked a debate that quickly escalated into an argument. I had to gain control of these people before they ended up killing each other. With no other options on the table, I quickly made myself the leader. "What shall we call you?" Was the question. I simply turned to look out over the mass destruction all around. I took in a deep breath. "You shall call me the Ronald."

It wasn't long before we formed a militarized system of operations. We later discovered that Nazi's were behind the blast. "Those Nazi bastards." I would constantly say. I said it so much that it quickly became my catch phrase. Well, one of my catch phrases anyway. My other one was, "Holy McRib Mayor McCheese."

Grimace was the only one I didn't fully trust in this new world order. The man, uh, or the thing, or whatever the hell he or it is, just didn't have any sex organs. Nor did he have an anus. He had a mouth and he ate, quite often in fact and quite a lot per sitting, and while food went in, it never came back out. I found that more weird than the Hamburglar with a normal face and a Mayor with a face of a cheeseburger. I don't understand it. What gives? .... My question would go unanswered.

We soon learned that the Nazi's were going around and killing everyone. Many were being impaled by the hundreds and the thousands. What did they want? What were they after? Those are two questions that basically mean the same thing and probably should have the same answer. Why I asked both of those questions is beyond me. I'm blonde that way, but not for long. I had to disguise myself from the Nazi's so I dyed my hair red and turned it into an afro. I painted my face and wore a yellow uniform to distinguish myself, and making it a lot easier for the Nazi's to spot me from a distance and kill me a lot easier than if I just wore camouflage and black face paint. "Blonde bastard." I would grunt on occasion. (Now I have three catch phrases.)

Word soon got out to the Nazi's that I was now in control. The war had begun, and it was up to me to lead the new generation of freedom fighters against the evil empire of Nazi's. "Those Nazi bastards." I mumbled.

Fearing my safety, as they damn well should, my fellow freedom fighters decided to dress exactly like me. This would make it harder for the Nazi's to figure out who I was. I wasn't even sure anymore myself. I mean seriously, who was I? Who am I trying to be? Two more questions that probably have the same exact answer.

Suddenly, we were under attack. Me and my fellow freedom fighters fought as hard as we could. The Nazi's were everywhere. Screams from those who were getting shot and screams from those who were running away like frightened little rabbits. I didn't blame them. I ran too. This whole ordeal was too surreal for my mind to deal with and accept. "We're not eating Happy Meals anymore." I proclaimed the obvious.

"I love the smell of secret sauce in the morning." Mayor McCheese boldly stated while looking out over the carnage.

"Get your head down you McCheese fuck, you're gonna get grilled!" I shouted at the top of my lungs. He just placed a French Fry in his mouth and walked towards the latrine. "I got better things to do!" He shouted back at me. "Like taking a dump!"

I will admit, the man has nice smelling poop. It smells like Quarter-Pounders ...... With cheese, they do. I still wouldn't taste it though, not for all the Big Macs in the world. Huh-uh, forget it. Not happening.

When the battle was over, nothing remained but little boy and little girl toys - spread out all over the battlefield .... and death. Not even the fun zone was spared. And many good soldiers were impaled by the Nazi's. I thought those who were captured would be spared and treated properly under the rules of the Geneva Convention, but I was sadly mistaken. The Nazi's didn't play by the normal rules of war. They had their own etiquette to abide by. That etiquette was all about inflicting as much pain as possible. I peeked over a ridge to get a view. I couldn't believe what my eyes were seeing. "Son of a McNuggett." I graveled, creating yet another new catch phrase. I took in a deep breath and soon closed those eyes in despair. "We have to win this war!" I declared in my anger. "We must!" And after a few moments of dramatic thought, "But how?"

We managed to capture some prisoners. Just a handful of Nazi's that were butt banging behind a bush or something. A few of them appeared as if they hadn't eaten for days, perhaps weeks. Okay, maybe months. One was trying to demonstrate his break-dancing skills. That or he was having an epileptic seizure.

Mayor McCheese went all McRambo on their McAsses. I watched in horror. No, wait, strike that, I watched a horror .... show that is. I forget the name of it, but it was g-oooooooooo-d.

"This war is driving us nutso!" I screamed, kicking a tree ..... and breaking my toes and half my foot in the process. "And court-martial that god-damn tree too!"

Madness was the word of the day. The word yesterday was peppermint. I liked yesterdays word a lot better. So did the rest of the squad. I know this because we actually took a vote on it, and it was unanimous. We weren't really sure about what the word for tomorrow was gonna be, but we all did agree it should be something as awesome as peppermint. Maybe spearmint?

"We live in hell!" I yelled for the Gods to hear. Gods? What Gods? What Gods would allow such a travesty? What Gods I ask you!? ... No answer was ever given. None was really expected.

"I'm thirsty." A voice from a wounded soldier creaked. I turned to look at his bright red and white face. "Do we have any Hawaiian Punch left?" He wondered.

"Hawaiian Punch?" My confused expression was written on my face ...... under the face paint of course, but it was there, trust me. Oh yes, that expression of confusion was there. "What the hell are you talking about?" I asked him. "Stop talking in riddles!"

I stood before one of the old McDonald's store. Impaled leftovers made it hard to think straight. So much waste of life. "Why?" I heard myself asking. "Why, why, why?"

"Fate." A voice from behind trickled through my ears. I turned around slowly for effect.

"Fate?" I reiterated.

"Yes, fate." The stranger also reiterated. This is when I realized we could stand there all day reiterating ourselves, and possibly each other if one of us didn't stop the nonsense and stop it pronto too. So I did ...... Stopped it, I mean. I stopped it. And it wasn't really that hard to do actually. "What do you know about fate?" I quizzed him, hoping he was good at pop-quizzes - He wasn't.

"I know a lot about fate!" He fired at me viciously. "A lot I tell you! More than you!"

"Easy there, Pedro, slow your roll. Okay, I get it, you know a lot about fate, geesh. Cry me a river already, Justin. Good Lord."

The next few days are a blur. Most of what I can recall revolves around vanilla milkshakes. Although, one green McShamrock shake did make an appearance. I always liked those green pleasures of sweet guilt. Don't get me wrong, the chocolate milkshake is fine too, but for my dollar, the McShamrock shakes are mighty tasty. (Okay, listen, I know they are not called McShamrock shakes, but just plain Shamrock shakes, but this is my story and I will call them whatever I like. Besides, when you put a Mc in front of everything, it sounds cooler. For example, "Go McFuck your McSelf up your McAss with a McDildo and a McPineapple." ..... See what I mean? Funny stuff right there.)

"We are fast becoming like animals." I whispered to a comrade sitting next to me. He took on the appearance of being lost in deep thought. Finally, he broke his silence. "Who is Pedro?"

It wasn't long before we got a ride up river by a family of psychotic dolphins ... or porpoises ... I really don't know because I can't tell the difference between them. Anyhow, we got a great reception from the people who were spread out all over the West bank. Too bad those people were ........ dead!

The Hamburglar picked up some prostitutes from a place called "Wendy's" and "Taco Bell". We basically had an all out unbridled orgy as we scooted closer to our destination. The girls from "Wendy's" had hair similar to mine. The girls from "Taco Bell" spoke a most unusual language. "Soft taco supreme burrito enchilada?" One of them seductively winked at me. I began to rub my belly. "I don't know what the hell you just said," I informed her, 'but it sounded pretty damn awesome. Count me in!"

War is hell. That's all I know about war. Peace is a little bit of alright. That's all I know about peace. But what I was going through at the moment was something entirely different than all of that put together ..... and then some.

I don't know what I just said.

I looked all around me. The noon-day sun was at high noon in the sky. I could see the dead bodies the Nazi's left behind. "Those Nazi bastards." I grumbled. I still had some grit left inside of me after all. Good, because I was going to need it if I had any chance in getting out of this war alive. Weeks passed and believe me when I say that 'when you go weeks without anything from McDonald's, your tummy knows it', so does your brain. The with-drawls are worst than that of if you quit smoking. Okay, maybe not that bad, but the cravings are pretty great. You're just gonna have to take my word for that one.

"They didn't leave much behind, did they?" One soldier asked me.

I turned my head and spat some tobacco onto the ground. "I'm not sure." I replied. "Who is Much? And where do you think they could have taken him?"

He stared at me queerly. Not that I am implying that he is gay, I mean, a persons sexual preference is nobody's business but their own. You know what I mean?

The war was starting to wind down. One night, me and the boys lit it up with an "anything goes" party - not for the faint of heart. There were more wet farts taking place than you can shake a stick at. I don't know what that means.

One man spilled acid in his eyes and wailed in agony as we watched him whittle away and slip into the after-world. "That really looked like it hurt." One guy was overheard saying. I coughed at it. "Nonsense. It was a manly way to go. I wish I could go like that."

"There is more acid left if you want to try some." Somebody brought to my attention. I thought for a moment before coming to my senses. "No, that's okay, it's not my time to die just yet. Maybe next time."

"Cool." The guy replied. "We are having another party next weekend. How about then?"

"Um, yeah, sounds great!" I concurred, then realizing, "Oh man, I just remembered, I have an appointment next weekend and I won't be able to make it."

"No way!" The guy was shocked to learn. "The whole weekend?"

"Yep, the whole weekend."

"That's messed up dude because I really wanted to watch you kill yourself with acid."

"I know, right?" I agreed. "Bummer."

More impaled soldiers were all I could see, smell and .... basically that's it, just see and smell. I don't know what I was going to say after that. Maybe touch? But that would be gross. Who would want to touch an impaled body? Not I.

I don't know where this war was going to take me and to be completely honest, I don't want to know. Some things are just better off left alone, you know what I mean? And let's just call a spade what it is, a spade and nobody in their right mind is going to want to know where this war was taking them or their spades. For all we know, it could take them to a dark place of their childhood where evil nannies and grumpy old men lurk in shadowy bushes around every corner that hasn't a night-lite. And seriously, that would suck Shamrock shakes. (See, that sentence would have ended funnier if I said "McShamrock".)

I sat under a poplar tree to finish off a few lines in my journal. A fellow soldier came to cop a squat next to me. "Any plans for after the war?" He asked me.

I was a bit sarcastic in my response. "War? This aint a war." I told him. "Now Vietnam, that was a war."

"Maybe so," The soldier took offense. "But Tasty-Freeze aint got nothing on me!" And off he scampered in his disgust and filth.

"You psychotic bastards!" I wailed out in frustration. I mean, some people, right?

Anyhow, I got to my feet and called everyone together. It was time to make a heart felt speech. Every war has to has one. This one is mine.

"I want to thank you guys for all of your support." I started to say before someone cut me off.

"Had no choice in the matter."

I looked over at the crowd. I didn't know who said it, but I responded nonetheless. "Shut up. Just shut the hell up and let me finish my speech for Gods sake. Can I finish my speech?" I asked, but it was rhetorical. "Can I? Can I finish, can I finish? Can I finish my McMother McFucking McSpeech?"

(See, I told you.)

And so I did. I finally got to finish my speech. And what a speech it was too. You should have been there. It was awesome! You should have heard every single word. I should have had someone write it down so I could remember what the hell I said and then I could have added it to this story but you know, shit happens. But trust me, it was freaking golden. Awesome I tell you! 

The war may have ended, but not without its critics. Hey, I admit that I didn't do things according to the rules, and I get it that I made a few errors in judgement, but I like to think of it as "on the job" experience. I'm sure I'll do better next time. But rest assured, we did win the war. Not that anyone really wins a war, but if there are any winners then we would be those winners. And yes, we would expect our chicken dinners, too. Better damn well know that!


*  This story was written by Carroll Bryant. And no, he wasn't on drugs. Except the drugs his doctor prescribed for him for his heart attack. He was however, going through smoking with-drawls as it has been almost a month now since he last smoked a cigarette. 

I'm freaking going crazy here! Crazy I tell ya! 

Oh, all rights reserved. Thank you. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A Funny Conversation About Zombies

Joe: "If your mother was a zombie, would you kill her?"

Carroll: "Wouldn't she already be dead if she were a zombie?"

Joe: "You know what I mean."

Greg: "Hey Carroll, I think my sister likes you."

Gary: "My beef with zombies is, when does Rigor Mortis set in?"

Carroll: "I don't want to date my friends sister. It's so high schoolish. I've already told you this before."

Joe: "Hey look guys, I wanna show you something. I decided to become a millionaire so I wrote myself a check for a million dollars." (Pulls it out and holds it up) "I think I'm gonna frame it."

Carroll: "It doesn't work like that, dude. Besides, you can't cash it if it's in a frame."

Greg: "He can't cash it because he can't cover the check."

Gary: "And another thing, do zombies breathe? If you're dead then you can't breathe and if you don't breathe then how can you get oxygen to your brains, and your muscles and your vital organs? It makes no sense."

Carroll: "I'd shoot my mother if she was a zombie. I'm pretty sure she would want me to shoot her. I don't think she would be pleased to spend the rest of her undead life eating other people and their brains."

Greg: "It's because she has three kids, isn't it?"

Carroll: "You know that's not the reason. I have no problem with that."

Joe: "I think it's funny how in some movies zombies can run really fast and in others they walk like a slow robot. And there always seems to be that one who drags their right foot behind them. I don't get it! Did they sprain their ankle or something and it hurts when they walk? They're dead! They shouldn't be able to feel pain! Walk on it for crying out loud."

Carroll: "What are you writing on that napkin, Greg?"

Greg: "I'm writing a note to my sister to give to her and tell her it's from you."

Joe: "And their eyes. Zombies always have their eyes opened. If you're dead, shouldn't their eyes be closed?"

Gary: "Do zombies poop? Think about it. They eat other people so obviously they are digesting it, right? And if they are digesting it then wouldn't that mean they would have to poop?"

Carroll: (Snatches the napkin from Greg) "What are you writing?" (I read it out loud) "Do you like me? Check yes or no."

Greg: (Laughing) "You said dating your friends sister would be high schoolish."

Carroll: "Yes, high schoolish, not third grade-ish. If this is how you wrote girls in high school then you have a whole set of other issues my friend."

Joe: "I could never shoot my mother, zombie or no zombie."

Gary: "I would hope to think not if she wasn't a zombie."

Carroll: "It's because of the pets. Your sister has a dog, a cat, goldfish and doesn't her oldest son have a couple of hampsters?"

Greg: "What's wrong with having pets?"

Carroll: "Nothing. I just don't like having animals in the house. I'm quirky that way. Always have been. I love animals, I just don't like them in the house, that's all."

Joe: "If a zombie did poop, would they know it? Would they poop in their pants or would they pull them down and cop a squat where they stood? Or would they use a toilet?"

Greg: "I still think it's the kids."

Carroll: "It's not the kids!"

Joe: "If they did poop, do you think they would be aware enough to wipe their bum?"

(Short Pause)

Gary: "Seriously you guys, just once I want to watch a zombie movie and see a zombie take a dump. Is that too much to ask?"

Friday, September 19, 2014

Blonde Joke: Doctor, Doctor

A gorgeous young redhead goes into the doctor's office and said that her body hurt wherever she touched it.

"Impossible!" says the doctor. "Show me."

The redhead took her finger, pushed on her left breast and screamed, then she pushed her elbow and screamed even more. She pushed her knee and screamed; likewise she pushed her ankle and screamed.

Everywhere she touched made her scream.

The doctor said, "You're not really a redhead, are you?

"Well, no" she said, "I'm actually a blonde."

"I thought so," the doctor said. "Your finger is broken."

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Carroll Bryant Quote Regarding His Heart Attack

"I'd rather live while I'm alive than to die before I am dead."

- Carroll Bryant

Responding to criticism regarding his smoking, drinking, and eating habits leading up to his heart attack. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Story Time: Kujo Smujo

It started out a normal and average day. I woke up, took a shower, and prepared some lunch for a friend of mine who was coming to visit and play some video games. You know, just hanging out on a Saturday.

We'll call this friend, Joe.

We ate, we drank, we played some games and after a few hours, I wanted to go to the store real quick to pick up some smokes and a Dew.

Joe wanted to tag along and while we could have drove there in the car, the store wasn't but a few minutes away by foot. Since it was such a great day, we decided to simply walk there.

We headed out and began talking about nothing in particular. We cut across behind the buildings that led to the gas station which were the auto repair shop's back lot, and the old ice cream shop's back lot which led to a small gravel / dirt road behind the hardware building and then finally, to the gas station's back lot that also serves as the Taco Bell back lot.

Right before we reached that point, and to our left from up top a hill, a dog emerged. The dog quickly began to bark and then shot down the hill in a flash, and straight towards Joe and I at a high rate of speed. It was obvious, he was on the attack.

Joe quickly darted off towards a parked pick-up truck where he leaped into the bed of while I stood there like a dumb-wad. At first, the dog headed towards Joe but once Joe was laying in the bed of the truck, he quickly turned his sights onto me.

I braced myself for what I thought was going to be one bloody battle. However, as the dog approached, teeth showing, he came to a quick halt at my feet.

He was barking like mad and growling, almost like he was threatening me should I decide to move an inch. I bent slightly over and stared down at the dog, trying to look him in the eyes. For a few seconds, we did lock onto each other eye to eye, but then he would end up looking away. Joe tried to say something but I threw up my right hand to hush him. It worked. He stayed in the bed of the truck silently, and looking on, while I dealt with the angry dog.

The dog would bark a few times before growling and snarling, and constantly looking away as I continued to lean down slightly and stare him down, my arms by my side and clinched in fists. He kept refusing to look up at me.

After about a minute, the barking began to subside and only his growls and some snarling could be heard. I remained like a statue until another few minutes passed and the dog apparently grew weary of me and started to slowly turn away and leave. He looked back at me once or twice at first before picking up his pace.

I took a few steps in his direction and stomped my feet loudly in so he would hear. He took another glance back before darting off from which he came.

I don't know what kind of dog he was other than to say he appeared to be a mix of some kind or otherwise, nothing but a mutt. His back came up to about my knees so he wasn't a small thing in the least.

Once he scampered back up the hill and disappeared, I looked over at Joe, who was still hiding in the bed of the truck. "That will wake you up in the morning." I joked.

Joe wasn't in a joking mood. "Are you effing crazy, dude?"

I walked towards the truck. "What are you talking about?" I asked.

"That dog could have killed you." He figured as much. I figured otherwise.

"I don't know about that," I stated, "but yeah, it could have been a hell of a fight." I then reminded him of where he was. "You might want to get out from that truck before the owner sees you and shoots your ass." I then began walking to the front of the gas station / store.

Joe hops out and follows. "That was the most amazing thing I ever seen in my life! Dude, you stood toe to toe with that thing. Weren't you scared?"

"Shitless." I told him. "But what were my options? To hide in back of a truck bed with you? I figured, if we were gonna throw down then a throw down we were going to do."

"How do you even fight a dog?" Joe wondered.

I shrugged my shoulders. "Kick, scratch, bite, punch, I don't know. But I was ready to scrap if I had to. I would have bitten his damn ears off if it had to come down to that."

"I still can't believe it." He went on to keep repeating. "You have balls of steel or something."

"Not really," I replied, "I just watched a lot of 'The Dog Whisperer'. Besides," I added for good measure, "I hate running from a good fight."

He quickly moved ahead of me. "I'm keeping you between me and him."

"Dude," I snapped back, "he's gone. I doubt he will return."

"I'm not taking any chances." He said, before realizing, "Where's my cell phone when I need it? I could have video taped that and posted it on Youtube."

As it turned out, he left it on my kitchen table. 

Inside the store, Joe couldn't stop telling everyone about the incident and my so called bravery. He borrowed someone's cell phone and called Animal Control. He knew the guy who came out to search for that dog, fearing if it was willing to attack us, it would probably go after others, and maybe they wouldn't be so fortunate.

We finally made it back home and resumed our video games when Joe got a call on his cell phone from his buddy from Animal Control. The good news was, he captured the dog. The bad news? He got bit in the process. "Should have had Carroll with you." I overheard him saying.

It turned out that they could not locate the owner. The dog eventually was put down. But even now, a few years or so later, Joe still can't help but talk about that day. "If I live to be a hundred," he informs everyone, "I'll never see anything like that again. Carroll didn't budge an inch. Not an inch I tell you. He just stood there and stared that dog down."

In the middle of our last game that day, Joe turned to me and said .......


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Carroll's Journal: My Heart Attack

"How are you doing?" The paramedic asked me as I laid there on the gurney, in the ambulance, and wincing in severe pain. The pain was in my chest.

"About as well as could be expected for a man having a heart attack, I guess." I replied while gasping for air.

This is when another medic yelled out. "Pick up the speed and turn the siren on, his vitals are dropping."

Yeah, this was me not too long ago. And to think, the day started out like any other normal day. But for me, September 2nd, 2014 will always live in infamy.

I woke up at around 4:30 AM. As always, I went straight to my computer to check my emails and read some morning news. I lit a smoke and enjoyed a hot tea. Sometimes, I might drink a coffee or juice or milk. Maybe even just water. But this morning it was hot tea.

After about thirty minutes or so, I took a shower. As I waited for my hair to dry, I sat back down in front of my laptop and played a few games.

It was about six in the morning when I decided to run down to the store. While there, I picked up a slice of breakfast pizza. A pizza with sausage, eggs and cheese. I considered buying a pack of cigarettes but for some reason, I decided not to. I did have a few left in the pack at home. I knew I would be running out by noon but still, I just figured to buy another pack later as opposed to that moment. So it was just the breakfast pizza for me and back off to home I went.

I had the pizza eaten by the time I pulled into the parking lot and turned off my car engine. I went to check my postal mail to see if I got anything on Saturday because I didn't check it then and Monday the post office was closed for Labor Day. I had such a busy weekend I hadn't bothered checking it since Friday evening.

From there, it was back to the computer to play some more games and watch some Sports Center on ESPN. At around seven o'clock that morning, I lit and smoked, what would turn out to be, my last cigarette ever. I didn't know this at the time. Two hours later, I sat down on the couch to play some X-Box.

I was really looking forward to this day though. At about 4:00 PM I was planning to travel to Columbus, Ohio and visit the studio and finally, after three weeks of delays, we were going to lay down the vocals on the new song. I was very excited.

I got midway in the second quarter of a Madden Football game, and leading 21 to nothing when suddenly, I didn't feel so good.

It started with some nausea and then started into some fever flashes. I paused the game. I got to my feet and by then, I had a cold sweat break out on my face. "What the hell?" I mumbled. It was about 9:00 AM at this point.

I walked to the bathroom sink and splashed some water on my face. It offered little relief. Then I had a mild pain in my chest. I thought it was indigestion or perhaps heartburn or gas, but when I suddenly felt like throwing up, I realized it might be food poisoning. That pizza just wasn't agreeing with me I guess. But I hadn't tossed my cookies for a good 15 or 16 years now. I thought my streak was coming to an end.

A few minutes later, the pain in my chest increased. I started finding it difficult to breathe. It almost felt like someone was sitting on my chest. Or perhaps a ghost was reaching into my chest and squeezing my heart.

I struggled in confusion for a total of about 15 minutes, trying to figure out what was going on. The more time that passed, the more the pain in my chest increased. It was such a gradual progression. Finally, I realized what was going on. My first reaction was, "Son of a bitch! No! Not today damn it! Not today!" My second reaction was to call 9-1-1. 

Once I explained that I was having a heart attack, the emergency operator asked me to stay on the line until the ambulance arrived. During this very short three minute wait, I began to shut off the lights, my video game, my ceiling fan, the air conditioner, and I thought to grab my wallet off the kitchen table. When the operator informed me that the ambulance pulled into the parking lot, I thanked her and hung up. I walked out the door, turned and locked the dead-bolt and the door-handle lock before continuing down the sidewalk. A paramedic met me half way. Within moments, I was placed on the gurney and now, here I am, being unloaded and transported into the emergency room.

I grunted in anger as I was rolled into the emergency room. "I know it hurts." Someone mentioned.

"I'm not yelling in pain," I responded, "I'm yelling because I'm mad."

"What are you mad about?" I was asked, my eyes closed.

"I'm mad because I wasn't supposed to be having a heart attack today."

The next thing I knew, I had people asking me questions as the controlled chaos around me was in full operation. I could hear people asking for this test, and this scan, and everything else. Meanwhile, I was getting asked questions as well. Suddenly, I had a couple of people assisting me to undress. I was lifted up and off went my shirt. Then my pants and tighty-whitey's. "Keep breathing in through your mouth and breathe out of your nose." A voice told me, then another voice asked, "Are you allergic to anything?"

"Yes." I answered. "I'm allergic to stupid people." And I heard some laughter before I quickly explained that no, I wasn't allergic to anything known.

Then another question was asked at me. "Do you take Viagra?"

"No, but I do take a substitute." I replied.

"And what would that be?" The voice countered.

"Miley Cyrus videos." I answered. "I watch a lot of Miley Cyrus videos."

More laughter from the room. It was obvious to them that I was trying to keep a sense of humor to the situation. I think I was trying to let them know that I was calm and not too worried about what was going on. Suddenly, someone shouted, "This man is a ghost, his vitals are dropping fast, we're gonna lose him!" Then another voice quickly shouted out, "Get him up to the heart ward stat! We have a heart attack victim here!"

I guess those tests they gave me all came back with the results. It was a heart attack. This whole thing was still burning my biscuits something awful.

I was quickly whisked out of the emergency room and was taken to an elevator. Three people assisting me. I already had an I.V. placed in my left arm. I heard the elevator doors close when I decided to let these fine people know, "Don't worry if I die." I mumbled, "I had a pretty good life. No complaints. Just saying."

"Oh honey," A female voice echoed out as a hand was placed on the side of my face, "If you were looking to die, you picked the wrong day. We just put into place a new rule this morning that nobody is allowed to die without our permission, and sweetie, you ain't got permission."

For some reason, that response comforted me. Still, I could feel myself slipping further into unconsciousness. As the elevator doors opened, and I was rushed into another room, I decided to let everyone know. "I'm fading you guys. Sorry, but I'm not going to be able to answer anymore questions. See you on the other side. Good luck." - And that's where everything starts to get a little hazy. The last thing I remember was feeling the doctor stick something into me down by my groin area. I only felt a slight pinch for a few seconds or so because moments earlier, they fed me some morphine for the potential pain.

The next thing I knew, I woke up in a room. All was fairly quiet. As my vision came into focus, I saw such a pretty face. She smiled at me. "Hello." She greeted. "Feeling better are we?"

I took in a breath. "Actually, yes." I replied. "Either I'm dead and you're an angel or I'm still alive and you're just a beautiful nurse."

"Awww", she responded, "that was so sweet. But you're not dead yet, sweet-heart."

I took notice of another I.V. in my other arm. I also had a blood pressure unit strapped onto my upper right arm and a finger pulse Oximeter on my left hand. I had some wires taped on my chest and a power unit stuffed inside the upper right pocket of my hospital gown. I knew what was going on. "Holy crap!" I quipped, "You guys turned me into a robot. How cool is that?"

"I heard you were quite the comedian." The nurse informed me.

Okay, I wasn't really turned into a robot, but my life was totally transformed that morning. Everything I knew, my life style, my eating habits, smoking, drinking, my bachelor way of life - all of it - gone. Nothing was ever going to be the same. And as I laid there the next few days, all I could think of was how much it was my fault. I made the choices in my life that led me to this point. Oh sure, I would discover later about my family history with heart disease, but I didn't do myself any favors by adding fuel onto an already fire propelled time-bomb waiting to explode.

And no, I don't blame the tobacco companies either. I knew smoking was bad for you. I never needed a surgeon general to freaking tell me. I knew it the moment I first took a puff when the smoke hurt my lungs and I coughed like crazy for minutes afterwards. That was my first clue these things weren't good for you.

And I'm not going to blame the fast food chains either. I love Taco Bell, Subway, and KFC. I love Big Macs and Whoppers. Chilli cheese fries rule! Pizza! Sloppy Joes! .... You name it. I knew this garbage wasn't healthy. But I also knew I had but one life to live and damn it, I was going to enjoy what time I had on this earth. Part of that was to eat the good tasting crap that was sure to kill me someday.

Through it all, even with the drinking, I maintained a healthy weight. I was always slim. But all my choices finally caught up with me and my family history. And there I was, lying in that bed in the hospital with every machine known to man monitoring my every breath. It was my own doing. But on a good note, that nurse was such a pleasant view. Eye candy for me. I guess it could have been worse, I could have had a heart attack and never knew what it was to smoke, drink and eat so many unhealthy foods that freaking taste great! .... Or ... I could have had a stroke.

Oh yeah, things could have been worse, indeed.



Thursday, September 4, 2014

George W. Bush: The Presidents

George Walker Bush was born in New Haven, Connecticut, at Grace-New Haven Hospital (now Yale – New Haven Hospital), on July 6, 1946, the first child of George Herbert Walker Bush and Barbara Pierce. He was raised in Midland and Houston, Texas, with four siblings, Jeb, Neil, Marvin and Dorothy. Another younger sister, Robin, died from leukemia at the age of three in 1953. Bush's grandfather, Prescott Bush, was a U.S. Senator from Connecticut. Bush's father, George H. W. Bush, was Vice President from 1981 to 1989 and President from 1989 to 1993. Bush has English and some German ancestry, along with more distant Dutch, Welsh, Irish, French, and Scottish roots.

Bush attended public schools in Midland, Texas, until the family moved to Houston after he completed seventh grade. He then went to The Kinkaid School, a prep school in Houston, for two years.

Bush finished high school at Phillips Academy, a boarding school (then all-male) in Andover, Massachusetts, where he played baseball and during his senior year was the head cheerleader. Bush attended Yale University from 1964 to 1968, graduating with an B.A. in history. During this time, he was a cheerleader and a member of the Delta Kappa Epsilon, being elected the fraternity's president during his senior year. Bush also became a member of the Skull and Bones society as a senior. Bush was a rugby union player and was on Yale's 1st XV. He characterized himself as an average student. His average during his first three years at Yale was 77 and he had a similar average under a nonnumeric rating system in his final year.

Beginning in the fall of 1973, Bush attended the Harvard Business School, where he earned a Master of Business Administration. He is the only U.S. President to have earned an M.B.A.

In May 1968, Bush was commissioned into the Texas Air National Guard. After two years of active-duty service while training, he was assigned to Houston, flying Convair F-102s with the 147th Reconnaissance Wing out of Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base. Critics, including former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe, have alleged that Bush was favorably treated due to his father's political standing as a member of the House of Representatives, citing his selection as a pilot despite his low pilot aptitude test scores and his irregular attendance. In June 2005, the United States Department of Defense released all the records of Bush's Texas Air National Guard service, which remain in its official archives.

In late 1972 and early 1973, he drilled with the 187th Fighter Wing of the Alabama Air National Guard, having moved to Montgomery, Alabama to work on the unsuccessful U.S. Senate campaign of Republican Winton M. Blount. In 1972, Bush was suspended from flying for failure to take a scheduled physical exam. He was honorably discharged from the Air Force Reserve on November 21, 1974.

At a backyard barbecue in 1977, friends introduced him to Laura Lane Welch, a school teacher and librarian. Bush proposed to her after a three-month courtship, and they married on November 5 of that year. The couple settled in Midland, Texas. Bush left his family's Episcopal Church to join his wife's United Methodist Church. On November 25, 1981, Laura Bush gave birth to fraternal twin daughters, Barbara Pierce Bush and Jenna Welch Bush; they graduated from high school in 2000 and from Yale University and the University of Texas at Austin, respectively, in 2004.

In 1978, Bush ran for the House of Representatives from Texas's 19th congressional district. His opponent, Kent Hance, portrayed him as out of touch with rural Texans. Bush lost the election by 6,000 votes (6%) of the 103,000 votes cast. He returned to the oil industry and began a series of small, independent oil exploration companies. He created Arbusto Energy, and later changed the name to Bush Exploration. In 1984, his company merged with the larger Spectrum 7, and Bush became chairman. The company was hurt by decreased oil prices, and it folded into HKN, Inc. Bush served on the board of directors for HKN. Questions of possible insider trading involving HKN arose, but the Securities and Exchange Commission's (SEC) investigation concluded that the information Bush had at the time of his stock sale was not sufficient to constitute insider trading.

Bush moved his family to Washington, D.C. in 1988 to work on his father's campaign for the U.S. presidency. He served as a campaign adviser and liaison to the media; he assisted his father by campaigning across the country. Returning to Texas after the successful campaign, he purchased a share in the Texas Rangers baseball franchise in April 1989, where he served as managing general partner for five years. He actively led the team's projects and regularly attended its games, often choosing to sit in the open stands with fans. Bush's sale of his shares in the Rangers in 1998 brought him over $15 million from his initial $800,000 investment.

In December 1991, Bush was one of seven people named by his father to run his father's 1992 Presidential re-election campaign as "campaign advisor". The prior month, his father asked him to tell White House chief of staff John H. Sununu that he should resign.

As Bush's brother, Jeb, sought the governorship of Florida, Bush declared his candidacy for the 1994 Texas gubernatorial election. His campaign focused on four themes: welfare reform, tort reform, crime reduction, and education improvement. Bush's campaign advisers were Karen Hughes, Joe Allbaugh, and Karl Rove.

After easily winning the Republican primary, Bush faced popular Democratic incumbent Governor Ann Richards. In the course of the campaign, Bush pledged to sign a bill allowing Texans to obtain permits to carry concealed weapons. Richards had vetoed the bill, but Bush signed it after he became governor. According to The Atlantic Monthly, the race "featured a rumor that she was a lesbian, along with a rare instance of such a tactic's making it into the public record – when a regional chairman of the Bush campaign allowed himself, perhaps inadvertently, to be quoted criticizing Richards for 'appointing avowed homosexual activists' to state jobs". The Atlantic, and others, connected the lesbian rumor to Karl Rove, but Rove denied being involved. Bush won the general election with 53.5% against Richards' 45.9%.

In June 1999, while Governor of Texas, Bush announced his candidacy for President of the United States. With no incumbent running, Bush entered a large field of candidates for the Republican Party presidential nomination consisting of John McCain, Alan Keyes, Steve Forbes, Gary Bauer, Orrin Hatch, Elizabeth Dole, Dan Quayle, Pat Buchanan, Lamar Alexander, John Kasich, and Robert C. Smith.
Bush portrayed himself as a compassionate conservative, implying he was more centrist than other Republicans. He campaigned on a platform that included bringing integrity and honor back to the White House, increasing the size of the United States Armed Forces, cutting taxes, improving education, and aiding minorities. By early 2000, the race had centered on Bush and McCain.

Bush won the Iowa caucuses, but, although he was heavily favored to win the New Hampshire primary, he trailed McCain by 19% and lost that primary. Despite this, Bush regained momentum and, according to political observers, effectively became the front runner after the South Carolina primary, which according to The Boston Globe made history for his campaign's negativity; The New York Times described it as a smear campaign.

On July 25, 2000, Bush surprised some observers by asking Dick Cheney, a former White House Chief of Staff, U.S. Representative, and Secretary of Defense, to be his running mate. Cheney was then serving as head of Bush's Vice-Presidential search committee. Soon after, Cheney was officially nominated by the Republican Party at the 2000 Republican National Convention.

Bush continued to campaign across the country and touted his record as Governor of Texas. Bush's campaign criticized his Democratic opponent, incumbent Vice President Al Gore, over gun control and taxation.

When the election returns came in on November 7, Bush won 29 states, including Florida. The closeness of the Florida outcome led to a recount. The initial recount also went to Bush, but the outcome was tied up in courts for a month until reaching the U.S. Supreme Court. On December 9, in a controversial ruling the Bush v. Gore case the Court reversed a Florida Supreme Court decision ordering a third count, and stopped an ordered statewide hand recount based on the argument that the use of different standards among Florida's counties violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The machine recount showed that Bush had won the Florida vote by a margin of 537 votes out of six million cast. Although he received 543,895 fewer individual votes than Gore nationwide, Bush won the election, receiving 271 electoral votes to Gore's 266.

In 2004, Bush commanded broad support in the Republican Party and did not encounter a primary challenge. He appointed Ken Mehlman as campaign manager, with a political strategy devised by Karl Rove. Bush and the Republican platform included a strong commitment to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, support for the USA PATRIOT Act, a renewed shift in policy for constitutional amendments banning abortion and same-sex marriage, reforming Social Security to create private investment accounts, creation of an ownership society, and opposing mandatory carbon emissions controls, Bush also called for the implementation of a guest worker program for immigrants, which was criticized by conservatives.

In the election, Bush carried 31 of 50 states, receiving a total of 286 electoral votes. He won an outright majority of the popular vote (50.7% to his opponent's 48.3%). The previous President to win an outright majority of the popular vote was Bush's father in the 1988 election. Additionally, it was the first time since Herbert Hoover's election in 1928 that a Republican president was elected alongside re-elected Republican majorities in both Houses of Congress.

Though Bush originally outlined an ambitious domestic agenda, his priorities were significantly altered following the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001. Wars were waged in Afghanistan and Iraq with significant domestic debates regarding immigration, healthcare, Social Security, economic policy, and treatment of terrorist detainees. Over an eight-year period, Bush's once-high approval ratings steadily declined, while his disapproval numbers increased significantly. In 2007, the United States entered the longest post-World War II recession.

Bush took office during a period of economic recession in the wake of the bursting of the Dot-com bubble. The terrorist attacks also impacted the economy. The Bush administration increased federal government spending from $1.789 trillion to $2.983 trillion (60%) while revenues increased from $2.025 trillion to $2.524 trillion (from 2000 to 2008). Individual income tax revenues increased by 14%, corporate tax revenues by 50%, customs and duties by 40%. Discretionary defense spending was increased by 107%, discretionary domestic spending by 62%, Medicare spending by 131%, social security by 51%, and income security spending by 130%. Cyclically adjusted, revenues rose by 35% and spending by 65%.

The increase in spending was more than under any predecessor since Lyndon B. Johnson. The number of economic regulation governmental workers increased by 91,196.

The surplus in fiscal year 2000 was $237 billion - the third consecutive surplus and the largest surplus ever. In 2001, Bush's budget estimated that there would be a $5.6 trillion surplus over the next ten years. Facing congressional opposition, Bush held townhall style meetings across the U.S. in order to increase public support for his plan for a $1.35 trillion tax cut program - one of the largest tax cuts in U.S. history. Bush argued that unspent government funds should be returned to taxpayers, saying "the surplus is not the government’s money. The surplus is the people’s money." Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan warned of a recession and Bush stated that a tax cut would stimulate the economy and create jobs. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, opposed some of the tax cuts on the basis that they would contribute to budget deficits and undermine Social Security. O'Neill disputes the claim, made in Bush's book Decision Points, that he never openly disagreed with him on planned tax cuts. By 2003, the economy showed signs of improvement, though job growth remained stagnant. Another tax cut program was passed that year.

Unemployment originally rose from 4.2% in January 2001 to 6.3% in June 2003, but subsequently dropped to 4.5% as of July 2007. Adjusted for inflation, median household income dropped by $1,175 between 2000 and 2007, while Professor Ken Homa of Georgetown University has noted that "after-tax median household income increased by 2%" The poverty rate increased from 11.3% in 2000 to 12.3% in 2006 after peaking at 12.7% in 2004. By October 2008, due to increases in spending, the national debt had risen to $11.3 trillion, an increase of over 100% from 2000 when the debt was only $5.6 trillion. Most debt was accumulated as a result of what became known as the "Bush tax cuts" and increased national security spending. In March 2006, then-Senator Barack Obama said when he voted against raising the debt ceiling: "The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure." By the end of Bush's presidency, unemployment climbed to 7.2%.

Many economists and world governments determined that the situation became the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Additional regulation over the housing market would have been beneficial, according to former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan. Bush, meanwhile, proposed a financial rescue plan to buy back a large portion of the U.S. mortgage market. Vince Reinhardt, a former Federal Reserve economist now at the American Enterprise Institute, said "it would have helped for the Bush administration to empower the folks at Treasury and the Federal Reserve and the comptroller of the currency and the FDIC to look at these issues more closely", and additionally, that it would have helped "for Congress to have held hearings".

In November 2008, over 500,000 jobs were lost, which marked the largest loss of jobs in the United States in 34 years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in the last four months of 2008, 1.9 million jobs were lost. By the end of 2008, the U.S. had lost a total of 2.6 million jobs.

In 2006, Bush urged Congress to allow more than 12 million illegal immigrants to work in the United States with the creation of a "temporary guest-worker program". Bush did not support amnesty for illegal immigrants, but argued that the lack of legal status denies the protections of U.S. laws to millions of people who face dangers of poverty and exploitation, and penalizes employers despite a demand for immigrant labor. Nearly 8 million immigrants came to the United States from 2000 to 2005, more than in any other five-year period in the nation's history. Almost half entered illegally.

Bush also urged Congress to provide additional funds for border security and committed to deploying 6,000 National Guard troops to the Mexico–United States border. In May–June 2007, Bush strongly supported the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007, which was written by a bipartisan group of Senators with the active participation of the Bush administration. The bill envisioned a legalization program for illegal immigrants, with an eventual path to citizenship; establishing a guest worker program; a series of border and work site enforcement measures; a reform of the green card application process and the introduction of a point-based "merit" system for green cards; elimination of "chain migration" and of the Diversity Immigrant Visa; and other measures. Bush contended that the proposed bill did not amount to amnesty.

During his Presidential campaign, Bush's foreign policy platform included support for stronger economic and political relationship with Latin America, especially Mexico, and a reduction of involvement in "nation-building" and other small-scale military engagements. The administration pursued a national missile defense. Bush was an advocate of China's entry into the World Trade Organization.

In his 2002 State of the Union Address, Bush referred to an axis of evil including Iraq, Iran and North Korea. After the September 11 attacks on New York, Bush launched the War on Terror, in which the United States military and a small international coalition invaded Afghanistan, the location of Osama Bin Laden, who planned the New York attacks. In 2003, Bush then launched the invasion of Iraq, searching for Weapons of Mass Destruction, which he described as being part of the War on Terrorism. Those invasions led to the toppling of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and the removal of Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq.

Midway through Bush's second term, it was questioned whether Bush was retreating from his freedom and democracy agenda, highlighted in policy changes toward some oil-rich former Soviet republics in central Asia.

The September 11 terrorist attacks were a major turning point in Bush's presidency. That evening, he addressed the nation from the Oval Office, promising a strong response to the attacks. He also emphasized the need for the nation to come together and comfort the families of the victims. On September 14, he visited Ground Zero, meeting with Mayor Rudy Giuliani, firefighters, police officers, and volunteers. Bush addressed the gathering via a megaphone while standing on a heap of rubble, to much applause: "I can hear you. The rest of the world hears you. And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon."

In a September 20 speech, Bush condemned Osama bin Laden and his organization Al-Qaeda, and issued an ultimatum to the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, where bin Laden was operating, to "hand over the terrorists, or ... share in their fate"

After September 11, Bush announced a global War on Terror. The Afghan Taliban regime was not forthcoming with Osama bin Laden, so Bush ordered the invasion of Afghanistan to overthrow the Taliban regime. In his January 29, 2002 State of the Union Address, he asserted that an "axis of evil" consisting of North Korea, Iran, and Iraq was "arming to threaten the peace of the world" and "pose[d] a grave and growing danger". The Bush Administration asserted both a right and the intention to wage preemptive war, or preventive war. This became the basis for the Bush Doctrine which weakened the unprecedented levels of international and domestic support for the United States which had followed the September 11 attacks.

Dissent and criticism of Bush's leadership in the War on Terror increased as the war in Iraq continued. In 2006, a National Intelligence Estimate concluded that the Iraq War had become the "cause célèbre for jihadists".

Bush authorized the CIA to use waterboarding as one of several enhanced interrogation techniques. Between 2002 and 2003 the CIA considered certain enhanced interrogation techniques, such as waterboarding, to be legal based on a secret Justice Department legal opinion arguing that terror detainees were not protected by the Geneva Conventions' ban on torture and Vice President Cheney said enhanced interrogation including waterboarding was not torture or illegal. The CIA had exercised the technique on certain key terrorist suspects under authority given to it in the Bybee Memo from the Attorney General, though that memo was later withdrawn. While not permitted by the U.S. Army Field Manuals which assert "that harsh interrogation tactics elicit unreliable information", the Bush administration believed these enhanced interrogations "provided critical information" to preserve American lives. Critics, such as former CIA officer Bob Baer, have stated that information was suspect, "you can get anyone to confess to anything if the torture's bad enough."

On October 17, 2006, Bush signed into law the Military Commissions Act of 2006, a law enacted in the wake of the Supreme Court's decision in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, 548 U.S. 557 (2006), which allows the U.S. government to prosecute unlawful enemy combatants by military commission rather than a standard trial. The law also denies them access to habeas corpus and bars the torture of detainees, but allows the president to determine what constitutes torture.

On May 10, 2005, Vladimir Arutyunian, a native Georgian who was born to a family of ethnic Armenians, threw a live hand grenade toward a podium where Bush was speaking at Freedom Square in Tbilisi, Georgia. Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili was seated nearby. It landed in the crowd about 65 feet (20 m) from the podium after hitting a girl, but it did not detonate. Arutyunian was arrested in July 2005, confessed, was convicted and was given a life sentence in January 2006.

Bush began his presidency with approval ratings near 50%. After the September 11 attacks, Bush gained an approval rating of 90%, maintaining 80–90% approval for four months after the attacks. It remained over 50% during most of his first term and then fell to as low as 19% in his second term.

Following the inauguration of Barack Obama, Bush and his family flew from Andrews Air Force Base to a homecoming celebration in Midland, Texas, following which they returned to their ranch in Crawford, Texas. They bought a home in the Preston Hollow neighborhood of Dallas, Texas, where they settled down.

He makes regular appearances at various events throughout the Dallas/Fort Worth area, most notably when he conducted the opening coin toss at the Dallas Cowboys first game in the team's new stadium in Arlington and an April 2009 visit to a Texas Rangers game, where he thanked the people of Dallas for helping him settle in and was met with a standing ovation. He also attended every home playoff game for the Texas Rangers 2010 season and, accompanied by his father, threw out the ceremonial first pitch at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington for Game 4 of the 2010 World Series on October 31, 2010.

On August 6, 2013, Bush was successfully treated for a coronary artery blockage with a stent. The blockage had been found during an annual medical examination.

"At one time, I believed George Walker Bush to be the worst president in our nation's history. Then along came Obama." - Carroll Bryant

Sources: Wikipedia

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