We’re Going To The Tournament Of Roses Parade

rose parade

Every New Year’s Day Helaine would gaze at the tube and tell me how “one day” she’d like to see the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena. Tomorrow she gets her wish. I ordered tickets and a parking pass and gave them to her on Christmas Day. It was a huge surprise and proof it is better to give than receive.

You actually don’t need tickets to see the parade. People are already lining Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena and the parade is 19 hours away! That process just seemed too iffy.

I read the instructions on the parking pass yesterday. Be parked by seven and be prepared to stay until the parade is done! The lot will be staged like long term storage with cars blocked in. My assumption is their 7:00 AM deadline is a little flexible, we’ll still be up very early.

The parade gets underway at 8:00 AM, but doesn’t pass our location until a little before 9:00. The line-of-march takes 2&#189 hours to complete.

On a good day we’re an hour from Pasadena. I have no idea how traffic will be. We plan on leaving the house around 5:30 AM. We’ll only be off the freeway and on Pasadena streets for a few blocks.

Doppler will come along hidden in a shoulder bag. Shhhh. Clicky’s coming too.

We’ve been to Macy*s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City. That will be tough to beat. It was spectacular. The big difference will be the weather. It should be in the fifties when we arrive, but close to 70&#176 by the time we’re done, all under sunny skies.

No Movie, No Chinese Food


No one was surprised as we when our Irvine cousins gave us all Disneyland annual passes! Before they could change their minds, we joined them yesterday at the happiest place on Earth.

If you think Disneyland is crowded on Christmas Day when the sun is shining and the temperature is in the low 80s (record high), you’re right. And when I say crowded, I mean Tokyo subway crowded. Sardine can crowded!

We dropped Doppler off at the sitter, left Roxie to her own devices (good doggie) and headed north to Anaheim. It’s under 25 minutes from here.

“This is where they want you to get off,” said Michael, as we passed the official Disney exit on the “5.” Local knowledge is good.

Garage, tram, in! That was easy. We took a curbside spot on Main Street for the afternoon Christmas parade.

Disneyland is nearly sixty years old, but everything is bright, shiny and incredibly well maintained. And, obviously, they’ve learned a lot about organization over that time.

The parade was colorful. Perfectly picturesque. The human participants even lip synced to the music through their permasmiles.

Unfortunately for Stef, the parade was reinforcement of her biggest Disney disappointment. Piglet, her favorite character, is an in-person persona non grata. When asked, no Disney castmember we asked had ever even seen Piglet.

Contract dispute? Payback for some perceived slight? We’ll never know.

We stayed a full day, but only rode four rides. Wait times were nuts.

It’s A Small World (which I originally saw at the New York World’s Fair in 1964) had been closed in preparation for its Christmas changeover. It was worth it. The ride, which was feeling old and faded, has been refreshed. The Haunted Mansion has also been overhauled for the holidays, though not as thoroughly. Paul Frees iconic voice no longer does the narration. That’s the kind of thing I notice.

We also hit a Winnie the Pooh ride and Cars Land in Radiator Springs. We entered the ‘singles’ line for that one, meaning we were used as extras to fill rows, cutting the advertised wait by more than half.

We’ve got passes. We’ll be back. And it’s oh so close.

The Movie We Didn’t See Tonight

IMAG0327-w1400-h1400This story needs a setup. It is tradition with the Foxes and many other Jewish families, Christmas Day is spent at the movies followed by Chinese food. Go back in the blog to any December 25th entry and you’ll read about a movie and a meal!

This year, since we’re close to Stef, it’s likely she’ll join us. Neither Helaine, Stef nor I agree on which movie we should see.

OK. You’re caught up. The story continues…

Stef called this afternoon. Did I still want to see “Saving Mr. Banks,” with Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson?

I knew I wanted to see this movie as soon as I watched the trailer. Hanks. Disney. Nostalgia. Hooked!

Stef wanted Helaine and me go. Goodness of her heart? Not tonight. Going removes one choice for Christmas.

“Mr. Banks” opens ‘wide’ next week, but Orange, CA (not far) is among the “selected cities” showing it now. Normally a 25 minute trip, Google suggested a back way which would take 28 minutes. The usual route, 45!

Christmas shopping I suppose. That and Kanye West playing at the Honda Center in Anaheim, under a mile from the theater.

We occupied Doppler with a treat and snuck out through the garage. By the time we were on our way, Google had changed its preferred route. We were still skipping the major roads. Still saving time.

The parking lot was jammed. I dropped Helaine at the box office and looked for an open space.

She was first in line when I caught up with her, but the news wasn’t good. “It’s not playing here,” she said.

Stef and then her father had searched correctly for the movie, but didn’t look closely enough at the result. When the movie wasn’t available tonight, Fandango just offered up the next showtime: December 20! The date was on the page, but I was expecting tonight’s movies, Fandango.

We ended up at Costco.

Darlene Love Means It’s Christmas

I realized I was acting like those people who’ve seen Rocky Horror Picture Show a few dozens times and now talk back to the on-screen dialog.

darlene-love-christmas.jpgIt is said Jews have written the best Christmas songs. This is what we talk about while going to the movies and having Chinese food on Christmas Day. There’s White Christmas and The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire) and Christmas (Baby Please Come Home). The latter has the distinction of also being the finest Christmas song from a convicted murderer–Phil Spector.

Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) was performed tonight on the Letterman show by Darlene Love. She’s been doing it on his last show before Christmas as long as I remember and I look forward to it every year. I’m not alone.

For late night TV this is a big budget production. Along with Paul Shaffer and the band there was a nine voice chorus, six string players plus a few brass pieces and other instruments I surely missed.

Darlene’s still got it. She belts the song. She hits the notes while staying mainly on key. She wears a skirt short enough to shame women a third her age and gets away with it.

Darlene is always on last. That makes her appearance late enough that I’d never watched it with company until tonight. I had to drop off something at my friend Rick’s house and we watched from his basement.

What a scam! The man works from a studio in his basement. Sorry–jealousy getting the best of me.

Rick is an announcer. You have heard him a million times. He sounds like God.

I always wanted to be an announcer, but wasn’t born with the equipment. I told him tonight he is my Mickey Mantle.

Darlene finally came. I waited a year for this. I was excited. Rick, not so much.

As the song began I told him what was coming next. I realized I was acting like those people who’ve seen Rocky Horror Picture Show a few dozens times and now talk back to the on-screen dialog.

It made no difference. Darlene was magical. The song is hers alone.

I left Rick’s a few minutes after Darlene’s exit. I watched her again a few times on the DVR at home.

This is obsessive behavior right? It’s the way I know it’s really Christmas.

Christmas With A Cold

My cold continues to blossom. Last night I felt it make its first move, escaping from my throat. Today, I’m sneezing.

I took some Sudafed this morning, which made a difference for a while. Tonight, it was capped with Alka Seltzer cold tablets. The jury’s out on how those work.

Originally, it was going to be an easy day. Sit. Relax. Forget about work. That was not to be.

We’re very short at the TV station. One of our meteorologists is out of town. Another was injured jumping out of a second story window in a fire (Mostly bruised, he’ll be back shortly)!

I’m in, again, tonight. I’ll be in, again, tomorrow too! I’ll be working 13 in a row and 20 of 21, including Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Don’t cry for me. It’s not as if I don’t like my job.

PIC-0175Between shows I went with Helaine and Stef to a little pre-Christmas get together at our neighbors’. The tree is up and the house is decorated. It’s really pretty. Dinner was served on Christmas plates.

Yeah, we’re jealous. Having a tree and all the accouterments of the holiday is very appealing.

People always ask, “Why don’t you just get a tree?” It wouldn’t be right. It’s not our holiday. We still enjoy celebrating with our friends.

Our neighbors have the two best behaved, most polite, boys I’ve ever seen. They’re almost Stepford like. I’ve known both these kids since they were born and they both call me Mr. Fox.

They were brought up like that. Respect is a lost art for most 21st Century kids.

Amazingly enough, the younger one, now in the 4th grade, was the bartender! I’m not talking about pulling a beer from the cooler or pouring wine. He had a handwritten set of instructions and was measuring out some pretty fancy concoctions. Martini glasses were frosted and filled.

Maybe it would be wrong under different circumstances, but not here. He was helping his parents and doing a pretty good job of it! This was all about being a team player. It had nothing at all to do with the liquor.

Mr. Fox did not imbibe.

Comair – It Was The Software

A few days ago, while pondering the Comair Christmas meltdown, I said:

Comair isn’t letting me into their inner sanctum, but it’s probable that the structure of the computer system that handles their crew assignments, weight balance, manifesting and the like wasn’t equipped to handle all the ‘exceptions’ it was asked to ponder this past week.

I hit it right on the nose! Linked below is a story from today’s Cincinnati Post which details exactly what happened.

Comair says the computer system was due to be replaced. I wonder if the DOT inquiry will show it should have been replaced a while ago. How long was Comair operating close to the limits of their system? Was this problem predictable?

Continue reading “Comair – It Was The Software”

Working Christmas Eve

I have been in broadcasting 35 years. This is probably the 33rd or 34th I’ve worked Christmas Eve and Christmas.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not complaining. This is my choice. I have top seniority in the newsroom and get first choice on any day off.

In radio it was pretty awful. Usually I was living alone, away from home. Christmas isn’t a good time to be alone.

I remember one Christmas morning tracking Christmas albums. During the Christmas season you can play the ‘hits’, but when you’re playing wall to wall Christmas songs there are lots of inside tracks from old Jackie Gleason and Andy Williams albums that get played.

Now, in TV, we make more of an effort. I was surprised to find a full compliment of producers this afternoon when I walked in. They will have their hands full because there really isn’t a lot of news today (an explosion in Baghdad will get more play than it normally would). Politicians and even criminals (sometimes one and the same) are home with their families.

I always get requests to track Satna. This year I’m using very cool animations from Analytical Graphics. These are folks who normally create visualizations of missile launches or space probes. They’ve really done a nice job on Santa and his sleigh.

I’ll be working tomorrow, Christmas Day, as well. It was a scheduled day off but Gil (our weekend nighttime meteorologist) wanted to go to North Carolina to spend some time with a friend… a marine… who is shipping out.

I normally feel good about letting co-workers spend time with loved ones. This year I’m very glad Gil got to go to see his friend. Isn’t that the spirit of Christmas?

Being Jewish at Christmas

I had to work later than normal tonight. We’ve just installed a new computer graphics system. It needed a little last minute tweaking… what is sure to be the norm for a few weeks, at least.

Darlene Love was scheduled to be on David Letterman tonight. Though I finished my work before she was on, I waited until Darlene sang so I could hear “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).”

This was her 19th trip to the Letterman show – or so said Dave. “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” is certainly the best Christmas song ever written by a Jewish guy under a murder indictment (Phil Spector). Even up against “White Christmas” (Irving Berlin), it might be the best Christmas song written by a Jewish guy, period.

The hell with it. It’s just the best Christmas song and Darlene Love is unbelievable singing it. It has become a tradition for Letterman to bring in a full string section and large gospel choir… and she was born to sing this song.

I’m glad that I can appreciate Christmas songs. There was a time I couldn’t – when I was totally divorced from Christmas. Being Jewish, it’s not my holiday, but I have come to embrace the secular aspects of Christmas and the general warmth and good feeling that goes around.

Growing up Jewish, around Christmas, is very difficult for a kid. It is a holiday with exceptionally powerful images. Families get together. Houses get beautifully decorated. You get presents.

As a kid, I remember Christmas Day being very isolating. Nothing was open, not even gas stations (as my father found out 40 some years ago). All the ‘good’ shows were off TV, replaced by religious or holiday oriented programs. Of course you couldn’t go to friend’s houses or have them over either. We were circumspect on December 25th, trying to fade in with the woodwork.

It wasn’t until “Animal House” (1978) that I realized a good Jewish Christmas included Chinese food and a movie.

I’m not sure when I began to embrace the Christmas spirit, but I do remember always volunteering to work. Once, in radio, I pulled an 8 hour shift (radio shifts are like dog years in that they are multiplied by a constant before they’re comparable to real life) so others could spend the day with their families. By my rough count, I’ve worked 34 of the last 35 Christmases and will work again tomorrow.

The New York times did an article Monday about the unwritten pact that brings Jews to work on Christmas, and has gentile’s covering for us on the High Holy Days. Thursday, our newscasts will be produced, anchored, directed and primarily staffed by Jewish people.

It wasn’t always this way, but today I love the lights and the decorations. I like to see the tree at neighbor’s houses. I love egg nogg, though I had never tasted any until I was well into my twenties. I once sat slackjawed as I watched Andy Williams sing “Sleighride” and realized just how good he/it was.

Even more, I love the thought of people traveling so they can be close to their relatives and parents. Marianne, a waitress at the little luncheonette next to the station, is flying to Chicago where she’ll meet her granddaughter for the first time. What could be more Christmas than that?

There’s a line, somewhere, that defines how far I will go in celebrating Christmas. Steffie has always wanted a Christmas tree. That’s over the line, though I understand why she wants it.

It used to be, I’d shy away from saying Merry Christmas. I don’t any more. I hope you have a Merry Christmas. Personally, I’m going to enjoy working so others can have one.

However, if you’re not celebrating, I’ll see you at the Chinese restaurant.