Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Front row seats.

Like everybody else who grew up in the 60's and 70's, I've gotten most of my legal knowledge from watching broadcast television. So, it probably comes as no big surprise that everything I knew about ticket scalping laws wasn't entirely accurate (as in, not at all).

Last night at the Paul McCartney concert, we covered a police undercover operation targeting the ticket scalpers that regularly do business outside of stadiums and arenas like Staples Center.

(no, I didn't get to see the concert)



We started the night at LAPD roll call and got the whole rundown on how the operation should go. We were cautioned quite a few times to be careful about not videotaping the undercover cops. I understand. The officers working undercover don't need the additional stress and concern.

In the remote chance that the bad guys happen to be regular viewers of our newscast, they might spot an undercover officer.

Yeah. That could happen.



The scalping laws are designed to prohibit people from operating a ticket scalping business. You aren't breaking the law if you sell off an extra ticket because your date/brother-in-law/goofy neighbor stood you up. You won't be arrested and miss the event completely and you won't have to act as your own lawyer to defend yourself in court.

We all know that's just completely opposite of what happens if you apply sitcom logic.



Not all of the people in this picture are known scalpers. Some are. We stood in the window of Jerry Buss' office and watched as they approached people and tried to make deals.

For the record, I was not the person responsible (this time) for breaking the bulb in the overhead light that wouldn't turn off. It was a cop who did it.



The cops busted about nine people before we had to go edit and prepare for our liveshot. Most were pretty mellow about being caught. Some were a little more belligerent (woo, especially when we videotaped them being processed). I don't worry too much about the threats and harsh language. You know, sticks and stones and all that.

One thing the reporter pointed out to me that I hadn't considered? The fine or bail for scalping is pretty low. Maybe as low as a hundred bucks. The guys being arrested could possibly be out of jail and back over to Staples before our last liveshot. The chance of any of them coming back to look for us was pretty slim, but I wrapped up and moved on.

A guy threatening to beat up someone and actually coming back to do it? I think I saw that happen on "Barney Miller" once.

Monday, November 28, 2005

I'm just saying.

With my holiday weekend over and done, it's safe for me to look back and reflect on all the positive things these past few days have shown me.

I'M STILL ALIVE!

I'm thankful, but that's about it for the positive. A few years from now (after intense Flying Dog therapy), maybe I'll be able to laugh about it. I'm sure someday I'll stop referring to it as the most suck Thanksgiving ever. I'll count my blessings and appreciate each day I'm alive.

Well, someday. Yeah, someday.



I thought last year was bad when I had to work a story far away from home and didn't get back until late. I thought that was bad at the time, I made it home to my family eventually.

It all worked out okay.



This year, you know I spent all of Thanksgiving on the side of the road in the dark and cold just South of Gorman. Two people killed by a stolen big rig. That was bad, but I figured the weekend was coming and I'd have some time to recharge.

Thursday was behind me and I was on my way home Friday.



A breaking news story and I'm back on the clock. I'm on the freeway and home is to the West. I wrestle with the wheel, because I have to head East to Whittier. I'm needed to help cover the end of a pursuit that includes an OIS (Officer Involved Shooting).

Gee, my third late night in a row. Lucky me, I'm on a roll



(and I love how they ask us to set up down the street and around the corner from the incident.)

Got home after midnight on Friday and surprisingly, my Saturday was okay.

I got to have a beer (finally) and I did a still photo shoot for Dellis of an art project she's been working on.



Dellis and I spent most of the day together, had lunch with one of her friends and did a little shopping. It was a good day. By far, Saturday sucked the least of the whole weekend.

Yay, way to go, Saturday. . .uh, Sunday? No, yay. Not even a little.

Sunday morning, the phone rings. My first reaction when I see the caller ID? Holy crap, it's the station. Don't answer it. Well, I'm not very good at being that kind of a guy (of course, that guy got to sit at home and have more beer on Sunday).

I take the call and find out, there's been a bus crash in Santa Maria. Two people are dead and one of the victims was a pregnant woman. Can I take a satellite truck up? Let me say it again, holy crap.

After the Michael Jackson trial was over, I figured I'd seen the last of Santa Maria. Go figure.



So, my unexpected Sunday workday started at 10:30am and after our last liveshot at 11:00pm, I made it back home at about 3:30am. Hell of a day mostly spent in the cold along the side of the road.

Final total for the weekend? Six dead and about twenty-four hours of overtime. I know I shouldn't complain, lots of people have real misery to contend with in their lives and other people would be happy to take the overtime. So, the load I'm carrying isn't going to break me.

Not by far.

I just needed to vent a little. I'll go back to work today and try to be ready for whatever hand I'm dealt. When I'm Christmas shopping next week with the unexpected overtime money, I'll try to keep it all in perspective.

I'll try to remember, even though my holiday weekend was pretty bad, I know for at least six people, their friends and family, it was even worse.

I'm just saying.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Happy Jolly Merry Turkey Day

Look out! Here comes some karma payback.

I swear I'm not bitter about missing Thanksgiving dinner at home with my wife, but crap! Here I am on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere.

Gee, did I not mention this earlier today?



I don't want to be too flippant about the story. Two people were killed on the I-5 near Gorman by a truck that may or may not have been stolen.

My day didn't turn out exactly the way I'd hoped, but I'll be going home tonight.



Our oldest is being a good big brother by visiting the young college girl in Hawaii. Pretty little middle girl is spending the holiday with friends in New York.

As a parent, I wish they could be home. I'm thankful they're safe and out living their lives. I was pretty short-sighted at their age and I didn't see much of the world until later in life.



Even though I'm making up for it now. It makes me feel good to know that my kids at a much younger age than me, are seeing and doing things in the world for themselves.

Sure, I'm missing another holiday, but I know I've got a lot to be thankful for.

Their names are Jannon, Dania, and Camia.

Are you trying to bribe me?

Maybe it's just me, but I can usually feel one of two levels of guilt. There's the first level that's true and genuine. I'm sorry, full of remorse, willing to take responsibility for my actions.

Beyond that, there's my standard level of guilt where I'm looking around eyes wide, ear to ear grin, hand and arm up to my elbow in the cookie jar. Can't get my hand out because it's full of cookies.



My big news story last night was all about alternative dining options for Thanksgiving. Don't like turkey? Don't want to cook? Tired of the same old traditions? Plenty of options out there.

We shot a short package and did liveshots from the Benihana Restaurant in Encino (thanks, Jack) last night as just an example of those options.



Lots of nice visuals and sound. Since it was a light feature story, there wasn't a lot of pressure to turn it into a multi-part yawn-o-rama.

We interviewed a rep from the company, a couple of happy diners, shot the chef doing his knifey thing and yeah, you might be wondering what happened to the food that was prepared.

You don't really have to wonder do you?



The second photographer, the reporter and I had a dynamite meal. We offered to pay, but they wouldn't hear of it. Of course, we absolutely left a nice tip for the staff.

For all the days that I've sat on the side of the road running liveshots in the middle of nowhere, it's nice to have that kind of a night.

Our company has an ethics guideline for accepting meals and gifts and such. We were well within the company guidelines. Come on though, if anyone thinks our journalistic ethic is going to be compromised by accepting a meal that would have gone to waste, don't worry. It'll take more than a steak to corrupt me completely.

Hmm, of course we also accepted their green tea ice cream later in the evening.

(sigh) I feel so guilty.

Guess which type.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

While you sleep.

I'm sitting here thinking about it, so maybe I should mention that I've been asked to be part of the crew covering the execution of Stanley Williams. As it stands, I haven't been told if I'm going to shoot the story or run the satellite truck. I think there's a good chance I'll be running the satellite truck. We generally have other good shooters available. SNG truck operators who can always get people on TV are harder to come by.

I accepted the assignment pretty much right away (I always check with Dellis for the last word on out of town trips). No second thoughts about being there, but I have to admit that I'm conflicted when it comes to capital punishment. I'm a hypocrite. I don't have the words to say how strongly I believe that taking someone's life is wrong, but I also believe in upholding the laws of our society.

I've kicked around lots of hypothetical scenarios.

Suppose it was someone close to me who was killed by Stanley Williams?

What if I was a friend or related to Stanley Williams?

If I had the authority (like the Governor), would I consider clemency?

Thinking about it may help me form my own conclusions, but since the debate on capital punishment has gone on for more years than I've been alive, I doubt if I'm going to come up with anything practical between now and December 13th.

The details of the assignment are still being developed. So far, I know I won't be a direct witness to the execution. I may be working inside the gates of San Quentin (not a big deal, I've visited Angola in Louisiana), or I may be stationed outside. If I'm outside, I'm pretty sure I'll meet Mike Farell. He's the actor/activist who has spoken out firmly against the death penalty and I don't doubt that he'll be there. Maybe talking to him will help me settle on one side of the fence or the other. I've changed my opinions before on issues from meeting people and hearing their points of view during interviews I've shot.

There's also the chance that I'll meet friends or family members of the victims who were murdered by Stanley Williams.

The thirteenth of December is coming up fast. I don't expect to have reconciled the pros and cons before the execution date of Stanley Williams. About the only firm stand I'm going to take is that as always, I'm going to do my job. I'll be there, because to avoid the opportunity would seem like I was hiding from taking responsibility for my role in society.

That's not the example I want to set.

I don't know how many people will be active participants in the execution. For sure, I won't be pulling the switch, pushing the button, or sticking in the needle. On the other hand, I also won't be carrying a sign and protesting against it.

I think in my mind, I've always made the distinction between choosing to take a life and taking a life to prevent immediate harm to myself or others. Unless something changes between now and sometime on the early morning of December 13th 2005, the life of Stanley "Tookie" Williams is going to be taken.

I'm not going to do anything to stop it.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Luke 22:42

I know, I know. I've been warned more than a few times about eating food from vending machines.

I've been miserable most of the weekend and I still feel queasy and weak. I look at food poisoning as an occupational hazard for news photographers. It happens. Part of my problem is that I'm stubborn and up until now, I've been lucky that my favorite vending machine (lunchroom at the station) has never turned on me.

Yes, I never should have hit the machine for a tunafish sandwich late Friday night. By Saturday morning I knew just how bad of a mistake I had made.



It was a good news day for me on Friday. I was sent out to Ventura to take a hand-off on Big Blue. It was being used to put people on TV covering the fire that was threatening lots of homes.

By the time I got out there, the fires had already begun laying down for the night. The sat shots were in an area that were no longer being threatened. Got there just after the four o'clock and I finished the five o'clock shot.

After the five, we broke down the gear and all of the dayside crews headed home.

I was driving to have a bite to eat before the night crews were good to go, but a miscommunication had me pulling over, scrambling to re-deploy the dish and throw up a "Hail Mary" satellite signal.



Somehow everyone who thought we weren't in the six o'clock show was wrong (I hate it when that happens).

By the time we hit, my meal plans were cancelled. Plus, I had to move the truck to the command post out at the Ventura Fairgrounds. We did one more liveshot at eight, but then we were thrown a curve.

The assignment desk told us to break it all down and head for Palmdale.

PALMDALE?!?



Let me interrupt for a quick photo-op. The fire-guy on the right is the brother of Jeff Mailes. Jeff is one of our staff photographers and his brother stopped by the truck to say, hello. I just thought it'd be nice to show the picture, but I'm in too much agony to figure out a clever way to fit it into what I'm posting.

Okay, lucky us, the Palmdale assignment got cancelled (gee, I don't think I'd have made it in the satellite truck in time from Ventura anyway). We were told to come on back to the station and I was going to stop for food on the way. That's what I should have done, but I really just wanted to get home.

So, I'm tired and hungry when I make it back to Hollywood, but I can't leave. The desk was short of microwave trucks and had to put mine on a story. Could have been worse. The crew was working in Hollywood and I'd only have to wait about an hour for them to return.

This is when the siren call of the tunafish sandwich overcame me and I succumbed to my own selfish hunger. I am writing this, because I can expect no sympathy from my lovely wife. She's warned me before and I should have known better. I will promise from here on to never ever touch a tunafish sandwich from a machine.

Just remember, that doesn't include microwave burritos.

Mmmm.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Dude.

I don't know what's going on in the rest of the world, but it's a beautiful morning from where I sit. The rest of the day might tank, but I'm kind of enjoying the promise and optimism that comes with waking up in the morning.

I don't always get that (helloooo, Monday), but I'm feeling it pretty strong right now. So, let me catch up from yesterday.



We were at the music center because every Wednesday night the Los Angeles Mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, does a talkback during the KCAL9 newscast and I think he was catching a show.



If you don't know the term, a talkback is what we call a live interview or Q&A session where one of the participants is away from the studio, but communicates directly with the anchors live. Easy to set up, but folks who don't go on camera every day can sometimes get a little anxious.

Anyway, the night starts off on a down note, because we had specific instructions from the Mayor's office on where they wanted us to set up.



The problem was that they wanted us to set up in the valet driveway cutout next to the courtyard of the music center complex. The valets didn't care if we parked there, they just wanted us to cough up $20.00 per vehicle for the space.



It took us about an hour to get things worked out. Yes, it was slightly frustrating. Apparently our explanation (Dude, it's the Mayor!), wasn't a persuasive enough argument.

Everything did work out eventually after some intervention from the Mayor's office.

There didn't seem to be any hard feelings, but the valet guys did park a Rolls Royce behind us. That forced me to be marginally more careful as I chucked gear out of the back.



It was my impression they were screwing with the driver of the Rolls more than looking to cause us any grief.

Now, I did wonder what was said by the Mayor's people to persuade the valet guys to change their tune. I asked him, but all he'd tell me was. . .



. . .Dude, I'm the Mayor.

Okay, he never really said that, but it's a great day and I'd rather wrap it up with a smile and a wink. Next time I see him, I'm going to try and sell him on it as his catch phrase. Can you see it on a t-shirt?

Take a deep breath, forget your troubles and enjoy the hell out of today. You can "be" sure that's exactly what I'm gonna do.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

I'm trying.

"Hello" seems to be misbehaving this morning. I'm trying to post, but can't log in. I'll try again later.

I swear nothing happened to this Rolls Royce that parked behind my news van last night.




Don't give up. I'll post manually if I have to, but I can't spend any more time on it right now. I have to go and stain some shelves for some bookcases I've been working on.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Here's your change.

No, no, say it like you're from Brooklyn.

"I got ya' change right here"

Busy day yesterday and I got thrown a twist on what I normally do.

The station called and had me leave from home to cover the memorial services for Basko, the Redondo Beach K-9 who died during a training exercise last week.

Not so twisty in itself, but the service was supposed to be carried from beginning to end on the CBS2/KCAL9 web site. We did something similar recently, but this seemed to be geared primarily for the webcast.



I'm not even sure if we ever made it onto the internet, but the station at least took our camera for a hit during the 5:00pm show.

I'm not sure why, but the whole deal felt strange.



I'm thinking the strange feeling is coming from the changes my job might eventually go through. I don't have a crystal ball (hey, watch the bald jokes), but with our increasing presence on the internet, it's plain to see that change is a real possibility.

My responsibilities might actually be different down the line. I enjoy what I do so much right now, it's just difficult to imagine what the future might hold.



Well, I'm not losing any sleep over it. Being able to learn and adapt to change is a big part of what I do. Heh-heh, change is the only constant in my work life. I crack me up.

The second story I covered last night (since I was in the neighborhood), was the Redondo Beach City Council meeting agenda item concerning the Sea Food Grotto sign at Pacific Coast Highway and "I" Street.



The restaurant has been closed for years and the City Council has to decide on tearing down the sign or restoring it as a historical landmark.



They spent over an hour talking about it and I had to leave. I don't know how long the discussion lasted.



If I wasn't ready earlier, I was sure ready for change after covering that meeting (yawn).

I understand the sign might be an important symbol to some people. It might even be worth a conversation. It's just one of those stories where I'm fighting to stay focused and I'm praying this isn't the lead.

Hmm, I'm about done posting. Gee, I kind of wish I had something funny to say.

Uh, two nuns walk into a bar. . .darn. I think the moment has kind of passed. Let's just hope for a big story today.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Honeydew (if you know what's good for you).

Even though I consider myself to be quite capable when it comes to home improvement, some projects and repairs have always seemed to slip through the cracks. My available time, willingness to put the beer down, and roll up my sleeves often fail to converge in a timely manner.

I promised Dellis that I'd replace the kitchen faucet when we moved in (five years ago). In my defense, not all of my time has been spent goofing off. I've got a couple of things accomplished in those five years and working in news, I keep some pretty strange hours at times.



The hot water at the faucet recently (okay, three or four months back) developed a clog problem and has been running at a progressively slower trickle.

It's been something of an irritation and last week the kitchen plumbing was moved up to the top of the priority list.



It's important to me that you don't misunderstand. I'm a grown man and I'm not afraid of my wife. . .I mean, we know she's not going to murder me in my sleep. Right?

At least not after I've mentioned it as a possibility in a public forum with lots of witnesses.

No, I'm really not afraid of any physical harm. I think I should tell you, there was just a hint of an implied threat and I didn't care to have it hanging over my head.



The work was fairly simple. Remove the old fixture and check for the clog. I found it at the shutoff under the sink. Replaced a washer and installed the new fixture.

It took a simple trip to the hardware store and a few hours to work it all out, but I finished the job and everything's running pretty well.

So, what does this have to do with news or anything?



Not much.

It's been a big year for me. Seems like I say this every year, but I've traveled further and done more than ever before in my life. Naturally I'm always surprised when a year is bigger than the last, but every year it continues to "be" true.

I'm not so jaded that I don't sit back and just be amazed over how much I've experienced. Even after all is said and done, one of the best parts of being able to go and do what I do, is coming home. Just having that place to return to helps me to keep my life in perspective. The fact that it's a happy home isn't by accident, my wife and I work towards that.

I don't know exactly how other people get through life. I can't speak for them. I just know what works for me. I'm ready to start a new week and I'm relaxed and happy. Spending my Sunday working on a plumbing job in my kitchen? That helped get me there and I believe it's going to help me to enjoy life and maybe live longer.

At least that's what my wife says.

I think she's right.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Q:What stays? A:What happens and my money.

Somehow it doesn't seem fair that my wife isn't here to share the view and enjoy the really great room I stumbled into at the Luxor. I'm not even there to enjoy it today, because we're out from 7:30am until after 11:00pm doing liveshots.



Gone for almost three days (I'll be home tomorrow), but I'll have spent only a few hours in the room. Most of my time is going to be spent in Big Blue.



Maybe a bit more comfortable than a tank, but not by much.

If anyone is wondering. Yes, I'm still a little fried from last night. I had a plan for my gambling and drinking and the plan worked very well.

Have a couple of beers, lose all my money and go to bed.



Good old Marvin managed his winnings and like a true gambler. He knew just when to walk away from the table. I would have walked away too, but you kind of have to win at least once.



At one point while my chips were sprouting legs and just walking away, I was joking that they could take all my money, but they couldn't take my dignity.

Marvin said he'd play until I lost it all. It didn't take long.



The dealer kind of giggled when Marvin and I walked away from the table. Gee, I was wrong about the dignity thing.

I hate Las Vegas.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

It stays here? Really.

I'm typing fast for two reasons. First of all, I'm in Las Vegas (yeah, I know. AGAIN!).



Traffic was miserable getting into town, but I made good time considering I'm wheeling Big Blue.



Oops, I'm getting ahead of myself.

The main reason I'm typing fast is because they upgraded my room to a suite and I'm positive the Luxor people are going to realize somebody made a mistake and they're going to come boot me out of the room.



Check out the TV in the bedroom. I'm living like I actually gamble when I come to town.



Had a great meal and I really wish I'd remembered to snap a picture before I wolfed it down. I skipped lunch just so I could stuff myself at dinner.

My plan worked.



Started out with oysters on the half-shell and a Corona beer. I was a little disappointed they didn't have any microbrews available. Went for the 14 ounce boneless prime rib (and a beer) and had creamed spinach on the side. Yeah, it was good. Medium rare, but I could have gone straight medium.

RING! RING!

Hey, I gotta go. That was Marvin. He's up $300.00 at Blackjack. Do you remember 1K Cooking from earlier this year? Yeah, that Marvin.

He's buying the next round.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

By the way, who won?

Everybody should know that I'm not all that starstruck. . .OH MY GOODNESS, THAT'S LINDA BREAKSTONE!

Okay, I'll admit the real centers of attention are the two folks on either side of our reporter.



We were lucky enough to score a live interview with Warren Beatty and Annette Benning.

Even though he seemed to have a slight problem with the headphones he borrowed to listen in on our election report. . .



. . .he didn't have a problem sharing them with Mrs. Beatty (Annette Benning). She was right there at his side and I thought it was cute to see them share the headphones.



What you don't see out of frame? The mobs of other reporters squeezing in to try and nab the next interview and other photogs angling for position.

You also don't see, just after I snapped this picture, me frantically tearing through my gear bag for a mini-plug splitter.

We had hoped that he'd make an appearance, but actually got more than I thought was possible. This was a few minutes of great live television, I got a couple of celebrity shots and I got a blog post out of the deal.

All in all, not a bad election night.



The only thing I didn't get was sleep. I clocked out at 1:30am and finally made it to bed about 3:00am. You'll have to pardon me. I expect to be a bit groggy as I shuffle through my Wednesday.

On the bright side, just one more day of general assignment shooting this week (crap, it's raining), then tomorrow I hit the road in the Big Blue SNG truck for Las Vegas.

Yeah, I'm feeling lucky.