Friday, June 20, 2008

Finster's Revenge

So, you want an inside peek at the exciting world of TV News, do ya? Well, YOU CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH! If you could, you'd realize that processing news can sometimes be as scintillating as a really good milk route. Speaking of deliveries, check out the scenario below...

Big Baby Fest
Take a cooperative hospital, a room full of news crews and twenty three pounds of newborn bruiser, what do ya get? Global sensation, baby! Well, maybe not global, but judging from the number of lenses at Forsyth Medical Center this morning, news of the Maynard Twins did richochet around this hemisphere. But I'm getting ahead of myself, let's meet the players! With a two year old son who's already crushing walnuts in his armpits, Joey and Erin Maynard knew the twins they were expecting wouldn't be small. But when push came to Cesarean, the two humans who popped out weren't just big, they were EPIC! So much so that obstetricians scoured the internets for proof of a heavier pair. When it became clear the littlest Maynards were larger, longer and heftier than any other set of North Carolina twins in the past century. With that special knowledge in hand, hospital officials did the only sensible thing. They alerted the media.

All of which goes to explain how I and five other photogs came to gather in a hospital conference room Friday morning with the aforementioned Maynards. I popped off the above wide shot while waiting to pin my microphone on Mama - if only to prove just how incredibly tedious ENG can be. (Thats Electronic News Gathering for those of you playing at home - a silly little discipline that requires all sorts of battery-powered gadgets.) Once we go the new Mom all mic'd up however, we warned her not to sneeze and the inquisition began. She and her husband were awful good sports, happy to share their story with the Greater Triad Googoplex and wherever else their electrons may land. I for one did my part: hovering over their new offspring, asking silly questions and dodging dirty looks from their green-eyed toddler. As for the babies themselves, they're awful cute. At 10 pounds, 14 ounces Sean William was still pleasantly devoid of razor stubble. His sister Abbie weighs in at 12 pounds, 3 ounces, but under close inspection I found not one hint of cigar smoke. What a relief!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Racing the Orb

'...and you run and you run to catch up with the sun, but it's sinking, racing around to come up behind you again...'

Too much sunFor a guy who loves to loiter, I sure do race around a lot. Down back roads and up interstates, through stupefied stoplights and on vanishing off-ramps, past lane-changing maniacs and slow-ass tractors … I plow through it all with one eye on the horizon and the other in the rearview mirror. No, I’m not sweating that speeding semi behind me; I'm curious if the fancycam (I think) I packed is indeed back there. Once I see its stubby antenna poking over the seat, I'll lean back into the steering wheel, count the molecules that make up the windshield or try to outguess my GPS. It doesn’t matter if I’m headed to a fruit stand or a fatal fire, I still drive like the cooler riding shotgun contains a beating heart, not just some dried up beef jerky and a warm bottle of Sprite. But that's how it goes when there's a station logo tattooed on your soul, when you're a field agent of the Fourth Estate.

Trouble is, I'm (still) a bit miscast. Whereas so many photogs are heavily-vested action heroes, multi-tasking Macgyers or just crusty road-dogs, I'm more of the libriarian type. Were it not for a job that required steady pursuit, I'd spend my days idling among the stacks, soaking up adventure from some dusty page, instead of wringing out some sweaty tropical shirt and wishing I were inside. Yes, this silly gig keeps me engaged in the human race, for it's hard to be a hermit when you're blowing past rush-hour traffic while draped in look-at-me logos. I just wonder sometimes what else I could have accomplished, if I didn't spend eight (or more) hours a day filling newscasts by the pound. So forgive me if I seem a little distracted, if I peer up into the midday sun and think about all that hasn't changed up there since I shot my first ribbon-cutting. It's probably the same look English Professors get when they peer out the window and fantasize of a life outside the classroom.

Maybe I should just stop listening to Pink Floyd...

Most Daring Boneheads

Longtime readers may wonder why I'm trotting out the above clip again, but I got my reasons. Of all the flotsam I've stuck on-line, this video of a seemingly possessed truck bearing down on me and mine has proven most popular (fawning Chris Daughtry coverage not withstanding). The YouTube version of our mechanized near-deaths has been viewed a whoppping 317,786 times; it's worth visiting if only for the media-skewering comments that accompany it. Now, however, our mad dash has hit critical mass. TruTV - that bastion of placid programming - has included the clip in its newest episode of Most Daring Videos - DISASTER ON THE JOB!!! Complete with over the top narration and a few angles I've never seen before, TruTV producers pretty much get it right. They interviewed Barrier One president Michael Lamore - who does his best to explain why remote-controlled trucks are naturally attracted to tripod clusters. As for me, I'm just happy to see my friend Erik Liljegren again - even if he is all ass and elbows. I only wish TruTV would consider this disastrous clip. Now there's a backstory...

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

All Hail Greg Pell

Editor's Note: I'm saddened to report that legendary lenslinger Gregg Pell has left this world. Across North Carolina news scenes, he was known for his work ethic, his wisdom and his blistering wit. To others in the scrum, he was a formidable opponent who just happened to be missing a forearm. Rest in Peace, Gregg. Thanks for the love you shared.
"Tell him the one armed man said hello." When I heard Gregg Pell say that to a cohort, I knew I could begin writing about him. Until then, I didn't quite know what to make of the silver-haired 'slinger, that calm, cheerful presence at crime scenes and campaign stops, a pipe-smoking wise-ass who just happens to be missing his right forearm. And what business is it of mine, anyway? None, I guess - but I'm dumbstruck by his pluck every time I watch him shoulder his camera and rush into the scrum. Come to think of it, I fell under the elder Pell's spell the very first time he bee-bopped past my live truck...

I was ankle deep in twisted cable, bent at the waist and dripping in sweat as a distant show producer prepared to begin counting backwards in my earpiece. I pulled and looped the coarse thick cable, but every other tug caused the nest of knots to constrict, until my face was red and my language were blue. I was seconds away from freeing myself from that loathsome pile, climbing the live truck's teetering mast and tell the camera mounted up there to go #&$@%! ... when I smelled the sweet aroma of pipe tobacco. As it wafted over me, I spotted Gregg Pell for the first time, stooped over and rolling cable off a wheeled cart. As he hustled past my truck, I spotted the pipe clenched in his teeth and realized he was humming.


It was only after he passed by that I realized Gregg had five less digits than I did. The one time I asked him how he juggled it all, he shrugged it off with a chuckle. "Oh, it's just a matter of adapting."  Not that he's hung up on it, he's just got more interesting stuff to talk about! Like how he ushered in the golden age of video at WBTV, the time he did at my own WGHP and how smoke's coming out of that crumbling meth lab over there... With those kind of distractions, I find it hard to debrief this serendipitous soul, let alone pity him - as Sir Gregg Pell never let the fact that he only had one arm stop him from wiping the floor with the competition. 

And he'd make you smile while he did it.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Flashback at the the Lactose Factory

Hairnet GlamourI know, I know - REAL MEN don't wear hair nets. But when you lead the kind of rough and tumble existence I do, protective headware is just part of the gig. Besides, they were afraid my withering follicles might end up in the vat of undetermined foodstuffs. I say 'undetermined' because I've been sworn to secrecy by the North Carolina Dairy Commission. Should I so much as mention the kitchen facility I visited today, two goons with heavy milk moustaches will drag me from my home in the dead of night, take me to the nearest cow pasture and pummel with frozen yogurt cups. I'm a workin' man. I can't afford that kind of time off to recuperate! So bear with me as I dance around the afore-unmentioned cheese product, for in its slightly curdled face I glimped my density. No, really.

Vortex of CheeseThere I was, standing on a step ladder and staring into the cheesy abyss when the flashback began. Slowly, the roiling goop went out of focus and past adventures both stunning and mundane blurped to the surface: Suddenly I was touring a survivalist's storage room as two camoflauged ass-hats lectured me as to how the upcoming Y2K computer glitch would surely bring about the End Times. Then I blinked and found myself decked out in surgical scrubs. Soft jazz played in the background as a masked stranger popped off one liners while unsmiling nurses slid a robotic device up a poor man's prostate. On instinct my nose wrinkled and I could smell the stench of ten thousand dead baby chicks. The great flood of '99 had barely subsided and as I picked my way around the yellow cadaver pile, dozens of very alive flies perished under my step.

Combat Pay RequiredBy then my mind was gone and my knees were locked. Nearby my guides watched as I stood frozen over the goop. Perhaps they thought I was lost in my work, but I was in fact gliding among the clouds. All around me giddy Goodyear employees giggled and squirmed as the great blimp rode up a slow thermal. The famous craft's pilot didn't seem to care; he was turned around in his cockpit seat, passing out signed trading cards along with his wellworn flyboy schtick. I could only blink in protest and as I did a pine branch smacked me in the face. 'Over here boys!' I heard a beefy voice yell and as I looked I saw a monster of a man in a Sheriff's Deputy t-shirt lop the buds off the county's spindliest pot plant. Raising his limp bounty high over his head, he waved the poor dead cannabis to the heavens as the helicopter thundered overhead.

I was about to quantum-leap again when a shrill voice from the left broke my stupor. "Mister, if'n you don't move we cain't put in the Ma-YO-naisse!"

Oh. Yeah. Sorry...

Bucky and the Juggernaut

DSCF0023It's been nearly two years since we last caught up with friend of the blog Bucky Covington - then busy recording his debut CD in a studio outside of Nashville. Since then, he's handled the lack of lenslinger in his life by selling countless copies of that debut disc, touring the country with Nashville royalty, popping up on country music award shows and hopefully bedding a bevy of redneck debutants. Not bad for a dude who used to bang out dents in his Diddy's body shop! Now however, this silliest of hillbillies has scored perhaps his greatest coup: a cameo in the new Hannah Montana movie. Sure, it's just a walk on role, but even a fleeting appearance in a film that's destined to become a tweenster classic is reason enough for another shot of rotgut. According to press reports, the cameo role came by special request of one Billy Ray Cyrus - father of the global phenom Miley and originator of the very haircut I rocked for far too long. I just hope Hannah's on her toes, as Bucky's already got comedic chops. Twice this crooning goofball's accented patter got us both nearly kicked out of an American Idol press junket. Man, that british guy in the muscle-shirt is UPTIGHT! No bother, as movie producers will surely note his on-screen moxie and offer him a meatier role in the long-delayed Deliverance remake...

Maybe then he'll return my calls.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Beneath the Plunder Dome

Sweaty StewEver plowed through a crowded flea market with a fancycam on your shoulder? You’re gonna cause a stir. Yep, no matter how your bury your nose behind that Sony, some joker in a Tony Stewart shirt is going to ask you “Hey, how much for the camera?”. Sure, you’ll be tempted to offer a biting retort, but you’re only wasting your breath. Save it. You’ll get plenty of chances to use that snappy comeback the next 400 times it happens, which, if my calculations are correct, should be within the next half hour or so. Keep moving. Chances are those old ladies won’t harass you if you steer clear of the figurine aisle. And those sixth grade delinquents with the paintball pistols set on splat - the ones who keep asking you “Is that camera ON?” - they’ll never follow you through the used bloomer section. So put your pride in your pocket and your batteries on standby…we’re going in!

At least that’s what I told myself Friday as I waded into the oven-like environs of the Burlington Hospice Flea Market. I was kind of lost in thought when I first pulled up to the old missile factory location. But one look at the blue collar throng gathered just outside told me one of a few things was happening. Either (A) Larry the Cable Guy was holding an impromptu concert inside, or (B) the world’s largest supply of warped Tupperware lids and Oak Ridge Boy 8-tracks was about to be plundered, or (C) I’d greatly underestimated the popularity of this annual event. Upon slogging in, I discovered all but the first item were true. But no soomer had I confirmed the absence of the Git-R-Done guy than I was overtaken by the stifling air and belch-flavored humidity of the nation’s larges charity flea market. Medic!

Once my vision returned, I realized what I had to do. Get in and get out - before the noxious fumes of a thousand busted lava lamps rendered me inert. But I couldn’t just up and run. I had to prove I’d been there, both in pictures, sound and perspiration. That last part wasn’t a problem - as I sweat like a revival tent minister comin’ off a bender, anyway. Throw in an abandoned silo, a few thousand Hee-Haw fans and the finest in broken sofas and you have my top three reasons why some stories should be shot in a hurry. So that’s exactly what I did. With not a modicum of shame, I roared through the horde like the Tasmanian Devil on deadline. No sooner had I swept the collection of old Chia Pets, declined all offers to sell my tripod and stalked a talker or two - than it was time to go. This I did with the greatest of haste, for some scenes get no better worth time…

Speaking of which, if you’re looking for the complete collection of Junior Johnson cuckoo clocks, I can hook a brother up!