No Loose Ends

No Loose Ends
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Sunday, June 29, 2014

It Could Always be Worse

Wednesday morning a little after 3 am, I stirred to consciousness in a crowded day room. I was lying awkwardly on the top bunk of a bunk bed too short for my 6’6’’ frame, grumpily, but exercising silent respect for the other 9 dudes that have to be up at such an ungodly hour. I went to work in the culinary and fried over 1000 eggs through the early A.M. hours to feed the population of N.N.C.C. Not the best use of my skill set but not a terrible job either.

Later that day I bullshitted with my dogs, played chess, and waited patiently for the caseworker to show up so I could complain about my insufferable sleeping situation.  He arrived, listened and gave me the concerned looks and properly timed head nods like he gave a shit, and placated my gripes. Even told me he’d handle the bed more on his next work day. I jumped on the phone to promote #NoLooseEnds and finished my day in a fairly good mood. About 9:30 pm the unit officer instructed me to roll up all of my property because I was scheduled for transport the next day. WHAT??? It was odd, unexpected, and in the midst of all the book stuff unwanted.

I woke up Friday morning at High Desert State Prison. I was still on the top bunk, but I only has one person in my immediate space. My accommodations have switched from a day room to a cell. I was awake at 4 but by 4:30 a.m. the room was bathed in a bright orange glow, an officer controlled dome light signaled it was time to wake up for breakfast. A few minutes later a buzz and the slow roll of metal electrical doors opening urged my cell mate and I as well as a small group of men in this new place to the exit doors where we’d all stroll together to a chow hall somewhere for some of Southern Nevada’s early bird cuisine. But it was not to be.

While waiting for this hike to combat the overnight hunger a fight breaks out somewhere out of sight and a strange silence sweeps over the room. Only rough breathing and the sounds of hand to hand combat can be heard. The melee is around the corner s I can’t see the combatants but about 10 ft. away from me another scuffle breaks out and I’m befuddled by this whole scene playing out before 6 a.m. my first day here.
I don’t know any of these dudes so I can only think to give them their space to work out their issues. The time for confusion was short lived. From an elevated perch inside this building a shotgun blasts shatters the silence with a commanding BOOM! Followed by angry cop voices screaming “Get Down! Get on the ground! Get down!”. In the next couple of seconds cordite smoke and confusion are everywhere. More guards appear, more yelling ensues and my breakfast walk about is ruined.

In the end breakfast was postponed, there were a couple of people left bloody and the entire unit was locked down. My point in relating these unpleasant details is our situations may be less than ideal but in a heartbeat they can tumble into a bigger crap sandwich than the one we’re currently stuck in. My advice is simple; love the good that’s around you. Work to make your present predicament better, and don’t despair or complain about how bad things are, because trust me it can ALWAYS get worse.

I’m despairing right now because my location, phone and family access, move around freedom and honestly my physical safety arrangements have been obliterated, but I’m not in the prison infirmary with stab wounds and buck shot from a shotgun shell in my butt cheeks. This new set of circumstances suck dog balls but at least it’s not Iraq.

I’m just saying!

R. Venner

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Happy Fathers Day

What’s up world? I want to take the time to tell you all about the man that made me into the R. Venner that I wished I could be all the time. My father, Ramsey Sr. My dad was a quiet, classy, giant. Not exactly physically imposing, he stood 5’ 10”, but his presence was mountainous. He was orphaned as a child in Providence, Colombia and forced to fend for himself from the age of six or seven as the legend goes. He was born in 1930 so the world he came up in was miles away from the panoramic we have now. No technology or ton of distractions to syphon off hours of productivity. If history is accurate this is a little after the invention of the automobile, so the trickle down to my father’s part of the planet may have only been whispers, and radio fairytales.

Well this man, with no formal education and basically a child of the village, did odd jobs to earn his keep as he grew up; Helping on peoples land and property, tending to animals and crops, caring for the elderly in exchange for room and board in a spare bedroom or even an attic at one point. In his adolescent years, he worked his way into a deckhand position aboard sailing vessels or passenger ships and he left his humble beginnings to see the world.

My older brother recently told me there isn’t a place you could point to on a map that our father didn’t have a story about, like he has put his two feet in and on the soil of every spot on the globe. I remember some of his stories, but Ramsey Sr. was 48 when I was born, so my appreciation for his history came way too late in his years I regret not asking him more about his life.

What I did get from the time we spent together, was first, an amazing work ethic. My father always was the rock in my eyes, he never complained about much, never needed an alarm clock to wake up, and insisted we be early to everything we had to do. He wasn’t in a rush or swayed by trends, and didn’t keep too many close friends. The bills were always paid, there was always food in the fridge, and even if we were on the bus we got to where we were going.

The other thing that my father had before there was a phase that described it was swag. In every picture I can remember going back into the big photo album with the crumbling black and white joints, my dad never smiled or cheesed big in photos. He was always stern and serious but he stood tall. Broad shouldered, powerful stance, always sharply dressed, with a look that told the camera – “you are fortunate to have this moment with me”.

His accent, and classic world view, made me think he was dated and out of touch when we clashed during my adolescence, but I reflect on those scolding’s and words of wisdom with great admiration today. His views were forged in harsh reality, and staving off starvation, without a mother and father to counsel or cuddle you. His outlook came from having to become a man not because he wanted to, but because he had to.

He couldn’t always convey his thoughts to me in clear concise dictation, hell, English was his second language. But he would get emotional when he lectured me about my bad behavior, because he wanted the world for me. He used to say, “Hold your head up high and be Ramsey man. Know you are man, be proud, be Ramsey”. It seems cryptic when you just read the words, but it was powerful as he nodded tight lipped, starting into a future I couldn't see.

The way he had to bare down and choke back tears sometimes drove home that he was giving me something that touched the very core of him. Self-contained, reserved, respected, wise, funny and fly as hell, Ramsey F. Venner Sr. was all that. He was a man. Happy Birthday and Happy Father’s Day Jefe. Te Quiero Macho.

R. Venner

Saturday, June 7, 2014

My Man

In the movie American Gangster, Denzel Washington plays drug kingpin Frank Lucas during the 1970’s heroine holocaust in New York City. There’s a scene when he’s speaking to a rival, and then to a dirty cop, and when the conversation comes to an end he says “My Man”. Cool, jazzy, with a warm smile, even if the conversation didn't go well.

This week I had been reaching out to distributors, companies that sell “Urban Fiction” to find out how I could get #No Loose Ends to join the ranks of Wahida Clark and the books by Tripple Crown Publications. One of my calls landed at the offices of a real cool brother who coincidently happened to be in New York City as well. I could go into a rant about how hard it is to make phone calls from here, but that’s a whole other blog. Just take my word for it when I say connecting with the outside world is tuff for a million reasons but we persevere and overcome.

Anyway, we make it through to a live voice after about 5 minutes, and the person I needed to speak with was on another line. So we relayed messages back and forth, me through my patient team of supporters, and him through his polite office lady with that hot New York accent (I can’t wait to call back).  But the upside is the brother that runs the company finally gets on the phone, and I launch into my 30 second elevator pitch. The downside is as soon as he starts to respond, the digital operator on my end, announces we have one minute remaining. The brother is like “Alright Ramsey, send me a copy of your book and I’ll let you know what I think, and go ahead and leave your contact info in there so we can get back to you”.

I can’t lie, I was almost grateful at just being offered to send someone a copy of my book. Then as we were about to hang up my eagerness or maybe the hunger in my voice relayed that I wasn’t quite done with my pitch, or that I was really desperate to talk to someone and get some kind of direction or instructions, or maybe his ear was trained to recognize the plight of a fellow entrepreneur in distress. Whichever the case as we were about to hang up, he said “And if you need to tell me anything else put it in a letter with your book”.
“Alright, will do” I replied, overjoyed that this brother sounded authentic and actually interested in my work.
His last words on that phone call before the phone wench ended the call…… “My Man” just like in the movie, but not with malice. It was warm and real like the love in the 70’s. I could see big afros with soul brotha picks, bell bottoms and matching jackets with funky colored argyle patterns. But all the internal nostalgia aside, we hung up and I wasn’t able to shake the invitation I heard in the brother’s voice. He could have been jaded and reluctant like some successful people or even some of my exes sound when we speak. He could have been true to our projections of New Yorkers, he could have rude or mean just because, but he wasn’t. He was mellow and my every attempt to get into another project wouldn’t quiet the urgings in my head to call back. I felt like I could have got the stalker tag, or that I should have been content with the small progress and I was risking it by sounding too thirsty or desperate. But I overrode my own roadblocks and we called the brother back and even more shocking than my gall, he took the call.

I just told him “Sorry sir for taking up anymore of your time, but I’m in prison and it’s a rarity to get information much less critical or accurate details in this business. I’m just going on instincts here, but if you wouldn’t mind could I ask you some questions?” And he said “sure young brother, I understand your plight, go ahead. What’s on your mind?”

For the next 30 minutes I grilled the brother and became a sponge on every topic I could think to inquire about, from the presentation of my website and its layout, to having a contact page inside my actual book, which I would have never thought about. The conversation cost $5 but the information I received was priceless.

In the end, I may or have made a new business contact. But even if #No Loose Ends doesn’t end up on his “New This Month” list, there is a phone number and a real dude at the other end that’ll take a look at my next offering.

This whole episode, in my humble opinion speaks to the power of persistence, and one other thing, learn to listen to your instincts, sometimes the universe is trying to tell you something. Most walls and roadblocks are mental, stop thinking about it.

R. Venner