How the iPod Saved My Christmas –

Posted in The Good Life with tags , , , , , , , on December 9, 2011 by chrisdurant2000

‘Tis the Season –

I love music, all types of music.  And while my tastes run the spectrum, I usually find myself gravitating towards classical, (I absolutely love the violin) soft jazz, and the occasional country tune.   Everything else becomes more of a seasonal selection.  For instance usually in the spring and summer I will primarily listen to alternative rock and upbeat country.   It’s weird, I don’t get it either. 

Whether I am driving, working out, working in the yard, work working, or just sitting at home, I will normally listen to my iPod.    This has become more prevalent to the point of noticeable, a fact I realized the other day.   There is a wonderful classical station here, WDAV based at Davidson College, that has really helped to expand my library and love of classical music.   Like most classical stations, there is very little talk, no commercials (except for the semi-annual membership drive) and what human voice you will hear is usually calm and subdued.  And this brings us to the point of this article…

I LOVE Christmas music!  Certainly I would not listen to it all year long, but there is just something about those songs that rekindles wonderful memories of Christmases past in my mind that I will always cherish.    Now, I know people who groan at the slightest thought of having to “endure” a single carol.  Not me!  For me it provides a soundtrack, the score to the season.  Not unlike the aroma of cinnamon and spices that provide an olfactory ignition announcing to the senses that “IT IS CHRISTMASTIME!!”

Like most cities, Charlotte has several radio stations that play Christmas songs, usually beginning the day after Thanksgiving through Christmas day.    So, I was very excited about listening to the radio in the car the other day when I set out to do a little shopping.  My excitement, however, was very short lived.    I found myself quickly frustrated as I clicked back and forth between the two stations.   While I would acheive a wonderful memory moment with an old Christmas classic, it was almost immediately erased by the “VOICE”.   The “VOICE” was that obnoxious radio personality.  It was the incessant commercials.  It was loud. It was intrusive to my reveling, and it roared seemingly after each and every song, almost as if attempting to create some sadistic balance between the harmonious music and ‘nails on the chalkboard’ commercialism.   After about fifteen minutes of this, I called ‘No Joy’ and switched the iPod back on.   But I couldn’t let it go.  I was pissed.  I was in the midst of my holiday spirit and yet I felt more like ole Ebenezer.   Apparently I needed a work-around.

Throughout the day as I shopped, walking through the mall, seeing others shopping, and bounding in and out of the various stores and boutiques, I would have flashes of memories.  Each was tied to a different carol and helped to bring me back into the sight, sound, smell and feel of the season.  So, with each memory I quickly added a little note into my Blackberry jotting down the song.  Later that night I even Googled “Christmas Classics” and a host of other search strings as I began to forge my very own Christmas playlist.   It was awesome and helped to elicit even more memories and remind me of songs that I had forgotten but loved.

The other day, I posted a comment on Facebook about my little Christmas creation and got several messages back asking me for a rundown of “Chris’ Carols”.   So, I’ve decided to share.  This is by no means a full and complete list, I know I will continue to add songs.  And while there are any number of different versions by different artists, (in a few cases there are even multiple versions in my playlist, yep, I downloaded them all) these are MY favorites.  I hope you enjoy and have a very Merry Christmas!

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year – Andy Williams

The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting) – Darrius Rucker

Winter Wonderland – The Eurhymics

O Holy Night – Tracy Chapman

Jingle Bells – Michael Buble’ (featuring the Puppini Sisters)

Baby it’s Cold Outside – Dean Martin

Christmastime is Here – Vince Guaraldi Trio

I’ll be Home for Christmas – Rascal Flatts

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas – Michael Buble’

Merry Christmas Darling – The Carpenters

White Christmas – Bing Crosby

Where are You Christmas – Faith Hill

Holly Jolly Christmas – Burl Ives

Last Christmas – WHAM

Silent Night –Enya

Winter Wonderland – Chris Botti

Carol of the Bells – Mannheim Steamroller

Christmas Canon – Trans-Siberian Orchestra

Christmas – Blues Traveler

Santa Baby – Eartha Kitt

Mele Kamikimaka – Bing Crosby

Silver Bells – Johnny Mathis

Wonderful Christmastime – Paul McCartney

Sleigh Ride – John Williams and the Boston Pops

Christmas is now Drawing Near – Steve Winwood

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow – Dean Martin

Belluea Wood – Garth Brooks

Same old Lang Syne – Dan Folgeberg

I’ll be Home for Christmas – Michael Buble’

Winter Wonderland – Andy Williams

Christmastime is Here – Sarah McLachlan

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Michael Vick: A Signpost of Things to Come?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 31, 2011 by chrisdurant2000

I sincerely thought I was done writing about Michael Vick and his horrific actions towards animals. I had really hoped that I was. It is not that I had found some misguided or unfounded forgiveness, but rather I was put off by the sheer ignorance of people and their ability to overlook what they think they might have known about this so-called man and his sadistic nature. As a result, I quietly set my pen down and began to mourn my fellow Americans as I tried to rationalize the state of affairs in our once great nation. This is situation, the Michael Vick Cancer, has a broader scale to it that I think needs to be addressed.

Yesterday, in celebration I can only assume of his new $100m contract with the Eagles, ESPN’s SportsCenter aired the “Top 10 Vick Moments”. If only I could have gotten my hands on the dumb ass producer who chose to put that together. Why not air “Vick’s 10 Worst Moments”? Spend thirty seconds of your precious TV time showing the victims of this ‘sports star’. This man thinks you are all sheep. He thinks if he continues to excel on the field the public will forget about his violent crimes. In his recent GQ article Vick stated –

“But what have I done to anybody? It was something that happened, and it was people trying to make some money.”

Well, Mike that is certainly one way to rationalize it. But I am thinking your PR team didn’t necessarily approve that little gaffe, did they? But sadly, he is right. Far too many Americans find it convenient to ignore what Michael Vick did simply because he’s magical to watch on the field or because he’s on their fantasy team. I actually had some idiotic woman tell me that two weeks ago. Even ESPN with all of their miles and terabytes of film has already forgotten. Or perhaps they have merely chosen not to remember – just like the woman in the bar. It was as if fantasy football held some sacred value to her.

Michael Vick is a sensational football player, of that there is no doubt. But what else is Michael Vick? I would argue that he is a diseased human, a sadist, a user, and a fraud. And he is symptomatic of what is wrong with America. What has happened to our basic values? Words like “Right and Wrong”, “Hard Work”, and “Integrity” have lost their meaning and have become clichés and punchlines.

How shallow have we become that we can overlook someone deriving sick pleasure from throwing a dog into a pool and then attaching battery cables to its ears as it struggles to climb out simply because that man can run and throw a football? I understand that football is an important part of our culture, I am a huge fan. But neither it, nor one man’s contribution to it are anywhere as important as our character and our ability to discern right action from wrong. It is what separates us – well most of us – from the rest of the animal kingdom.

If your son or daughter had a motocross star or perhaps a pop singer that they idolized and news reports began to surface that that individual had maliciously and savagely tortured, mutilated and killed dogs for nothing more than an adrenalin rush (Michael Vick, although he funded the entirety of BadNewz Kennels, did not accept proceeds from the winnings – not a single dime)- how would you react? Would you overlook these actions and agree with your son or daughter that “yeah, he can handle a bike though” or “yeah, but she sure can sing”? I can only hope that you would be disgusted and discuss their misplaced fan idol, that you would remind them of love and nurturing, you would tell them that an individual cannot be separated from their actions and that we are what we do. Would you remind them of the family pet and help them to understand the violent nature of their idol? I would like to think that you would act like a responsible parent and explain to your child that those actions were wrong and that that person is NO ONE to be looked up to for any reason.

Throughout our history as a nation, we have had others who have been sensational athletes. Men like Jim Thorpe and Jackie Robinson overcame far greater adversity than Michael Vick can ever claim to, and yet their past is not peppered with psychotic violence. Can you imagine the absolute upheaval that would have erupted had either of these two men have engaged in the actions that Michael Vick did? What has changed? We have. Our acceptance of atrocities in lieu of athletic prowess has morphed us into a people who value entertainment more than life. It reminds me of the movie “Running Man” where the world’s most popular game show consisted of human hunts.

Now, I have long tempered my words regarding this situation. I have tried to express myself professionally and without threats, wishes of violence or obscenity laced language even though in my heart that is exactly what I wanted. As a result I have had any number of morons attacking me with racial slurs, racial accusations, and arguments of inner city upbringing, while other mentally challenged people would simply utter “What the f*@k, they’re just dogs” or “you eat meat don’t you” or even the ignorant attempt to parallel what Michael Vick did to hunting. Well, while I don’t hunt, I know people who do and none of those individuals take pleasure in premeditated torture. Michael Vick did and laughed while it happened. He even had special stands built to hang poorly performing dogs. To hang them!?! That wasn’t easy. It wasn’t quick. It was torture, pure and simple.

Nike recently reversed their position regarding Vick and re-signed him to another endorsement deal. In 2007 Nike referred to Michael Vick’s actions as “inhumane, abhorrent and unacceptable.” After this new deal was inked a Nike spokesperson gave the company’s line –

“Michael acknowledges his past mistakes,” Saalfeld said. “We do not condone those actions, but we support the positive changes he has made to better himself off the field.”

Really? Nike is not sponsoring Vick for what he does off the field, but for what he does on the field. I would love to grab Nike CEO, Mark Parker by the back neck and force him to look face to face with the many victims of Vick. I want him to join his “partner” in greed and feel the perverted rush of shoving a dog’s head into a five gallon bucket of water while Vick and Philips hold its legs up, restraining the kicking dog until finally it dies.

Before we continue let’s go back to ESPN for a moment. After the inking of the Nike deal, one of their commentators added that ‘Nike likes edge. Michael Vick because of his past IS edge.” No, whoever the Hell you are, “Edge” is not torturing and mutilating dogs. That is sick, it is sadistic, and it is not to be revered, celebrated nor sponsored. Our media continue to shelter this man and the public from truly understanding what he did. But why?

I for one will never purchase another Nike product (or any from their subsidiaries) until they WILLFULLY terminate their agreement with Vick.

Unequal Technolgoies CEO, Rob Vito said

“Michael is good people. He paid his dues. President Obama reached out to him. He deserves an opportunity. This is what makes America so great. He’s moved forward. He’s a whole other person.”

Mr. Vito you are a pathetic excuse for a man. Did you know the previous monster and are now able to distinguish the two? No? But if the President with his untarnished ethics can “reach out” for him, he must be good. I want your children, Mr. Vito, to watch as their father uses a shovel to beat the family dog to death while Vick stands by and laughs. Mr. Vito, you are joke.

I want NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Eagles Owner Jeffery Lurie to stand in the ring and watch the bait dogs being torn apart, fueling the blood lust of the trained fighters Vick has raised. I want them to see first-hand and I want them to smell the stench of savagery sponsored and perpetrated by their poster boy.

Until these men do these things and see the sickening violence in person and with their own eyes they are nothing more than greed worshipping hypocrites who can easily say “Mike’s paid his debt. He’s changed. He has redeemed himself”. In Vick’s own words his biggest regret isn’t what he did, but rather that his sentence wasn’t shorter. How’s that for owning up to your mistake and being a man. Not in my book, Mike.

To be clear, Michael Vick never served one single day in prison for dog fighting or for animal cruelty. Instead he was allowed to pled out to some weak assed charge of conspiracy – not exactly in line with the brutality he was and is guilty of. Who do we have to blame for this? Virginia Prosecutor Gerald Poindexter is a good place to start. He felt it would be too costly to bring Vick to Virginia from Leavenworth penitentiary to try him. And then of course there are United States Attorneys Chuck Rosenberg and Michael R. Gill who decided to offer the plea agreement in the first place. You men are beacons of law enforcement and criminal justice. You should be proud.

Let’s not forget Virginia Congressman, Jim Moran who this past July stated that in support of House Resolution 2492 Michael Vick provided Congress with “a leader” and that “[t]his is a story of redemption.” Congressman you are a Jackass who represents the Democratic party symbol well. This man is not a leader or a hero to the cause. He is the culprit. I cannot believe the people of Virginia found you a worthy representative. Let’s see if we can’t change that in the upcoming election, huh?

Finally, there is Humane Society of the United States CEO, Wayne Pacelle. Pacelle does understand the nature and the violence that was carried out. He has seen it first hand, and as a result he is the worst corporate offender of them all. He should, more than any, rally for the animals and not for Vick, but for whatever reason he has sold out his cause for a chance to hang with Vick. Enjoy an egg, Pacelle, your words no longer carry weight with those who would have supported you. And, let me add again, great job saying you think “It would be a good thing for Michael Vick’s family to have a pet.” Good for who Wayne? The animal? The Vick children? Or maybe just good for the murderous son of a bitch who is your travel partner for no reason other than public relations. Vick had “pets” before and according to Federal documents he threw two of them into the ring and laughed as they were mauled to death.

If you give money to the Humane Society of the United States with their cat and dog laced commercials, you are a sheep. Less than 5% of every dollar goes to shelters in any form. Where does the bulk go? Congress and advertising. Are you seeing a pattern yet? Give your money directly to a local shelter to insure you see local results.

Right now, our Federal Courts are attempting to retry “FORMER” baseball star Barry Bonds for Obstruction of Justice in the Balco case. Originally he was charged with perjury for lying to Congress. Really? Now that’s joke in itself. Who the Hell are they? They, today, are certainly not the men who founded this great nation. They are not the men who built it. They are a pool of sharks who have nothing but self promotion and greed as their sole credo. Every one of those 585 individuals lies to us every day. And yet they are above the law – The laws that they write, that they customize and that they pass. The fact of the matter is that they are not. They have to answer to me and to us.

Barry Bonds could face up to ten years in Federal Prison for giving a less than clear answer. Michael Vick who was personally responsible for the violent, torturous deaths of nine dogs and the subsequent deaths of five others after being rescued spent a mere 18 of 23 months in prison. Barry, I for one hope you get off scott free. This whole damn process has cost the American people millions. Bond’s first trial cost taxpayers an estimated $6 million and that doesn’t include grand jury and appeals. But Gerald Poindexter can’t afford to transport Vick? BULLSHIT!

Now, I am not some hyper-liberal, actually far from it. I believe in capitalism and I believe in a free market system. But I also believe in right and wrong. I believe in hard work versus idleness and I also believe that an entity’s character is defined not only by the entity itself, whether that is a person or a corporation, but also by those that said entity chooses to associate with – “Guilt by Association” if you will. And this is where the above mentioned corporations and their leaders now find themselves. They have fallen into the abyss of “whatever it takes economics”. And that, my friends, is exactly what is wrong with our country today. Corporations, our elected leaders and unfortunately too many of us no longer cherish values like character, hard work, and merit. We now value “NOW”, “FAST”, “EASY”, “POPULAR”. We live in a fast food, credit ridden, infomercial world that has propelled us to pursue Nickelback’s “Rock Star” life. Leveraged and of hollow character is no way to go through life.

I know that many of you reading this still don’t get it. You still cannot see beyond football and as a result you affirm that the dogs Michael Vick killed are as disposable as he believed them to be. But I am sure most every one of you has also heard the pained whimper of a dog at some point in your life. I would ask you to try to conjure that sound up again, right now. Imagine standing over that cute, innocent, hurt dog with a shovel. You can feel your heart racing. The blood is coursing through your veins spreading the adrenalin like a drug. Can you feel it? That’s it, raise the shovel. Glare at that pathetic creature with your evil eyes. Tighten your grip around the handle. God, you feel so alive right now, don’t you? Your lips turn up into a sinister sneer. No more thought, nothing but the pure intoxicating sensation of power as you bring the head of the shovel down onto the dog’s head. It yelps loudly, it whimpers, crying out in unimaginable pain. The sound fuels you, enrages you. Again and again you level the cold steel against the dog. Blood splatters dot your face. You lick your lips tasting the warm, sticky fluid like some euphoric aphrodisiac. Over and over you beat the dog in a demonic fit of rage until finally, at last you stop. You let the shovel fall to your side. You inhale sharply and your blood pressure begins to return to normal. Look down and see what you have done, look at your work.

I hope this tiny little glimpse into Vick’s savagery can help to sway even a few of you. This man should not be celebrated, he should not be revered and he should not be idolized. If you do not see that, you and I are from worlds so far apart we will never reconcile.

As a nation we need to re-examine our moral compass and make the necessary adjustments because we are broken. We should not be able to so easily overlook such heinous actions. In our past, we would not have. I hope that we can find it in our national character to regain who we were. But, sadly this is one area in which I am not optimistic.

This is the last article I will publish regarding Michael Vick.

Next up – term limits for United States Congressmen and Senators. A public referendum is necessary – these self centered clowns will never do it on their own.

For more information regarding Michael Vick and his Federal Court case please see the links below:

Join Chris Durant on Facebook AND “LIKE” Chris Durant on Facebook

Even More Great Links and Resources:

1.) “Michael Vick Was WRONGLY CONVICTED!” Great facts and links to actual court documents
2.) “Through Her Eyes” – Virginia’s Tale
3.) Michael Vick Deserves a Pet… Rock
4.) Tell President Obama You Do Not Agree With Him Supporting Vick
5.) Vick’s Unpaid Dues – Why Advocates Are Not Moving On
6.) Position Paper On Vick’s Desire to Own Another Dog from the Director of Vick Dog Rehabilitation

Nike: JUST DO IT! Terminate Agreement with Vick

Posted in Michael Vick with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 3, 2011 by chrisdurant2000

Below is a copy of a letter that I sent to Nike’s, Chairman, CEO, Committee on Corporate Responsibility and other relevant officers. I would encourage everyone reading this to write a similar letter or feel free to copy and paste mine. But please, let the leaders of Nike know that we will not sit idly by as they willfully abort their corporate values by restoring Michael Vick to sports hero status with their once great brand.
____________________________________________________________________________

To: Philip Knight, Chairman of the Board, NIKE Corporation
Mark Parker, CEO, NIKE Corporation
Charles Denson, President, NIKE Brand
Don Blair, VP and Chief Financial Officer
Gary M. DeStefano, President Global Operations
Maria S. Eitel, President NIKE Foundation
Elizabeth J. Comstock, Board Member
John G. Connors, Board Member
Timothy D. Cook, Board Member
Ralph D. Denuzio, Board Member
Alan B. Graf, Jr., Board Member
Orin C. Smith, Board Member
Bert Hoyt, VP Global Category Football
Tim Hersey, VP North America Retail
Elliott Hill, VP and GM North America
David Grasso, VP Global Brand Marketing

PAT ZEEDICK, VP and GM Young Athletics

Nike Corporate Responsibility Committee Members
Jill K. Conway
Douglas G. Houser
Johnathan A. Rodgers
John R. Thompson, Jr.
John C. Lechleiter, Ph.D.
Phyllis M. Wise

Other Nike Officers
Tom Peddie, VP North America Sales
Bernie Pliskie, VP and Corporate Controller
Ken Dice, VP North America Marketing
Eric Sprunk, VP Merchandising and Product
Nigel Powell, VP Global Communications
Brad Johnson, VP North America Merchandising
Trevor Edwards, VP Global Brand and Category Merchandising

____________________________________________________________________________

Dear Sir/ Madame –

I am writing to you today to express my deep concern over your company’s decision to re-sign Michael Vick as a corporate spokesman and ambassador of your brand.

I have been a lifelong Nike customer for the last 30+ years. During that time, I can honestly say that I have never owned another brand’s athletic shoe or apparel. That, however, has changed because of your poorly thought out corporate strategy to again align yourself with Michael Vick.

In 2007, when Nike released Michael Vick, your company stated that ‘cruelty to animals was “inhumane, abhorrent, and unacceptable.”‘ To which I must now ask ‘what has changed’? Michael Vick is still guilty of barbarous acts of sadistic cruelty, torture and murder against innocent dogs. The 18 of 23 months that he spent incarcerated for “Conspiracy to Travel in Interstate Commerce in Aid of Unlawful Activities and to Sponsor a Dog in an Animal Fight Venture” does not erase that. Nor does it fulfill in the minds of thousands of animal lovers worldwide that he has truly reconciled what he did. His public appearances and statements about his involvement are scripted, flat, devoid of emotion and lacking in sincerity. Anyone who truly pays attention can see that.

With so many other untarnished, talented professional athletes to choose from, it is very sad that corporate greed would lead your once great company to historically re-sign a man who clearly has a strong degree of unchecked sociopathology. How do you change that and more importantly how does Nike justify it? How can this possibly fit within your corporate “Inside the Lines” policies?

Nike plays such a huge role in our children’s lives through youth sports. From little league to Pop Warner football, high school and collegiate athletics the world’s young people look up to and want to emulate the sports stars they see not only play their favorite games, but also endorsing and selling a company’s products.

Your decision to pull Michael Vick back into the Nike fold is a blatant slap in the face of anyone who has ever known the unconditional love of a dog. And it sends the message to parents all over the world that “if you want your child to emulate a sadistic animal abuser and murderer of innocent dogs, NIKE HAS YOUR GEAR!”

Until Nike reverses its stance on Michael Vick, I will cease to be one of your customers. Additionally I will, through my words and my voice, make sure that everyone I come in contact with – friends, family, co-workers, social acquaintances, and strangers alike that Nike has abandoned its corporate values in pursuit of unashamed, ill-gotten revenues through its relationship with this man who with forethought and malice, intentionally and with pleasure electrocuted, drowned, bludgeoned, hung and beat to death innocent dogs who didn’t perform well in his illegal activities.

I do not care for nor do I need a canned corporate response to this letter. I would much rather your once great organization do the right thing and terminate your relationship with Michael Vick.

Sincerely,

Chris Durant
Former Nike Customer
[email redacted]

Join Chris Durant on Facebook AND “LIKE” Chris Durant on Facebook

Join the “NO WAY Subway” Movement on Facebook

Join the “Boycott Nike for Signing Michael Vick” Movement on Facebook

Even More Great Links and Resources:

1.) “Michael Vick Was WRONGLY CONVICTED!” Great facts and links to actual court documents
2.) “Through Her Eyes” – Virginia’s Tale
3.) Michael Vick Deserves a Pet… Rock
4.) Tell President Obama You Do Not Agree With Him Supporting Vick
5.) Vick’s Unpaid Dues – Why Advocates Are Not Moving On
6.) Position Paper On Vick’s Desire to Own Another Dog from the Director of Vick Dog Rehabilitation

Sacrifice – The Reason We have a 4th of July

Posted in The Good Life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 1, 2011 by chrisdurant2000

(NOTE: This story was originally written for Hooters Magazine, back when I was still in their employ. I have dusted it off and redacted minor portions of it for this publication.)

Today one would be hard pressed to find someone whose life has not been touched by our country’s efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other areas of the world. This is the story of how my life has been touched. It is a story of dedication, belief, desire, and sacrifice. I am sure many of our readers have similar stories that will relate to their lives and experiences, and as such please feel free to change the names as appropriate.

My closest friend, Major Wade Deliberto and I met about nine years ago at the Cumberland Hooters here in Atlanta. It took about a year of macho posturing for us to get through our two opposing Alpha male egos before we became fast friends and eventually best friends – brothers.

A United States Marine and United States Naval Academy graduate, Wade exemplifies the American spirit. Out of the Marine Corps for four years with his Inactive Ready Reserve Status about to expire (meaning he could not be recalled, but would have to volunteer for future service), Wade again felt the call of duty to his country. It was the call to those who have the will to serve. Although set in a comfortable career as a bank manager, Wade spent months scouring DOD postings and making numerous phone calls trying to find a billet to fit his MOS (Military Occupational Specialities). As persistent and determined as I know Wade to be, I am sure the particular Marine Staff Sergeant had grown annoyed at the constant barrage of emails and phone calls inquiring into Wade’s position on the list of potential candidates until finally the Ssgt responded “SIR, you are the list!”

Thus began a second run at sacrifice and dedication to one’s country. Wade signed up for a six month reserve tour in Afghanistan under the Combined Forces Command (CFC-A). Immediately, like a mother, father, spouse or other family member, I began to think about the perils my “brother” would face in the line of duty. I began to think about sitting at Cumberland Hooters looking at across the table at another empty stool and another framed portrait of a memorial marquee. I already have enough of those.

Reservations notwithstanding, we talked, we discussed, we debated, and ultimately we parted. Wade, my brother, was heading into war. The feelings I had were the same as I sense many families have at the finality of this news – Pride, Fear, Desperation, Hope.

Wade’s commitment to the Marine Corps ideology of “God, Country, Corps” strikes a deep chord in me for a couple of reasons. First I have not served our country through military service. One of the biggest regrets of my life – we will not get into the others – is having not served as the other men in my family have. Second, I have lost very few people in my life. I feel extremely fortunate in that respect. But to imagine a family whose loved one(s) are in harm’s way 24/7 adds a different dimension to care, love, and missing as this absence becomes final.

Throughout Wade’s tour, we talked as often as possible and emailed much more frequently. He kept me apprised of life in the ‘sandbox’ and I tried to keep him up to date on the goings on of life back here – the who’s dating who, how’s so-and-so is doing, the weather and other such other trivial matters. I think we both relished the calls and the emails albeit for different reasons. For me it was an opportunity to know my brother was doing well and hear the resolve in his voice. For him, I think it was more of simply gaining a little normalcy and sense of home in a place that is far from either.

Wade has since returned from Afghanistan and is currently in his second [volunteer] tour. Seeing him and hearing the stories first hand and in person has helped to better shape my perspective. The camaraderie that our military personnel share with one another is something that us non-servers can never truly understand but must appreciate, if not envy. And while that bond is closest while under fire and in harm’s way it cannot replace the feelings, touches, and souvenirs of home.

Welcome Home, Brother!

[the remainder of this story has been REDACTED]

Chris Durant -
March 29, 2007

As a final update, Wade has now served two tours between Afghanistan and Iraq and stints at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and at the Pentagon. He is back stateside now (at an undisclosed location), safe, for the moment and content to wake every morning and don the Marine Corps BDUs.

This weekend, if you see a service man or woman or a veteran, please be sure to thank them for their service as we celebrate our nation’s independence and remember it is only because of people like them that we are able to live as we do in the “Land of the Free and (certainly in) the Home of the Brave.”

Charles Manson Released – Working with FBI

Posted in Michael Vick with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 31, 2011 by chrisdurant2000

Breaking News – January 31, 2010

This morning, the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Robert Mueller, shocked the world with his announcement that after 39 years behind bars, Charles Manson had been released from prison and was the new spokesperson for the agency’s “End Murder” campaign.

“In the past, Charlie was responsible for some horrific acts. He knows all about murder, torture and barbarism. We could not have selected a better person to speak out and help to educate our youth on the evils of murder.” The FBI chief said.

The 76 year old Manson could not be reached for comment but was reported as being elated at his newly achieved freedom and second chance at life. Rumors of Manson adopting a child buzzed among the inmates of Corcoran State Prison in California.

Sound preposterous? Of course it does. However, a similar situation exist between admitted torturer, mutilator and murderer of dogs, Michael Vick and the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), Wayne Pacelle.

The HSUS stated mission is:

CELEBRATING ANIMALS / CONFRONTING CRUELTY

Now, while I can certainly understand Mr. Pacelle’s desire to combat animal cruelty on every front, I cannot understand nor can I accept his decision to use Michael Vick as a spokesperson speaking out against dog fighting. According to federal court documents Vick was personally involved not only in the dog fighting ring that was headquartered at his Virginia home, but also in the savage torture and murder of at least eleven (11) dogs – including two of his family’s “pets”. (For more information on Vick’s involvement, please see Michael Vick was WRONGLY CONVICTED! )

Many people are under the impression that Michael Vick has paid his debt to society and is fast becoming the poster child for second chances – including President Obama and HSUS CEO Pacelle. I, however, am not one of them.

Contrary to popular belief, Vick was never convicted of the atrocities he committed. Instead, he was allowed to plead guilty to one federal count of “Conspiracy to Travel in Interstate Commerce in Aid of Unlawful Activities and to Sponsor a Dog in an Animal Fight Venture”, a victimless interstate commerce offense which is kinda like getting caught smuggling cigarettes and not quite in line with the 34 separate felony charges of animal abuse that could have been levied against him, according to court documents.

In addition to appearing with Vick at HSUS “End Dogfighting” events, Pacelle is on record as saying:

I do think that if his rehabilitation progresses and he handles the probation period flawlessly, it could be a good thing for Michael Vick’s family to have a pet at the end of that process.”

This is especially interesting because in the exact same blog article, Pacelle writes:

It’s now a well-established principle within our movement that those convicted of malicious cruelty should not be permitted to have pets, at least for a number of years after a cruelty conviction, and sometimes even for life. It’s a precautionary policy, grounded on the notion that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior and that it’s just very hard to know if someone has been rehabilitated. Together as a society, we are responsible for placing animals in homes where they are loved, and where they are safe.

What could possibly cause the leader of an organization like the HSUS to utter such contradictory nonsense. His statement has created a bit of a firestorm among the group’s financial supporters, many of whom have discontinued their monetary gifts. Pacelle, however, has not been deterred. He has in essence, arrogantly fingered his nose at animal rights advocates and activists alike, people who once shared a common goal with Pacelle.

While only Pacelle truly understands his unwavering motivation for supporting Vick, his actions and his words are a direct contradiction to the organization’s stated mission. Pacelle is out of touch not only with his cause, but his supporters as well.

It is time for the Board of Directors of the HSUS to take a stand and remove Wayne Pacelle from their ranks. He is no longer an effective, nor trusted leader and must be removed in order for the HSUS to continue its work.

I urge you to take a moment and sign the petition demanding the HSUS Board take administrative action in unconditionally terminating Wayne Pacelle’s continued employment. I would also urge you to discontinue any financial contributions to the HSUS and instead suggest you support your local shelters.

Sign the Petition Here -Remove Wayne Pacelle from HSUS Leadership

Thank you for your time and your continued support.

Chris Durant

Even More Great Links and Resources:

1.) “Michael Vick Was WRONGLY CONVICTED!” Great facts and links to actual court documents
2.) “Through Her Eyes” – Virginia’s Tale
3.) Michael Vick Deserves a Pet… Rock
4.) Tell President Obama You Do Not Agree With Him Supporting Vick
5.) Vick’s Unpaid Dues – Why Advocates Are Not Moving On
6.) Position Paper On Vick’s Desire to Own Another Dog from the Director of Vick Dog Rehabilitation

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Join the “Boycott Nike for Signing Michael Vick” Movement on Facebook

Through Her Eyes – by Chris Durant

Posted in Michael Vick with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 18, 2011 by chrisdurant2000

As Virginia looked outside at the world around her, she wondered if she would ever be adopted. The home she was at was okay, but she missed her brothers and her sister. They had all already been adopted and taken to new homes. Virginia was the last and that made her sad. She was glad that the others had all gone off to good homes but she often wondered if something was wrong with her. Why hadn’t anyone adopted her?

She had beautiful honey colored hair and big brown eyes that shone with a subtle glint of gold when the sunlight would hit them just right. She was like most young females her age, she liked to play and run around outside and be with friends, but when it came to boys, well you know how that goes.

Her last sibling had been adopted three weeks ago and the time since had been miserable for Virginia. She didn’t have anyone to play with and no one to talk to. She was so lonely.

Then, one day it finally happened. Her savior had arrived. He was the one who would take her away to her new family. When she saw the big gleaming black truck pull up, she immediately thought “Wow, that is a really nice car; big shiny wheels. Looks expensive. Maybe He’s rich.” She thought wishfully.

When the Man got out she saw that he had three friends with Him. ‘Oh, boy,’ she thought, ‘this is even better than I thought. If He has so many friends, maybe there will be others at his home for me to play with too.’

Virginia tried to stay calm, but she was so excited. She watched as the men talked with the man and woman who had been keeping her. She couldn’t really understand what they were saying, but it looked promising. They all looked her way, then she heard her name, “Virginia”. The Man with the big black truck smiled brightly, He nodded enthusiastically and shook her keeper’s hand. ‘This is it!’ She thought excitedly. The four men followed the man and woman into the office and after several minutes they all came back out to where Virginia was playing.

Virginia’s heart was racing, she was beside herself. She couldn’t believe that this day had finally come and she was going to her new home. And a good home, she told herself. She thought about the rich Man and how He would spoil her. A big house with a big yard and lots and lots of toys. It would be like heaven. Her brothers and sister would be so jealous if they knew where she was going.

The Man with the big truck and the bright smile walked over to her and said the words she’d been dying to hear, “Come on, Virginia. Let’s go.” She literally ran after Him as he turned and started back to his truck.

During the drive, she looked out at the passing countryside. It was so beautiful up here. She stayed quiet, just watching the landscape pass by. When she felt the truck begin to slow, she looked around and saw it. It was gorgeous, a huge white brick home surrounded by a big white fence. The truck pulled through the gate and went around to the back of the house. This was way better than she could have anticipated. There were boats, a basketball court, and even a swimming pool. Her eyes scanned the area taking in all of the wonderful sights. As the truck passed through another gate, Virginia looked up and saw them. They seemed to be everywhere, new friends for her to play with. ‘No,’ she thought, ‘not friends, family. My new family.’

When the truck finally stopped, the men got out. Virginia jumped out of the back and followed them. She was so excited. She looked around at her new family. There were so many of them. She couldn’t wait to meet everyone and play, and play, and play. This was surely how Pinocchio must have felt upon arriving at Pleasure Island; little boys everywhere with no school, no work, nothing to do but have fun. She wanted to immediately run to them and introduce herself, but miraculously she somehow stayed calm. She didn’t want the Man to think she was wild and undisciplined.

Before she had an opportunity to be introduced to everyone, one of the other men led her to a big black building. She followed him in and he closed the door behind them. Another man was already there. ‘He must be a doctor.’ Virginia thought. She recognized the long white lab coat he wore and on the table where things like she had seen during her last visit to the doctor. It was not a very fun experience, she remembered, but it wasn’t too bad. Her previous doctor had been pretty nice and he did give her a treat before she left for being a good patient.

While the doctor was checking a few things he and the man who led her in made small talk. After a couple of moments, the other men joined them inside. He was there too, the Man with the big smile. Virginia looked up at him, she so wanted to please Him, to make Him happy. She stood quietly, waiting to see what would come next.

When the men began talking, their words were foreign to Virginia. She thought could understand some of what they said but mostly she could really only recognize her name and an occasional word.

“Alright, let’s see what we’re looking at here. Get her up on the scale.” The doctor told the men.

Two of the other men picked Virginia up and lifted her onto the table which had also been fashioned into a make shift scale. Although she was a little startled, she didn’t resist. She let them move her effortlessly onto the large examination table.

The doctor checked the scale. “Fourty-two pounds.” He told the Man with the smile. The Man nodded silently. He seemed to be thinking.

“Kinda light, huh?” One of the others asked. “Whatcha wanna do with her?”

The Man with the smile looked at Virginia, it seemed as if he were sizing her up. She looked back at him, her eyes were wide and filled with an as yet unwarranted love. She sat up on the table proudly, hoping to impress him.

“B & B.” He said, nonchalantly.

“Alright.” The doctor sighed. “Boys if you don’t mind get her off the table for a second.” One of the men grabbed Virginia and lifted her off the table and set her back onto the ground. She looked up and around, curious to see what was going on.

The doctor pulled an odd looking contraption from the corner of the shed. It was heavy and made a loud sound when he dropped it onto the table. Virginia looked at it, she had never seen anything like it. It was a large, rectangular, metal frame with adjustable posts rising from the two far ends. Each of the posts was topped with a semicircular band of metal and had thick leather straps attached to them. The doctor grabbed an cordless drill and bolted the device down onto the top of the examination table.

As soon as he had finished he looked at the men and nodded impatiently. “Okay, let’s go!”

Two of the men again grabbed, Virginia and lifted her back onto the table, more roughly this time than before. As they placed her over the frame, one of the men grabbed the back of her neck and began to push her head down into the circular support. Virginia was scared. The man’s grip on her neck was tight, it was strong and forceful. She instinctively resisted. She fought back, trying to hold her head up and away from the weird metal contraption. As the man continued to press down on her head, her instincts got the better of her and she twisted her head around and bit the man’s wrist. He jerked his arm back and rubbed his wrist.

“Goddammit!” He exclaimed as the others laughed at him. Then without warning he reared back and struck Virginia in the side of the face with his powerful fist. “You little bitch!” He growled at her. The strength of the blow stunned her. She cowered and whimpered pathetically as her body fell limp. The doctor stepped up quickly pushed her head back into the metal structure and fastened the leather straps around her neck. It was tight, so tight. Virginia couldn’t move her head no matter how hard she tried, she was stuck, strapped to the cold metal frame. She looked around with her eyes, searching, pleading for someone to help her. She looked at Him. He just stared at her, his face was devoid of emotion.

She had no idea what was happening. She was so scared. Her face hurt from where the big man had punched her. Why didn’t the Man with the smile do something? Why didn’t He help her? Her neck was tied down so tightly it made it hard for her to breathe. She couldn’t find her voice, she could merely whimper. Then she felt the men grasp her midsection. She tried to kick free but they were too strong for her. They held her down, pushing her stomach into the remaining support and tightened the strap around her. No matter how much she struggled, she could not move. Her legs kicked and she struggled to find a footing, but there was none. She was trapped, her body suspended from the bizarre apparatus.

Virginia was terrified. She looked back to the Man with the smile. Why? Why was He letting them to this to her? What were they doing?

“Let’s get on with it.” The Man said coldly.

The doctor had turned back to his table and retrieved several instruments. He handed one to the man who Virginia had bitten. He glared down at her evily. “You ain’t gonna like this. But you damn sure ain’t gonna be biting no body no more.” He scoffed at her.
With that he grabbed her under the chin, his fingers gripped her jaw like a vise. She tried to clamp down and keep her mouth closed. But finally, her will and her strength were outmatched by the man and her mouth began to slowly open. Instantly he shoved a wooden hammer handle lengthwise through her mouth. He then got behind her and began to twist the handle back towards him like a motorcycle throttle. Virginia tried to bite down on the stick to keep the man from pulling it back. Her teeth dug into it as the man continued to turn, leaving deep gouges in the wood. With one final pull and twist, he jerked the thick wooden shaft all the way back, effectively forcing her mouth open wide. The handle was lodged back behind the molars, locking her jaw open.

Virginia was so young and innocent. She could not fathom what these men were doing. What had she done? Why were they doing this to her? Whatever it was she was sorry, so sorry. She didn’t know. She didn’t mean to be bad. She wanted to be good for the Man. Fear began to consume her. She couldn’t struggle, she had no footing, her neck and body were securely fastened to the evil metal stand.

As the doctor turned back to her, he carried a pair of pliers. Virginia could see and even smell the dried blood on them. Sensing danger, her fight began anew. Her legs kicked wildly as she searched for the ground. She tried to move her head. It was hopeless. Her jaw ached from the pressure exerted by the stick in her mouth. She was terrified, how had her day, her life gone so wrong? All she wanted was to love and to be loved. She had never imagined anything like this. Not knowing what evils awaited her, her mind and her body somehow sensed the impending danger. Her bodied convulsed and her bladder let loose. She began to urinate uncontrollably.

As the doctor neared her, he gripped her lower jaw and inserted the pliers into her mouth. They found their target, her right, upper incisor. She could feel the metal scrape against the tooth. The sensation sent a chill down her spine. Then she felt the pliers clamp onto the tooth. The doctor used both hands to grip the pliers as he twisted and yanked down.

The pain was excruciating. Virginia cried out, unable to do anything more. Blood poured from the gaping wound inside her mouth. She could taste the thick salty fluid as it covered her tongue and dripped from her mouth. The doctor tossed the tooth onto the floor and began the process all over again on the next tooth.

There was no relief for Virginia, no anesthic, nothing but intense, excrutiating pain. The men all stood around watching as the doctor repeated the savage procedure again and again, it was as if this hideous torture was commonplace to them – it was. Virginia felt so weak, her body lie draped across the metal frame, limp, practically lifeless, all she could do was cry. But no one there seemed to care or even listen, not even Him, not even the Man with the big smile.

After the fifth tooth had been forcibly removed, Virginia’s mouth gushed blood. It dripped in long sticky cords from her mouth pooling in a large black-red mass atop the table. Any fight that Virginia had in her had been extinguished. She had no energy, barely a sound escaped her broken body. Only an occasional whimper.

“How much longer can this go on?” She wondered pitifully. Her head was pounding, her body was sore and she seemed to be awash in a nightmarish fog. Her mouth was being ripped apart and she could do nothing to stop the pain.

But little did Virginia know, this was only the beginning of her violent new life. There would be so much more, more pain, more suffering, more humiliation and abuse, torture and repeated rape with her body strapped to the vile device. And when finally the men had had their fun and they no longer had a use for her broken body, she would be killed in some way that would sicken any normal human, but seemed to excite this evil men.

If only she could have truly told her story and let the world hear of these horrors as experienced Through Her Eyes.

Author’s Note:

This is a fictionalized account of how a female dog could expect to be treated by Michael Vick, Purnell Peace, Tony Taylor and Quanis Philips – the men who ran Bad NewZ Kennels. In the story Virginia was bought to be bred and ultimately serve as a bait dog. She had all FORTY-TWO of her teeth forcibly removed so that she could not bite and fight back. She was repeatedly raped. She was severely beaten, kicked, malnurished and abused. At the end of her days, when the men no longer had a use for her, she was dragged from her cage by a chain. Once they got her to the posts, one of the men wrapped the cold metal chain around her neck. Then with the help of another, they begin to lift her body off of the ground. One final time, her legs kicked violently, searching once again for the ground. It was not to be found. Virginia struggled for about three minutes before her body finally stopped. Three slow minutes of agonizing pain as the men watched and laughed.

On May 21, 2012 Michael Vick’s federal probation will terminate and he will once again be eligible for dog ownership. Wayne Pacelle, the CEO of the Humane Society of the United States has said:

“I do think that if his rehabilitation progresses and he handles the probation period flawlessly, it could be a good thing for Michael Vick’s family to have a pet at the end of that process.” – Wayne Pacell

The Humane Society’s Mission Statement is – “Celebrating Animals, Confronting Cruelty”

There is a glaring disconnect between the organization’s core intent and its leader’s very flawed judgement. It is ludicris for a man who is in charge of an organization like this to support an admitted abuser, torturer, and murderer of numerous dogs (for his pleasure) in owning another dog – EVER! I urge you to stop supporting the HSUS until Wayne Pacelle is no longer at its helm, or until he publicly and openly reverses his stance on Michael Vick’s future dog ownership.

Sign the Petition to have the Board of th HSUS remove Wayne Pacelle from his position as CEO.
Demand Pacelle Step Down as Leader of HSUS

Thank you for reading.

Chris Durant

This story is dedicated to the dogs that had the torturous misfortune of encountering Michael Vick and Bad Newz Kennels, and to all of the dogs that have ever been subjected to this type of barbarism. It is also dedicated to the Immortal “Gypsy” who has become the face of this murderous bloodsport and to “Smokey” – the best looking dog I never met who survived being doused with acid and left to die in the sweltering desert. Finally, it is dedicated to the brave and giving individuals who have worked with and adopted the survivors and continue to help them enjoy a better life.

To Michael Vick: If your children wonder why they can’t have a dog right now, perhaps you could read them Virginia’s little bedtime story.

USEFUL LINKS:

Michael Vick Deserves a Pet – A Pet Rock Join me in sending a Pet Rock to Wayne Pacelle at HSUS headquarters on May 20, 2012 for Michael Vick to adopt.
Michael Vick was WRONGLY CONVICTED! Do not be misled by the title, it is not what you may think. It also includes links to the original court documents and more.
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The Very Debonair "Smokey"

A Pirate Looks at 40… and the Death of Peter Pan – Chris Durant

Posted in The Good Life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 7, 2011 by chrisdurant2000

Today is my birthday. Now normally that would not be a big deal, at least to me. But this is a milestone birthday. It is not a milestone in the traditional sense – such as turning 21, or even reaching that 30th or 40th ‘Over the Hill’ status so often celebrated, albeit more like a Roast, instead of a real party. No, those days have come and gone. This birthday is a milestone because I have finally accepted and even more surprising embraced my age. Today I turned forty-two.

This is only a big deal because for the last 6 years I have been perpetually stuck at 36. It started innocently enough as I am sure it did for Zsa Zsa Gabor. At a time when I was acting and modeling, I began to notice that there was a definitive gap in casting calls for males between 35 and 49. It seemed that everyone was either under 35 or over 50. Well, I still held much of my natural youthful appearance so I decided I would be 35, again, and again. Once I was a little better known I let myself drift comfortably upwards to 36, but it stopped there, until today. I mean with the exception of a few close friends and family most people probably still think I am 36.

Now, for all practical purposes I am Joe Schmo. I have never hit the winning home run in the World Series. I have never brought a newborn into this world nor have I ever delivered the State of the Union address. And the only touchdown I ever scored was a defensive one. But, by all measurable accounts, there are about 11.2 million (US Census Data 2009 estimates: men aged 40-44) men just like me running around the U.S. This writing is for them and for those who love them and for those who don’t really understand them – or us, I guess. Obviously I am still coming to terms with this.

As I sat down to write this, I was immediately reminded of that timeless Jimmy Buffet song ‘A Pirate Looks at Forty’ in which he half-handedly acknowledges his misgivings about the whole Peter Pan Syndrome. It seemed appropriate, for that, too, is exactly how I feel. I often find myself looking back with a certain longing for the warmer days of yesteryear. But rather than lament, I am truly prepared to celebrate. Celebrate life and especially the life that I have been so fortunate to have been brought into and to have lived so vigorously.
Now, many of my peers and certainly my elders would tell you that I have pissed away far too many opportunities, that I have lived simply for the moment and have not crafted a worthy existence. In their eyes that may well be the case. But through mine, I see a life that has been rich with family and friends, a life that has been filled with adventure and experiences, a life that has been exciting and rewarding and yet, has had its share of regret and disappointments. This is my story.

My childhood was not extraordinary. It was a normal childhood. My parents John and Linda were married in March of 1968. They were twenty at the time. I popped out and onto the scene in November of that same year. Now neither of my parents came from overly affluent families. Instead both were raised in sturdy, middle class families of the sixties. And while, again, my family in its many arms was not extraordinary I can honestly say that I have not met another who has a family as steeped in love and tradition and value as mine. As I look back, I often muse that Norman Rockwell must surely have known my grandparents and peeked in on our family gatherings, for they were certainly the stuff of inspiration. And for the record, my parents have now been married for forty-two years. Actually no one has ever even been divorced. Well, almost no one.

I was the first of my generation of now six grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren. And I am the eldest by seven years. So for seven wonderful years I ran the show. I was the only twinkle available to light up anyone’s eye, and to that end I did my upmost. Perhaps it was those seven years of sole attention that began ever so subtly to spoil the Prodigal Son, and morph me into the self-proclaimed black sheep. But no one in my family would ever tell you that. Miraculously, I still held that glimmer of a twinkle. For my many faults and flaws I have never wanted for their love, their understanding and their complete acceptance.

Throughout my life I have been afforded some of the best role models a young man could ask for. And they were right there, central figures in my life. They weren’t the story book heroes so many often dream of emulating. No, mine were real flesh and blood; men and women so full of vigor and yet so humble in constitution.

Three such men stand out above all in forging who I am today with their often subliminal messages and lessons. My father, John, is a simple man with simple tastes and perhaps most importantly, simple needs. However, he has always provided for his family in ways that can’t be charted in monetary terms but that have a value far greater than those expressed through shallow lives of so many uber wealthy individuals and grocery store checkout celebrity jokes of the day. Well read on a variety of topics and intellectually immersed in meaningful current and historical events he is the one person I often find myself on the losing side of in Trivial Pursuit. Through all of my rebellious youth, which to some degree just recently subsided, Dad has been there. He rarely yelled, although sometimes emotion would get the best of him. But mostly he was there, in my corner, with an understanding that young men make mistakes, with advice and with the unwavering love of a father.

My Grandfather, Daniel Monroe Sharpe, was another of those ten foot tall men in my life. He was the one person who seemed most closely tied to me, both in temperament and physiology. We were both hard core Type-A’s and yet we shared a bond that defies words. I recall Saturday mornings lying on the floor with him and watching cartoons and then Florida Championship Wrestling. Invariably during these moments he would effectively con me into scratching his back for almost the entire duration of our viewings. I never gave it a second thought. In all of my fondest childhood memories he is there. Not always in the forefront, but he is there. But I think the most memorable lesson I could take from him was the old adage that if you are going to do something ‘Do it Right’. By today’s weaker standards, some quack doctor would probably diagnose him as OCD, but in my mind he was simply detailed oriented and driven to perfection. He was the man in the neighborhood who seemingly used a protractor and guide ropes to mow his lawn. It was immaculate. A lesson I surely must have absorbed long ago but effectively suppressed for it is only now, to my father’s dismay, re-emerging. Like most teenagers I used every means at my disposal to shirk my lawn duties. Today, it is one of my many passions. I lost my grandfather several years ago and I still miss him like it was yesterday. Some voids can never be filled.

Professionally I owe my biggest debt of gratitude to Gary Cassell. The first real boss I ever had and certainly the one with the most impact on me. Gary, like my dad and my grandfather, was a no nonsense kind of guy. He didn’t require or even like a lot of pomp and circumstance and would just as easily tell you to “cut the bullshit and get on with it”. While he was not a hardass, Gary was exacting. Gary was detailed and Gary was thorough. He was a solid manager who led his team with an even hand guided by measurements and firm accountability. He was the management mold which cast me.

So, with all of these great role models and a supportive family in my life, one might ask “so what have you done with all of this?” Hmmm, good question. And one that has had me re-evaluating the last forty-two years a lot lately. And here is what I have come up with: I have lived. And not in the blasé fashion that seems to scream at an existence rife with the mundane and essential tasks such as breathing and eating and sleeping. No, I mean I have really lived.

I have been afforded wonderful opportunities in my personal and professional lives and I seized most every one of them with everything I am, never looking back. The twelve years I spent with UPS were awesome. They gave me a chance to work with, for and lead some truly gifted individuals. But more than anything, there were the learning experiences I garnished from my time there. Of course the travel plan wasn’t bad either. After being transferred to Atlanta in 1996, I have now visited almost every state in the Union (there are a few of the truly western ones with practically zero population density that just didn’t warrant a trip at the time, however they are still on my radar) and several countries I would have probably never visited otherwise. I’ve held a never to be witnessed again 360 degree view from the top of the World Trade Center. I’ve walked in the predawn mist and fog at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge. I’ve toured a snow covered German country side and sampled a bevy of really funky foods. But UPS also positioned me well to enter the market as a “Free Agent”. I once had an Account Executive tell me that the UPS diploma was like resume gold. He was right.

So, after my little project began to wind down, I took my gold and I ventured off into the land of consulting. After a few short restructuring stints, I decided to change direction and really showcase my self perceived political prowess. In 2002 I began a short lived run for the United States Congress representing Georgia’s 5th District. Did I mention this was short lived? I mean even Ralph Reed and the State Republican party told me not to run. It took a while for me to really comprehend their message. On the bright side, I do have my name in the Congressional Record as having ran, and I still have some pretty cool business cards and stickers.

After this failed attempt, I spent five years training military and law enforcement personnel in force on force tactics. I am still not exactly sure how I lucked into this, but this was my dream job. I got to play soldier and cop without the lethality associated with the real thing. And I got to play with the best of the best; SWAT, SEALs, Marines, Air Force PJs, and special operators from all over the world. Sure I got beat up, several times, I got shot with less lethal and less than lethal rounds which gave me a clear understanding of the phrase “hurt not injured” and I’ve even been Tasered on three separate occasions – only one of which was actually for my certification, the other two were just stupid. But I was getting paid for this and I was having a blast. But as all good things, this too came to an end. I got bored or something.

So, I wandered back into more of a traditional corporate role. But this, oh this one had a corporate jet which seemed to plant me in the coolest locations, at just the right time for the event of the moment; in the garages for the Daytona 500, behind the scenes of the Hooters International Swimsuit Pageant, and skybox seats to pretty much any sporting event or concert you wanted to go to, private tours and tastings at Napa Valley’s finest vineyards. And since we were seemingly sponsored by BudLight and had our own dedicated rep and travel partner, I never wanted for a beer. And you really wonder why my personal growth has been stunted?

By some very odd stroke I found myself dabbling in the acting world. This was pretty weird since the last thing I had previously acted in was the 2nd grade Thanksgiving pageant, and I don’t really remember enjoying that, at all. But this was different and I was hooked, for a little while anyway. At the end of the day, I can say that I have truly starred as a lead in nine television episodes, one direct-to-DVD movie, and several short films. Additionally, I have had roles in a number of independent films and industrials. I have been an extra in several major motion pictures and not to be outdone, I even have my own romance novel cover… and that’s pretty cool. The Virtual Man - Chris Durant
The acting world, however, unlocked and unleashed a previously hidden and certainly as yet unutilized side of me, the writer. It began with subtle rewrites for “Atlanta Homicide”. Then I wrote my own episode, the one that really delved into my character. That was it. I haven’t stopped writing since. I currently have three screenplays in various stages of festival readiness and exposure. One is being back-written into a novel and I have copious notes for my next two. So, we’ll just have to see where this road leads us, but in the meantime, my creative little hobby is my passion.

But it hasn’t all been work-related living. Work just seems to have provided the catalyst in many of the occasions. Nowhere was work involved one night after a Kenny Chesney concert and too many of the aforementioned BudLights, when I successfully caught a opossum with my bare hands. Now, I say it was successful but I definitely do not recommend this. I had no idea how long their teeth were or how insanely flexible their necks could be. But he didn’t bite me and after my careful placement, Hurly, as I affectionately know him now, scurried off into the darkness and security of the brush, both of us unscathed. There was also the time while snorkeling over the Crystal River springhead when I ran head on into a Manatee and I do mean I ran into. To a twelve year old kid, this thing was like a submerged Volkswagen with eyes. I was scared shitless. Looking back, I don’t even think Manatees have teeth, but still, it was huge. Today, I can proudly say that it has been over twenty four years since I have killed another animal. Bugs and cold blooded reptilian creatures do not yet fall into this safe-zone category, nor do the ridiculously over-populated turtles that my mother has contracted me to rid from their pond, but I am learning. On a hypocritical side note: I am almost strictly carnivorous.

In an effort to protect the innocent and guilty alike, all names have been omitted from this next section. Personally, I have loved and I have been loved. I have hurt and I have been hurt. I was even married once. Wow, yeah, that didn’t really work out at all. But, uh, I do wish her new husband the very best. In friendships, like so many I, too, have been burned. And this is an area I which I am absolutely unforgiving. As a result I have a lot of acquaintances and one true friend, Major Wade Deliberto – ‘hey, Wade’. A friend to me is someone that no matter how good or how bad a situation might be, they are there. And they are there without expectations and without strings. Wade is that friend to me. Whenever I have needed him, which seems, at least to me, to be a lot, he was there. I can only hope that I throughout the course of our lives I can prove to be as valued a friend to him as he has been to me.

Life isn’t worth living without mistakes and just plain dumb decisions. How else are we to learn those lessons so infinitely valuable? Needless to say, I have made enough for several lives. And I didn’t always learn that valuable lesson on the first try or even ever in some cases. But I truly believe that without these experiences and these failures I would be a completely different person, and not necessarily in a good way. I believe that often my failures gave my father the opportunity(s) to impart his wisdom and teach his son those things he felt were most important for me to learn.

Throughout my life, I have drunk too many beers and I have smoked way too many cigarettes. I even experienced a Clinton-esque moment with Marijuana in college. Relax, it was like twenty-five years ago, and I didn’t like it. I got suspended from High School for a week one time and rather than fess up and tell my parents, I attempted to find a surrogate father to accompany me back to school when my sentence was up. Yeah, that was a really stupid idea, but thanks anyway, Amy. I even died my hair blonde in some misguided David Beckham Moonie moment. And I don’t even like soccer.

Through it all I have been selfish and I have been self absorbed, almost to the degree of megalomania mixed with the perfect balance of narcissism. But I am learning. I am learning to be a better person. I am learning to be more patient and understanding of others. I am learning to give rather than to take. Each new day, I am learning and more importantly I am applying Newton’s law that “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Peter Pan didn’t have that kind of insight, so I guess I’m evolving.

After our final breakup, my high school sweetheart, a pretty smart and well read young woman, gave me a poem which I think was supposed to make me feel better about the situation. It didn’t. But it did move and inspire me. And to this day its words still reassure me that everything is going to be okay, that no matter how bad I think it is it could be worse. Its simple words drive me to just keep moving forward and not look back.

Comes the Dawn

After a while you learn the subtle difference
Between holding a hand and chaining a soul,
And you learn that love doesn’t mean leaning
And company doesn’t mean security,
And you begin to understand that kisses aren’t contracts
And presents aren’t promises.
And you begin to accept your defeats
With your head held high and your eyes open,
With the grace of a man, not the grief of a child.
You learn to build your roads
On today because tomorrow’s ground
Is too uncertain for plans, and futures have
A way of falling down in midflight.
After a while you learn that even sunshine
Burns if you get too much.
So you plant your own garden and you decorate
Your own soul, instead of waiting
For someone to bring you flowers.
And you learn that you can really endure,
That you really are strong
And you really do have worth
And you learn and learn … and you learn
With every hello and goodbye you learn

So, with all of this worldly experience under my belt, the obvious question is ‘what’s next?’ To which I can honestly say ‘I don’t really know.’ What I do know is that I want to continue to enrich my life while hopefully adding value to those whose lives I touch. I have recently started a new career that I am sincerely excited about. But more than that, I want to continue to live and experience all that is available to me. I want to be able to look back over my next forty-two years with a sigh of contentment knowing that I got the best of this world. Sure I have goals and things I want to accomplish but the most important ones, the ones that really matter are not measurable, they are more intangible, more personal. I want a family of my own. I want to be able to share and pass on the love and tradition that was and is still so important to me, to give my children the kind of memories I have. I want to live up to the expectations of my family. This doesn’t mean I am going to be a doctor or a CEO, it means I am going to be happy, I’m going to be responsible, I’m going to become the type of role model that I had. I want to learn Russian and to play the violin. I want to write something really great and I want to change someone’s life for the better. And I want to maintain my traditional values. These are my life goals.

If I can do these things, I think I may finally and effectively relegate Peter Pan back to my more youthful days where he belongs and replace him with a man, a man in the truest Renaissance sense of the word, not a man for the moment, but a man like my father and like my grandfather. And that, well that’s my true end goal.

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