I’m a reporter, but I missed, if not the biggest story, at least the most fascinating story of the day Monday. In my own backyard!
- “Where’s your camera dad?” “Why?”
- “The fire department’s here.” “Who?”
- “They’re trying to get the bird out of the tree.” “WHAT?”
- Dispatcher: “Broken Arrow Fire Department. What’s your emergency?”
- Neighbor: “Well, it’s my bird.”
- Dispatcher: “Your bird?”
- Neighbor: “Yeah, he’s in a tree and won’t come down.”
- Dispatcher: “Let me see if I’ve got this straight. Your bird is stuck up a tree?”
- Neighbor: “I guess that’s right….”
- Dispatcher: “And you want us to get it down?”
- Neighbor: “Well, if you can’t…..”
- Dispatcher: “I’ll send a ladder truck right away!”
Michelle was out of town last weekend, so Tommy (my youngest son) and I took our boat out for the first time this spring. If you know me, you know it’s always an adventure when we launch the yacht (okay it’s more like a 20 year old, 20 foot boat).
And it was no different this time. More on that in a moment, but first the back story. Michelle and I bought our first boat last summer. For years, our boys harrassed us to buy one, so we finally gave in. Neither one of us grew up around boats, so there was a lot to learn. A lot. And we (okay, I) made a lot of bonehead mistakes. Someone told me at the end of last summer that I made more boating mistakes in two months than most boaters make in 20 years. They weren’t exaggerating.
Once I forgot to latch the trailer to the Suburban. The first big bump in the road and it was gone. “Hey, that looks like our boat next to us!” Also, backing the boat into the water, and then putting it back on the trailer must have been hilarious for anyone watching at the boat ramp. And I don’t know how many times we had to flag down fellow boaters to jump our dead battery.
Yeah, it was a stressful summer. But it must have been fun as well, because we have a lot of pictures that show us smiling and laughing (see below). More of them than me though. Which gets us back to last weekend’s adventure. Despite temps barely in the 50’s, Tommy was determined to go fishing. So we took the boat out of the storage unit and drove it to nearby Keystone Lake. I won’t bore you with all the details, but when Michelle texted me, “How did it go?”, here’s my response:
Counting down the top 3 highlights of the day:
#3 Losing the boat’s rear seat cushion and life-jackets on the highway. (When we’re pulling the boat, the wind will blow the seat away, unless I put it flat on the floor of the boat. Last year I remembered that every time. Not this time. If you saw a man running along Highway 412 last Sunday carrying a life-jacket and a big seat cushion, it was probably me.) Oh my!
#2 Me: “Tommy (who’s driving the boat), the depth finder says it’s only 5 feet.” His reply: “Dad, the depth finder isn’t accurate.” A few seconds later we hit bottom! Fortunately, it was mud and not rocks. Oh my!
#1 Tommy wants to back the boat and trailer into our storage unit. I’m behind him, guiding him in. “Stop.” He’s headed for the aluminum door of the storage unit next door. He keeps coming. “Stop!” I’m yelling this time. He’s getting closer to a collision. “STOP!!” What comes after yelling? Screaming? Bang. He slams the boat’s prop into the aluminum door. “Didn’t you hear me screaming to stop?” I
screamedasked him. “Yeah, I heard you dad, but I thought you were over-exaggerating again.” Oh my!
Tommy turns 18 on Mother’s Day. For his birthday, he wants to take the boat out again. We’re in for another
stressful fun summer. Oh my!
You might be a redneck if … you live in Tulsa. “Whoa, hold on Bubba! Who you calling’ a redneck?” Not me. I ’bout swallowed my tobaccie when I heard that. I’m not calling Tulsans rednecks. A lighthearted study by a real estate blog is.
Movoto.com is out with “The 10 Most Redneck Cities in America”, and Tulsa comes in at number five on the list. The website said it used the number of Walmarts, gun and ammo stores, country music stations, riding lawn mower repair shops and high school dropout rates per capita to create the rankings. (I’ll add my own to that criteria: redneck wakeboarding. See link below) Author Natalie Grigson put it this way:
“You see, rednecks are a surprisingly diverse folk — they love home cooking’, but they love fast food; they love their dogs, but they love their taxidermied animals just the same.”
- Atlanta, GA
- Kansas City, MO
- Oklahoma City, OK
- Nashville, TN
- Tulsa, OK
- Fort Worth, TX
- Arlington, TX
- Sacramento, CA
- Cleveland, OH
- Mesa, AZ
So what do you think of the rankings? Are you a proud redneck or do you think Oklahoma is far from a redneck state? Let me know in the comments below.
You just knew this was going to happen. A.J. Clemente is riding the wave. By now, you probably know who Clemente is. He’s the guy whose first two words on his very first newscast as a news anchor at a TV station in Bismarck, ND got him fired. Need a refresher? Click here.
Clemente is now enjoying his 15 minutes of fame for his screw-up. This morning he was in New York City appearing on the Today Show, Live with Kelly and Michael and then Letterman later tonight. “Live” offered him a job as a red-carpet reporter for some upcoming entertainment awards show. Anchor legend Tom Brokaw gave him a pep talk. It’s certainly a far cry from Bismarck isn’t it?
I dug through my memory for my messy moments as an anchor. I can come up with two of them, both around a quarter a century ago, long before YouTube was around to spread the embarrassment to all ends of the earth.
There’s a small town near where I used to work called Shady Cove. The script had me saying, “The city of Shady Cove …” Well, I inadvertently combined the words city and shady, and it came out S***- y Cove instead. Oops! Sometimes shady happens.The other blunder happened when instead of saying “they stored the fish in a warehouse”, I said “they stored the fish in a whorehouse”. Actually I think that’s where they ought to store fish.
Each time I went home that night waiting for a call from the networks and book publishers. It was going to make me famous. I would be making millions. But nothing from The Today Show. Or The Tonight Show. Heck, I didn’t even get a call from my boss about either faux pas.
Times have certainly changed. Stumbles and scandals and sins can go viral on YouTube and social media. Punishments can often turn into opportunities. So I have an idea. Take a look at my video (that’ll be me on the far left), and see if it could lead to something bigger and better for me.
I’ll be waiting by the phone for the calls from the networks and publishers. If A.J. Clemente can do it, so can I.
Just how important are first impressions? They can ruin a first date, that first day at a new school, or a new job. I don’t know if he’s a golfer, but I’m sure A.J. Clemente wants a mulligan with how he shanked his first day at work.
Clemente was making his debut as weekend anchor for KFYR in Bismarck, ND. And it didn’t go well, right off the bat. His first two words ended up getting him fired. Two bad words. As a news anchor for more than 30 years, it’s painful for me to watch, and listen to. If you don’t like to hear profanities, you might want to close your ears until after three seconds in.
While it can’t match that, I once had a new co-anchor who suffered a rough start to her first newscast. It happened about 25 years ago at a small market TV station out West. Back then, the teleprompter controls were operated by the anchors with foot pedals. Right before her very first newscast with me, during the news open, my co-anchor couldn’t find the pedal with her foot. She panicked, and went under the news desk to locate it. Guess what? She found it, but not until we were on camera. So the first thing viewers saw was me saying “Good evening,” then my co-anchor popping up from under the desk.
Fortunately for her, that was before YouTube, so the video didn’t go viral. Unfortunately for A.J. Clemente, we live in a time when one slip of the tongue, and millions see it.
On Monday, Clemente tweeted that he had been fired. Then added:
Rookie mistake. I’m a free agent. Cant help but laugh at myself and stay positive. Wish i didn’t trip over my “Freaking Shoes” out of the gate.
I’m sure he would love to have a second chance at a first impression. His first day on the job turned out to be his last. Curses!
Do you have a best “bad” first-day story? Want to share it? Also, do you think Clemente deserved to be fired over what he said? Let me know.
It’s been quite a week hasn’t it? Bombings, explosions, tornadoes. Death and destruction. Fear and frustration. The news certainly hasn’t been good. Even those of us who live and breathe news, need a break from its tight grip. We need a good weekend.
My heart goes out to the victims and their families in the Boston bombings, the Texas fertilizer plant blast, and those touched by mother nature’s wrath in Oklahoma and points east. For them, the weekend won’t bring any relief from the pain and heartache.
No doubt on this Saturday, millions of people all over the country are looking for a diversion, not only from a week of work, but a week of bad news. For my wife and I, and many other Tulsans, we did that by starting out the weekend remembering and paying tribute to those afflicted by heart disease.
Thousands of people laced up their sneakers for the annual Heart Walk. We gathered at ONEOK Field and wound our way through beautiful downtown Tulsa. Security was obviously a little tighter, and thoughts were certainly on the marathon tragedy, but the smiles I saw on so many faces was proof of the steadfastness of America’s resolve.
Have a great weekend!
Here are some more pictures from the Heart Walk (click on individual images to see full frame):
I’m often asked, “What do you guys do between newscasts?” They mean between the 6pm and 10pm shows, the time of day when most people are relaxing at home eating dinner, playing with the kids, watching a little TV. While there’s usually work involved, like writing stories, shooting teases for the late news or emceeing events, believe me it’s not all work and no play. Like yesterday evening for example.
The evening news, weather and sports gang: Kristin, Jennifer, John and I, took in a local carnival. Our promotions guru is always looking for an excuse to get us out in the community and snap a few pictures and shoot some video for Channel 8 promos. (See the finished promo at the end). Football games, festivals, parades. Wherever there are people. So why not a carnival on our side of town?
I learned something about each of my co-workers. First, my co-anchor Kristin Dickerson LOVES carnival rides. She went on everything! Here’s a picture of her getting a high-five from sports anchor John Moss after she survived the Zipper without puking.
Meteorologist Jennifer Zeppelin, John and I tackled something a little tamer. Or at least that’s probably what Jennifer thought! How difficult can the burlap sack slide be? After all, little kids do it. From the picture below, you can see John and I are hamming it up for the GoPro John is holding. But by Jennifer’s look on her face, she’s realizing the end is coming up much sooner than thought, and she’s forgot to put the brakes on. Her backside is about to get a big jolt. Jennifer can sure forecast the weather, but she can’t predict how a ride will end. That one hurt for a while!
And remember when you were a kid at the carnival or fair, and you desperately wanted to ride the big rides but you weren’t quite tall enough? John may look like he’s well over 6 feet tall. Looks can be deceiving. He tried to sneak onto the Graviton, but he’ll just have to wait another year when he grows a couple of inches taller. Sorry John!
We don’t get to do something like this very often. When we do, we like to call it “team building”.
Here’s the promo that’ll soon be airing on Tulsa’s Channel 8:
My wife and I love our boys. But sometimes that picture above sums up how we feel. We want to wring their necks. It was Tommy’s time for a neck wringing this weekend.
“Where you headed?”
After a couple of inches of rain Friday night and Saturday morning, the sun was out in the afternoon. And so was Tommy. After a few hours of work at the neighborhood golf course, he and a friend sprinted out the door. As they left, I yell out to him:
- Me: “Where you headed?”
- Him: “Everywhere.”
- Me: “What are you going to do?”
- Him: “Everything.”
- Me: “Who you going to see?”
- Him: “Everyone.”
Those are pretty much his standard answers to my inquiries. He’s said it so many times, I’ve come to expect it. It’s our little joke. He doesn’t say it out of disrespect, and it doesn’t mean he’s looking for trouble. So I didn’t think anything of it. Maybe I should have, if I would’ve noticed him grab the GoPro on the way out. But I didn’t.
A few hours later Tommy and the friend were back. The smiles on their faces couldn’t hide their excitement … and guilt. Another giveaway was the muddy swimsuit each was wearing. And Tommy’s truck covered in mud. “Okay guys, what’s up?” After a couple of minutes of the standard answers, they showed me the GoPro clips.
Before you watch the video (music by one of my other sons and his band), know that I read Tommy and his friend the riot act. Any good parent would have. What they did was dangerous, and don’t do it again. “Understand?” “Sure dad.” I also realize kids today, particularly boys, are growing up in the era of YouTube, video games and prank-filled TV shows. Besides, I’ll admit, what he did was ingenious. Just don’t tell him that.
From now on I’ve decided to hide the GoPro, and when he asks me where it is, this will be my standard answer:
“Anywhere and everywhere.”
Two can play this game.
My phone and text messages were lighting up on my way to work yesterday. From family, friends and co-workers. They all wanted to know basically one thing: “Do you know what’s going on Mark?” And I could sense fear in their voice and words. And after Sandy Hook, Columbine and far too many school shootings in between, who could blame them.
The first barrage of texts messages came from my youngest son, Tommy, who’s a junior at Tulsa’s Union High School:
“They are all in closets”
Not long after that message, I got a group message from my wife and one of my boy’s away at college. I could also smell the fear in their words, even though they were miles away from what was happening:
- Son: “Shooter on campus at Union?”
- Wife: “Yes. Mark, people are calling me. What’s going on?”
- Son: “They are all in closets. Are police there?”
Yes they were there. And lots of them. As soon as I walked into the newsroom I could hear the police scanners at full blast. The high school was on lockdown. No one in. No one out. What was going on? I’m sure most, if not all, of the thousands of students, teachers and parents were thinking of the Sandy Hook elementary shooting just three months ago, and those old enough, the Columbine massacre in the 90’s. In fact, one of the first reports we heard were kids on campus in trench coats. Didn’t the Columbine shooters wear trench coats?
“Get back in that room”
By now, police and sheriff’s deputies were sweeping the school, floor by floor, room by room. One of my son’s friends opened the door to his classroom and was greeted by a SWAT guy toting an AR-15. “Get back in that room,” he barked. Then we heard the real reason for the panic. It was all a horrible hoax. Here’s an excerpt from a ktul.com story:
The Tulsa County Sheriff’s office reports that an AT&T operator alerted law enforcement that she had received an internet call placed from a person claiming to be a Union Student. The caller gave information suggesting that there were two individuals in the building, one with a gun and one with a bomb. The caller indicated that they had heard shots and heard a large amount of screaming coming from an area within the school.
“A sick joke”
As one parent put it, “A sick joke.” 45 minutes later the lockdown was lifted. No one was hurt … physically. However, whoever played this pitiful prank inflicted plenty of emotional pain. Here are a few soundbites put together from the ordeal. Listen carefully to the father at the end. His words and emotions pretty well sum it up.
A sick joke indeed. Authorities and school officials handled the situation perfectly. Unfortunately they’re getting a lot of practice.
It’s almost midnight and 5 teenagers are in the back of our Suburban. Not like that picture above. They’re asleep now. It’s the only time they’ve been asleep at this late hour all week. Just like babies, they’re so well-behaved that way. There’s been a steady rain the past seven hours. It’s been a day of burger runs and potty breaks in out-of-the-way outposts like Tallulah, Hattiesburg, Eudora and Conway. Now, after 14 hours and 25 minutes of staring at the faded white lines on the road and hypnotized by the back-and-forth of windshield wipers, my burb is finally pulling into the garage. My wife and I are back from our annual pilgrimage to the beach. Snow was forecast in Tulsa, and spring break in Florida was calling our name. And we answered.
We’ve been making the trek from Tulsa to Destin for four years now after finally giving in to advice from our friends. “Why do you always go out to California?”, they would ask me. “Don’t you know the beaches along the Florida Gulf Coast are fantastic?” I didn’t believe them, until I sank my toes into the sugary, cool, white sand and swam in the crystal clear emerald Gulf. They were right.
Our trips to Destin have been paradise, but they haven’t been without drama too. The 14 hour drive home gives me plenty of time to recall a few of the highlights. Or lowlights. In 2010, we were there soon after the BP oil spill (see links to stories below). It killed fish, washed small oily blobs up onto the white sands, shut down stretches of pristine beaches, forced fishing charter boats to remained anchored in the marinas, and scared many tourists away. Doom and gloom prophets forecast an ecological disaster that would take years, maybe decades, to recover from. Thankfully they were wrong.
Most of the drama though has come from within our ranks. By ranks I mean my boys and their friends we always bring along on vacations. Like the time my wife and I returned to our high-rise condo from a walk to be greeted by a security guard and sheriff’s deputy at our door. “Uh, we got calls that some teenagers were launching water balloons from the balcony,” they said. “They were hitting people waiting outside for a table at the restaurant across the street.” Not good.
Or that time when I rented the jet skis for one of my boys, his friend, and two girls they just met from Indiana who were also on vacation. When I came back an hour later, he was arguing with the owner. “Your son put a gash in the jet ski,” the owner told me. “He’s lying,” shot back my son. “You’ll pay for this,” the owner threatened, glaring at me. My parental philosophy is simple, and the opposite of our judicial system: my boys are guilty until proven innocent. It’s a mantra I normally obey … but for some reason not this time. “Are you sure you didn’t do it?” I grilled my son. “Positive, dad.” I must have made a fool of myself defending him that day. Later that night, over dinner, my boy confessed. Guilty until proven innocent. Never forget it.
There was some drama this time too. We usually do this trip during the summer. Not spring break when we share the beaches with thousands of college kids. Gators. Tigers. Sooners. Longhorns. Cowboys. Roll Tide. Pig Sooie. Bud Light. Bikinis. Hormones. St. Patrick’s Day. Cops. Lots of cops. The recipe for trouble? What do you think? A chat with one cop on day one revealed that an entire group of college kids had already been evicted from their condo. Day one.
By the second day our gang was growing. Our condo couch and chairs occupied by more sleeping college kids.
Their sleeping habits are a bit different from the rest of society. In bed by 3 or 4 am, up no earlier than noon, nap between 8 and 10 pm, party until 3 or 4 am, and then do it all over again. One of our group (not one of my boys) stumbled in the door around 9 o’clock one morning. Here’s how our conversation went:
- Me: “You don’t look very good . What happened?”
- Him: “I don’t really know.”
- Me: “You don’t know?”
- Him: “Yeah, I woke up this morning in someone’s Jeep Wrangler.”
- Me: “Whose was it?”
- Him: “Beats me. Some Jeep on the street.”
- Me: “Oh, I see. So how do you end up there?”
- Him: “I don’t remember.”
- Me: “Try.”
- Him: “All I remember is there were a lot of college kids at some condo.”
- Me: “Okay. Go on.”
- Him: “And someone must have called the cops.”
- Me: “That’s not good.”
- Him: “Then I ran out the back.”
- Me: “Where’d you go?”
- Him: “I ran into another condo.”
- Me: “Did you know whose?”
- Him: “No man.”
- Me: “Continue.”
- Him: “Then I woke up in the Jeep.”
- Me: “I bet you’re tired.”
- Him: “Sure am.”
- Me: “Good night.”
Pulling into the garage after that 14 and a half hour drive never felt so good. I’m sure my co-workers will think I had a nice relaxing week at the beach. They have no idea. No idea whatsoever.
But my wife and I aren’t complaining. In fact, we made this video that my father-in-law said the Chamber of Commerce can borrow anytime. Minus the thousands of college kids on the beach of course.
Links to past stories:
If you’re keeping count, the average price of gasoline in the U.S. is up for the 35th straight day! Winter isn’t typically a time when demand rises at the gas pump, but prices have climbed a whopping 48 cents since late January, according to AAA.
There’s pain at the pump no matter where you live, but some parts of the country are feeling it more than others. When prices in Tulsa, where I live, shot up another dime this week to around $3.60 a gallon for regular unleaded, you could almost hear drivers scream from inside their vehicles.
Quit your whining
I asked my Facebook and Twitter friends how much they’re shelling out for gas where they live. Here are a few of the responses:
- Rick in Muskogee, OK: “Cost me $65 to fill my Explorer. $3.47.”
- Christina in Northern California: “$4.05.”
- Patty in Rancho Cucamonga, CA: “$4.29.”
- Londa in Stayton, OR: “$3.55 but I buy the cheap stuff.”
- David in Greenwood, AR: “$3.63.”
- Maggie in McMinnville, OR: “$3.69.”
- Lee in Newport Beach, CA: “No whining when we are at 4.50.”
Did you say ten bucks?
I hope you’re not whining Lee. While $4.50 is certainly a lot, you don’t even come close to what Bob saw. Here’s my high school friend’s response on Facebook: “About 14 Kroner per liter in Norway. That’s $10/gallon. Nice place to visit, as long as the company is paying for it.”
Did you catch that? 10 bucks a gallon! While Americans complain (and can you blame us?) about the price of gas, it doesn’t come close to what other countries are paying. InvestmentNews is out with its highest gas prices by country list. And Norway isn’t even the highest price! Here are a few countries on the list and their average price:
- 11. Hong Kong $8.15
- 9. France $8.38
- 6. Greece $8.62
- 3. The Netherlands $9.09
- 2. Norway $9.63
- 1. Turkey $9.89
Slap a tax on it
Why so high across the pond and elsewhere? “The difference between countries comes down to taxes and subsidies,” Tom Kloza, the chief oil analyst for Oil Price Information Service, told CNN. “Prices are incredibly high in Europe because of the stiff taxes that EU countries put on fuel. The same holds true for many other countries.”
Did you say 12 cents?
So who has the cheapest gas? Here’s an excerpt from a 2011 CNNMoney story:
That distinction goes to OPEC nations throughout the Middle East and North Africa, as well as Nigeria and Venezuela.
Even in 2008, when average gas prices reached a peak of $4.11 in the U.S., the governments of OPEC nations were able to keep in their gas prices artificially low. In 2008, gas was still retailing for less than a dollar per gallon in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Nigeria, according to research company AirInc. In Venezuela that year, gas was selling for 12 cents a gallon.
12 cents a gallon! A few of you may be old enough to remember when gas was that low in this country. We can’t expect to see that ever again, nor should we. But it sure would be nice not to let out a scream every time we drive past the pump.
One of the perks for working at a television station is having the inside track in getting your pet’s picture on the air. That’s Jeter, one of my labs, in the above picture.
Whenever we have a snow event, we encourage our viewers to send in their photos. Pets, children, trees, themselves. We love to share them with the rest of our viewers. I got to share this moment I had with Jeter.
It was snowing pretty good when I woke up this morning, and it came down for several hours. Jeter was inside and kept barking at me. “What do you want?” I kept asking him. Then I realized he wanted to go outside in the snow. So I let him out, but he kept barking at the door. “What do you want now?” He wanted me to join him. So I grabbed a coat, beanie, piano and my GoPro, and took Jeter for a romp in the snow.