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SIGNS OF A MAN WHO TURNED HIS LIFE AROUND

A search for signs that piqued my curiosity yielded more than I expected: a black and white poster that caught the eye like a work by Escher.

Upon closer inspection, the image of a stern-faced man in a suit and a Run-DMC-style fedora stares back, offering kids a choice.

Education Creates Opportunity. A Criminal Record Limits Opportunity. Choose.

The posters that have popped up around the South Shore and Brandon area come from Eric Durham, a felon who says God gave him a second lease on life. Through the posters and his Web site (ericdurham.com), the Tampa native promotes a documentary he hopes to create about his redemptive life.

If he can bring his story to the screen, the movie should prove to be captivating.

Durham, who now lives in Brandon with his wife and two kids, says negative friends drowned out the positive messages he received from his mother and father. He blames his downfall on poor choices - not his environment - and says those choices almost cost him his life.

"I was selling drugs over near Hillsborough, and I got carjacked," said Durham, 39. "I got beat with a pistol and stripped down butt-naked. My life was flashing before me.

"That's why I want to get the documentary done and write a book. You will not believe the stories I can tell."

One of Durham's most memorable moments came in the old Morgan Street Jail in downtown Tampa.

He says a voice out of the clear blue spoke to him, saying, "You should have kept the promises you made to me last time."

With everyone around him asleep, Durham is convinced the words came from God. He said his faith helped him get through the dark days of prison, and he eventually met his wife Nikki through church.

Still, Durham said, the scar of a criminal record never leaves him. He works two part-time jobs while trying to make his dream film a reality.

Hopefully, Durham completes his goal and we discover a pure heart behind his heartfelt story.

50th anniversary of Gibsonton Elementary

Principal Donna Marra, a self-avowed history buff, beams about the two PowerPoint presentations laced with historic photos, the letters students wrote for a time capsule and the fun and games surrounding the open house from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

"We're going to put in some other toys and things," Marra said of the time capsule. "We've received a lot of suggestions, but no one wants to put their iPod in."

Do you think someone who actually attended the school back in 1959 will show up?

Chamber holds happy hour at funeral home

The Greater Brandon Chamber of Commerce held an after-hours event at the Southern Funeral Care & Cremation Services earlier this week. It might strike some as odd, but the chamber staged other after-hour events at member groups that happen to be funeral homes.

I wonder if they play Oingo-Boingo's Deadman's Party.

Dog waste removal

Another sign I spotted during my news search: Yard Guards On Doody Pet Waste Removal. Yeah, it said, "doody." Heh-heh. And the number is 1-800-Dog-Poop. Poop! Heh-heh. Heh-heh.

Yes, despite the appearance of maturity, this 45-year-old columnist is capable of occasionally reverting back to a juvenile Beavis and Butt-head phase. Sorry.

That's all I'm saying.

Up next:CRIME REPORT

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