Sunday, September 30, 2007

It's All About the Gumbo

(New Orleans)- I had not been in New Orleans since the LSU football team wrapped up a national championship with a Sugar Bowl win over the Oklahoma Sooners. I was still working in television and I co-anchored a series of broadcasts from just outside the Superdome. That was two years before the dome and most of the city became a symbols of despair following Hurricane Katrina.
This trip involved football, too. LSU and Tulane were playing. Much of the money raised has been earmarked for Katrina relief.
A trip to the Crescent City is not complete without sampling some kind of rich food. I was staying at a hotel in the Garden District, so I thought I'd stick around that part of town. There's a new place on St. Charles Avenue open in the building which before the hurricane was home to a Houston's, a chain restaurant. It's called Gulfstream, and I was under dressed for it. There was a jazz ensemble playing, so I went to the bar for a drink and an appetizer. Everything there was first class and I may go back when I've packed some long pants. This was a football trip, though.
I had one night in New Orleans and I had already had a Mexican beer and a Cuban cocktail, so it occurred to me that I had better move into the correct culinary region. Also, it was gettng late and there were some pretty compelling football games on television. So, I went into default mechanism.
Almost all of my New Orleans trips have been sports media related, and there's one spot on St. Charles where north Louisiana media members are known to congregate. This night was no exception. At the St. Charles Tavern it was easy to spot a big bowl of gumbo, a plate of redfish and my old buddy Fletcher, who covered the game for KTBS.
Gang signs notwithstanding, it was a satisfying way to bring an end to a long football Saturday.

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Saturday, September 29, 2007

Normal in New Orleans

(New Orleans)- I am in the Big Easy for the first time since Hurricane Katrina struck, and I wasn't sure what to expect. While I know that many parts of this city remain in ruins, everything I saw today looked remarkably normal. I came to town for a football game, of course. LSU struggled in the first half before defeating Tulane 34-9.
I took advantage of the trip to do something typically touristy: I had breakfast at Cafe Du Monde. I walked from the dome to the French Quarter and back. Everything you would expect to see in New Orleans seemed intact, right down to street musicians and sidewalk artists. There was even the occasional whiff of urine, vomit and horse manure, a part of the Bourbon Street experience.
There are still some unspeakable memories from the Superdome, but there was no hint of them during the game.
I was at a football game. So, of course I had to take the opportunity for the required goofy fan photo with a mascot.

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Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Entertainment Taxi to Big D.

(Dallas) - Another carload of girls made its way to Dallas for a concert, and the parents certainly did not trust them to go on their own. So, guess who drove? There were several parents there, actually. Who knew the Dave Matthews Band was such an attraction? This outing took on a life of its own at my daughter's school. Hundreds of Shreveport high school kids went west for the show. I recongnized several exhausted looking parents hanging around after the show. I spoke to just one who actually attended. She said she enjoyed herself, even though she sat alone.
I dropped my crew off and strapped in for an evening of college football on TV. When I got back to the arena, the concert was in full swing. I waltzed in like I knew what I was doing and nobody bothered me. I grabbed a spot in some empty prime seats and caught about four songs. Then, the people who actually bought the seats showed up and I got kicked out by a lady security guard. I found festival seating and hung around for the encore.
As long as we were in the Big City, we had to take advantage of the shopping opportunities.
On the way home, somewhere in Van Zandt County, we stopped briefly and saw this unfortunate sign. I guess there are plenty of people who find this funny, but I'm thinking they haven't looked up what the word means. Go ahead. I'm not laughing.
I'm worn out. Taking responsibility for other people's daughters is not something that should be accepted lightly, especially when the plans include spending an afternoon in a high-end mall. There weren't many peckerwoods there.

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Today's Little Obsessions

I went to a Subway sandwich shop today. I don't go there a lot, but it seemed like the healthy alternative when eating on the run. Advertising works. Thanks, Jared.
I ordered a little conglomeration called the Italian BMT. Toward the end of the process, a decision needed to be made about some kind of condiment. Not being familiar with the typical BMT ingredients (what does BMT stand for?), I asked the sandwich artist what I thought was a pretty straighforward question: "What do you normally put on it?"
I was expecting "Italian dressing," or "mustard..." something like that. Instead, I got. "I don't eat it." I said, "Okay, but you make it, don't you?" The conversation pretty much came to a halt right there. I went with mayonnaise.
Earlier in the day, I saw a service truck for a highly-regarded local plumbing contractor. It struck me as hysterical that they have emblazoned on the side of the truck "24-hour service. radio dispatched." Radio dispatched? Why does that not inspire confidence for me? I would think they could issue cell phones to the plumbers. But, as you can see in this well-done local commercial starring My Main Man Pat Maxey, the radio dispatch thing apparently works.
And, new obsession: going to football games and having goofy fan photos made with the mascot.
Go Jackets!

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Monday, September 17, 2007

Worlds Collide

Today, I experienced a strange confluence of past and present professions. My employers were kicking around ideas about a TV commerical for a new property we have recently acquired. They wanted an on-camera spokesperson. Someone kind of looked around the room and said, "Well, you know...Darrell's right here." That's the short version of how I wound up in front of a TV camera this morning. It's the first time in more than two years I've done something like this. I was hoping to get out of there without embarrassing myself or the organization. As the coaches like to say, we'll know more after we look at the tape.
It was interesting to see the reaction to some people who have no frame of reference for me as a TV personality. Although I was on-air for more than a quarter century, if you have moved to town in the last 3-4 years, you have no idea. So, there were some furrowed brows and confused faces in the room when my name came up. I just waved and smiled and said I was honored and would do my best.
Since I was dealing with health care professionals and not TV people, I didn't ask for a talent fee. We're trying to save the company a little money; and besides, I was on the clock. There's just one thing I hope I don't hear once the spot is finished: "Well, you get what you pay for."

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Sunday, September 16, 2007

Mike VI Goes Undercover

(Baton Rouge, LA) - LSU has a new live mascot, a tiger formerly named Roscoe who was officially installed as Mike VI this week. Early accounts of Roscoe/Mike's adjustment to his new home on campus have been promising. He is said to be an engaging young bengal not afraid of people. Naturally, the kids love him! Saturday, as tens of thousands of fans descended upon Mike's habitat in the hours before the football team played Middle Tennesssee, the big cat showed his shy side. He hid under a bush and took a nap, which led to people crouching and peering through the foliage on the west side of his enclosure just to catch a glimpse of a paw or a stripe. It was all great fun, and the best anyone could do because Mike VI is not quite ready to be rolled around the stadium in a cage with cheerleaders on top as his predecessors have done. All in due time. A tiger's got to get his roar on.
His human counterparts certainly did, holding the Blue Raiders to less than 100 yards in total offense in a 44-0 victory. LSU is now 3-0 and ranked #2 in the country. The offensive has scored in the 40's in all three games, while the defense has allowed just seven points all year.
Speaking of the 40's, I just can't get past the way LSU's long-time public address announcer pronounces the word. To my ear, it sounds like he said "farty" every time. When there are 20 yards on a football field between the farties, that can lead to high hilarity for the juvenile mind. But, hey...that's just me.
It's been a busy start to the football season. My wife has marveled even at herself: Three college football weekends and she has been to games in three Louisiana cities. I knew there was a reason I keep her around.

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Saturday, September 15, 2007

All Abuzz About the Yellow Jackets

My daughter is a sophomore in high school. The nickname attached to her school is the yellow jackets. This imagery is woven throughout student life, well beyond sports teams. For instance, students can earn the honor of being named a "top jacket," etc. The student section at football games is called "the hive." While this purple-populated weekly gathering is a long-standing tradition, I have a problem.
What kind of flying, stinging insect lives in a hive? A BEE! Yellow Jackets are wasps. They build nests. They most assuredly do not live in hives.
Why "the hive?" Why not "the colony?" Because they're not ants, that's why. Why not "the web"? Because they're not spiders! Why not "the school?" Well, um, that would be kind of stupid and besides...they're not fish! They're yellow jackets.
The name isn't that important. The social interaction is. They cheer, jeer, sing, hang out together...and, a critical factor: they express themselves with face and body paint. In fact, my daughter walked away from the cheerleader business primarily because she was missing so much in "the hive," and the cheerleaders are limited to some kind of face decal.
I just hope that stuff doesn't cause a rash. Now, that would sting.

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Thursday, September 13, 2007

Forsaken by Humberto

As hurricanes go, Humberto is a flash in the pan. He showed up unannounced, sneaked onto the Louisiana coast and then just kind of chilled.
In Louisiana, we get excited about hurricanes, although Katrina and Rita two years ago changed our almost recreational view of them. As an example of pre-Katrina disregard for the destructive and disruptive potential of these storms, perhaps the most famous tourist-targeted drink in New Orleans is the hurricane. People buy souvenir glasses to prove they consumed one. Presumably, these potent concoctions help one cope with the stress of riding out a storm. Either that, or they cause your head to swirl at hurricane force. You get the idea.
So, we find ourselves kind of pulling for hurricanes to move up in rank. Humberto will be imminently forgettable because he barely achieved Category 1 status, the low minors in hurricane hierarchy.
In this part of the state, we are like the little cousin who gets left out of the birthday party. So, when a hurricane hits and we hear we might get tropical storm force winds or large amounts of rain, we sing Pat Benatar songs. "We Belong!"
Alas, Humberto has passed us by. Lake Charles, Lafayette, Alexandria, even Natchitoches are being impacted by Humberto. Sadly, so is New Orleans. Here in the northwest corner of the state, we have a few grey clouds....just enough to be a metaphor.
We're not even on the maps the national forecasters are using to chart the storm's projected path. Left out again, but this time we're happy about it.

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Sunday, September 09, 2007

The Piney Woods Thriller

(Ruston, LA)- We had a great plan, but the Louisiana Tech football team wrecked it for us. We are happy they did. We wanted to come to Ruston to see Heisman Trophy hopeful Colt Brennan, the University of Hawaii quarterback. The idea was to watch Brennan pick apart Tech's defense until halftime, then hop in the car and get home in time for a late dinner and to watch LSU's Top Ten showndown with Virginia Tech in High Def.
The thing is, the Tech Bulldogs did not oblige us. Brennan was good; and it is easy to see why he is expected to be a first round NFL draft pick next year. Tech was good, too. In fact, instead of leaving about 7:30 as expected, we stayed until well after 10:00. The game went into overtime. Hawaii scored a touchdown in the extra time, but Tech responded in kind. Bulldogs coach Derek Dooley decided to try for two points and a win instead of kicking for a tie that would extend overtime. They didn't make it and lost by a point. That decision will be debated for a while, but it was a heck of a football game. It was, in fact, decidedly better than LSU's ridiculous 48-7 pounding of the Hokies a few hours south of here. So, the football gods smiled on our decision tonight.
The experience was slightly unusual for my wife and me because we were in a group of people from work. Among them were three people well above us on the food chain, including the man who is second in command on the company organizational chart. We all behaved as football fans, although I admit to thinking about it a little longer than I usually would before I posed for yet another goofy fan photo.
My wife demanded it. I've been so proud of my picture with Mike the Tiger that she figured that Champ the Bulldog needed equal time. Fair enough. It's too bad his team lost the game, though.
Now, I'll go watch the LSU game on TiVo and my weekend will be complete. That is, until the Cowboys open the season against the Giants in prime time.

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Saturday, September 08, 2007

Something to Talk About

(Bossier City, LA) - Another football Friday led to another chance encounter with an old friend. My buddy Rick is producing a high-definition documentary about Airline High School's football season. His son is one of the school's star players, so there's his motivation. I have agreed to be part of Byrd High School's broadcast team. Byrd played Airline. Friends for Life became enemies for an evening. Well, not really, but I did feel awkward in my Byrd gear on the Airline sideline. Still, it was nice to see Rick, even if he was immersed in his work. For the record, Byrd won the game 29-21.
This is the second weekend in a row football has brought me together with a close friend. Last weekend, I spent some quality hang time with TV Tim in Starkville, Mississippi.
Other friends are sending around "pick 'em" contests and random phone calls are being placed about LSU's chances against Virginia Tech and the Saints' dismal loss to the Colts to open the NFL season.
I guess that old commerical was right on target. It's good that football season is here so that guys will have something to talk about.
Tomorrow, I will drag my bride to Ruston to see Louisiana Tech play Hawaii. I have convinced her it will be worth the trip to see Hawaii quarterback Colt Brennan, who has all the tools to be a star in the NFL. At least that's what all the guys are saying.

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Friday, September 07, 2007

All the News That's Fit to Steal

Our dog, who presently has exclusive canine rights to the family home, is really a pleasure to be around. She plays catch with the best of them, is 100% house trained, has an easy-going, loving disposition and generally does as she's told. She loves water and so she spends a lot of time in a backyard kiddie pool and in the creek behind our country shack.
She gets the newspaper for me every morning, which is a nice trick and quite convenient. Except for newspaper duty, she has never been allowed outside of the back yard without a leash.
Until today.
I came home from work, and she came strolling around the front of the house. This was troubling, because I know no one has been home all day and I personally put her out this morning. I found a gate to our back yard open, which explains why she was in the front yard, but doesn't tell us how long. The only plausible theory I have is that some irresponsible meter reader came around and didn't close the gate. Our dog cold have been stolen or run over or lost and we never would have known what happened, and that would have been terrible. Everything's okay, so no harm done. Except for one thing.
In our back yard was a collection of newspapers, still in the plastic wrappers. I guess our dog, free and easy for the first time in her young life, used her unanticipated emacipation to do what she does best in the front yard. She got the paper. Over and over again.
I guess I'll go door to door offering restitution. "No news is good news" does not apply on my street today.

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Thursday, September 06, 2007

The Flying Freak Out

The news that a B-52 carrying nuclear weapons flew from North Dakota to North Louisiana is causing a little bit of a freak-out; and now the conspiracy theorists are in high twitter.
I guess I'm naive, but I've grown up watching B-52's fly overhead routinely. I didn't think about it, but I guess I kind of assumed they sometimes had weapons of mass destruction on board. This isn't TNT we're talking about. The detonation of a nuclear device, as I understand it, has to be carefully planned and coordinated. It's not like if the thing fell off the airplane some kid in Haughton could walk up, pull the pin and blow Bossier Parish to oblivion. Or, could he? I guess I don't know.
The point, I suppose, is that our Air Force lost track of the weapons for a significant amount of time, and that obviously is deeply disquieting. Even more troubling, since nothing terrible actually happened, is the voice of paranoia erupting from the blogosphere and beyond. There is concern that all of this is a giant propaganda ploy. The thinking is there is no way this news could have leaked, that this is some kind of message.
The transport of nuclear weapons to Barksdale may be routine, although this incident if truthfully reported is out of the ordinary. People wearing tinfoil hats are not so quietly concerned that this forbodes an attack on Iran, which could lead to The Big One, WWIII.
I am a robust advocate of holding the powerful accountable, so bringing these notions to light isn't a bad thing. I just have a hard time wrapping my brain around the concept that our government would be so manipulative as to manufacture a perception of incompetence to further a warmongering agenda.
There it is, though, quite literally landing close to home. Keep your eye on the sky.

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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The Telltale Tails

One of the most common sentences spoken by me to my wife is "You love that dog too much." Our dog is smart, loving and fun. In my uninterrupted lifelong string of dog ownership, she makes a case for all-time best canine. As the kids grow, age and continue to separate themselves from us, this dog has become like another child. The problem, of course, is that the dog will live for another ten years or so; then we have heartache. Still, we must enjoy the time we have with her, just not too much.
We are at low pet census in the house. Our old cat died a few months back and the legendary Harry, the only male dog I've ever owned, died four years ago. He was a good boy and I loved him. I still miss him. Maybe I loved THAT dog too much. Here he is (on the right), shown in a love fest with our surviving cat and The Exiled Dog.
My wife hates the exile dog, an accidental acquisition. I was driving on a busy city street when that idiot ran out in front of a truck and got hit. I was the next car in. The driver of the truck sped away. I rescued the dog and took it to a nearby vet. We were able to track down the owners, who refused to pay the bill. So, we bailed her out and took her home. She's a barker, a digger and a fighter. We couldn't keep her outside because she barked all the time and dug out under the fence. Inside, she wasn't reliable in the house training department and she wrecked more than her share of carpet. My daughter loved her, though, and we kept her around. One day she got out and got into a fight with a much smaller dog that lives on our street. We had to pay the vet bills and the neighbor never spoke to us again. My wife had had enough. The dog had to go. Fortunately, my dad took her in and they are thick as thieves. She has lived with him for eight years now.
My wife still hates her.
She's unreasonable about it. She hates that dog too much.
Now, with just two pets, a new relationship has developed. The dog and the cat worship one another. There was a brief debate around the house about whether the cat belongs to the dog or the dog belongs to the cat. That was settled quickly. The cat is smaller; but she's older, wiser and most assuredly meaner. She's definitely in charge. She loves that dog too much, too. Of course, she would never let it show.

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Monday, September 03, 2007

Tractors and Other Heavy Equipment

(Harrison County, TX) - I think I have to learn how to bush hog. I'm not sure that's supposed to be a verb, but it is. Bascially, it means you haul a big rotary mower behind a tractor. The piece of equipment is a bush hog and when you're using it, you're bush hogging, I think. Really, I never have seen myself as a bush hog kind of guy, but the time apparently has arrived. We own a little piece of property in east Texas. It has a cabin and a creek. The kids like the place and the dog really enjoys visiting. For me, this has always been a place to go a half-dozen times a year, usually when the weather is cool. It was a fantastic place for hay rides and soccer parties when the kids were small. It's been an excellent source of free firewood. It's my father's place, and he has spent his retirement maintaining it. Now, he's 81 years old and he just can't keep up with it anymore.
He's the bush hog guy, not me. I don't even know how to start the tractor. I certainly don't know how to drive it or how to attach the mowing apparatus. (Somehow, I feel significantly more comfortable with "mowing apparatus" than "bush hog." What does that say about me?) I'm more inclined to hire someone to do the mowing, but Dear Ol' Dad would never stand for that. A man needs to know how to bush hog his own property. There's a lot of validity to that, so soon I will surrender to the Lure of the Tractor.
We've planted a stand of pine trees between the cabin and the creek, and they're starting to grow rapidly. Some of the young trees are about five feet tall now. In thirty years or so, we might have a cash crop on our hands. Let's see, I'll be approaching 80 and my son will be EXACTLY MY AGE! So, the trees and the property really are for him and his sister.
Hey, maybe I'm on to something. I hear the bush hog gene skips a generation. A man needs to know how to bush hog his own property. Isn't that right, son?

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Saturday, September 01, 2007

Purple Rain

(Natchitoches, LA)- Three games in three nights. What a way to start the football season. I had a new experience as the Northwestern State Demons manhandled Henderson State 41-6. I watched the game from the President's box. That would be the president of the university, the affable Randall Webb. My wife is a bit of an NSU dignitary, hence the invitation to Turpin Stadium's penthouse.
I was happy to be there, because the game started in a driving rain storm, and I was wet enough two nights ago in Starkville. Everyone was polite and welcoming and it was like going to a dinner party with a game as a backdrop.
Being in the big glass perch was a little like being in a press box with a couple of exceptions. First, everyone was dressed better than your typical media member. Second, cheering is more than acceptable, it's apparently encouraged. You have to let the president know you support your Demons. This is foreign to me, and a little bit strange. I mean, you're six levels up and behind thick glass. The players can't hear you clap or cheer, and certainly all that yelling and carrying on interferes with polite dinner party conversation.
Every team I went to see was wearing some shade of purple and won its game handily. You can't win 'em all if you don't win the first one, so it looks like the season is off to a good start.

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