Sunday, April 25, 2010

Ball Gowns and Cruel Shoes

My daughter awoke this morning complaining that her feet hurt. It's no wonder, given she has chosen style over comfort this weekend. Formal occasions on consecutive nights can leave a lady with an aching head, as well as sore feet. The party has been non-stop, and somehow shoes played an ongoing, sometimes hilarious role in the proceedings.
Let's start with prom night. Parents dutifully assembled at a lovely South Highlands home to take pre-party photos. My daughter, who looked exceedingly beautiful, and her date were running late. I spotted them coming up the sidewalk and noticed that he seemed hobbled somehow. He was carrying one of his shoes.
The rented footwear that accompanied his tuxedo was tragically flawed. The sole completely separated from the top of his shiny shoe, creating a giant flap from heel to toe. This was, of course, uproarious to me.
He was a good sport about it, but having nonfunctional footwear was clearly a distraction. We brainstormed possible solutions, including lending him some shoes; but the kid has big feet.
The father whose house was hosting the photofest alertly brought out a hot glue gun in a effort to keep things together, so to speak. But the sad shoes simply could not hold up to normal wear and walking. Considering dancing was presumably in the plan for later, something had to be done.

Ultimately, an ingenious promgoer found a roll of duct tape and slapped things together well enough to get them through the night.

The group photo is nice, but something is amiss. While my daughter knows everyone in this crowd, truthfully these are mostly his friends and their dates.
So, it was off to another location where we had a rendezvous with faces substantially more familiar. The core four, my daughter's most consistent group of friends, were among the guests at a fabulous garden party.For an hour or so, we couldn't take more than a few steps without running into someone who was photo-worthy. The night was perfect for dinner on the grounds and all the young people cleaned up nicely.
For my wife and me, it was another emotional evening as we saw dozens of young women we have known most of their lives. There was the girl who lives across the street, the closest my daughter will ever come to having a sister. They speak or see one another on a daily basis.And another who was among my daughter's closest grade school friends. She was the first of my daughter's contemporaries to whom I felt particularly close. They went to different middle schools and drifted apart, but thankfully they have been at the same high school for four years, so we still see her and hear about her often. As they go through the paces of the last weeks of high school, it's interesting to see them acknowledge the longevity of their relationship. It's had its ebbs and flows, but you know they still love one another. That means a lot, because those kinds of friendships certainly can pay dividends in the years to come.

There must have been a dozen or so similar encounters along the way.

By all accounts, the dinner party was a fabulous success. Her friends were there. His friends were there. Happily, as she put it "there was surprisingly little drama." This revelation is remarkable given the ages of those involved. Or, maybe not. As you can no doubt tell, they're growing up fast. Long dresses, tuxedos and fancy footwear can convince you to be on best behavior. Plus, you can tell when people genuinely like one another. It makes being a good sport about things kind of easy.

I'm sure I may never know everything that happened during the course of the evening and the following morning. I hear people were still awake and running around at 5:00 a.m. It was prom night and that comes with the territory. If you can't stay out all night for your prom, when can you? Her date seems to be a good kid. I know he's talented and funny. He treated her well, and that makes him okay by me.
Prom may have been the highlight of the weekend, but it was just one milepost along the party highway. A night earlier, many of the same people gussied up in different floor-length dresses for a downtown ball.This was an event hosted by The Plantation Club. It involved the presentation of a court, as well as apparently fabulous food and free-flowing spirits. Since we are not members of this organization, the purpose of it remains something of a mystery to me. But, they have a swinging soiree every spring and the girls were invited. So, off they went...up the steps and into the inner sanctum of the Plantation Ball. If you're 18 and fabulous, why would you not go?

The dynamic was decidely different. The girls went in a group, without dates. Additionally, there evidently was some relationship drama late in the evening spicing things up a little bit. Maybe that was good news, because it set the stage for a relatively peaceful prom.
The weekend wraps up with two graduation parties, where thankfully casual clothes and sensible shoes are in order.
The lesson learned: parties can be good for your soul, if not for your soles.

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Beautiful Night for Deja Vu

For a moment this evening, it almost felt like I had gone back in time. Our old ballpark was jammed with a sellout crowd and I was standing on the concourse doing TV stand-ups.Unlike the mid-to-late 1980's when minor league baseball was all the rage in town, this was a college game. The LSU baseball team came to town to play Northwestern State, and the Tigers can pack 'em in.Since I don't work for a news organization, I wasn't doing pieces for a newscast, but instead for the morning show to which I contribute.
There was confusion along the way from fans alert enough to realize I'm not on the news anymore. (I mean, it's been seven years!) My buddy Tim, the sportscaster at the local ABC station, did a double-take as he walked by. He was very confused.
So were a number of my current co-wokers who were attending the game. It was LSU, after all, and anybody who had the wherewithal to get into the stadium was there. I just said, "I have too many jobs," letting them chuckle and wonder.
Hey, it explains why I was in a suit at a college baseball game. Trust me, I was the only one.
LSU won, 14-3. So, it wasn't much of a game. It was, however, a heck of a night. Late April baseball. Can't beat it. I'm glad I got to go, even though I looked ridiculous out there in a coat and tie.

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Big Blue Balloon Amazes Medium Sized City

I'm sure people in the big cities are entirely too cool to notice something like a blimp hanging around in the sky, but when a dirigible lingers over a city like Shreveport, people get kind of wide-eyed.

I was driving around town late in the day and saw something unusual in the sky. I felt like Steve Martin and Bill Murray on Saturday Night Live in the late 70's, thinking "What in the hell is that?

Then, "What in the HELL is that?"

Then, "What in the hell IS that?"

A blimp?

Of course, I gave chase. I wasn't the only one. Along the road, people were pulling over, hefting their cell phones and cameras, scrunching up their faces as they looked westward into the setting sun, taking pictures of the thing.

Finally I chased it down, and yep. The DirecTV blimp was flying low and slow, doing circles around the city.

I'm not sure why. Most people discussing it figured it was on its way from a NASCAR race in Dallas to another race in Alabama. It makes sense, geographically.
Shazam, we had us a blimp today. Sometimes, you take these little moments as they come.

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Monday, April 19, 2010

Baby, You're Much too Fast

I have known my wife so long that I have ridden in every car she has owned. There was the charcoal grey one, the black one, the silver one and the navy blue one. (She keeps them a while).

We said good-bye to Ol' Blue today and she rolled up in her new ride. It's RED!
This is a huge departure in personality for her. I was trying to talk her out of getting a white car. I guess she listened.
We had no intention of actually buying a car right away. We were just shopping, you know...kicking tires. One of our oldest friends, an empty nester, is spending her time these days working at a local dealership. We dropped by to say hello on Saturday. There were no white cars on the lot to suit my bride, and I joked, "Well, looks likes it's red or nothing for you today."
The joke's on me.Our friend ran the numbers, offered more than we expected for the blue car, brought the price down on the new one and KABOOM! My wife bought it, dropping a bright red cherry bomb on everybody who knows her.
Here are the practical aspects of this decision: My vehicle is in better shape than Ol' Blue, despite having about 40,000 more miles on it. Looking ahead, there's no way both cars will make it several years, and who wants two car notes? So, we had to replace one of them. Plus, with Daughter bound for a Texas university in just a few weeks, she wanted something new for all those trips she's expecting to make.
Finally, with zero kids to haul around, she wanted something smaller but nicer.
I can't say she was looking to make some kind of statement, but it must have been in the back of her mind.
When she made the decision, it was Saturday night. I guess that makes it alright. Maybe the best thing I can say at this point is (with apologies to Prince), "Move over baby and give me the keys. I'm gonna try to tame your little red love machine."

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Sunday, April 18, 2010

Still Saying Good-Bye to Childhood

It seems like yesterday my wife was chaperoning a group of middle school girls to cheer camp at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. Our daughter is in that group, as an 8th-grader, holding the middle "M." "CMM" stands for Caddo Middle Magnet, which is significant. Since these girls have been in magnet programs, it means when they got to high school, they spread out to four different schools.
As they prepare to graduate and move on to college, they had a middle school cheer squad reunion. How much does a girl change in four years? Let's check out my daughter, with the girl who lives across the street and another buddy, four years ago. When I saw this photo, I had to be convinced they were in the 8th grade. They seem like babies, don't they? Look at them today:
Staring at these photos together is an emotional experience, I can assure you. Being the parents of a daughter is not easy, especially when you know she just can't wait to get out of the house and go to school somewhere far away.
As for spreading out, they will be even more diverse in the fall. College destinations were a hot topic at the party, as you might expect. I heard about TCU, Oklahoma, SMU, BPCC, Ole Miss, Louisiana Tech, certainly LSU and then I just lost track. Look out, world. Here they come.
Here's another trip through time. The three sign holders (plus one) from 8th grade:
And today:This activity is simply the latest in a series of events my daughter and her friends are organizing to essentially say good-bye to high school. It follows that childhood is also behind them. Senior Party and Prom are coming up quickly.
It's almost too much for an old man to bear. I've watched these girls grow up and I'm excited about the spectacular women they will become.
But for now, I just can't stop asking myself "Where have the little girls gone?"

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Radio Daze

Man, I am sleepy. Every day this week, I have hopped out of bed somewhere around 5:00 in the morning to do sportscasts on a local radio station. I'm filling in for a former long-time co-worker, Al LeGrand, who is on a business trip. Aside from the general kick-in-the-pants I get from being live on the radio again, there is also the honor of working with local broadcasting legend Larry Ryan.

Larry is an institution in town. Except for a brief period of insanity when he left to work in Chicago and Milwaukee, he has been on the radio here for as long as I can remember. Although our paths have crossed many times over the years, until this opportunity to sit in for Al presented itself, I had never shared airtime with Mr. Ryan.
As an illustration of how significant a presence he is in the control room, you need only to look at the control board. Right there, under "Mic 3," there is an label that says "Larry." To his credit, he and his crew have welcomed me warmly, treating me with kindness and professional courtesy. They have included me in their on-air conversations, well beyond the scope of twice-hourly sportscasts. I hope I have been sufficiently witty. It's not so easy to be the odd man in on a collective sense of humor that broadcast partners like Larry, Al, and "Mr. Weather" have been polishing for decades. All I can really do is be aware of their general demeanor and remember we're doing an oldies show.

This is not the first time I've worked in this format. In the early 90's, I did this morning show every day. That is, until my broadcast partner and I were cancelled without notice because the new owner was bringing in local radio legend Larry Ryan. That's the nature of radio. We actually talked about it a little this week. Trust me, Larry remembered. For me, it was a part-time job, so it really wasn't that big of a thing. This is his living. Besides, he's much better at it than I am. The owner brought me back, anyway, and gave me a talk show I hosted for more than a decade. So, it all worked out.

The morning slot is the most prized shift in radio. There is prestige that comes with hosting "morning drive." There's also a certain amount of pressure. First of all, you have to arrive before sunrise and presumably prepare your presentation. You need to be engaging, informative, witty and personable. For some people, it just comes naturally. Others are able to create a character who embodies all those traits. After all these years on the air, I think the guys on the Ryan Radio Program are a little of both. Their jingle says "Mornings are more fun with Larry, Al and Mr. Weather." I'm inclined to agree with that. I hope the next time Al is gone, they invite me back.
For now, though, I'm going to have my own kind of fun sleeping in for a few days.

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Saturday, April 10, 2010

Feelin' Froggy

There is a great sense of relief and dread in our house. A college decision for our daughter is final and official. TCU, it shall be. For months, she has been leaning heavily toward attending Texas Christian University in Ft. Worth, and now the deed is done.
A scholarship offer has been formally accepted, registration and housing fees have been paid. Offers from other schools have been politely declined. A roommate has been identified. The relief comes from having a major life decision behind us. The dread comes from the certainty that our daughter will be leaving home in four months.
Her mother cries just thinking about it.
Preparations are earnestly under way. In fact, the ladies are in Ft. Worth this weekend in an effort to get College Life rolling. Shopping is planned. There is something to do with sorority rush, but I'm not plugged into all that. I know that one of my daughter's friends, a TCU student, has invited her to a party on campus tonight. (Yikes! I know, I don't want to think about it.)The future roommates and their mothers are planning a get-together.
So, I guess it's time to load up on TCU gear and hope that the football team, which played in the Fiesta Bowl earlier this year, will be good again. I may be spending more time in Dallas-Ft. Worth over the next few years than I ever truly anticipated.
TCU seems lilke a wildcard choice, doesn't it? I've been asked often "Why TCU?" I don't have a simple answer. We visited many university campuses and that's where she feels she belongs. She has a strong sense of certainty about it, and how can you argue with that? Sometimes, you have to go with your gut.
So...Go, Frogs!

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Grateful For the Music

The Happy Couple has gone public with their music. My enigmatic, throwback son and his lovely longtime love interest have become fascinated by a group called Furthur, the foundation of which is two surviving members of The Grateful Dead.
In February, they hit the road and saw the band perform live somewhere in Georgia, and now their summer plans hinge on Furthur's plans for a festival in California.Don't ask me how or why this fascination developed. Maybe I don't even want to know. All that matters is that they came back from Georgia thrilled with the experience and determined to do something similar soon.So, the trip westward is on, at least for him and a couple of his buddies. It appears she has work and school conflicts that will keep her from making the trip. Somehow, I don't think she minds that too much.
She is being fully supportive, however, even to the point of learning a Grateful Dead song ("Ripple") and agreeing to sing for the guys while they play their guitars.This is really big, because these people generally keep to themselves. They prefer to live the quiet life outside the spotlight, rarely consenting to having attention called to them.
It's a testimony to many things (getting older, developing more self confidence, who knows?), including their love of this music, that they actually made a video of their expression of Deadhead devotion.
So, appreciate the monumental-hood of this moment, World. The Happy couple and their buddy the guitar man in song:

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Sunday, April 04, 2010

Finishing Up Strong

(New Orleans) - The weekend trip to The Big Easy took a disappointing turn when the lights went out in the Mahalia Jackson Theater Saturday night.
Sunday was Easter, so we awakened with a new attitude. We got cleaned up and walked to Brennan's on Rue Royal for brunch.

What can you say? New Orleans is famous for a lot of things, and spectacular food is near the top of the list. Brennan's never disappoints. Grillades and grits, Eggs Benedict, Eggs Sardou, Crepes Fitzgerald and Bananas Foster. Atmosphere, ambiance, service, food: all first rate. It was a beautiful way to spend Easter morning.
We were just blocks away from the oldest continually active church in America, St. Louis Cathedral. As we walked out of Brennan's, a mass was scheduled to start in twenty-five minutes. On Easter, how do you pass that up?Apparently, most folks agreed with us. Two archbishops anchored the procession into a standing-room only crowd.
It should be noted that the bishop has an armed New Orleans policeman right beside him. I'm not sure what to make of that.
Although I was a visitor, the energy in the cathedral during the mass gave me goosebumps and a couple of times moved me to the verge of tears.

There were four Easter Sunday services at the cathedral, and by all accounts the place was overflowing all morning and into the afternoon. It's easy to note, as you walk away from the church, that you must pass through the French Quarter, the setting for so much sinning. But, hey, that's New Orleans!
My daughter is very active in Church, but as she matures, we have gone in different denominational directions. So, forgive me a little self indulgence if I was too pleased to be by her side during a liturgical service on the holiest day on the Christian calendar.
This trip was all about making memories as her high school graduation draws near. It seems clear that we succeeded. She will never forget the lights going out on "Wicked." The WWII museum apparently made a lasting impression. Brennan's was just spectacular. She's still talking about a dish she had at a restaurant on Rue Chartres called Alpine. The demonstrative devotion of the Roman Catholics at the cathedral was moving.
Oh, and one more thing. We know why she slept so late Saturday morning. It seems a couple in an adjacent hotel room were particularly robust and vocal in expressing their "affection" in the early morning hours. I guess she saw and heard the moral and spiritual spectrum over the course of three days.
Hey, It's New Orleans.

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Suddenly, Everything Went Dark

(New Orleans) - Our weekend getaway was going remarkably well. We spent Saturday afternoon touring the remarkable National World War II Museum. It may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of visting New Orleans, but I've been four times and I unconditionally recommend it.

Each time I visit, I see something new, and the exhibits are so well done, they tell the story of the war with great clarity. At 18, our daughter just soaked it all in. She expressed disappointment that we did not set aside more time to spend there. It could easily fill up a day if you were so inclined.
We were pressed for time, because the true purpose of our trip was drawing near. We hustled back to the hotel and dressed for the evening. Dinner at Dickie Brennan's Palace Cafe was delicious, and it was stratgically located near our hotel. So we watched folks stroll by on Canal Street for a while, then found a taxi and headed for the Mahalia Jackson Theater to see the Broadway Across America production of the Tony Award-winning musical "Wicked."

The ladies were excited. The tickets were expensive. My wife had seen the show in Chicago. My daughter had heard many of the songs and had seen video clips of several performances. She had heard the signature song, "Defying Gravity," performed live by a couple of Broadway veterans and it took her breath away.

The theater was packed and once the curtain was raised, the show did not disappoint. The vocals were soaring, the production and costumes were first rate and the story was entertaining and amusing.

The musical is a prequel to "The Wizard of Oz," telling the story of the relationship between Glinda the Good Witch and her green friend who would become The Wicked Witch of the West. I have to admit, it was fantastic.
Well, the first act was.
Shortly after intermission, the theater went dark. We in the crowd were advised that there was a mid-city power outage and that we should just stay in our places and be patient. We did. People seemed to be in a good humor about it.
Then, about a half-hour later, we were told power would not be restored before 2:00 a.m. and there was no way the show could continue. The crew gamely wheeled an upright piano onto the stage. The two witches came onto the stage, and illuminated by flashlights, sang an acoustic duet of the song that would have been their big finish. We, the fans, rewarded them with a standing ovation. Then, we were told to be careful going home.
That's it. See ya. It was a crushing disappointment. They didn't invite us back the next day. They didn't have a solution. We drove six hours just to see this and spent hundreds of dollars on tickets. We spent hundreds more on gasoline and a hotel. It was the centerpiece of our trip. We had fun otherwise, but what a letdown.
Plus, I have heard over and over again that the show has a clever and satisfying conclusion. I sure would like to see it.
Someday. Somewhere Over the Rainbow, I guess.

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Saturday, April 03, 2010

Standing Around Waiting to Eat

(New Orleans) - While the young among us slept alarmingly late, my wife and I went on a morning stroll along Canal Street. Chased indoors by the ever-thickening humidy, we ultimately heeded the advice of many New Orleans advisors and extricated ourselves from downtown.
We were urged to eat at the Camellia Grill.
If you go down there, you better just beware you have to want it. The lunchtime line was out the door and curved up the sidewalk. Of course, this can be perceived as a good thing. The obvious demand would indicate that something good awaits inside.
We waited for more than an hour before we were allowed to pass through the legendary doors. As hungry as we were, expectations were soaring.
The menu was basic: burgers and sandwiches, as well as signature omelettes and other breakfast plates. My daughter went for the chef's special, an omelette smothered in chili. Maybe we were really hungry, but it was shockingly good. My Manhattan omelette was outstanding and my wife's cheeseburger (that's the best she could do?) was fresh, hot and served on a buttery bun. When it was all done, we agreed it was worth the effort.
The food was better that we anticipated and the atmosphere, which includes a lively, engaging wait staff and animated cooks, made the experience memorable. It affirms that there's much more to New Orleans than the French Quarter and the Superdome, which until this weekend was pretty much all I knew.

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