News Conferences…Hate ‘Em…Need ‘Em

I’ve had a couple of weeks to think about this whole concept of news conferences after tennis star Naomi Osaka walked away from the French Open rather than face reporters at mandatory sessions. She revealed that for her news conferences are stressful, counter productive and amount to a legitimate mental health issue for her.

As someone who’s covered a bajillion news conferences over the past 47 years, I hate them too. Oh sure, they’re a necessary evil because it’s not practical to give reporters individual interviews in most cases, but sometimes they can amount to public showcases for individuals astute at the fine art of bullshitting, self-aggrandizement, lack of preparedness or pugnacious discourtesy…and that’s just on the part of those staging the event, let alone some journalists.

LAS VEGAS, NV – NOVEMBER 9: Mike Tyson talks with the media after he was defeated by Evander Holyfield for the WBA Heavyweight tittle at the MGM Grand Garden on November 9, 1996 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Holyfield won the fight with a TKO in the 11th round. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

Perhaps the worst so-called news conference I ever attended lasted less than 30 seconds. We were called to Cleveland to hear from boxer Mike Tyson after he was released from serving time on a rape rap. He was to discuss his return to the ring. After cooling our heels for quite awhile in the bowels of what was known at the time as Gund Arena Tyson finally came on stage, in a half-whisper said he was glad to fight again and walked off. No questions, no nothing. Well…almost nothing. Wasn’t worth the plane ticket or the price of the crappy hot dog I ate while waiting for the former heavyweight chump.

So yes. That’s a clear case of a useless news conference because the very word “conference” infers a dialogue. This was barely a monologue.

Then there are the news conferences where some reporters appear to want to “share” knowledge rather than gather it. If you’re in the biz you know these people. They take an eternity to let the speaker know how much they already think they know about the subject before finally spilling a question.

On the auto beat there’s one longtime reporter whom I won’t name who has gained a decades-long reputation for such endless preambles. Indeed, at an event in conjunction with the New York Auto Show in the early 2000’s two executives of a major automaker played the roles of police officer and perpetrator to show off a new police cruiser.

They staged a fake chase in front of the press corps then suddenly stopped. Fake cop tells fake perp to put up his hands. Fake perp says, “no problem. I’ll do anything you want. It would be better than enduring a question from (reporter). The guy was in the crowd and enjoyed the notoriety. The rest of us got a good laugh. Comedy based in truth always hits home best.

One time I was actually the main speaker at a news conference and gained instant empathy for those who regularly stand at the business end of reporters’ questions. It happened in the 1990’s when I was one of three pool reporters for the in-prison arraignment of James Nichols, brother of Oklahoma City bombing perpetrator Terry Nichols.

I was joined by reporters from the Associated Press and a local newspaper. When it came time to decide who would brief the rest of the press I was drafted because as the the print guys said, “you’re CNN, TV. You don’t mind facing the cameras.” No, I don’t mind cameras. It’s people who give me the creeps. I gamely gave the top line facts of the proceeding then in a case of “back at ya,” I tossed it over the print guys for “more of the details.” This was not planned by anyone…but me. I was always a decent ad libber on camera.

Truthfully, I ended up feeling exhilarated after fielding some questions and not saying something stupid or wrong. It was a kick being quoted by CBS and others but I’d rather be the inquisitor.

Honestly, I hate to ask my best question during news conferences, especially if it was based on some information I had in hand that would give my place a competitive edge on a previously unexplored angle. Why give it to everyone else? In that case I would try to find a way to ask the question privately, but you can’t always count on that and you need an answer so sometimes you have no choice.

Look, I feel for Ms. Osaka if facing the media is stressful and unpleasant. A person’s mental health is a serious matter and should not be downplayed.

Unfortunately, professional sports is actually a form of show business where athletes’ stages are the field, pitch, court or ice. Tickets are sold and fan loyalties are stoked in part by news stories. That all can generate the millions athletes can reap from prize money, bonuses and endorsements. In other words, there’s tremendous demand for what an athlete has to say, even if it’s not especially enlightening.

For journalists, direct quotes offer depth, context and perspective to a story which adds to a richer experience for their readers or audience.

Perhaps some of the anxiety for those thrust into situations that demand presence at news conferences could be allayed by counseling or league-sponsored media training that includes realistic mock sessions using actual journalists. When I conduct media training sessions the strategy is to always put the trainees through an even tougher experience than they might actually face. Kinda like swinging a heavy bat in the on-deck circle so your real bat feels lighter when you’re facing a fast ball.

That, or know what you would be getting into before you decide to become a professional athlete or other high-profile profession, and choose another path to avoid the news conference blood sport.

When the Late Gavin MacLeod as Capt. Stubing Was My Weather Sidekick

I was sorry to hear of the Gavin MacLeod’s passing. While I enjoyed him as Murray Slaughter on the Mary Tyler Moore Show, I enjoyed him even more on The Love Boat…because, unbeknownst to him, his character, Captain Merrill Stubing, was my weather sidekick, and actually had a little in common.

Back in 1979, while I was going to grad school part-time at the University of Arizona in Tucson earning my journalism Masters degree, I worked three different broadcasting jobs: morning drive guy at KCEE-AM, weekend overnight guy at KAIR-AM, and weekend weather dude at KGUN-TV, an ABC affiliate.

It was a time when Tucson TV stations liked to use radio announcers to do weekend weather because we were used to making almost no money and we could ad lib, which was important since we had no scripts for our weathercasts.

We had none of the sophisticated electronic graphics weathercasters have today. To prepare my map I ripped off the “weather features” feed on the weather wire, took into the studio and used that information to place little magnetic, rubber things on the map: sunshines, rain drops, pressure systems and fronts. I did two weathercasts each evening…one at 5pm and one at 10pm. The map for the early show took about 20 minutes to create, but the late one took less time because not much changed over those five hours.

Here’s where Captain Stubing and I got together. On Saturday nights I’d have the program monitor on while I prepared the studio map. I timed it so I was updating the map while Love Boat was on. As I placed the little magnetic symbols on the map, Capt. Stubing was greeting the guest stars as they boarded the Love Boat. Coulda been Charo, Bert Convy, Florence Henderson…anyone who needed some network TV exposure to keep their careers going .

Yes, it was all mindless, but I was studying to be a “serious journalist” and the weather seemed mindless as well. I enjoyed doing it but didn’t find it challenging, especially because Tucson doesn’t actually have any weather aside from hot, hotter, hottest and the few weeks in the summer they call “monsoon season” when it rains like crazy for an hour or so, then stops and it’s hot and dry again.

Just as celebrities graced his gangplank, they also passed through my studio, always stopping as they saw me create my map to ask about the weather.

One night it was the original TV fitness guy Jack LaLanne. I didn’t recognized him at first because while in TV he looked like a bulked up muscle man, in real life he was Tom Thumb. He was at our station to appear on our local talk show. Jack stopped in his tracks and asked me what I was doing. I could have been a wiseass and told him I was creating the world’s largest AAA Triptik, but explained I was preparing my weather map for the upcoming newscast. “Well, keep at it!” he chirped, flexed a bicep and continued on his way. Hmm..that was under-whelming.

On another night Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater walked through. He was a little quiet and creepy and I didn’t see him right away because on The Love Boat, Doc was trying to score with a comely passenger in a bikini who was way out of his league and Capt. Stubing was comforting social director Julie McCoy when no one showed up to “dress like a rodent night.”

Sen. Goldwater kinda stared at me for a moment, then in a very accusatory tone asked me, “it’s not gonna rain, is it?” Even if it was I wouldn’t have wanted to validate his personal forecast. After all the tagline for his ads when he ran for POTUS in 1964 was “in your heart you know he’s right.” But in America’s hearts they knew he was wrong and he lost to LBJ in a landslide. It didn’t give me much confidence he could predict the weather either.

And so it went. Gavin MacLeod as Love Boat’s Capt. Stubing greeted his arriving guests as I greeted mine as they passed through my studio. Each week brought a new roster of surprise guest stars for both of us….doing our duties…rain..or shine….all before Fantasy Island’s Tattoo announced, “the plane, the plane!” Gavin MacLeod/Capt. Merrill Stubing…it was a pleasure to serve during prime time with you. RIP.

Combo Mothers/Fathers Day Celebration of On the Job Lessons From My Snarky Parents

Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are always a little tough because I lost both my parents nine months apart back in 2007. But what gets me through it many times is the fact they were both brilliant and hilarious and taught me many of life’s lessons. Since this will also show up on Linkedin, I thought I’d relate some of the valuable lessons they imparted to me about getting along at work. Hint: they vary between serious and, well, satisfyingly snarky.

Gertrude and Richard Garsten

From my Father: If your boss requires everyone to wear a tie, do so, but feign shortness of breath a few times a day to let the boss know the health risks involved in working all day with your neck in a noose.

From my Mother: Always look your best on the job. She always did, even when she volunteered as a lunch lady in our grade school. The payoff was an 8-year old gushing, “Mrs. Garsten, you look beautiful today!” The other lunch ladies would suddenly find an excuse to refill the napkin dispensers.

From my Father: If someone acts like a jerk, try to ignore it. But if they persist, you have to act. My father was a chemical engineer. Back in his day engineers worked in rows of drafting tables, and so, in close quarters with each other. He didn’t like it when one of the other engineers was disruptive, so he learned how to shoot rubberbands accurately at long distances. Many a workplace jerk suffered a welt from my father scoring a bullseye on the back of his head. Indeed, my father passed on to my brother and me his secret which I have used sparingly, but effectively, especially in movie theaters to neutralize a loudmouth in the audience.

From my Mother: Don’t be lazy! Early in her career my mother was a buyer at a big New York City department store. A high-pressure job. She despaired when she saw a co-worker just sitting around yakking or otherwise goldbricking. When I started my work life at age 9 at the local laundramat, I hated folding people’s underwear and other unmentionables, but my mother scolded me about being lazy and that no matter what a job entailed, you needed to do it because that’s why you were being paid. Considering I earned exactly one shiny quarter each day I worked, this turned out to be a motivational challenge, but the lesson always stayed with me because I worked in broadcasting which has roughly the same pay scale.

From my Father: If your boss is a moron…DO NOT SAY SO to his or her face. I worked for several morons over the years and never broke my father’s rule. Instead, I ignored idiotic directives and went about my business in what I thought were more sensible directions. The corollary to the rule was: don’t let the boss take credit for your good ideas! This may seem counter-intuitive to some who believe in the concept of “managing up.” However, if everyone else in the office knows the boss is a moron, they also know he/she could never have come up with a good idea and would know the boss attempted to steal the credit and you would look like a hapless doormat.

From my Mother: One of my mother’s favorite phrases when discussing a person attempting to stick you with a thankless task was “tell him to go shit in his hat!” She used an endearing baby voice when saying this, which took away some of its sting but still made its point. The one time I tried that my target kinda stammered before saying, “Um, I’m not wearing a hat.” That caused me to do a quick pivot to “Right. Then go fuck yourself.” The twin burns impressed my co-workers which came in handy when I was made the boss. But lesson learned from my mother, don’t let someone stick you with a crappy task.

From my Father: If you become the boss don’t be a wimp. He had been a boss on several jobs and his underlings feared him. In fact, when I worked a summer job at an engineering firm where many of my father’s former underlings were employed, I could hear whispers of “Be nice to the kid. He’s Dick Garsten’s kid and you don’t want him ratting on you.” At the same time, my father was much beloved because he was also respected for fairness, sense of humor and how much he truly cared for those who worked for him. I was never a tough guy boss. Just not in me, but I did use my father’s lessons in empathy and respect to win loyalty during the times I led a job or department.

I don’t know how either of my parents would have reacted to the social distancing we’re stuck with during his pandemic because they were both social, fun people who enjoyed close, interpersonal relationships. Besides, if someone acts like a jerk on Zoom, it’s damn near impossible to hit him with a rubber band.

Before I sort of retired five years ago I had a great career in news and PR and am enjoying a scaled back version of both in my semi-retirement. I have my parents to thank for setting great examples of how to survive and thrive in the workplace through a combination of hard work, humor and a little bit of recalcitrance.

I miss ’em both every day and honor them regularly by eschewing the wearing of ties and silently instructing those who deserve it to go shit in their hats.

Living With Mulch Mania…A Suburban Malady

I was enjoying the local newspaper, lit by the sunlight coming through my living room window when a loud rumble disrupted my analysis of my very troubling horoscope and things became very dark.

It wasn’t a storm. The rolling thunder was produced by giant pickup truck towing a trailer overloaded with a mountain of mulch. It pulled up to the curb in front of my house and two skinny guys armed with pitchforks got out and mounted the mulch pile and proceeded, for the next four hours, to spread the stuff around my neighbor’s property.

They mulched the borders around the house, they mulched the garden that hasn’t yet emerged from its winter’s nap. They mulched in mounds and piles and paths. By the time they were done the skinny guys looked as thin as the handles on their pitchforks.

Then another truck arrived to another house in our subdivision and another and another for several days. They were all loaded with mulch and crews of guys with shovels and rakes and pitchforks and cups of steaming Tim Horton’s coffee. They’d toss the mulch around every tree so high the maples and oaks looked like they were wearing mulchy mini skirts.

I get mulch is chemical-free and useful to retain moisture and retard weed growth but there’s so much of it applied it would take a 100 year flood to get the water down to the roots where it would do some good.

We moved to this sub about four years ago and it didn’t take long to catch on to the fact the folks here are apparently locked in a seasonal mulch death match. One resident will kick it all off with a fairly modest mulch application, perhaps even doing it themselves with bags of it from the local garden store. Touche’!

It doesn’t take long before another resident sees this and makes a quick call to a landscape company ordering a load of mulch for their yard that will make the do-it-yourselfer look like a pathetic mulch neophyte.

Then it all cascades into an all-out mulch brawl where homeowners put in their orders for even more mulch and before long there’s a convoy of mulch mobiles clogging up our streets and curbs and armies of mulch men are dispatched to pile it higher, higher, higher! Wider, wider, wider! Hell, pile it so high the damn mulch touches the lowest limbs!

Now I must admit, I do freshen the mulch around my trees and garden..a little! Usually 6 bags does it. I’m done dumping and spreading it in less than an hour and it looks pretty fresh for the season. Truth is, I could grab a wheelbarrow and skim off the first three feet of mulch from my neighbor’s yard and they’d never know it was gone..or maybe they would. Maybe they’re so obsessive they’re mulch measurers!

All I know is the obsession my neighbors seem to have for heaps of shredded bark and wood to the point of shelling out untold dollars for hundreds of cubic yards to cover their yards has me thinking they should rename our sub Mulch Gulch.

And, well, not to be rude, but considering the shape some of these folks are in, perhaps they’re already retaining too much water.

Video-My Personal Hemingway Awakening

I’m looking forward to the Ken Burns/Lynn Novick three-part documentary on Ernest Hemingway on PBS. In anticipation my thoughts drifted back to 1990 when I was the CNN Detroit Bureau Chief and correspondent. I’d only transferred up to Detroit from Atlanta the year before and was anxious to explore as much of Michigan as I could since in television you never know how long you’ll be anywhere.

When my wife and two kids scheduled a trip to visit her family in upstate New York for a week I thought it would be a good time to go on a road trip of my own to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and the area of the Lower Peninsula known as Up North. I asked one of my producers to try to schedule some stories in those areas and she came through with a great lineup. It ranged from giant sinkholes near Alpena to an issue with Native American health care near Sault Ste. Marie to panning for gold near Marquette and visiting a 10-year old young lady who became a pen pal with former Panama dictator Manuel Noriega.

But the most challenging story she booked was a tour through the areas in the Upper Peninsula and near Petoskey in the Lower Peninsula that were important to Ernest Hemingway. At that time I hadn’t actually read any Hemingway and in preparation pored through a book of his short stories–several of which took place in the areas we’d visit including the imagined site of the famed Nick Adams short story, “The Big Two-Hearted River.”

It was through my binging those wonderful stories that I began to understand Hemingway’s economical writing style–short, blunt sentences. Not a wasted word. In a few words he could take you from the exultation of landing big trout after wrenching battle to the devastation of an unrequited love.

We hooked up with a Hemingway historian who became our tour guide, connection to his sister, acquaintances and key locations such the family summer home on Walloon Lake and the Horton Bay General Store.

Given our tight schedule all shooting needed to be accomplished in a single day which meant dragging our extremely patient historian/guide to as many locations and interviews as we could squeeze in.

The truth is, there really wasn’t a new angle to our story. It was just a case of a curious reporter on a quest of discovery, perhaps making up for lost time having previously neglected to read one of the most significant authors of the 20th century.

Over these intervening 41 years I’ve now read almost everything Hemingway wrote and just a couple of weeks ago re-read those short stories. As a writer I would laugh at myself and yes, feel a little shame, at how many words it takes me to say something Hemingway may have related in half as many. They would be markedly better chosen as well, I would imagine!

I started thinking back to that long, humid day in June of 1990 when traced the steps Hemingway imagined for Nick Adams, who is believed to be his alter ego. Standing on the shores of Horton Bay, which is part of Lake Charlevoix, I recalled the story titled “The End of Something” where Nick Adams admits to the young lady he had been seeing the relationship was over. Happy endings were not a Hemingway staple. The spot seemed exactly as written and I could see in my mind’s eye the scene where the “something” devastatingly ended.

On our return to Detroit it was then my job to somehow distill all we had learned and shot into a cogent television story. I was generously given more than the usual 90 seconds to two minutes and took full advantage, gobbling a hair over four minutes.

So remember this was shot 41 years ago. I’ve changed a bit since then. So have we all. But I thought you might enjoy my Hemingway discovery before you watch what Ken Burns and Lynn Novick came up with.

Becoming an NFT-A Personal Transition

I’ve decided to make an important announcement. Since I no longer physically show up to any of my freelance gigs and only appear digitally on Zoom or Teams or Skype, I am officially transitioning to an NFT—Non-fungible talent.

By definition something that’s non-fungible is unique in digital form. OK. I get you may take it as arrogance by my pronouncement that I am unique, but unless you’re aware of a digital clone out there baring a scary resemblance to me, I think I can check off that box. I’ll also argue that there is no exact duplicate digital presence with my lineage, relationships or resume’. Unfortunately, there may be someone totally as screwed as I in the height department but that would simply be a sad coincidence inviting only commiseration, not exactly duplication.

Now there comes the issue of these ridiculously outrageous auctions for NFTs. Again, I realize desired artwork or a Kings of Leon album may command rich rewards. But those are non-fungible tokens. As a non-fungible talent, I would shamelessly be open to bids from prospective employers promising excellent cryptopay, benefits, working conditions, opportunities and the promise that as an NFT I would never be expected, or allowed, to physically show my face at the work site.

Not only would that negate my status as an NFT, it would expose the fact that in my digital form my wardrobe from below the waist generally consists of cutoffs made from discarded bagpipes.

I hope you’ll support me in my transition and save me a spot in the blockchain.

Parsing Draft Kings Urge to MAKE IT GREAT

Just a question. What the hell does it mean when the person the Draft Kings commercial tells me to MAKE IT GREAT. Oh she’s very emphatic about it with those big pauses between words. What exactly am I making great? I imagine it’s Draft Kings’ bottom line because the only money I ever won was way back in the 1980’s.

I was working at CNN in Atlanta and Claus von Bulow was on trial for killing his wife. Somehow I was closest to the day/time the verdict would come in and also correctly bet he’d be convicted. That was good for 25 bucks which I spent on a little wagon with plastic animals for my then two-year old son. Aww.

Oh, I’d won a couple of bucks here and there at the racetrack back in the 70’s and in the slots in Vegas and here in Detroit but overall my betting balance sheet is bright crimson. In short, I’ve never MADE IT GREAT.

I suppose being encouraged to throw away my money on sports by the Draft Kings “hostess” is better than being snarled at by Jamie Foxx in those spots for BetMGM. I know he thinks he’s a pretty cool guy but sticking out your chin, challenging me to back up my hunches by losing my lunch money on who’s gonna knock out whom when just rubs me the wrong way. Then at the end of the spot he kinda rotates his head, holding that sneer as if to say, “hey dumbass. I’m getting paid big bucks to do this commercial, but I bet I just scared you into betting the kid’s college fund on a professional thumb wrestling match in Bulgaria.”

That’s not MAKING IT GREAT. That’s PISSING ME OFF.

Between those two comes the young waif on the Fanduel commercial. I think they gave the poor thing 3.5 seconds to deliver 10 seconds of copy. She’s talking so fast in a practiced monotone I don’t know whether I’m being encouraged to lay down some dollars on a competitive rat wrestling tournament or watching auditions for a new talent show, Zombie Auctioneers.

I know one thing, that young lady wouldn’t screw around. She’d kick it out. MAKEITGREAT! Now if the Draft Kings hostess said it fast like that I might actually WANT to make it great if I could figure out just what I was making great.

Honestly, I would think someone trying to sell you something would say “MAKE IT SNAPPY” but definitely not MAKE IT SNAPPY, which would be irony at best. I mean, who bets on wordplay? Well..I suppose you could. I could see Jamie Foxx staring me down barking, “what’s it gonna be? Paradox or dichotomy? HUH? Double or nothing on parts of speech…back up yo hunch!” Okay okay. A hundred on paradox and gerund. Damn. It came in irony and adverb, which MADE IT GREATLY.

A Lighter Look At the Bolt EUV That Includes Froot Loops

I don’t get to test drive many vehicles but I had a chance to hop in Chevy’s new electric Bolt EUV. It’s a little bigger than the “regular” Bolt EV. The EUV stands for electric utility vehicle. I don’t generally write reviews and the story I wrote for Forbes.com is more of a look at the Bolt EUV from a marketing angle. But since I have this space available, I thought it would fun to add some other thoughts. Oh, you want a review? The short-short very is, if it’s comfortable, drives smoothly, the controls are sensibly placed and easy to use, the cup holders are the right size to prevent my large Tim Hortons coffee from tipping and the sound system isn’t tinny, that’s pretty much all I need.

Oh yeah…lotsa technology. In some vehicles that’s a catch-all term for stuff you paid for but will never bother to learn to operate. When I bought a 2019 Subaru Ascent SUV two years ago it had more screens than my neighborhood multiplex…and the cup holders were smartly snug. I actually spent three days devouring the owners manual to figure out what all the buttons, switches and screens did. Every so often I have to dive back in to remind me what a button is for if I haven’t used it in a long time. I must admit, there are some buttons I’ve never touched because the manual said I’d be safer if I just let them on. I suppose if I wanted to be less safe for some reason I’d flip the switch to “off” but then again if I did that I wouldn’t be using something for which I paid, even though I didn’t request it.

So back to the Bolt EUV. I liked it. The seat was comfortable and for a pretty short guy, I was happy my feet reached the pedals without having to shove my seat up so far the steering wheel was pressed against my chest. As is usual with an electric vehicle, you get instant torque to the wheels since you don’t have to move up through the gears as you do in a car with a gasoline engine and traditional transmission. Hit the pedal, car moves, quickly.

I also like the quietness of an EV because when I sing along with the radio I don’t have to scream at a level that makes the guy in the next car think I spilled my hot coffee in my crotch.

I did think it was curious that when I turned on the radio it was tuned to Howard Stern’s show. Since I ditched my satellite radio subscription after I retired and no long commuted I never really listened to Stern. Now I know why. For about 10 miles I endured some guy crabbing in the most foul language that someone accused him of eating Froot Loops. Why that would upset someone, I have no clue, but he was royally pissed and Stern kept egging him on and thereby pumping up the guy’s profanity. I stayed with it because I just wanted to know how this moron would wrap up his beef, but I had a good laugh imagining the Froot Loops toucan feeling insulted and biting of the guy’s pecker…before I changed stations to 60’s on 6 in a satisfying attempt to recall the years I spent having my severe acne treated by a sadistic dermatologist who took more than casual joy at popping every pimple with something that looked like an shoemakers awl.

It was easy to have such a sophomoric thoughts about Froot Loops guy because I was taking advantage of the Bolt EUV’s coolest technology, the Super Cruise driver assist feature. Previously only available on expensive Cadillacs Super Cruise is available as an option on the Bolt EUV for about $2,200. When you’re on a road compatible with Super Cruise, you engage adaptive cruise control, center the car in its lane and wait for the little light to glow telling you it’s OK to engage Super Cruise. Then you hit another button and the top of the steering wheel glows green when Super Cruise is ready for action. Then you can let go of the wheel and take your feet off the pedals and Super Cruise will take over. You have to pay attention or Super Cruise gets pissed and starts blinking lights and making noises until you take back control. Watch my demo of Super Cruise in the video below.

Super Cruise not only reduces a lot of fatigue when you’re on a long, boring drive, it’s huge fun to pull along someone, make quick eye contact then let go of the wheel and watch the guy’s cheeseburger drop from his mouth. It’s honestly terrific technology and gives you the first taste of what it might be light to cruise in a self-driving vehicle. I should point out, Super Cruise is not a toy to be used to scare the crap out of fellow motorists, but rather an extremely useful tool that helps keep drivers fresh and engaged. If I was buying a Bolt EUV I’d definitely spring for Super Cruise.

Besides, it would leave my hands free for when I get a little hungry…and crave a tangy, sugary bowl of Froot Loops. And I wouldn’t care who knew it.

Mail Bonding Over the Wait For Free Stuff

Sorry I haven’t posted anything lately. I’ve spent a lot of time waiting–my mail. Tom Petty had it right when he described waiting as the “hardest part” because it’s a useless waste of the limited time we have on this orbiting marble. Annoyingly half-full folks may giddily laugh off waiting as “oh, it’s just building anticipation.” That, of course, is not true. It’s time spent not doing what you’d rather, or need to be doing. 

In my case, I’ve wanted to write a blog post you may feel worth your precious time to read. But I’ve found if I decide to use the time I’ve been waiting for do something more useful or fun, the thing for which I’ve been waiting suddenly happens so the other thing now has to be set aside. That’s also annoying.

In the case of my mail, I waited more than a week to receive any. Oh, I receive some sort of mail every single day and I like that. I don’t care if it’s junk or a bill or a circular from a guy who wants to trim my nose hair, whatever appears in my mailbox is like a little surprise package that alternately delights, disappoints or pisses me off. Doesn’t matter. When I go down to my mailbox I want mail in it. The only mail I don’t like is when it’s not mine. The mail carrier on my route has not yet mastered that trick. Oftentimes I will break into a wide grin when I discover my mailbox is full only to be cruelly disappointed when I discover none of that stuff was addressed to me.  Not only didn’t I receive my mail, I now have to shlep down the block to shove the misdirected printed matter in the correct mailbox and hope whoever received mine will act in kind.

Still, I’m no better than one of Pavlov’s dogs. Place mail in box. Arf, arf! I dutifully wag my middle aged ass while lumbering down to my mailbox in hopes of finding a yummy in the form of some dreck asking for money I owe, promising me money I’ll never receive, advertising something I’ll never need or begging me to vote for someone I’d never consider. But there’s a great deal of satisfaction when I can run into the house calling, “mail’s here!” and the family hurries over to see what “gifts” the person driving a vehicle with the wheel on the wrong side has left in our box. As soon as they see what crap it is their gleeful smiles instantly transform into daggers aimed at me, the guy who brought the envelopes of disappointment into our house. 

It’s hard enough to know my own family has taken out their disappointment on me, occasionally mouthing “you bastard” when I bring in a circular for a store that doesn’t even have a location within 200 miles of our town. Well, how can you blame them. How frustrating would it be to see an amazing sale on juice boxes or deer repellant knowing you don’t have a shot at scoring the deal without taking a five-hour drive, burning 50 bucks worth of gas. 

During the week we received no mail for one reason or another I should have simply taken residence in a motel until the crisis past. It’s almost worse to return from the mailbox empty handed than to bring in a bundle of bullshit.  “Whaddya mean there’s NOTHING IN THE BOX! Go back outside and find some!” Indeed, families are helpful during trying times except if their patience is tried while awaiting the arrival of free stuff with stamps. 

I’m happy to say I’ve been welcomed back into the house after mail delivery resumed last week on an everyday basis. We don’t always receive mail addressed to us, but the silver linings are we are learning the names of our neighbors and where exactly they live and if any other them are likely receiving social security checks. Good to know. 

As for me, I’m now done waiting for my mail since it seems to be arriving everyday again at about the same time. But I’ve learned me lesson. If we receive five things, I’m hiding away at least two in case we don’t receive anything the next day. If someone in my family wonders aloud if we’ll receive mail tomorrow, I allow myself to smile confidently while telling them, “just wait.”

The Day Larry Flynt Ran Me Over

On the occasion of Larry Flynt’s passing I thought I’d pass along a brief anecdote of an even briefer, but painful, encounter with with purveyor of porn on a day I was um, hustling, to cover his latest endeavor.

It was back in the 1990’s and Flynt decided to open a Hustler store in downtown Cincinnati–a town once derided by some as “Censor-nati” for its intolerance to the type of content folks like Mr. Flynt promoted.

As you might imagine, Flynt’s new store was not appreciated by many of the Queen City’s conservative subjects, who staged a mighty protest in front of it. On this day Flynt was due in court a few blocks away and that’s why I was there, covering the story for CNN.

We heard Flynt would make an early morning appearance at the store when it opened so my camera crew and I wedged ourselves in the tight space in front of the door so we could get a good shot of the man as he entered and perhaps a comment or two.

As you probably know, Flynt was confined to a wheelchair after he was shot leaving a courthouse in Lawrenceville, Georgia. Ironically, that’s the town where I lived before being transferred to Detroit as its bureau chief by CNN.

Of course Flynt didn’t just have a run of the mill wheelchair. His was gold plated and heavy as hell. I know this because when he finally arrived, he ignored our questions and rolled right over my feet and on into the store. When I complained to him that he ran me over, Flynt, the sensitive guy, laughed and muttered, “tough shit. You were in my way.” Heh..it wasn’t porn he was perpetrating that morning. It was pain. Mine. But it was my solid gold story to tell when the time was right. I guess this is it.

One epilogue to the story. After the court hearing we returned to the Hustler store to get some shots. While we browsed a bit, we enjoyed the patter between an elderly couple and a store clerk on the merits of certain sex toys. They ended up selecting a boxed assortment of which I won’t describe. I’m not sure either was in shape to use them for any length of time, but Gd bless ’em for trying!

Meanwhile, my producer found a copy of Architectural Digest among the porn. The store stocked some non-smut stuff in order to look legit. When she brought the magazine up to pay for it, the grizzled guy behind the counter gave the glossy periodical featuring balusters instead of boobs a curious look, shook his head and mumbled, “can’t say we’ve sold too many of these.”