Saturday, June 30, 2012

The President and the professional football player...



Probably only a handful of my loyal readers know just how important I am - er, WAS until last week.

Until last Sunday at about noon-thirty, I was the President of the Louisiana Sports Writers Association. Elected in June of 2010,  I succeeded the great editor of the Bunkie Record into the office, a man who knows more politicians than the D.C. Madam.

No, I was not the first female president of the organization. The great Prep Editor of the Baton Rouge Advocate, Ms. Robin Fambrough was the first. I was the second.

There aren't a whole lot of responsibilities that come with the job. I sent out a few newsletters (not enough, apparently). I had to put my signature on a whole bunch of important documents I didn't understand. I got to drive five hours to listen to a whole bunch of movers and shakers discuss the plans for the new Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame under construction in beautiful downtown Natchitoches, Louisiana. (And it really is beautiful. One of my favorite places in the world.)

And it's probably good that there wasn't a whole lot of work to do because, two weeks after my election two men in ties told me I was no longer a sports writer for The Times-Picayune. I was moved to the front desk to be a receptionist/clerk/cashier/crime reporter. Yes, I went from being a Prep Writer to a Perp Writer.

But, in my free time waiting for the Mayhem Guy to strike,  I did manage to build our group a web site  and a Facebook page.

The best part of the job, however, was the annual Hall of Fame Induction ceremony. Every year us sports writers (and ex sports writers) get together and elect a handful or so of Louisiana's greatest sports legends to be inducted into our not-quite-finished Hall of Fame in beautiful downtown Natchitoches. Just because we don't have a place to put them isn't going to stop us.

Last year, it was a dream come true when we inducted legendary New Orleans Saints place kicker Morten Anderson (who I used to have a mad crush on -- along with every other red-blooded woman in NOLA).










This year it was Warrick Dunn.

Even if you don't follow football, you may know Dunn's story. A fabulous high school football player with the future at his feet, Dunn was a senior in high school when his mother, a Baton Rouge police officer, was shot and killed while accompanying a store manager for a night deposit. The young Dunn was left with six younger siblings. To raise.

I remember the event, and remember  praying for him and his family and thinking, "God. I hope the universe pays him back. I hope he gets everything he deserves."

He did. The community and his family stepped up and allowed him to go to Florida State to play for the legendary Bobby Bowden. Then he went on to an extraordinary career in the NFL with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers --  despite being "too small" to play running back.

He has spent the ensuing years giving back through his Warrick Dunn Foundation, most notably by giving away homes to working parents, helping other kids who have lost parents to violence and being just an all around good guy.

And in August he was elected to our Hall of Fame.

And then the universe paid me back. My soon-to-be-ex editors asked me to do the story on him. Thrilled to do a sports story of any kind -- especially one on him --  I jumped at the chance. And after making the right connections, he was sent my cell phone number.

And on a Friday morning he called me. It wasn't my best interview. He made me nervous, which almost never happens. But I got what I needed for a fairly decent story.

Then, last week, we both headed to beautiful downtown Natchitoches, where we had a brief  but torrid affair. OK. It was a Twitter affair.


To my shock and delight, he tweeted me back!


  I wasn't kidding, though, about stalking him.  I found him at the kickoff press conference and introduced myself.

Bad picture. Not all sports writers are photographers.

 Then again at the hotter-than-hell golf tournament.

Yes I wore my BLACK Save The Picayune shirt in the 104 heat.
And I continued to tweet!




On Saturday afternoon, after working hard to make myself stage-presentable, I posted this one from my "professional" account:


Then came the moment I was waiting for...


After which I tweeted ...

To which he replied ...



Yes. It's good to be The Prez.





In all seriousness, my reign as president of the LSWA was one of the greatest honors of my life. I have been with these people for more than 20 years, in press boxes, on playing fields, in long boring meetings and at our annual conventions and Hall of Fame inductions. We tell stories, we laugh, we pick on each other, we play Bourre, we drink and, through it all, we became a family.  That they thought enough of me to elect me their president meant the world to me.

On Sunday, I handed the office over to my former fellow prep writer and former editor and soon-to-be former co-worker, Jim Kleinpeter, (I was cut. He was not) with a kiss and a hug and more than a few tears. I tried to deliver this little speech... But failed.
Just two weeks after being elected president of the LSWA, two men in ties told me I was no longer a sports writer and broke my heart. So, I've spent the last two years being your president/crime reporter/clerk and toilet-paper-orderer. And I was pretty angry and bitter. Then, just two weeks ago, they told me I was no longer employed. After 26 years. And I've been pretty angry and bitter. But last night, sitting on that stage, I had LOTS of time to think (LOTS of time). And I realized how LUCKY I have been. Not just to kiss Warrick Dunn and Deuce McAllister and Morten Andersen, but to have gotten to meet and know all of you. I leave today with the title of president behind me, with a Mac Russo Award on my wall at home, my share of writing awards, and a Roy Lang II column devoted to me, and a family of friends I will cherish forever. No matter where I end up. I love you all.
 


I have no idea what will happen to me next, where I'll be come October 2nd (I'll be in bed on October 1). I don't know if I'll be a teacher, a plant worker, a home health nurse for the mothers-in-law, a kept woman, a pool cleaner, a house cleaner or a worker at McDonald's. But I'll always be a writer. A sports writer. With wonderful memories. And friends.


Saturday, June 16, 2012

-30-





One by one, one after another, my Facebook feed quickly became filled with them. And my heart broke with each and every one.


-30-

The age-old code from reporter to editor signifying the end of the story.  On this day, it had a different meaning -- yet the same.

-30- From the crime reporter in New Orleans.

-30- From the Bureau Chief in St. Tammany.

-30- From the man who edits my copy.

-30- From the education reporter..

-30- From photographer after photographer after photographer.


And, shortly after noon on Tuesday, June 12, from me.

After 26 years at the storied Times-Picayune newspaper in New Orleans, it took a woman I had known and admired forever about two minutes to tell me that I was being offered a severance. She handed me a big white envelope and patted my hand. Asked if I had anything to say. Any questions to ask. I said nothing. I did my best to hold back my tears.

After 26 years I was no longer wanted, no longer needed, no longer useful. The newspaper is going in a different direction - digital -- and will cut its print run from seven to three in the fall.

And even though I have kept up with modern technology more than most with my abilities to blog and build web sites (four to date), with three Facebook accounts and three Twitter accounts - I do not fit their mold. They offered no explanation.

 And thus, the only full-time female sports reporter on the staff until two years ago, when I was summarily moved to clerk and crime (and chief toilet paper orderer), a two time Prep Writer of the Year, was fired. One of five of my fellow sports guys to be let go. One of four in the Artic outpost known as the River Parishes Bureau. One of 200 total.

At least I'm in good company.

My fellow bureau workers were waiting for me outside the plush executive office. One had gone before me; two were waiting their turn. Only one survived.

 My husband, who had driven me there, was waiting downstairs in the marble lobby, praying. I rode the long escalator down and handed him the envelope, hugged him and cried.

A few minutes later I went back upstairs to find my nephew, the computer genius I recommended for a job many years ago and who did survive the cut. He was in the cafeteria, among a bunch of press men in blue coveralls who watched us hug, and the men in ties.

Back when I was the young, skinny, single and poor girl in sports, the circulation managers used to invite me to their table and buy me lunch on occasion. I became friends with all of them; dated a few of them; had a torrid affair with another. One tried to fix me up with a brother-in-law.

On this, perhaps my last day in this building, I hugged each one (totally against policy, I might add) and wished them luck. I think they're going to need it.

And then I faced the long ride  back to my office for the next 100 or so days. I returned to my desk. I answered the phones. I typed up the crime for the day. And continued to watch the heads roll, one -30- after another.

-30-


Mignon Faget has created this beautiful pin to support The Times-Picayune workers. Click for more information.

 


Saturday, June 9, 2012

Really?




So, I'm supposed to just carry on?

Get my nails done. Get my hair done. Buy groceries. Cook supper. Clean my house. Fill up my car. Watch TV. Pay my bills. Love my husband. Take my daughter to the movies. Or shopping for shoes.

 And sleep?

I'm supposed to do all these every-day things between now and Tuesday... or Wednesday, if they don't get to me on Tuesday -- or maybe Thursday.

And then I'm just supposed to walk into a room and wait for a man in a tie to tell me, "Yes. We want you."

Or

"No. We don't."

Like they do to the contestants on American Idol.

And then I'm just supposed to get up and go to work the next day, and the next, and the next, and the next,  just like nothing has happened.

And then I'm supposed to read the Facebook posts and tweets and blogs from my friends and colleagues as they pour out their hurt and anger and say their farewells.

And I'm not supposed to cry when they tell us all what an honor and a privilege it has been to do what we've been doing.

But we won't be doing it any more.

And I'm supposed to just watch friends and co-workers disappear.

I don't know if I can.







Monday, June 4, 2012

Mother-Daughter Day






"It's a bitch to get old."

I see it in the mirror every day and night, feel it every morning in my hips and my feet, cover it up every few weeks with Preference hair color 5CB.

And I see it in my mother.

Oh I think she is still gorgeous. Well, when she's all fixed up and ready to go to work in her "Black makes you look skinny" shirt, pants and shoes, her endless dangle of gold chains (complete with Lucky Buddha), her dazzling display of rings and things, her "Kiss Me" red lipstick and her snow white hair. And her teeth in.

Yes, she still works, commutes even, driving an hour from the suburbs to the New Orleans French Quarter (then back), where she puts in a good eight hours a day, five days a week reading Tarot cards for the lovelorn and the confused at The Bottom of the Cup Tea Room. And she is very good at what she does.

But sometimes her 78 years knock her on her ass. And me too.

Like this week when I agreed -- naively enough -- to take Mom to her appointment at the local hospital. I told my boss, "I should be in around noon." And I believed it when I said it. Yeah. Like Gilligan's Island, it always starts out as a three hour tour.

Although she will argue the point to her death, Mom is very anemic.

"I don't know why they say that."

It's obvious by the color of her eyes, the whiteness of her skin and the endless cups of crushed ice that are always in her hands.

"That's an old wives tale."

No. It isn't. Chewing ice is a definite sign of anemia. But she also has been feeling very weak for the past few weeks.

"Well gee. I am 78 years-old, Lori. For God's sake."


So her doctor insisted that she have thisintravenous iron infusion three times over the next six weeks. But, coincidentally, on the morning of her appointment, her sciatic nerve got pinched. And no one else on the face of the earth has ever had this happen to them.

"Oh.My.God. This is the tortures of the damned! How can anybody stand it?"

So, at 6:30 on the morning of her 10 a.m. appointment, I get a call from my husband, who has gotten a call from my mother.

"I didn't want to wake you up."

 She may need to go to the emergency room because she is in so much pain she can't stand it.

"OHHHHHHHHHHHHH"

So, I get dressed, down some coffee, grab a breakfast drink, my iPhone and the charger (because the last time we went to the ER my phone died and I nearly did with it), my Kindle and its charger, leave my daughter with her babysitter -- the standard poodle -- and head around the corner to her house (close enough for ME to walk, but not for her). And assess the situation.

"OHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!"

She is obviously in a great deal of pain, but has dug in her cabinet of old (no, I mean REALLY OLD) medicines and found some Tylenol 3 from back in the 80s when she had her teeth done.


"That took the edge off a little. OHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!"

So, she decides that she thinks she can make it to her appointment, then we'll try to get to the ER next door to get her back checked out. And we head out s-l-o-w-l-y to my car and the short 15 minute drive to the hospital.


"Can you turn the air off so it's not blowing on me?"

I flip the vents closed.

"If you want me to find someone else to take me, just pull over."

"What?"


"I'm sorry to be such a bother to you."

"What are you talking about?"


"You act like I'm such a burden on you."

"Oh stop it."

"What are they doing to this road?"

"They are repaving it."

"Hmmm?"

"They are repaving it."

"Why are you yelling at me?"

"Because I HATE saying everything twice. I'd rather say it once, loudly."

"Well you yell at people."

Not Soon enough, I am pulling up this great big hill -- in New Orleans, mind you -- which is what you have to climb to get to the front door of the hospital. I'm thinking (stupidly) that I can get her out, to the bench right inside the door, then find a wheelchair to wheel her to reception. I start to help her out of the car.

"OHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! Wait. I can't. I can't walk."

"You have to walk to the bench and I'll go find you a chair."

"NOOOOOOOOOOO. I can't! I can't!"

"Mom. You have to."

By now she is about to fall down dramatically in the parking lot. I figure I have no choice but to try to pick her up.

"Noooooooooooooo! I can't!!!! Stop it! Stop it! Wait!! Leave me alone!! Let me go! ARE YOU CRAZY?????"

I'm well on my way, Mom.

Now, I'm looking around for help. There isn't a soul. There isn't a doctor, a nurse, an orderly, a gentleman, a priest, a cop, a handsome man. Nothing. There is a middle-aged woman who is watching us, with her lips pursed and a scowl on her face. And I just know she is about to whip out her cell phone, dial 9-1-1 and report me for elder abuse. Seriously. And one of my fellow Times-Picayune reporters is going to be writing about me. And her.

Crazy mother, crazy daughter have throw-down in hospital parking lot

That'll sell some papers before we go out of bidness.

Eventually, I do get her back in the car, where I leave her (motor running; it's 90 degrees already) to go find a wheelchair.

Now, you would think that a nice, big suburban hospital would have wheelchairs all over the place for its patients. Right?

"Wrong."

 I head inside the lobby and look around. None. Just a whole bunch of people  -- a lady with a baby, a guy with crutches, a grandfather in a bathrobe -- obviously waiting for their own chair. Finally, I ask the lady at the reception desk where I can find one. She has one hidden behind her desk.

"You can take it, but please, please, please bring it back."

Really?

So I wheel it over to my car, get Mom out once again.


"OHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!"

Then park her off to the side while I go park the car. On the way, I dial my husband's phone.

"Hey baby."

"I am about to get arrested for elder abuse."

"(Chuckle). Well don't."

I climb the hill to the entrance (who puts the entrance to a hospital up a hill anyways?) to where Mom is parked and start to push her inside.  Guess what. The doors aren't automatic. I have to push the chair, and hold the door open. At the same time.


"What kind of place is this?"

"A F'd up one."

I finally get her to reception, take her ID and insurance card and stand in the line of about six people to get registered. While I'm doing that, she has made best friends with a couple sitting nearby, telling them the whole story of her current ailments and what an ordeal we just had just getting there, and what a terrible daughter I am.

I text my sister, who is NOT here: I am about to get arrested for elder abuse.

Sis: Tell her you will put her in a wheelchair and make her look like an old lady.

Really?

Somehow, I do get her to her appointment. And back to the car. And then the Urgent Care Center for her back.  And then to the drug store for the four prescriptions they wrote for her. Then back to my house for some food. Then back to her house. Then to my sofa for a long, well-deserved nap.

But never to work on this day.

That just wasn't in the cards.

Getting old is a bitch. Worse is watching my mother get old and need help but not want to ask for it because she doesn't want to bother me

"I don't want to be a burden, Lori."

"You're not a burden, Mom. You're a pain in the ass. There's a big difference."

 


Read and Be Read: Hanging out with the cool kids at yeahwrite.me.