Monday, May 29, 2006

Seen on a T-Shirt

Upon the frame of a lovely young woman in a North Louisiana parking lot, a t-shirt with this on the front:

"I know I'm not perfect, but many parts of me are excellent."

If you could seen the total package, you would have agreed.

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Friday, May 26, 2006

Southern Accents and Homonym Hell

There's a southern thing that I've never really liked. It's a bit of a tradition for showing respect in a casual way. People often put a title in front of a first name. For instance, my daughter's friends call me "Mister Darrell." That's always bugged me. I used to say, "Please call me Darrell or Mr. Rebouche. 'Mister Darrell' sounds like a hairdresser or something." It's not unusual around the hospital to hear a nurse refer to a familiar physician as "Doctor Bob." I still don't like it, but I've stopped fighting it. So, Mr. Darrell has a story.
In a nearby building on this campus, there are two people who work in the same office named Evonne and Hugh. I happened to be in the facility this week, and I saw a man wandering the halls. I asked if I could help him, and he said he was looking for Missy Vaughn. Well, I don't know Missy Vaughn, but I was determined to help him. So, I talked to several people in the office and asked if they knew Missy. No one did. The man was certain that Missy Vaughn worked there. Finally, he said, "She's not at her desk." I told him we could go to her desk and leave a message for her. He led me to a desk, Evonne's desk.
He wasn't looking for Missy Vaughn. He was looking for Miss Evonne.
Just yesterday, I walked down that hallway again. Hugh and Evonne were standing side-by-side at Missy Vaughn's desk. I said, "Hi, Evonne. Hi, Hugh." (Do yourself a favor and say that part aloud).
Evonne said, "Hi, Darrell. I'm Fine. How are you?" At that point, Mr. Darrell officially surrendered.

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Thursday, May 25, 2006

Hitting For the Cycle

The coast-to-coast clamor for new information regarding potential parenthood at our house now can come to a quiet resolution. For the first time in approximately three months, there is “activity down below” which clearly indicates the absence of gestation.
In other words: no more freaking out. We’re not pregnant. As we assumed, my blushing bride’s cycle is slowing down. No harm, no foul.
She steadfastly refused to test herself, saying that any acquisition of a home pregnancy test would be a waste of money. As usual, she was right. It’s safe to say she knows her own body. Certainly, she knows how it feels to be “in a family way.” The long-anticipated arrival of Aunt Flow is something of a relief, and a little bit of a disappointment. There are a thousand reasons not to have a baby in your mid-forties, a few of them medical, many of them operational; certainly a significant number are financial. Still, there was the potential for excitement and drama if the unlikely had become reality.
Our 19th wedding anniversary will roll around Tuesday, and we already have plans for a quiet acknowledgement of the milestone. Nineteen is an odd number no matter how you look at it. Now, with the question of new paternity settled once and for all, it becomes somewhat mundane.
My daughter may be the one enjoying the most emotional relief. She didn’t want to be saddled with baby-sitting and diaper changing duty. I know her turn will come soon enough, and she probably does, too. She’s busy making the transition to high school, and no circumstance should dare to become an obstacle to her crusade to be the center of attention. There are parties to attend and boys to attract and vital phone calls to make.
My son hardly acknowledged the possibility. It’s hard to crack that 16-year-old skull sometimes. I know somebody’s home in there. Most of the time, he refuses to answer the door.
Now, it’s time to concentrate once again on fighting off the possibility of being a grandparent too soon. I’d like a twenty year spread, at the absolute minimum, between offspring of either generation.
As for more practical matters, there is the issue of survival. My son and I can run and hide from two cycles in sync, which they had been until recently. However, the specter of living alongside a teenage girl and her menopausal mother for an indeterminate interval is frightening. I’ve said for a long time that every morning I have to do a roll call in my head to make sure everybody’s in there. My wife has always been the steady, even-tempered partner. Everyone should be truly afraid if the household has to count on me to be the voice of reason.

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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Hanging With the Big Fish

The quality of conversations I’m privileged to hear and sometimes participate in amazes me sometimes. I often find myself in meetings or pseudo-social professional gatherings with physicians, attorneys and the like. The tone, scope and depth of these interchanges continually impress me.
Just this week, I was along for the ride while two physicians and a physicist interviewed a job candidate. They were talking vectors, intensity modulation and image guidance among other topics which would make an average person’s brain frost over. In these contexts, I’m the “community” guy. In other words, if a job candidate has questions about the city or the region, I’m the guy to answer them or show him around.
I offer that simply as an example. The level of commitment many of these people have with respect to making the world a better place also is noteworthy. This week, I was having lunch with a senior member of management and a cardiologist. To get the conversation down to my level, we started talking about sports and the weather. I said that it seemed to be getting hot early this year. The doctor said “I’ll never complain about the heat again since my last mission trip.” He went on to talk about spending several weeks in central Mexico in mid summer. He was bivouacked on the second floor of a structure with no air conditioning and only a rickety fan to force air to circulate. He regaled us with tales of dealing with such discomfort. Then, our companion asked this question: “So, did you catch many fish?”
We stared at him for a moment. Then, the doctor got a look on his face not unlike the one a dog gets when it hears a distant sound it can’t identify. Then, the doctor said, “I’m sorry. I don’t get it.” I thought about it for a second, and then it hit me. I looked at the guy who had asked the question and said, “It was a MISSION trip, not a fishin’ trip.”
That’s when I realized I might be able to hang with these guys, after all.

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Sunday, May 21, 2006

Walking in Memphis (Really)

(Memphis, TN) May 20, 2006 - I hear Memphis is a great place to visit, particularly in May. The city features a month-long series of events and festivals called, creatively, Memphis in May. It’s May, and I’ve spent two days in Memphis. I should have had a good time.
I visited Beale Street and took a trolley ride around downtown on a Saturday afternoon. My timing was perfect: perfectly wrong. I knew something was amiss when I saw people with hand-scrawled signs all over downtown demanding up to $25.00 to allow people to park their cars. At this moment, I was blissfully unaware of the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest going on along the Mississippi River. I am told that this is, in fact, a world championship event and quite a spectacle. That is, except when I was there. I paid a man twenty bucks so he would allow me to leave my car in the parking lot of a closed bank branch and walked toward the WCBCC. I was greeted by an assault on the senses in the form of man with a megaphone standing in the middle of a city street squawking about how Jesus saves and how some prominent Memphis families are the devil incarnate. Just to his right were several booths offering to sell a ticket to me for seven dollars which would grant access to the Big Barbecue Thing. I paid and I went in.
I had what I thought was a reasonable expectation of
imminent consumption of world-class barbecue. Not so. I walked the length and breadth of the festival site for almost an hour. There were hundreds of groups preparing what might have been some of the best barbecue I’ve ever tasted, except I never tasted any. It turns out I showed up during the judging phase of the festival. The only people who were eating were the certified judges. Meantime, the people staffing the booths were quite serious about this. I made the mistake of stopping to ask a couple of people why I couldn’t buy barbecue at a barbecue festival, and I was told basically to keep moving, that they were making presentations to the judges. Finally, one proud group of locals took pity upon me and offered a light beer before sending me on my way. I took it. By my calculations, that’s a twenty-seven dollar brew.
Others in my traveling party went to the festival at night and said it was a real blast, with live music, plenty to eat & drink and tens of thousands of people. Me? I was already out twenty-seven bucks and half a day of my life, so I moved on.
As for Beale Street: again, I was there during the day. It looked like Bourbon Street to me, only smaller and cleaner. I stopped into BB King’s place hoping to have lunch, but after fifteen minutes I left because no server came to my table. I walked across Beale to the Blues City CafĂ© for a half-rack of mediocre ribs and a small portion of top-notch barbecue beans.
The highlight of the trip for me was a sighting of an honest-to-goodness Elvis impersonator. So, I feel like I’ve been to Memphis, at least. I thought briefly about visiting Graceland, going so far as to find the exit for it on Interstate 55. We have an Elvis Presley Avenue at home, so I figured I was covered and let that idea pass.
I attended an Arena Football game. The team I was following lost to the guys from Memphis. A lot of people love this place. It has a lot going on: Blues, basketball, and the Mighty Mississippi among them. I’ve visited this legendary Mid-South city twice now and have left disappointed both times. I’m not sure if my expectations are out of whack or if I’ve just had bad luck. I’ll come back with an open mind. Maybe next time I’ll eat before I come.

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Thursday, May 18, 2006

Artie & Cromartie Won't Be Tardy

I received an e-mail, the context of which is not important. I'll just say that some people with whom I am associated have been guilty of not performing an important and required task in a timely fasion. So, this e-mail was a warning about the importance of punctuality and accountability. Just to let us know that the powers that be are serious, we were warned that future indiscretions will be dealt with thusly:

"...a $100 fine will be distributed to the tardy party."

I know this is serious and legitimate. I'm happy to say that, as far as I know, I have not been in violation.
I just can't help myself. My favorite part of this warning letter is the reference to the "tardy party."
Maybe the violaters are inclined to "party hearty," which leads to being a "tardy party," who knows?
Maybe somewhere former major leaguer Warren Cromartie is in charge of this project, so that he can be Warren Cromartie who's a tardy party because of his tendency to party hearty.
Maybe he's a hardy soul, so he can be Warren Cromartie, who's hardy, which is why he can party hearty, which leads to being a tardy party.
On the Sopranos, Artie will never be tardy for Tony's party because his appetite is so hearty.
When I got the warning letter, I responded with an e-mail similar in tone to this. I guess the guy who warned us thinks I'm some kind of smarty, but really I'm left brained and have a tendency to be arty.
If we're ever on Broadway, we can celebrate with a party thrown by Mr. Sardi.
Unless, of course, we don't make it on time for our reservation. Then, we really would be a tardy party in an area that's really arty poulated by people who laugh loud and hardy.

In response to the comment posted here, I have to say that I am sick, SICK that I did not think of that myself.
It's all right now. I've learned my lesson well. You can't please everyone, but you've got to please yourself.

Also, for the record, I heard back from the person who threatened the fine. He wrote:

Yeah, I was proud of that little wordplay I used. Glad somebody commented about it. You really went above and beyond with that addition though - very smarty.

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I Still Don't Miss It

It’s been nine months since I walked out of the newsroom with no plan or expectation to return. I’m still asked if I miss it. In fact, I was literally stopped on the street yesterday and quizzed by a viewer. Where have you been? What are you doing? Then, the kind lie: “we miss you.” And, of course, the inevitable question followed, “Do you miss it?” My standard answer has become “not yet.”
I think that answer honors those who are asking the question, because I don’t want to devalue or diminish their supposition that I’m yearning to return to the not-so comfy confines of local TV news. It’s flattering that they ask and reminds me that I might have had a positive impact on someone out there.
I’m still deep in the throes of decompression. Last night, there was something of a big local news event in town. Two local police officers engaged in a gun battle with a man who was trying to shoot his girlfriend. The girl was shot. It’s not clear whether the police hit her or if the boyfriend wounded her. Since he was wielding a sawed-off shotgun and the police were firing service revolvers, I’m assuming the girl was caught in the crossfire. The guy is in critical condition. The girl has a gunshot wound in her hip, but she’ll be okay. No police officer was hurt.
This was an all-night news event. I certainly can imagine what was involved in the local news rooms. Crews were called in, live trucks were dispatched and there was enormous pressure to get the facts together for the morning shows. Did I miss it? Did I long to be out there or back at the assignments desk coordinating all this? I can answer honestly and emphatically, “no.” I was interested, to be sure. My overwhelming response, though, was relief. I heard about the shooting, rolled over and went to sleep. I woke up fresh and saw the reports on the morning news. I know how hard everyone worked all night long. I celebrate that and congratulate them. I’m just glad it was them and not me.
I can’t predict how I will feel three months or a year from now. Maybe I will want to mix it up again. Like I said, I’m still decompressing. Twenty-seven years of deadline pressure will extract some of your sanity if you allow it, and I did.
There are opportunities to express myself. Periodically, I guest-host a local radio talk show in afternoon drive, and I’m doing Arena Football games on the radio on the weekends. So, I’m getting to experience the fun part of what I did for a living for so long.
Over the weekend, I received another affirmation that I’m in the right place. My wife is kind of executive producing a video for an end of school year event. I watched the first cut, and it was awful. She knew it, too. I was asked to help and I happily dove into the project. I transcribed interviews and on-camera presentations and made suggestions about edits. However, I was becoming increasingly frustrated by things I could not control, such as the quality of the video and the framing of many of the shots. I got that old familiar feeling of futility. This could be so good, but there are so many limitations! That’s how I lived my professional life for twenty years. I actually got mad at the guy who shot the video because it just isn’t good enough to suit me. That’s when I realized I was sick. It’s an eighth-grade end-of-year video. They’ll watch it once and stick it in a drawer.
I will say this: after we tackled the project and insisted on revisions, it IS much better. Those who ask if I miss it might say that I have something to offer and can make a positive impact. Maybe so, but I fear it would be significantly underappreciated. My ears started popping as I was watching the first version of that video.
It’s much easier to breathe these days. I have the all-nighters off my chest. My office is quiet. The people around me are highly intelligent and well motivated. I’ve made tangible, positive contributions to health care in my community. Only people within the organization would know it, and that’s a good thing. It doesn’t matter who gets the credit as long as the work is done. That’s quite the opposite way of thinking from that of my previous profession.
No, I don’t miss it. Not yet.

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Monday, May 15, 2006

I'm Having the Cake

I’ve come to the sobering realization that death is a part of middle age. People with whom I have shared laughter and meals and intimate experiences are dying or have already passed away. On Mothers’ Day, I saw a teenage boy walking down the aisle at church, his mother’s arm draped lovingly around his shoulders. From a distance, it appeared to be a sweet, yet ordinary Mother’s Day moment. That is, unless you realize that the boy’s father had died less than two weeks ago. He was in his forties and was a heavy smoker, which inevitably led to lung cancer. He was a good man who taught High School Christian Education with us on Sundays. One might say he paid the ultimate price for his addiction. Seeing his young son for the first time since the funeral, I realized it is his family who faces an ongoing toll.
A friend just said good-bye to his wife after she endured a ten-year battle with breast cancer. A decade ago, they thought they had less than a year to spend together and they took an extended vacation, something they had long dreamed about. Medicine, therapy, prayer and courage kept her around until her youngest child reached 14. He will remember his mother, but his perception of her is tainted by her devastating illness. His older brother and sisters have the advantage of recalling their mother as a person with physical beauty, emotional vitality and remarkable athleticism. Collectively, they perceive her as a warrior who valiantly endured relentless suffering. In the days after her death, her husband’s face was etched with grief, but his eyes shone with relief. His wife’s arduous, exhausting battle had finally drawn to a close.
A man I knew well died three weeks ago. We worked in the same room for fifteen years. Two years ago, at age 44, he was discovered to be suffering from some form of dementia. His ability to speak slowly eroded. The last time I saw him, he could muster just one syllable at a time. All who spent time with him believed that he was fully aware of his surroundings, but he simply unable to speak or put thoughts into words in any form. Ultimately, he communicated only with his eyes. He was completely ambulatory, but his disease began to take its toll on him physically. Pneumonia set in, and he was placed into a long-term acute care facility. Less than twelve hours after he arrived, he died. Those closest to him believe he simply resigned from life. His disease created an emotional vacuum for him. There simply was no joy left for him.
Now, a physician my wife and I have come to know well over the course of our marriage has been diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. He will die soon. When your doctor is facing death, particularly if he is in roughly your age range, it can be alarming. Since we know him and like him, and since we have trusted him for two decades with our family’s health, the news is profoundly sad.
I’ve been to more funerals than your average middle-aged man, a dubious distinction to be sure. This has colored my outlook on things. I’m an advocate of living life for the little things when I can.
A couple of years ago, I was having lunch with an acquaintance. She was in her late thirties, beautiful, outgoing and ambitious. She had two young children and came from a family which enjoyed a certain financial security. Things were going her way. I had a piece of German Chocolate cake, and she said that it looked delicious. I assured her that it was, indeed, enjoyable and urged her to get some for herself. She said she would love to, but she was trying to watch her weight.
The following weekend, her husband went insane and shot her to death, then turned the gun on himself. Just like that, two lives were ended and two young children were orphaned. I remember thinking, “she should have had the cake.”
I may be a few pounds overweight, but I’m living for today. There’s too much uncertainty in life. I’m planning to have the cake.

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Thursday, May 11, 2006

Wildlife Lies on the Internet

The power of the internet amazes me. For instance, I can sit at my computer and write general thoughts about my wife’s menstrual cycle and hear from people all over the country about it. For the record, there’s still no firm answer to what’s happening there. She’s so confident that she’s not expecting that she won’t consider testing herself, at least for a while. Maybe it’s just unthinkable, who knows? But, I digress.
The amount of bad information that is passed around the world in the blink of an eye is mind-boggling. A lot of it is harmless, I suppose. Take this amazing photo of a python trying to escape from a game preserve after ingesting an antelope. It can’t pass through or under this fence. It’s not important why the snake can’t get out, although some might think it’s important that it can’t escape. There are several internet explanations of these photos. The one I got involved an Australian rancher mysteriously losing sheep until he put up an electric fence.
It’s amazing that someone just made up a story to go along with the photos, and now millions of people accept it as fact.
Locally, some goofballs found photos on the internet of an alligator swimming with a deer in its mouth. They sent it around to some people who were planning summer fun at a nearby lake and said that’s where the pictures were taken. The photos were shared so many times in Shreveport that it created quite a stir. So much was made of these, in fact, that one local television station did a story about the photos. So, a practical joke becomes news. That’s the internet world, I guess.
The lesson to learn here is: never believe what people send to you on your e-mail. Have fun with it, but before you send it around and create a panic, at least make a stab at making sure it’s true.

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Honoring Cuban Freedom

I love Mark Cuban. I've never met him, but I want to hang out with him. It's not because he made a bajillion dollars by sitting around the house in front of a computer. It's because he has so much money that he has complete freedom of speech. Cuban owns the Dallas Mavericks of the NBA, and consistently, he gets in trouble with the league for things he says or writes. He has just been fined $200,000 in part because of comments he made about NBA playoff referees on his blog. He doesn't care. He says or writes what he believes and stands behind it. It's easy to do something like that when 200 grand is chump change.
I've never really figured out why referees, umpires, or other game officials aren't accountable to the public like the players and coaches are. Are they not part of the game? Shouldn't they be available for post-game questions, just like everybody else? All Cuban wants is consistent officiating, just like he wants consistent play and consistent coaching.
The NBA powers that be would be loathe to admit it, but Cuban makes their league more compelling. He is one of the most visible and vocal owners in all professional sports, right up there with George Steinbrenner and Jerry Jones. Fittingly, he's a bit of a maverick in an association that is somewhat disingenuous with its button-down attitude. The thought police who don't want him to criticize refs won't say a damn thing about the "gangsta" image many of its players seem so proud to perpetrate.
When it comes right down to it, Cuban seems to be intent on improving his product along with that of those who are most critical of his comments. He understands, as do his ardent detractors, that this is the time of year most crucial to the NBA's success. People who have no interest in the regular season will begin casually to pay attention during the playoffs. As they progress, presumably the quality and intensity of play will be on an upswing until they peak with the crowning of a champion. The games determine, in a fair and deliberate process, the best team in the NBA. The best teams deserve the best officials, and that's all Cuban is asserting.
Of course, the specific issue takes a back seat to the larger philosophy: that a man who has amassed a fortune and has chosen to invest a large chunk of it into a particular enterprise which is inherently dependent on public support should be able to speak his mind publicly. Of course, he is allowed legally to do so. He just has to face the consequences as determined by his peers. If those consequences are financial, he has the wherewithal to deal with them deftly.
I hope Cuban keeps talking and blogging. He is making the NBA better and remarkably more interesting. He's certainly not setting an example for decorum, but in the context of a gangsta league, his perceived indiscretions are mild and frankly, refreshing.

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Friday, May 05, 2006

Oh, Boy. Life's About to Change

My wife is late.
I’m not saying she’s running behind. She’s not tardy. She’s late. As in, "if I were a teenager saying this about my girlfriend I’d be freaking out about right now" late.
We’re not teenagers. Our kids are. We don’t need any offspring any younger. I’m not that concerned about it, to be honest with you. What will be will be. It seems unlikely that we’re expecting, given the hot flashes.
I’m not sure which prospect is more terrifying, that of being a father of an infant again or living through menopause. I’ve survived “the change of life” once, with my mother. It was not a pleasant experience. She could be perfectly normal one moment, then certifiably insane the next. It was as if someone flipped a switch and turned daylight into darkness without warning. I’ve told my wife for years that, if she goes through menopause, I’ve moving out until it’s over.
The signs started last year. She would get so hot at night that she would kick off the covers and still sweat. In a moment of sheer inspiration, I found myself at Sears. This is not a place I go very often, except to buy refills for my string trimmer. This day, I stood at the top of an escalator and stared longingly, lovingly at window units. Yes, I’m talking air conditioners.
This is not something one with central heat and air would often consider. Desperate times call for desperate measures, however, and measures were implemented. I produced a credit card and bought a Kenmore. I had to make sure it would plug into a standard outlet and that installation was idiot-proof. I did. It did. It was. I popped that puppy into the window on her side of the bed. She has a remote control that allows her to turn it off or on and to change the temperatures and the fan speed. A dozen roses? A cruise? Diamond earrings? Are you kidding me? This is the best present I ever bought her. She controls her own comfort, and I get some sleep. So, I really think this delay in her cycle isn’t a pregnancy.
Oh, but what if it is? It means I will be 64 when the kid goes to college. It’s likely the kid will be closer in age to any nieces and nephews that its brother and sister. Talk about losing sleep. Man, I was counting on the next infant in my life being a grandkid. We’d have to add a bedroom onto our house. We’d have to hire help. When my existing kids were little, I worked nights, so we never had to use a daycare. The very notion is a little bit exciting but altogether more frightening. It would be even more so if I thought the notion to be anything more than remotely possible.
So, I’ve answered my own question. I’m much more concerned about a “change of life baby” than I am holding my partner’s hand through the change of life itself. Maybe I won’t move out after all. I’ll just make sure she has fresh batteries in that Kenmore remote.

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Thursday, May 04, 2006

A Saints Conspiracy Theory

There’s a lot of excitement surrounding the New Orleans Saints these days. The owner, Tom Benson, hired a new coach from the staff of the Dallas Cowboys. They signed a hot free agent quarterback, Drew Brees. Then, they drafted Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush out of Southern California. The phones at the ticket office have been busier than they’ve been in years. The coach, Sean Payton, has met two guys named Bush: Reggie and George. Both Bushes have pledged to help New Orleans recover from the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina, which still plague the city.
Benson appears to be attempting to rehabilitate his image in Louisiana. His team will even play a preseason Monday Night Football game in Shreveport against the Cowboys!
When Benson was flirting with the Vultures in San Antonio, who were trying to steal the team away from Louisiana less than a year ago, he was reviled by many. Are these bold moves by the organization an overture of reconciliation? I’m not convinced.
Is it a coincidence that Brees came from San Diego and Bush came from Los Angeles? Have you noticed that, this week California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said he would like two National Football League teams in the city of Los Angeles? Let’s face the uncomfortable facts. New Orleans, which already was one of the smallest markets with an NFL team, is even smaller now. At least half the city’s population has yet to return following last summer’s hurricane. It could take decades for the city to recover fully, if it ever does. Benson was crying because he wasn’t making enough money. He was demanding a new stadium, or at the very least renovations to the Super Dome. The state cannot afford even to consider that now. There’s a scramble to get the dome ready for this fall’s regular season. A major renovation is unthinkable.
Benson moved the team back to New Orleans in large measure because of relentless pressure from NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue. The potential stigma attached to the league abandoning the city in the wake of one of the US’s worst natural disasters was too much for the commissioner to contemplate. Tagliabue has announced his intention to retire. Once he’s gone, the pressure is off Benson. There will be a new energy and plenty of raw emotion when the Saints go marchin’ into the dome this year. The place which in the days following Katrina became a symbol for ineptitude, hopelessness and despair will enjoy a rebirth. So, for a few games, will the Saints organization.
Some things have not changed. These are still the Saints. Talk about ineptitude. For whatever reason, this is arguably the least successful team in NFL history. Despite the presence of Brees, Bush and Payton it’s likely they will struggle to win more games than they lose. In October or November, when the fickle fanbase is no longer flush with new hope, there will be empty seats in the dome. It won’t be worth it to people to drive into the city and try to find acceptable accommodations just to see the Saints play.
Benson will get frustrated again. He’ll say something in the presence of a camera and-or a microphone that will anger people in Louisiana. Governor Kathleen Blanco won’t give him what he wants. She can’t. Suddenly Sacramento’s area code is easy to find. Schwarzenegger will take a phone call. Talks will begin. A stadium, state of the art and magnificent, will be built inside the Los Angeles Coliseum or out in Anaheim.
Anaheim? It’s A suburb of Los Angeles with a Major League Baseball team named the Angels. It seems almost perfect. The Saints won’t even have to change their name to fit right in. Reggie Bush can go home again. I’m not saying I know anything. I’m just making this stuff up, but doesn’t it sound plausible?
This is, after all, Tom Benson we’re dealing with here. He’s a businessman before he’s anything else. There’s still gold in California. There may be more as soon as 2007. This time it will be trimmed in black and festooned with a fleur-de-lis. You just wait and see.

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Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Jon Alston Takes The Next Step

Jon Alston, who wants to be President of the United States one day, continues to achieve his life’s goals. Alston is among the most impressive high school athletes I’ve ever met. He has the distinction of being the only high school athlete ever to spend an entire hour with me as an in-studio guest on my radio show.
He’s that impressive, and there was that much to talk about with him. The former Loyola College Prep (Shreveport) star has finished his college football career at Stanford, and was drafted by the NFL’s St. Louis Rams.
Alston was chosen with the 77th overall pick.
``It really didn't matter when or where I went,'' Alston said. ``All I ever wanted to do was do well enough in college so I could get the opportunity to play at the next level. I'm very excited.''
Daddy D’s Story Time was openly rooting for Alston as he went through the NFL scouting combine. Many media accounts paint him as impressive in those workouts.
``Jon caught our eye in our meeting,'' at the combine, first-year Rams coach Scott Linehan told the San Jose Mercury News. ``He's a very, very bright, very intelligent player. Obviously coming from Stanford, that's part of the deal.
``Jon was just too valuable, he could help us too many ways right away, to pass him up.''
Alston played linebacker in college, but may see time at strong safety in the Rams’ defensive scheme. As a rookie, he likely will be expected to play a lot of special teams.
``He's a guy that gives us a lot of versatility,'' Linehan told the newspaper. ``Where I see him is someday being a superstar on special teams. I think he will be one of those guys that makes a bigger impact initially in that area and then works his way on the field on special downs and third downs.''
Alston has proclaimed himself ready.
``I'm going to do a lot of things for them,'' Alston said. ``I'll do whatever any team asks me to do. Whatever it is, I am a defensive player first, and I play football. You can stick me at cornerback and I will make plays for you.''
When I got to know Alston as a teenager, he really stood out from the pack. He was politically and socially conscious, more so than your average adult. He set out to live an exemplary life. He had his eye on politics. I don’t know if he still plans to run for President some day. If he does, he might win. He’s achieved so many things he’s hoped and planned for already.
He promised me he’d let me visit the White House. I’ll accept the invitation. For now, I’ll settle for some Rams’ tickets.

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A Day With the Daughter

I had a nice outing with my daughter over the weekend. Typically, she’s consumed with her friends as any 14-year-old would be. Somehow she carved out a day for Dear Ol’ Dad. We achieved an elegant compromise on our activities, and we only had to endure a half-dozen or so calls to her cell phone from friends atwitter with some adolescent emergency.
Any car ride with her, regardless of its duration, is an adventure for the senses. Of course, more often than not Dad does not approve of her choice of clothes. The shirts are too tight and the skirts are too short. Bless her, she’s built like her mother and is physiologically precocious. With the right hair and make-up, she could pass for eighteen with barely a glance. She’s fourteen all the way, though. That’s important to remember.
I call her a “radio terrorist,” because we can’t seem to listen to any one song all the way through. There are too many music options in my car: the vast array offered by XM, on top of the usual FM stations, plus a six CD changer and some contraption that allows one to play an I-Pod over the speakers. So, here we go from the moment we sit in the car: changing sources, changing stations, shuffling songs. Now playing: Attention Span Theater. Heaven forbid I should ask to catch a two-minute SportsCenter at :20 or :40 past the hour on ESPN Radio. Listen to an inning of an Astros’ game? As she might say, “Are you high?”
Since it was Sunday morning, our first destination was church. We were feeling rebellious, because we slept in and did not attend the church where we are members. Instead, we drove to a nearby place of worship with a Sunday service which closely approximates our own. To her dismay, I forced her to listen to our church’s activities on the radio (AM, to boot). They don’t play any Black Eyed Peas or Five for Fighting during that service. We made it through, actually finding amusement as someone made the unfortunate decision to turn on one of our priests’ microphones during a hymn. We suffered through an ear-splitting unintentional solo instead of hearing a magnificent choir.
We didn’t agree on a lunch destination. She wanted Chili’s. A kid will always default to the familiar. I suppose one must develop a sense of adventure when it comes to dining out. I had a $25 coupon for a barbecue/ steak place east of town. Of course, that appealed to me. Certainly, it did not appeal to her. So, we compromised on a new restaurant we had heard good things about. It was expensive, but the food was good and she was happy. Plus, she had an experience the rest of her family had not, and she had a chance to talk about it.
I also had free admission to the local community college’s production of “Grease,” which had received a reasonable review in the local paper. She had performed in a production of “Grease,” and I thought she would enjoy seeing it again. Plus, it was free. Of course, that didn’t appeal to her. “Dad, I’ve been in ‘Grease’ and I’ve seen it about seven times.” She wanted to go see the Robin Williams movie, “RV.” You can guess what we did.
The movie was nice. The teenager in the film thinks her dad is some kind of massive loser, only to discover he’s actually okay. So, it was a good father-daughter experience. The movie is over-the-top stupid with scatological humor and preposterous plotlines, but I laughed out loud seven or eight times. She liked hearing me laugh, since the movie was her idea.
I got caught up on all the middle school romantic drama that seems to dominate her thinking. I am privy to vital romantic secrets, such as who is planning to break up with whom and who’s afraid to make the first move. If knowledge is power, then consider me a benevolent dictator lording over the sensibilities of middle school heartbreak.
We did the kind of things that are important to young girls, like shop for make-up and purses. Over and over again, I was asked if I needed help. I would simply point to her and say, “I’m just the driver.” That is, of course, until I became the Provider of the Credit Card.
It was, over all, an exceedingly pleasant day. She’s a well-spoken, obviously exceptionally bright kid. Her grandparents are often dumbstruck at the sight of her, because they assert that she looks exactly like her mother did at fourteen. Day after day, she is told how she looks almost eerily identical to her mother. Naturally, I think she’s beautiful.
When the adventure was finished, she had had enough of me. We got home and she went directly to her room, where she permanently affixed a telephone to her ear. That was enough of Dad. She had to know who had broken up with whom in the last four hours.

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Monday, May 01, 2006

No Tiara for This TV Garbage

I turned on the television Saturday, and my TiVo was capturing a “TiVo Suggestion.” It was tuned to MTV, something that doesn’t happen very often in my part of the house. The show being recorded was set somewhere in Louisiana, which was unfortunate for the entire state. This humiliation in the form of cable programming was called “Tiara Girls.”
I hope for your sake that you have never seen this show. This particular episode embarrassed me for my home state and for the families involved. This is a reality show which features some weekly pseudo-documentary chronicling of young women involved in beauty pageants.
I know some beauty pageant people. In my younger days, I knew some of them rather well. The good ones are great. They’re smart, beautiful and successful. The bad ones are just pathetic.
The Louisiana girls featured in this particular episode appear to be lovely young women. I fear the people who produced and edited this show did so in such a way that they (and we) come across like a bunch of bumpkins. I felt so strongly about this that I actually spent some time researching the topic and I found an episode synopsis on-line:

Nancy describes herself as obsessed with pageants and calls the stage her red carpet. With four crowns under her belt already, she is ready to win more--starting with the Louisiana Hope Pageant. There's just one problem: her biggest competition in the pageant will be her best friend Justine. To improve her chances, Nancy hires pageant coach Brandy, Miss LSUA 2005. Nancy and Justine decide to go to the gym for the first time in preparation for the big event. When Justine outdoes her in every exercise Nancy gets discourage, saying that Justine's naturally dark, tall and thin looks make her "genetically more beautiful." With 38 days left before showtime, the girls go out to purchase dresses. Nancy finds the perfect blue dress, but tensions arise when Justine tries on the same dress and says that's her favorite dress too. Justine storms out of the store and threatens to drop out of the competition because everyone seems to be supporting Nancy. On the day of the competition Nancy admits to telling the judges a little lie. She explains that she doesn't know why it happened but it just came out. In the end, Nancy is awarded 2nd Alternate, and her sad expression says it all. Off stage she cries to her father, saying she feels bad for letting him down. He reassures her that he is still proud of her. When everything is said and done with the girls make up, telling each other that having good friends is more important than winning the crown. Besides, there are plenty more pageants to come.

The pageant was held, interestingly, in my father’s hometown of Marksville, Louisiana. There’s a large casino complex there, which provided a nice setting for this new competition, which is set up to benefit the American Cancer Society. The motives of the organizers obviously are pure: benefit a great organization, give the young women something to build confidence, and no doubt make a little cash. Watching the show, though, made my skin crawl.
The girls came across as self-aggrandizing, empty-headed and mean-spirited. The parents didn’t fare much better, although certainly I sympathize with their drive to support their daughters’ activities.
I know it was TV, and the producers want to emphasize the prurient and the low-brow allure of such seemingly superficial pursuits. I’m guessing Nancy’s family regrets allowing MTV’s cameras to follow them around. The Louisiana Queen of Hope Pageant can’t be happy with the way it came across. There’s more bad news. As the show synopsis points out, there are plenty more pageants to come.

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