Friday, April 29, 2005

More marinated crab claw?

Funny thing. I woke up this morning and looked out my window. Uh-oh, I wasn't dreaming. Damn it, I'm really still in Vegas.


I quickly looked over to see if I was going to have some serious explaining to do to my wife. Luckily I was alone and no midgets or farm animals were going to complicate my life on this trip.

So, when I get back to Los Angeles, I'll be going on vacation. It's gonna look like Landscaper's Challege at my house. I'll be working outside on my front and back yards. I have a week and I want to get as much done as possible.

Bulldozers and dynamite are going to be my surgical tools of choice when I start operating on what I'm calling "The Neglected Forrest" project.

Hmm, you know, all that sounds like work. Hold the presses. Is the irony of the situation hitting anyone else right now? I go to work and travel to vacation spots.

I get home and suddenly I'm in an orange jumpsuit, rolling up my sleeves to dig into some real work. Manual labor even.

Look, I don't want to flip-flop it so much as I'm thinking I should double up on the news work and maybe get to the point where I can hire a bunch of guys to tke care of the work-work in my yard at home.

Who says I don't have ambition? I can see myself in a white suit in a rocking chair sipping a lemonade and eating a cookie. I sure do like cookies.

Come to think of it, naaaah.

I'm just gonna get lazy and fat on the lemonade and cookies. I better just do the work and not complain. It'll only be a week off and then I can take a break and go back to news work.

Maybe I can catch a big story near New Orleans. Mmmm, I could go for a bowl of gumbo.

Don't hate me, it's just my job. Now I have to go play a dollar on 26 red for a friend.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Two vast and trunkless legs of stone. . .

Oh, man. I'm sitting in a hotel room looking out at a nice view of the Las Vegas strip. How did I get here? What am I doing? Am I really out of control?

Okay, I haven't lost it completely. It's just that I turned down two trips after Rome (si, buongiorno) and kind of felt some remorse for having turned them down. I took the Vegas trip just because it was the next offered. I didn't ask for it. It was offered to me because I can do the job. I gassed up on the way and soon found myself cruising into Las Vegas.

Simon (you don't know him) told me that the Wynn Hotel was said to be pretty impressive and it was dominating the Vegas skyline. I can see it, but I wouldn't say it does much for the skyline.

If you squint, that's it about in the middle of the shot below. Madalay Bay still rules the South end of the strip and Stratosphere is the biggest structure to the North. Simon, I know you were just repeating information, but it's late and I just feel like saying, you were wrong. Ha, ha!

It wasn't the biggest crowd I've ever seen, but a lot of people showed up for the opening. I wonder how long I'm going to be comparing every news event to the Pope's funeral.

I never covered a Vegas hotel opening before, but it strikes me as sort of odd that there's very little media access to the hotel itself. They aren't giving tours and have struck exclusive deals with very specific media outlets.

That means I won't be staying at the Wynn and they won't be rolling out the media buffet at the Wynn. I'm going to be sitting across the street in the satellite truck and I may never even set foot on that side of the street.

If I get a cup of coffe in the morning, it's okay.

I came out to cover an event and that's what I'll do. It's interesting, but it's not the biggest story I've covered this year.

I hope Mr. Wynn has read Ozymandias.

As for me, I'm going to get some sleep and maybe dream of doing some damage to the buffet when I wake up in the morning.


Wednesday, April 27, 2005

"beFrank, you're cleared for landing."

Surprise, I'm running late. Again. As usual. I know what my problem is, but I can't seem to get a handle on it. As I get closer to my birthday, I just think about things like that more and kind of reflect on how I might be able to do better in the coming year.

That's the old control tower at Los Angeles International Airport. Good old LAX. I've always lived in Los Angeles and I've seen the tower every time I've gone out to the airport.

I even worked out there for the Duty Free shops while I was in college. I never got a chance to go up to the top of the tower.

Until yesterday.

I tagged along with my boss to a meeting with airport representatives. I was surprised to find out when we got there that the meeting was being held in the top of the old control tower.

I love my job.

Today I'm driving the satellite truck to Las Vegas to cover the opening of the new Wynn Hotel.

Did I mention I love my job? I really really do.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

It's ringing, how do I answer?

It's Monday night and I'm getting kind of anxious because I haven't blogged in two days. I feel like an addict. It's late and I'm Jonesing.

I like getting new gadgets and these are all pictures taken with my new Motorolla V710 cell phone. Let me try to focus here, because I'm supposed to be talking about covering the news.

We were following the campaign trail for the Mayor's race. Sometimes that can be fun. Not so much today.

It wasn't bad, just nothing too exciting. The current Mayor had a press conference and slung a little mud at his opponet. Elsewhere in town, the opponet took a jab at the Mayor for having a building dedication supposedly at the taxpayers expense.


All the allegations were denied by each candidate and both made pretty good arguments. Frankly, it wasn't up to me to decide who was more credible. I shot, I cut, I put it on TV.

Under all the mudslinging, it's tough to really know what the truth is. We put a balanced story together and presented the facts we had to work with.

I don't know who the next Mayor of Los Angeles is going to be. I hope he's honest and it'd be great if he has a sense of integrity. I hope the story we put on TV today helps people decide which candidate to vote for. It seem like it's going to be difficult because both candidates seem to be willing to fight pretty viciously to win the election.

I'll try to not get too distracted by the Mayors race. After all, I have a new camera phone to play with and the truth is, I don't actually live in the City of Los Angeles.

Say, cheese.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

She wore a pink jogging suit

I didn't take out my still camera yesterday. Maybe I should have snapped at least an exterior shot of the home where we interviewed Brian Manuel's ex-wife.

Brian was shot and killed two days ago after he opend fire on a group of police officers. The police had been searching for him for several hours. They wanted to arrest him because earlier he had tried to kill Paula, his ex-wife and because he had succeeded in killing Joshua, his four year old son.

We were invited in to talk to Paula about the incident. That's not an opportunity to be passed up. She was composed and suprisingly open in answering questions about the shooting. She couldn't talk directly about her son. It was too painful for her and you could see how close she was to breaking down every time his name was mentioned. During the interview, she sat with her legs crossed and her left foot tapped the air nervously during the entire interview.

Anything that's said just feels so weak. I don't know the type of pain she's suffering. I can only hope we didn't add to it by interviewing her. The main thing that she's focusing on right now is being thankful to God for her life and being strong for her twelve year old daughter who is still alive and needs her.

I love my job for the diversity of experiences it offers. I don't get to choose what I cover, but I accept that. Even if the choice were mine, I'd still want to get the story.

The only choice I'd make if it were up to me?

Easy, I'd choose for the whole incident to never have happened.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Just don't cut into CSI

This is the first time I've covered the racial tension going on at this local high school. I don't know anyone who attends the school, so I don't have a clue as to what the problems are.

During a town hall meeting last night, the "media" was openly criticism for not including the good that comes out of the school. We were being blamed for only airing the dirty laundry and just showing up for the riots that shut the school down twice in last couple of weeks.

I was told a statement was made during the meeting that none of our reports would include a mention of a student who intended to graduate and attend Oxford.

I sympathize with their frustration, but I can't say I feel compelled to apologize for our coverage. Somewhere in the minute and a half package I cut, the reporter maybe could have wildly diverged from the story and said in his voice track, ". . .and this kid is going to Oxford!"

Maybe that would have given the mob of parents something to cheer about, but it wouldn't have changed the circumstances which prompted the meeting. It just would have changed the focus from the problems in need of attention.

During our liveshots I bumped into a friend of mine. I've known this photographer since he was about 15 or 16 years old. He's a young adult (still in his twenties), is married and has a kid. He graduated high school and went to college and as far as I know, he's always worked in video or news production.

Mentioning him doesn't really solve any problems. I just really think it's a cool thing that he's living the way I wish more people would try to live. He worked to get where he is and he works every day to provide for his family. Just like a lot of people. I think that's pretty special.

He seems happy, but I don't remember seeing him on the news last night. I guess his story isn't really a news story.

Good luck to the kid that wants to go to Oxford. Hey, how about working on that racial tension and violence thing now?

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Don't bother me, I'm eating

My workdays since returning from Rome have been pretty mellow. Not the kind of stuff that's easy (interesting?) to blog about. Things have slowed down for the moment and just yesterday it felt like I was finally back to normal.

Here's a Los Angeles skyline shot from last Friday right after a Lakers game. I was just doing a SAT shot for KPIX, the San Francisco CBS affiliate station.

The weather here has been good and I'm catching up on a lot of deep thinking.

Okay, "Deep Thinking" is just relaxing and having a beer, but the whole world doesn't need to know that (okay?)

Last night I shot and cut a small story with Dave Clark. Just another day at the office, but it was full of little things that made it a good day for me.

First of all, I got to work with Anchor/Reporter Dave Clark. He's one of my favorites and we hadn't been in the field together in a while. We only had the later newscasts and that gave us time for a great lunch at a barbecue joint called "Woody's" that's just off the beaten path.

We had a quirky story to cover. A very life-like human fetus was stolen from the California Science center (It's a science learning and activity center near our "newer" coliseum).

Topping it all off? We've been getting new microwave trucks and I've been lucky enough to get to work out of a couple of them this week.

In the past week, I've been flipped off a couple of times and yelled at from passing cars by people who just seem to be angry at the news media. Might have been my driving, but I doubt it. Either way, I'm not really hurt in the least by these actions and I only mention them because it's just been part of what I go through on any given day.

My life as a news photographer isn't always a trip to Rome. It's not always fun. It's a job that I can do and I happen to enjoy doing. For all the criticism we get, it's a job that needs to be done.

I won't quit because of the parts of my job that I find frustrating. I'm going to stay because it doesn't matter how many days we're taken for granted. I'll take the criticism because for me, it's the potential for holding the powerful accountable that matters the most. It's the threat we pose to those who would take advantage of those who have no voice. Even if you don't believe the media does what it should. I'm one of the people who will do what I can.

I didn't solve the case of the missing fetus, but I'm not a detective. I helped to get the story out there. I did my job and I'm smiling because I did my job and I got to eat a really, REALLY great barbecue lunch.

The crew in Rome doesn't know what they're missing.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

The young "be"

I'm never one to turn down a challenge. If it involves large amounts of drinking and/or embarrassing myself, then goody, that's even better. Gemmak tossed out a dare and I just couldn't ignore it.

I couldn't find a picture of me at the age of four, but here's a shot of beFrank in his younger days. I'd guess I was somewhere around the age of two at the time of this picture. Yeah, I've always been a little curious too, why they couldn't coax a smile out of me that day.

There's a lot for me to look forward to in the coming month. I have my 44th birthday coming up, my 18th wedding anniversary, and my one year blogging anniversary. It all hits in the month of May, so it's a good time for reflecting on my past.

I know how merciless the blogosphere can get. Please "beKind" to the nice kid in the striped shirt.

Some people think he's grown up to be a pretty decent guy.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Rome: I'm a people person

As I sit here and type this, the news is reporting that a new Pope has been chosen. I hope the crew we sent over this week is getting some rest and having some good food. Having been there with them, I know it's just as likely that they're not. I'll be looking forward to hearing some good stories after they get back.

I've been back for over a week and I still don't feel quite normal.

I can't imagine what it's like for the local folks from Rome. Maybe they're used to these types of turn outs for Vatican events. All I know is, there was a massive amount of people and keeping a handle on the trash alone seemed to be overwhelming at times.

The night before the funeral, pilgrims were camped out all over the streets Rome. Anywhere there was an open spot of grass was fair game for sleeping (the grass wasn't mandatory).

I've never seen anything like it. Even for a music or sporting event, the number of people who just showed up and camped out just to be close for the funeral was staggering.

We had to step carefully around people to get to the gates of the convent where we were doing our live shots.

When the sun finally came out, there were a few stragglers.

It was just amazing that most of the pilgrims who camped out near the Vatican, did make it inside of St. Peter's Square for the funeral.

It was a day that moved a lot of people. Even news people who probably thought they were beyond shedding tears in the course of covering a story were affected by the events of the day.

Not me, of course. To say that I was impressed by the events I witnessed would be an understatement, but the emotional connection that a lot of people made somehow eluded me.

I've never claimed to be a perfect angel, but I do live a life where I try to be conscious of my behaviour. I weigh the decisions I make and try to steer towards the choices that might set a good example. I try to be a good person.

There's not much I could tell you about why people came from all over to attend the funeral. I was there because it was my job to be there and I doubt I'd have grabed my camping gear and showed up to sleep in the street.

It just strikes me that somehow maybe we should be able to have the same motivation to make it possible to affect the world now.

One Pope has passed and a new Pope has been selected. I'm hoping for a better world to live in, but I find it's tough to get two people to agree on anything.

The church ought to let us know how they got a couple million on the same page.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Rome: Chow Town?

There's really only two things people ask me about the Rome trip. How was the food and did you get anything to eat? Okay, maybe that's only one thing.

Anyway, to answer both questions, the food was great.

Just not at this particular Caffe'. This place sucked so bad, we could only stand to eat here four times.

The people running the joint were nice. Either that or they were just glad be taking our American "ESPECIAL MEDIA RATE" money.

My gosh, you would think you couldn't go wrong with meat on bread. It's a pretty simple recipe, you take some meat and you put it on the bread.

That wasn't bad enough, our biggest mistake was when we all ordered pizza and they made it "especial" for us. The bread was stale and the toppings might have been made out of garden hose.

I'm not making this up, our Field Producer (hi, Rod) broke a knife trying to cut the pizza. If that's not a sign of bad food, then I don't know what is.

If you're scratching your head and wondering why we kept eating there, for us at 7:00 in the morning, this was the only game in town and you need to shampoo your hair.

We did what we had to do to survive. The actual report by News Anchor Paul Magers of me gnawing on my own foot were just slightly exaggerated. I have to say thanks to him, because it was always very cool when he mentioned me on the air. That's just one more reason why I'll always have nothing but fond memories of my time in Rome.

As for the food? No problem, I have a great capacity for blocking out trauma.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Rome: Don't close your eyes

There was so much that happened last week, it's difficult to pull the little bits and pieces out to blog about. I'm still getting over the lack of sleep during the week (I think I may have mentioned that once or twice).

The hours were so bad, I can remember more than one occasion where I paused while talking and fell asleep in mid-sentence. There was one night where our ability to communicate devolved into grunts and gestures.

If you found a comfortable spot, you pulled your blanket or coat up close and slept if you could.

That was the main rule on sleeping while I was in Rome. Sometimes it was a couple of minutes and other times it might actually be longer. Hey, the bottom line was get some sleep whenever you can.

You might not have the chance later.

If we were driving instead of taking cab rides to and from the Vatican, we'd have been a serious danger to other people.

As it was, we were only a danger to ourselves and only in danger from the pranks of our esteemed colleagues. Yes, that's me under the coat in the photo below. I woke up and thought I heard the plan being discussed, but I didn't know it was already too late.

(photo by Paul Magers)

It got silly as the nights went on. I'm thankful we showed at least a small amount of restraint.

(photo by Scott Mackie)

Just don't think for one minute that during the long week, even us Catholics didn't sink to a pretty low level of humor. No one was off limits.

Was it was discussed? Maybe not too seriously, but yeah. It was.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Back to reality

Yeah, I had a great time being in Rome, but life goes on and news doesn't ever stop. Yesterday was my first day back to work after the trip. It was also a general assignment day.

It's kind of funny, because the day started out pretty cool. I got to shoot an interview with the real cold case detectives of the Los Angeles Police Department. I have a lot of admiration for these guys. You'd be hard pressed to find a more dedicated group of law enforcement professionals.

My reporter and I got pulled off that story to cover a double murder in the City of La Habra. The media circus wasn't too bad, but it was still an unusual sight for the residents of the neighborhood where the disturbed adult son of an elderly couple is suspected of their murder.

I never get to see the actual crime scene. No exception on this story, but I noticed for the first time a pattern with this particular shot below.

Middle-class residential home with the front door open. The coroner's van hasn't arrived yet, so I know the victim or victims are still inside.

Off the record, sometimes cops will talk to us. If there's no chance it'll jeopardize the case, sometimes they'll tell us a bit about the crime scene.

Sometimes there's blood (sometimes lots). Sometimes there's broken glass, splintered wood and other signs that the victim didn't face death willingly. Mostly it's all left up to my imagination. I just see the scene from the other side of the yellow tape. Mostly, I see the open front door.

It's easy to forget what it's like out at a crime scene when I'm sipping a cold beer and laughing with my friends and co-workers. I was reminded yesterday. Now, it doesn't diminish the high points of my trip to Rome, but it does make me stop and consider what it is that I do for a living. I truly love covering the news and I don't mind sharing the things I do.

Just remember, it's not always a trip to Italy.

If you want to hang out with me, it's all part of the nature of what I do. Don't look at it as good or bad. It's just a part of life and we can't control it. It just is.

Like me, all we can do is let it "be".

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

It is possible

I don't mind saying, it was a hell of a week. I made it back safely, but I'll need a day to catch my breath. Don't worry though, I do want to share as much of our adventure as I can.

As you can tell, I got a little bit of sight seeing done. I took over 800 digital photos over the course of the week and I'm sharing them through FLICKR (if you haven't noticed the sidebar thumbnails).

It's amazing how much there is to see and do in Rome. I even got to toss a coin into the Trevi fountain. That means that I'll return to Rome someday. I'd like that. It was difficult to appreciate much of what Rome had to offer without having Dellis there with me.

Well, I'll be working on setting up that trip. In the meantime, there's more to come later in the week.

Right now, I have to get the pictures organized, fill out my expense report and get some much needed sleep. My thanks to Rod, Paul, David, and Scott for making this the trip of a lifetime for me. I hope my being there helped make it as memorable for all of you.

See you guys in the newsroom.