Friday, September 30, 2005

Safe!

We got back to the station about 8:30pm. I talked to Dellis on my cell phone from Hollywood until I pulled up in front of my house.

There's so much that I missed and now I have to play catch-up. I'll unpack later.

I want to thank everyone who wished me a safe trip and kept me company along the way. It meant a lot to me and I was happy to share my experience. It's going to be a busy couple of days. I have a stack of bills to pay and an expense report to fill out.

Dellis met me at the door and we held each other for a long time. I think everything else is going to have to wait.

I can't tell you how good it is to "be" home.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

As the wind blows. . .

. . .so does a lot of other parts of this trip.

We're still on the long uncomfortable road back from Texas in the KCAL "Big Blue" satellite truck. I ache all over except for my legs. They're just numb.

I'm telling you, anyone who wants to be me? You're welcome to it at this point.



I know we're grown men, but this was way cool.

A Texas gas station's restroom hand dryer that must have been designed by Tim Allen. It blew a hurricane force wind that dried your hands (really) in seconds and threatened to peel the skin off if you weren't careful.

We got a few strange looks as Joel Takarsh and I laughed hysterically, played with the thing and I snapped a quick picture with my camera phone.



While we're on the subject of "blowing", this is where we we're stopped and had to wait in line in New Mexico for some sort of commercial vehicle permit. That blew pretty well too.

Time in line? Thirty minutes. Cost of permit? Eleven dollars.

We also accidentally blew past a weigh station near the Arizona border. I say, "we", but it was yours truly doing the driving at that point. Honest your honor, I know what the sign said, but it really looked closed. I expect the state troopers to pull us off the road and make us go back sometime today.

We're over-nighting in Wilcox Arizona. Keep your fingers crossed. We may have to take the back roads and possibly lay low for a day or two until the heat is off.

I can see it now.

Gee, magz. Where'd you get the satellite truck?

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Crap. We still have to drive back.

We did our last Hurricane Rita satellite liveshot last night. I'm past tired.


Photo by Francisco Alferez

I want to thank everyone for reading the last few days. It was an exciting bit of adventure.

No food or water at times, awake long enough to feel disoriented and aching all over from sitting and standing in the SAT truck.


Photo by Francisco Alferez

I'm glad people care enough to read about what I do, but at the end of the day it's still difficult at times. I'm going home.

A lot of people aren't.

Don't feel guilty if you can't do much, but do what you can. There are many who really need the help.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Aren't you beFrank?

This was bound to happen sooner or later.

We had just wrapped a liveshot and I was coming down off the bird (that's SAT truck lingo for turning off our transmitter). I turned and an unfamiliar face was looking at me from outside the open door of our satellite truck.

We get curious people stopping by all the time, but they usually don't know us behind the scenes types by name.



Okay, what happened next was a very surreal moment for me, so I hope I remember this exactly the way it happened.

The guy in the center asks if I'm Bryan Frank. It took me a moment to realize what was happening. I couldn't believe it. Somebody actually recognized the SAT truck and had come over to say, hello. Not exactly an earth shaking moment to anyone who's on TV all the time and kind of expects to be recognized, but really not something that's been in my realm of experience.

It turned out to be fellow blogger Rusty Surette of "Rusty's World" (and KBTV out of Beaumont, Texas). He and reporter Maura Siefring (on the left) both recognized me from my blog.

That's gotta be one of the coolest moments I've ever experienced.

The two of them were hunting for open gas stations after covering the aftermath of Hurricane Rita. The station we were using as a backdrop for our liveshots was one of the very very few open.

I've lurked Rusty's World before and he's posted a much more extensive accounting of the recent hurricanes than I have. It hasn't been an easy assignment for me, but I don't even come close to having the emotional involvement that Rusty has in covering Rita and Katrina.

Check him out. He's going to be here in the area after I head back West and will probably be a better source of behind the scenes info for this story than I am.

Heh-heh, I got recognized. Yeah, it's still freaking me out a little.

Tow for the truck, food for the soul.

We're still hanging in there and mostly getting the story on TV back in Los Angeles. Truck suffered a bit from the humidity and rain, but the Dallas affiliate helped us out of the jam.



We turned round and did the same for CNN when they had problems. I never heard what their situation was, but I didn't need or have time to ask questions. We put them on and fed tape and did what we could to balance out our karma tab.

That's going to take some time.



I felt pretty good about getting through the storm. That turned out to be the easy part. The downed power lines all over the place turned into the biggest threat to us and the SAT truck.

The lines sagging low over the road caused us a lot of grief.



In fact, we got stuck on a small backroad while trying to avoid one of the low hanging power lines. A local guy that was helping to clear downed trees tried to pull us out with his tractor.

It didn't work, but it was an impressive attempt.



He didn't give up. Luckily he had a friend with a 5 ton tow truck that made quick work out of getting us out of the jam.



They saved us and to top it all off, our "tractor" friend's wife made up a platter of bologna and cheese sandwiches. We hadn't eaten any real food for a couple of days.

Myself, I know there are good people in the world. I've covered stories on them and seen them on TV before. It just always makes my going a little easier being able to see for myself in person that they exist.



Divine intervention in the form of a Bologna and cheese sandwich. Go figure.

I used to think that kind of epiphany would only come through penutbutter and jelly. Maybe the type of sandwich doesn't really matter.

There's a lesson in there, I just know there is.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

This forecast just in. . .

. . .I'm tired and hungry and I want to go home.

Just a quick update. Nothing fancy. We hunkered down inside the SAT truck for parts of the evening. Liberty High School in Liberty Texas was our base of operations during the hurricane.



I've never been in a hurricane before, so when the air cooled considerably just before the rain started it freaked me out. It was a warm muggy evening and suddenly the air just became colder. I was told that was one of the big indicators that the storm was about to hit.

I was pretty optimistic, but we couldn't stay dry all evening.



. . .and by "we", I mean our reporter couldn't stay dry. That's David Jackson, he's something of an "Action Man" himself.



Everyone got soaked, even our field producer.

Not to be completely outdone, we ran out and proved that no matter how tired and wet and dirty and. . .well, I forgot the point, but we ran out and splashed around in the rain for some reason.



We've been up for over 24 hours, but we're all safe. Hurricane Rita took it easy on us and we appreciate that. A lot of people weren't so lucky.

I'll check back in later, but just know that i'm safe and dry and having a beer from the mini-bar.

Friday, September 23, 2005

OK, now breathe . . .

I think maybe now I can stop holding by breath and biting my lip. Rita has been downgraded to a category 3. I know that there are still quite a bit of dangerous things involved, but it's no Katrina. I'm sure you can imagine how I must have felt when just a day or so after my return from Florida, my ActionMan informs me that he is headed TOWARD the storms that are ravaging the southern coast of our United States. Well, I guess that's one of the reason he has that moniker.

Of course I've been glued to the television (any channel that will give me updated and accurate information about Rita) day and night, but this house will probably be totally transformed by the time Bryan returns -- I'm just trying to keep busy so as not to worry.

I'll be fine. Even though he passed Smart going in the opposite direction on the highway, I'm sure he'll settle in with confidence at night knowing that my prayers are with him.

Your safe return is all I require Sweetheart. Thanks for all the phone calls and updates. I love you.
ActionWife

Here it comes, baby!

Just some Texas pictures pre-Rita. The rain is just starting and the wind is kicking up a little, but not much so far.



Hot damn! If this is what the morning rush hour traffic is like, then I'm loving me some Houston.



I'm really curious to see if this fine dining establishment survives the hurricane.



All the stores are closed and getting gasoline seems to be the biggest problem. We're loaded up, but we're living on junk food and protein bars for the next day or so.



I'm safe and dry and I got my evacuatin' shoes ready. I'll keep you posted.

Not exactly smart.

I'm smart enough to know that I have every reason to be afraid of a Category 5 hurricane, but not quite smart enough to know better than to volunteer to go cover a Category 5 hurricane.



Lots of traffic coming out of Houston last night. Most of the gas stations were shut down and the ones that weren't had long lines of cars backed up onto the roadway.



We gassed up before leaving San Antonio and we thought we'd make it to Houston within three hours or so.



We should have known better.

By the way, the seats in the sat truck? Really should be nicknamed the "Widowmakers" or maybe just replaced with something that might be more comfortable. I considered taking them out and flipping over a trashcan to sit on.

Three hours turned into closer to seven hours and that just ruined my plans to spend the evening "debriefing" in a hot shower. It might have been an even longer drive if Takarsh hadn't been navigating.



The traffic broke up just outside of Houston. The freeways and streets had almost no cars on them and it felt like we were in one of those movies where all the people are gone and anybody left just wants to eat your brains.

That would be like a down side to everything. The up side was that all the toll roads were open and we didn't have to pay.



I stopped to see if an older woman might pop up and yell at me to "JUST GO" since we didn't have to pay.

That's an inside joke for Action-Wife.



I'm safe and sound so far and I expect to stay safe through the weekend. I'm not sure if the next post is going to be tomorrow. I might be a bit busy and net access might be tricky after Rita does her thing.

Keep a good thought in mind, but I'm okay if want to stop telling me to be smart. Yeah, I passed smart on the road last night. Smart was heading away from Houston.

Just know that I won't be taking any chances.

Heck, I want to live to see my family and friends again and I'd also like to see when my hit counter reaches 100,000.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Two for the show.

Our story so far? Rita got bumped up to a Category 5 hurricane yesterday. I woke up in Phoenix, Arizona and I went to bed in Van Horn, Texas.

For everyone who wonders what life is like on the road, let me just say, "ouch" and "eew".

It feels like I've been traveling for a week already and it's barely been a day and a half. Our satellite truck isn't really outfitted for long road trips. My back is killing me and I have to consider the remote, but legitimate possibility that Rita might finish the job.



My traveling companion, Joel Takarsh has spent more time on the road than I have, but he tells me the auto-pilot on the satellite truck works just fine.

Outside of staging a goofy picture or two, we're taking this assignment pretty serious. Neither of us wants to do anything foolish in covering a storm of this size. The closer we get to the evacuated areas of Texas, the more we have to question the sanity of rushing towards the very thing everyone else is running away from.



As we head down the road to "Rita", I have a lot of time to think about what we're going to be doing in the next couple of days. We're not likely to save any lives directly by standing out in the middle of a Category 5 hurricane.

As insane as it might sound, we're just doing our job.



I hope anyone who might be critical of how we cover stories would keep it in mind as they see us get battered and drenched, that some of us are there because we believe in what we do. The easiest thing in the world would be to stay at home and cover this story (or any story) from the comfort of the newsroom.

It wouldn't be the same.



We need you to trust us. We need you to believe that we're not just working for a company, but we're working for the truth. In order to tell you exactly what's happening in the world, we have to be there and see it for ourselves. For this story, that means hitting the road.



I can only speak for myself and not everyone is going to have the same opinion of this as me. It's always going to be more complicated than what I can explain in a short post on a weblog. I'm not trying to justify all of our actions and it doesn't need to become a huge debate on what's good and bad about the "media".

These are just some random thoughts as I go about my day, doing what's become second nature to me. Sometimes it's around the corner and sometimes it's around the world, I'm just doing what I do every day that I go to work. I'm covering the news.

Hurricane Rita? Heck, she's just another day at the office.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Now I lay me down to sleep. . .

That's Joel Takarsh and I just before we hit the road. Hurricane Rita is heading for Texas and so are we.



It's not a lot of fun for me to be away from home, but this is what I do. I'm still chuckling over getting the call as I was trying to write today. I really love being at home writing when it rains.

When I don't have to go to work, I'll have something slow and easy playing and maybe a warm drink with a shot of something extra. This was the kind of day I had lined up (at least for the morning). I really didn't expect to be rolling down the interstate.

It's not an easy thing to do.



We're going pretty far out of our way to cover the news and I hope the effort is appreciated. I know people will still criticize us.

Fine, I'll take the hit.

I've got a simple goal. I want to get to where our story will be and put it on television for the viewers. . .and I want to do it safely and when the job is done, I want to come home.

Safely.



I'm up blogging in my hotel room in Phoenix, Arizona (Wingate Inn & Suites, free internet access, boo-ya!).

I'd have dropped in on people I know, but we hit Phoenix at about 2:00am and I have to grab some sleep. Tomorrow is going to be another long day of driving.



We made good progress today, but we got a little worried when the first two hotels we tried didn't have rooms available. Heh-heh, I nabbed a cookie from a Holiday Inn even though we didn't stay there.

I have to face the possibility, there may not be many cookies available where we're heading.



Everybody knows I really wanted to be a part of the Katrina coverage, but don't think for a minute that I'd ever hope for something bad to happen just for the sake of a news story. If anything, I hope with all my heart nothing bad happens to anyone.

Just don't get me wrong, I bleed news. If something does happen, I hope I'm there. I hope our cameras are rolling and I hope we get it on TV.

Yeah, my prayers are complicated at night.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

I love a rainy day.

If you believe in blogging then clap your hands.

Yeah, I know I haven't posted much lately, but it's been a slow week for me. Lots of stuff going on in the world around me, but not a lot falling in my lap. Plus, you can add all the changes in my life that I'm still adjusting to and I think I'm being a little more selective about what I comment on.



A year ago, I'd covered the Emmy awards and the Michael Jackson trial was still going on. I just came off a string of trips for work and my personal life and now I find myself just looking out the window at the rain as it comes down.

I really should have put the top up sooner on my jeep.



This week I'm working in our recommissioned satellite truck. It still amazes me that I've gotten to a position where my opinions and abilities are actually considered important in consideration of how some things work at our station.



The cockatiel we found a year ago is still rooming with us. Don't let the cage shot fool you, he only hangs out in the cage when he's hungry.



As I sit here and watching the rain and listening to the thunder, I'm feeling pretty peaceful. There aren't any real regrets in me for anything I may have missed out on in news. I get a good share of the big stories and there's always the chance I'll catch the next one.

. . .and then the phone rings. I can't believe I got a call while I was posting this. I'm going from a mellow day to five alarms all hands on deck. I'll fill everyone in on the details, but it looks like I'm hitting the road.

Friday, September 16, 2005

This job ROCKS!

Hell yeah, it does!

I've said it before. What a difference a day makes. Here I was all down in the dumps because I didn't get a "cool" story this week.



Then I get assigned SNG duty for the Governator's big announcement in San Diego. I didn't even make it to San Diego. I got as far as Oceanside (Hi, Terri!), got diverted back up to San Clemente and ran the satellite truck for the crew covering a big surfing competition (Surfsister, where you at?).



I'm sitting in the air conditioned SNG unit, snapping stills and wondering how come I'm so lucky.



Maybe it's because my heart is pure and I whistle while I work. Hey, look that's Kelly Slater the world class surfer (or so I'm told).



Then, again, maybe with all the randomness that's been my life lately, maybe it's just randomly good for no good reason. I'll tell you what, I'll take it.

Mahalo boys and girls and I hope everyone's day can beHappy as mine.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

This job sucks!

Well, not really, but we all have days like that I'm sure. Most often my days are filled with interesting assignments (heck, maybe even a little adventure). Most days, I can't wait to get home and share a picture or two and a kind word with anyone who happens to wander over to my blog.

Not this week.

I think I'm seriously suffering from a little news action withdrawal. I've worked the lead story for a couple of newscasts, but I haven't been on a really big story all week. It's all been newsworthy, but after missing out on the Katrina coverage, it all just seems a little mundane.

Hardly worth putting up the mast for a liveshot.



I'm not complaining. . .uh, maybe I am, but I don't mean to. There's always going to be plenty of news to go around. It's just been a tough week and right now, it's somebody else's turn to cover the big news.

Really, I got a kick out of seeing "Big Blue" our satellite truck roll onto the lot on Wednesday. The two guys who ran it had a long hard drive back from New Orleans. As much as I would have like to be there too, I don't envy their road time in Big Blue.



Nice bug collection they picked up along the way. It's not a comfortable ride for man or bug apparently.



The only other thing I've covered so far this week that I've found even slightly interesting was the Los Angeles City Council meeting on Tuesday. Some suits from the power company had a lot of explaining to do about the big power outage on Monday. They got grilled by the council.



Not chewed out, just questioned pretty thoroughly. I had to stand through the whole thing. That wasn't fun.

I admit, it was a pretty good explanation. Without a lot of sidestepping, the power company guys explained it all came down to one guy who snipped a couple of cables.

Nobody really got chewed out (we don't know the status of the guy), but the gist of it all was pretty much, "oops" and "our bad, we'll try to make sure it doesn't happen again."



The two things I learned while standing behind my camera for nearly three hours. First of all, owww!



Second, Councilwoman Hahn has a rubber alligator at her council seat. I thought it was cute. The park where the wild alligator nicknamed Reggie, who has been evading capture for over a month is in her district.



I've been home every night this week for dinner. That's unusual for me. I'm never looking for reasons to be away from home, it just seems to work out that way. When I can be home, it's a treat and at least for that I'm happy.

I know it's the quiet days that I'll appreciate and wish for when I'm in the middle of a big breaker. Just between us? I'll take the breaker.

That council meeting was killing my back. I can't keep doing these easy days.