I am just beginning to reenter the world of the living. Going to New York was a major shock to my system because of the one day schedule upheaval. I went to work a few hours before I normally wake up.
It was well worth it. Make no mistake about that. I had a great time, in spite of the weather.
Steffie accepted my offer and came along. While I caught a few hours sleep Wednesday evening, she decided to just stretch her day. By 1:15 AM Thanksgiving morning we were getting into a town car for the ride to Manhattan.
The ride started under cloudy skies, but by the time we got to Bridgeport, it was snowing. The snow was light at first, but before the New York line it was covering the road.
The town car blasted along between 65 and 75. I was beginning to get a little panicky. I didn’t want us to be the first Thanksgiving highway statistic!
As we moved through Westchester and into the Bronx, the snow turned to sleet and quickly to rain. Now the highway was just wet.
I asked the driver to stick to the West Side because I assumed some streets would be closed for parade preparations. We headed down the Henry Hudson Parkway, past the beautiful George Washington Bridge. At night the lattice of the bridge’s towers are lit, making it look like a gigantic model bridge. It’s too good looking to be real or functional.
Traffic was light as we transitioned from the Henry Hudson to the West Side Highway. We were doing 74 mph when the cop caught us on radar!
I’ve never been pulled over in New York. It’s an experience. There’s no shoulder on the highway to safely stop, so the cop called through a loudspeaker, telling us to pull off at the next exit.
I got antsy and wanted to intercede. Steffie, wisely, kept me in check. As it turned out, the limo driver had things well in control.
Unbeknown to us, he had a small metal NYPD shield in his wallet. His cousin is a cop in Midtown Manhattan (or so he said – does it really matter). Under the unwritten law of professional courtesy, the officer acted angry, asked the driver if he knew how fast he was going and then walked away. Just like that. Holy cow – those things do work!
My instructions from ABC said to meet at 79th Street and Central Park West. There was no way to drive there, so we got out at 77th and Columbus.
I talked my way past a young guy standing security at Columbus Avenue, only to get questioned again at Central Park West. This person was tall, unhappy, and actually speaking into his wrist! When I asked if he was with the police or Macy’s he said, “Both.”
He was a little more thorough, wanting to see some ID. I don’t have an NYPD press pass, but I did have my Channel 8 ID. He looked at it for a few milliseconds and said OK – but he’d accompany us.
We headed uptown, past workers getting ready to march. We walked by the stately, somewhat Goth, Museum of Natural History. When we got to the next corner it was 81st Street.
There is no 79th and Central Park West! Uh oh.
I called Chika, my producer. She too was on her way. She asked me to stay put until she got there. Steffie and I stood under my umbrella in the rain. We were next to the Manhattan North command post and there was a constant buzz of activity.
When Chika got there, we realized not only was there no 79th and CPW – there was no live truck! I was standing there wondering if we’d get on the air at all. That thought only lasted a few seconds, because this type of logistical miscue happens all the time. Somehow, it always works… well almost always.
The truck ended up on Park Drive South, with a long cable run to the parade. The photographer, Mark, set up and we were ready to go.
Before leaving Connecticut I had cut the audio for a package on the parade. That track was for timing. Now, in the truck, using the strangest looking microphone I’d even seen, I recut it with better audio.
Along the curb, camera after camera after camera set up. All the local New York stations were there, as was GMA (ABC, but separate from us) and Today.
As shot, each reporter stood with the street behind him. Truth is, we were all shoulder-to-shoulder-to shoulder.
Let me take a second to apologize for anyone near me Thanksgiving morning. I project… OK, I am loud. It must have been tough for the reporters next to me, because I’m sure they heard me. Disconcerting, no doubt.
I cut a tag for World News Now, ABC’s overnight show, and then the live shots began.
It didn’t begin smoothly. The IFB system (IFB for interrupt feedback, describes the communications system that allows me to hear both the TV station in another city and its producer) was flawed. I was hearing a few syllables at a time and then silence. Something was there, but it wasn’t usable.
The first few live shots ended up being me fronting my package without interaction with the local anchors. I couldn’t speak with them, because I couldn’t hear them.
It wasn’t long before the IFB was squared away and we started ‘servicing the affiliates.¹’
Here’s how it works. Chika speaks to the producer via cellphone. My IFB gets switched so I can hear their ‘air.’ We go over the names of the anchors and who I’ll be speaking with. Sometimes, if while waiting to go on I hear a weather forecaster mention local weather, I’d ask Chika to get his/her name.
Once on, I ad libbed a little about what was going on and then tossed to the package. On the way out I’d talk about the forecast of wind or let the anchors see the new Scooby Doo balloon resting across the street.
We did live hit after live hit after live hit. Sixteen separate shots over the morning. It was great!
I suppose you might say I’m a live TV slut. It’s a rush – a seat of the pants experience each and every time. I have called it crack for middle aged white guys.
After it was all done, the folks at ABC NewsOne thanked me. I appreciate that. But, the truth is, maybe they were doing me the favor. It’s a job I enjoy doing and they gave me the opportunity to do it from a great location, on a fun story, on stations all across the country.
The icing on the cake was going there with Steffie. I introduced her early on as my daughter. As the morning wore on, and other people came and went, she was just accepted as part of our crew. It’s nice to see her as a grownup and to see other people see her that way.
-- 0430 World News This Morning
-- 0515 WFTV - Orlando
-- 0545 WJLA - Washington
-- 0550 WTNH - New Haven
-- 0615 WFTV - Orlando
-- 0620 WTNH - New Haven
-- 0640 WCPO - Cincinnati
-- 0645 WJLA - Washington
-- 0650 WTNH - New Haven
-- 0705 WTNH - New Haven
-- 0720 WLS - Chicago
-- 0740 WTNH - New Haven
-- 0800 KABC - Los Angeles
-- 0820 KXTV - Sacramento
-- 0840 KNXV - Phoenix
-- 0900 KABC - Los Angeles
¹ – When I ran into Al Roker and told him I was there ‘servicing the affiliates’, we both smiled. It does have that stud horse implication.