Inauguration at the barber shop

January 25, 2009

I watched Barack Obama’s inauguration with the owner, employees and customers of a barbershop and beauty parlor on 12th Street.

The video pretty much says it all.

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Buddy didn’t make it.

January 23, 2009

Just before 9 p.m. Friday night, a fire call came across the scanner. I got an address and headed out the door.

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Half of a duplex apartment burned on Highway 98 near Blue Angel Parkway. Firefighters were able to put it out easily. The woman that lived there wasn’t home.

But Buddy was.

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Buddy was a little rat terrier. He was unconscious in his corner when firefighters broke down the front door and entered the smoky, fire-filled living room. They worked on him for about 15 minutes, but couldn’t bring him back.

The woman holding him is named Wendy. She lives next door and said she tried to bring Buddy back to life, but she couldn’t do it.

“Buddy was everybody’s friend,” she said.

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Buddy’s owner plays in a band on Friday nights and wouldn’t be home until after midnight. Wendy told firefighters she’d hold buddy until then.

“This is her child; it’s her baby,” Wendy said. “She’s going to be heartbroken. She’s not even going to care about the house. She’s going to be heartbroken over this puppy.”

I called my editor, and he said not to worry about coming back to the newsroom to write a story. It wasn’t really big news, so he typed something quick up, and said I could head home for the night.

When I got there my dog Barrett came running to meet me at my front door, just like he always does.

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Good boy Buddy.


Bird encounters

January 19, 2009

On Saturday morning, I had to be up early to attend the prayer breakfast from my last post. But something else interesting happened that day.

As soon as I pulled out of my driveway, I saw a rooster scratching and pecking in the grass on the side of the road. As I grabbed my camera, he ran off into the woods, but I still got a decent shot.

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Then at the end of the day, when I took my dog Barrett to the dog beach, a big gray goose came walking up to me. I wasn’t sure if it wanted food, or if it wanted to fight, but either way I pulled my iPhone out, and snapped a couple pictures.

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Just another day in Pensacola.


There’s a new (singing) sheriff in town…

January 17, 2009

I didn’t get off to a great start with Pensacola’s (well, Escambia County’s) new sheriff, a man named David Morgan. But I’ll have to admit, at an early morning assignment today, he redeemed himself a little bit.

MLK Prayer Breakfast

The first time I met David, he scolded me and called me a “young man” while wearing a face that looked a lot like the above photo. I never would have thought that the no-nonsense, budget cutting, new sheriff in town would be the type to get behind the podium and belt out a soul song. But this morning, he did just that.

At a MLK Jr. prayer breakfast at The Wright Place, in downtown Pensacola, after being egged on by a couple hecklers in the crowd, David leaned into the microphone and sang “I Know a Change Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke.

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“It’s been a looooooong, long time coming. But I know a change gonna come…”

I was impressed. He might have even smiled a little bit. (!)

Not to be outdone, School Superintendent Malcolm Thomas (without anyone asking, incidentally) sang a soulful version of “Amazing Grace.” He was getting pretty in to it by the end.

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So, all in all, this turned out being a pretty fun way to start the morning. Definitely the most fun I’ve ever had in church.

MLK Prayer Breakfast

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MLK Prayer Breakfast

MLK Prayer Breakfast

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Pensacola Bike Polo

January 15, 2009

Centerpiece bike polo

Newspapers are cool.

Every day it’s something different. You never know what’s going to be waiting for you inside that orange plastic bag.

Which brings us to Pensacola Bike Polo.

After I stumbled across these guys’ blog, I pitched this story idea and it got passed to the Life section. I’d never done a story for them before, and they asked me if I could make it a Sunday centerpiece.

I really didn’t want to disappoint them, and I was kind of feeling the pressure.

So a few hours reporting, a couple hundred photos and an hour of video later, here’s what we’ve got.

Bike polo looks like a lot of freaking fun.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Click the HD button to see the video in high definition on vimeo.com

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Check out a photo gallery after the break…

Read the rest of this entry »


The real question…

January 10, 2009

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Nine a.m.

My work cell phone rings in the next room, but I don’t hear it. I’m passed out on the couch and my shift doesn’t start until 1 p.m.

A couple minutes later it rings again. I hear it this time, but by the time I trip over my dog and stagger into my office, I missed the call.

As I wipe the sleep out of my eyes and try to figure out who called, my personal cell phone starts ringing on my coffee table.

“Uh oh.”

It’s the breaking news editor. House fire in a little town 20 miles north. Two dead. Fire department is still on scene. Hustle.

I slide into dirty pair of pants and a clean shirt, pull a baseball cap over my greasy hair and head out the door. As I turn around to lock the deadbolt, I watch my dog jump on to the couch to lay on my warm spot.

It’s raining. It’s that kind of heavy mist that coats the windshield even when the wipers are on high. I start driving north while poking the address I scribbled on the back of my hand into the iPhone. I call the editor to tell him I’m on my way.

Thirty minutes later I’m at the end of a soggy red dirt road lined with fire trucks and one of those sticker-covered mini-SUV’s that TV news people drive.

A clean shaven guy with hair sprayed hair is in the road up ahead with a cameraman interviewing a guy on a four-wheeler. I walk through the background of their shot and slow for a couple steps with only slight malice.

I get to the scene. Chat with a fireman named Lt. Dan. Find some neighbors standing in the rain in their back yard.

They’re looking at the fire trucks, the scorched house and two wrinkled white body bags laying side by side in the grass.

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They’re sad, shaken up, and emotional — but also excited in that peculiar way people are after they witness movie drama in real life. Nervous laughter occasionally cracks through their solemn expressions. Sadness turns to anger, then back.

Most folks rarely experience that state of mind. News people see it almost every day.

The pages in my notebook soak up rain along with the quotes, and ink bleeds across the paper as I work. One man ran into the burning house while wearing his wife’s robe to try to save the elderly couple inside.

He did his best, but it wasn’t enough.

He’s my lede. I know it even as his words smear across my notepad.

I grab the cell phone and call the breaking news editor with an update. Names. Times. Numbers. A little bit of color — it was a white house. The couple was found in the bedroom but not in bed. The neighbors had a little dachshund named Hanna.

Thirty minutes in the car to the newsroom. Fire up the computer and upload a couple photos to the server. Flip through the soggy notebook. Start to type the story.

The police scanner lights up with several voices. A wreck. The interstate. Fire. Entrapment.

A photographer heads out the door. I keep typing for a few minutes as the editors call other reporters at home. No answer. No answer. The scanner continues to sing. When we can wait no longer, I grab the camera, a couple pencils and an intern, and head back into the rain.

The intern is a senior at UWF. Pretty sharp, but quiet. It’s her first real day working for the paper. She spent the morning covering a farmer’s market.

The fire is out by the time we pull onto the shoulder of the interstate behind the sticker-covered SUVs. White foam blows through the air and between the fire trucks. Seventy degrees outside in January…that foam is the only snow we get in Florida.

It’s funny what thoughts go through your head — what catches your attention when you spend every day seeing all kinds of crazy things. I noticed the foam before I noticed the charred remains of the 18-wheeler it was used to extinguish.

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The driver didn’t make it. Slid off the road and crashed into some trees. Burned in the rig. The highway patrol investigator laughs when I ask him if they pulled any ID off the body. No way. Barbecue. It’s gruesome.

The intern stands close by as I ask the standard questions. Give the FHP investigator my e-mail. Make a fishing joke with the fire Lieutenant. Snap some photos of the carnage. Scribble some notes. Call in the numbers. Head for the car.

It’s quiet for a few minutes on the ride back to the newsroom. Then she turns to me.

“Is this, like, standard accident coverage for you?”

“Yep, pretty much.”

Much later, after the stories were filed, and the scanner was silent, my thoughts wander back through the day. Through the names, faces, and flames that I put down as words on the page.

I wonder what she was really asking.


new year’s resolution

January 7, 2009

To talk to people no matter what. Even when it’s scary.