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Friday, April 18, 2014

Justice delayed is justice denied, but for who?....

  One of the most fascinating things happened almost 14 years ago when a man held up a Burger King manager with a gun when he was making a bank deposit. He was more of a boy than a man and he and his cousin actually used an air gun. The conviction for young Cornealious Anderson was for 13 years and considering the circumstances it was not unreasonable. You make bad decisions and you have to pay for them. After being bonded out of jail he was told the Missouri Department of Corrections would let him know when to report to jail. The problem or blessing was the call never came. Not for 13 years anyway.
  The real surprise of the story is what Anderson did in the 13 years. He worked, hard. He got married, had a family and started 3 different businesses. He paid his taxes and even a couple of speeding tickets. His real name, real address and real picture. The entire time he made no effort to flee or even hide. I'm sure the more time went by, the more he just kept doing what was right, the more he thought they had forgotten about him. Actually, I don't what he thought. Judging by his actions he seemed to think that anyway. Then after 13 years the MDOC found the clerical error when they went to release him. So they sent a SWAT team to his house and arrested him when he was feeding his 3 year old daughter. The piper came a calling and he answered.
  Currently he is in jail while they try and figure out what to do. His lawyer is pushing for release and the state wants him to do the entire 13 year stint. There is no question that justice has been delayed, but has it been denied? Every morning for over a decade Anderson woke up wondering if he was going to jail. That is some sort of sentence served but certainly not a jail cell. But was it his fault? No. Does that change the fact that he was sentenced? No. The state is demanding justice but the delay was on them. Justice it seems is at stand still here. The Governor can commute the sentence which is what happened back in 1912 but so far there has been no comment. Perhaps he could serve some time on weekends or do community service. I don't see how taking a productive member of our society and jailing him serves the states interest. Hopefully they can work out a logical solution. But that is not what made this so interesting to me. It was what Anderson did.
  What would I do in that situation? Would I try and make a difference everyday I was out? Start a business? Would I get married and start a family? It's hard to say without being in his shoes but my initial answer would be, not only no, but hell no. Given my destructive nature I would be much more likely to spend every day curled up with a bottle of the best thing to come out of Kentucky (except Kevin McCarthy and Justified). Or maybe I would make the rounds and visit old friends and family. Perhaps I would consider running, changing my name, my appearance and everything else I could.  How do you explain a 20 year old kid taking the path he did? You're freedom is about to disappear every time the phone rings and all you do is start a life that any man or woman or parent would be proud of? Would you do the same? Would I? Would I want a person like that in jail? I think the justice delay may not have denied justice, it may have come in a different form.

Till next......

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Can you spare 5 minutes a week?..I need volunteers...

  With the explosion of social media I can't help but notice the law of unintended consequences has reared its ugly head once again. I have stumbled on Tumbler, shown my ass on Facebook, instantly became addicted to Instagram, Flicked, Pinned and Tweeted away more than one afternoon and I suspect I am not alone. We have become so good at connecting in 140 characters or less that we have lost the ability to connect in the real world. I was waiting in a dentist office and there were 4 other people, all engrossed on their smart phones just like me. I am old enough to remember when I would have spoken to all of them.
  What is the cost of all our new found connectivity? I suggest that the real cost is the loss of relationships. Have you ever met anyone who you became friends with while waiting in line? I know I have. Or just heard an interesting story between other people talking? Me too, but it hasn't been lately. If it wasn't for Bluetooth I'm not sure people would even speak in public anymore. So instead of becoming a more friendly, integrated society we are becoming more isolated, unless you count a smart phone or laptop. We are becoming more concerned with what our followers or "friends" on Facebook are doing than we are with the people we actually interact with every day. May be that's why the country seems so easily divided these days.
  Because of these observations I decided I was going to do something to change it. Once a week I am going to take 5 or 10 minutes and connect with someone I don't know but see on occasion. It might be a grocery check out person, dry cleaner or even a pizza delivery guy. Just 5 minutes to find out where they are from, do they have a family, like their job, whatever. People love to talk about themselves so it won't be very hard. (I have a blog based on that fact) Some of the people I talk to might end up being one hour conversations. Who knows, I might even find a friend or two while I'm at it. At the very least, I'm going to try a put a smile on someones face. I'm sure there will be a few that will leave me shaking my head but that is okay too.
  My personal goal is two people a week so a year from now I can say I've got 100 new friends. I love the thought of telling people, "Ask for John at Starbucks or Tom at Home Depot, they are good guys" for no other reason than it makes people feel good. There is no monetary gain in this project of mine. It's not a human chain letter where if you don't do it bad luck will swarm over you. It's nothing more than a chance to try and connect more people and hopefully find out all of us have more in common than we think. Even if you just try it for a couple of weeks all you have spent is 10 minutes of not watching cat videos on You Tube anyway.
  I am starting this today but it would be much more fun and have a greater impact if people would join me in it. If you are the cynical and jaded type (I am) think of all the sarcasm laced stories you will have if everybody you meet is a complete tool. Comedy gold, but I doubt that will be the case. If you want to try this with me just comment, like or share the blog post. Or re-tweet it. This going to be fun.

Till next.....

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The four wheel CEO......

  A couple of weeks ago I heard Jim Cramer, the host of Mad Money talking about living in his car for a period of time. He mentioned another CEO who went through the same experience. My sincere apologies that I can't remember the other man's name but the fact that there was more than two of us made me think it was time to offer some tips to anyone going the mobile domicile route. I do not recommend it but you will see there is a benefit to doing so.
  Most people don't wait till their mid 40's to live in a car but I am an innovator. One morning I woke up with no job, no wife, no house, no money and no ability to see my kids every morning when they woke up. To say that each day was not filled sunshine and lollipops would be the king of understatements. Rather than admit to those who remained close to me (excluding my family it was a short list) I decided to figure it all out myself. As a side note, this particular way of thinking is horrible and should be avoided at all costs. It was my thinking and lack of asking for help that got me where I was, I should have known better. But it was time for me to be resourceful. So I developed a routine that you will think is funny and sad at the same time.
  The first rule of living in one's car is the proper selection of where to park at night when you sleep. Living in Memphis complicated this decision more than a little bit. Memphis is where criminals move away from because the competition is to tough. I selected grocery store parking lots to begin with, until the security guards figured out I wasn't doing much shopping. After exhausting Kroger's patience I went for the hotels. They have a tendency to call the police when they see a man sleeping in his car. Stay away from the hotels.
  Finally I found out what works. I took the last $20 I had in my pocket and joined a 24 health club. At the end of the day when I was through working my 3 jobs to get back on my feet (and in a bed) I would head to the club. After a good workout, I would head to the steam room and then the shower.A valuable tip here is to not fall asleep in the steam room. I came out after a 2 hour nap looking like Pruneface from the Dick Tracy cartoons. The couches in the entryway were an excellent place to catch a couple of winks. The staff was helpful, letting me crash right in the front of the club. I became such good friends with one girl that I heard her asking an incoming guest to keep his voice down because I was napping. I knew then my time was probably running out. The next night I was awakened in my car by a night stick tapping on my window and an officer with an attitude. When he asked where I lived and I pointed to the car he told me to move out of his area. Sympathy has never been a strong suit of the Memphis Police Department.
  Dining when you are homeless and broke is another hurdle to jump. Every morning I would show up with my suit pressed (meaning I hung it in the steam room while I showered) look at my fake Rolex, furrow my brow and head for the front desk. "Has anyone asked for me?" I would say with my best salesman smile. The answer was always no because I didn't know anybody at the hotel. I just wanted the free breakfast. "Do you mind if I have a seat at one of the tables?" Well, who would refuse such a request? Not the front desk at some of the finest hotels in Memphis. I would eat until I tasted bile and then head out the door to get to work. Some of the front desk people eventually knew my name and greeted with a big, "Good Morning, Chris." Blanche Dubois had it right about the kindness of strangers.
  Even the best of free buffets will not hold you for 24 hours. Dinner can be found at Sam's Club or some of the bars around town. I found a car dealership across the street from the liquor store where I took a job working nights that gave away free hot dogs if you were willing to take a test drive of a new pickup truck and take the selling ass whipping in return. Free hot dogs? Give me your best pitch. 2 weeks later the manager came over to me and said I could have the hot dogs without the test drive. Apparently they were running out of salesman. I love it when a plan comes together. I did miss the test drives though. I also took a job with Papa Johns because I needed the money and I knew there would be free food. At the end of the night every pizza place lets the employees eat the mistakes that were made throughout the shift. Is it safe to eat a 5 hour old pizza that has been sitting out at room temperature? Mostly, but constipation was never a problem after partaking of the 'buss tub buffet'. Location of an available restroom was important.
  Three months later I had saved up enough money to get an apartment and get back on the grid. I don't relate this story because it made me mad or bitter. On the contrary it taught me that no matter what the circumstances I will not quit. Fear is one of those things that we all have, some more than others. But once a fear is conquered, it's conquered for good. Do I still fear failing? Yep, but I don't fear losing everything. Been there, done that. Well, not everything really. I didn't lose my faith (questioned it severely) the love of my family and kids and a few friends. If I had said I was homeless I'm sure they would have helped. As it turned out I'm glad I didn't. I haven't gone on to the success of Jim Cramer or the other guy, but I did get back on feet. I did start my own merchant processing business. I did write and publish my first novel. Compared to living in the car, I would have to say I have become somewhat successful.
  I wasn't dating at the time but part of me wanted to hear a woman ask me if we could go back to my place. "Sure, make yourself comfortable, unbuckle the seat belt."

Till Next.....