Since the lousiest assignments make for the best anecdotes, I’m a little worried about tonight’s dispatch. But as soon as The Suits told me they wanted a preview of this weekend's boat races, I ran from the room, shrieking like a little girl. I ain’t skeered of boats, but I was terrified they’d change their mind before I could take to the lake. All morning long I worried some school board member would claim the salt and pepper shaker arrangement in the Teacher’s Lounge was a racist conspiracy and I’d be pulled off my little feature.. By noon however nary an imbroglio had surfaced, so I headed to the body of water in question, hoping only to reach the beach before some spot defibrillator training class broke out at the armory and I was redirected. Think I‘m kidding? You‘ve never processed happenstance for a daily wage, I take it. If you had, you‘d know why I was beaming like a lobotomy patient as I pulled up to the water’s edge. To my left a long line of highly festooned boat haulers sat glinting in the midday sun. To my right a half dozen firemen loitered under a lakeside picnic shelter, watching as two Hooter girls unpacked complimentary sandwiches from an orange cooler. It was then I realized I needed back-up.
Chris Weaver arrived six minutes later. Not so much to ogle the co-eds, mind you - but to provide some technical assistance. See, Weaver's something of a gadget nut. For every overripe bromide I slather on-line every night, he's got an adaptor, a cable or thumbdrive to make it better. That comes in damn handy - as I am the most technically deficient cameramen you'll ever meet. Sure, I talk a mean game - but when it comes to calibrating frame-syncs I ain't your guy. No, for that real world manly stuff you're gonna want someone like The Mighty Weave - who can field-strip a live truck in less time than it takes me to pass gas inside of it and blame the reporter. Was that too much information? Mayhaps, but I just wanted you to understand the kind of relationship Weaver and I have: He's the overly-stoked McGyver type who's never met a competitor he couldn't crush. I, however am of the absent-minded professor strain - far more into faking a state of Zen than tuning in some finicky signal. But this particular post isn't about the Man-Love me and the Weave share. It's about boats - really little, fast ones.
Sorry, 'SuperStock Tunnel Boats'. Whatever you call them, they more resemble Jet-Ski's with cockpits than any craft you'd dignify with the term 'boat'. Hell, my bathtub is bigger - and it displaces more water! I couldn't help but think of Evel Knievel's ill-fated canyon-jumping vessel as I walked through a forest of gaily-lacquered projectiles, water missiles and soggy crotch-rockets. Weaver on the other hand was getting down to brass tactics; identifying with of the three boats were about to favor us with some demonstration laps, picking out the prettiest and adorning its interior with a lipstick cam. Across the way, I looked up from the official I was interviewing, spotted my cohort conning his way into a cockpit and smiled quietly. With Weaver as my crew chief, I just may win the race! Or atthe very least fill my ninety seconds of newscast with action, irony and some really wicked first-person footage. I love it when a plan comes together!
First though, I had to bag all my sound. It may seem silly to conduct multiple, extended interviews for a report than last little more than a buck-thirty on-screen but such is the nature of distilling emotions. All the trick shots in the world won't help a piece if the viewer doesn't care about the outcome. While I can't say I tapped into any deeper truths, I did excise a few good bites from my on-camera chats. Luckily for me, everyone I spoke with was an old salt; veterans of the boat show circuit who knew how to talk up a camera or two. That was fine by me, as I wasn't exactly launching a hidden-lens investigation. Rather, I was sleepwalking my way through a delighfully subdued Friday afternoon. Only when the boats fired up their engines did my pulse race, but only for as long as it took the two tiny crafts to sling a few nasties. With a roar and a sputter both vessels returned to their berths, but not before I'd shot their skittering path every way I knew how. In the end, it was more about the experience than the TV news story that aired a couple of hours later. As for Weaver and me - we had such a good time, we thought about having t-shirts printed to mark the occasion.
Maybe next year...