Sunday, January 23, 2011

Hello? Is There Anybody Out There?

(Natchitoches, LA) – The latest opportunity to appear live on your television caused me to dust off the old TV reflexes. I accepted an assignment to host an extemporaneous program between games of a college basketball double-header at Northwestern State. The play by play man and the analyst needed a breather between games and I was thrilled to provide that for them.
The show was well-planned in advance by the veteran producer. We had a low-key production meeting with the director and the graphics coordinator before we went on the air. I had spent several hours studying for the broadcast, and even re-wrote my notes during the first game so the details would be fresh in my mind. That’s the way it goes when you’re involved in a regional broadcast with a full crew. Yep, a piece of cake.
Game One was a thriller. Northwestern won in overtime. The announcers took off their headsets and dove face-first into a plate of chicken while last-second preparations were being frenetically made for me to take over the air. The transition was rapid. In my ear, I heard “Stand by, Darrell. Here we go...five, four, three, two, one…You’re mic’s hot. Go.”
That’s the last moment when things actually went according to plan.
The guests scheduled for the first segment were not around. The graphics planned for segment two were ready, so we went with those. Something else happened, but I can’t really remember because I just kept talking. Hopefully, it made sense. Those hours of study came into play because I tried to start dropping knowledge. Finally, well before the planned time for break one, I was told to go to a commercial and we would re-set. No sweat.

I’ll spare us all the details, but that’s how the show went. The guests finally moseyed over and I think the interviews went well. The planned guest for segment three actually came when he was supposed to be there, but the guest for segment four wasn’t even in the building. At one point, I was supposed to talk back and forth with the announcers, but I glanced over to their broadcast position and they were still fully engaged with their chicken. Fortunately, I thought this was reassuringly amusing.
The great folks in the NSU Sports Information office hustled the women’s coach over for a completely unplanned interview. I don’t recall what I asked, but she answered and that counts for a lot.
Somehow, we filled the time. I was anxious to get home and see how it looked on the air. I had set the TiVo and everything. But, then I checked my phone and had several text messages telling me that the local station had dumped out of the coverage after the first game. We were on sixteen stations, I think, but I have no idea how many aired the between-games offering we muddled through.
I got an e-mail later in the day from the director saying I had done a good job and thanking me “for keeping us on the rails.” So I guess it wasn’t a complete disaster, although I’ll probably never get first-hand confirmation of that. I have to admit, if I truly didn’t embarrass myself or the network, rolling with the punches like that was a lot of fun. It’s good to know my broadcasting brain hasn’t gone into complete atrophy.

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Purple Streak

We have had brief glimpses of our daughter the TCU student each of last two weekends. She blew into town for less than twenty-four hours on Friday, just long enough to join us for dinner to celebrate her mother’s birthday.
She and her brother captivated us with tales of their youthful adventures, which on the surface seem disparate, but upon reflection reveal themselves to be remarkably similar.

She also accompanied her mother and me to a late-night movie. As cameo appearances go, this one was nice because it made her mom happy.
When you hear “guilt trip,” a certain kind of psychological pressure comes to mind; but the birthday visit may have given the phrase new meaning.

Less than a week earlier, my wife and I visited our daughter at college. The thing is, we didn’t see much of her, so I’m holding out the possibility that the unannounced home visit was a make-good.
We drove over on Saturday, but coincidentally one of her closest friends from home also came to visit her. So, we got kicked to the curb. That was okay with us, because we planned to spend all of Sunday with her. The morning passed and we were unable to reach her. Finally, just before noon, she answered her phone. We made our way to her dorm room, where we found her happy to see us, but bleary-eyed. It turns out she joined a well-dressed group of fellow students on an all-nighter to a casino in Oklahoma.

You won’t find any hint of moss on this rolling stone, and there’s probably a lot less rubber on her tires than there was a month ago. It’s okay with us. In fact, as long as her grade point average is sufficient to maintain her scholarship, we celebrate the lifestyle she seems to be enjoying. I guess we’ll hear all about it when she can find the time to talk to us.
Oh, and one little thing I've neglected to mention: She's sporting a new piercing these days. It's getting attention, I can say that for sure. Some of her friends thought her parents might freak out. Who? Us? We're just grateful it's not a tattoo.

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Friday, January 14, 2011

Hey, That's an Exit; Not an Entrance

One of the consequences of turning 50 is the necessity to endure a certain medical procedure which involves a part of your body you can only see if you are trying…I mean really trying. Let’s put this another way: The area in question is designed as an exit, but this procedure requires one to endure a kind of contraflow.

So I found myself, on an otherwise unremarkable Friday morning, wearing a loose fitting backless gown under a gossamer blanket preparing to surrender my dignity in the name of preventive healthcare. To make matters worse, I was exposing in all its glory what might be considered my “best side” to a man with whom I’ve had dinner. That’s one of the downsides of knowing all your doctors.

Looking back on it with twelve hours of, um, hindsight; I can say it wasn’t bad at all. In advance of the event, certain preparations were necessary. The stuff you are forced to drink and its inevitable result didn’t bother me a bit, although I had to hang around the house to have easy access to a particular room. The hardest part was being on a diet of clear liquids for more than 24 hours. I have to admit I got pretty hungry.

I don’t remember anything about the actual event. I recall being wheeled into the procedure room under the comforting protection of my little thin blankie. Then, there was some small talk with the nurse. The doctor moseyed in with a wisecrack and some last minute questions. Then the nurse said she was about to push drugs into my IV. I remember saying, “Wow. That works fast.”

One second later, it seemed, I was looking up at my wife and saying “I thought they wouldn’t let you in here.” She said it was all over and I was back in recovery. Apparently, we had already engaged in several conversations, including a dispute about whether or not I had on any underwear. She later said hospital personnel kept coming in to tell her we were free to go, but she couldn’t get me to wake up. I guess I would meander into consciousness long enough to say a sentence or two (or to put my underwear on) and then lapse back into la-la land.

As I was being wheeled out of the GI lab, the nurse who had been in the procedure room said, “Sorry, I didn’t write anything down.” I didn’t understand what she was talking about. She said, “You said if you said anything funny or weird to write it down so you could put in it your blog.” I think she’s probably just being discreet.

I made it home, obviously, but I don't remember leaving the hospital or getting into the car or the ride home. I have a vague memory of eating snack items (cheese and crackers, maybe?) and turning on the TV, thinking it was Saturday and a game would be on.
Otherwise, I slept the day away and don’t remember much about it. I think I've been asking my wife to tell me certain stories over and over again. The strangest thing is, I keep having this feeling like I should be sick. I was, after all, in the hospital today. I had an IV and drugs, along with a tube spraying oxygen into my nose. I was mostly naked, and comfortably so, in front of a bunch of co-workers. But I’m not sick and I fully expect to be perfectly normal after a good night’s sleep.
As for the results: clean as a whistle, I guess. I’m told they said to come back in ten years, although I don’t really remember that. I hope somebody wrote it down.

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Saturday, January 08, 2011

All in Our Places With Red Puffy Faces

My wife will sleep better tonight than she has in a couple of weeks. All of her people are back in the proper places, safely delivered from the perils of road and sky, not to mention mountains.

Our daughter has safely arrived in the DFW Metroplex after what she describes as “an epic trip” during which she put 3894.3 miles on her car traveling through five states. She spent New Year’s Eve in Hollywood, New Year’s Day at the Rose Bowl and the days following that shushing on the slopes. It sounds epic to me.

Our son’s concurrent trip certainly had Odyssean qualities, emotionally if not operationally. He spent several days traveling alone in and around San Francisco. We had lunch with him and enjoyed a truncated version of his adventures. He may have grown as a person during his time alone, but his status as a reluctant raconteur remains firmly intact. We can only speculate about what he was thinking as he contemplated the vastness of the Pacific.

In the meantime, I squeezed one more great football trip out of the season, somehow conniving my way into the Cotton Bowl at Cowboys Stadium to see LSU crush Texas A&M.

At the Rose Bowl, my wife and I saw exactly six people we knew and one of them was our daughter. At the Cotton Bowl, I saw six people I knew within one minute of stepping out of the car.
Let’s start with my cousin, the Tiger fan who lives in suburban Dallas.

From the other side of the aisle, the lifelong best friend’s older brother, a Texas A&M booster.

It seemed as though I couldn’t take twenty steps without someone calling my name, like the guy I went to high school with who I see around town all the time…

And of course, once I got inside there were plenty of people from the local media, there to cover LSU.

Friends, acquaintances, co-workers, former colleagues, moment by moment there was a “buddy photo” opportunity.

I even ran across a fullback for the San Diego Chargers, who played at LSU. He was low-key hanging around with his family outside the stadium.

Even people I didn’t know were very engaging. A group of people sitting near the sidelines recognized me and kept offering me food. I have to admit I couldn’t resist a big plate of shrimp they put in front of me.

The Cotton Bowl does it right, no question about it. The event was as big-time as it gets. I drove over with a buddy who hadn’t been in the stadium and he was wide-eyed with childlike wonder at the spectacle of it all.

Earlier in the day, we got together with some other guys with local ties for lunch. So you could say it was a full day with an extremely high fun quotient.

And as much as I am enjoying my association with TCU, particularly since the Horned Frogs provided us the opportunity to go to the Rose Bowl, it was comforting to be surrounded with a more familiar shade of purple and the people who come along with it.

We’re all a little bleary-eyed but thrilled with our extended holiday. Now, it’s time to get some rest. I know my wife is really looking forward to that now that she can sleep easy.

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Tuesday, January 04, 2011

The Great Western Adventures

While we are home returning to our daily routines, the people we raised are still far away. Our daughter, thousands of miles racked up on her vehicle with thousands more to come, has found her way to Colorado where she appears to be frozen but happy.

Her band of intrepid travelers, who have driven from Dallas to Los Angeles and now to Wolf Creek, Colorado are spending a few days skiing. You can’t ski 24 hours a day, so it’s hard to say what else is going on. Whatever’s happening, there’s no doubt she has seen some remarkable things over her holiday break. She’s sticking close to friends and classmates, by all accounts having a blast and certainly creating memories.

Her brother chose to go his own way, which is certainly fitting if you know him. Instead of joining us for the Rose Bowl, he flew alone to San Francisco for a New Year’s Eve concert.

You have to admire his courage, because putting yourself out there like that could be a little scary. Everything we’re hearing, though, indicates he has thoroughly enjoyed himself. I told him before he left that traveling alone has its rewards. I’m not sure we will learn the whole truth about this trip, but every message we have received from him has been effusive.

Six weeks shy of his 21st birthday; he seems to be on some kind of journey of self discovery. It will be enlightening, no doubt, to hear about what he has found.
He has left the city and has joined friends somewhere near Trinidad Beach.

Our children are starting the new year far away from home. We certainly hope they are finding fulfillment, but we also hope they remember how to get back.

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Sunday, January 02, 2011

Remember, Frogs Are Amphibious

(Santa Monica, CA) - The Rose Bowl trip has been great. The people we've been with are almost absurdly nice and TCU won the game as we enjoyed sunshine and clear skies. The ebulliant mood endures among the Horned Frog faithful. Several of us have marveled, though, at how things might have been dramatically different. Say, sadly, TCU had lost and the January 2nd weather had arrived 24 hours earlier.

It is legitimately cold and persistently raining; but people have been quick to point out that Horned Frogs are amphibious, so the fans lingering around southern California are determined to make the most of their time here. My wife, as always, has been a huge trooper, donning rain gear and gloves and hitting the soaked streets of Santa Monica. We're still crossed up, operating here in the Pacific time zone. We had breakfast at 10:30 a.m., which by our central time stomachs should have been lunch. We wanted to have dinner at a normal time. So, I just grabbed a slice of pizza somewhere along the way. (Hey, the slice was really good, but the truth is my little between-meals snack gave me a chance to sit under an overhang near a heater.)

Warmed and well-fed, we were determined to see the Pacific Ocean one more time, so we walked toward the famous Santa Monica pier.

The closer we got, the harder it rained. The harder it rained, the wetter we got. The wetter we got, the colder we felt. We were out there, though, so we took a moment to look longingly at the sand and the sea...until a breeze kicked up and we got rain in our eyes.

We are all in a positive frame of mind, of course; so this took on the air of a funny adventure...something to tell stories about. After all, we certainly remember the way things were 24 hours earlier (much better!) and why we're all here.

I can be cold and wet at home, so I guess it's time to head that way.....
Songs always come to mind, it seems. Most people I've run across have found themsleves humming some version of Sheryl Crow's "All I Wanna Do..." because of the line "All I wanna do is have some fun until the sun comes up over Santa Monica Boulevard."
But, for me....I just can't get away from 1972 and Albert Hammond:

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Purple Pademonium in Pasadena

(Pasadena, CA) – It’s all smiles for the Frog faithful as TCU’s football team completed a perfect season with a stirring two-point victory over Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. We were on hand to support our daughter, a TCU freshman, and the remarkable run of her school's football team.

The biggest news, on a personal level, to come from this day is the fact that we actually saw our daughter. Although we had the same destination, we traveled separately. We had been here for a couple of days and had heard rumors that she was nearby, but our first glimpse of her came at 3:50 a.m. on New Year’s Day. With four friends in tow, she gained unauthorized entry into her parents’ hotel room following an evening of revelry. They promptly piled into the bed and crashed.

All of this was made possible by our pre-dawn departure to the Tournament of Roses Parade. We’re glad we saw it, but there was a significant misery quotient. When we arrived at our assigned parade viewing seats, the temperature was in the 30’s. Since we arrived before sunup, the temperature continued to fall. We were incredibly cold; especially if you consider that we’re in southern California.

The parade, a New Year’s Day tradition, loses a little something when it’s not on TV. You can admire all the obvious work that went into the floatsand other parade preparations. This is primarily a football trip, so naturally I enjoyed seeing the entries from the particiating teams.

It’s one of those things that you’re really glad you did, but if the opportunity presents itself again, you’d probably rather stay in bed.

From there, it was onto the Rose Bowl, where we tailgated TCU style. This is in stark contrast to a tailgate event at LSU, where everything is loud and intense. A TCU tailgate is laid-back and exceedingly pleasant, and the setting for this one certainly set it apart.

Meanwhile, the sleeping beauties back at the hotel arose from their slumber in time to make it to the stadium,but we didn’t see our daughter until we got to our seats. It’s good we were sitting together; otherwise we may not have spent any time with her at all on this trip.

The game was thrilling, coming down to the final minute. Wisconsin was a failed two-point conversion away from sending it into overtime. But when the potential tying pass was batted down, the purple people produced pandemonium. When the Horned Frogs recovered an on-side kick and ran out the clock, the party was on.

Not for us, though. We had been up since 3:50 a.m. We went back to the refreshingly empty hotel room and ordered a pizza. We’re thrilled for all the Frogs, though. Happy New Year!

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Saturday, January 01, 2011

Tick Tock On the Clock In Hollywood

(Hollywood, CA)- If you celebrate New Year’s Eve in Hollywood, you always have to be on the lookout for all types of people who want to help you ring in the New Year. You just never know, for instance, when an international man of mystery may call your wife “Baby-bee” and point his, um, gun at her. You have to stand your ground and brandish your own weapon just to protect your interests.
Also, when you’re standing in line for access to a hot-ticket event, you might run into one of the most respected newsmen in America, even if you had just briefly hung out with him earlier in the day.

A Hollywood party can do this kind of thing for you, I can now tell you from personal experience.

Ringing in the New Year on the west coast has its advantages. If you’ve had a good year, as we did in 2010, then you can squeeze a couple of more hours out of it. The rest of the country and most of the world has already welcomed January 1st, but west coasters are still partying.

We are here to attend the Rose Bowl and are in the company of thousands of TCU Horned Frog fans. The excitement is almost too much for the Frogs to bear. There is hooting and hollering and chanting and Riff-Ramming going on in the halls of the hotel into the early morning hours.
Just before the Big Kissing Moment, members of the TCU band crashed the party and whipped everyone into a froggy frenzy until about 11:59, Texas time.

There was delirium in the ballroom of the Hollywood Renaissance Hotel.

Now, it’s on to the Tournament of Roses Parade, followed quickly by the reason everybody’s here: The Rose Bowl. As has been said countless times over the last couple of days, “Give ‘em hell, TCU."

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