Sunday, June 19, 2011

Back in the Fort

More than 3,000 miles, across 12 states, visiting a half dozen friends, with heartwarming stops in Lawrence and Kansas City at WDAF, I finally arrived on Friday to the waiting Czarina.  The one year adventure that was Sacramento is at an end.  But it certainly didn't go quietly.  More on that in a moment.

The drive went amazingly well.  The amount of snow still in the high country was astounding.  From California to Wyoming there was still a lot of snow.  By this time of year the parts of Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming are usually burned brown.  It was amazingly green.  Clouds hovered over Nebraska as I drove across the state but as if on cue the sun arrived as I crossed into Kansas.

I spent almost three days visiting family and friends in Lawrence.  I got the best sleep that I've had in more than six months.  Something about sleeping at my sister Dianne's house is soothing for me.  But the highlight of that part of my journey was a visit to WDAF.  News Director Bryan McGruder was unbelievably kind and the welcome from old friends on Signal Hill was overwhelming.  Seeing friendly faces like Al Wallace, J.W. Edwards, John Holt, and Mike Lewis reminded me of how much we have all been through together.

I made a lunch stop in Paducah on Thursday where I got to see Hula Girl Andrea Underwood and Lew Jetton.  I had the privilege of working with both during my all too short stint in Western Kentucky at WPSD.  In the middle of our meal I got a text that my general manager in Sacramento resigned after just seven months on the job.  Talk about things that make you go hmm! 

I arrived at home Friday afternoon and the Czarina was sweeping the driveway waiting for me.  She was like a kid on Christmas morning, she braved the sultry heat to welcome her man home.  It was clear that I was needed more in Fort Myers than in Sacramento.  My arrival sparked a flurry of work on the Czarina's part.  I've got a lot of chores facing me over the coming day, little things neglected in my absence.

Capping my first weekend home was a surprisingly cool Sunday evening run of six miles.  The Czarina is only rounding back into shape after a long battle with plantar fasciitis.  I ran better than I had in months while a bathroom emergency disrupted the poor Czarina's final mile.  Thank goodness for some ongoing road construction next to the trail which gave her a private place to do her business at dusk.  She won't like me writing about that, but my goodness, it's great to be home, chasing the Czarina along the 6 Mile Cypress trail.   

Friday, June 10, 2011

A Long Strange Trip

A year and a day ago I arrived in Sacramento, scared and excited about returning to television news.  In my year at News10 I've helped cover riots, a massive deadly pipeline explosion, a grisly end to a child abduction, a judicious end to the Jaycee Dugard saga, and the on and off exodus of the Sacramento Kings.  It's been an incredible 12 months.

But a little over a month ago my beautiful wife, the Czarina called me and said seven simple words, it's time for you to come home.  We tried really hard to make the separation work.  Our training for St. George, our time at Christmas with Andrei and the excitement of Natasha's pregnancy culminating with the birth of Dasha helped get us through 11 difficult months.

But by May both of us were worn out.  I was tired of a life that consisted of work, work, a run and more work.  The Czarina was swallowed up by the solitude of our home and the lack of companionship.  So I made the difficult decision to return home.  I begin my return journey to Fort Myers on Saturday.  Yes Hula, I'm coming through Paducah so alert the natives.

My baseball friends will appreciate this because I feel like Bob "Suitcase" Seeds.  He was a major league outfielder who played for five teams in nine seasons.  He even played for the same team twice which even I managed to beat scoring the hat trick with WDAF.  My career in television started in 1974.  I've worked at more stations than I care to recite here.  Hopefully one more opportunity to step up to the plate in this gut-wrenching business will be afforded me.

I'm sad because I've never worked with a better group of journalists than the folks at News10.  We simply had no weak links in our newsroom.  The producers were incredible, our photographers talented, our reporters great, the editors top-notch, a sensational group of assignment editors and our anchor team simply the best I've ever had the privilege to know.  There were no egos.  It was simply about the newscast at hand and putting the best on our air.

It wasn't until the last few days that I realized that even during my short tenure that my contributions hadn't gone unnoticed.  I've heard praise from people that I rarely interacted with to the folks who became my second family at nights about the void my departure will bring.  All I can say is I'm lucky.  I got to experience the power of working with really smart and really dedicated journalists.  Here's to hoping that lightning can strike twice.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Critic

You can't please everybody.  How many times have I heard that?  How many times have I been accused of being a people pleaser?  Guilty as charged.  But there are some things that I won't budge on.  Take the last blog about my favorite son-in-law, Vlad Dorofeev. 

I love and respect Vlad.  He's a good man with a good heart who has a 4-year-old that's full of thunder and a newborn that leaves him little time for himself.  Vlad laces up his running shoes as often as he can for some me time.

The Czarina sent me the picture last Friday of the worn out papa sleeping on the couch instead of getting in some miles.  She even suggested it would be good material for a blog.  The Czarina saw humor in the situation and so did I.

Last night after a long night of producing I sat down and pounded out a few words about Vlad's training efforts or lack thereof.  It was short and to the point.  I informed the Czarina this morning of my latest blog entry which she promised to read.

It didn't take long for the phone to ring.  The Czarina pronounced that my writing efforts had fallen short.  The blog simply wasn't funny enough.  She suggested it needed some punching up.  I declined. 

Then later in the day I received another phone call.  Now she was calling me out on accuracy.  You have to understand English is the Czarina's third language, not even second, falling behind Russian and Latvian.  She believed I hadn't made it clear that Andrei now runs.  I disagreed with her argument.  She again insisted on a re-write.  It's not going to happen.

I've written plenty of flat out lousy copy during my years of producing television news.  But I'm not going to take writing criticism from someone who would spend at least an hour to type what I've so far put down in this blog in five minutes.  I've not going to take criticism from someone who makes a running fashion statement with this before a marathon.  Nope, not going to do it!

The Training Run

One of the influences I've had on my family for better or worse, is running.  The Czarina wasn't a runner when I met her, Andrei never ran.  His sister Natasha and her husband Vlad never ran either.  But that's all changed.  They all run and as chronicled in earlier blogs they even like to race from time to time.

Vlad has the most potential as a runner.  He's a lot like his mother-in-law, the Czarina.  He's tough as nails and wants to be competitive.  That's not to say that Natasha doesn't have her tough side, especially in light of last year's half marathon effort.  But the arrival of a second child hasn't helped Vlad's training.  He ran 47:13 for 10K last month in Riga.  Now I'd be happy to run that fast right now, but Vlad's capable of running under 40 minutes, if he took his training seriously.

But as you can see he doesn't take his training too seriously.  He was supposed to be out on a 15 kilometer run, that's 9 miles for you metrically impaired.  Vlad decided to bypass the run in favor of his wife's birthday cake and this is the result, logging plenty of Z's but not enough K's.

Friday, June 3, 2011


Like a lot of baby boomers I grew up glued to the television every Monday night watching the exploits of Marshall Matt Dillon.  James Arness played the larger than life western hero and was the small screen counterpart to John Wayne.  Gunsmoke is the best television western ever made, period.  And it is certainly one of the best television dramas to boot and that's saying a lot.

Ken Curtis and James Arness
Arness was blessed with a great supporting cast starting the first few years with a limping deputy named Chester played by the talented Dennis Weaver.  Ken Curtis ably slid into the role of Dillon's sidekick as Festus and Dodge City was never better.  It wasn't Shakespeare but some of the episodes were damn close to it.  Amanda Blake as Miss Kitty and Milburn Stone as Doc were tremendous actors in their own right.

Over 20 years and 635 episodes James Arness created a television legacy that I believe is only matched by Alan Alda's role as Hawkeye Pierce on MASH.  But I digress.  What helped make Gunsmoke such a great television series was the amazing number of up and coming actors soon to become stars that cut their teeth on the show.  Look at the names and some impressive ones pop up... Burt Reynolds, Warren Oates, Buddy Ebsen, Ellen Burstyn, Jon Voight, Jodie Foster, need I go on?

What makes me chuckle is I was born and grew up in Kansas. Yet I never have set foot in Dodge City.  I've been to every major city in the state of Kansas save for two, Great Bend and Dodge City.  It's kind of embarrassing as much as I worshiped the show.  I even grew up grew up in a small town, Abilene, that was a rough and tumble cattle town much as Dodge City was in the 1860's and 70's. 

You can still see Gunsmoke on TVLand.  I catch it once and a while I feel the nostalgia for my youth.  RIP James Arness, you were a true star, unlike the reality show buffoons that now provide so much of the fare that passes for television these days.