2011-11-26 at 14.22.10

Hypervigilance.

For a long time I thought I had some minor amount of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, but after listening to a recent podcast I think I have a touch of Hypervigilance.

The podcast was the Adam and Dr. Drew Show. Jessica and I were listening on the way to Irene’s viewing, which was an odd thing.

She is being cremated and never wanted a viewing, but members of her family insisted, so her daughter Rebecca gave in. Since she wasn’t being buried, she didn’t have a casket. Instead, she lied on a table covered in a quilt, with a block of wood to support the neck and keep the head looking up and straight.

When we got there Dad was sitting up front and to the side, obviously in tears. But he composed himself and gave me and Jessica big hugs. We were here for him, not that weird thing on the table, and I could tell it meant a lot to dad. We stayed for 30 minutes before going off in search of the last Rax in West Virginia so I could eat a BBC.

But back to the podcast, Adam Carolla was talking about how he fired his pool man because he would repeatedly throw the pool thermometer in the water without tethering it, so it would constantly get stuck in the filter.

In Adam’s mind he shouldn’t have to tell the pool man to tether the thermometer. It has a tab on top meant for being tied to something. And the thermometer had been tethered at one time and came loose. The pool man had just never re-tethered it. Everytime Adam fished the thermometer out of the trap he would place it on top so the pool man would know to tether it.

Adams has Hypervigilance. In Adam’s mind it was obvious that the thermometer was supposed to be tethered. It had been tethered, so Adam didn’t understand why the pool man wouldn’t just tie it back up. It was the man’s job. The thermometer is supposed to be tethered so that it’s getting an accurate pool temperature, something it can’t do it it is always being caught in the filter or trap. Adam didn’t feel that was a conversation he even ought to have with a paid professional, so he fired him.

Merriam-Webster defines Hypervigilance like so:

…the condition of maintaining an abnormal awareness of environmental stimuli…

People with Hypervigilance are constantly looking around, constantly observing – knowingly or unknowingly looking for threats. Things that are obvious to people with Hypervigilance may not be obvious to others. We notice every little thing. We imagine multiple scenarios.

I say “we,” but I have no idea if I have this. Doctors say it’s often a byproduct of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, though I don’t know why I’d have that. My childhood wasn’t always roses, but I don’t believe it was any more traumatic than anyone else’s. But if I did have Hypervigilence it would explain so much.

Here is a good example. Several weeks ago I was about to hop in the shower before work. As I got near the tub, I saw a random wash cloth hanging on the towel rack above the tub.

According to Jessica, my reaction was similar to someone asking their girlfriend if they were cheating.

“Jessica, where did this wash cloth come from?”

I wasn’t having a freak-out, but I was confused. That rack is where we put towels while we’re showering. I had never seen a wash cloth placed there. Was it used for the body, or was it used to clean the tub. I had no idea whether to put it on the towel rack by the sink or on the edge of the tub. We had lived together for six months and that was the first time there was a wash cloth there.

I didn’t mind that it was there, but I needed to know why it was there because that would determine if I could move it and where I could move it.

After listening to Adam now complaining about his maid unplugging the charging station to plug a vacuum cleaner in and not re-plug the charging station back in, Jessica starting laughing uncontrollably.

“Steven, this is you!”

And I got to thinking about it and starting laughing too. It just might be.

I’ll say this: if I have Hypervigilance it explains why I was a pretty good journalist. It also explains why I’m good at my job now, which involves monitoring RSS feeds, Google searches, Facebook, and Twitter feeds.

I could think of far worse mental issues to have.

2011-04-23-05

I like fashion, but I’m not obsessed with fashion.

Fashion is important, but I do think that people can get too wrapped up in fashion.

It becomes more about being apart of something than doing something you want to do. And in certain cases fashion isn’t important at all.

A friend of mine had to go cover something at the Greenbrier Classic and asked what she should wear. The fashionistas were telling her to wear a golf shirt, tennis skirt, golf shoes with the spikes, etc.

Why? She wasn’t there to golf. She wasn’t going to be walking the greens with Bubba of Sergio. She was going to be a newspaper reporter and do her job. I told her keep it simple – jeans and comfortable top. If you’re working you need to wear what is comfortable and makes you look like a professional. Fashion be damned.

But beyond doing your job, you should dress depending on what you’re doing and where you’re going. For example, last night Aerosmith played at the Greenbrier Classic. We’re talking about a multi-member rock band. What would you wear to the show?

Apparently people came in polos and sundresses. They looked like they were about to hear the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra, not a band that defined rock in the late 70s, 80s and 90s.

I made this observation on Twitter, and someone responded with “but they came from the golf tournament.” I don’t consider that a valid excuse. Go find a bathroom or somewhere and put on a t-shirt or other rock-appropriate clothing.

You dress for what you’re doing and where you’re going. During the Wheeling legislative meetings I was told I wouldn’t need a sport coat; just wear a polo and nice pants. WRONG: I felt vastly underdressed considering I had to accompany the Senate President to various events. I should have followed my instincts and brought along a navy blazer.

Not only do you dress for what you’re doing and where you’re going, but you also dress to show off a portion of your personality. Sometimes I will wear dress clothes with a blazer, but also pair it with some Vans. Usually my grey and black checkered Vans slip-ons. They set me apart, but still look dressy with what I’m wearing.

And it’s not to say that you shouldn’t pay that much attention to fashion. I subscribe to both GQ and Esquire. I can’t afford a lot of what is in those magazines, but they do give me ideas and they help me keep track of what’s in season.

Ultimately though, don’t obsess over it. Who gives a flying crap what others think? Just make sure your clothes are clean please.

WV Capitol After the Storm

One of my favorite songs is by Ben Folds. It’s called “House.” Give it a listen.

Here are the lyrics:

There’s a sign up in the yard
And the the furniture has gone
Filled with fetid memories
Unworthy of a song

Flashes of sad and angry faces come and go
Could anyone live between those walls and never know

And I could go there
But I’m not going
Pulse is slowing
No, I’m not nervous anymore

I’ve had the nightmares
I’ve seen some counsellors
But I’m not going
Back up in that house again

It’s just like waking up
In that second and a half
The bliss of not remembering
Before it all comes flooding back

So what do I do as all these voices come and go
Could anyone live inside my head and never know

And I could go there
I’m not going
Pulse is slowing
No, I’m not nervous anymore

I’ve seen the nightmares
And some counsellors
I’m not going
Back up in that house again

In that house again

I’m not sorry
For what I’m feeling
Blow the walls out
Bring the ceiling to the ground

I’ve had the nightmares
Seen the counsellors
I’m not going
Back up in that house again

I’ve often listened to these lyrics and wondered what Ben’s motivation was for writing the song. Did he go through a trauma, or was he trying to articulate someone else’s pain via song.

I don’t know, but last night those lyrics became a real thing for me as I got an unexpected phone call.

It was dad. He doesn’t normally call in the middle of the week; we usually talk on the weekend. He had just got off work, having just started a new job as a prison guard. My dad’s story getting to the point would take another blog or a book deal, but he is so happy to get back into public service and I’m super-proud of him.

I was on the couch with Jessica. We had just finished watching a documentary called Oxyana, about prescription drug abuse in a small West Virginian town near where Jessica grew up. We had just got some ice cream from the freezer, bowls on the coffee table. I was annoyed that I’d have to take the call and let the ice cream sit there and melt.

Dad said Irene was dead. I surprised by the news and dad’s tone. He wasn’t crying, but as calm as he normally is. I was so stunned by this news that I cursed; I’ve never used coarse language in front of my dad ever. He gave me what details he had and told me he’d call if he found out anything else.

Remember the lyrics above? Ben’s feelings about the house are my feelings about Irene. I had only mentioned her a couple of times to Jessica, but as soon as I got off the phone I went on a good five-minute rant that became more impassioned, until I exploded in tears. Jessica held me as I cried, releasing years of hate, pure hate, I had for this woman named Irene.

And now she was dead.

Irene could have been my second mother. Dad met her at church camp I believe, just a few years after my mother abandoned me and divorced my dad when I was 12.

I liked Irene. She was nice and funny. She had a daughter and son older than I was. The daughter was very much a big sis. The son was an accomplished musician before later becoming a druggy. I wanted a mom, I wanted siblings. Dad loved Irene very much.

I was too young to see her dark side. She kept my dad in a yo-yo relationship, reeling him in when she needed something then discarding him when she was through. He tried to marrying her several times only for her to shun him, but then reel him back in. It got worse and worse, her playing with my dad’s mind. He only wanted to love her and treat her right.

He attempted suicide twice, a couple years apart, because she rejected him. I found out out about these attempts years later. But I did see how she toyed with him. I nicknamed her Khan, after the villain from Star Trek II. She thought the nickname was funny and one year for my birthday she got me a cake with a Khan action figure on the cake.

I grew to hate her. We all tried to get dad to move on and find someone else. He tried from time to time, but he always held out hope for Irene. I soon got tired of trying to talk him out of it. I just hoped and prayed I wouldn’t get a call telling me my dad was found dead.

Irene had a problem the last decade with prescription pills. One night several years ago she went out on a drive hopped up on pills, crossed the center line, and hit a car with an elderly couple inside. She killed, murdered, both. She was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to house arrest. Dad would still visit her at her apartment, and even did so last week.

Dad hopes she died of natural causes and not a drug overdose. My family is devoutly Pentecostal, so dad believes that if she did die of natural causes there is a chance she is in heaven. If it was drugs, she is in hell.

I’m here to tell you regardless of the cause that she is most definitely in hell if there is one.

All of that hate, rage, anger came pouring out of me last night until I was once again an innocent 12-year-old kid. Thank goodness Jessica was there. I was ashamed and embarrassed that I had shown that side of me. I’m really not a hateful person. She was extremely supportive.

The question now is do I go to the funeral? I’ll certainly go to support my dad and be by his side. I get along with her daughter too, though I harbor a bit of hatred towards her for not standing up against her mom.

Do I take the advice of Ben Folds and not go back up into that house again?

We’ll see.

IMG_0339

Last Sunday marked two years ago that Jessica and I started dating. I’m writing about it now because last night was the Downtown Charleston ArtWalk and the first day we became a couple was at ArtWalk.

We met over 2 1/2 years ago, but I became known to her nearly three year ago. She had just graduated from Marshall University and took a job as an assistant to West Virginia First Lady Gayle Manchin. Her first week on the job was when U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd died. Three years ago today she had just signed the lease to her apartment.

Shortly after Byrd was laid to rest, Governor Joe Manchin ran in a special election for Byrd’s Senate seat. A month later I got tipped off about subpoenas being dropped off at Manchin’s office for documents from various executive branch agencies. It was one of the biggest stories of my journalism career, with national media picking up my story and crediting me.

A week after that story WSAZ filed Freedom of Information Act request for information regarding those subpoenas, piggybacking off of my story. One of the people that had to comb through emails and documents to fulfill that FOIA request was Jessica. When she asked what precipitated all this work, she was told about my story.

She didn’t like me since it was my story that piled work on her. We hadn’t even met yet, and I didn’t know who she was.

We met a few months later thanks to a woman I was interested in, but became less so as I grew to know her. It wasn’t personal, it’s just the way it was. I was also hanging out with another girl whom I was interested in at first, but I had the same problem.

I grew less interested in those two, but became more interested in Jessica. At the time I think Jessica felt she was the third choice and I had to work harder to win her over. As she now knows, when given multiple choices I am very contemplative and analytical. And when I chose, I chose Jessica.

We went to ArtWalk together two years ago, had dinner downtown, got caught in the rain, watched the John Adams miniseries…and after all of that we decided it was time to improve upon the friendship by starting a relationship. And eight months ago we moved in together. The rest is history.

Why? We both have similar backgrounds; only-children of low-income single parents who had to work harder. Jessica’s hard work got her a degree from Marshall University and a job where she helps hundreds of high school students achieve their dreams. I didn’t finish college, but through my hard work I became a respected journalist.

Jessica is smart, kind, giving, and an optimist. My friends love her and she loves my friends. She’s outgoing and willing to try new things. We’ve never had a fight or argument. We’re always honest with each other and talk before it ever comes to that. We share the bills and alternate paying when we go out. She is the perfect partner. She has helped me mature and she’s my biggest cheerleader.

I love her very much and I’m not quite sure what I’d do without her at this point. So, here is to three more years times infinity.

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WV150 3D Show and Fireworks, a set on Flickr.

Sorry for  lack of posts last week, but I had work to do, as our elected officials were celebrating a major milestone.

The State of West Virginia was created on June 20, 1863, thanks to President Abraham Lincoln and Francis Pierpont, the Governor of the Restored Government of Virginia.

West Virginia now has 150 years under its belt. That meant a massive birthday celebration. As I work for the West Virginia Senate, I followed lawmakers to Wheeling, WV, for monthly legislative interim meetings. Since Wheeling was the first capital of West Virginia, the city held major speeches and reenactments at Independence Hall and concerts at Heritage Port.

AIB-062013

I spent four days in Wheeling and enjoyed it greatly. Wheeling is not the type of city you’d expect to see in West Virginia. It’s architecture and culture is more closely aligned with Pennsylvania. It was a major steel producer and at one time was the gateway to the west if you were traveling the National Road.

Both Wheeling and Charleston started their celebrations on Thursday with concerts and a massive fireworks display. But in Charleston, they shot the fireworks off of the State Capitol Complex itself, including the dome. Jessica took great pictures, which you can see above. I shot video of the entire display, which is 18-minutes long.

WV celebrates its 150th birthday with a massive fireworks show from Steven Allen Adams on Vimeo.

The fireworks show was preceded by a 3D light show projected onto the front of the State Capitol Complex. West Virginia Public Broadcasting has a link to that video. This went on every night for three days, though Jessica and I caught the show Saturday night.

Earlier that day we caught the WV150 History and Art Parade. The hour-long parade traveled from downtown Charleston to the State Capitol Complex, marching along Kanawha Blvd. East. It was a combination of the state’s birthday celebration with the traditional FestivAll Art Parade, which kicks off a week of FestivAll events.

Scenes from the WV150 History and Art Parade in Charleston, WV from Steven Allen Adams on Vimeo.

Jessica and I ended the week by checking out the Charleston Light Opera Guild’s production of The Civil War. The musical was at the Culture Center at the State Capitol Complex. It was great, with actors in full Union and Confederate gear, with images from the war being projected behind them. I like that instead of seeing an actor portray Abraham Lincoln, they would project a picture of Lincoln with a voiceover. I only wish they would have kept the show going for more than one weekend.

It was a great week to be a West Virginian, and it was especially cool to celebrate the state’s birthday in two different regions of the state.

POLICE

Photo/WOWK-TV

Well, there was a shooting outside my apartment building Tuesday.

Attempted shooting that is. Or wait, would it be attempted murder? Because he didn’t attempt to shoot. He DID shoot, though apparently couldn’t hit two people at point blank range in his car.

I was home preparing a delicious dinner of Hamburger Help lasagna after work for Jessica, who was out buying wine. I know, we’re classy people, right? As I was in the kitchen crumbling hamburger, I heard two gunshots coming from the direction of the alley behind my apartment. I went to the window in time to see two people run from a silver Ford Crown Victoria, which sped off.

My first call, of course, was to 911. I described the car, the direction the driver went, how many shots, etc. My second phone call was to my friend Chad, the assistant news director at WOWK-TV where I used to work. I told him he might want to get a photographer over to this alley. As far as I know they were the first to get it on TV. The photog showed up at 5:30 p.m. as police were picking up casings. The story was on the air in time for the 7 p.m. news.

The third phone call was to Jessica, who I told to leave the store and get home ASAP. I wanted her safe within the confines of our apartment.

The suspect was arrested early Wednesday morning.

13 News has learned Kevin Watson was arrested early Wednesday morning by Charleston Police. He has been charged with wanton endangerment.

Police said Watson fired shots at two people after an argument on Tuesday. It happened on the 1300 block of Quarrier Street. No one was injured. Watson is in the South Central Regional Jail.

Suspect arrested after shots fired on Charleston’s East End – WOWK-TV

West Virginia Pride Week 2013

Sunday was the end of Pride Week 2013 in Charleston, WV. Since the event moved from Capitol Street to Haddad Riverfront Park, the 17th annual LGBTQ celebration saw its largest crowd to date.

West Virginia has a surprisingly vibrant LGBTQ community and it’s great to see it. I’ve been an active supporter of the community since my days writing a column for West Virginia Queer News back in 2005.

It was called “I’m Not Gay,” and I would write about creating greater understanding between the LGBTQ and straight communities. I did it for about a year until I moved on to my newspaper and radio career. I went to Pride Week two years ago for Kanawha Valley Live, though I doubt I still have those pictures.

If you missed Pride Week, below are some video highlights from Sunday’s parade and festivities.

Pride Week 2013 wraps up with parade at Haddad Riverfront Park in Charleston, WV from Steven Allen Adams on Vimeo.