Monday, September 18, 2006

Billy's Inquisition

1: Do you like the look and the contents of your blog?

I like the overall look but am jonesing for a WordPress makeover - one that would allow for more categorization and a sleeker look. As for the content, I'm torn. Some days I'm quite proud of what I've written. Other days, re-readng it makes me throw up in my mouth a little. Don't ask about today...

2: Does your family know about your blog?

They do and it affects what I put on it. Not to get too greasy, but there are some adolescent anecdotes that are darn hard to share when you know your Mom reads your blog.

3: Can you tell your friends about your blog? Do you consider it a private thing?

I don't tell them so much as I act disinterested whenever they bring it up. That way I maintain that cooler-than-thou blogger exterior when deep down inside I'm wetting myself at the thought of eyeballs on my stuff. That didn't come out right.

4: Do you just read the blogs of those who comment on your blog? or you try to discover new blogs?

I scan a few dozen different blogs on a sometimes hourly basis. I'm also a non-paying member of the Greensboro 101 community and rely on that portal for my immediate world view. Beats watching cable news.

5: Did your blog positively affect your mind? Give an example.

Most definitely. Being able to pour out my thoughts and receive instant feedback is a luxury wannabe writers of earlier generations never had. Thus, I count myself lucky. Being that I write primarily about my work, it is a healthier outlet than whining on the job. I do that too, however.

6: What does the number of visitors to your blog mean? Do you use a traffic counter?

I do use a traffic counter and occasionally obsess over it. In the past year or so I've weaned myself from reading too much into it. Instead I dwell on the knowledge that a slow trickle of willing readers are perusing the ooze that comes out of my head. Try not to get any on ya!

7: Did you imagine how other bloggers look like?

Eh - not so much. I'm more interested in what someone has to say than what hairstyle they prefer. Then again, I'm in broadcasting so I'm quite familair with deceptions, facades and window dressings. That said, I found Fecund Stench to be far hunkier than earlier imagined.

8: Do you think blogging has any real benefit?

Not sure about the reader, but it has greatly helped my state of mind both as a creative release and a confidence building writing regiment. Everyone who thinks they have something to say should give it a whirl. Except that Billy fellow. He should quit immediately and take up Sudoku.

9: Do you think that the Blogsphere is a stand alone community separated from the real world?

Only in some bloggers' minds. In reality it is a healthy addition to the global discourse. Those of us who think our blogs are great works of art really should get outside more.

10: Do some political blogs scare you? Do you avoid them?

As a career journalist, I'm conditioned to stay neutral. That ain't hard as I generally abhor politics. However I do read lots of local blogs, many of which are shrill indictments of the other party's failures. Y-A-W-N. It's a shame some of our most talented communicators are hindered by their extremist ideology - left or right.

11: Do you think that criticizing your blog is useful?

Sure. If I wanted constant assurance that everything I pen is brilliant, I'd join one of those smarmy writers' groups. Ick!

12: Have you ever thought about what happen to your blog in case you died?

I'm pretty sure I'd stop posting so regularly.

13: Which blogger had the greatest impression on you?

I dig all you local cats, but beFrank and Little Lost Robot were my early inspirations. Frank is wry and thoughtful. Robot makes liquid shoot out my nose. I aim somewhere in the middle.

14: Which blogger you think is the most similar to you?

I'd be araid to name any one individual but many of the Photogs Who Blog seem to be following a few of my cues - a move that will certainly leave them as spent and disillusioned as I. Sorry fellas!

15: Name a song you want to listen to.

Texas Flood by Stevie Ray. To me that song is Scripture.

16: Ask five bloggers to answer these question on their blogs.

I couldn't possibly.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

This Ain't Baseball (part 1)

“Tell that one about the drunk, G. Lee.” Oz said.

Garrett leaned on the back his car and eyed the pretty new reporter from Channel 3. Her bright aqua outfit had taken on a strangely metallic hue in the fading sun, the swirling blue lights from the nearby cop cars glistening off its every dry-cleaned crease. Mostly she ignored him but he knew she was listening as she stared at her empty note-pad. He didn’t want to tell that story in front of her especially, but the cops in the distance weren’t in any hurry. Besides, Oz had thrown down the gauntlet and as usual Garrett couldn’t resist.

“All-right,” he said as he shifted his weight from one bad knee to the other. “About ten years ago, me and Jani Avery were ridin’ with this state trooper looking’ for drunk drivers.”

“Jani Avery from ’XLB’?” asked the pretty new reporter.

“Yeah - she’s their main anchor now, but she used to do noon and weekends for us…”

Back then, Jani was deep into her reign as the region’s TV sweetheart. With her dark eyes, blinding smile and intense delivery, she’d quickly ascended to the news-set throne, upending one badly-aging news queen in the process. But viewers were already forgetting the older woman’s name as ladies in housecoats admired her wardrobe and the men in their lives quietly watched the new news bunny’s mouth move. As for Garrett, he’d barely gotten to know her after their awkward inaugural assignment. She’d been warm to him throughout her rapid rise to the station‘s top, but as her face began popping up on billboards through out the tri-cities, she’d grown a bit distant. When she came to him for help with her DUI sweeps piece, ole ‘G. Lee’ was more than happy to share some air. He’d even sprayed on a bit of cologne the night they were scheduled to ride with the trooper - just in case they got jostled around there in the backseat…

Three hours into their ride, his cologne had faded, along with his interest in the story or the evening. Beside him, Jani stared out the opposite window, made small talk with the trooper and answered her new cell phone, which seemed to ring every four and half minutes. She’d barely said a word to Garrett all night, and while he was used to that, he’d been hoping for just a few minutes of her undivided attention. No such luck, though - and their driver wasn’t helping. Squat, taught and jug-eared, the State Trooper seemed to make up for his lack of height by being an unbearable hard-ass. He’d even insisted on running Garrett’s license before he’d let him ride along. He smiled weakly as he handed over the wallet-warped card, his mind racing over the details of the dozen or so well-earned speeding tickets. When the dashboard camera didn’t erupt into sirens, Office Hard-Ass allowed him to squeeze himself and his camera into the backseat. From there, the diminutive trooper promptly ignored him as he stole his own glances at Jani through his regulation-sized rearview mirror.

“So where you from, Miss Avery?”

It had gone on like that for hours, the trooper chatting up the news anchor while the cameraman squirmed. Between his curious inquisition of his most radiant ride-along, the trooper pulled over car after car, issuing pink slips and lectures to annoyed motorists over even minor infractions. Despite their chauffeur’s unmitigated zeal however, they were coming up empty. The suits back at the shop were drooling over the idea of drunk drivers acting a fool on tape and grandmothers driving left of center just weren’t cutting the mustard. Garrett and Jani had all but given up when just after midnight, a dusty Buick roared past..

“He’s definitely 10-55..” the gravely voice declared from the front seat.

“Really?” Garrett said, exchanging the night’s first glance with Jani. “How can you tell?”

“I been doing this a long time…” The trooper’s voice trailed off as he fell in behind the beat-up Riviera and flipped on his roof lights. Up ahead the driver’s silhouette didn’t flinch as the blue strobes bathed his hulking shoulders in unnatural light. Instead he flipped his right turn signal and wheeled his rumbling sedan into a dusty trailer park.

The trooper said nothing more as he followed the car up a gravel driveway. When the driver put his car in park, the trooper did the same, calmly wedging his Smokey-Bear hat over his buzz-cut before leaving Garrett and Jani in the backseat. Flipping a switch on his camera, Garret opened his door and stepped out, steadying his shot on the squad car’s roof. Through his custom earpiece, Garrett could hear the trooper’s voice through the wireless microphone attached to his state-issued clip-on tie.

“Sir, how much we have to drink tonight?”, the trooper’s voice crackled in Danny’s ear.

“Yeah, I had a few drinks,” came the slurred reply, “ but I’m home, dude, I’m s-s-safe.”

Danny heard the trooper chuckle for the first time all night. “Sir, this ain’t baseball, and you ain’t safe. I’m gonna need you to step out of the car.”

As the man unfolded himself from the driver’s seat, Garret inched forward and craned his neck and lens upward to keep him in frame. With his faded work jeans, dirty black t-shirt and greasy mullet fully extended, the driver towered over the cop and the cameraman. When he saw G. Lee and his unblinking lens, he cocked his shoulders back and swelled up his chest.

“Who you schp’osed to be?” he slurred as he turned toward the camera. Garrett barely had time to zoom out before the man’s chest took up the entire viewfinder. But as soon as it did, the man crumpled with a grunt and a thud to the gravel driveway below. Before Garrett could pull the eyepiece away from his face and see what happened the trooper was on the man that was almost twice his size. With a fluid movement borne of repetition, the trooper pulled the man’s hands behind him and encircled his wrists in handcuffs. The trademark sound of the bracelets clicking home made the viewfinder’s audio needles jump and Garret couldn’t help but smile in the blue glow of the eye cup’s tiny screen. Turning back to the trooper’s car, he saw Jani pounce out and do a little victory dance on the side of the road, one she ended abruptly when the trooper wheeled Mr. Mullet around to face her. When he did, the drunk man’s bloodshot eyes widened at the beautiful young woman with the familiar smile.

“You’re J-Jani Avery.” he spat. “ I watch you on the noon news.”

With that, the man tried to reach out his hand and seemed to realize for the first time he was indeed in cuffs. This sent other thoughts racing though his greasy head apparently, for he then tried to squirm away from the trooper and lunge at Garrett’s ever present lens. Somehow the trooper managed to hold on, and the best the man could do was swing his shoulders in drunken menace and curse like the cross-state trucker he soon proved to be. Deep inside his viewfinder, Garrett back-pedaled and fought t the urge to giggle. It had been a long night, but the redneck in his lens was more than making up for it with roadside show. As the small trooper pushed the man toward his waiting car, Garrett wondered for the first time about seating arrangements, blissfully unaware the evening was about to take a painful turn.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

The Pot Shack

"What was the worst job you ever had?", asked a favorite website message board. I pondered over it, and for once the answer had nothing to do with TV News.It was aboard my first ship during my far from illustrious naval career. Fresh from tech school, I was eager to show my newly-learned radar reading prowess in the cushy confines of Combat Information Center. No such luck. A burly Chief with a bad tattoo soon informed me ALL junior enlisted had to serve three months 'mess crankin' - the U.S. Navy's indentured servant program designed to staff their many kitchens.

It wasn't so bad at first - pushing a mop on the messdecks was something I'd done plenty of in boot camp. Ever the schemer, I soon weaseled my way into a cooking gig in the Chief's Mess. For about a week I had it made - cooking up burgers to order for senior enlisted, and eating every third jumbo shrimp that passed my way. The food was GREAT, a far cry from the dogfood they fed us on the messdecks. Soon I was trying to figure out how to smuggle this top-shelf chow out of the kitchen
to sell belowdecks.

I never got a chance to perfect my plan, though. To make a long story only a little shorter, something I said to a humourless Master chief was misconstrued as a smart aleck remark (I know, I was as shocked as you are). Before I could swipe another jumbo shrimp for the road I was being escorted several decks below to a terrifying place I'd only heard about...

The Pot Shack, a 12 by 12 foot closet with large industrial sinks lining every wall. Just off the junior enlisted mess decks, it was where our fellow slaves brought every dirty pot, pitcher and baking pan used in feeding the troops. But there was no automatic washing machine. No, that was my job.

For two solid months I, along with a guy from Coco Beach, Florida whom everyone called 'Maggot', manned the two, wildly whipping oversized hot water sprayers that hung from the overhead. We'd pull ten hour shifts, scrubbing, spraying and cussing as ceiling-high stacks of food-encrusted cookware backed up outside. With steam rising from the dish-filled sinks, visibility was pretty nil inside the Pot Shack.

Not that there was anything to see. From morning to night, we were soaking wet as we reached into three foot deep sinks of scalding water with two feet of protective gloves (you do the math). No matter how hard we busted those suds, we never, ever, ever got caught up. The two losers who relieved us every evening never failed to bitch about the leftover dirty dishes and they'd always pay us back in return the following mornings.

There was also no love for the Pot Shack Warriors. As our fellow shipmates walked by, they always paused to mock and sneer - laughing at our slumped, soaking wet forms. If it weren't for the battered waterproof cassette player strapped to the bulkhead blaring late eighties metal, I may have lost my mind inside that scalding hot prison.

Instead I hunkered down and did my time, banging my head to Maggot's musical selection while I scraped burnt cheese off of three foot wide baking pans and asking myself why in the heck I'd ever joined the Navy in the first place. However, Maggot was less troubled by our plight, seeming content to scrub the days away. He loved his tunes and played the then new "Appetite For Destruction" cassette about forty times a shift. Every time "Welcome to The Jungle" came to that certain part of the song, when Axl Rose asked, "Do you know where you are?!?...Maggot would lift his head and scream, "YOU'RE IN THE POT SHACK BABEEEE!!!" And then he would bang his head with glee as he scrubbed at a baking pan he's already washed a thousand times.

These days I only think about The Pot Shack whenenever I hear that song, or when some well-groomed reporter, who's never done a minute of hard labor in his life, is complaining about his job.