Monday, September 27, 2010

Leftovers From the Road

We had what appeared to be an elegant plan for our weekend trip to east Texas. What a happy coincidence that The Lifelong Best Friend’s lake house is just about twenty miles from the football stadium which was my ultimate destination. Great. We leave a little early, zip by the lake, drop off some stuff, head for the football game in time for me to make final preparations for my broadcasting assignment. Things were going smoothly until we got about a mile and a half from the house. That’s when our path, on a state highway, was blocked by a Conestoga wagon.

This, I did not plan for. A police officer in a modern squad car was directing people off the highway into a parking lot. I paused to ask him what was going on. He said, helpfully, “the parade.”
I asked, “What do I need to do?” He told me to pull over and park. I explained that I wasn’t there for the parade, and that I was passing through on the highway. He advised that I should just pull over and watch the parade, which happens “once a year.” He said he did not know a way around the parade and I just needed to pull over because there were people behind me. Has this guy ever heard of a detour?
We turned around and hoped to rely on our navigation system to find a route to the house. We went down gravel roads, dirt roads, and ran into dead ends. A circuitous half-hour later, we wound up right back at the parade! I guess we should have done what he said and just pulled over. Luckily for us, the next official car we encountered was manned by the San Jacinto County sheriff, who was actually very helpful. He offered us easy driving directions around the parade. We made it to the house and resumed the plan.
It wasn’t as low-key as we had hoped, but it all worked out.
The game kicked off at 6:00 pm, and we didn’t really have a chance to eat. So, afterward we found a college bar, where we sat and watched more football on TV while feeling decidedly out of place. The college-age waitress took pity on us, no doubt theorizing we just might be somebody’s parents. The air quality inside the place was somewhere south of desirable, but the quesadillas were fresh and tasty.
Later, we would learn that we had stumbled into the San Jacinto County Fair and Rodeo. It’s the only game in town on the only road through town. It must be worth doing once a year.

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Sunday, September 26, 2010

Drops of Texas Moonshine

(Huntsville, TX) - Life keeps taking me to Texas. This time, a broadcasting assignment had me spending a rainy evening in Huntsville on the sidelines of a college football game. My primary functions as a sideline reporter on the Southland Conference Television Network are to host the halftime show and to do on-field interviews.
This particular set of sideline conversations had a couple of exciting components. The coach at Sam Houston State University is new this season, and this was his first game in front of his home crowd. I liked him from our first encounter. He introduced himself as “Willie,” not “Coach Fritz,” or “Willie Fritz.” It’s subtle, but it says a lot about his demeanor, I think. The opposing coach shook my hand but didn’t say his name at all. I guess he assumed I knew who he was. It’s a valid assumption, since it was my job to know, but you know what I’m saying.
I got to interview Willie twice, once just before halftime and again after his team won. He had a great night, which made my life a little easier than it otherwise might have been.
I also got to talk on camera with a man from the NFL’s Houston Texans. Sam Houston State’s football team will play against Stephen F. Austin in the Texans’ big stadium next month, so during halftime we tried to sell a few tickets. They’re touting the game as ”The Battle of the Piney Woods,” which strikes me as more descriptive than clever. I get to be on the field for that one, too; and that’s kind of exciting.
It was generally a pleasant evening, made even more so by my wife’s presence as well as an affable TV crew, but the weather was an issue. It was raining hard for much of the first half, which made looking presentable for TV a bit of a challenge. There was also an unanticipated technical issue related to the conditions. The earpiece TV people wear is known as an IFB (Interruptible Frequency Broadcast, or maybe Interruptible Feedback. Whatever. What it stands for is not that important). This is essential equipment, especially when you’re on the air live. It’s how you hear your broadcast partners, as well as the producer or director giving you instructions. It was raining so hard that water was rolling into my ears and into the IFB, literally drowning out the sound. Time and again, I had to pull the thing out of my ear and let rainwater drip out of it, just so I could hear. The good news is, I was diligent about it and as far as I know I didn’t miss a cue.
The rain stopped before the sun set and a little breeze kicked up. So, by the end of the game the field crew and I had improved from soaking to slightly damp.
This was my first trip to Sam Houston, which of course meant an opportunity to continue a Daddy D tradition. Meet Sammy!
A new mascot photo was worth getting wet for.

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Dinner on the Grounds

Our son is making last minute preparations for another long road trip with his buddies. So, he decided to visit his parents (a rare event, to be sure) for dinner before he leaves.
The cynics among us may think he stopped by hoping to get some road trip cash, but he didn’t ask. Maybe his mom slipped him some folding money, but I’m not aware of it.
As he approaches his 21st birthday, it’s interesting to observe his development. He mentioned during the course of the conversation that he has noticed his relationship with us changing. Not his words, but it’s more adult-to-adult. That’s a good thing. It’s also good that he sees it.
We sat on the patio at a popular local bistro and had it all to ourselves. So, we were completely relaxed and open. His visits are so infrequent that the conversation proved to be wide-ranging. He seems to be forming a solid plan for his intermediate future. Whether I think it’s a good plan is irrelevant. At least he has one.
Once he returns from this week’s trip, he has plans to visit his sister at TCU. It will be the first time he’s seen her in months. For some reason, the idea that they will spend time together on their own makes me happy.
You know, worrying about your kids can be a major distraction. I’m awfully distracted these days.
Can somebody help me find my focus?

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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Purple People

(Ft. Worth, TX) - While most of my known universe was converging on Baton Rouge for the LSU-Mississippi State game, my wife and I found ourselves wearing a different shade of purple.

The first chance to see our TCU freshman in her new natural environment came in the form of Family Weekend, during which the nationally-ranked Horned Frogs spanked their old rivals from Baylor. TCU scored touchdowns on its first five possessions on the way to a 45-10 win.

(Okay, under emotional stress, I default to sports writing.)

It was wonderful to see our daughter and as best we can discern from close observation, she is making the transition to college life remarkably well.

She has already developed a corps of friends, her early grades are good and she’s throwing herself into lots of organized activities. She seems to be as well-adjusted as parents could hope. I just wish I could say the same for myself. For the three days we were together, I couldn’t fight off the notion that it was temporary and once again we would be separated for weeks.
We had a terrific time as she patiently endured her parents’ presence. She showed us around campus, with special emphasis on her classes and regular hangouts. There’s an impressive sports cafĂ© on campus, where we sat for a long time and watched college football. What could make me happier?

We spent a lot of time in her dorm room, which gave us significant insight into her new lifestyle. She lives in the only all-female dorm on campus, and a steady stream of lovely young women stopped by to say hello to the parents. She was clearly comfortable, laughing easily with those around her. It’s the kind of thing that makes Mom and Dad breathe a little easier.

We dropped by a tailgate party that was hosted by some Frog fans from Shreveport, where the company was pleasant and the burgers were tasty. Ever mindful of what the “C” stands for in TCU, you might say the experience is significantly different from one you might have at a certain SEC school in south Louisiana.

While we were there, we were easy marks. A couple of expensive dinners, a pricey lunch or two and a shopping trip found their way onto the agenda. We had to make an emergency run to a western store to buy cowboy boots. It seems they are de rigueur at TCU. We tried to explain it to her in advance, but until she became fully acclimated, the magnitude of the footwear peer pressure was not fully appreciated. Now, she needs to learn to line dance/ two step or whatever it is people who wear cowboy boots to clubs do.

She said she’s excited about coming home during fall break in October. I explained that she’s just three and a half hours away and she could come home any weekend if she really wanted to. She said, “I know, but I don’t want to be the person who comes home at the drop of a hat.” (One assumes it would be a Stetson).

Unable to convince her to come visit us, we dropped her off at the dorm after church and Sunday lunch, hugged her good-bye and hit the lonesome highway home.

Our wallets were lighter when we left, but our hearts were filled. Surely that means they were a little heavy, too. We’ll be okay because she’s okay.

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Sunday, September 12, 2010

A Dragon's Breath is Hot!

A sizzling Saturday spent on the banks of the Red River has left me roasted. There were dragon boats on the water and I was tasked with announcer duties.
Dragon boats?

Yes, dragon boats originated in China, we are told, more than 2000 years ago. Now, racing events dot the globe. The Rotary Club of Shreveport, of which I am shockingly a member, has been organizing a riverfront festival with the races at its centerpiece.

The goal is to raise money for local underperforming schools, and last year the club donated $20,000.00. We certainly hope that number gets bigger year by year.
The event has yet to capture the widespread imagination of the public. It’s somewhat esoteric, I admit. It’s colorful and fun, though. The participants, many of whom travel from significant distances, really get into the competition.

It requires organization and teamwork. Practice helps, too. But not everybody has a Chinese longboat hanging around the bayou, so they do the best with what they have.
The course on the Red River was 250 yards, a straight sprint between two bridges.

The local fire department boarded a spirited team on a boat and they paddled their way through several heats to claim the grand prize. Their goal was to cover the distance in less than a minute. They got really close, but missed it by a fraction of a second. That gives them something to strive for when the festival floats around again next fall.
The organization of this event requires a dedicated team of volunteers working across the calendar to make it work. There were a lot of stressed and sweaty people running around the river bank just making sure things ran smoothly.

I think they did; although your announcer and his hosting partner made a fundamental error sometime during the hottest part of the afternoon. We left our microphones on as we carried on a casual conversation. The entire festival site heard what we had to say. Fortunately, we were talking about how well things were going and about how people seemed to be enjoying themselves; a happy happenstance as it turned out.

The only problem with being the event announcer is it keeps you from getting into a boat. It also keeps you away from air conditioning and an afternoon of college football, but that’s okay.

It really was worth doing. I felt like a dragon breathed fire on my legs and the back of my neck, though. Next year, I’ll crank the SPF on my sunscreen up a few notches.

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Monday, September 06, 2010

The Big Guy Finds Fifty in Fine Style

(Coldspring, TX) – The Lifelong Best Friend has surrendered to the inevitable and reached his 50th birthday. Since he has been by my side for every major milestone in my life, including the first day of first grade, I couldn’t possibly pass up the chance to commemorate this occasion.

The sun certainly has set on our youth; but when you’ve known one another as long as we have, a moment like this is appropriate for telling stories about one another. In a stunning development, he actually told one my wife had not heard. That made her weekend, I think, even if the story wasn’t particularly flattering and I don’t recall it exactly as he tells it.

He’s not the tallest man you will ever meet, and he has developed a thick skin about his diminutive stature. His size has never mattered to me. I’ve always looked up to him. He’s been a loyal friend for so long that I actually do not remember a time when I did not know him. His younger brother and I have a collectively vague recollection about the first time we all met. Our mothers were friends, and so chances are we really have been together since infancy.

He’s lived more than half his fifty years in Texas. His wife is a Texan and his children all were born in the Lone Star State, so I guess he’s been fully assimilated into the state’s citizenry.

Maybe that’s a good thing. It proves once and for all that not everything is bigger in Texas.

I brought him a package of Louisiana-themed gifts and urged him to remember his roots. I even iced down several Louisiana-brewed beers in various flavors.
I looked up at one point, though, and saw him drinking sangria. I guess he’s lost to us for good.
He’s a brilliant guy who by all accounts is successful and happy. As his friend, that’s the best I can hope for.
Happy birthday, old man.

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No Rest For The Froggy

Our daughter, a freshman at TCU, seems to be settling into college quite nicely. While several of her contemporaries used the long holiday weekend as a reason to come home for a few days, our little Frog apparently never considered it. Why would she? Her school’s nationally-ranked football team was playing in Cowboys Stadium against Oregon State.

She made the short trip from Ft. Worth to Arlington in a large group. They were set up to have a great time no matter what happened.

I’m sure that since her team won a thrilling game, things were about as exciting as she could have hoped. It’s a great way to kick start her college career, no question about it.

She has decided that sorority life is not for her and she has dropped her bid. From a distance, I can’t be sure what went wrong there, but her mother and I trust her judgment. Everything we’ve heard and seen indicates she’s making friends quite easily.

She’s been active socially. Don’t ask me about academics. I guess it would be bad form to post grades on a social networking site. Since that’s pretty much how we keep up with her, I guess we will have to wait until Family Weekend until we get an idea about grades. That's okay. It's just a couple of weeks away.

But, hey? Who’s worried about school when there’s so much fun to be had.

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