Thank You Veterans

Douglas Bradshaw (my father)

There’s nothing in my opinion that attracts instant respect quicker than a man or woman wearing a military uniform.   Think about it.  When you see that uniform walking through an airport, mall, school, on the street… anywhere, you notice.  It represents many things. Dedication, discipline, sacrifice to name just a few.

Jack Skien (grandfather)

Douglas Bradshaw (father) John Skien (uncle)

The uniform is impressive, but it’s those who wear it, those who put it on, who deserve our utmost respect.  Real people.  Relatives, friends, co-workers, who fought for our freedom, bled for our freedom, and in many cases, died for our freedom.  So many aren’t with us any longer.  Many others join them as the years go by.  Time has been the final enemy of America’s World War I veterans.  Who’s left?  Only one.  One.  16 million men and women served our great country during World War II.  Today, we’re losing more than a thousand of them every day on the battlefield of old age.  We all know someone who served in WW2.  Maybe a parent or grandparent or friend or co-worker.  They don’t wear the uniform anymore, but they deserve our respect as if they do.   And not just on Veterans Day, but every day of the year.  Thank you.

The other night I was minding my own business, driving down the Broken Arrow expressway, when another driver cut me off, and nearly sent me crashing into the guardrail.  “Are you crazy?”, I yelled to the disappearing taillights, while flashing my brights and blaring my horn.  Turns out, it probably wasn’t his (or her) fault.  He couldn’t help being a bad driver.  I shouldn’t be mad.  Instead I should feel sorry for him.  Blame their lousy driving on their DNA.  A new study at the University of California, Irvine, reveals that people with a gene variation that gives them less of a brain protein linked to memory retention performed more than 20 percent worse in a driving situation than people who had higher levels of the protein.  Say what?  In other words, researchers say,  some people really are bad drivers.  It’s genetic.  It’s not their fault… but their parent’s.  So next time someone cuts you off, and nearly kills you on the highway, have a little sympathy.  Don’t curse at them, because they can’t help it.

p.s.    That’s my son’s truck.  He crashed it.  But don’t blame him, blame me.

Shame On You

Shame on you major airline, major pain in the &#%.   I always come back for more, only to be disappointed once again.  As I write this, I’m 35,000 feet somewhere over east Texas, flying American from Dallas to Ft. Lauderdale.  Family trip.  Me, the wife, and two of my kids.  Heading for Florida for one of those cruises to the Caribbean.  Hopefully a relaxing week ahead.  But so far getting there has been anything but relaxing.  Got up at 3:30 for a scheduled 6 am flight out of Tulsa.  I said “scheduled”.  But you know airlines and schedules don’t always go hand in hand.  Rushed to the airport, only to find flight was delayed until 6:30.  6:30 turned into 7.  Why?  Who knows.  They never tell you the truth.  Oh boy, catching our flight out of Dallas was going to be tight.   Our one hour layover just turned into a one minute layover.  Maybe that flight will be delayed also.  Maybe they’ll hold the plane for us.  Maybe.  Maybe not.  As we land in Dallas,  the flight attendant says, in a frantic sounding voice, if you’re connecting to Ft. Lauderdale, run to gate C37.  That’s us.  Hey, that must mean they’ll wait for us.  We don’t run.  We sprint.  Hopeful.  And we make it.  Plane is still at the gate.  “Sorry sir, we’ve already closed the door.  You’re too late.”  “But, we’re here.  They told us to run.  And I see the plane still there.”  “The next flight is at 11:30.”  That’s 3 more hours.  3 more hours not in Florida.  I ask the gate agent,  “Why?”  And to his credit, and my astonishment, he gives me the first honest answer I’ve ever heard from an airline employee.  “Management told us to close the doors.  They’re worried about their on-time record.”  I say, “But they weren’t worried about being on-time in Tulsa.”  He shrugs.  I say, “They’re more worried about that than their customers.”  He agreed.  Again, refreshing honesty.  But then again, maybe it’s the old “good cop, bad cop” routine. “That rotten big airline, I feel for you poor little customer.”  For one moment at least, I was satisfied.  But just for a moment.   Shame on you major airline.

Cowboy Colosseum

I’m sitting here watching the Dallas Cowboys/New York Giants game on TV.  Forget the game.  The main attraction is the venue.  It’s the first Cowboys game in their new billion dollar stadium in Arlington.  Some people say it’s too extravagant.   Over the top.   Overkill.  I agree.  And I love it.  It’s Jerry Jones (Cowboys owner) money.  And his dream.  Why not?  I toured the Cowboy Colosseum two years ago  when it was being built.  I stood in Jones‘ suite, and on the 50 yard line where the famous Star is.  Climbed every step to the very top to get a good view of the monster video board. Walked the ramp where Tony Romo, Felix Jones, T.O. (sorry, I just had to do that) run onto the field.  Stood gawking at the cheerleaders (Hold on, the Cowboys just scored.  TD pass from Romo to Whitten. “D” up 14-13 in the 2nd.)  Okay, where was I?  Oh yeah, the cheerleaders.  Enough said.  Anyway, you get the idea.  Two years later, Jerry Jones‘ dreams are fulfilled.  As for mine?  I get to watch it on TV.

When I heard the news that Diane Sawyer would be taking over for Charles Gibson as anchor of ABC “World News” it reminded me of something I heard 30 years ago.   My word, how times have changed.  More on that in a moment.

Diane Sawyer is a veteran with ABC News and very, very good at what she does.  If anyone deserves the evening anchor job, she does.  If you’re keeping track, that makes two of the three network evening anchors FEMALES.  Diane Sawyer at ABC, and Katie Couric at CBS.  Poor Brian Williams at NBC.  He might be feeling a little like Ron Burgundy right now.    As the movie Anchorman puts it, Burgundy worked “in an age when only men were allowed to read the news.”  “It is anchorMAN, not anchorlady.”  ” (Ron Burgundy) What are your hopes, your dreams, your passions?  (Veronica Corningstone) To be the first female anchor.  (Burgundy) And I’d like to be the King of Australia.”

Sounds absurd today doesn’t it?  But when I began in this business 30 years ago, there were plenty of Ron Burgundys in newsrooms.  I know. I worked in one.  It was still a male dominated industry.  There was only one female in our small news department.  And the news director reportedly told her she would never make it in this business.  NEVER!  Why?  One reason.  She was a woman.  “You’ll never last here girl.” Boy, was he ever right.  She didn’t last there.  After jobs in Portland, LA, and Chicago, she landed a job in New York City.  On the Today Show.  You’ve probably seen her.  Ann Curry.  As in “Matt, Meredith, ANN and Al.”  I wonder whatever happened to that news director?  Maybe he became the King of Australia.

David and Dad

I came across the above photo recently, and it got me thinking about how some things change and other things stay the same.  It’s a picture of my oldest son, David.   Not a recent picture.  He looks a little different now (so do I).  Tomorrow Michelle and I will help him move into his dorm room at the University of Oklahoma.  It’s a long list of dorm life must-haves.  Many of them I had when I went to college… sheets (I never washed), mirror (never looked at), tv (only a few channels back then), deodorant (hey, I was in college in the 70’s, not 60’s), etc.  But times sure have changed in other ways.  I don’t think my kids have ever seen a typewriter.   He may never set foot inside the library, or even have to.  He’s got a laptop.  Need to know something?  Google it.  I asked him where he’s going to put his 8 track tapes and LPs.  Ipods Dad!  I had a poster of Farrah Fawcett (God rest her soul) and Reggie (not Michael) Jackson on the wall.  I’ll be interested to see who he puts up.   My first year of college was 1976. Lots of Wite-Out.   Jimmy Carter, Patty Hearst, Bicentennial, “Son of Sam”, Legionnaires’ Disease, Cold War, Hotel California (as in Eagles), the Concorde.  But despite 33 years, some things are still the same.  The Pittsburgh Steelers win the Super Bowl (led by Terry Bradshaw), and are defending champions today.  The Apple computer company is formed (it’s what I’m writing this on now).  And a group called U2 gets together for a few gigs.  David has tickets to a U2 concert in Norman in October.  Hey, I’m starting to feel a little better already.  That is until I see him drive away in his Infiniti G35 Coupe.  I don’t remember that as I headed to college in 1976.  Google Datsun B210 “Honey Bee” and you’ll see what I mean.  Times have certainly changed!  By the way, I made him show me how to set up Skype on my laptop last night.  I want to stay in touch.  Talk to him every night.  See his eyes.  Just like my parents did.  Technology may change, but moms and dads never do.

20 Years Flies By!

I’ve always been fascinated by time.  As a kid it never went by fast enough.  I was sent to my room as punishment, and the minutes I spent in solitary confinement would drag on like hours.  The school day and year seemed like it would never end.  And that piano recital as a ten year old is an agonizing memory that still haunts me decades later.  Halfway through it, I forgot the music.  With the room packed with other students’ parents and families, I sat there in silence waiting for it to come back to me.  The only sound, the tick, tick, tick of the metronome, and a woman in the back of the room  I can still hear her today saying, “That poor little boy!”  As a poor little boy, time NEVER flew by.

Guess what?  Now I wish it would slooooow down.  Ease up.  Whoa, Nellie!  Case in point.

Michelle and Mark

Today is my 20th wedding anniversary.  20 years.  Seems more like 20 days.  Its gone by so fast it’s scary.  Marriage isn’t supposed to be like that.  You know, ball and chain, life sentence, etc.  Not for me.  And I give all the credit to my wonderful wife, Michelle.  We’ve been partners in this relationship every step of the way.  Good experiences and bad.  It helps to have parents as role models.  64 years and still going strong on my side, and nearly 50 years on hers.

20 years.  Three teenagers.

My 3 Sons

One great marriage.  Its gone by in a blur.  Whoosh!!  In the rear view mirror.  Okay life, you can slow down a bit now.  Like it was when I was younger.  Only time will tell.

Updated 2.9.11. Check out “Hey, I’m in the Wall Street Journal”

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not a polygamist.  But I’ve had many wives, sometimes more than one at a time.  How many of you can say that?  I’m talking about my “TV wives”, as I call them.    I lost one of them recently, and I miss her.  You could call it, irreconcilable differences.  Not of my doing, or hers.  More on that later.

In my nearly 30 years as a news anchor, I’ve gone through many “TV wives”.  I can’t even remember all their names.  Bad husband.  A few were quick marriages, others lasted years.  Memories?  Oh yeah.  I remember what happened at the very beginning of one of my marriages.  It was an arranged marriage (they all are).  It was our first newscast together.  A brand new news team about to be unveiled. Lots of hype leading up to it.  The news open was running.  And right before it came out to us to say “Good evening”, and deliver the hard hitting news of the day…. my “wife” goes completely under the news desk to find something (don’t read into that).  I mean, she completely disappears.  Our viewers saw just me for those few couple seconds, then see her pop up from under the desk.  What do you say when something like that happens?  I can’t remember.  Maybe a good thing.  That marriage didn’t last very long.  I think I made sure of that.

Other memories?  A long time ago where I worked, anchors operated their own teleprompters (that’s what we read off of) from the news desk.  Many times play pranks and speed it up when the other was reading.  The newscast went by a lot faster that way.  Very rarely do I not get along with my “TV wife”.  But it does happen.  The first day on the job at one of my many TV stations (won’t tell you where, I’ve worked all over the country), the weather guy and I were putting on make-up together (I’m used to it now).  He says, “You know, (“TV wife’s” name) has a cocaine problem.  I scoffed.  Then for months, (“TV wife’s” name) would wonder to me, “Why does my nose keep bleeding?”  I wonder why.  I’ve left a few of my “TV wives”, not because of any disagreements or quarrels, but because I moved away to another TV station.  Soon after I left one (and I really liked her), she died in a car accident.  That would have been a tough story to read on the air if I was still there.

My longest lasting marriage?  By far, the one that just ended.  12 years, to Cindy Morrison (that’s her in the picture).

Cindy and Mark

And as most good marriages go, it didn’t seem nearly that long.  But now SHE”S gone.  Splitsville.  What happened?  A lot of you are asking.  What I can tell you is management decided not to renew her contract. Times are tough, budgets are tight, stations are cutting costs, and good employees become casualties.  End of “marriage”.  Just like that.  Here today, gone tomorrow. But we have lots of memories.  Cindy and I got along well “on the air” and off.  We emceed so many events together, and our families (children and real spouses) all get along.  What’s Cindy doing now?  Lots of you are asking that as well.  She’s writing a book, soon to be out.  And doing speaking engagements.  She also just signed on as the spokesperson for Clear-tone.  Let’s hear it for Cindy!  I normally hate the expression “You go girl!”, but in this case it fits.

Mark and Michelle

My wife (the real one) knows about all my other “wives”.  She’s okay with it.  This month we’ll be married 20 years.  Longer than all my other “marriages”, and one I plan on keeping forever.

Will 25a Please Shut Up!

I know this isn’t a news flash, but flying sure isn’t fun anymore.  Or even faster than driving sometimes.  Case in point.  Last Friday evening Michelle and I returned from our vacation in Vail.  Our flight was out of Denver.  Michelle always gets mad at me because I get to the airport early.  You never know what’s going to happen.  So we drop off our rental car and get to DIA at 5:30 for a 7:49 flight.  I know that’s really early, but again, you never know.  The United check-in counter (we have a bag to check) is about an hour long (good thing we’re early).  Michelle says, “No way we’re getting in that line.”  (If you know Michelle, you know I’m paraphrasing).  So we rush outside to curbside check-in, where there’s NO LINE AT ALL.  Two minutes, and 5 dollar tip later (plus rearranging clothes in bag to stay close to 50 pound limit) we’re on our way past the cattle in the hour long check-in line headed to security.  UH OHHHH!!!  (that’s me paraphrasing this time)  You know how those lines at Disneyland look?  How they snake their way to the ride?  This was ten times worse.  Another hour wait.  And no avoiding this one.  Join the cattle.  You don’t want to be with Michelle when you’re cattle.  Halfway into our serpentine shuffle to when we get strip searched, the kind TSA people (you know I’m paraphrasing here) open up a whole new security area and let the cattle right behind us go.  Did I raise my hand and complain?  Are you kidding?  And be hauled off to the airport brig?  30 minutes to pat down.  This time I remember to take my laptop out of the bag.  (In Tulsa I forgot, and boy did I ever get a tongue lashing)  But one of the kind TSA people was taking a long, hard look at a shopping bag full of stuff Michelle had given me.  The kind TSA person ran it through X-ray a couple of times, then came up to me (I’m still putting my clothes back on) and said he wanted to look through it.  I said,  “I’d love to have you look through it.”  (No paraphrasing)  At the bottom was………… A BOTTLE OF WATER!!  If ever Michelle wanted to send me away forever, this was it.  But I was proud of myself, I took full responsibility for it, and didn’t point the finger at Michelle.  The kind TSA person told me I could either: a) go to the airport brig, b) go outside of security area to drink it, or c) give it up.  I would’ve gone to the brig before going through that line again, but I chose “c”.  At this point we’re almost rushing to the gate, but stop to check on flight anyway.  DELAYED.  For another hour. Reason?  Who knows.  We tried to get an explanation, but if you’ve ever flown, you know how those kind airline employees can be.  So we get something to eat and drink at Wolfgang Puck .  At 8:30 we board for our 9 o’clock flight.  And we sit and wait and wait, in a hot plane for an hour.  Why do they turn off the AC?  Maybe because cattle don’t need it.  Which gets me to the title of this blog entry. For that hour, plus the hour 15 flight (that’s 2 hours and 15 minutes for you Texans) we have to listen to the kid (probably in his early 20’s)  in the row in front of us (in 25A)  jabber non-stop to the poor guy next to him.  And his jabber is loud.  He wants everyone to hear his jabber.  Example:  “I used to live in Tulsa, but moved to California.  Now I have to move back, because I can’t afford it anymore.  I hate Tulsa.  I don’t know why anyone would want to live in Tulsa.  All there is there are Bible thumping red-neck conservatives who want to cram their beliefs down your throat.”  Example:  “I started with 3/8’s, then moved up to 1/2, then to 5/8’s. They really don’t hurt at all.  But if you take them out for a while, the hole disappears.”  What is he talking about?  Then I see his ear piercings.  How could I miss them?  Seriously, the businessman next to him deserves a medal.  Michelle wanted to knock 25A out.  Instead she ordered some wine and knocked herself out.  Finally around midnight flight 793 arrived in Tulsa,  we said goodbye (I’m paraphrasing) to 25A got our bag and drove home.  We figured if we had driven from Denver  (10 hour drive) instead of flown (1:15 actually flight time) it wouldn’t have been that much longer.  But you know what?  We would’ve missed all those great experiences.  Especially the guy in 25A.  Can’t wait to fly again!!!

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