Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Pop-up posting

I know you guys have excellent cultural sense about you. So there's no doubt in my mind that you'll recall one of the greatest TV shows ever, VH1's Pop-Up Video. In case you don't remember it, perhaps the Wiki will give you a refresher.

In the spirit of the show, I'll give you a review of my insane weekend with a bit of commentary as well. Enjoy!

The trouble actually began last week, when my boss e-mailed to tell me he "needed" me to run out and do a feature on one of boys basketball teams on Monday. Oh, and he needed it to run on Tuesday.
  • Bloop! I had actually planned on taking Monday off (since I'd be working Saturday) and spending time with my wife, helping her clean the house and perhaps going out to shop for that new TV.
But that could wait. I still had the weekend to get through. Hell, I had to get to the weekend.

My feature previewing last weekend's wrestling tournament nearly didn't happen. I had made prior arrangements with the coach to talk to this kid before practice on Wednesday; I correctly figured they wouldn't have school on Tuesday because of the predicted snow and sleet.

However, I had incorrectly figured that they'd have school on Thursday; they did not. Luckily for me, our photographers managed to get a hold of the coach, who said they in fact would be practicing on Thursday. I spent much of Wednesday night trying to devise alternate plans because I figured there would be no way I'd reach this kid. So that all worked out.

Friday wasn't horribly difficult. I was originally scheduled to go to one basketball game, which got postponed; then another, which also got postponed. So I did some early pages and called it a day.

Saturday was long and difficult.

I awoke around 9:30 a.m. to get ready for the 3.5-hour drive to Lynchburg, Va. Half of the drive I'd done many times before; whenever I'm heading to southwest Virginia (Roanoke, usually), I'd go through Charlottesville. Charlottesville to Lynchburg was a new one for me, however.
  • Bloop! And one I could have done without. Lovingston and Amherst are the towns along the way, but they looked more like a collection of houses.
I arrived in Lynchburg, armed with directions on how to find the place where the wrestling was being held. Though I followed the directions to a "T," I still managed to get lost.
  • Bloop! If ever there was a harbinger of doom...
Once I got straightened out, I made my way to the school. I got inside with no problems, and found the folks there extremely helpful. But they made a critical error as the afternoon went on.

With the tournament already well behind schedule - due in part to an hour-long grievance filed by one the coaches earlier in the day - we finally reached the consolation finals, the matches for third and fifth places.

Here's where the biggest mistake was made. Though the gym accommodated four mats when I walked in, they took down two mats for the consolation finals, for reasons that I don't understand. They chose procedure over reality, and it would end up killing us.

The finals were supposed to start at 6 p.m. They didn't start until after 8.

In theory, it shouldn't take long. But nearly all of the matches go the distance, about eight minutes each if there's no stoppages for blood time or injury time (and we had plenty of blood time). In between matches, they announce all the medal winners - the kids who finished in the top six. So, we're looking at 11-12 minutes from opening whistle to opening whistle. Multiply that by 14 weight classes, and it's easy to see we're in a heap of trouble.

My last finalist came at 189 pounds, the third-highest weight. During the 171-pound match, I made arrangements with the kid's coach that I was going to grab him immediately afterwards and run out the door. I did so - he actually walked over to me, for which I was grateful. I cruised through three questions in a minute and left the building.

I was headed to our sister paper in town. I had talked to the sports editor there earlier in the day, and he had given me directions. I followed them as best I could, and one of the landmarks I was to look for was a Chevron station. After about six minutes of driving, I saw one.

Except I was supposed to see a second Chevron not long after. I never saw the second one so I called the SE.

"Oooh, yeah, you're pretty far off," he said.
  • Bloop! Harbinger...
He got me back on track and I made my way to the paper. En route, I called my wife and we chatted briefly. I ended the call with something like, wow, it's 10:20, huh? Yeah, she said.
  • Bloop! After talking with our SE earlier, he asked me to file something - anything - by 10:30.
As I pulled into the wrong parking lot, my phone rang. One of my colleagues, asking for highlights for a brief so we had at least something in the paper for the next day.
  • Bloop! That's all well and fine, but that also means I'll have to file a second-day story. Which means working on Sunday too, when I get home.
I took care of that, and ran into a longtime acquaintance as I was walking in. He let me in the building, and I got started on the story I had agreed to do for their paper. For the most part, that went fine, though I was up against the gun and couldn't get anything better than a one-line lede. (One of my pet peeves are the cheesy one-line ledes that AP often likes to write, so I do my best to write something more developed in that first graf. "Write something intelligent," I tell myself, though I should say it doesn't always happen.)

Once I finished, I talked with another out-of-town writer who was also using the facilities. One of his former co-workers now works in Lynchburg, and mentioned that a few of them were going out for drinks. So I tagged along to Mudpuppy's.
  • Bloop! Because I followed a local, I managed not to get lost. Though I was concerned for the entire drive.
Mudpuppy's brought relief from the stressful evening. And the best part of it was the non-Northern Virginia prices. I was considerably happier when I left (though still capable of driving) and full, too, after a plate of toasty Buffalo wings. Final bill? Came to $18.25.

I headed to my hotel, following directions I had looked up after I finished with my story. Except our friends at Mapquest missed a critical step in the process. I followed the light - or I tried to, driving toward a greenly-lit building. I was staying at a Courtyard, so that seemed plausible. Except it wasn't the Courtyard.
  • Bloop! ...of ....
I dialed 411 to find the hotel, and got directions from the helpful front-desk woman. Turns out I was pretty damn close after all.

I finally got a chance to sit and relax a while. I hooked up the laptop, surfed for an hour and hit the sack. I was out like a light.

Until 6:25 a.m., that is. At that point, the clock radio started blaring shitty, shitty hip-hop.
  • Bloop! As opposed to good hip-hop. Which this most certainly was not.
Yeah, I was pissed, to put it mildly. In a moderately-hungover state, I had no patience to figure the damn thing out. So it got unplugged. That ended that problem.

I slept for a little while longer until my real alarm clock went off. I was supposed to meet a friend for breakfast - the one who had let me in the building the night before - before I left for home.

When I checked out, I asked the folks at the front desk where they could recommend for breakfast. IHOP, they both said, and gave me directions. (Smell a plot twist?) In a strange twist, I drove along the same road I had the night before, searching for the IHOP. I never found it though, and settled for Bob Evans instead.
  • Bloop! ...doom.
Breakfast was enjoyable, and it was fun to get a chance to cool out with a friend in a foreign city (foreign to me, anyway). So I set off for the drive home, rolling through the boring part until I hit the inevitable traffic in Charlottesville. Except I had to make an emergency pit stop to visit el bano - because of all the coffee, plus the beer and wings from the night before, my abdomen had reached DEFCON 4.

Feeling relieved, I headed back out and had no problems until the far reaches of Northern Virginia where
  • Bloop! Shocker!
there was a backup. Not just a backup, but traffic at a complete standstill. I waited for better than 10 minutes to cross a traffic light; finally, I gave up and made a left turn. I was heading east, so I knew I'd hit something eventually.

Eventually was the operative word. After a good 15 minutes, I found a familiar road - though I still had a good deal of driving to get back on track.

In the meantime, something had turned inside me (and it had nothing to do with DEFCON levels). Perhaps it was the tiredness and inconvience all crashing together, but suddenly I was pissed at the world. Cranky seems to fall way short. Pissed at traffic, pissed at having to drive to Lynchburg, pissed at work, pissed at other drivers, pissed at everything.

I made it home with no other challenges, traffic, DEFCON or otherwise. I walked in and warned my wife I was basically on the warpath, and she understood. (A hug helped a lot too, I must say.)

So I sat down to write my story and get that over with. I finished that, and my wife had prepared a super dinner that really hit the spot. It was hard to be bitter about anything, and I certainly wasn't, at least not on the homefront. I was still pissed at the world, and I'm sure that came out in the NASCAR blog I wrote today, based off of my observations from watching the Daytona 500.

The rest of the night was basically quiet, which I was very thankful for, though I was again woken unexpectedly, thanks to Hank and Grace dropping in for a visit. It actually took me a while to fall back asleep; I finally shouted to myself: "Look, you're stressed, just relax and get some sleep!" Immediately after, I felt better and soon drifted off to sleep.

I awoke a second time this morning and dreaded leaving my wife here by herself, since she had the day off and all. I went in and did what I needed to do and tried to keep to myself. I just wasn't in a mood to deal with other people.

And then there was the kicker of it: Our state's newspaper association awards were announced, and I didn't get a thing individually. I wasn't so surprised about the writing deal, but I thought I was a shoo-in for my Redskins pages (you can see a nearly-finished design here). Nothing for them either.

As I wrote to regular contributor Matt earlier today, it's just disappointing to not earn any sort of recognition for your efforts. It's nice to get that independent confirmation that you're doing well; the flip side is the downer when that recognition doesn't come. Maybe the fact of the matter is that I'm just not that good at my job. I don't know.

I know I've written a lot, and I'm sorry for keeping you guys so long. But this is another way for me to tell myself to relax. As you'll recall, I started this whole thing as a sort of panacea for myself, whether it was to release all of those swirling thoughts or just to get something off my chest. So thanks for listening, as always.
  • Bloop! Hustle later reported that his chest felt about 14.3 pounds lighter.


ME said...

Bravo, Brian, bravo. Love the Pop-Up Video theme. Great job.

I'm glad you feel better too.

That's just life being life. You'll get that TV soon & this past weekend will be a faint memory. (Of course, it lives on in cyberspace, but still...)

P.J. said...

Quite the post. Gotta love when the directions just don't work out.

And you and I have chatted about the war of wrestling tournaments. Our states are in two weeks and then wrestling is done for another season. Good times!

As for the awards, sorry to hear you didn't get anything. But, as we all know, if the wrong people check your stuff, they might not be the same as if a couple others checked it.

Brian said...

PJ - We're lucky now in that states this week will be held at the state's largest high school, Robinson, which absolutely has its shit together (at least they did last year): media passes, minimum fuss for us, wireless throughout the gym, etc.

But of course, the excitement of that is tempered by having to go to Roanoke the following weekend, which is awful.