Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Team America!

This was my weekend. I woke up Friday morning around 10 and sat on the couch until 2 when I had to go to work. Saturday morning I woke up at 11 sat on the couch until 7:30. Sunday it was from noon until 6. I was feeding on a steady diet of Ryder Cup Golf. Other than Panthers football and Mad Men, I've never watched something so intently. I cussed the Sony Bravia at every missed putt the Americans threw at the cup. I've always loved America and I've always loved golf, but for some reason this year was different for me. When the days matches were over, it's all I thought about. When the Panthers were playing Sunday afternoon and Jennifer and I were watching, I was thinking about the Ryder Cup and whipping Europe's ass. Jennifer spent Saturday cleaning house, doing chores and running errands. I continued to sit on the couch. I got up to pee, eat and occasionally let Carmen in our out the back door six feet away from my sofa position.
I did sneak out of the house Saturday night to play with the Loose Lugnuts. I played a handful of gigs with Brian and Mark's band a few years ago. They were missing some members Saturday night so I filled in on rhythm guitar and Campbell filled in on bass. After touring with a hard rock band in the 80's for several years, I think it was the first time Campbell ever played classic country music and he whipped ass. It was probably the second time I picked up a guitar in six months and I had the finger pain to prove it Sunday morning. I'm out of guitar shape. Good thing Brian and Mark were in shape and carried the load. The Lugnuts continued to not suck despite the shortcomings of their substitutes. We played at a White Trash Prom party which featured a pig pickin', Boone's farm, spam and Mad Dog Prom Punch. Oh, and at least one drag queen which was great when the cops showed up after neighbor complaints. Have you ever seen a drag queen tell a police officer they'll keep the noise down? I have and the memory will never get old.Back to the couch I went Sunday afternoon when the singles matches begain with the Americans ahead by two points. We got off to a good start and wrapped up the victory around 5:30. It was exciting. Europe whipped our ass for the last two cups. I mean, they really whipped our ass. We were underdogs this year and destroyed them. I yelled really loudly and I'm pretty sure the neighbors out in their yard heard the yell. I didn't care. Once the handshakes began and the champagne sprayed, we had the cup again and I was ready to celebrate!
And what better way is there to celebrate an American victory than a meal at a Mexican restaurant? I was excited so Jennifer and I headed to Azteca where we lucked out. It was mariachi night! The band made it's way from table to table and asked for a request when they got to ours. I asked if they knew any Johnny Rodriguez. They didn't seem to understand but played Johnny Cash instead. They whipped ass and so did this weekend.

Monday, September 22, 2008


I think it was in 2000. Pal and then co-worker Brian Wilson made me roll to the Double Door for a rock show one Tuesday night. Ironically Travers and Mark Campbell were there, too. Brian told me two great bands were playing so I figured I should probably go. Slobberbone and the Drive-By Truckers were co-headlining their tour that summer. Slobberbone got up on the small stage and whipped everyone's ass. Unfortunately they broke up a few years later, but still remain one of my favorite bands. After Slobberbone got done, the Drive-By Truckers got up and blew the roof off the Double Door. It was so effing awesome. I was 20 years old and thanks to some great friends I was finally understanding why everyone loved live music so much. I loved it. The lead singer crooned lyrics I understood and could relate to. Songs about growing up in the South and how most outside the South assumed we were all rednecks who hated Yankees and black people. Most importantly, they had three guitars turned up to eleven and were LOUD! For the first time in my life, a band's music spoke to me. From then on, I claimed the Drive-By Truckers my favorite band.
I've seen DBT at venues in Charlotte, Winston Salem, Raleigh, Asheville, Chapel Hill, Atlanta Richmond and even Baltimore. I loved every song. I knew every word to every song, even the songs I thought were just ok. I made most of those trips with Brian, Mark, pal Sherrie and sometimes a few others. All of them were great trips with wonderful memories. Well, except the Atlanta trip. That's a whole other blog post. There may have been 75 people at the Double Door that night enjoying the rock show and $1 Natural ice cans. When they visited Amos' Thursday night, there were more than 1,000. The Truckers have gotten bigger every year. More people hear them every day and more people like them. They aren't the same band they were in 2000. They've been through two bass players, three guitarists and added a steel guitar. They don't necessarily suck, I just don't enjoy them like I used to. Maybe it's because there was literally more than 10 times the crowed than there was eight years ago.
Maybe it's because they aren't as good as they used to be. Now they did play five or six songs that really did whip ass including a Van Halen and Neil Young cover and they closed with a song from one of their early albums aptly titled Buttholeville. After a pretty weak first half of the show that had me wondering why I loved the band, they came around with some old stuff.

I considered not going to the show Thursday. It cost 25 freakin dollars and it was a weeknight, but there was a rock show, cold beer, good friends and I didn't wear my Dick Trickle t-shirt for nothing. The Drive-By Truckers didn't suck, but it sounded a lot better if I closed my eyes and pretended I was at The Double Door.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


I've been all over the place since I got back from Minnesota. Here are a few random musings.
Above you can see the inside of Live Buggy 3. You can see a camera, microphone, battery and....................uh......................... Where's the tripod? How can a professional news photographer like myself expect to shoot steady video without the assistance of his Cartoni? I was headed to a bank robbery so I couldn't use a hotel table. Dammit!! I had to rely on the rock some people know as my right shoulder. It rests four inches lower than my left and makes my chiropractor cringe every time he looks at it. Unfortunately when zoomed in from a hundred yards away my shoulder doesn't really resemble a rock. It's more like a pile of mud. The Banco de Gente didn't look much like a bank. It looked more like a sign in an earthquake. I made sure I had sticks the next day.
It's football season! Before focusing their sights on Merrill Lynch, Bank of America torched the cap of the corporate headquarters in Panther blue. Some seasons they keep it blue for a while. It's a nice change for uptown Charlotte, USA. It also gives me something to think about that doesn't suck before entering the government center for a city council meeting.
Speaking of football season, the Panthers had their home opener Sunday against the Bears. Jennifer was in Wilmington for her bachelorette party so that left me with a wide open Sunday morning to do nothing but tailgate. I awoke at 7:45 and had the truck parked by 9:10. I was joined by the usual suspects and new for 2008, Jennifer's folks and their pals joined us, too. Their tailgating spot is now condos. We had a good time, especially after we whipped the Bears' asses.
The walk down the ramp from the upper level is always better after a win. Hell, even Larry McReynolds was whooping it up. Instead of watching Robby Gordon rip up Loudon, Dale's former crew chief was taking in some NFL action in one of the luxury suites. Actually, I don't know that he was in a suite, but he was dressed in all black and it was damned hot in the bowl Sunday afternoon. Larry's a good dude and didn't mind stopping for a picture.
I haven't covered much state politics this election season but I did cover Lt. Gov. Bev Perdue earlier this week. She was in town visiting a business that received a grant she said she created. This wasn't a campaign stop, though. Nope, this was definitely not a campaign stop. In fact, it wasn't a campaign stop at all. After taking a jet from Raleigh(evidently three hours chauffeured by a State Trooper is too far a ride for Mrs. Perdue,) she arrived, listened to a presentation, asked the employees questions and took a tour of the facility with a scribbler, radio reporter and two television cameras in tow. In case we and the Lt. Gov. couldn't handle this ourselves, one of her employees(well, a state employed assistant to Mrs. Perdue,) drove from Raleigh to help all four members of the media that flocked to the event. This wasn't a campaign stop, though. Just official Lt. Gov. business. Once again, it was not a campaign stop and her flying to Charlotte for this event had nothing to do with her current run at the Governor's mansion. God Bless America!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Final Day

As promised, I did take a trip to the arena to see John McCain's speech with my own eyes for about ten seconds, just so I can tell our children I saw him give the speech. The final day of the convention was pretty anti climactic after the Sarah Palin Festival the day before. Either way, the Republicans seemed to enjoy it.
I didn't know it actually existed, but what male television news professional hasn't joked about how awesome it would be to work at a Channel 69? Turns out, there really is one! WFMZ in Allentown, PA was covering the convention. I never got the balls to ask if I could take a picture with one of the photographers who had enormous 69 logos on their cameras, but I did sneak this shot of one of their cpu's during McCain's speech. Who knew we should all strive to work in Allentown?
After it was all over we made our final walk from the convention center to the parking ramp. Parking ramp is Minnesotan for a parking deck or parking garage. MSNBC had their outdoor set on this little plaza in downtown Saint Paul. It looked like Christmas every night the way they had it all lighted. It felt like Christmas, too thanks to the cool temperatures. Saint Paul's a beautiful place.
Not everyone has heard of Herb Brooks, but if you're from Minnesota, he's one of your favorite native sons. He and Bob Dylan. Herb Brooks was the coach of the USA hockey team when we whipped Russia's ass en route to the gold medal at the 1980 Olympic Games in Lake Placid. Herb engineered the miracle with awful plaid suits that seemed to give us good luck throughout the games. Brooks coached several colleges, a couple of NHL teams and even gave the USA team one more go in 2002. He unfortunately died in a car accident a few years ago but his statue is pretty sweet. Charles Schultz is also from Saint Paul. In fact, every Snoopy character is somewhere downtown in the form of these big assed brass characters. I tried to get Shawn to pose with Linus who sits on a bench nearby, but he sprinted to Charlie Brown with Snoopy on his lap and I couldn't pull him away.
We predictably ended our night back at Bullwinkle's for five dollar pitchers of Grain Belt's Premium Light. It was a pretty big crowd for a Thursday but our new friends behind the bar found us a place to sit and pitchers to pour beer into.
Every time I visit the Midwest, I meet people who are welcoming, hospitable and genuinely nice. Sure, we have the famous Southern Hospitality here at home, but I think it may be hyped too much, and maybe even overrated. Folks like Tom and Jenny poured us pitchers and treated us like regulars. The hotel staff was accommodating with whatever we needed. Every server in every restaurant was polite and proud of their home. Minneapolis and Saint Paul are beautiful places with good people. My kinda towns.

Cleaning Out the Cell Phone RNC Edition

We flew into Charlotte, USA Friday afternoon. I took a nap, shot football and promptly took the weekend off. Well, except for painting, yard work and Panthers football. Now that I'm back at work I've got time for my final two RNC posts. It's weird covering a press conference with two hundred people in a room, all of whom are credentialed media. It's really weird when you're covering that press conference in a room in a city you've never been to. A city you landed in four hours earlier. A room that has enough riser space for 20 cameras when there's 65 in the room(I counted.) Shawn and I got to our workspace, got the Streambox running, shot a standup and got word there was a press conference upstairs in ten minutes regarding the Republicans changing their entire convention schedule courtesy of Hurricane Gustav. I hurried up there, found a spot on the floor where only three or four scribblers were blocking my shot, plugged in my XLR cable, walked back to my camera and was about four feet short. After a call to Shawn, he brought another cable in and we got all of the press conference except for the first three minutes. It even looked pretty good, too. Those kinds of things are a great rush, but I'm glad I'm not covering national politics where those things happen every day.
Lynn Swann was there. That's really awesome if you're a Steelers fan. It's just another football player if you're not a Steelers fan even though he is a first ballot hall of famer. He was everywhere last week. I suppose he's a Republican. I didn't ask him.

Everywhere you turn at one of these conventions, there's a face you recognize. It may be a network news anchor you've been watching your entire life. It may be someone you worked with seven years ago. It may be the Washington Post scribbler you've seen on Meet the Press every other Sunday for the last five years. It may even be Jon Voight! Coach Kilmer was working the XCel Engergy Center all week talking to damn near anyone who'd talk to him. He also had three or four syringes filled with cortizone on his person at all times. I'm not sure why, but he seemed to have a lock on the limping Lynn Swann's whereabouts. Weird.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Minnesota Daze

Check it out! It's Bob Freakin' Van Tieghem! Bob used to pilot news partner WCNC's sat buggy all over the south. Turns out he was so damned good at it the folks at the Peacock hired him to run their truck out of Chicago. That's a hell of a gig, especially if you like uplinking six different paths at the same time. I know, ladies. That's right, six paths at the same time. No small man I know can do that. That's why Bob says he's put on a few since he started sitting in the big chair full time. I didn't notice, he looked as sexy as he ever did. It was good to see Snowboy and his driver Wednesday morning.
After Palin mania, we headed west from St. Paul and ended up back at Bullwinkle's. I always have ideas of trying several different places when I visit a new town, but as soon as I find a place I love, I just go back there. Shawn and I didn't throw any more dollars at the ceiling, but they did have five dollar pitchers and free popcorn.
Covering the convention is weird. You have to carry a ton of gear, but you can't use all of that gear everywhere, so you end up leaving stuff at the convention every night. Most photographers would use a tripod, but when you don't have a tripod or lights, you have to improvise. Luckily the Holiday Inn has a good supply of tables and chairs that work great for a seven minute sit down interview. I was pretty worried about it but it ended up looking pretty good. I used my big assed wallet as a steady bag and diffused the toplight by pointing it over top of the lady's head. Not having a tripod is no excuse for shaky video.
Well, unless you're on the convention floor where tripods are strictly forbidden. Shawn and I got floor passes for 19 minutes Thursday night. We had to shoot a package and two standups. Unfortunately we got down there as the convention was convening which means everyone stands quietly for ten minutes while the colors are presented, the pledge of allegiance spoken and the national anthem sung. When you only have 19 minutes, that's a real pisser.

You can't do interviews during the invocation, but you can sneak off a still or two. We got the package done using a few interviews from Wednesday and the package wasn't bad, either. Now it's time to break down the equipment while McCain speaks. I could go watch his speech from the floor with Shawn, but I'm not terribly excited about it. I'll go take a peek so I can say I saw him give his speech, but I've seen him before and I've seen the keynote speech of a convention before. Plus, he isn't as easy to watch as Sarah Palin.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Elephant Tuesday

Meet George. George is an engineer for Fox News. He also is their representative to the Convention Communication Committee. That means while walking around the convention doing his daily Fox duties, he's also looking for people like me who may be using wireless microphones. Most television stations around the world use wireless microphones instead of a cable. It's easier, sounds good and you don't have to mess around with the cable. At these conventions with thousands of cameras and frequencies all over the place, you're not allowed to use them unless you're pre-approved by George and his committee. I knew about the rule so Flynn and I have been carrying the trusty green cable around with us all week. In fact, I left the transmitter in the trunk of the rental Mercury since we can't use it.
Shawn and I were about to tape a standup on the convention floor when George came up and introduced himself and his frequency detector. Once he saw the trusty green cable, he was pleased we were following the rules. He showed me the list of offenders. It included locals, video bloggers, and some international offenders. George said the Russians have by far been the worst and don't take kindly to frequency enforcement. If you're out and about and see George, quickly hide your transmitter and produce an XLR cable. You'll thank me later.
Our hotel is in the Seven Corners neighborhood of Minneapolis near the University of Minnesota. There's a bar on every one of those seven corners and we've visited a few post convention. Our new favorite is Bullwinkle's. It looks a bit shady from the outside and looks like a whip ass bar inside. We walked in, I saw the old, wooden bar, a popcorn machine and felt right at home. We drank the local light lager for two bucks a cup and talked about the midwest with the bartender who wanted to know more about the south. After a while Shawn looked up and noticed some weird things on the ceiling.
It's a Bullwinkle's tradition to take a dollar bill, put a thumb tack in the middle, use two quarters to weigh it down a fold it up. Then you use all your strength to hurl the dollar bill hard enough towards the ceiling it sticks there. Flynn nailed it on his second attempt and added another dollar fifty to the ceiling. We don't really get why they do it. It's a ceiling with probably five hundred dollars on it. I like it, though. Weird ceiling and cold beer.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Tale of Two Cities

Hitting the road has its pros and cons. This trip's pros are I won't have to shoot any city council meetings, I'll get to cover an historic event, I'll eat on an expense account and I'll get to meet new people in a place I've never visited. This trip's cons are I have to leave home for a week meaning I'll leave Jennifer and Carmen home alone, covering a rather boring convention and leaving Jennifer for a week.Flynn and I arrived in Minneapolis late Sunday morning, went straight to the convention center to pick up our credentials for the Republican National Convention. This isn't my first, I covered the 2004 convention in New York, but I was mainly driving a satellite truck around Manhattan and uplinking for a week. This time we're turning stories about the North Carolina delegation. Above is our workspace our friends as sister station NY1 have provided at St. Paul's XCel Energy Center. It's a bit tight but there's always snacks, beverages, a fast internet connection and coffee.
We have this little corner to ourselves. Well, ourselves and about eight other people. We aren't doing any live shots this convention, but we're feeding back a shit ton of content via that laptop I'm using. It's called a Streambox and it's badass. I load stories into this computer, upload it to a server in Raleigh, press a button and Whamo! It's ready for air across the state. It's also 14 tons lighter than your average satellite truck. After getting our credentials we hurried to the convention, and barely made a press conference announcing big changes for the convention due to Hurricane Gustav. We turned a story or three and finally made our way to our hotel.
Here's the view from our hotel room. We're pretty sure it's the bridge on I-35 that collapsed a little more than a year ago. The interstate is still closed and they are still working on it. It appears to be an enormous project.
After we checked in to the hotel we hopped into a cab and headed to uptown Minneapolis to meet 25 of our colleagues from the other Time Warner News Channels. We ate dinner at a spectacular restaurant called Chino Latino. I'm not sure how to describe it, but we started with cold beer. Then waiters started bringing plates of food about every four minutes. It began with some fancy fried shrimp, then moved on to lettuce wraps, scallops, wings, ribs, kabobs, sushi and...........
Sake Bombs! Have you ever had one? It's a cup of beer with a shot of sake in it. It tastes a lot like beer. At this place they make you wear a Daniel Son headband before you count to three, slap the table and drink quickly. Shawn beat me, but only because he's Irish and beer got in my left eye when I slapped the table to drop the shot into the beer. Well, that and because I can't drink very fast. Either way, it was a long day that ended with a sensational dinner. Tuesday wasn't as long and Wednesday shouldn't be either. Stay tuned for more from the RNC.