Thursday, February 11, 2010

Sermon on the Mount

Pilot Mountain 1Damn the News Gods. First they curse me with three straight days of general assignment strife; stripping me of my cloaking powers, making me chase potholes and pariahs until IQ points dribble down my chin. Then they lock me in a live truck where I serve a kind of purgatory known only to lenslingers of my vintage. Then -- just when I'm about to rip my eyelids off from sheer, tortured boredom, the heavens open up and I am beckoned Westward. That's what happened this morning as the Suits in the Room chose to throw me a bone. "Pilot Mountain's shut down. Go find out why." I was out the door before they finished their syllables - not because the Surry County summit was going anywhere, but because I'd been spinning my wheels all week. But all that consternation faded away as the ribbon of asphalt known as Highway 52 spooled out before me. I followed it and by the time Pilot Mountain hove into view, I found myself humming a familiar tune...

Pilot Mountain  2I've mentioned before my fixation on 'Mount Pilot' ... the way it calls to me whenever I zoom by its base, the photos of it I keep in my glovebox, how I like to shape its shoulders in peanut butter whenever the wife's not looking... Look, I've already revealed too much. Let's just say I got great love for this monadnock; whenever I can storm it, I do so with glee. Even when the whole place is shut down and I got to hitch a ride with a passing park ranger. Keith Martin was an amiable host: he chauffered me around the broken backroads of the great knob, and didn't even flinch when I asked about the pod people. A crafty one, that one. No bother: I'll gladly skulk away with my bounty: an incidental enough package - that, while it won't win me any pageants - was far more fun to shoot than your average sat truck convention. Now, get off my cloud!

Lombardi Gras

Saints ParadeCovering Mardi Gras is kinda like being in a bar fight. The surging crowd, the airborne alcohol, the flying elbows, and that’s just the grandmothers. Add a big silver football and 53 newly minted world champions to the mix and you’ve got what locals are calling Lombardi Gras. It’s a party of biblical proportions and only a team owner with his hands high over his head can part the Black and Gold Sea.

Whodats from around the country converged on the city below sea level to celebrate their team’s first Superbowl victory and thank the players who brought it home. But nary a bare breast was to be found. The WhoDat Nation ain't your ordinary Mardi Gras crowd, and this was Dat Tuesday.

The blogger formerly known as Turd was in that number as the lowly, street-level live camera at ground zero as 800,000 of his closest friends jumped and shouted for cheap plastic crap falling from the heavens. But mostly, people doused lens and lens-meat alike in exuberant, spittle-filled clichés as they cheered the state's new heroes.

Street-level Mardi Gras day is tough enough when you not tethered to an overstuffed logo-van, try strolling through the throng to the safe side of the barricades with Chet Dimplechin on one wire and a surly truck on another. It ain't pretty.

Now, take away the barricades and put yourself in the middle of the action. Turd says they took no prisoners, unless you count the kid Chet stiff-armed getting to Reggie Bush and the pregnant woman he clothesline with his mic cable running for local Superbowl hero Tracy Porter.

For veterans of the Beer-and-Vomit Fest like Turd, it's all in a day's work, and to think, he gets to do it all again next week.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Schmuck Alert: Tripodicide!

Tripod Daddy

Hey, wasn't there a Stephen King movie where all the old people turned into homicidal whack-jobs? If not there should have been - for it's a highly cinematic scenario. Just ask Jim Morrison. No, not the allegedly dead Lizard King - the Univision photojournalist who was recently accosted by a deranged maintenance man outside an Albuquerque warehouse. Apparently, the elderly fellow didn't want his picture taken (lest the lens steal his soul). How can I be so sure? Morrison's video clearly shows the unidentified man expressing his rancor with a flagrantly displayed middle digit - before taking issue with the sticks. Look out! He's got a collapsible camera stand and he's not afraid to use it! Sorry, I just get a little jumpy whenever someone mistreats a three-legged beast. Which is just what this apoplectic elder proceeded to do: first slamming Morrison's tripod on the ground and then running it over with his pick-up truck. C'mon, Gramps! Someone slip a steroid in your Metamucil? Wheel of Fortune get pre-empted by another Obama presser? Still pissed about the whole horseless carriage thing? Whatever the reason for your rage, one would think a man of your vintage would maintain some level of decorum - or at the very least act like you got some damn sense. Instead, you display the kind of behavior that would send a fifth grader to Detention. That's no way to treat the media, Sir. Nor is it a proper example to set for the younger generation of custodial engineers who don't yet know how they feel about passing camera crews.


Tuesday, February 09, 2010

The Live Truck Diaries

Live Truck StuporAre you there, Zod? It's me, Stewart. I know it's odd that I keep you writing you like this - what with you being an effeminate movie villain from my youth and all... But when your stranded in a live truck on the edge of someone else's destiny, the mind wanders. Besides, I used to have a poster of you on my bedroom wall and unlike the Farrah print that hung beside it, channeling your image doesn't feel so skeevy. So bear with me as I center myself, block out the electronics squawking over my shoulder and conjure up a space opera worthy of a Kryptonian refugee as yourself. Don't worry though, we got like twelve minutes...

Dateline NowhereI know, I know: a dozen sweeps round the dial doesn't seem like enough time to lionize the heavy in a bad 70's sequel. PFFT! I've fashioned whole parables from nothing but dashboard dust motes in fewer minutes. Of course, I was safely ensconced in a TV truck then, too. There's just something about a fully extended mast and splayed out cable that slows the Earth's rotation. Unless you're editing under deadline. Then time flies like that goody-two shoes dork in the red and blue suit. You know - he whose cape should not be laundered with everyday washables. 'Kal-El', I believe you locals call him... Either he's dry-humping my transmitter dish as we speak or there's been some kind of horrible bird-strike in the greater Lexington Metropl -- SHHHHHH!

Rox in a BoxI think she heard us. Her - the pretty one with the water bottle and Blackberry. Ever since I've been mumbling into the ether, she's been clockin' my every move. Personally, I don't trust her. A few minutes ago she sprayed hairspray right in my face, then like totally ignored me as she recited something called 'an intro'. I bet she doesn't even own any comic books. What little she knows of your kind comes from a Three Doors Down song and by the way, I don't trust any performer who loses his Southern accent when he sings. Yeah, you could call me paranoid. .. but I'm pretty sure some kind of nefarious super-villan is poisoning live truck generators - because after my third drag from the tail pipe, I got a little dizzy....

Perhaps that's why I couldn't find a phone booth.

Monday, February 08, 2010


Pothole WatchOur nation's leaders may be up to their rhetoric in freshly fallen snow - but here in the Piedmont, we're moving on. You know what that means: Pothole Watch. Seems those jagged gaps in the blacktop are of towering import these days, what with the Superbowl over. Actually the smotherage of said pavement patches are as much a winter tradition as riots in the bread aisle. I don't know how you news crew roll in Buffalo, but here in the contiguous Southeast, we top off a good snowstorm with two or three days of intense hand-wringing... Will the Earth open up and swallow our city whole? Could your kids school bus get sucked into a crevasse? How DO you get drive-thru coffee out of real Corinthian Leather? Yes, it's a veritable telethon, but reporting on Pavement Quake 2010 is about as earth-shattering as covering a hole in the ground.

Not that your average news crew craves excitement. We get plenty of that. It's just pointing lenses at a future mud puddle carries with it a certain indignity. Don't believe me? Bum-rush an asphalt patch crew and tell them you need to shoot video of them working. They'll let you, but it's awfully hard to feel good about your career path when the guy with the bucket of highway sludge thinks your job is stupid. Still, ours is not to judge, so Emmy Award winning Chad Tucker and I tried to give it our finest effort - it being Monday and all. First we hunted down the City Worker in Charge of Filling Potholes and Fending Off News Crew. I'm not sure if that's what his business card say, but a guy I know only as Dwight spent much of the morning answering our questions, wrangling work crews and rolling his eyes. Not always in that order. Then again, when you have a half dozen journalists phoning you with breathless queries about crumbles in the infrastructure, a little sarcasm is all but required.

Potholes!Undue confession: Chad and I bagged on our assignment too. It's hard not to when your utilizing thousands of dollars in electronic equipment to get to the bottom of a four inch ditch. And while I'd like to apologize to the minivan mom who found my roadside presence so distracting (Eyes on the road, lady!) and to that pedestrian who asked me what was going on (Foghat is NOT reuniting), I for one harbor no remorse towards the gang-bangers who nearly stopped my heart with their ill-timed horn blast and indecipherable knuckle language (Hey, I don't roll up in your workspace and spotlight the bodybags... Oh wait -- I do!) Hmmm, where was I? Oh yeah, complaining about Pothole Watch. Wouldn't my talents be better served examining the human condition or at least chasing a dog in a funny hat? I mean, c'mon producers, who really gives a rip about some hole in the road anyway?

What's that? Folks are flocking to our website to report their own potholes? Newsrooms phones are ringing? In-boxes are flooding? Servers are crashing? Rating diaries are being rewritten?

Forget I mentioned it...