Saturday, June 27, 2009

Bummed with the Sanfords

I try to stay away from the popular stories. I find if media if providing way too much coverage, there isn't a chance anyone would want my opinion about it. Lucky for all of you, I'm not a Michael Jackson Fan. I have been fascinated by the Mark Sanford deal, though. I love this dudes fiscal policies. Anyone who pisses off Republicans by refusing to accept federal money is my kind of politician. As the governor of the lesser Carolina(yep, I said it,) he hasn't given a horse's ass what anyone thinks about what he does. As governor, he's always seemed to do the right thing. Democrats hate him and alleged 'fiscal conservative' Republicans hated him, too when he brought pigs to the state house. It almost made me want to move to South Carolina. That's a big almost.

I was fortunate to cover the Republican National Convention last year and we got to do a ton of cool stories as part of my last big assignment in news. Hurricane Gustav was about to Katrina the Gulf Coast again and they were talking of halting the convention to focus on the would be victims of Gustav. The Republicans mobilized a bunch of their politicians, their wives and delegates to get ready for Hurricane Relief. Reporter Shawn Flynn and myself scoured St. Paul, MN looking for people doing hurricane stuff and one of the Republican PR folks set us up with Governor Sanford's wife.

I knew nothing about Mrs. Sanford. I knew I liked almost everything I'd heard about her husband but I'd had no reason to hear anything about her. We met up with her in a random section of the XCel Energy Center and when you set up for an interview, there is typically some awkward small talk while we photographers get set up and typically the reporter takes care of that small talk. Mrs. Sanford was different. She immediately told us to call her Jenny and asked us where we were from. This was way better than small talk. Jenny was cool. Way cool. She told us she was from Illinois and loved everything about The South. She even mentioned she enjoyed shopping at Wal-Mart. Weird, yet pretty badass considering three weeks before we talked her husband was mentioned as a serious contender for John McCain's vice presidential nominee. We did the interview and more talk continued between the three of us while I got some cutaways. A few minutes later, she issued Shawn and I a very sincere invite to the South Carolina delegates party later that night. Unfortunately, we already had a ton of free beer lined up for the evening at a different party, but she was serious about having us over. Once I got done with the cutaways, she shook hour hands and took off. What a cool first lady. It wasn't until this week I learned she went to Georgetown and was a Vice President for a banking firm on Wall Street. After she was gone, Shawn and I both had your typical dude reaction, "She's kinda hot, especially for a first lady." Anyway, she made an impression.

Thus, I was bummed for a couple of reasons. I was hoping Sanford would keep pissing off Republicans enough they and the rest of America would eventually figure out a more Libertarian fiscal policy was the cool policy. I'm also bummed because Jenny is a cool lady. She should run for congress or something.

I could go on about the whole deal but none of us really know anything. I'm sure the governor has his reasons and they may or may not be legit, but the whole situation is one big assed bummer. I hope the Republicans find someone else to carry their fiscal torch who feels the same way Sanford does. More importantly, I hope Jenny is doing alright.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Los Angeles

While a kid in elementary and junior high school, I'd often tune into The Late Show with David Letterman because his sarcasm made me chuckle even at such a young age. I would often look at the bump shots of New York City and want to go there so badly. I didn't know anything about it but it looked cool on television. I knew I would love it once I got there and sure enough, in 2000 I finally made it there and it indeed whipped ass. I loved it. Back in 2004, I was in the city working for ten days and I was ready to get the eff out of there. Up until that point, I had always thought I could live in New York, but that rid me of that desire(though I still flirt with the possibility.)

Enter Los Angeles, another place I'd always wanted to visit. All I knew of it was sun, celebrities, Compton, traffic, beautiful weather and of course, good friends Debora and Polo. Deb had always told me I'd like California because it's pretty laid back, much like myself. That was another draw for me and yet another reason to visit. Of course, I'd read a ton of stuff about daily life in greater Los Angeles courtesy of BeFrank. His tales don't often take place in rosy neighborhoods and I still was pretty sure I'd love LA.

Thankfully my red hot smokin' wife agreed a spring jaunt west to Los Angeles would be the right thing to do in April and so we did. Touchdown! Jennifer and I arrived around lunchtime that Sunday, rented a thugged out Dodge Magnum and drove about five minutes to the Ornelas-Wong household high atop a bluff in West Los Angeles. We walked inside, hugged the hosts and took a tour of the house. Shortly after that, Debi and Polo headed to a birthday party and we headed to Manhattan Beach. For those of you that don't know Debi, she is one of the best people I know. Real, polite, a wonderful person in every way whom I've had the pleasure of knowing for more than seven years. Of course, she had prepared us a beach bag full of goodies like towels, water, Trader Joe's snacks, sunscreen and even a volleyball. What a freakin' hostess!

Manhattan Beach is about as good as beach life gets. You cruise south past a couple of beaches and enter a cool town that is everything a beach town should be. Cool restaurants and bars, awesome houses, a spacious and beautiful beach and a big assed pier! People were nice and jetlagged Jennifer and I were able to catch a quick nap. Once some kids playing nearby woke us up we walked to a restaurant and had a wonderful meal outdoors. After about ten minutes, we decided we could absolutely move to California. More on that later.

Day two brought forth an amazing breakfast from Debi who all of the sudden is the Asian Martha Stewart. Strada, grapes and a salad got the day started off great. That worked out well since the time change had us waking up at 7 AM which never happens for us on the East Coast. We hopped in the Magnum, got on the 405 and headed east on Santa Monica Blvd to Beverly Hills where we parked and did a TON of walking. As soon as we got on Rodeo Drive we spotted our first celebrity. I know you were hoping for Brad Pitt or Megan Fox, but it was even better. It was character actor Michael Nouri! I know, I was excited to see Dr. Roberts, too. We walked through some shops and checked out the Wilshire, typical Beverly Hills stuff. It was pretty neat. Did I mention it was literally 95 degrees? Sure, it's a dry heat but it was quite warm.

That didn't keep us from enjoying cupcakes from Crumbs. I can't help myself anytime I walk past a Crumbs Bake Shop. I always get the Artie Lange. It didn't suck but I must say an enormous, sweet cup cake on a 95 degree day wasn't the greatest call. Jennifer didn't seem to mind it, though. We left Rodeo Drive and instead of paying money to be a bad tourist on a Star Tour of celebrity homes, we hopped in the Magnum and drove around neighborhoods where celebrities probably live. Big assed houses and beautiful scenery once you got up into the hills. After the drive, we headed to Culver City where Polo hooked us up with a sweet tour of Sony Pictures and we sat in on a pilot taping for a CBS sitcom. It was mildly funny and only twice did I emit a fake guffaw. We followed up the taping with dinner at Akasha where we sat about ten feet away from Adrian Grenier. I'm pretty sure Jennifer peed her pants, but I was more excited about seeing Dennis Dugan at the studio than sitting near Adrian Grenier. Maybe it's because I'm a dude. Regardless, it was a great way to end a wonderful day. The food whipped ass, too.

Day three we got back on Santa Monica Blvd. for lunch in Beverly Hills at The Ivy(which is pretty amazing considering yet another super Deb breakfast. This one included a Mango smoothie.) Though ridiculously expensive, The Ivy was quite good. After lunch we got back to The Magnum and Jennifer noticed the paparazzi was shooting someone inside a store on Robertson Blvd. Who could it be? Somebody yelled it was Britney Spears so Jennifer got pretty excited. You wouldn't believe the fuss. People were stopping their cars in the middle of the Blvd. to see who it was. I assumed LA residents wouldn't go nuts for celebs but I was wrong. After all of the fuss it turned out to be Samaire Armstrong. Michal Nouri still takes the cake for biggest celeb thus far(at least in my opinion,) and that includes Jose Canseco who was on our flight.

After lunch we continued east to Hollywood where we did the Hollywood tourist thing. We only took three or four star pictures. I went with Marty Robbins and George Takei(Hey Now!) Jennifer went with Betty White. A solid threesome! After a long walk down both directions of Hollywood Blvd. we realized that Hollywood is just okay. In fact, with all of the souvenir shops it's not unlike Myrtle Beach.

After a change of clothes we parked the Magnum on La Cienega for some pre-sushi beverages. The Belmont was the first place since it was near the car. It seemed like a friendly neighborhood joint with lots of locals. Of course Jennifer and I are beautiful and classy so we fit right in. After one pint there we walked next door to a place called STK for another beverage. It seemed pretty fancy and I may or may not have been a bit underdressed in flip-flops. We paid three times more for the same beverages there but despite giving them our debit card and signing a receipt, they never charged us. Thanks for the beer and martini, STK! Finally we crossed the street to Koi for dinner. Sushi is a new love affair for me. I'd never tried it until I met Jennifer but it's quickly risen to top 3 status on my list of foods that whip ass. Koi was amazing. I tried a dish that marries raw tuna with sushi rice and fried onions. My gracious what a meal! Jennifer ate a crab concoction that didn't suck either. David Spade dined a few feet away from us and somehow never managed to hit on Jennifer. That was kinda disappointing but didn't ruin a fabulous meal.

Our final day we went to Venice Beach, rented bikes, rode to Santa Monica and walked on the pier. We then walked around with the crazy people at Venice Beach. That was neat. I like crazy, weird people. We called it a day early and headed back to the house to get ready for dinner with Deb, Polo and Matteo. They took us to a whip ass tapas bar called Primitivo in Venice. I tried Ox Tail for the first time and we all enjoyed some tuna tartar on potato chips. Matteo enjoyed his first glass of wine at the ripe age of eight months. We followed up dinner with a walk down to Pinkberry for some amazing ice cream or whatever the hell it is. It was a great evening and a wonderful way to wrap up a great week.

This is a group of days I'll look fondly upon for quite a while. It was the first time since our honeymoon Jennifer and I have had several days together without work being involved. We were able to spend time with three of my favorite people in the world. Debora is the best. I could write three separate blog posts on how much ass she whips. Polo was slammed at work all week and still went way, way out of his way to hook us up with cool stuff. I know all babies are cute, but Matteo is the cutest damned kid in the country. Seriously. Plus he bites everything. It's hilarious.

Los Angeles agrees with us. I've known a few people who have been to LA who didn't care for it. Sister Anna spent last summer there and really enjoyed it. Jennifer and I, we felt eerily at home driving around. I am 100 percent sure we could move there tomorrow with no regrets and be happy. All we need is jobs and a place to live. Sure, our entire families are here in Charlotte but I've never moved away from here. We love it here. Our lives are here, our families are here, the Panthers are here, The Gin Mill and The Thirsty Beaver are here and I've always pictured us raising our family here with our families around the corner. Moving that far away would certainly put a big assed damper on all of that stuff.

No reason we couldn't move out there for a year or five, right? I'm off to do a serious/pretend job search. Seriously. Kinda.

Monday, June 01, 2009


Becky Hill died Sunday evening. She was a friend to our family for more than 30 years. I hate this is the only picture I have of Becky, but I think it actually fits her pretty well. Becky probably weighed damn near 400 pounds and as far as anyone could tell, she was ok with it. Here she is watching Jennifer walk down the aisle probably whispering to herself, "boy she sure is a skinny little thing." Becky was like that in a joking manner. She whipped ass.

Most of ya'll know Mom was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis a little more than ten years ago. At first, there were some dicey weeks where Mom wasn't doing well at all. Becky cooked dinner every Tuesday or Wednesday for a couple of years. After mom was better, she kept cooking dinner for them every week even though everyone was healthy. Her husband Ralph always delivered the meals. After he died, Dad would go by Becky's to pick them up every week. She was the greatest cook, so good she submitted more than 75 recipes for her latest church cookbook. She used eight different names for her recipes so she could remain "discreet." She whipped ass.

After Ralph died in 2004, Becky was certainly sad. She'd never kill herself or anything, but she always made it known she'd be ok if she died sooner than later. Mom used to get upset with Becky for saying that but Becky never lied about anything. She was a nurse for thirty years and was pretty sure Ralph died because a nurse gave him a blood transfusion of the wrong blood type. When questioned about why she never said anything to doctors or hospital administrators, she smiled and told everyone that Ralph would still be dead if she went through all that. She missed him dearly. She whipped ass.

Becky had severe type 1 diabetes and was on insulin, but that never stopped her from sugar. She took her coffee with sugar and would eat dessert anytime she wanted. She'd just take an extra insulin shot beforehand to offset the effects on her body. She whipped ass.

I honestly can't remember the last time I saw Becky. It may have been four or five months ago when Jennifer and I picked up something from her house. It may have been our wedding day. I'm not sure. That kind of sucks. She gave us a wonderful wedding gift, that cookbook and an heirloom Chrismas tree that will remain in our home for the rest of our lives. Becky was sarcastic, kind and self-aware. Brutally self aware. My kind of girl. She whipped ass.

Becky has been in and out of the hospital several times in the last few years for heart issues. Three weeks ago she was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given nine months to live. She went into the hospital last week with unrelated issues and Saturday developed congestive heart and kidney failure. Becky had been wrestling with whether to fight the cancer or let it run it's course. I'm glad she didn't have to decide. Ralph is, too.