It’s the day before Thanksgiving and I’m preparing to go back to work. You heard me, I took my turkey time early this year. That’s what happens you ignore the appropriate paperwork, forget the fact that you’ve forgotten and assume your seniority will make up for your slack. Not. So. Still, I did wrangle Tuesday and Wednesday off in exchange; a forty-eight hour period in which I stared at the falling leaves from the breakfast nook and got in my wife’s way as she planned a culinary summit of reality show proportions. Yep, I may (think I) cut a dashing figure out there on calamity’s edge but I’m told I can be a real pain in the ass in the kitchen. Thus I’ll rise early tomorrow, crawl in the pick-up and drive to El Ocho with little to no tryptophan on board. Shortly thereafter, I’ll no doubt spin the Wheel of Suck.
The Wheel of Suck, a term I just made up for the dry-erase board in the news department’s conference room. Each morning you’ll find quickly scribbled story descriptions, reporter-photog pairings and the occasional bullet-ridden happy face. In that graffiti you’ll find the schematics for a newscast that will seep into the region’s every other crack and crevice eight hours later. Like the tricked-out updates they lead to, the dry-erase board (from hell) is a haphazard tapestry of the tragic and absurd. But ever is it a more predictable blueprint than on Thanksgiving Day - when no matter what else may happen - some things are gonna git on air. Feel free to play along at home…
Welcome to your neighborhood homeless shelter, where the guy with the raging crack habit is more welcome than your snooping news crew. Quite justly, I might add. You know, every time I write about the homeless I come off as more callous than I actually am. Truth is, I empathize with the denizens - especially those with kidsin tow. The last thing I want to do is get in the grill of anyone lining up for a free meal on the one day everyone should be eating at home. But that’s exactly what I’ve been dispatched to do - for no post-feast show is complete without a token visit to the downtrodden. It’s been a time-honored slug on Turkey Day rundowns since those guys with the buzzcuts fired up the first test pattern. Thus, I or a lenser to be named later will try not to incite a riot we point our cameras at anonymous plates and not the faces happy to have them.
Of course there’s another bedrock backdrop featured every fourth Thursday in November. I give you the bustling airport. Okay, by the time we go live at five, the place may be very well be deserted, but since when has that stopped toothy interlopers from pretending something fascinating is going on just off-screen? I’ll never tell. Rather I’ll bite my tongue and swallow my bile as I gather the requisite airport shots: the arrival/departure board racked in and out of focus, the great unwashed fumbling for their boarding passes, the part-time bus driver in the TSA vest groping that grandmother…it’s all there. Just. Like. Last. Year. But hey, who gives a final approach? If highly compressed shots of constipated travelers is what it takes to get me home, hide the Ex-Lax, I got a pumpkin pie at the house with my name on it drizzled in Kool-Whip.
A far lonelier outpost is reserved for the heartiest of souls. The grassy knoll off an interstate exit ramp is no place for the delicate. It’s a loud, dangerous unforgiving place; littered with shattered glass, 18 wheeler tire husks and the ever-present possum carcass. Here in the Piedmont we perch high atop cloverleafs and render architectural studies of streaming traffic. There’s no feeling like that of a bridge flexing under your feet as it as a river of iron and steel flows underneath, or the slightly perverse practice of approaching total strangers at rest stops for their thoughts on speed-traps. The best you can hope for is to edit back at the shop, otherwise you’ll spend the afternoon picking bugs out of your teeth as the reporter spills his Slushee on your light-kit. By the time you get home you’ll be so covered in road dust the wife will withhold all cranberry sauce until you hose down out back.
And we haven’t even talked about The Shopping Mall.