A blur of colors swirled before me, almost as if Walt Disney had vomited in my lens.

“You begged for this,” I muttered to myself.

It was  barely 7am. We were two hours from home, and a liquored up Cajun was standing on his head, on horseback.


It’s a tradition in our newsroom to send a virgin to Mardi Gras in Mamou for the annual chicken run. This year that honor fell upon our capitol correspondent, Kevin Frey — a bespectacled whiz kid when it comes to the ins and outs of the latest budget mishap or the hot-button policy faux pas, and a complete neophyte to all things southern. How could I pass up something a rife with comic potential as that?

The fiddler struck up another tune while masked marchers cavorted about — beers in hand — bleating something about a poulet. And we were off.

Horses clopped through town like we were at the O-K Coral, but in stead of pistols, these cowboys double-fisted Bud Light. It’s a tradition passed down from father to son since before Cajuns were Cajun.

mamou9And at every house along the way, the stop and beg for food to throw in the gumbo pot when the ride back into town. But before they can have a chicken, they have to dance.

I kept my face buried in my lens. There’s too much to shoot. And so much to miss. But I kept an eye peeled for Kevin, too. The bewildered look on his face told me the costumes, the music, the dancing may have been more than he could process.

Behind the lens, it was just another muddy Mardi Gras, and my 53-year-old ass was straining to keep up.

mamou7Six chickens later, our story was shot. It was time to hit the road.

A wave of nausea swept over me as I powered up the laptop. We’ve all double-punched a money shot, or watched our batteries die in the middle of the best sound. That’s baby shit compared to what I witnessed — in painfully slow technicolor.

The tiny SD card which held all of the morning’s glory slipped from my fingers and deposited itself between the car seat and the center console.

“No problem,” you say, “simply reach under the seat and drag it out.” And that is exactly what I tried.

The card was no where to be found.

Apparently, there is a hole in the carpet, near where the seat bracket attaches itself to the car chassis. And that hole is just big enough for an SD card to fall through. Then slide itself past the heating vent under the seat and stop somewhere inside the body of the car.

What followed was a series of mutterings that even the French-speaking contingency could understand, followed by this string of text messages between Kevin and the Assignment Desk.




Was it possible that we had come all this way, shot all this gold, only to have it slip through our fingers?

Kevin paced back and forth while I formulated a plan.


Some borrowed tools, and 45 minutes of body-twisting a Bourbon Street stripper would envy, and we were back in business. Most importantly, the story made slot.

It’s a tradition, I hope never catches on.

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Bluster and Drizzle

drizzle__by_niki91-d57kcptThe rain started as we pulled into town.

Not the rain we were promised — driving, pounding, deep, the kind of rain sure to produce a glowing case of Swampass. No, this rain was special — a nasty case of the gray drizzles. The kind of rain that turns streets and windshields into a greasy mess but rarely collects in puddles.

We were just the crew to hype it.

Because when you’re an hour and a half out of town and the satellite truck is on the way, you gotta come back with something.

Luckily for us, Morgan City has been through this before. To the folks there, a little rain is nothing to hyperventilate over — even if the blow-dried dude at the Weather Channel is preaching from the Book of Katrina. No, to everyone here, it was just Tuesday.

bread-aisleThe dudes closing off the flood gates to save the city from a watery apocalypse looked at us like we were growing a horn out of our logoed caps. Hell, even the local Walmart was fully stocked with bread.

That is when a news professional has to get creative and swing by the sandbag center — which had neither sand, nor bags, nor lines of angry homeowners lined up waiting.

With the stench of defeat hanging heavy on this turd of a roadtrip, we did what every journalist in this situation would do. We took a lunch break. You can’t hype a little bluster and drizzle on an empty stomach.

What we found was the hook for our story, and one hell of a fried soft-shell crab.



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Yah Nasty

isla_280x280.25591620_jocox1yoThere are few things worse than coming home smelling like a photog — crackhouse fires, sewer plant explosions, swamp ass, eaux de politician — most days, I could knock a buzzard off a shit wagon.

Lately, I’ve cleaned up pretty good. That’s saying a lot considering what I’m working with, but it’s not me. It’s the soap.

It started off as gifts for my wife — samples from a local hair dresser perfecting her recipes. Handcrafted soaps made from natural clays, aromatic oils, and all kinds of other stuff guys like me don’t understand. I just know my wife came out of the tub soft, smelling great, and relaxed.

My favorite is the name Yah Nasty — because why else would you use a great-smelling soap.

In all seriousness, it’s great soap. Hell, we have a bar in every room and they keep the whole house smelling great, and they look better than any Glade Plug-In or those crappy pull-top air fresheners.

il_570xN.1253422059_ghsfAnd when you get right down to it, who would’t want to smell like Grandma’s Couch? Soft rose scents with a hint of jasmine take you back to those days sneaking cookies on that ugly floral couch.

How’s about an old goat? Rolled Goats, made from goat’s milk, oats, and essential oils smell like no barnyard I’ve ever schlepped a camera through.

il_570xN.1253432507_a0yeShe’s even got one for men. Put A Beard On It, with it’s sandalwood, black tea, and activated charcoal scrubbed off the nastiest assignments the Adult in the Room has thrown at me and left me smelling good enough for my wife to actually sit next to me.

You owe it to yourself — or the lady in your life — to check these out.

My next bar is going straight into my work car. Gas fumes and stale cheese poofies don’t stand a chance.

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I Don’t Know How

The rain pounded on the roof of my live truck. It was the first time in 12 days that I had time to think — to process what has happened in my city.

A man was killed by police.

I stood in the midst of protests, the likes of which I never thought I would see in my town. I watched angry citizens taunt and curse police in full riot gear. I watched police force people off the streets.

I stood between police and protesters, my camera in hand and live unit on my back, broadcasting images of police snatching people who would not comply off the streets, while others pleaded for calm and peace.

I watched peaceful protests devolve into brick-throwing right outside my television station.

I saw my community mourn and bury a man who did not have to die.

And today, I was shaken from my bed by a phone call. Officers shot.

I watched police officers swallow their pain, their anger, their fear, and go to work protecting the public.

I watched children deliver flowers, parents bring food and drinks in gratitude and support.

And as I sat inside my live truck, watching the rain blur the scenes playing out in front of me, I tried to pray.

I couldn’t.

I wanted to pray for the officers, their families, all of our police, deputies, and troopers, my community, my state, my family, my news colleagues. For peace, for safety, for healing.

I didn’t know how.

If you can spare one, Baton Rouge could use a prayer.

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Hobo Video

Where did you edit your story yesterday?

13256392_10154234491049602_3477757544464348415_nI won’t bore you with the details of how I came to be squatting under a bridge with my best Troll impersonation. (Dead bodies in the median of a heavily-travelled interstate will to that to a photog.) What I will tell you is that you have not lived until you try to edit under a an overpass, in rush hour traffic, in the rain.

I can think of more exotic places to work. Like the time I had a reporter track his audio between two dumpsters stuffed to the gills with rotting fish. (I told him it was to keep the wind off the mic. I actually just wanted to see if he’d do it.) Or the time I edited nearly naked in a bucking satellite truck in the eyewall of a hurricane. (You really don’t want to know.) Or there was that time I spread out on the hood of the car in sub-freezing temps to send high school football highlights to the sports goob.

So, yeah, under a bridge in the cool breeze and exhaust fumes might not be such a bad place to spend an afternoon slicing and dicing crime tape. Sure, I could have hopped into my news steed. Trouble is, I hit the median so early, it got roped inside the yellow ribbon. Good thing I grabbed my laptop before I jumped out. (The web guys are finicky about getting video first on breaking news.

13254446_10208074233026493_2472294517692796504_nSo, when the producer dialed me up for 90 seconds of video for the early show, I did what any overworked photog might. I dropped everything and went to work. Okay, I bitched first, then I went to work.

With a pile of dirt under one corner, and a wifi hotspot under the other, to level the laptop, I pecked and prodded my antique computer until it spit out something that resembled moving pictures of a crime scene. Then did it all over again for the evening news.

13092133_1178118268879352_3372140686567692594_nThat’s when my buddy from the competition, who had been complaining about the smell for more than an hour, chimed in. I told him he just needed a bath.

He pointed overhead.

Who knew bats lived under interstate bridges? Overhead, peeps and bleats rang out as the night flyers began to rouse for their evening’s work. Also overhead, spread far and wide across each bridge support, was a thick, viscous, brown-green trail of guano.

I had been editing in dried batshit!

13239007_10208074144104270_8791861400785268803_n-2Turdpolishing in a pile of turds, if you will.

With another newscast to feed, there’s nothing for an overworked photog to do, but improvise.  Hope the hobo who squatted here last night doesn’t mind me stealing his mattress.

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Oh, The Places You Will Go (with apologies to Dr. Seuss)

DSC_0032See the world, they said,
Far-off lands from books you’ve read.
Beautiful sights, and strange food to be fed.
See the country, blue, white, and the red.
But this is what they should have said.

Oh, the places you will go! There’s news to be made!
There’s a beast to be fed! There’s a soul left to jade!
And the magical things you can do with your lens
will make you the envy of all of your friends.
Fame! You’ll be as infamous as infamy can be
in the scum-sucking, boot-licking world of TV.

062/365 Subterranean Photog

Squeeze yourself under an abandoned house
Just don’t disturb the slumbering lout.
That homeless man collects garbage and cans.
But dresses better than that photog man.

Oh, the places you will go! Just to fill the stacker’s show.
High and low, and to and fro.
Across the sands and thru the snow,
oh the places you will go.

floating turds

Dive head-first in a pool of cess
You’ll come out a terrible mess.
But it’s the price of free access,
so jump again and do your best.

garbage truck

Or try your luck on a garbage truck.
Slop through marsh and mire and muck.
All to make your lousy buck.
Reporter’s help? Yeah, good luck.

anchorman smackdown

Too the crime-scene you will shuffle.
Be sure to catch the anchorman kerfuffle.
Pack a bag, a cooler, a duffle.
A storm’s a brewin’ and off you’ll shuffle.

You’ll be live. Miss lunch and dinner.
But your waistline won’t get thinner.
A Snickers bar is what’s for dinner.
And Mountain Dew, it’s a winner.

3/365 don't even ask

Oh, the places you will go, just to fill the stacker’s show.
Warm or cool or cold or hot.
Just don’t ever miss your slot.
A babe’s been hit, a homie shot
Pan it smooth, your camera’s hot.

It’s 1 A.M. You’re in dreamland.
Someone robbed the donut man.
So out the door, camera in hand.
No reporter. You’re a one-man-band.

moon over parkinglot

Oh, the hours you will keep. Oh the hours you won’t sleep.
Oh the tears you wife will weep.
and your kids that you won’t see.
You’ll lose your friends. They don’t understand
the rules that apply to TV land.

See the world? Yes you will.
but not the places that feed a thrill.
The dirty, the nasty, the bad, the ill.
And still not pay your monthly bills.

005/365 Office View

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Heroes are Human

How do you cover a story that hits too close to home?

578427_10152686500310192_801740525_nPaul Gates was a journalistic giant. For more than thirty years, his investigations shined a light on the dark side of politics, business, and law enforcement, and sent state officials, and con-men to jail.

He was a master of the ambush interview. He knew where the powerful and shady liked to hide, and he would show up, camera in tow, to demand answers. Paul was passionate about finding the truth and speaking it to the powerful. He was the only journalist I ever worked with who could badger a bully caught with his hand in the cookie jar and never once forget the manners him momma taught him.

He was a reporter’s reporter. Tireless on the hunt for justice for the little guy. And photogs knew if they worked with Paul they would have a story to tell at the end of the day.

But as serious as he took his job as a reporter and anchor, he could still play the befuddled sidekick to the world-famous chef who joined him to cook on the set twice a week.

That is what endeared him to so many in the Capitol Region.

Around the newsroom, we were just as likely to see Paul wrapped in a feather boa talking to his many pet rocks as poring over a three-inch stack of documents from the Used Car Commission. And the one-liners he slipped into his scripts just for the editors are the stuff of legend.

Paul was a one-man blooper reel and one hell of a serious journalist. That’s what endeared him to everyone in the station.

That’s why it was such a shock when he announced his retirement four years ago. Doctors had diagnosed Paul with Alzheimer’s. He left us to be with his family and fight this insidious disease.

I was with Paul on his last investigative interview. It was clear to me something was not right. He had trouble keeping some of the facts straight and staying on subject. It was hard to watch a champion go out that way.

11110401_10152921590753823_5884324282693316050_nHardly a day goes by that someone doesn’t ask, “How’s Paul?”

This week, we got to visit with Paul and his family. The news is not good. Alzheimer’s has ravaged the giant we all knew. He didn’t remember any of the crew. He had to ask what the camera were, and after a few minutes, it was clear he did not know what he was saying while he was saying it.

But every once in a while, just for a second, the haze would clear, and a flash of the old Paul would shine through. We could see it in his eyes, hear it in his voice. It gave us hope, and crushed our spirits.

It’s hard to realize your heroes are human. They bleed. They cry. They grow old. And they forget their glory. How’s Paul is one of the hardest stories I’ve ever had to tell.

Paul and his family sure could use you good thoughts and your prayers. As well as anyone else fighting his same fight.

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