Monday, September 26, 2011

New Orleans is for Lovers

NOlovers01 On Saturday night after a long day of sitting through meetings, the entire Scripps crew made the walk down to Muriel's, a famous restaurant on Jackson Square in the French Quarter of New Orleans. I was happy to the leave the confines of the hotel and the sub-zero temperatures of the conference room for the humid and slightly rank night air of the city. The last time I was here in the Crescent City was back in 2002 when I was covering my North Texas Eagles in the New Orleans Bowl for the school paper. I've always wanted to come back even though the city is not on my top 10 cities to visit. Perhaps its my raucous party, sin city image of New Orleans that puts me off. I'm not sure what it is, but I've never warmed up to New Orleans as a travel destination. However, on my walk to and from the restaurant last night I noticed that as long as you keep the right company, any city is worth another visit.
Sadly, my wife was not with me so I could feel the love that everyone else was apparently experiencing. After we finished an excellent meal at the restaurant (I'll post photos of the food later) we all went our separate ways into the city. I had my camera with me and decided to cruise through the French Quarter and snag a few street photos and was instantly drawn to all the couples walking hand in hand or with an arm wrapped around the other.

NOlovers02 NOlovers03There were people sitting close to one another on benches on the waterfront, couples walking down back alleyways to get to the next street and I even spied newlyweds posing for photos in front of a vintage car on Jackson Square before heading off for their honeymoon. I did make a few mistakes that night, though. I wore my black dress shoes which were not showing me any love at all and I ventured over to Bourbon Street. The latter was the the worst of the two. Any kind of good vibe I was getting from the city quickly came to a screeching halt as I had to dart back and forth between drink-slinging, bar-hopping coeds roving in giant packs screaming at the top of their lungs. I ducked off the road as quick as I could to find the relative peace of a parallel side-street. Nope, Bourbon Street is not for me. Maybe back in my youth, but not anymore. Now that I am a 30-something with sore knees, an ever increasing ache in the small of my back and enduring the annual retreat of my hairline to the back of head, I've decided to leave the loud noises and commotion to the younger generations and to seek out those calm, quiet and serene pockets of a city, state or country.
Tomorrow I leave for Cambodia. Thankfully I'll be spending little time in the major cities, venturing out into the countryside to see and experience the rural life. I hope that it will be a good trip and that the Spirit of Travel is easily found. This blog will be quiet for a little while, but I hope that there will be a chance for me to post something from the trip while I'm out. If not, I'll be posting a day to day chronicle of what I hope will not just be a once in a lifetime adventure.

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Sunday, September 25, 2011

A Room Wth a View

RoomView01 Well, I'm back in The Big Easy,The Crescent City, 'Nawlins... that's right... New Orleans. I flew into the city Friday morning, essentially starting my three-week absence from the office and everyday life of San Angelo. Standard-Times editor-in-chief Tim Archuleta, city editor Mike Kelly and I flew out of Mathis Field Friday morning at about 7:30 am headed for Dallas. Of course we were headed to Dallas because that's the only airport we can get to out of San Angelo. Typically, I am a nervous flier. I don't like the sound of the engines as they change pitch in mid-flight, I don't like the sound of the undercarriage retracting back into the aircraft, I don't like sitting that close to people for very long. Okay... I don't like to fly. And I especially don't like to fly out of San Angelo. For some reason the last few time I've had to fly out of San Angelo almost immediately after takeoff the pilot has made a hard left turn as if he thought we were going to plow into something, causing some serious g-forces being pulled. It's an uncomfortable situation for all aboard. Fortunately, nothing like that happened this time and all was well.
We made it into New Orleans around 1:00 pm and headed for the hotel. We were staying at the Sheraton downtown on Canal Street. We checked into the our rooms and I was in awe of the view. I had ceiling to floor windows on the 30th floor. This is what awaited me as I walked into the room:

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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

September Photo Column

SallyMeyersIt's been a while since I last published a photo column for the paper, as well as on this blog, but since we are getting near the end of the year and I will be out of town for a while, I was asked to have a 'I am West Texas' column ready if they needed one. This is the current column on librarian Sally Meyers, director of the Children's section at the new Stephens Central Library in San Angelo, slated to run Oct. 3. I wanted to make sure it was up on the blog before I left for Cambodia.

SAN ANGELO - In every child’s mind there is a secret world of myth and fantasy, a world teeming with wild horses, monsters under the bed and in the closet, valiant warriors charging into battle for a noble cause.
Where can the gateway to this world be found? In a book. And the gatekeeper is none other than Sally Meyers. “Words are wonderful,” Meyers said, “and playing with words, learning new words and using your imagination, there’s nothing like it, not television, nothing.”
As the children’s librarian at the new Stephens Central Library in downtown San Angelo, Meyers gets to visit with children of all ages as they navigate the rows of books in wide-eyed wonder. “I especially like to see a child come in with an adult that spends time with them as they search for a good book. It’s a bonding, with a child on your lap, a book on your lap and you share the same experience,” she said.
“Sharing that book, that print, and being with your child, that’s important because the parent is the child’s first teacher.”
Since the opening of the new branch of the library, local and area schools have been bringing their students in to get acquainted with the new space. And that suits Meyers just fine. “I’ve always enjoyed children,” she said. “Even in the grocery store I’ll catch their eye and be aware of them.
“That’s what I love about my job, I have the children coming to me. What could be better?”

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Friday Night Football Week 3: Bronte vs. Eldorado

BronteEldorado04 BronteEldorado03 Man, I was loving the sky over the football field this evening at the Bronte vs. Eldorado game. The pre-game weather was perfect: low 80s, cool breeze and small pop-up thunderstorms all around, but just far apart enough to let the sunshine through. I did spot a few stray bolts of lightning, but nothing close enough to warrant holding the game. I wanted to work the light as best I could into the game, but as the sun was beginning to set, it ducked back behind more clouds and wasn't able it illuminate the clouds overhead with reds and pinks and purples and oranges.
The game itself was touted as the Standard-Times Game of the Week. I don't want to sound to harsh, but judging from the scores of other games in our coverage area, I think a different game should have had the title. I know the athletes work hard to prepare for their games and I'm not saying they didn't give it their all tonight, but the game was just boring. Both teams use a run-based offense and almost everything was up the middle. There were a few passes in there, but for the most part, each play was a hand-off up the middle. The score at the half was Eldorado 7, Bronte 0.
I spent all of halftime and the third quarter editing and transmitting photos back to the office and got back to the field just as the fourth quarter started. The clock got all the way down to about four minutes and then Bronte scored, tying the game at 7-7 after making the point after attempt. My heart sank. Were we going into overtime play? Fortunately, Eldorado was called on a penalty on the kickoff return and had to go all the way back near their own end zone. They were unable to convert on fourth down having to punt to Bronte which didn't workout so well. Bronte got the ball deep into Eldorado territory and settled for a field goal to go ahead 10-7. Eldorado had one more chance to get the ball into the end zone, but again failed to convert on fourth down giving Bronte the ball back. Bronte knelt on the first down and time ran out. Like I said, not really the most exciting game on Friday, but it beats having to sit in the office all night fielding incoming photos. On a side note, this will be my last football game for awhile. I have something big coming up.

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Friday, September 16, 2011

National POW/MIA Recognition Day

POW-MIA01 Today is National POW/MIA Recognition Day. It's a day to remind us even though the war may be over, some of our people still have not found their way home. I was assigned to cover the morning vigil at Goodfellow Air Force Base, annually held at the Medal of Honor/POW/MIA Memorial. I've never done this one before, usually getting the one held by local veterans in front of the Tom Green County Courthouse, so I was hoping this ceremony was going to be just as visual. When I arrived at the base and was escorted in, I noticed that it was just a basic set up of chairs, the usual formation of service members who salute at designated times during the ceremony and of course the color guard. All standard fair for shooting an assignment on base.
There was one difference though. Sitting in about the third or fourth row were three women dressed in dark clothing, wearing POW/MIA hats, one of whom was holding a poster-sized picture of a man in uniform. I immediately zeroed in on these ladies. They were the Holguin Sisters, Cruz, Alicia and Celia, who cam to honor the memory of their brother, Luis. On Jan. 3, 1971 Army Warrant Officer Luis G. Holguin was one of six helicopter pilots on board a U6A aircraft flying them from Qui Nhon to Ban Me Thuot in south Vietnam. The purpose of the flight was to pick up replacement helicopters, but radar was lost with the U6A aircraft about 14 miles southeast of Phu Cat just after 11:00 am. Search and rescue efforts were called off Jan. 9 with no trace of the aircraft or any personnel. Holguin has been listed as missing in action ever since. As of September 2011 there are still 83,579 service members listed missing in action by the Department of Defense, a majority of those are from World War II. If you would like to learn a little more about the DoD's efforts in finding missing American servicemen you can go HERE. Its humbling to think that there are families spread out all across the country who are still waiting to learn the fate of their loved ones who served this country.

Until Everyone Comes Home....

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Thursday, September 15, 2011

That's A Big Plane!

Galaxy06 Galaxy05 With Goodfellow Air Force Base just seconds from San Angelo, you'd think that I'd have some experience with military aircraft, right? Wrong. Goodfellow is an intelligence and firefighting training base and does not have an active runway. So when the military does decide they need to fly something into San Angelo for the base they will always land at our one-terminal regional airport, Mathis Field. I've had the chance to see a few cool aircraft come in though, a C-130 Hercules that packed up a couple fire engines to be shipped to Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina, an F-14 Tomcat that was actually used in the filming of Top Gun and finally last night, a C-5 Galaxy that was delivering a decommissioned RQ-4A Global Hawk drone that will be reassembled and put on permanent display at the base.
This thing is huge. In fact, it's one of the largest aircraft in the Air Force fleet. Originally, the plane was scheduled to land at Mathis Field around 4:30 pm, but due to a few hold ups, the plane didn't actually get to San Angelo until 8:00 pm. No matter, though, because being part of the media gets us up close to this thing when it lands. The airport director took a load of us out next to the runway when this behemoth came roaring in. They passed out earplugs for everyone to use and trust me you need them. This thing will rattle your bones when it comes by. Once the C-5 hit the runway we all gathered back onto the golf cart we rode out on and headed for the flight line to watch this thing come to a stop and get a few up close photos.

Galaxy04 Galaxy03 The plane drew a crowd of about 100 people. Family members of American Airlines, our only airline provider in San Angelo, got special privileges to stand on the flight line while all the other spectators were required to stand outside the airport fence. The unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), the RQ-4A Global Hawk, that is being delivered is a pretty hoss aircraft in its own right. This bad boy can fly up to 24 hours without refueling. Obviously, the drones needed to be disassembled to put them into the C-5. I was talking with a representative from Goodfellow and he said that these drones, once put together, they are not supposed to be taken apart. There is a crew coming in next week to start putting the pieces back together.
The C-5 crew was required to take mandatory rest after their flight so they would not be unloading the drone until this morning. Its a pretty long day when you have to fly from Massachusetts to California to Texas. When we arrived we were once again taken out to the plane, signed in by security forces and allowed to get a quick tour of the plane. Its a simple system of loading and unloading. Basically, everything is put on pallets and rolled in and out of the cargo hold. They raised the nose cone to get the drone out which only took about 30 minutes once they were able to line up the offload truck. All in all, the assignment was real cool and I hope we get more military aircraft in soon.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Never Forget

TerrorFront01 TerrorFront02 Has it really been 10 years? Time has really flown by. I still remember, as most of us do, what I was doing on that Tuesday morning. I was running late to school. I overslept. In a rush, I didn't go through my usual routine of turning on the morning news, making a little breakfast and going over my schedule for the day.
To be perfectly honest, I don't have an amazing story from that day. I walked into an almost empty American Legal Systems class expecting to see a room full of people as usual with my eccentric professor writing on the white board. But instead found almost no one. There were a few students sitting in the room in the chairs closest to the professor's desk, a radio turned on to what sounded like a news channel. "That's odd," I thought to myself. My usual chair was in the second to last row, second desk from the far end. I made my way down the isle, but was stopped by my professor telling me I would be able to hear better if I sat up closer to the front. I still had no idea what was going on.
Just as I was about to take a seat in the front row, someone poked their head into the classroom and said, "We've got a TV on in the next room." We all gathered our things and walked next door. As I rounded the corner, projected on the back wall of the classroom was the image of the Twin Towers burning. Finally, I understood what was going on. We took seats where we could find them, some just stood along the wall. The entire room was silent except for a few muted sobs in the back.

TerrorFront03 I had a hard time processing what I was seeing and I was unsure of how I should feel. It all seemed so distant, so far away, as if it was not happening in my own country. I slowly began to realize that this day was going to have lasting consequences on the rest of our lives.
We all sat there staring at the screen in silence until the South Tower fell. The entire room responded in a collective gasp, unable to exhale for several minutes. The muted sobs now turned to legitimate tears. A male student slammed his fist down on his desk, jarring everyone back from where ever they were mentally, grabbed his backpack and stormed out into the hall. After that the room began to thin out at a steady pace. Some students left holding hands, others making calls on their cell phones, some with just a blank stare. I stayed just long enough to watch the North Tower fall. I'd seen enough. I picked up my bag, walked to my car and drove the 30 minutes to dad's house where I stayed the next few days.

TerrorFront04 On this, the 10th anniversary of that day, I still find it hard to process the whole thing. A few years ago my wife Brooke and I spent the Christmas holiday in New York City with my parents. As we were making our way through downtown every once in a while you could catch a glimpse down the street of the construction cranes at Ground Zero. My mom asked if anyone wanted to go down and take a look at the site and I abruptly said, "No, I can't." I think my harsh tone and immediate response caught everyone off guard. I just wasn't ready. I wasn't ready to let those emotions to be seen publicly. As a matter of fact, I have tears forming right now as I type this. Even now, 10 years after the fact, I still don't think I'm ready to visit the site. But, perhaps being there in person is exactly what I need, though. To stand in the exact spot where such horror, fear, heroism and compassion took place could help me come to terms with my own understanding of that day. I guess I'm just afraid to confront those feelings head on. I'm still not ready.

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Saturday, September 10, 2011

Friday Night Football Week 2: Wall vs. San Saba

WallvsSanSaba01 Well, this week I got a break from shooting the hometown teams of Lake View and Central and was given the area game between Wall and San Saba. This particular game was picked as the Standard-Times Game of the Week because both teams were still undefeated heading into Friday's game. I've always enjoyed shooting Wall High School sporting events. You can almost guarantee that there will be a great crowd following them to every game and there is a cool gang of moms that shoot from the sidelines with me. They typically shoot for a few years and then a fresh crop of new moms come in as their sons and daughters make the varsity teams. What I appreciate most about the these ladies is that they know when to come and talk and when not to. Not that there is any inopportune time really to come and start up a short conversation, but when things get heated on the playing field, whether its football, basketball or volleyball, its best if you keep for attention on the task at hand. The Wall moms these last few years have been great and I was happy to see at least one of them, Beth, out there on Friday. If you ever need a quick name or a status on one of the players or coaches, these are the people to come and talk to. WallvsSanSaba02 The San Saba football field is a unique place to shoot. I've heard that its built over an old cemetery and that the San Saba team gets an unfair home-field advantage. Like if a ball carrier is running in the open field, he will mysteriously trip on nothing. As if some hand from beyond the grave reached up and grabs at their ankle. Another cool aspect of this field is the color. Just before the sun goes down the old stone building on the east side of the field is awash in late afternoon light reflecting back onto the field. It's absolutely beautiful. Unfortunately, it doesn't last very long and is completely gone before the opening kickoff. The game itself was pretty good. Wall opened up play with a nice pass the receiver Jake Henderson for some good yardage. I only remember that player's name because is mom is one of the newbies shooting from the sideline with me. (She's very nice.) Wall managed to end their offensive march with a touchdown and a two-point conversion when a point-after attempt went awry. San Saba answered back with a touchdown of their own and the game was on. Wall held a 15-7 lead at the half, just a touchdown, a point not lost on the San Saba coaches. Another interesting thing about shooting high school football is that I'm usually in the coaches office during halftime editing and transmitting photos, so I get to hear the cram session of how to better defend a team's running game or how the receivers are wide open just five yards down the field or how a certain player can't seem to get his head out of his butt and play the stinkin' game. It's all very amusing. Writing the story for us was former Standard-Times sports reporter Mike Lee. If you would like to read his story, you can find it HERE. A gallery of more of my photos was posted HERE. In all it was a fun night, but with San Saba being about 125 miles away from San Angelo, I knew I was going to have to be a little more careful coming home as there was more of an opportunity to hit some wild animal than if I was driving home from Wall, which is only 12 miles away from home. On the drive home I saw three deer, two opossums, two skunks (one dead, one alive) and and scurrying raccoon which I barely managed to miss as I was coming out of Eden. WallvsSanSaba03

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Friday Night Football Week 1: Central vs. El Paso Franklin

CHSvsEPF04 I know that last week I posted the first game of the high school football season as Week 0, which it was, because technically the high school football season is eleven weeks, allowing for every team to have at least one week off from competition. I guess the Texas University Interscholastic League, the ruling body over high school sports, thought it sounded better to start on Week 0 rather than finish on Week 11. Oh well. Tonight's game has become quite the little rivalry between Central High School, San Angelo's only Class 5A school, and El Paso Franklin who had to drive at least eight hours on the bus to get here. Last year Central lost to Franklin by a heartbreaking 1 point, but exacted revenge during a playoff game ending the Cougars' season. Friday's game proved to be one of the best high school game I've seen in a while as well as one of the most frustrating I've shot in a while. The normal routine is I show up at the stadium an hour before the game starts, shoot some game features, shoot the fist two quarters of game action, edit and transmit at the half and then get back to the game for a few more photos. That's how it's supposed to go. On Friday everything was going as planned, though Central was down by two touchdowns making for a relatively dull game. I got a late start on editing the first half photos because I had to shoot a few grip-n-grin photos for the marketing department. Once that was finished I finally got started on the first half photos that took all of the third quarter and most of the fourth and wouldn't you know it, as I'm walking out to the field Central tied the game up at 21-21 with just a few minutes left in the game. Crap. Why does all the game-changing action have to take place when I'm not on the field? CHSvsEPF05 CHSvsEPF02 But, at least I was out on the field for the real fun. Franklin had the ball deep in Central territory with just a few seconds left on the field, but failed to get a first down. They were going to have to win it on a field goal. Brent Davis, head coach for the Bobcats, had two timeouts remaining and used them both to try and ice the Franklin kicker. It worked. The game would be heading into overtime. There was a re-tossing of the coin at midfield to see who would take the ball first and at what end of the field the first few overtime periods would be played. Central lost the toss, but got to choose the end of the field they wanted to defend. Wisely, they chose the loudest end containing the student and marching band sections. The ball switched back and forth, back and forth with neither team scoring in the first two overtimes. Then both teams scored in the following two overtimes sending the game into a final fifth overtime period. Central scored again on a 9-yard pass to Darius Long and it was up the Central defense to hold strong. The defense held and Central was now 2-0 for the season. The celebration looked as if they had just won a playoff game. High-fives, hugs and chest bumps spread across the field and stands like wildfire. It was a good night for the Angry Orange. Read the game story by Paul Harris HERE, watch the video shot by Eva Padilla HERE and see a few more of my photos HERE. CHSvsEPF03 CHSvsEPF01