Friday, February 23, 2007

The Circus is in Town, Y'all

One of the bennies of working as a sports reporter is that you get to go to the pre-whatever news conferences. This week I went to the Oscar de la Hoya - Floyd Mayweather, Junior fiasco at Union Station in Washington.

My editor wanted me to shoot still photos while he did video and I also recorded the audio. It was a hoot. People taking time out of the middle of their day to watch these two guys jaw at one another. Of course it's all crap until May 5th, when they actually fight.

My wife thinks boxing is stupid. She says she cannot understand why two men would want to get into a ring and smack the snot out of one another.

I could have gotten philosophical about it - and I did a little. It's controlled violence. There are rules, and there is a referee who makes sure you follow the rules.

Real violence is not like that.

Real violence is unpredictable, like an IED in Baghdad or a drive-by shooting in Southeast DC. Real violence leaves you feeling helpless or vengeful or angry. Boxing always has the possiblity of a rematch. Maybe you can get another shot at this guy. Real violence seldom allows that.

It's like the widowed Army wife I heard on the radio yesterday. She and her husband met at West Point and were married after graduation. He was killed in Iraq last year by some unseen explosive device. She said she never needs to know when it's the 18th of the month (the day he was killed) because she can feel it. And she has a child to raise.

One could say "they both knew death was a part of their business," or something like that. True. But that doesn't make it any easier.

At this "The World Awaits" tour people lined up and stayed in line for hours to get an autograph from one of the fighters. A colleague of mine even got Floyd Mayweather to sign one of the flags they were handing out.

Mayweather and Oscar de la Hoya will both make tens of millions of dollars for their efforts. According to the Army website an officer with about five years of experience will make around 62 thousand dollars a year. Or he could get shot and never come home.

But nobody pays to watch the Army (or Navy or Air Force or Marines) do their job. Maybe we should.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Time in Paradise - then back to reality

a rainbow at sunset on nassau harbourCornelia and I just returned from a week in the Bahamas, on Paradise Island at the Paradise Island Harbour Resort, the same place we went last January. It was beautiful, to say the least, with temperatures in the 70s and 80s - even though it did rain one day. The best part about the rain - at sunset there was a rainbow - and I got to the water's edge in time to capture it.

We spent as much time as we could on Cabbage Beach, though being the white boy, pale face, cracker that I am, I had to limit my time because I would look like a lobster if I didn't. But we did enjoy the warm weather.

Granted, the hotel in which we stayed was not Atlantis, but of course we didn't pay $500 a day either. And in case you want to buy a day pass to Atlantis, they're $88 a person to use the pool and go to the restaurants and casino. And don't think of trying to get into the pool without paying. They have very efficient security people there - courteous, but firm. Basically no pay, no play. You can romp in the ocean for free.

Speaking of the ocean, it was not quite warm enough for swimming , though Cornelia did take a couple of dips in the crystal waters. That was after we told every Bahamian slick talker that we didn't want to (a) jet ski; (b) para sail; (c) buy a drink; (d) rent a chair; and Cornelia did not want her hair braided. Not to speak ill of the folks there, but some of them can be pushy.

The Bahamas doesn't have any personal income or sales tax because it makes so much money off tourism. Something tells me these guys were looking for some undeclared income, but a jet ski ride costs $120 an hour, so you had better love to jet ski.cabbage beach, paradise island bahamas

But who can argue with walking down a beach like this one? It was gorgeous and the sands were warm and the water was a breathtaking color of aqua. Like the Bahamian flag only real.

Coming home was easier than I thought it would be. Nassau Airport is notorious for long lines and you do have to go through three levels of security before reaching your gate. And because our plane was headed to DC we had to go through another check-in. Carrying your passport and checking in was no big deal.

One funny incident did happen at the snack bar in the airport. I had noticed that some of the Bahamians had a little attitude when it came to tourists. Nothing blatant, no open hostility, just a kind of "what the hell do you want?" attitude. In this snack bar they had one of the popcorn machines that uses hot oil to make the popcorn. The thing about the old-time poppers is that they can spit out old maids that don't pop as well as the popcorn and if you get one on you it is like a burning b-b made of corn.

So one of my fellow travelers was apparently looking for the girl behind the counter, because he wanted some popcorn. I heard her answer him "I a'int gonna ta get barned for you!" Then he started in on her about how she was supposed to be behind the counter and he wanted to buy some popcorn. The people in line with me (Americans) were kind of taken aback at her response, but what happened later was hilarious because these two started into it with one another.

Counter girl: "I'll tell you what, maybe you could stay back here and I'll get on the plane and leave."

Tourist: "Yeah right, maybe you could come and take my job, too. You want my car keys? How about my house? You want my girlfriend?"

Counter girl: "Ok! I'll take your job. You can stay here and work where I do and I'll go where you go."

Needless to say it was not a poster for hospitality. But both of them were probably pretty stressed out - him because he was hungry and had a plane to catch and her because he was probably the 11,000th tourist to come through that shop in the past three hours.

And when we did come back to Virginia, it was snowing. The contrast was stunning: Sunday morning I'm stroking bougainvillea flowers in the Bahamas; Sunday evening, I am shovelling snow in DC. And not just snow; ice. Bricks of it hard as cement and sharp as a sword. But the weather is supposed to warm this week in NoVa.

So if you decide to go to the Bahamas, enjoy yourself. It is truly breathtaking. I would stay away from Atlantis, though. It's a rip off. Everything is expensive and water is water and food is food. Save your money. Stay somewhere else and spend your cash on jewelry or clothing or a massage or something. Atlantis is like Las Vegas in the Caribbean - the only man making any money off it is the one who owns it. If you don't mind that, fine. Personally, I thought it was too much for too little.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

The Ball has turned . . . thank God

I took this shot of the U.S. Capitol on Saturday, February 10th at sunset. The sun was dropping directly down Maryland Avenue from the building. I know, it's kind of cheesy, a shot that every tourist for generations might have taken. But with the bad guys hoping to have blown it up on 9-11, I wanted to take a picture of my own. And it was hard evidence that Spring will come. Last month at this time, the building would have been in total darkness. But now it is bathed in peach-colored sunlight.

And the weather forecasters are called for snow beginning Monday. Lots of snow. They say that it might be flurries or it could be a major snow storm depending on where the storm from the South moves. And with temperatures in single digits overnight tonight and in recent days, it is cold enough for a pile of snow to fall.

But the ball has turned. Spring will be here soon. But just to remind me that it's still Winter, these folks were literally walking on the Capitol reflecting pool. It was frozen solid. But soon it will be thawed and the birds will be dipping into it. And the cherry blossums will be in bloom, and the days will be long and warm and people will be playing softball on the mall and we will forget the long nights of winter.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Mo Prince Pix

I loaded some more photos of Prince in the flickr badge in the right sidebar. You might also have noticed I have been playing with Blogger's template madness. I decided to keep the masthead the same.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

It's that freakin' cold

It is so cold here in Northern Virginia. When I got home from the Super Bowl yesterday, it was like being thrown into liquid nitrogen when I stepped out of National Airport. The cold slapped me up side the head and threatened to take all the feeling out of my fingers.

At least today the wind is calm. The weather forecasters are saying that we are in for snow tonight. We are not as cold as International Falls Minnesota, which was reported to be the coldest city in the country today. I don't know what the exact temperature was there, but let's just say the ice queen from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe would have felt right at home. Of course, she would feel pretty comfortable in DC right now.

This is some ice in a puddle near Bull Run creek behind my house. It looks like something out of a dream. And to think, two days ago I was in warm - though rainy - Florida.

Sunday, February 04, 2007


PRINCE!Prince Rocks the Super Bowl with members of the FAMU marching band and hundreds of local teens

Poncho Madness

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingIt rained on the Super Bowl. Solid rain for the whole first quarter, and it only got stronger and colder as the game went on. But I didn't see anyone leavin, except maybe to go to the john.

It was so rainy that the jumbo tron in the stadium was fogging up. The Bears and Colts didn't seem to mind, even though the ball was slippery and a couple of fumbles were directly related to the wet ball. It also cut down on some of the passing.

But fans broke out their ponchos and kept cheering. Even the Colts cheerleaders - soaked through in their little cowgirl outfits and wet hair - kept chipper. They shook their pom poms and danced to the tunes in the stadium.

wet reporters at the Super BowlThey passed out these clear plastic ponchos for people to wear. Half the press corps was wearing them. Rain-soaked reporters can turn into children real quick. But it is the Super Bowl. (Pause to wipe off my screen). And it is a great game so far.I wonder if Prince will play in the rain?

Sing that Thang

Billy Joel's version of the anthem had me on the verge of tears. I know, that sounds sappy. But It was pouring rain on him, on his piano and on Marlee Matlin doing the sign language. But the Piano man gutted it out and the Thunderbirds flew low enough to touch. GAME ON Y'ALL!

Circus Freaks

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingThe Cirque du Soleil people have taken to the field for the pregame show. Great big balloons and lots of dancers and a cast of about 350. The music of Louie Vega and the whole shindig introduced by Gloria Estefan. They did the whole thing and cleared the field in about 15 minutes.

Now they're going to toss the coin soon, but right now they're playing a tribute to the late Lamar Hunt, the former owner of the Kansas City Chiefs. The joint is filling up. The rains have been falling all day, but who knows if that will make any difference. It's the Super Bowl! Go for it.

Five dollar coke!

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingYou don't think that the sponsors make some money off Super Sunday? This Diet Coke - a regular old 20 oz model - just cost me five bucks! I must be out of my mind. Or thirsty. Maybe it's the pretzels the NFL gave me in the free lunch. Or the chicken sandwich. Who knows. And a program for a friend of mine? $20. Like the Mastercard Commerical: Coca cola, $5. Program $20. Super Bowl Blogging? Priceless. If you work for Coke or the NFL, or Pepsi or or whatever.

Game Time!

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingIt's almost game time here at Dolphin Stadium. It's overcast and misty but not really raining. That's good because my seat is right on the edge of the overhang. So that means if the rain blows, it will blow into my compueter. Which would suck. But I'm here. My colleague Brian Wagner is here too. This is his first Super Bowl. I showed him where the madhouse that is postgame will take place. He seems ready.

We both got the goody bags = a Super Bowl 41 lunch bag, seat cushion, and a video game from Burger King. More stuff to haul, but decent stuff all the same. And it's free.

I had Prime Rib at the big feed the NFL puts on for the media before the game. I spent most of the time talking to Andy Rooney of 60 Minutes. Turns out he loves to do woodworking. He said he has built the furniture for his children. What does Andy Rooney think is the toughest thing to build? Chairs. Why? Because you don't know if they're right until you sit in them, and you can't sit in them until they're done. Kind of like a stained glass window. You don't see the big ones until they're in place. Then it's too late. It's about three hours until game time. More later. D.

Super Blog III

Chocolate, a trendy place where you can get a chocolate crab lobster salad in South BeachIt's time for the Food page! I went to South Beach earlier this week to explore what people were offering for the Super Bowl. This is Chocolate which is on Espanola Way in South Beach's Art Deco district. They are offering a couple of specials - all their things include chocolate, hence the name - inlcuding a chocolate crab-lobster mix where the chocolate is in the sauce. I know my wife will want to put this place on the agenda.

I talked to the assistant manager of this place and he said that they were planning a big street blowout for the game. He might get rained on. (It's raining right now and the forecast is for rain the rest of the day). If it is soggy, their street party will be qa washout, which is a shame because the same guy owns Chocolate, Oh Mexico and Cafe Nuvo, which is right down the street. It features waht they call a Mediterranean cuisine, but I sampled their Mojitos. See the owner is Cuban, and he specializes in making Mojitos.

This is him, Angel, and he has been in the United States for about six years. Angel Paez making a MojitoHe is originally from Havana. There weren't any beautiful people dancing to a funky beat as he made the drink. Just the "Chink, Chink, Chink" of the pestle against the glass as he ground the spearmint.

The smell of spearmint and lime juice filled the bar and the drink was one of those dangerous ones that you could drink a lot of and not realize how much alcohol you are consuming. And because I was also doing a story on his bar for VOA, he comped me the drink, which normally costs $9.00.

The vibe of the place is really laid back and relaxing. It features wicker and high-back chairs at the tables and the sidewalk dining appeared to be the most appealing. Cafe Nuvo is definitely on the list of places I'd like to visit again. I didn't get to try the food, but if it's as good as the Mojito, look out.

I also stopped by Miami Ink - I know that has nothing to do with eating, but it was on the way and I wanted to see who was there - and met Morgan Pennypacker. He had designed a special Super Bowl tattoo, but no one was buying when I was there. Morgan Pennypacker of Miami Ink My wife said "who would want a Super Bowl tattoo? I mean what if you don't like the game?" And it made a lot of sense. I mean why put something permanent on your body if you aren't really devoted to what's going on there. But there weren't even any fans getting team stuff. Nothing. Just a bunch of artists hanging around waiting for customers. No action and it was a Friday night.

I walked down to Ocean Drive and it was packed with people. Lots of people. Lots of beautiful people, lots of tourists, lots of Super Bowl partiers. Lots of loud music. Lots of breasts. Lots of tans and gold and expensive cars. Oceans 10 on Ocean DriveI saw a couple of Ferraris (or they could have been Mazerattis, I didn't get a chance to get the brand. They were just low to the ground and expensive looking). While Ocean was closed to traffic, Collins and Washington Avenues had traffic out that wazoo. Lots of long vehicles - Hummer limos, Dodge 300 Limos, Lincoln Limos. Lots of big wigs cars.

But all that excess was in sharp contrast to the homeless woman pushing her cart full of stuff or the guy who was so drunk he was clinging to the wall as he walked, his eyes bloodshot and his face sunburned.

That was my excursion to South Beach. Would I come back, maybe but probably not. I prefer quieter climes, like relaxing on the beach with my wife. That's more my speed. But South Beach has a lot to offer. Just bring your money and don't expect to go home with any of it.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Super Blog II

The Holiday Resort in MiamiGreetings from South Florida! To those of you shivering in the cold (as I will be again in four days) this is what it looked like in Miami Beach today. I got to do something I really love doing today - I got to cover the creative aspects of the Super Bowl, specifically the music. I also got a free concert from His Purple Badness, Prince, and got to laugh at Billy Joel's jokes. And I interviewed a young woman named Yulia (AKA Smartass) who is a Moscow-born aerialist with Cirque Du Soleil.

This was the first press conference I attended in the Main Media Center I told you about in the last post. They actually brought out the Cirque du Soleil people first and they were pretty cool. The pregame program has been designed by the folks at Cirque, and a Miami-based artist named Romero Britto, who was recently a guest artist at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Super Bowl 41 Pregame Production team That's Romero in the colorful shirt. Next to him is Daniel LeMarre, the CEO of Cirque du Soleil. The guy in black is Louie Vega - yep Mambo #5 Louie Vega.

This colorful creature is not Yulia the aerialist, but it is one of her cast mates who is in the same costume. They were acting birdlike, and being very convincing about it. Getting anyone to talk was like prying open a can with a pencil. I guess it's that mime history or something. I can only imagine.A Cirque Du Soleil aerialistThere was some brunette handler making sure that no one in makeup was talking to someone like me.

But I charmed a few sentences out of Yulia anyway. I never found out why she's called Smartass. Yulia told me they would be doing a Russian high-flying routine. Obviously, they're BIRDS. But they're actually people dressed up like birds.The Piano Man After them and a great session with Billy Joel, who said the National Anthem was not America's best song - he prefers America the Beautiful and called the National Anthem "a slog, really," - it was time for PRINCE.

And he did not disappoint. I actually got a chance to chat with his guitar tech, a French Canadian named Jeff DuBois, who as it turns out has worked 18 years with Celine Deion's show. And he still works for Celine in Las Vegas. And this man has to work hard, because the humidity in Vegas doesn't get above 40% unless it rains two days or more in a row. That dry climate tends to be hard on wood, which is what guitars (including Prince's) are made of. Turns out, Jeff is a luthier - a guy who builds guitars.My Name is Prince and I am FUNKYPrince played a Hohner knockoff of a Fender Telecaster guitar and he also had two girls dancing with him that made the carpet melt. Typical Prince. No need to hide the fact that his show is about SEX. Come on. Who do you think you're dealing with? No costume malfunctions, Prince, but I think his show will probably still be pretty hot.

Anyway, he pretended to be ready to answer questions at this Press Conference, and then when the first question was asked, he launched into Johnny B Goode as his answer. And the brother rocked the joint. Massively. And he had a FUNKY group behind him. Horns, keyboards, drums, bass - of course - and vocalists. It was like a free concert. So maybe this job ain't so bad after all. At least this part of it.

I haven't eaten any real food here yet. I think that will be Super Blog III. Later. Stay warm.


Super Blog I

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingGreetings from South Florida! I got here finally. The weather here is a little cloudy, but it's 78 degrees and the promise of warmth is a welcome respite from the Winter Blast DC is getting.

I am writing this from the media lounge area in the pressroom at the Miami Convention Center, which is the main media center for all the reporters covering the Super Bowl. There's supposed to be about 4,000 of us here, and so they have outfitted the convention center to accommodate the rush.

The photo is of radio row. That's where all the other radio reporters are. VOA doesn't have a booth there. You have to reserve them, and I would assume, pay money for them.

So here I am. But I am in South Beach. What would Tony Dungy do? He would say "Well, God has a plan and we make the best of it."

But I get to go to a free concert by Prince in about an hour, and I get to break bread with the Upper Crust for a few days. Not to mention the warmth (sorry honey, I know I said I wouldn't mention it, but JEEZZZ). I also got to ride over here with a guy from the John Riggins show in DC. So that was cool.

Anyway. Look for more posts on Super Flava.