29 July 2009

You're a Dirty Girl and I'm Telling!

This morning, I got up and pulled on a favorite t-shirt and a pair of shorts. I wore the t-shirt last night for a few hours, before I went to bed. It is, afterall, one of my favorite t-shirts (there are three) and here's an admission: it sometimes gets worn several times between washing. (The t-shirt in question is 25 years old. How do you think it survived that long? Dirt is protecting it!)
Okay, I'm not a sweaty woman. And you know what? I'm not alone.
85% of American women will wear something a couple of times before washing it. Yes, we wear dirty clothes. Or even go hamper-diving. As my mother would tell you, I just toss my clothes around the room, so I rarely go on a hamper tour, but when I do, be assured, those would be some dirty clothes I'm digging through.
You thought the boys were the only dirty ones? Ha! You were wrong!
Glamour Magazine polled 1000 women to discover all kinds of weird and somewhat annoying hygiene habits that we generally won't admit in polite company. It goes without saying that Polite is defined as anyone but our closest girlfriends. Although I can't imagine having this discussion with my closest girlfriends because they're too, well, polite. Want more?
75% of American women pee in the shower. That's not so bad, right? Urine, unless you have an infection, is sterile and nontoxic. And peeing in the shower saves on water that might otherwise be used in flushing a toilet. I wonder if I could get that printed up on a bumpersticker: "Save the planet: pee in the shower!"
40% of us observe the "5 second rule." When something falls on the floor, a sizable percentage of us will still eat it. Boy, I hope they're talking about hard rolls and potato chips here. Tomato soup in this instance is a little icky. But I sorta like the child-like trusting attitude that this implies.
43% of us don't brush our teeth at night. Wow, really? REALLY? This blog is written by someone who can't sleep until she has done the thing with the brush and floss. And she's feeling pretty darned good about herself just this moment.
So do you hit the showers before you turn in? A third of us will hit the sheets still wearing our sweat. No shower taken, we're okay with that.
24% of American women don't wash their hands after using the bathroom. Who are these people? Do they think of themselves as "Ladies"? Now you're thinking twice about the girl that brought your sandwich at the lunch-counter, huh?
Finally, 32% of us go barefoot at the gym. Well, that's just risky. But there's a wild rumor floating through this survey that if you get athlete's foot or some other nasty foot fungus, peeing in the shower will help cure it.
Now you're wondering, huh?

27 July 2009

Can I Get Water with That?

Today's blog will be a gripe. A complaint. A complete whine-down from me about my on-going pet peeve. Here it comes.
I pay my taxes and I feel that the government owes me drinking water that is consumable. By me.
Please allow me to explain.
About a year and a half ago, I discovered that I had developed a mysterious oral condition. I asked my dentist to take a look at it. The skin on the inside of my mouth was peeling on a daily basis. The dentist was baffled and she offered to send me to a specialist.
While I considered that option, I tried a number of things. I had been drinking Los Angeles tap water. I mixed in Crystal Lite Lemonade drink mix to kill the noxious flavor. I thought perhaps it was a reaction to citrus and citric acid, so I dropped the Crystal Lite.
My mouth continued to peel. After ruling out citric acid, I tried bottled water. Sometimes the burning, peeling, blistering and swelling would stop. Then I'd buy a different brand of water (I have no brand loyalty. I bought whatever was cheap and convenient.) and it would start again. I finally settled on good old Kirkland, the Costco house-brand in Los Angeles, which seemed to fix the problem.
Let me point out, I don't like the idea of bottled water for a number of reasons. First, because I grew up on a farm, drinking Artesian well water, and I don't want to be so prissy that I buy water.
Second, I have seen the figures on plastic in the environment and basically, it seems that buying water in bottles is causing us to fill up our landfills. Third, it annoys me that I pay my taxes that are supposed to include surcharges for water and I feel it is implicit in government's compact with taxpayers that drinkable water is a right in this country. And fourth, I'm cheap.
For all of those reasons and the backache that lugging it home and into the house gives me, I'm bugged.
Then there's the fact that every time I arrive in a new place, the hunt is on for drinkable water. I have to try a succession of products, since different locations use different bottling companies with unsleuthable "standards." In many cases, as we know, the source of many bottled waters is, in fact, local municipal water systems.
And sure, they "filter" it, but who knows what that really means?
So after unsuccessfully starting out with Deer Park water, which produced a sore tongue and swollen lips (Oh. Did I forget to mention that it makes my lips puffy and "bee-stung"
so while the mouth is in agony, it looks great: cherry red, puffy and tender.)
within a few days. I moved on to Crystal Geyster Natural Alpine Spring Water, and a few days later, "the spring water" helped me add blistering at the corners of the mouth to my symptom list.
I brought home a case of Dasani tonight. I bought a 24 pack of 16 ounce bottles. If that sounds like a decent supply, I should also explain that's another side effect: my saliva glands swell, shut down and I'm stuck permanently with a dry mouth. So while the water causes pain, swelling and bloat, it also brings on extreme thirst.
So here I am, sucking down a bottle of Dasani ("bottled at Coca Cola Inc., in Howard, PA") hoping that tomorrow, I won't long for quite as many bottles... and growing more ticked off by the drop. Thank you for listening.
Anybody wanting to start a tax revolt over water, please speak up. Until then, this will be my parched plea:

23 July 2009

A Tale of Two Spokesmodels

Gidget the Taco Bell dog is dead at age 15. Before we sound the celebrity mourning bells (is there a star on the Walk of Fame somewhere?), I'd be grateful if anyone can explain to me why the tiny dog with the big fake Mexican accent is less offensive than the Frito Bandito?
You remember Gidget, right? The tiny Chihuahua pooch who touted nachos and Gorditos with a flick of big eyes and oversize ears. She was the spokes-dog with the deep voice for Taco Bell from 1997 to 2000. She suffered a massive stroke earlier this week and was put down at 15, which in case you didn't know it is utterly ancient in spokes-doggy years.
My question is very simple: why is a dog with a heavy accent, a deep, gruff sounding voice and yen for a burrito so much more acceptable than a cartoon character who sings about stealing your chips?
The Frito Bandito was the cartoon spokesperson who hyped corn chips from 1967 to 1971, singing this song:
"Aye, yii, yii, yiiii, I am dee Frito Bandito. I like Frito's Corn Chips. I love them, I do. I want Frito's corn chips. I'll take them, from you."
The Frito Bandito was retired under pressure from the National Mexican-American Anti-Defamation Association and others, who didn't like the stereotype he represented. I don't quibble with the idea that perhaps the Bandito character was out of step with our "melting pot culture" in this country, but if so, why was Gidget not in the doghouse with the same group?
I may be mistaken, but this seems to me to be similar to my questions about rodents. To me, squirrels are merely rodents with fluffy tails.
And pigeons? They're flying rats. Research has shown that parasitic pigeons are a significant cause of "sick buildings" and lost productivity among American office workers.
Aren't Chihuahuas just dogs that Paris Hilton thinks make cute accessories? I think they might also be a good source of protein, but the larger breeds have more meat on them.
Carry on. I'm going to the kitchen for some Fritos. Blogging made me hungry.

Our Healthcare Crisis and Costs

I saw this news article just now and thought it had something to say that without further comment from me. The night after a presidential news conference on health care reform, this news item provides pure irony, start to finish.
(AP) STUART, Fla. – All sides agree on one thing in the strange case of a South Florida hospital that secretly repatriated a seriously brain injured patient back to Guatemala.
During the early hours of a steamy July 2003 morning, Martin Memorial Medical Center chartered a private plane and sent 37-year-old Luis Jimenez back to the Central American country without telling his relatives in the U.S. or Guatemala — even as his cousin and legal guardian, Montejo Gaspar, frantically sought to stop the move.
There, things get murky. Gaspar is suing the hospital for essentially deporting Jimenez, who was an illegal immigrant. The hospital, which spent more than $1.5 million on his care over three years, says Jimenez wanted to go home.
Underlying the dispute is the broader question of what's a hospital to do with a patient who requires long-term care, is unable to pay and doesn't qualify for federal or state aid because of his immigration status. Health care and immigration experts across the country are watching the case, which could go to a jury Thursday, and which could set precedent in Florida and possibly beyond.
Lawyers for Jimenez said this appears to be the first time a lawsuit has been filed in such a case. In closing arguments Thursday, Jack Hill, Gaspar's attorney, said the hospital wanted to send Jimenez back before the case could get on track for appeals.
"The plan was designed once and for all to stop the meter from running, to stop the expenses ... to stop the case from going all the way up to the Supreme Court — because Luis Jimenez was gone," Hill said.
The case also raises the question of whether a hospital and a state court can decide on their own to deport someone.
"Regardless of the decision, it will heighten the awareness of hospitals nationwide. The next time they debate shipping a patient overseas, they're going to have to do their homework because it's going to leave them open to a lot of legal challenges and questions," said Steve Larson, an assistant dean at the University of Pennsylvania's School of Medicine and medical director of a nonprofit clinic for Latino immigrants.

But Linda Quick, president of the South Florida Hospital & Healthcare Association, says hospitals may become even more wary about providing extended care to uninsured immigrants.
Hospitals are already struggling under the staggering costs of treating the nation's roughly 47 million uninsured. Illegal immigrants make up an estimated 15 percent of this group, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.

"I think they'll do what's required according to physician orders," she said, "but I think they will be more pro-active and aggressive in finding a discharge plan."

Like millions of others, Jimenez came the U.S to work as a day laborer, sending money home to his wife and small children. In 2000, a drunk driver crashed into the van he was riding in, leaving the robust soccer player a paraplegic. For more than a year he lingered in a vegetative state before he began to recuperate, eventually reaching a fourth grade level in cognitive ability. The hospital sent him to a long-term care facility for a brief stint, but eventually he was returned to the hospital for care. Armed with a letter from the Guatemalan minister of health stating the poverty-ridden country could care for him, the hospital sent him home.

Because Jimenez has diminished capacity to make decisions, Gaspar was named as his legal guardian. Gaspar appealed a judge's order approving the move. The appellate court later reversed that order, ruling a state court lacks the authority to decide immigration cases. But by then, Jimenez had been released from the Guatemalan hospital and was living with his mother in a one-room home in the mountainous state of Huehuetenango, 12 hours from the Guatemalan capital. There is no road to the house, making it nearly impossible for his mother to get help for him in an emergency.

A South Florida Roman Catholic priest described a visit to Jimenez in an e-mail to The Associated Press: "He was clean, glad of the visit and occasionally made apparently good sense comments," wrote the Rev. Frank O'Laughlin. "It seemed that he was cooperating with his caregiver and would survive, I guessed, until his first pneumonia."

O'Laughlin said he wasn't sure that Jimenez should be returned to "medical care in an alien Florida institution."

But he maintains the lawsuit is important because hospitals should not be allowed to deport people.

He and Larson also say a country that relies on cheap, immigrant labor for everything from agriculture, to clothing to construction, should factor in the cost of catastrophic injuries to those providing these essential services — whether it means requiring employers to offer coverage even for day laborers or ensuring public and nonprofit hospitals can care for them.

Carla Luggiero, a senior associate director for American Hospital Association, stressed that cases such as Jimenez's are rare. Most of the time, hospitals are able to work with the families to find alternative and acceptable care. And most of the time families don't have pro bono lawyers working for them as Jimenez does.

But she also warned the issue is serious, and it is one Congress has yet to address in its health care reform proposals.

"There is absolutely no discussion about it," Luggiero said. And yet, hospitals that receive Medicare reimbursements are required to provide emergency care to all patients and must provide an acceptable discharge plan once the patient is stabilized.

"It's a complicated, huge issue. Without repatriation, the issue of undocumented immigrants is already a hand grenade and so is health care," Larson said. "So together, you're really walking a tightrope."

22 July 2009

How Low Can Deflation Go?

Can I point out something I've noticed during the current economic recession? Of course I can. It's about prices on various and sundry items from furniture to cars to housing. They're going down.

By more than half.

"50% or More Cut!" "Prices Reduced Drastically!" "Huge Markdown!"

What I find interesting and somewhat ironic is that these price cuts are being made on the same merchandise that has been offered for years. Or even worse, on brand-new, high-tech electronics and other.

The reason this seems to interesting to me is because what it makes clear is the huge mark-up that we've been paying for years. It reminds me of a conversation I had with a family member a few years back. This relative had married a few years before and their (somewhat new) spouse was had a successful professional practice. The practice was very successful, but the office manager apparently neglected to pay the business income taxes as the year went along.

So here came my relative's plaintiff cry:
"Marti, we have to catch up and that means paying hundreds of
thousands of dollars in taxes."
At this point, I actually laughed at this relative and said:
"Yeah, okay. Shuuuuuuut up. I know what that means."

I said it sorta laughing at the time, because it's easy to spot what she was doing: camouflaging a boast about her spouse's income by cloaking it in a whining complaint.
Years ago, my boss in Washington liked to call that "rich people's whine: when people on the Norwegian Cruise Line complain about Baltic instead of Beluga caviar."
So now we have merchants crying because they aren't making money as they did in the past, but since we know they are not selling their wares at a loss (unless it's a going out of business sale), what we are now seeing is how inflated their costs have been in the past. What we're seeing is how greedily they have milked the American consumer for the last decade or two.

It's great to see prices coming down, and I want to feel sorry and empathetic for everyone in this difficult time, but some folks are easier than others, don't you agree?

21 July 2009

Play Ball!

President Barack Obama has issued an apology.
"I'm sorry," he said. What's this about, you might ask?
Poorly planned and ineffectively carried out stimulus?
A Latino Supreme Court pick who has a history of making racially inflammatory comments?
A health care proposal that could finally bankrupt the nation while at the same time run doctors out of business with lawsuits?
Um, no. No. And no.
Mr. Obama stands accused of wearing "Mom jeans" when he threw out the ceremonial opening pitch of the Major League Baseball All-Star game in St. Louis. A definite fashion faux pas.
Here are the pictures. I tried to choose photos that made clear the, er, problem. As you can see, President Obama showed up for the game dressed casually in a pair of jeans and light jacket. The Leader of the Free World, who is known for cutting a lean, athletic and fit figure in almost any ensemble, looks confident and happy as he approaches the mound. Well, it seems the fashion critics were thinking, we'll see about that.

They must have shaken and hung their heads at the very idea that President Barack Obama should confidently and with a smile approach the mound in such an unfashionable state. The very idea that he should enjoy the activity so inappropriately, unfashionably attired. Yes, the man was about to throw out a ball, which many believe to be an exercise in extreme concentration, requiring focused attention, skill, athleticism and energy. But for heavens' sake, pick up that foot fashionably and make sure that the leg it is attached to is wearing jeans with the latest cut.

Ahem, I was hoping that this recession had us headed for a little fashionista accord. I was hoping it positioned us for a little stylistic detente, if you will, where we didn't attack each other for our fashion choices because some of us have more important things to do even as others of us have too little money to chase after the fashion of the moment.
When asked about the jeans, President Obama said they were simply comfortable. He also said, "For people who want a president to look great in tight jeans, I'm sorry."
It seems much ado about a subject of absolutely no substance.
Let the man have a little fun without criticizing him for the stupid stuff. Yes, he is the President of the United States. But isn't he also just a person? Can't we all remember as a child, thinking about what such a moment would be like for us? How ridiculous is it to criticize over this?

Besides, as any woman can tell you, those aren't "Mom Jeans."

Mom Jeans would cinch up high enough that there would be no chance of ever seeing that grin.

20 July 2009

Polls and Presidents

Polls are slipping... just a little.
The Washington Post headline suggests that the love affair of the public with President Barack Obama is perhaps waning, its ardency now being checked by the clear reality that yes, times are tough. The ABC News/Washington Post poll shows President's approval rating is the lowest it has been since election and sliding badly on economic issues.
Yes, it IS the economy, stupid. Anybody who didn't get that one before the election is by now in clear receipt of the news. Jobs are down, productivity is down, and morale is even lower. The buck stops here and just because his election already made history doesn't mean he won't make history again... as a failure.
Rush Limbaugh said he was hoping Obama fails, but I can not. How any American could wish failure on a sitting president, knowing that such would take the entire country down it? The politic-playing has to end somewhere and when the object being toyed with is our country's future, it seems some go to far.
But as a member of the media, I can admit the ongoing suck-up been a little tough to watch. The first few months of the Obama Administration, with very few words of criticism voiced by the national media, reminded me of the months after the 9/11 attacks. It was unheard of, and considered almost un-American to criticize the government, the President, or the war on terror.
It's a tough time, sure enough. I'm sure that the Obama Administration will weather the storm as presidencies have in the past. We elected him. He told us it wasn't going to be easy to get out of our financial morass. One can only assume that he knew it wasn't going to be easy for him, either.
Leading is more than holding frequent news conferences, Mr. Obama. It's getting down in the trenches where mud is almost always flying.

17 July 2009

Walter Cronkite: 1916-2009

If you notice, I have a photograph of Walter Cronkite and me about halfway down this page on the right side. That was a huge moment in my life as a journalist. Absolutely huge. I'm very proud of that picture. So let me tell you a little about that photo and the power Mr. Cronkite held over normally jaded, bored, and "oh-so-sophisticated journalists," like me.

The picture was taken several years back when I was working at one of the Los Angeles stations. I pulled the morning shift and the on-air day was over for me. I forget what I had covered. But I was back in the station, the morning shows were over and I was done.

One of the anchors was supposed to go interview Mr. Cronkite but she apparently had other, better, more important and anchorly things to do. In short, she had already left for the day.

The Assistant News Director shouted across the newsroom, "Hey Marti, are you busy? Can we get you to do us a favor?"

"Not particularly busy," I said. "What's up?"

I had already overstayed the shift and was about to slide out the door, but as a freelancer, I was always ready to suck up a little.

"Would you mind going over to UCLA to interview Walter Cronkite?" she queried.

"Would I? WOULD I?" I jumped up and started literally racing around in circles, too excited to know what direction to go with this. Did I look alright? Was my hair okay? Did I have on an okay suit? And most importantly, where was my personal camera? (At home under a pile of reading material.)

Immediately after buying a disposable camera, I raced off to UCLA as fast as I could. I didn't know how to get there before, but I mapquested and had the desk guys on the phone directing me. I was determined.

I was a little bit late, but none of the ceremonies had started. Mr. Cronkite was wandering the hall and hugging Judy Muller, who was apparently an old friend of his and receiving an honor that day. I was so excited that I could have spit.

Unfortunately, it was not "as billed," in that it was not an interview. It was a media availability, which means that about 6 of us were supposed to ask one question each. UCLA was video-taping it and didn't seem to have a reporter.

Because I was so thrilled to meet "Uncle Walter," who had been the most trusted man in America for years, I made a total fool of myself. But who cared? I got to meet him.

He was very kind and gracious to a reporter falling all over herself and bumbling with excitement. In his 90's already, he was a little hard of hearing, but beyond that bit of limitation, he was clear as a bell. I pushed a little and asked about four questions. (You knew that was going to happen, right?) He told me afterward that it was obvious who the students were and who had been a working journalist for awhile. He was a definite charmer and I walked away feeling, well, charmed.

I also got the photograph. I sent him a copy and he signed it. I framed it. It's a treasured memento. And now it almost seems appropriate, with everything that is happening in journalism currently, that he passes. Those of us to whom the torch passed and then dimmed don't really want him seeing our failings. He shouldn't have to see what's going on. It seems almost respectful that he fades from our sight.

But not from memory.

Do I Lead A More Exciting Life than You?

Ahhhhhhhhhhh, yes! Life in the District of Columbia is sometimes a bit dull, but never without its quirky little "Capital of the Free World" mini-dramas.
"Today in the United States Capital, we are enjoying cloudy skies, high humidity, reasonable temps (for July) and a weird little warning."
I noticed the first reference to it on a listserv that I signed up for years back, and kept with through my time in Los Angeles. Now that I'm back on the East Coast, it's full of all manner of "for sale" and "help wanted" stuff.
But today, a message said:

*Security Information Alert

**From: Wilson, Kelly (MPD)

Sent: Thursday, July 16, 2009 9:34 AM

Subject: Flash Mob at DC Locations on Friday

Importance: High

We have seen violence with Flash Mobs in New York and Pennsylvania. One flash mob in Philadelphia pulled drivers out of their cars and assaulted pedestrians and
severely beat a cyclist. ** **

**Implication for DC: Flash mobs could potentially disrupt traffic, entry/exit from train stations, and businesses. A flash mob is an electronically-organized event that creates the appearance of a seemingly random gathering of people. Participants gather and perform an unusual action for a brief moment, then quickly disperse. ** **

**Flash mob locations and times for July 17:

Union Station: 8:30 a.m.Freedom Plaza: 10:30 a.m.

Lincoln Memorial: 12:30 p.m.

Dupont Circle: 1:30 p.m.

Embassy of Pakistan, Iranian Interests Section 3:30 p.m.*

I spotted another notice when I logged into a government email account that was recently opened for me at a part-time government media job. (See! I can tell you that without having to kill you. So now you know I don't work for the CIA.)

I am telling you this just to remind you that I do, in fact, lead a much more exciting life than you. Yup, full of opportunities to be beaten senseless while cycling, fattened by french fry gifts, and lugging around a 3 year old who thinks she is Princess of the Universe.

On a more serious note, it's an interesting little view into the Beltway Universe, isn't it? Yes, I do know lots and lots of very important people. I probably can expect to meet lots more in the future, too. But I also sit in Beltway traffic, swelter in the humidity, avoid metro stops where terrorists have organized and assigned mini-meltdowns among would might have appeared to be passersby, and probably see emails between South Carolina's Governor Mark Sander and his Argentinian mistress a few minutes before you do.

Aren't I the lucky one?

(Inside ballgame note: isn't it fascinating that the first concern listed under "implication" is that traffic, transit and business could be disrupted?)

12 July 2009

You've Come A Long Way, Baby

Given any thought to the future of your job lately? What about the balance of power in your relationship? Any consideration at all to the girl in the Honda Civics next to you on I-Wherever?
You might want to. I read this Washington Post article today and I have to admit that I sorta liked it. I used to be neighbors with Claire Shipman who now is senior national correspondent for "Good Morning America" and reading her thoughts on the future of our global economy was interesting. I liked that she listed Russian examples because I know she used to be based there as a reporter for CNN and probably retains strong contacts and excellent insights. And I am, afterall, a woman.

The article discusses the shift of economic power on a world-wide basis. In short, the end of economic power being held by an all-male culture of good old boys who block economic progress for women. While the Washington Post article also links to this lengthier article in Foreign Policy Magazine, I'm guessing a lot of the reason that Claire and her writing partner, Katty Kay of the BBC wrote it was to hype their newly released book, "Womenomics" available from Harper Collins Books.
The article (and the book, I assume) details Shipman and Kay's theorems of how government stimulus projects in the past, ie The New Deal and every road and infrastructure project ever devised, have been devised to prop up the male-dominated economy and keep women out of the workplace.
Hmmmmmm. Interesting premise.
Except that now, great minds are starting to think alike. Financial statisticians are churning out research showing that companies with more women in upper management report consistently higher corporate earnings.
Democracy is getting the message, too. Norway requires 40% of any corporation's board to be female. Iceland, after its last economic meltdown, elected a woman to head its government. Same for Lithuania. The Vilnius newspaper headline proclaimed, “Lithuania has decided: The country is to be saved by a woman.”
I bet Hilary is choking on this. I bet Bill is even more angry.
So, it's an interesting concept to read about. And whether you agree with "Womenomics" or not, Shipman and Kay are putting it out there.
And shaking it.

09 July 2009

My American Journey

To update you, I recently returned on a more or less permanent ('permanent' is all relative, right?) basis to the East Coast. Below are photographs and a little narrative of my trip.

I left California. I got up on Sunday morning after covering Michael Jackson's demise for two grueling (and a bit surreal) days to load my little econo-car at its limit. I then drove off on a new adventure.

On the first day, after drying my tears, I drove to Southern Utah to see some family. I found them under a rock in Zion National Park.
They were every bit as much fun as they look, but soon I was off again. I drove on across Utah toward Colorado. This is Spotted Wolf View, which hangs out over I-70. It goes out another 50 yards or so of gravelly drop-out path.

See that crack in the lower center of the photo? It appears that chunk of "path" to the left could fall off just about any second.

It looked like a great place to walk out, rather like this scene in the movie, "Pride and Prejudice" starring Keira Knightley.

Due to the fact that these are not climbing shoes...

...but are in fact falling to your death shoes, I did not walk out to the edge. I may regret that someday. But any regret will have to wait until I stop shaking at the thought.

Next I drove thru Colorado and into Kansas, which appears to be a beautiful, if seemingly endless state. Finally, I arrived at that spot of gastronomic heaven known as "Arthur Bryant's" in Kansas City, Kansas.

Here I am in front of Arthur Bryant's BBQ House at the Legends in Kansas City, KS. I'm particularly proud of this t-shirt. My Dad presented it to me just two weeks before. He, uh, didn't like the one I had worn to Father's Day lunch at my brother's house, which said "Jesus is our dishwasher" on the back. I don't think he likes colloquial humor. Oh well.

Mr. Bryant's barbecue establishment is world-famous for its great tasting smoked meat and sauce.

This generous overall-clad fellow was behind me in line. He said it was a great bbq place and since I'm a believer that "you are what you eat," I expect he'd be one to know.

He proceeded to order a luscious pound and a half plate of barbecue meat, including pork, ribs, and sliced brisket. He also got himself a large order of fries. I know this because they arrived just as I got to the "pay up, please?" part of the deal. He said "Aw, look what Daddy got!"

I asked "Daddy" if I could try three of his fries. He graciously agreed. I swiped 'em. I swiped my card. And I dashed around the corner to indulge myself.

Yessiree! (That's colloquial Kansas barbecue house verbage, right there!) It was great!

It's funny how in LA, those sunglasses look sorta hip. In a Kansas City barbecue house, they make me look a teensy bit like blonder, less hairy Blues Brother, don't you think? Of course, what they really do is let me hide behind them as I watch my fellow diners. This way, I can see their expressions as they gather their families around the table for the big treat. Yessiree! Arthur Bryant's is that good.

And "Daddy?" I passsed him and his pal on the way out. He said they would have invited me to dine with them, except I disappeared. I was actually a little worried I might have been tempted to steal another fry and that might have proven lethal. He definitely he could eat.

Next, I drove over to this place, Sheridan's Frozen Custard, which was also at "Legends." For those of you homebodies, "Legends" is a big "town center" bunch of strip malls with stores and restaurants covering a good 20+acres just off an exit in a nice area residential area of Kansas City. BTW, I was tipped off to the this particular location by my barbecue consultant, Kevin Westhues, who I worked with years ago in Omaha, NE.

I went up to the window and met another Kevin. This 'un is friendly enough until you tell him you want to take his picture. Then he gets quite unfriendly. Downright weird, in fact.

You ask him his name. He says "William." Not true. His name is Kevin. There's an entire story, but it's frankly pointless and boring, so let's move on. His name is KEVIN. Deceptively pleasant looking, isn't he?It was here as I tried to decide on ice cream that I met the Hongslo's of Minnesota. Marie and Michael and their kids were enjoying Kansas City's gourmet fare as much as I was. It took them a fair amount of time to order. I think they really enjoy the "ice cream with the kids" experience a lot.
Marie Kibler Hongslo (I know her full name because she "friended" me on facebook a few days later) is as honest and agreeable of a person as you could wish to sit down next to and begin chatting up. I hope she forgives me for posting this picture of her from the backside with her family.

As for me, I wimped out. I ordered this double scoop, which was the smallest thing on the menu at Sheridan's and I only made it halfway through before I was "sugared out." I'm guessing I'll always be kinda disappointed in myself about that.

But I'll learn to live with it. That and the "no walking out on to deadly overhangs" thing.

I drove on to Columbia, Missouri that night and woke up to a lovely barbecue turkey sandwich for breakfast before driving on to Lexington, Kentucky.

In Lexington, I was invited to stay with an old friend and make two new ones. Keith, on the left in the picture below, is my old friend.

Keith was the first friend I made when I moved to the East Coast years ago. His best friend Andrea and their dog Autumn are my new friends. Check out that dog's face. Andrea's face is pretty darn cool, too!

I enjoyed my time there so much that I wanted to enhance the local economy.

So I bought myself a gift: a spiffy new tire. Don't ask.

Please don't ask.

Eventually, I arrived in my new home. And boy-howdy-yessirree, I was glad to get out of the car. That's more colloquialism, by the way. I learned it in Kentucky... waiting for my new tire to be put on.

As you may by now know, I drove from Los Angeles to my new home, enjoying the scenery and talking to people I met along the way. I'd smile and compliment them on something and tease them about all kinds of things. From barbecue orders to restroom decor and anything else I could think of... I just talked with people who were out and about. It was very fun.

People always ask me about these cross-country drives. Three time this year has been a bit much, even for my wanderlust.

But the Great American Countryside is absolutely beautiful and the horizon always draws me. I always seem ready to go.

One thing I have figured out that it's not the views (although they are pretty great!) that pull me out my door and down the road. It's the people.
Look at this woman. Can you not want to smile at her? I never asked her name. Most of them, I did not. (Marie: You were special.) I just snapped her picture because she was so fun to look at. She was beamingly happy on July 4th. Which is great, isn't it? And it made me happy to look at her.

Because to me, Americans are like candy and for the life of me, I can't stop wanting to gobble it all up.

08 July 2009

Sanford, Ensign, Spitzer, McNair...

Do all our role models have "someone on the side" these days? Is this something that we need to accept about modern life?

It sure seems like that's what people in high profile positions believe, privately and when caught, want to dare us to argue with them about publicly these days.

From politicians like United States Senators and the Governors of some states, to NFL players who appear publicly happy in their marriages but like to have a little 'sumpin-sumpin' on the side, it seems like those who are successful want extra rewards in their personal lives.
And when they are caught, they want to simply say "Oops! Sorry." And we're all supposed to just move on. You know, it's one thing to forgive infidelity, which is probably truly between the sinner and their spouse, but I must admit, I'm not nearly as forgiving when the adulterer has lied publicly. If they were just quiet about it, that's one thing. But public servants, lying to the public, I'm hard pressed to suggest that deserves a free pass.
Particularly annoying is when the rationale is "Oh, we fell in love." No sir. 15 year olds "fall in love." College kids under the influence "fall in love." Grownups with responsibilities (Like four sons? Or a mortgage with another person's name on it. Or promises made?) are supposed to be on their guard against that type of thing.
These opportunities aren't made in a vacuum bottle. They don't "just happen." They happen because someone left the garden gate open and the rabbits snuck in and started chewing on the radishes.
Wouldn't you think that right now, in the midst of the worst economic downturn in decades, most people would be trying to hang on to what they've got, rather than taking it outside their marriage? Taking it down the street and around the corner can get mighty pricey. And in at least one case, police say it cost former NFL quarterback, Steve McNair, shot to death by his financially desperate girlfriend, far too much.
Why do high profile, easily spottable public figures think they won't get caught? At the risk of everything that they have why not keep it zipped all day and take it home at night?
I don't actually have any answers on this. I don't think it's ironic or even slightly funny. My only thought is to note that it seems like in addition to losing money these days, we're losing a lot of capital in the integrity arena. I would have thought we didn't start with any to spare.
Addendum: this one seems more like an annoyed whine than a blog. Better stuff in the next one, I believe. We'll have some fun again.

06 July 2009

A Seaside Interlude....

As you know, watching celebs drop like flies and fly-dropping politicians can be very wearing on my psyche. To alleviate my soul's angst, I hired on as a personal photographer and sherpa for a young family vacationing along the central California coast. Their intrepid Leader, seen below, is small of stature, but quite decisive about the group's travels.

She paced thoughtfully in the picture above.

Our journey took us to San Simeon to visit a Castle set amid the hills high above.

It seemed a setting that befit our Great but Physically Dimunitive Leader, who liked it mightily. The pool provided a distraction that pleased most of our eyes. But to our Leader, it seemed but a mere moment before she saw that this all was but a wisp of cloud before her eyes.

The pool is 9 feet deep in some areas, laid with white marble and surrounded by artifacts of a bygone age. Sadly, it remains unfinished.

But lo! Do not worry; our dear Enlightened One began offering suggestions on how to improve the beauty and elegance of the furnishings.

So taken up with those changes was she, that we could not entice her to turn towards our camera. Try as we might, we could not dissuade The Leader to embrace the mundane... to turn and be photographed. "NO!" she asserted. "I don't want to!" The Great Ones are all about serving others. And we marched on, assured She was intently looking after our best interests.

Next we rose to even higher heights: the Celestial Room.

Surely this would be the right place to bring our little earthly Goddess of Goodness and Light! So full of bright airiness was this room that we knew it was the perfect setting for our Marvelous One to lay her precious head.
Strangely, the Castle's owners did not see it that way. And we ascended to the garden where more earthly delights were found.

It was here I began to carry our Great One, in order that her hands need not touch and "bless" the surroundings by their presence. We also visited the beach, where the Great One pondered sand in her sandals and considered the tides.
Ahhhhhh, the ebb and flow of it all. So meaningful, so endless. It is almost too great to consider.
But here our Great Leader clearly knows her importantance. I was fortunate to carry her to meet some of the smaller the minions of the sea under her dominion: a starfish and anemones.

Oh, how often has man turned the sea to understand their own insignificance in the Universe.
Our Great One knows her place in the Universe. Along with every one else's place, too, at times, it seems. She is always thoughtful and considerate in telling us where we should best stand for the benefit of all and provides guidance along the way.

Such considerate help and assistance is always appreciated by lesser beings such as ourselves. Who would not appreciate the condescension and thoughtful assistance in answering all of life's questions such as "May I have one of your M&M's, Great Leader?" "NO!" "Could I possibly try one of your many green jelly belly candies?" "Yes, you can have ONE." "Would you like a waffle for breakfast this morning?" "I want an egg!"
Ahhhh, such insights our Precious Leader imparts.

Is it any wonder that the very tides of the sea seem to cling to the shore, hoping to be closer to our Great Leader, gracious and kind in her condescension as she is. Let us all hope to share in Her Light for years and blessed decades to come.

05 July 2009

More Media Insight

Since one of my friends commented on how much she enjoyed seeing "behind the scenes" of coverage of a big national story, such as Michael Jackson's death, I thought I'd show you some more of the pictures you didn't see.
We'll start with this first one. You see the young man "praying" there at the barricade in front of the dead singer's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame? Yeah. I first spotted him around 7am on June 27th. He had his head bowed over that guardrail but his eyes weren't actually closed.
Instead, his eyes were darting back and forth to checking to see who was watching him. He was positioned directly behind me, and as I watched a little longer, I could see that this "gentleman" was watching to see which cameras were on, and where he could best position himself to be in their line of sight.

That sounds pretty bad, but guess what happened next? I pointed him out to the BBC and Reuters photographers, and then the BBC cameraman shouts to the Reuters photog, "Hey, make sure you get a shot of that dude who's praying."
Guess what happened next? You got it: "praying dude" snapped his eyes shut and stayed that way off and on for the next two and a half hours. Whenever someone started to shoot, he started to pray. Not exactly sincere, is he? But he did make the LATimes, the TV Guide Channel and a couple of other media outlets. He invested 2.5 hours and got his 15 minutes.
You already saw this next fan. He claimed to be one of Michael Jackson's biggest fans, but apparently can't spell his idol's name correctly.

By the way, when I arrived at the Walk of Fame at 12am Friday night, I noticed a sharp increase in the number and quality of "party dresses." And not just any kind of party dresses. These were the most expensive, short little outfits I'd ever seen down there. Not a sparkly glove in sight.
To give you an idea, usually, the Friday/Saturday night crowds are bar-hopping, but these crowds were mostly on one side of the street: walking up and down in front the barricaded area of "the Walk." Maybe they were there to honor Michael Jackson, but they all seemed to want to get their moment in front of the cameras. Interesting, isn't it?
Please don't misunderstand what I'm saying. I don't want to suggest that Michael Jackson doesn't have his fans. He does. He was a huge influence in the music industry. He has legions of fans. His misfortune was dying in a town that is full of posers. And lots of those turned out to "honor" him and be photographed in doing so. It's stunning to think of the numbers of people who were hoping to be "discovered" at a sidewalk memorial, isn't it?
This photo shows the reporter and photographer in position for a live shot. You can tell the shot is coming up soon because my jacket is on. It was so warm that between shots, my jacket was off and the sun glasses were on.

Next is a picture of the reporter, in a rare moment of doing what she's supposed to do between live-shots. I'm supposed to sit down and update my information by reading wire copy stories on my pda and maybe do a little writing. Usually, I pace. I pace a lot. I like pacing. I think it should be a national sport. I could be an Olympian. But for this moment, I grabbed a chair, sat, and read.

This is a photograph of a happy and successful crew: two truck operators, a correspondent and a wonderful producer.

By way of explanation, I took no pictures from the first day after the 50 year old singer died. Candid pictures are something that gets done after the writing, tracking, shooting and other set-up are complete and between live shots. The first day's schedule was just too busy. We started at the Holmby Hills rental house at midnight, ran on to the Walk of fame at around 8 am, and then raced to the Los Angeles County Coroner's office by mid-morning. No time for intelligent, hard working and dedicated news crews to shoot pictures until Day Two and beyond.