Cell 104: My Room

Now Playing On The Stereo:

"Painkiller" by Judas Priest. (Not only is it a first-class hard-driving song that keeps me going at work, but with three girls, I need all the painkillers I can get to keep up with all the headaches!!)

Now Showing On Television:

It isn't much. In fact, the staff won't let me watch Cable T.V. at all. All I have is this videotape I managed to smuggle in. I kinda like it, though!

I'm Currently...

...conducting a deal with my wife. She wants me to go to her favorite restaurant and pick up her favorite hamburger. I want HER to change Amber's diapers for the rest of the day!! (Now we'll see how badly she wants this double-cheeseburger!)

Random Thoughts:

Military Members On Welfare

Some of you are thinking 'Huh?' at the title of this section. I thought the same way when I ran across a recent issue of Navy Times magazine. The issue was printed with two different covers. One cover had a White sailor, the other cover pictured a Black sailor. Both sailors were holding a bag of groceries and the faces of both sailors were hidden in shadow. The article was titled "Food Stamp Shame: The People, The Reality, The Solution". Being a military veteran, this immediately caught my attention, and having had to apply for welfare assistance while in the military, it held my attention.

I saw the magazine last week at work, but, unfortunately, I didn't have time to read it. So, let me try to sum up the article for you, in my own way, using my personal experience.

The People
When my wife and I were expecting our first child, we knew that our finances would stretched tightly. We never knew just how far and how tightly the money would be stretched. Had we known, I would have either waited until we had our daughter or pushed harder for an early discharge. The one thing we knew was that we needed help. I went first to military sources who offered counseling. Counseling is good if you're trying to deal with stress. Counseling is good when you feel like ripping someone's head off at work. But when you're broke (or in my case, pretty damn close), words mean nothing. Financial counseling meant nothing. When your already tight budget is about to be stretched microscopically thin, you need money, not words. And so, with financial counseling a bust, my wife and I made a few telephone calls, found the location of the nearest welfare office, and went there the next day to apply for WIC assistance. Whatever shame I felt about going to the WIC office soon dissipated in the face of reality. So we went, not worried about what society at large thought about welfare, not worried about what family and friends thought about welfare. We went thinking about yet unborn child.

As we went to the door of the building, I was surprised at the first person I saw walk out of the door. It was a Major and his pregnant wife! Now, to an E-3 like myself, seeing an O-4 walk out of that door with his wife behind him was a sight, indeed! (Sorry, people, but you would either have to be current military, a veteran, or a dependent of either to fully appreciate the meaning of this statement.) I looked at my wife. She looked back at me, shrugging her shoulders, and we continued inside. After signing in, we were directed to a room filled with nearly two dozen other pregnant women, some with their husbands (or significant others) and some by themselves. I noticed that one of the ladies sat next to another military member. Believe it or not, the uniform was not the first thing I noticed about them, but instead, it was the fact that they were holding hands! He turned around and I got a better look at his rank on his shoulder. This man was a Captain! An O-3! (My apologies, again, but... you know...!)

My wife and I were there for about an hour listening to two women explain how the WIC program worked. I caught the basics, but nothing else really stuck about the talk we received. What really stood out that day was the bittersweet feeling I had that we weren't the only ones.

The Reality
Life in Uncle Sam's military no longer carries the guarantees it once did. It no longer guarantees universal respect (scenes of recent sex scandals, the dead pilot being dragged through the streets of some African country, the bombing of the USMC barracks in Beirut, and how we treated our own soldiers returning from Vietnam come to mind). It no longer guarantees a lasting career (Remember the military's downsizing during the early-mid 90's?). It no longer guarantees salary and benefits sufficient enough to entice a member to stay (note the smaller and smaller pay increases received by military members each year that don't keep up with inflation and the above-mentioned article in the Navy Times if any of you have access to this magazine). It no longer guarantees the military member a reason to stay enlisted or commisioned. A true shame, indeed.

Case in point:

Talk about a change: My starting salary on the job I have now was $12.82/hr. and I have a payday every two weeks. My military salary when I was discharged from service was $1,120/mo. and my paydays were on the 1st and the 15th of each month. My first two-week take-home paycheck (after taxes) on my current job was more than my entire gross salary in the military for a whole month at my highest rank! The best part is I didn't even need my military experience to get this job!!! Does this mean I'm a rich person? HECK NO!! But I am a helluva lot better off!

The Solution
... is simple. These are the men and women who volunteered to serve our country and come to it's defense. Support them! Not just on the 4th of July, Memorial Day, and Veteran's Day by buying flags to hang in front of your house, but by voting in Congressmen, Senators and Representatives, Presidents, and other elected officials who are pro-military and who are committed to making things better for our servicemen and servicewomen. Send a message to your representatives letting them know that our soldiers deserve better. Urge them to vote for substantive pay raises for them and let them know that a drop in the bucket will no longer be enough! Let them know that increased wages are the only way to ensure that we have a fighting force who's still willing to fight! Pride is good, but when was the last time you saw Pride buy groceries?

It's time for a change... and soon!

Elian Gonzales

How does a cute human interest story become one of the most annoying topics on television news broadcasts? Better yet, when will it stop?

No matter what your stand is on the Elian saga, many of you have to agree that this is one of the most monotonous television events since the day-and-a-half of DNA testimony during the O. J. Simpson trial... especially when the answer is SOOO simple - send him back to his father!

Say what you want about Cuba, about Castro, about Communism itself, but there isn't much that's more important to a child than a relationship with his or her parents. There is nothing that can be substituted for this. Elian, unfortunately, will not get to learn from his mother as she died in their attempt to immigrate from Cuba, but he still has a chance to learn from his father. Why would his relatives, who claim they love him so much, want to deprive him of his relationship with his father? The only reason why this action would make any sense to me would be if Elian's father was a known abuser of his family, including of his late wife. But since no such allegations of this sort have been made, I see no reason to keep the little boy from his father.

Does this mean I approve of the government snatching him like they did in the middle of the night? Well... yes and no. Yes - because, again, the boy deserves to be with his father; no - because such a cloak and dagger act may traumatize the boy. Think about it:

  1. A loved one, a family member whom you adore, has to hide with you in a closet. 'Why?'

  2. The house is swarmed with armed government agents and the air is filled with the screams of neighbors and the shouts of orders to other agents. 'Why?'

  3. The door of the closet you're hiding in with your family member is suddenly opened and you find yourself staring at an armed officer holding a rifle pointed in your direction. 'Why?'

  4. You're being handed over to a woman you've never seen before who tries to comfort you because she KNOWS you're scared witless. 'Why?'

  5. Nothing seems right from then on and no words of comfort can replace the unease you feel during the whole ordeal. Someone may have told you 'You're gonna see your papa'. 'But why... why did this happen... why this way?'

On the flip side, much of this blame rests at the feet of his Miami relatives who kept throwing up roadblock after roadblock when his father came to see his son. The government wanted meets set up; the family wanted lawyers and hearings. The government wanted a neutral site; the family wanted lawyers and hearings. The government wanted a peaceful transfer; the family wanted lawyers and hearings. Well, guess what? Both sides got what they wanted. The government handed the boy over to his father and the family got their lawyers and their hearings. Only, the lawyers and the family didn't get what they expected out of the hearings as Elian was denied asylum, (of course, he can ALWAYS come to MY Asylum! as I have room for everyone!), which means Elian will be on his way back to Cuba with his father, barring any legal miracles from the lawyers retained by his Miami relatives.

(ASYLUM Note: We now no there were no legal miracles left to be found as the U.S. Supreme Court denied the emergency request put forth by the lawyers of his relatives without comment.)

So, there's no real need to worry. Soon, this country will be back to normal...

...or whatever passes for normal nowadays.

One more point to ponder:

This whole saga began when Elian's mother decided to escape from Cuba with her son. She eventually paid for that decision with her life. Now imagine, if you will, his mother surviving the trip. Had she survived, we never would have heard of the name 'Elian Gonzales'. She would have either been rescued by the fisherman with her son and found a way to blend in with the rest of the population, or she would have been stopped by the authorities and promptly sent back to Cuba on the next available boat or plane out. No endless hours upon days of media coverage, no Miami relatives making national appeals on his behalf, no search and rescue mission in the dead of night to reunite father and son, and no 'media darling' to occupy so much of this country's time and attention.

No offense to young Elian, but I'm glad you're gone...

...back to Cuba with your father, where you belong!

Guiliani Drops Out Of The U. S. Senate Race In New York

This has to be the downer of the year in my book. Just when I thought I was about to hear the last of ANY Clintons in the political arena, Rudolph Guiliani drops our of the Senate race. Why? I wish I knew! But, there may be some light at the end of this tunnel after all. As of this week, Rick Lazio, Mrs. Clinton's newest challenger has already closed the gap between the two in the polls. By election day..., who knows? We'll just have to wait and see.

United States Postal Service Loses $10 Million!!!

Do you live in a city where the Post Office stays open 'till midnight or a little bit past midnight on tax day? I live in such a city. My Post Office stays open all day on April 15 until just past midnight to receive all of the tax returns from last-minute filers. That may soon change, though, and not just for my city, but nationwide. It seems that many of you and others have been paying your taxes by phone and/or via the internet - more than 30 million of you to be exact. Now, with first class postage being at least $.33 for letter size mail (more if any of these people would have been sending multiple forms), together these people saved themselves about $10 million in postage!

I feel another rate increase coming!!!

No Music Critique This Time

With a new baby in the house, and all the diaper changes and the spur of the moment feedings and buying the diapers for the changes and the formula for the feedings AND trying to keep the two older sublings from feeling jealous about having to share time and attentions with the newborn, I've had neither the money to buy new music nor the time to listen to it!

That is unless you count Brahms Lullabye.

I had planned on saying a few words about Whitney Houston's Greatest Hits CD, but I couldn't seem to get past the chant of "CRACK - HEAD! CRACK - HEAD!" that keeps playing over and over in my mind, so I guess I'll leave this one alone.

For the 'other' BASS-Heads, those who like their frequencies low and loud, I want to refer you to the Greatest Hits CD from Bass Mekanik. This is the true, unadulterated bass with no fluff or filler. The trademark sine waves, pink noise, and speaker test tracks are nowhere to be found on this CD. You can put this in your trunk, roll down the boulevard with yo' homies, and bump da boomin' bass till ya jus' can't get enuff! This is a MUST-HAVE CD for all the lowriders in the audience!! I heard it and it was enough to make me want to scream 'Arriba La Raza!' Y yo no soy latino! Three-wheeled motion and the Bass Mekanik were made for each other. GET IT! NOW!!

Before I go, though, I want to throw my support towards 'The Boss' Bruce Springsteen for standing behind his convictions. For those of you who may be in the dark, Springsteen recorded a song condemning the NYPD in the death of Haitian immigrant Diallo (please let me be right about the spelling). In a recent concert in The Big Apple, the local policemen refused to give their support to Springsteen by not providing concert security for him in a protest move against the song. Springsteen went ahead with the concert anyway. Like Sinatra, 'The Boss' did it his way... and that's why he's 'The Boss'!

On a sad note, I want to note the passing of mambo king Tito Puente. At the age of 77, he succumbed to heart problems. He will be sorely missed.

Joke Time!


If you are from the northern states and planning on visiting or moving to the South, there are a few things you should know that will help you adapt to the difference in lifestyles:

If you run your car into a ditch, don't panic. Four men in a four-wheel drive pickup truck with a 12 pack of beer and a tow chain will be along shortly. Don't try to help them, just stay out of their way. This is what they live for.

If you hear a Southerner exclaim, "Hey, y'all, watch this," stay out of the way. These are likely to be the last words he'll ever say.

Don't be surprised to find movie rentals and bait in the same store. Do not buy food at this store. The North has Sushi. The South has bait.

Remember, "y'all" is singular, "all y'all" is plural, and "all y'all's" is plural possessive.

Get used to hearing "You ain't from around here, are ya?"

The proper pronunciation you learned in school is no longer proper.

Be advised that, "He needed killin," is a valid defense here.

If there is the prediction of the slightest chance of even the smallest accumulation of snow, your presence is required at the local 7-11. It doesn't matter whether you need anything or not. You just have to go there.

When you come up on a person driving 15 mph down the middle of the road, remember that most folks learn to drive on a John Deere, and that this is the proper speed and position for that vehicle.

Do not be surprised to find that 10-year-olds own their own shotguns and are proficient marksmen. Or that their mammas taught them how to aim.

You may hear a Southerner say "Ought" to a dog or child. This is short for, "Y'all oughta not do that," and is the equivalent of saying, "No." Don't be worried at not understanding what people are saying. They can't understand you either.

The first Southern expression to creep into a transplanted Northerner's vocabulary is the adjective "big'ol," as in big'ol truck" or "big'ol boy."

I Need Your Help In Locating An Old Friend!

Please read and pass on the following paragraph, especially if you either currently live in the country of Trinidad or know anyone who lives the island nation!

I'm trying to locate a friend of mine whom I have lost touch with. Her name is Elizabeth A. Robinson and she is from Trinidad, W.I. She is now 30 years old. She and I have been pen-pals for several years when I was living in Alabama and Texas, but unfortunately, we lost contact with each other around 1994. I still have her old phone number, but ever since the area codes were changed for the Caribbean islands, I haven't been able to get a phone call to go through to her. To anyone who is currently living in Trinidad or has any contacts in Trinidad, any help you can give me will be greatly appreciated. Elizabeth was one of my dearest friends for many, many years, and I'm dying to get in touch with her again! If anyone knows how I can get in touch with her or if she's online with e-mail capability, please e-mail me or have her e-mail me, her pen-pal from Alabama, here at Asylum_Mail@yahoo.com or at one of the following e-mail addies:

I miss her a lot and would greatly appreciate any help I can get in locating my friend!

(ASYLUM NOTE: I have received word that Elizabeth has moved temporarily to England, but I don't know what city. It may be a long shot, but at least I have gotten this far. For anyone in England who may be viewing my Asylum! - I've heard from people in 5 other countries who have viewed it - or anyone who has contacts in England, please read the preceding portion of this section. If you know her or know of her and can help me, please let her know this is her old pen-pal from Alabama and have her e-mail me at one of the above e-mail addresses. I thank you immensely for all your help!!)

"Not so fast, Scourge2! GET BACK IN HERE, NOW!!!"

Uh-Oh! Caught again! But before I'm dragged off, let me leave you with this:

"You can only be young once, but you can be immature forever" (Remember this the next time you look at your co-worker, your neighbor, your spouse, the guy staring at you in the bar....!)

Have A Wonderful Day!

[E-mail Me] Me!

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All written text except "Headin' South?" 2000 by Scourge2.