Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Live at Five

The first time I ever saw the inside of a television studio was almost forty years ago.  It was on the eve of the very first World Cup Gymnastics Meet, held then in the Miami Beach Convention Center.  A much smaller even than the one McDonalds now sponsors, it featured just a few competitors from the world’s elite band of gymnasts. Kathy Rigby and John Crosby represented the United States.  Russia’s entrie were Ludmilla Torescheva and Nikoli Andrianov.
I worked the event with members of the Miami Dade Junior College (MDJC) Gymnastics team and members of the Muriel Grossfeld School of Gymnastics, of which my college coach, Bruce Davis was the local owner and head coach.  Muriel Grossfeld, Bruce’s sister, was at the time the US Women’s Olympic coach.  Her husband, Abe was the Men’s Olympic coach.
I’m telling you this to explain what Bruce, a high school Sophomore named Kurt Thomas, and a couple other MDJC gymnasts and I were doing at the Miami CBS affiliate.  It was a short segment filmed as a promo for the upcoming inaugural World Cup Gymnastics Meet.  I took my camera along and did get some stills, but they’re long since gone.  Hey – it was almost forty years ago, remember?
The studio, even during the relative quiet between live broadcasts was still crawling with activity – and people.  A director, producer, several cameramen, the on air ‘talent’ hosting us, and of course, the guests – that would be us.
Now we fast forward almost forty years.
Reginald Roundtree & Heather Van Nest
I’ve gotten to know former Miami Beach policeman turned news anchor, Reginald ‘Big Daddy’ Roundtree, quite well during the last year.  Just as a sense of setting, I graduated from Carol City, a high school in Northwest Dade County, in 1971.  Reg graduated from Miami Beach High in 1975.  We probably sat across the field from each other at Traz-Powel stadium at MDJC in Opa-Locka, but never met until last year when Reginald asked me if I’d like to cover a story with him.  His side would be for TV while I would do my thing for the Tampa Examiner, an online column for which I usually do book reviews, but occasionally cover other community events.  I jumped at the chance, and we’ve been friends since.  In the coming weeks, I’ll be interviewing ‘Big Daddy Reggie’ for my column.
Last night my wife and I were Reggie’s guests on the News set at WTSP, 10News, the local Tampa-St. Petersburg CBS/Gannett News outlet.  All I can say is wow, things sure have changed!
We arrived at the station on Gandy Blvd around 4:15.  Reggie came down to the front lobby and ushered us into an empty studio and got us settled into our seats at the back to watch the magic begin.
L to R:  Reg, Melodie & Heather
Throughout the evening – we were there through the 5:00, 5:30, and 6:00 airings – we were made both welcome and comfortable by the floor director, Stephanie, Reg himself, his co-anchor Heather Van Nest, Chief Meteorologist Jim Van Fleet, reporters Chase Caine and Melody Michael, and Senior Sports Director Dave Wirth.  I really can’t emphasize enough how much the 10News team made us feel at home.  They were all business when he cameras were rolling, but as warm and welcoming as family during commercial breaks and off-site feeds.  You know that teasing, cut-up banter you see so much between local news teams during a broadcast?  These folks did it even when the cameras weren’t rolling.  We both got the feeling that this was more than a bunch of people thrown together by a television station to do a job.  They actually like each other, and click so well on air, because that’s how they are off-air.  The newest member of the team, Meteorologist Jim Van Fleet said working with this group of people felt like family.

Sports Director Dave Wirth
Jim Van Fleet at the Green Screen
One other thing stood out to us.  Everything, including the three large rolling cameras loaded with prompters and enough electronic gadgetry to make ‘Q’ happy, were run by Adam, a quiet guy in headphones sitting at a sophisticated control panel of buttons, slides, monitors and a joystick, in the back next to the Green Screen.  That’s where you had to pay attention.  The three large mobile cameras moved around the floor seemingly as if they had minds of their own.  Flashing safety lights notwithstanding, if you’re not paying attention, you could get run over!  The level of automation in the studio was just amazing.
And, as I said, the welcome we were given was warm and genuine.  These folk are real people who care about their community.  Reggie’s coverage of the Cleveland area high school shootings was warm and heartfelt.  Heather’s story about a new breast cancer screening was clearly from the heart.  Jim Van Fleet had us quietly chuckling over his on-air quip about the above normal temperatures expected during the upcoming local strawberry festival ‘baking the berries.’
The 10News Team: Jim, Reg, Heather & Dave
Overall from begin to end it was a great time for both my wife and I.  We learned a lot about what happens during a typical broadcast, and made some new friends.  Thanks Reg, Heather, Melodie, Jim, Dave and Stephanie.  It was great!
Hey – check out the new 10News team in the picture below:
L-R: Dave, Reg, Heather & Linda

Monday, February 20, 2012

Remembering Aunt Alice

Alice Eckhart (L) Jekyll Island, GA, June 1976

Thirty seven years ago this coming August, I had the great privilege of meeting three amazing individuals.  Within a year, one would become my Father-in-law, one my Mother-in-law, and the third my Aunt-in-law, although in all honesty they were just Mom, Dad, and Aunt Alice.

In ways unusual to me, and certainly outside of the family into which I was born, I was unaccustomed to seeing such broad, open acceptance of a newcomer into a very closely knit family as that I felt when I became a part of the Baier’s and Pletz’s of Lansing Michigan.
About a year after the wedding, Dad Baier would go home to meet the Savior he loved and served, fallen to inoperable cancer.  I can honestly say I have never met so Godly a man, or so consistent a man in my life.  Some have come close, and I mean no disrespect to them when I say this, but Oscar Baier was an amazing man who loved and served God as a deacon in his church, a faithful, loving husband, and adoring father to his two children, one of whom would be my wife for 22 years.  I still miss him every day of my life.
In the years following Dad Baier’s home going, Mom Baier, Aunt Alice, Grandma’s Baier and Pletz would eventually sell their individual homes, pool their resources, and build the home where the four ladies would live together.  Time’s passing brought the home going of both Grandmothers.  Hey lived into their ninety’s and brought joy into the lives of those who knew them, and left holes in the hearts of those who loved them, when they went to meet their Savior.
Saturday morning at seven minutes past midnight, Aunt Alice took her last breath in this realm and opened her eyes in the presence of Jesus.
When I first moved to Michigan, I lived in Aunt Alice’s spare room the summer leading up to my marriage to her niece.  A generous, independent woman, it was quickly obvious that beneath her sometimes gruff exterior beat a heart of pure gold.  I was never her ‘nephew-in-law’.  I was simply David.
Make no mistake, when I screwed up, something at which admittedly, I excel, she let me know it.  I never had to question where this sainted woman stood on a subject.  Open with her opinion, she expressed it with honesty and integrity, and never in my knowledge out of anger, although being who I know I am I’m certain there were many times she demonstrated great restraint around me.
She sang in the church choir, was active in women’s groups in her church, worked hard all of her life – even in retirement – and made brown gravy that was a food group all by itself.
She loved her brother, and never really got over his passing, or that of her own husband, whom I never met, early in their marriage.  Mom Baier, her brother’s wife, was her best friend – even before they were sisters-in-law.  Oh, there’s that word again.  There were no ‘in-laws’.  Marge was her sister, and her friend, and oh yes – her brother’s wife – probably in that order.
And as I said –she never treated me as an outsider ‘in-law’.  She loved me and demonstrated that love as much, I like to think, as she would her own child, had she been blessed to have one.  Rather than weep openly over not having children of her own, she extended the love she would have given them, to her brother’s two daughters, their husbands, their children, and ultimately, their grandchildren. And to the whole pack of us, she was simply, “Aunt Alice”.
Her funeral will be today, and I won’t be able to be in attendance, but there is an empty place in the core of my being that is exactly ‘Alice’ shaped.  I rejoice in the knowledge that she is, as the Apostle Paul wrote, ‘absent from the body, but present with the Lord,’ but I don’t think I will ever get over my personal, admittedly selfish sense of loss.  We were not related by blood, but I loved her none-the-less.
Some years back I dedicated my second collection of poetry to Alice and Marge with these words:

Dedicated to Alice Eckhart and Marge Baier
Sisters by marriage and best friends by choice.

Two Proverbs 31 women who always treated me like a son.

This is the title poem from the book, Alice’s Goldfinch.

Alice’s Goldfinch
By David Roth
© 5th December, 2008

Yellow bird,
perched on the shadow
of eternal Spring,
I envy you.

Thistle and flaxseed your dining delight,
window companion whose song gives me flight,
flittering gaily from dawn until night,
fly away, hide away sprite.

Little bird,
brave golden watcher
sentinel on vigil
blossom duty calls.

Sweet the attraction that brings me to you,
each year returning afresh and anew,
wait by my window, ignore the taboo,
je t’aime, merci beaucoup.

Alice Eckhart was a true Proverbs 31 woman. 
I still miss you, Aunt Alice.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Phobias & Other Confusing Things

I consider myself to be a reasonably rational individual.  I’m passionate about the things I believe, and try to be a student of why I believe a thing, or disbelieve a thing.  I’m admittedly anal retentive about using the correct word or words to state my (or your, for that matter) case.  This creates problems for me because my condition often results in a barrage of questions being heaped upon the shoulders of an individual using the wrong word.
For example, I am a Christian.  I believe that men are born sinners and that Oprah is 100% wrong in her assertion that all roads lead to heaven.  The Bible, after all, says Jesus is the only way, and states it in such way grammatically that the only way to draw any other conclusion is out of wilful ignorance.  I believe the Bible teaches that all human beings are born sinners, and that all human beings are sinners by choice.  That deadly combination results in a destiny of eternity in a very real place called Hell.  However, while I believe that God hates sin, He loves sinners and provided a means by which sinners can be redeemed from an eternity in Hell, and that means is faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ as the payment of and for our sins.  The Bible is crystal clear on these things, but because human beings have the free choice to reject them, human beings often  skew things to excuse, hide, or couch their rejection by attacking those who believe them.
As a Christian, I believe the practice of homosexuality is a sin. However, I do not HATE homosexuals any more than I hate gluttons, liars, or speeders.  Gluttony is a sin.  Lying is a sin.  Speeding (breaking the law) is a sin.  The Bible is very clear about God’s position on sin.  He hates sin, but He LOVES sinners so much that He allowed Jesus to die for them – no exceptions, no exclusions.  If you accept Christ, you go to heaven.  It’s that simple.  If you reject Him, you don’t.
However, an interesting smokescreen has been employed to cover this particular  act of disobedience to God’s Word.
I am now called a ‘homophobe’ because I believe homosexuality is  sin.  Seriously?  I mean, do you even know the etymology of the tag you have chosen to describe me for my belief?  I thought not.
Here’s how it breaks down:

Homo - NOUN:

A member of the genus Homo, which includes the extinct and extant species of humans.
ETYMOLOGY: Latin homo, man; see dhghem- in Indo-European roots

Phobia: NOUN:
A persistent, abnormal, and irrational fear of a specific thing or situation that compels one to avoid it, despite the awareness and reassurance that it is not dangerous.
Put them together and what do you get?  “An individual who has a persistent and irrational fear of members of the genus Homo, which today means Human Beings!”
In other words, when you call me a homophobe, you’re trying to imply that I hate those who practice homosexuality, when in fact your choice of words suggests that I am afraid, irrationally so, of human beings!
For the record, neither choice is either true or accurate.  I am neither afraid of nor do I hate homosexuals.  I do believe that what they practice is sin.  Just like when I overeat it is sin.  But, I’m not a hater, nor am I fearful.
On that note, I have a question.  What is it about liberals that they want to put me in jail for smashing sea turtle eggs, but are willing to help me destroy my own unborn child?  And why do they scream “It’s a woman’s right to choose” when what they really mean is “Yeah, I know that when she chose to have unprotected sex with the understanding that she could very well become pregnant, she made her choice.  I think she should be allowed to change her mind even if it means destroying the human equivalent of that turtle egg.”
See what I mean?  There is no consistency – just double talk, justification, and semantics.  I suppose it was this knowledge that by giving His creation the ability to make wrong choices, they would more often than not choose wrongly, that He offered His Son on a Cross to redeem mankind from their sin.