Editors Note:


EDITOR'S NOTE: Fresh off a three year managerial stint, your friendly neighborhood lenslinger is back on the street and under heavy deadline. As the numbing effects of his self-imposed containment wear off, vexing reflections and pithy epistles are sure to follow...

Friday, July 23, 2010

Frosty the Moron



"Well, you ain't dressed for the deep freeze..."


I chuckled and followed the plant manager out of the lobby, certain we'd pass a rack of surplus parkas along the way. We did not. Instead, my most gracious host led me through a series of heavy metal doors and around a corner, where suddenly every whisker I owned straightened like a pin, what little nose luggage I had on me turned to tiny stalactites and my very skeleton tried to dance out its skin. I'm telling ya, it was cold. Twenty Below, to be exact, which explained why the guys suddenly hustling around me were all dressed like nervous Eskimos. As they brushed past me, I thought I heard a few muffled chuckles under those ski masks. I tried to think of a snappy retort, but by then my brain pan had almost frozen over and I found myself focusing on a wall of ice cream sandwiches, my knobby knees knocking as I wondered what flavor they'd find me slumped over, a doofus cameraman who'd wandered into some sub-zero deprivation chamber while dressed like a third grader on a field trip. Aiming for a box of Neapolitan, I wondered what network feeds I'd make as the cameraman in cargo shorts who died of hypothermia in July. As I began to gray out, I remembered thinking how ironic it was that I'd actually pitched this frigid collision...

Okay, so perhaps that's overselling it, but the fact of the matter is I damn near froze my back-focus off in the name of a counter programming. How was I supposed to know the same folks who'd offered me a thick growncoat ten years hence was suddenly understocked in the outerwear department? Certainly such knowledge would have stopped me from piping up in the morning meeting about what had to be the Coldest Job in the Piedmont. Or at the very least scrounged up some logowear before I'd left the station. As it was, I didn't think about it until I was in the car, at which point I remembered tossing my cold weather gear in the garage just a few weeks back. After all, who needed gloves, scarf and parka in the middle of what may turn out to be the hottest Summer in a decade? Mike Rowe?

Perhaps, but that beefy wiseguy was nowhere to be seen as the color drained from my face and my pancreas congealed. Still, I knew the show must go on, or more accurately, the newscast producers would insist I find another way to fill two minutes of time. Frozen testicles or not, I wasn't about to restart my Friday this close to lunchtime, so I centered myself, hunkered down and tried to man up a little as I did what any self-respecting photog would do: I sprayed the place, swinging my axe from Popsicle box to bundled-up lumberjack, all while basking in the relative warmth of a red RECORD light. Several minutes later I was all but done, proving that, if nothing else, I had indeed visited the coldest workplace in the Piedmont. As a result, my freeze-dried piece of television ended up looking like ass and while that far from pleases me, I'm quite happy to have escaped that icy hell with all my appendages still relatively squishy. It is, after all, the 'small victories' that propel a photojournalist through his or her day and if briefly lowering standards in the name of self-preservation is today's definition of success, well then, I'm your flash-frozen huckleberry.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to soak in a warm bath. I seem to have lost feeling in a few key corpuscles...

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Wrapt Pupil

It was the Spring of 1983 and I was bristling with failure. Having spent most of my Sophomore year lettering in Truancy, I found myself masterminding a cover-up and flinching every time the phone ring. How else was I going to support my lifestyle of academic leisure - than to deceive my parents into thinking I was doing okay in school - when in fact I was rarely ever there. Oh, I'd roll up in the morning with halfway good intentions, but it only took about three syllables to convince me my time would be far better spent tooling around town in search of intoxicants. More often than not, we found them. It was, after all, the early '80's and while my crowd wasn't yet part of the burgeoning yuppie class, we were already partying like rock stars. At least during school hours. Afterward, I'd slink back home or to my ratty fast food job, usually under the false pretense I'd just wrapped up a hard day of class. It was not so. Still, I'd erected one hell of a facade and I managed to hide behind it until late in the school year...

Then I got caught.

Let's just say my car was spotted out and about during school hours. I wasn't even in it that day, but the fact that a classmate was cruising the strip in it on a Tuesday afternoon was more than enough to tip off my poor Mother, a Godly woman who didn't deserve a reprobate for a son. A day or so later, the loudspeaker summoned me to the library. I walked in to find Mom sitting at the head of a long table with every teacher I had that year flanking her sides. A most painful intervention ensued, one ending not in rehab but the equally sobering news that I'd get another crack at tenth grade when I returned in the Fall to do it All. Over. Again. Now, I can't fully explain what I was trying to accomplish with my year of living dangerously, but repeating the sophomore experience wasn't it. Still, I left the library that day a broken soul, knowing that I - a kid with a reasonable intellect and a highly developed sense of self-doubt has just failed the tenth grade.

A word on failing the tenth grade: I don't care how clever, hip, insouciant or permanently stoned you happen to feel, getting 'held back' in high school will wreck your social standing and plunder your soul. Not that I didn't deserve it. I did. In the months that preceded my spectacular flame-out, I pioneered new methods in vagrancy, sloth and stupor. I no more should have been promoted a grade than the wino down the street, but unlike him, I still had my own teeth - if not a modicum of teenage ambition. So, I hunkered down...NOT. To be honest, I stayed pretty much the same - an occasionally clever young man who read every book he could find - minus the ones assigned him. Sure, I learned a thing or two about managing frivolity, but I remained a slacker with a massive vocabulary. A few years later, I wormed my way across the stage to pick up a diploma I'd just barely learned and fled the area. I'd like to say I never looked back, but you know me better than that. To this day, I dream of being in high school, lost in the hallways with no idea what grade I'm supposed to be in that day. Whenever I find myself slinging a lens around a classroom, I look past the pretty people and find some awkward soul to fill my screen. It may do them no good, but it makes me feel better...

So why am I telling YOU all this?

Well, in just a couple of days I'm attending a most unlikely event: Eastern Wayne High School's Class of 1985 25th Reunion. I do so as an expatriate of sorts, for if you'll do the math, you'll find I graduated a full year later. Still, the organizers of said reunion have graciously invited me - and after much consideration, I've decided to go. Why? To see some long lost friends, of course. I may have logged an extra year in high school, but many of the classmates I fell behind were souls I've known since kindergarten. Being the kind of guy who likes to drunk-dial old pals, this kind of commiseration is in my wheelhouse, so I'm putting my pride in a suit coat pocket and wading into the fray this Saturday night. Will there be some awkward moments? Perhaps - but truth be told, that second helping of Sophomore year made me who I am today and I'm not the least bit ashamed of what I did to get here. Sure, it helps that I get to squire around my pretty wife, but this particular evening will be about more than ego. It will be about reconnecting with characters from my past, catching up with folks who remember me only for my beat-up junker and flare for idiocy. Don't get me wrong: I make no excuses for my (lack of) high school performance and while teachers and classmates may be surprised to hear I'm semi-succesful despite myself, I'll try my best NOT to totally come off like George Costanza.

Wish me luck.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Cleared for Take-off...


I never met Richard "Jet" Jackson, but I've been lucky enough to know a few like him: a bear of a man, whose grizzled exterior and ever present lens couldn't hide the huge heart inside. For thirty years, this regional hero covered the trials and triumphs of Oklahoma City for KOCO-TV. But he didn't just go through the motions. Instead he embedded himself with beat cops, wonks and politicians. Among law enforcers, he was a favorite - and not just because he bled the kind of street cred that regularly convinced shackled madmen to confess fresh crimes - on camera! High profile or otherwise, Jet Jackson tackled them all with aplomb and in the process made himself a hero to colleagues and competitors. Sunday, he succumbed to lung cancer and judging from his station's heartfelt goodbye, he'll be missed long after the next walk-down is done. When city leaders stop to honor a fallen photog, you know he made an impression. Richard "Jet" Jackson did just that and his legacy is worth more than a million breathless newscasts. Rest In Peace...

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Felt at Eleven


As one who props up hair-do's for a living, I'm a major proponent of puppets in the news. Trouble is, most of them refuse to perform without a hand up their ass. Maybe that's why I'm such a fan of Ted, the rising CNN iReporter with the lime green complexion and delightful British accent. Recently, the little guy was spotted working the crowd outside a Manhattan structure fire. Though primarily an entertainment reporter, Ted effortlessly blends into the citizenry, questions a few looky-loo's and gathers the facts - without ever once showboating like that bitter cur Triumph. Come to think of it, Ted (and/or his handler) is pretty damn disarming for a guy with a fuzzy red nose and horrendous under-bite. He even charms a fellow newsie - a hard-nosed photog who never once scoffs at being questioned by a Sesame Street cast-off. Yes, with chops like that and charisma to boot, I think we know who should really be replacing Larry King.

Just think of the Muppets he could book...

Polyester News Gods


...In this rarely scene publicity still from the movie Anchorman, two extras are seen preparing for the famous news crew street fight scene. The two initially made it in the the film's final cut, but were edited out at the last minute by worried producers, who felt the costumes and equipment were simply too ludicrous to be believed even in an irreverent period romp...
What's that? It's NOT a behind the scenes snapshot from that overrated Ferrell flick? It's an actual photograph from 1975? Featuring folks still vibrant enough to wax my keister should I offend them with my mockery and nonsense? Why didn't you say so?
...In this recently shared artifact, KPRC reporter Alan Parcell and photographer Ken Cockcroft move in on a SWAT Team situation in a Texas neighborhood. Not only were the pair rocking the latest in polyester hotness, Cockcroft was sporting a state-of-the-art Ikegami HL-33, the first ENG rig in Houston capable of live TV. With its single silver cell battery, attractive backpack and 3/4" u-matic tape recorder, this "Handie-Lookie" was pure poetry in motion - give or take a hernia or two. As for the drag on those trousers, Cockcroft admits they, like the sixty pound 'mini-cam', were a product of the times...

"The wind load on those pants was horrible...it's a good thing the camera outfit was heavy."