Friday, June 24, 2005

Unnoticed Celebrity

I was surfing through the channels last night looking for something to hold my interest long enough for the Nyquil to take effect. I've got a cold and the weather is just as nice as it can be outside. Hooray.

Well, I stumbled on a program on CMT called Southern Rock. The program traced the history of some of the most famous southern rock bands and they highlighted Lynyrd Skynyrd. That opened up the memory floodgate of a chance encounter about ten years ago.

Admittedly, I'm not a big Skynyrd fan. I could only tell you a handful of their songs and really only name one or two of their band members. I certainly couldn't have told you by sight who they were. And that leads to where my story goes.

Back in 1995, I had just moved to Cleveland and had only been here a few weeks when I recieved an invitation in the mail to a World Premiere Screening of the movie 'Freebird'. A documentary on Lynyrd Skynyrd being premiered at the newly opened Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Well, I don't know how my name got on the A-List but I wasn't asking. My wife and I RSVP'ed and went to the RNRHOF for the event. We got there a little early and had looked around the hall. We were considered VIP's for some reason and were able to get into a secluded section. We found the bar and sat down at a table to have some wine and cheese. We sat there in a fog. Here we are in a movie premiere, invited as VIP's and we're like fish out of water.

My wife and I are waiting for someone to realize the error that was made by inviting us when a frail looking woman in a peasant dress, that screamed "Ultimate Flower Child", says hello and asks if she may sit with us. We said sure and we proceeded to have a little conversation with her. She was a very pleasant person who, through conversation, we learned had never been in Cleveland before. I asked her where she was from and she replied, Florida. In hindsight, this was a tipoff, but I'm not very smart.

Then a thin man with his hair pulled back in a pony tail and a very long, bushy beard walked up to the table and said, "Hi honey.." and sat down with us. I introduced myself and my wife and he did likewise. He said his name and I though he said "Artimus" Like I said, I'm not a fan of Skynyrd, so I didn't recognize this gentleman. We talked for a while about the HOF and he seemed really interested that I was in the news business and asked me a lot about being a videographer. Then things began to happen.

They let the general public in and the people lined up outside the ropes and started yelling "Artimus..!!" and "Mr. Pyle.." He grumbled something, got up and walked over to sign autographs. I looked at his wife and she said, "I'm glad you didn't ask him right off for his autograph. He just likes to be left alone at times.." I said to her, "Forgive my ignorance, but who is he??" She smiled and said, "You don't know?? Not real fans huh??"

"He's Artimus Pyle. He was the drummer for Skynyrd..", she told us. My wife and I looked at each other and then laughed. "Well, we like the music, but I never really paid attention to the members of the band too much..", I replied. She laughed also and said , "Well, thanks for not noticing and bugging him. He's had a rough time recently."

After he signed the autographs, Artimus came back and sat down with us again. I apologized for not recognizing him and he said it was just fine with him. He did ask if we wanted his autograph now that we knew and I told him only if he wanted to give it to us. He smiled and signed the poster that we were given as part of the VIP gift bag.

We talked a little more about the hall and music in general. My wife and I didn't want to make the conversation about him. I think he appreciated that because, he told us to sit with him and his wife in the theatre. So, when they called him and his wife over to enter the theatre, he told the Rock Hall people that we were with him. So, we got past everyone and were able to sit with the remaining members of Skynyrd and the Honkettes through the whole movie.

When the movie was showing, you could see the tears in his eyes. The footage that was shot in the plane before it crashed was particulalry chilling. He did wipe a few tears away. Just as I did. Just as everyone in the theatre did. When the movie was over and we all go to up to leave, Mr. Pyle thanked my wife with a kiss on the cheek and a hug for me.

It's one of those memories that you look back on and say, "Wow..did that really happen??" Now I can look back on it and see how stupid I was by not recognizing him but then again, if we had been a regular fan, we'd had probably behaved like one and made a complete asses out of ourselves fawning all over him and his celebrity.

Sometimes ignorance is truly bliss.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Different Meanings

Last night, I was watching a show on the Discovery Channel about Boston firefighters. One of the firefighters made a comment while a fighting a church fire. He said, "This was a good fire..."

To a rgular person, "A Good Fire" could mean a nice cozy fire in a fireplace on a cold winters night. To the dad at home, a good fire could mean the grill is just right for a barbeque.

Now, to us as photogs, it means...

"Holy Shit...the flames I got!! The house was still burning when I got there. You could really feel the heat from across the street..."

Man...we live in a world of our own, don't we..??

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

The Scenic Route

This morning I was pulled off my live shot to "go chase the FBI". My assignment desk person said she'd heard Cleveland PD assisting the FBI around the Buckeye and Woodhill road areas. Those of you who are familiar with Cleveland should know this area. It's a wonderful place of trees, hummingbirds, deer in meadows and wild flowers...

Nahhh...actually it's pretty much a run down area. I drove there in about five minutes because rush hour was headed in not out. When I got to Woodhill and Buckeye I found....nothing. So, I drove around the side streets where I was treated to lovely images reminicent of the old Burma Shave signs. These were more modern versions though..

R.I.P. Lil' Marcus
E.120 Folk
Crip Land
Pimp Daddy R.I.P. Bro

Like Simon and Garfunkel sang, "The words of the prophet are written on the subway walls and tenement halls.."

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Kalahari Waterpark Resort- A Review

Last weekend, myself, my wife and two boys took a mini-vacation to the newly constructed and newly opened Kalahari Waterpark Resort in Sandusky, OH. I posted earlier that I was upset and needed a little time to calm down before writing about my experience there.

Well, I think five days is enough of a calming down period, don't you??? Plus, I have to keep repeating the mantra:

To say that this place is huge is an understatement. It's honking big, plus they're still building onto the place. More rooms and water attractions are going up as I write this. The parking lot is large and long. I'd suggest the valet parking because if you have a lot of luggage, you sure don't want to be lugging it across the parking lot, up a wooden bridge across an entrance way and into the lobby. My advice, use the valet and bellman service offered.
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Checking in was a snap but remember to take the map they offer you. You'll need it.

The room we stayed in was fantastic. We had a family suite which had three beds plus a pull out sleeper sofa. The room also had a gas fireplace. Really good to have when you come into a room wet and the A/C has been on full blast. Nice and cozy. The room that we stayed in had two bathrooms, two sinks and most importantly, a door that separated the two rooms so a little privacy could be had for the frazzled parents and sleep could be had for the overtired children.

The waterpark itself is an indoor/outdoor one. The majority of the funto be had is inside the resort's water area. There is an indoor water roller coaster which is fun...well, looked fun when it was working, which wasn't often. There's a lazy river that winds around the indoor part. Relaxing to just float around on a tube.
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There's also the slides and indoor tower with huge waterbucket that dumps a lot of gallons on you every three minutes or so, if you choose to stand underneath it. Lots of climbing and water spraying devices to keep kids occupied for hours.
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Outside, there is a pool that is wonderful for those that just want to relax and float, tread water and maybe take the kiddies in to start to learn how to swim. It goes from 1 foot deep to the deepest at 4 feet. In the deep end is a large water fountain that my sons found enjoyable to float under. Attached to the outdoor pool is a medium sized "jacuzzi". The water is a little warmer than the pool, and it has multiple jets to produce bubbles. Plus a ledge to sit on and enjoy the warmth and sun yourself.

Another part of the pool is an above ground sprinkler area for the little ones to run around in and get wet.
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There are lots of chaise lounges and thatched umbrellas to sit around and sunbathe or people watch. (The propensity of hot women in revealing swimsuits was remarkable..) I did get a few dirty looks from my wife. So sue me.

There are two bars that serve cold drinks plus beer and alcohol at the pool. I gave in and had a frozen daquiri, just because I didn't feel like drinking a beer. There is also a walk in snack bar that serves light snacks such as hot dogs and such for a quick lunch when at poolside.

Inside the resort, there are numerous restaurants, kiosks, a candy store, a sushi stand (that wasn't open yet), a coffee shop, an art store and a couple of clothing stores. For the kids, there is an arcade that you can blow money on. A indoor nine hole miniature golf course is also inside which isn't all that impressive but you can learn to count to nine in Swahili. There's also a pottery area that kids and adults alike can paint pre-made pottery items and have them fired in a kiln. There are multiple activitites geared to kids on a daily basis and it can be quite a fun experience for the kids and parents as it does induce family activity.
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Inside the lobby, which I thought was the coolest was the glass booth that contained two lion cubs. You have the opportunity to have your picture taken with the cubs although it is for a nominal fee.

The one thing that I noticed is how friendly the staff is. They go above and beyond helpful. Their courtesy is welcome, especially to those who have screaming kids and need a smiling face once in a while.

The one thing I can say is that staying here is not cheap, but if it's for a family vacation, it's worth it. Especially if the kids have a good time.

Now, that I have reviewed most of what I consider important, and somewhat thorough, let me tell you of my experience. Remembering my mantra (see above...) the family and I had an enjoyable time although there were a few bumpy parts on the road to happiness.

The few problems we ran into, I believe were a part to have just opened recently. The first problem I ran into was that the in room internet access was non-existant. They charge you $9.95 for 24 hours but they were having major IT problems they said, so I had to settle for the lobby Wi-Fi but trying to get an access code from the desk and IT guy was like pulling teeth, even though they offer it for free. So, if you want to go wireless in the lobby, have at it.

The second problem which really made us mad was we didn't get our room cleaned until we complained about it. We had gone out to the pool early, came back at 11:30am. They were four rooms away and the supervisor asked when we would be out of the room so it could be cleaned. We told him we'd be showering and be out in an hour around 12:30pm. We left the room before 12:30pm and the cleaning lady was two rooms away. We came back from lunch around 2:00pm after playing a few games in the arcade. We entered and found the room the way we had left it, including the dishes from the room service order the night before.

We changed and went back to the pool again. This time, we returned to the room at 5:00pm and it still hadn't been touched. To make a longer story short, the room wasn't cleaned until we called twice and complained. Finally at 6:30pm it was cleaned.

Third, the phone system wasn't completly functional. We couldn't direct dial many of the services. Plus the quick dial buttons weren't functioning either.

Overall, we did have a good time at the waterpark. We just wish it had been a more organized and run a little better...

But, then again, there is the mantra...

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Car vs Amish Buggy

Before I left for the mini vacation I'm on, I covered a really horrific accident. Out in Eastern Geauga County,Ohio there is a very large community of Amish. They are centered around the communities of Middlefiled and Huntsburg. They live in a peaceful existance with land and God. To a lesser extent, they have a tolerance for the modern life that surrounds them.

Cars for one are a danger to human and animal alike in the Amish community out here. Especially when people get impatient and just have to get to the store in a hurry. Damn the torpedoes and the Amish, FULL SPEED AHEAD!!

When a driver encounters an Amish buggy his first reaction is to try and get around the slow moving horse and cart. Sometimes people just don't have the proper tolerance and patience to wait for an opening and they try to pass without slowing down and giving the buggy proper space. To them, share the road is a joke.

Take the accident I covered two nights ago. A car driving westbound on a two lane road. A straight two lane road...A clear two lane road with no other traffic on it except an Amish buggy also traveling westbound. The driver was speeding. Well, speeding doesn't properly put it into perspective. As Mel Brooks put it in Spaceballs, "My GOD...they've gone PLAID!!" That's the speed he was going.

The car slammed into the Amish buggy literally destroying it. It was in splinters. Worse yet a family of nine were thrown out. Mother, father and seven children aged 2 months to 12 years old were all injured. I was on scene within fifteen minutes because I was at home and was called out to the accident from my house.

Three helicopters were called in and five ambulances were dispatched to the scene. It looked like a battle zone. The horse that was in the accident survived but was later destroyed. I was unfortunate to catch that on camera.

The driver of the car was finally charged with failing to maintain a safe distance. H's lucky he's not facing multiple vehicular homicide charges. The Amish family is incredibly lucky. I'm very happy that they're going to survive. It was one of the worst accidents I've ever seen..

Saturday, June 11, 2005

On a mini-vacation

The family and I are away on a mini vacation this weekend. I'm at the newly opened Kalahari Waterpark Resort in Sandusky, OH. Will have pictures and a better review after I calm down. When a place opens for business to the public, you'd think that they'd pretty much have things in order.

Well....stay tuned.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

A Fire...A Multiple Homicide.

The past week and a half, here in Cleveland, the local news outlets here have been devoting their time to a house fire that killed eight children and one adult. The thing about it is, the fire has been ruled an act of arson. Thus making it the deadliest house fire in Cleveland's history. It also, sadder still, makes it the worst case of multiple homicide in the town's history.

The coverage was pretty much wall to wall. There was a mass public viewing for eight of the victims. five were open coffins, three closed. The funeral was the day after. The families had requested that the media be kept across the street, and of course, we complied. We actually worked with the city of Cleveland to help out with the families wishes. The families said recording devices were not allowed in the Public Hall where the service were held. We all agreed to that also. But when it was revealed there was a video camera in place by the city to provide video to the people attending the service, all the media outlets here asked for a feed. We were shocked when the families agreed to it.

Then it happend. It was my job to set up our station's live truck and run the cable into Public Hall to connect to the mult-box. Cleveland was having all kinds of problems with getting a video signal. Turns out they had a bad reeler. They asked the TV trucks if they had an extra reeler. Turns out, I was the only truck that had an extra. So, I gave ours to the city to use for the funeral. Then, it turns out their video signal for the two giant screens in the Hall had a double signal in it. They tried everything but couldn't get rid of it. They came to us again and asked if anyone had a video DA. Once again, I was the only one with a video DA. I went to the truck, got it and came back to the hall. I couldn't find the stagehand who wanted the DA, so I followed the cable from the mult-box into the hall. What I saw, stopped me in my tracks.

There were eight coffins in a row. Five of them open. All children. I wasn't prepared for it. I don't think that anyone could be. It was just sad. I was in shock. I've never seen so many coffins.

I hope to God I never see that many again in one place.