Annie Williams


Annie walked in silence along the street until she was noticed by Officer Ted Darling…

When you are a security guard you see a lot of unusual and interesting people in your duties. A particular person at any particular time may or may not grab your interest, and in as much as guards are trained to watch for special points of interest, one person scuffling along a sidewalk on North Theresa Avenue near Washington Street kept attracting my attention; not so much as that he or she may be involved in some criminal activity, but because of their physical condition. I first noticed this individual bent over and crouched against an alley wall, and my thought at that point was that this person was drunk and intoxicated to the point of incapacity. The person made a weak wave to me with a hand, and I sloughed that movement off as a hobo that probably would be moving on in short order.

After a few minutes of patrolling the vehicles lined up and down an adjoining street, my view again came in contact with this person, who now had moved onto the sidewalk near the apartment building, and I could plainly see it was an elderly black person that was having great difficulty walking, had a metal cane for support, huddled beneath a rather large trench coat that hung sloppily over a misshapen frame. The person obviously was injured and possibly in pain.

I continued to watch on each additional trip past that point, and noted that this person was handicapped, made many encumbered steps, was bent almost at a seventy degree angle from the hip and could only move a few inches at a time. The person would stop, rest, and then hobble a little further in a desired direction, and repeat that sequence over and over. I recall the words ‘My God!’ coming to mind. The next trip this person appeared to be heading my way, but changed course and went back towards Washington Avenue. ‘This is not right,’ I said to myself, ‘I better see if help is needed.’

I slowly walked towards the person whose head seemed completely hidden beneath the collar of the coat as I approached from the rear.

‘Hello, do you need some help?’ I asked as politely as I could. In tight little increments of movement a head began to rise and the body turning artificially to allow an African-American lady’s face to arise, reminding me strangely of a turtle’s head coming out of its shell to look around, and two large brown eyes in the middle of a face, I swear, resembled ‘ET,’ the extra-terrestrial, in Steven Spielberg’s movie: all the wisdom, pain, longing of a lifetime written there. She was mustering strength to talk, one foot shuffled ahead of the other finding footing in her worn boots. Then she seemed prepared to speak:

‘Yes, no, ah….’ she appeared at a loss for words, words that sounded weak and unsure. ‘I ….. I’m just walking…. .’ And barely at that, I thought. We stared at each other for a minute or so, her with both hands cradling the top of the cane, looking for the entire world like George Steven’s Yoda movie character, but a Yoda that was seriously injured.

‘Are you in pain?’ I asked. I could see her eyes were matted by the cold weather and the tears that continued to wet her face. Her mind was dulled by age, but she still was active in searching for words, lips nervously moving to form expression.

‘Yes,’ she barely spoke audibly, ‘I…I….walk…walk for exercise.’
‘Does it help, I mean the pain?’ She nodded slowly.

‘How long have you had this condition?’

She gave a weak laugh, ‘Long time, now…. .’ She would glance up briefly as she spoke and then glance down at the sidewalk and remain gazing at the concrete. I thought for a moment.
Her withered and crippled hand slowly crept into her coat pocket and, grasped in a mangled fist, she brought out a wrinkled and dirty page of paper; Annie painfully placed it into my palm and folded my fingers over it as best her aged hand could. She again attempted a weak smile.

‘What’s your name?’ I asked. She again gave a weak laugh.

She lifted her head and this time gave me a strong, soul–searching look from two gorgeously bulbous and pitifully sad eyes: ‘Annie!’ She expressed it almost defiantly as if a different plateau of relationship had been reached. I smiled back at her.

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Annie Image

‘My name is Ted, Officer Ted Darling,’ I replied. ‘Ted,’ she repeated in almost a whisper. There was silence for a moment. ‘Will you be out here in the cold long?’ I asked. ‘No, no, I have to take my medicine…. .’ It was obvious that I shouldn’t go much further into her personal business.

‘Well, if you need any help at all, I’ll be walking by here every so often, don’t hesitate to call out for me, okay…….Annie?’ She slowly lowered her head up and down.

‘What….what….arthritis, rickets…..what….?’ I felt I should probe a little further. She insipidly nodded at the paper she gave me.

She gave another weak laugh: ‘Yes, everything,’ but her words came slow and almost in gasping breaths, ‘arthritis, diabetes, and neuropathy….everything…..’

‘Okay,’ I relinquished. And for a few more passes on my patrol I continued to watch her struggle moving diseased limbs and joints slowly down the sidewalk and slowly back in the other direction, occasionally resting her weight on the apartment wall. Then, sometime after sunset, she was gone and did not return.

The soiled and worn paper she gave me was headed in large bold letter: ‘If Annie Williams should be found ill and needs help, the following is a list of medications and medical conditions you should know about…,’ and what jumped off the page was a conflagration in a menagerie of disease and medicine that even I could not comprehend, and I promised myself I’d research the mysterious text as soon as possible. That mission came that evening before the public library closed. I headed home with a bag of medical books, settled at the kitchen table beneath a laptop computer, my investigatory juices parleyed the Internet into an ink pen dirge of medical facts. Annie’s ailments seemed daunting and unflinching: ‘Friedreich Ataxia, spinocerebellar tract, Hulter monitor, rheumatoid arthritis, crippling skeletal fluorosis, osteosclerosis of pelvis and vertebra, musculoskeletal fibrokeratoma, scoliosis, bursitis, Paget’s disease….’ Photo after photo showed broken, disjointed, twisted and medically diseased bodies, many with strained looks of fought-against pain. The list of medication used in treatment was just as disheartening as it allowed me to create in my mind belched visions of therapeutic mayhem that, I had read, such torture surely existed in the 18th century London Bedlam madhouse: ‘….Paracetamol, Pfizerpen-G, Percocet, Oxycontin, Naproxen Ibepuron, Ibuprofen, Neorontin …..’ About an hour into my indefatigable, cavernous research, a creeping raptorial nausea and sweating enveloped me, causing me to slam shut an opened medical book and slump crumpled into my chair as a dilapidated shack of depressed and weary flesh and bone. It was a sleepless night.

I certainly was on the alert for my new-found friend. The first night of patrol: Nothing. The same disappointment for the second, third, and the fourth nights: Sadness took hold of me, an almost heightened sense of freight that I might not see Annie again. Then, on the fifth day, there she was standing at the alley way, she slowly moved her hand side to side at her typical stomach level, her style of waving beneath her chronic pain.

‘Annie! I’ve been hoping to see you again!’ But, just as I lifted a foot to walk in her direction, a hysterical voice came from behind me: ‘Officer! Officer, can you assist me? I think I locked my keys in my car! Can you help?’ Caught in the dilemma of decision, I shouted to Annie: ‘Stay there, please; I’ll be back in a minute, please wait.’ Annie’s awkward rolling of her head on a nonexistent neck indicated her affirmation to wait for me.

About nine-hundred-feet away, on the next street, time seemed to agonizingly creep as I attended to the lady’s problem. Suddenly, the wail of sirens filled the air. From my vantage point I could barely see where on North Theresa Avenue the panic and canopy of scintillating blue-red, white circus of EMS and police lights were coming from. I knew something serious had happened; but I also knew the police were fully in control.


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It was ‘sometime’ before I was finished with the locked keys incident. The EMS and the police had long gone from North Theresa. The street was empty and dark and forlorn in the cold chill. I could only stare in desperation towards Washington Avenue. And then – ‘He’ came – turning the far corner of the building, quickly, swiftly, courageously, directly towards me as if on a mission, the pillar of his body passing through shadows created by the silver moonlight; tall, almost if on stilts, uniformed in stylish dark tailored linen trousers, his full-length solid black overcoat caressing his stride, synchronically whipping around his legs as he placed one foot strategically in front of the other in some seeming choreographed dance or march. I had no fear of his advance. He suddenly stood before me, a towering black man with sparkling black eyes as if polished coal or those of a gazing deer, his complexion a viscerally hearty ruddy-brown. He had no furrowed brow and appeared to be a caricature of the best of health. The silence seemed to go on forever.

‘You are wondering about Annie?’ He spoke very authoritatively.

‘Yes. Yes, I am’, I felt entranced, gripped by almost feelings of euphoria, ‘who are you?’

‘My name is Olorun Smith. I’ve known Annie Williams for a long time, a very long time. She is all right now. Oh, so many prayers have passed her lips. She is the happiest she has been in a long time.’ His tone was not typically Afro-American, but had the brogue of direct African descendants. ‘There was a lot you did not know about Annie. Did you know that Annie was an artist when she was young? Indeed, the best of the best. In 1911 she was a world-class act at the Dark Town Follies at the Lafayette Club, was one of the originators of the Cakewalk, ‘Ballin’ the Jack, and knew J. Leurie Hill, yes, yes, indeed. She danced nightly at the Savoy Ball Room for many years, and, and, in 1923 she was part of the Ziegfield Follies, the all black cast of the ‘Running Wild’ troupe. Annie was part of the 1936 Brown Sugar Revue at the world-renown Cotton Club; she sang with Lena Horne and performed regularly. But there is more: in 1925, Annie starred alongside Josephine Baker at the La Revue Ne’gre in Paris.’ In a perspicacious flood of words in rapid fashion, for a good ten minutes, Mister Smith spoke in a symphonic deluge of panoramic life events and historic narration, reciting about a life that only could have been a fantasy-world panoply for many a young lady; a wishful dream to most young girls.

‘Where did you get all ‘that’ information?’ I blurted out in total astonishment.

‘I’ve held black teenage Civil War soldiers in my arms as their blood oozed the life out of their wounds; that life-giving serum flowing through my fingers. I stood by Sam Clemons as Cub Pilot aboard the riverboat Paul Jones as we fought Mississippi River sandbars. I have watched with Captain Kermit Beahan, as we dropped the Little Boy atomic bomb upon Nagasaki – we looked into the Eye of Beelzebub and saw the face of Hell. I whispered words of comfort and salvation as living bodies fell from flaming ledges of the Twin Towers on 9/11…..’ Olorun’s eyes darkened even further in majestic intensity, a growing wisp of romantic fragrances emerging in the air….

Olorun paused, then grinned in a beaming smile that demonstrated a mouth of uniform and brilliantly white teeth, ‘I have seen things that you could not begin to accept; events that stretch far beyond the capabilities of your mind. I have been to places that exceedingly surpass the meager events of this tiny planet. I have walked on beaches trillions of miles from here with water so pure and so clear that as you walk in it, it washes your soul. I have known a succulent tropic plant on a very distant world whose juices would cure all known diseases. I have been to the center of your sun, indeed, I have been to the center of a million suns. I have sat abroad comets and raced through the solar system. I rode the comet that rained its watery tail down on Noah. I have come face to face with Evil itself, and I have ‘won’.’

Olorun suddenly looked ahead, over my shoulder, abruptly realizing that something new, something prorogating and urgent beckoned him, and he quickly rushed past me, whipping his overcoat against my side, dispersing mystical, aromatic, tropical scents of a combined unknown perfume reminiscent of Ralph Lauren, Michael Jordan Regal, and Chanel Pour Monsieur Concentrate. Stunned, I thought to myself only for a split-second, and then swirled around to confront him once again, ‘Mr. Smith!’

He was gone! Gone!

And I was left standing there with my heart pounding, immersed and lost in a violent mental flood as a rain drop fallen into an emotional sea, left with solemn and fantastic memories of Annie and the realization that this world was not nearly as real, or far more real, than it was before I met her.

Written By: Stephen Erdmann

UNIVERSAL DIGEST is pleased to be a conduit for our contributing authors. Some editing was provided. We do not claim credit; we simply want to make it more available to the general public. The opinions of the authors are not necessarily the opinion or stance of this website.

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The Word Police

The Word Police

Have you ever been arrested by the word police?

Where did the word police come from and who put them in charge?  This may seem like a bit of an illogical question. On the surface I may be inclined to agree with that myself, but upon closer examination, is this question really that obtuse? The question about the word police and the effectiveness that the word police seem to have in our current society, one may be inclined to ponder why this question has not been raised long ago.

To set a precedent, one may be able to gain consensus that “word police”  has been around as long as written history. We see time and again words that were considered inappropriate, or generated from a certain social class that were frowned upon or in some cases considered not acceptable to say in certain settings. We still see that today in acceptable words that can or can not be used on television or in front of children.  That is not the word police I am referencing, however. What I am inquisitive about dives much deeper, it is how in less than one generation, a word , group of words or an expressed philosophical belief can go from social norm to social pariah.

Let us start with  an easy one, Merry Christmas, it seemed like over night, these two simple words went from a friendly greeting to words one must not say in some places or words that one must then apologize for saying.  How did we get here?  If one is to give the false argument of inclusion, can we not see the folly and possible hidden agenda behind this claim?  Let us remember that Christmas is one of 10 federal Holidays mandated by Congress. Does anyone feel compelled to say Happy Holidays on  other 9?  Why then was Christmas targeted? Why in less than a generation did a seemly pleasant greeting, get tethered to political agendas?  Why, as a populace do we let that happen?

When does the insensitive moniker sprout wings and fly?  Specifically when and who decides that certain phrases and words are now insensitive?  Why do we allow this?  Why do we fall for it? If you know hate is not in your heart, are we as a society so concerned with dancing with the stars, or re-tweeting our favorite reality stars point of view that we stop thinking on our own? I do not know the answer but I think the question has merit. Personally I find it humorous when that high school student or college freshmen under the false premise of being open-minded swallows whole the viewpoint of the teacher without allowing real discourse.  The same professor who may shake her or his fist at greedy capitalists, who then force and mandate that you by the book they wrote for if you don’t you may and most often will fail their course. Or the professor who waxes poetic about equal rights and fairness for all, who uses their tenure to block the hiring of someone else that may be more qualified and knowledgeable in the field the tenured professor teaches.

What does that example have to do with “word police”? Why, everything really, because we are quick to comply to what they say or how they say rather than taking the time to “check the facts”.  We are told to “think outside the box” but it seems to me, we are then asked to do that thinking, from a smaller box selected by those who seem in charge of the words we are allowed to use or give merit to.

Try this at home if you get a chance. Think about 10 words that 10 years ago you would use on a regular basis to respond to family and friends, how many of those words are now considered hateful, or hurtful? Who decided this? Who makes these decisions?  You know what is in your heart, who put the word test together and why did they do it? What is the real motive? We live in a world were you are trained not to talk about politics, religion or social issues at the table, I sincerely never heard a more illogical idea.  If you can not “break bread” with family and friends and talk about topics that concern each of those in attendance when can you? Who then does the informing? Are you starting to get the possible picture?

I will follow-up some of the points brought forth in this essay in my future writings, because my thought at the present time is that they need a closer examination.  Why are we here and how did we get here?  Why do we have “hate crimes” by definition are not all crimes hateful?  Who makes this distinction and why? As a proponent of Free Speech, I know and respect the power of words, so I am amazed that Universities have “free speech zones” and so few ask why would this be OK to only have free speech is certain zones? I find the subject of language and words interesting, stay tuned.

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    It started out as a joke, and then words were spoken which should not have been said. What at first began as a normal lunch break turned into a fiasco of slandering, prejudices and newly born racism.

    Person A said that Yugoslavia isn’t so far away because person B’s wife comes to work on a bicycle. B answers; “We’re from Croatia, there is no Yugoslavia anymore!” A says in return; “ Yugo, Kroete, (purposely using the German word for Toad), they’re all rats with a different name!”

    So it ended up that two colleagues walked away from each other, each filled with anger and bitterness. The same two people who laugh, talk and seriously get along with each other on a daily basis at work. The irony is that Person A is an Italian, ergo also a foreigner in Germany!

    I touched on the subject of racism before, but it can never be mentioned often enough. Not as long as it’s still lurking somewhere on the sideline waiting to spring forward and fuel new aggression, we shouldn’t leave it alone! Why do people need to utilize racist remarks in their daily conversations, as though they have nothing else to chat about? It stems from their insecurity complex. A psychological sickness in which they wish to be on the pedestal at all times, at the cost of belittlement against others. Whereby they prove that they themselves are the mentally unstable ones. Racism is not ingrained into our DNA, it is taught to us from our parents, other adults in responsibility positions, and even the children we grew up with. And with racism comes its little brother, Bullying. Seems that the two come hand in hand. Most people who start racist bullying veer off to bully others when their favorite person is currently not available. Their hair is too long, they’re Hobos, don’t really matter who it is at the moment. As long as they have their satisfaction.

    So as one can see, it doesn’t have to be a police officer accused of racism, or one of the many other examples found on the Internet. It’s right here at our doorstep, and to ignore it is silent participation.

[Tweet “To ignore racism is to be a silent participant.”]

    Living over here in Germany, I missed the reason that the Confederate flag is suddenly getting bashed! And, for what reason? As children we played Yankees and Rebels in the woods, and it was super cool to be the one to carry the flag of the south. Remember that this was in the ’60’s in southern Michigan. The Confederate flag of the south wasn’t something you picked up at the store before going home! I don’t remember who had it but isn’t it strange that after playing Southerners with the flag, I’m not a racial bigot? Please! What does a flag which represents a part of our past and current culture in the south have to do with racism? Absolutely nothing! So why are they being banned by Amazon and Co., where at the same time I can purchase one of the “Allah Akbar” ISIS flags? The Government is already getting mixed into the charades while others are starting to attack the CAR from “The Dukes of Hazard!” We live in the 21st Century!! But this is turning out to be like burning witches at the stake!

And what they are doing is being racist, against the Confederate Flag!

PS: And don’t even start on the American Flag!!

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Why Body Cameras on Public Officials May Be a Horrible Idea

Why Body Cameras on Public Officials May Be a Horrible Idea

The reason for this article is not to stir up controversy, nor try to gain attention by pom pom waving for an alternative idea, but rather to hopefully cast a glimpse into the mind of the human collective and learn from what society has shown us in the past. With the recent incidents between public servants and the public itself, a loud drum beat for  police officers to wear  body cameras has been heard from civil rights leaders, politicians, ratings-focused “news” shows, tenured professors and local politicians looking to stay in office.  Even some local police chiefs after meeting with politicians or community organizers have come out in favor  of body cameras.

On the surface it does seem like a wonderful idea. Sort of a why not sort of  thing.  This way we can see “first hand” what transpired during  the interaction between civil servant and public citizen. Video evidence to solve the situation once and for all. Keep public violence, looting and disobedience  at a minimum because we can see what happened.  All of this sounds logical, but I offer that this may create more problems then  any  body cameras may offer to help.

First, reaction, timing and professional responses often happen on instinct, a literal hundredth of a second response to a situation that may be developing before the public servant. As some one who stopped  a gun holding assailant who was robbing a bar I was bouncing in, I reacted, I did not wait to see if my body camera was angled correctly to provided those who judge the best line of sight or sound.  I saw a situation, reacted to it, and disarmed the man with the gun. Why would we ever want a public servant to wonder if the camera offers the best angle for the servant to be cleared of any wrong doing.  Reluctance to act and react can lead to death.

Think about it,  we as a society, are creatures of habit. When we hear of an interaction between a public servant and the public, how much time goes by between the time you hear of the situation, and your thoughts wondering where is the video?  Do we want to live in a society where conviction in courts or even in public opinion rests on video and not in the  gathering of all the evidence? If the video itself becomes the paramount decider of innocence or guilt, I hearken back to my first  reason why body cameras my be a bad idea. May a public servant hesitate to make sure the “camera is rolling” or the picture or angle of interaction shows best to those who may view?

Dashboard cameras  do not hinder decisions, they are stationary and generally give a good  view of what  is recorded.  A body camera can not offer  these intangibles.  “Experts” will be called in questioning what the camera does not show, or side conversations or question the legitimacy of the video itself.  A “cottage industry” of “expert body camera interpreters may spring up” and cause  the murky video legitimacy testimony clog  and hinder all other evidence that may be presented.

While not a direct correlation think about this, when ever we hear of a religious issue  being brought to court, we often hear the term “separation of church and state”  as if this is written in the Bill of Rights, it is not, it came from a judges decision in a court case. It is now dogma, may we with body cameras see the same type of dogma, where if the camera does not show it, it didn’t happen or does not exist?  The  establishment clause in the first amendment is law that has morphed into some thing else.

May body cameras on public servants which may risk the lives of those who wear them, create a situation where all other evidence takes a back seat to “lights camera action?”  I worry this may be true.

Darren Redmond

June 12th 2015

Authors Note

Darren Redmond has over 20 years of direct managerial experience in the fields of Marketing and Sales. In addition he holds a Masters Degree In Education.  Darren Redmond has also coached on the Collegiate level; Division one Softball and Division Three football

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