Having spent the better part of the last 48 hours awake, wet and windblown, it’s awful nice to be back in the Viewfinder BLUES home office. But as I sit here with my feet up, listening to ‘Texas Flood’ and perusing digital images, I’m still a bit storm-struck. I suspect that’s due to sleep deprivation, as I’ve found lack of slumber kills creativity almost as quickly as power-inhaling live truck generator fumes (not that I‘d recommend either). Whatever the reason for my dearth of narratives, I sit here with great material, lots of pictures and not a clue as to where to start. After some thought (and a tumbler or two of highly restorative Maker‘s Mark), I’ve decided to break up my Hurricane Ophelia epic into a few separate posts. Look for diverging storylines and a semblance of clarity in the days ahead. For now, there’s some fellas I want you to meet:
Meet Chad Tucker. Sometimes known as the King of King, this intrepid young reporter was the face of our Ophelia coverage. While the Gods of TV News demand reporters bare themselves to the elements, they’re a bit more reticent when it comes to their fancy electronics. Thus, Chad was the wettest one of the crew - though I contend that once your skivvies are soaked, comparative moisture levels are pretty irrelevant .But Chad didn’t just have to eat sideways rain for hours on end; he had to make sense while doing so. Always the pro, Mr. Tucker did just that, filing rain-soaked coastal reports not only for our Piedmont viewers, but also for Atlanta, Orlando, Los Angeles and many points in between. Here he’s pictured going live on Fox News Channel, minutes after doing the very same for Wolf Blitzer on CNN. That may sound like strange bedfellows, but in the incestuous world of TV News, nothing’s too kinky. Yes, Chad’s drenched visage ricocheted all over outer space before bouncing back to this troubled orb in the most unlikely of spots. But not without some help…
It may look like a pimped-out moving van, but this vintage satellite truck is just as much a character in our story as any of her smelly occupants. Lovingly referred to as the ’Santa Maria’ by her Captain, this rolling TV station is a damn welcome sight when it‘s raining up your nose. Just yesterday, I huddled in its less than vast interior, chopping tape (disc), eating Pop Tarts and talking a good deal of smack while the old girl rocked like a sailboat out to sea. Good times! Equal parts control booth, storm shelter and locker room, our beloved mobile headquarters has traversed the state (and the country) in the name of news a time or nine. I once heard a competitor sneeringly refer to it as ’The Death Star’ for its ominous black paint job, I think of it more as the ‘Millennium Falcon - a battered old vessel still capable of impressive jaunts into hyperspace, even if you do have to occasionally get out and push. If this kind of dated ‘Star Wars’ reference induces your eyes to roll, go get your glasses, as in a couple of paragraphs, we’re going to meet her Han Solo…
But first let me introduce you to one Wesley Barrett. Originally from Roanoke Rapids, N.C., Wesley is everything I’m not: highly-organized, laser-focused, nattily-attired. Hell, the guy dresses like a pro golfer, for cryin’ out loud! That’s no slam, as I’m almost certain it beats the loser-photog cabana loungewear I so favor. When not out bedecking his fellow lensmen, you’ll find him feeding his lifelong obsession with the N.C. State Athletics Department. Here though, he’s hard at work manning the balcony cam as he expresses frustration at the strange voices in his head. No he’s not schizo; he’s simply listening to the producers back at the shop - a great group of folk who would do well to get outside the station once in a blue moon. Exasperation aside, Mr. Barrett is a damn fine photog - a term of respect I don’t bandy about lightly, though it should be noted that my opinion and four dollars will still only get you one cup of coffee at Starbuck’s.
Speaking of coffee, you’ll find none of my beloved blog-juice inside the old Sat Truck. What you WILL discover are hidden caches of snack foods, coolers of bottled water and an illicit supply of assorted tobacco products. Somewhere among all this contraband you’re sure to stumble across one intently-distracted Truck Op, in this case the battle-proven yet baby-faced Joe McCloskey. A solid shooter himself, lately Joe-Joe has taken it upon himself to learn the Ways of the Satellite - a mysterious discipline rewarded only with a steady succession of sudden road-trips and some seriously righteous overtime. That the young newlywed would embrace this monumental task in the first place brings me great joy - for there’s nothing more valued than a cool cat who can tune in the bird. That’s some kind of lame vernacular for a most affable chap who can fathom satellite coordinates under pressure. Joe is that and more - and I’m not just saying that because his saucy spitfire of a wife would bend me into a pretzel if I badmouthed her man. Really.
Last but not least, it is my pleasure to present you with a local legend among sat truck clusters. I give you Danny Spillane. At first glance you may think the guy washing the Santa Maria’s windshield is a mere truck driver. Not true. Highly experienced yet under-appreciated, this veteran of a thousand media circuses cut his teeth shooting every kind of news there is before joining the Sat Side many moons ago. Since then he’s logged a staggering amount of miles in a variety of dish-bearing vehicles. Think of a major news story in North Carolina and the surrounding states over the past ten years or so, and chances are Danny was not only there, but he probably held the day together with his calm yet volatile leadership style. He’s saved my bacon a number of times, from fixing my attempts at fancy lighting to loaning me pair of dry socks once a storm named Bonnie drenched every pair I brought. Simply put, if Danny ain’t at the helm, I don’t wanna go.
So there you go - four friends, who along with your trusty neighborhood lenslinger, drove into the very teeth of a category one hurricane, all while telling tall-tales of the last big storm that got away. As for this most recent misadventure, there were enough snack crackers, peril and mayhem to fill quite a few posting son this humble bog. Perhaps tomorrow, I’ll have a better idea of where to begin. For now though, I gotta get some sleep.