Sunday, February 03, 2013

Taking it (Big) Easy for the (Big) Game

(New Orleans) - Somehow, I have stumbled my way into the Crescent City where I found giant, lighted Roman numerals floating in the Mississippi River. The Super Bowl has returned to Louisiana, and not a minute too soon.

The last time we all assembled in New Orleans for a Super Bowl, we were still quaking from the September 11th terrorist attacks. At the time, February of 2002, the idea of a follow-up attack was still very real and most of us held our collective breath at the realization that the Super Bowl could be an enticing target for the bad guys. The Superdome was surrounded by barricades, fences and soldiers with machine guns. This year, security is elaborate, but has the appearance of being more subtle. Vehicles are not allowed near the Dome, which made for quite a hike into the stadium.

Experience has taught us to arrive early, so it was a full three hours before kickoff when we found our seats (or should I say perches?).

A lot of people turn a trip to the Super Bowl into a week-long party, and why not? For most, it's a once-in-a-lifetime experience. But, for me, every Super Bowl trip has been a long weekend. It's really is all about the game. New Orleans is New Orleans, and as wonderful as it is to visit; it's always here. So, it's the game itself that sets the trip apart. Undeniably, though, part of the experience is watching thousands of visitors who are in New Orleans for the first time take it all in. This means a trip to the French Quarter to watch people. There are plenty to see.

This trip has had a different tone for me. Instead of staying in the Central Business District, where the action is, we're in The Garden District. The atmosphere is decidedly more laid-back and I've decided I like it. Just a mile or so from the apartment we're borrowing, there's a little art gallery. The proprietor has a familiar name.

Rebecca Rebouche has carved out quite a name for herself as an artist, and we've wanted an original piece from her for some time. Finally, we accomplished something. Check that off the list of things to do.

There are several people I know hanging around, and they are mercilessly making fun of me. This is New Orleans, after all,one of the best places in the world to have an all-night party. But, I've been hopping on the outbound streetcar about 9:30 each night to find my way back to The Garden District for a nice, quiet evening.

They can have all the fun they want, even at my expense. I'm well-rested and ready to enjoy the game. That is, after all, what it's all about.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Communing With Nature (Really?)

It’s not clear how our children developed a love for the outdoors: camping, hiking, camp fires, that kind of thing. My wife and I never took them camping and the last time I remember spending the night in a tent, I was a Boy Scout. So, go figure how our daughter decided to spend her fall break from school on the south rim of the Grand Canyon with a group of friends.

This included a 12-mile hike into the canyon, which was apparently arduous. But they were all smiles after spending several nights in a tent.
This week, her older brother is in Joshua Tree National Park in southeastern California, which seems to involve a lot of cactus and rocks. In the brief communication we have received, we’ve been advised he and his companions are hurting a little from the hikes and climbs.

We’re grateful, because during a long weekend visit with him, he took us on a 7-mile mountain hike that involved a relatively easy uphill stroll.
It was the first time we had seen him in months. He seems to be settling into his California lifestyle quite nicely. Who can blame him? He’s about an hour and a half from Los Angeles, 45 minutes from San Diego, living in a valley where access to minor mountains is mere moments away. And of course, there’s the beach.
Just a few miles in the opposite direction: vineyards. We saw all these things in just two full days.
So, think about it: Within a couple of hours, he can have just about anything he’d want, with terrific weather to boot. Why would he come back to north Louisiana? Family? Sure, we’re here; but we’re good to visit. He has friends where he is and he seems to be making more all the time.
I have to admit, we had a really nice time on our visit. The change of scenery did us some good. It doesn't look like he’s coming back any time soon, so maybe we’ll rack up some frequent flyer miles to go take another hike.

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Sunday, September 16, 2012

Down By the River

Half a continent apart, my son and I both spent a day by the water. For me, it was the Red River, where people were paddling for a purpose at the dragon boat races.

The Dragon Boat Festival is a major event presented to the community by The Rotary Club of Shreveport. As a good Rotarian, I do what I can to participate. And since my abilities are so limited, I volunteer to do something I know how to do: talk. Standing around all day making announcements and calling races...that's pretty easy.

It was a family affair, because my ever-the-good-sport wife worked a shift at the registration tent. It was fun, except when one disgruntled paddler, a loud-mouth with crooked teeth and whole lot of tattoos, angrily confronted me for making what he considered to be a misleading announcement. The trouble was, I hadn't done it. I still don't know what happened or what he thinks he heard, but the encounter was unpleasant. I can make my own mistakes; I certainly don't need anyone accusing me of something I didn't do. It didn't ruin my day, but it put a blemish on things.
I bring this up not to diminish the dragon boat festival (with that lone exception, it really was a fun day), but merely to magnify the contrasting waterside experiences in play here. From the banks of the Red River being yelled at by a roid-raged, orthodontically challenged tat freak to the sandy shores of Southern California, where my son was spotted cavorting with his buddies.
Is there anything more to say? I mean, that photo looks like an ad for clothing store in the mall or something. They appear to be very relaxed. I think he won the day.

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Monday, September 10, 2012

We Have To Get Out More

Maybe there’s an end in sight to the summer malaise that has gripped us for weeks. With the exception of a nice weekend at the lake with old friends in early August, we have basically done nothing. You know your life has become boring when the biggest ongoing event is watching a visiting cat acclimate to the house.

Our son’s little buddy has finally emerged from his old room and is slowly socializing with the family. For a long time, she had to carefully observe things from high above while doing her best gargoyle impersonation.

All the while, her owner is kicking up his heels in southern California. We have seen exactly one photo of him, but he seems happy with friends wearing a funny hat in a diner.

He has already moved once since he relocated to the west coast. We have no real inkling if or when he will return. So, we remain on the brink of becoming the crazy cat people, with three felines hissing and scratching their way around the edges of our lives. The visiting cat had never set foot outside of our son’s apartment before she moved in with us. She finally worked up the courage to step outside. Imagine what it must have been like to be four years old and feel the wind for the first time.

Our daughter continues to be perfectly content with her life in Texas. School and work are dominating her, to be sure. She has actually come home since she got back from Europe. She was in town approximately 18 hours, enough time to string up a hammock in the back yard.

Yep, that about sizes things up. Football season is here, which means extra work for me. I’m doing a Friday night scoreboard show on a local radio station. If you add the ages of my broadcast partners, you still don’t quite hit my number…but they’re good kids and the show is fun.

Especially for my wife, who has known from the beginning that she’s on her own on Friday nights in the fall (Don’t think for one second that I don’t realize she actually likes it). I’m also part of the broadcast crew for a local high school, which means frequent absences on Thursdays and Saturdays. Sometimes, my bride comes with me.

Fall also means recreational football trips, and certainly we’re looking forward to a few of those. Although, I don’t think we’ll make as many as we have in the past. Getting older isn’t easy, and we’ve discovered these days that it takes us longer to recover from those weekend road trips. Plus, we have cats to feed.

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Monday, July 23, 2012

Are You Ready For Some Theology?

I'm still recovering from the longest live broadcast of my media career. I want to say "we hit the air..." but in the 21st century media world, we actually didn't. It was a live webcast, which felt exactly like an over the air broadcast, but it was internet delivered. So, we hit the net at 9:45 a.m. and signed off at 1:17 p.m.

The venue was not a stadium or ballpark, though. It was a cathedral.

The occasion was the consecration of a new bishop for the Episcopal diocese of Western Louisiana. I was asked to host/ narrate as the service went along. And went long. The procession, er, processions...there were three of them...took a full half-hour. Then, there was a full service including an uplifting and entertaining sermon that lasted about twenty minutes, communion for a full cathedral, and the consecration itself.

Dignitaries came in from all over the state and the country. This required the host to carefully prepare. I approached it just like a ball game...doing pre-event interviews, getting to know the players(?), making extensive notes, creating boards, and spreading them out in the broadcast booth.

It was made easier by the fact that I am acquainted with the new bishop and had stories to tell based on conversations with him over the last four years. I have to admit it was fun to do. But, more than that, it was an honor.

Before the webcast, I was extraordinarily nervous. This brought to mind my late father-in-law, who was an Episcopalian priest. I admitted to him one time that I rarely got butterflies before going on live radio or TV, or before speaking to a crowd. I also confessed that it surprised me a little that every time I have something to do at church, I get sweaty palms. He said "that's because you're doing God's work. If you're not nervous, then something's wrong."
Before the consecration, I actually worked up a little sweat.

And I admit to succumbing to emotion a couple of times during especially poignant parts of the service. My job was to describe to viewers what they were seeing, presuming that some of them didn't understand the meaning of many things happening. I tried to explain things as I understood them; but given the fact we were discussing several holy mysteries, I felt inadequate.

It was about the new bishop, though, not about me. One of the things we discussed in advance was the exact moment that I should stop referring to him as the "bishop elect" and start calling him "Bishop." When it came, that was one time I had to work to hold it together. I can only imagine how he felt.


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