Saturday, October 31, 2009
I'm back because one of my best friends from high school just got married. To celebrate, he's throwing a wedding reception. On Halloween night. Guests are required to dress in costume. Required.
I honestly had no idea what I was going to wear. I'm so used to wearing a suit and tie to these things that I the whole premise threw me for a loop.
Then I got it. Actually, a co-worker got it. You could be Billy Mays, she said. That'd be simple enough.
It was. I already had the blue button down shirt (sans corporate logo), khaki pants and shiny wristwatch. I bought a $5 beard at Party City and cut it down to Billy-length. It's amazing how easily the whole thing went through airport security.
I picked up some Oxi-Clean after I landed in Akron on Friday. I'm still on the search for some pomade to slick my hair back. I'll need some Dapper Dan, provided that Warren isn't a two-weeks-from-everywhere geographical oddity.
The trick, of course, is to see how well this goes over at the reception Saturday night. I've been working on my gestures. I'm practicing my double-handed finger point. I've got the thumbs up down cold. I'm still trying to perfect my quiet yell. It's the vocal trick of making it sound like your yelling really loudly without actually raising the volume of your voice.
Problem is, I've already been told that I may not be the only Billy Mays at the reception. So my Billy has to be better than everybody else's Billy. And, there's always my checkered topical costumed past. Six years ago, during a heated West Virginia Supreme Court Race, I went as Judge Harry T. Stone from Night Court. I handed out campaign fliers. Some people figured it out. Most folks thought I was Harry Potter. Two years ago, I went as Kim Jong-Il, complete with the drab olive pantsuit and giant Team America style Harry Caray glasses. The first guy in the door at my Halloween party got it. Nobody else did.
The point of this isn't to have the best costume. I'm going to be there for my friend. It shouldn't matter if I one-up everybody. But if anyone spills wedding cake or coffee on themselves, Billy will be there with Oxi-Clean to help. That is, provided they take advantage of my limited-time offer.
Friday, October 30, 2009
The first video shows success:
The second shows utter failure:
The sad thing is because the bottom pond at the center is so full of water right now, the class-III rapid he's using to launch himself into the air (Biscuits & Gravy) isn't actually there any more. It's more of a wave train now.
Oh yeah. Mark was fine.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
It's Thursday afternoon, and I'm still not sure.
I was one of three people who got to live-tweet the Charlotte Mayoral Debate for NewsChannel 36. The idea was that I'd take the temperature of the audience and provide some sort of color commentary. I did my best.
It was hard.
First off, you're limited to 140 characters per tweet. Once you go over the limit, you've got to go back and try to shorten it up. By then, the candidates have already moved on to the next topic. I tried to use most of my time to quickly analyze what John Lassiter and Anthony Foxx were saying. Thirty seconds later, my commentary was technically old news.
I changed my strategy. I uploaded pictures I'd taken before the debate. Old news. I provided links to a relevant question about campaign fundraising. By the time I'd found the articles and posted them, the candidates were already two questions onward. Old news.
I did what I could, and my other two colleagues (the talented Bobby Sisk and the sharp Tonya Jameson) filled in the gaps when one of us fell behind. It was over in an hour. I felt like I had much more to say. I tried to provide some sharp insight. But, uh, you also got this from me:
- Lassiter: "We need Jack Bauer in Charlotte."
- I think, THINK there is a sports related question coming... (NOTE: I was wrong)
- Cell phone going off in here.
- If you think Dave is ridiculous now, you should hang around him in the newsroom.
- McGlohon security guards watching Transformers 2 backstage.
- Please don't yank out my power cord, people.
Most of all, I had hoped that by furiously covering the debate, I'd be able to form my own lasting opinion about the candidates. That didn't happen. Oh sure, I had a general idea of how they performed, and I was able to get their words down into my computer, but multi-tasking robbed me of any lasting memory of what they were actually saying. It's all a blur. Kind of like trying to pat your head and rub your stomach at the same time.
I swear I'll watch the whole debate again online (Tonya gasped when I told her that). I need to. But this time, I'll leave the commentary to my brain, and not my fingers.
Sunday, October 18, 2009
I have never been to a coffee house with a DJ, but again, this is the Epicentre, so normal laws of supply and demand don't apply. As in, I demand a good cup of coffee. I get supplied with Boom Boom Pow.
Truth be told, the cappuccino wasn't all that bad, but I missed out on the complete Alice In Wonderland experience by not smoking the hookah. It apparently comes in 40 flavors at PJ's. One is bubble gum. I'm guessing it tastes like Bubbalicious that's ended up on the underside of a table.
Mez is one of those funny places where you have to get some guy in a suit and an earpiece to let you through a velvet rope. Then, once you're inside, some other guys in suits and earpieces walk past you in a huff as if the way you are dressed is ruining their night. Poor fellas. It must be a bummer to know that you're basically a turnstile that works only when pretty people push up against you.
I got in because I knew a guy who knew a guy. On the way up to the second floor, you ride an escalator through a Rainbow Brite light show. Then you get grazed by employees who are constantly taking out garbage and pushing entire racks of glassware. You'd figure at Epicentre, they'd have secret passages for that.
Mez does not have a dance floor that anyone is aware of, so the white man's overbite is spread around anywhere. Mezzies also unbutton the top five buttons on their shirts. Every so often, a guy walks by with a bottle of wine with a sparkler on top. No song lasts longer than 30 seconds before the DJ mashes it into another one. It's a temple to $200 shirts and short attention spans. I'm wondering if all the cool people are doing Ritalin in a bathroom stall.
The best part about Blackfinn is that it is so crowded, you can easily get an entire beer spilled on you by someone who will make that action seem routine. People throw elbows like they were Dennis Rodman coming down with a rebound. It's tight.
The nice part is that the booze and the clothing are more proletariat than they are at Mez (Hint: Proletariat is not the thoroughbred that won the 1973 Triple Crown). A buddy of mine wore his New Jersey Devils hoodie and was perfectly at home. Another was so sloppy drunk that he couldn't say more than four words to me at a time without stopping to grin.
He went out big-- taking his empty Bud Light bottle, stuffing into some guy's full pint of beer, then walking right out the door. Lucky for him, he made it seem routine.
Friday, October 16, 2009
Some exciting moments from this weekend's Bank of America 500 at Lowe's Motor Speedway near Charlotte:
Blatant Misunderstanding of Other Cultures
So, these two guys behind me start in on Juan Pablo Montoya. Actually to listen to them, Juan started it. Every time, say, Juan would stay out during a caution or cut somebody off, the guys behind me started yelling. "Go home, you Mexican bastard!" one of them would say. Or, the other would belt out "F--- you, you damn illegal immigrant!" And then you could hear the other guy chortle in agreement, as if his friend had just penned the last line of a Shakespearian sonnet, instead of filling in the adjective portion of a racist Mad Lib.
Fun Fact: Juan Pablo Montoya is actually from Colombia.
Fear of Fighting Drunks While Sober
My girlfriend suggested I inform the two men behind me that Juan was not only from Bogota, but also in this country perfectly legally. Beside the fact that it's really hard to correct a drunk, I didn't want to be on the feeling end of a fight. As in: I'd feel it. He wouldn't.
This reminded me of one of my brother's neighbors in college, who decided one night that he wanted to experience a fistfight whilst inebriated. The idea was that if he couldn't completely stop the pain of a broken and swollen face, at least he could delay it a bit to have fun. So he yelled from his porch at every passer-by. It turns out that no matter how much the neighbor called their girlfriends fat or their haircuts gay, nobody wanted to walk up on the porch and throw a punch. Again, it's not easy to teach a drunk a lesson.
Hatred of Jeff Gordon
This one was pretty obvious. They booed him when he was introduced. They booed him when he rode past the grandstand in the back of a truck. They booed him when he passed somebody. If fact, I'm quite sure some random boos came when somebody sneezed, and the "Aaaaa-choo" sounded vaguely like "Jeeee-ffgordon."
One guy in my section felt compelled to stand up each time Jeff Gordon flew past at 170 mph, and flick him off. To make it easier for Jeff Gordon to see, his hand moved in a direct line between his eye and the 24 Chevrolet. That way, on the off chance that Jeff Gordon would glance up while screeching around Turn One, he would easily be able to make out one outstretched middle finger amongst a crowd of thousands.
This one didn't work. Jeff Gordon won, despite 337 consecutive flippings of the bird.
Love of Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
This one's pretty much the same, except you replace the boos with cheers, replace the middle finger with a thumbs up, and replace the win with a 19th place finish.
Realization That I Am Turning Into My Father
We left the race with about 90 laps to go, and I remember myself saying, "Well, we'll beat the traffic." Then, when justifying it further, I also remember saying, "Well, we can listen to the end of it on the radio."
Sometime back in 1987, I'm sure my dad said the exact same things to me as we left a Cleveland Indians game in the top of the eighth inning. No, I thought, I don't care if they're beating Oakland 10-1, we came all the way here and WE MUST STAY UNTIL THE END. I was so mad about those petty grown-up things like traffic and radio that I vowed never to leave any sporting event early when I was an adult, no matter what the score.
And then I grew up and realized the importance of getting home before midnight. I do get cranky if I don't get my sleep.
Finding Humor In Idiocy
No matter how many times I tried to fight it, I just couldn't stop laughing at the guy who held up his Jimmie Johnson Haters Club sign upside down. Or the guy who was seriously considering buying a pair of Jingle Jugs: a wall-mountable set of boobs that not only sings a song ("Titties and Beer"), but also jiggles in perfect 4/4 time. Or the guy who stood up and at the top of his lungs, asked how many Clint Bowyer fans were in the crowd. Nobody made a peep. Actually, that was the same guy who was holding the sign upside down.
Not Understanding NASCAR
At certain points, this old guy next to me would lean over and say something I couldn't hear through my earplugs, and then point. A couple of times I blurted out "What?" but after a while, I just started nodded and pointing in the same direction. This usually came after what I perceived to be a good move or a bad move on some driver's part. I really don't know. All I do know is that I got excited during the first few laps because I was astonished at how fast all the pretty cars went. When they'd done it 121 times and I realized they had 216 more times to do it, that astonishment wore off. And so, when somebody looked at me for guidance on some kind of racing ruling, I found myself pointing at something and nodding. Luckily, I did have enough tact to keep from high-fiving others when somebody wrecked.
Realizing That A Race Really Isn't A Good Metaphor For Life
Sure, there's a bunch of guys competing and doing whatever they need to do to win, but in the stands it's just a bunch of people idolizing celebrities who just go around in circles while they get drunk and high five each other, all the time being naive to the fact that they're basically at a sports bar with a $50 dollar cover charge.
No wait, that's pretty much right on.
From October 18, 2007
Every year around this time, I kick on the heater and it blows out cold air.
So, I have to hoist myself up into the attic, gingerly putting one foot on a not-so-stable shelf loaded up with gallons of old house paint. If I can do it without causing the whole thing to collapse, I'm beating the odds.
Then, I have to fumble around for the light. Once I pull the two-inch long chain I then step from beam to beam, making my way to my heater, which, according to the grease pencil-writing on the side, was last serviced in 1985.
It's supposed to heat up my place by blowing cold air over a series of tiny hot-water-filled coils. That process will make that air hotter before funneling it down into my condo below.
Problem is, after a long summer of air conditioning, the water in those pipes is ice cold. Three years ago, just before I was about to call a service guy to come out and fix it, I climbed up into the attic and found the heater, with a 50 foot long garden hose attached to it.
I figured out that to get the heater working, I had to turn on the tap in the attic and run water through the hose until it heats up. Apparently that flushes warmer water through the coils.
That's the easy part. The hard part is trying to pull my entire body through a two foot wide hole in my utility closet, ten feet off the floor. Then, I have to have to hold the end of the hose up to a small pipe, so I don't flood my attic with hot water. I use my free hand to keep the hose from kinking up.
Also, unlike my condo below, it's hot up there.
Apparently, the pipe leads directly outside. I found that out when my downstairs neighbor called me in a panic last year, asking what had been leaking all over her bedroom window for the last five minutes.
The end result of all this is heat, of course. And the constant running of my hot water heater. It's in an outside closet next to my bedroom. I fall asleep at night to the sound of natural gas burning through my bank account.
Still, I'm told that this is the most efficient way to heat my condo. I'm trying to figure out if that's just hot air, or worse, hot water.
- Why did you do it?
- Have you no soul?
- Didn't you think Aunt Bea would know that her pie was missing?
The whole think is a bit of macabre theatre. Usually said suspect keeps his head down and says nothing. Occasionally, you'll get an "I didn't do it!" or "I'm innocent!" That's rare.
A few years ago, a fellow photog from another station had devised a way to get a reaction out of just about anybody.
He'd ask them whether Pete Rose belonged in the Hall of Fame.
It's a really good question, because after all, Pete Rose still holds the all-time record for hits, and what criminal wouldn't have an opinion on that? If you didn't already know, Charlie Hustle was banned for betting on baseball. Pete knows what it's like to be accused.
Of course, all this question ever really achieved was to get a perp to slightly turn his head. Sometimes he'd raise an eyebrow or shoot a quizzical look in our direction. Never, of course, did this photog get an answer about Pete.
Except for once. One night, a couple of us were staking out this police station parking lot in eastern Kentucky. We were waiting for a guy to be brought in for some sort of heinous crime. It was supposed to be very formulaic. Sullen-faced cops emerged. We started walking backwards, lights blazing, cameras rolling, questions firing.
This guy answered them all.
US: Did you do it?
PERP: Hell no I didn't do it!
US: Why did the police pick you up?
PERP: Shit if I know, man!
Then it came.
US: Does Pete Rose belong in the Hall of Fame?
PERP: Hell yeah, he deserves to get in! Guy's the all time hits leader, man!
Pete, you've got at least one guy on your side.