Monday, November 19, 2012

On the road again, in style!

Many of the people in my industry are...not in my industry anymore.

When it comes to broadcasting, syndication has replaced your local DJ and your local program host. Budget cuts have reduced radio and television newsrooms to one or two-person operations. And that's for the stations that even bother with local news.

Internet technology has replaced production specialists and both audio and video editors. A radio station that's staffed with local DJs, local reporters, local news anchors and local program hosts is certainly a rare and special thing anymore. The loss of local media harms local communities, but it is a sign of the economic times.

I always try to keep these realities in mind because, for some reason, I'm blessed to have two radio jobs and one of those includes my producing and hosting a television show. I'm no more deserving than hundreds or thousands of others, but I have the opportunity and I'm taking it.

The television show is recorded in the St. Louis area, at Lindenwood University. It's just under four hours of driving, one way, from my Grandview home, twice a month (we record three or four shows at a time). That's a lot of driving. I crunched the numbers and it's actually cheaper in the long run for me to just rent a car for the trips.

I actually enjoy that because, in the wise words of Mama Gump: "You never know what you gonna git" when it comes to a car. Most of the time, I get a basic sedan. I always reserve the cheapest car possible: economy in order to save money. I've never been hung up on driving the coolest car. I like my '97 Camry because it's dependable and gets good gas mileage and I don't care what car I drive back and forth on I-70, as long as it has cruise control.

I don't need to impress anyone and my car is paid off. I REALLY like not having a car payment.

Today, though, I found myself falling into that guy stereotype. The one about guys and cars.

I walk in to the Enterprise office in Grandview and the rental agent says "Mr. Ferguson, we actually have an economy car this time. Or we can upgrade you, if you don't like this one. It's a FIAT."

I wasn't even sure what a FIAT economy car is and told them, it's ok, I don't need to look cool. I'll take the economy one.

That's when another rental agent offered (insisted) that I take a look at both. I learned what a FIAT economy car is: a box that is slightly larger and barely heavier than the Hot Wheels cars I used to race on little plastic tracks in the 1970's.

G.I. Joe would fit inside this thing.

I was worried that a bird would land on the roof and crush it. If that happened, the firefighters wouldn't need the Jaws of Life to save me; they'd need a can opener.

Then, he tells me " For six more dollars, we can put you in this..."

THIS is a brand new Dodge Challenger with less than 6,000 miles on it.

Um, yeah. For six bucks, I'll take the challenger and it's muscle-car looks, unnecessary engine power and cool factor in which I'm out of place.

I don't know what came over me. Mr. Save-every-penny and Mr. Get-the-best-gas-mileage who is also Mr. I-don't-care-if-I-look-cool suddenly jumped at the chance to, well, look cool. Hey, fake it till you make it.

Here's the funny thing: you don't just feel like you look cooler in a car like this. You do look cooler in a car like this.

It's really been interesting today. I pull into the gas station and get stared at, almost reverently, once I step out of the Challenger. I pull through the drive-through and the female employee, after looking over the vehicle slowly, thoroughly and almost sensually became the friendliest food server I've ever experienced.

There was a line of cars behind me in the line but she wanted to strike up a conversation. About anything. With a lot of eye contact and giddy smiles. As long as I didn't drive that car away...

I'm not used to getting much attention from women but that car and I sure caught some eyes today. I've even had complete strangers walk up in parking lots, praise the car while just wanting to talk to me. This is in one day.

Are people that shallow that a person's appeal is judged by the car they drive? Well, yeah, maybe, but I'm not going to harp on it because I'll admit I ate it up. Not only did a piece of machinery change how people looked at me, it changed how I projected myself to others, knowing they were looking at the car.

I don't know why, other that it's been fun. I know I'm not a high society guy and I'm never going to be rich (and I'm ok with that) but getting a little taste of what it's like has been a hoot.

The car goes back to Enterprise on Tuesday, and I go back to being just me, with an old car. I'm ok with that, too. The real Mike still doesn't need a car to define who I am.

But I'll take the Challenger for an extra six bucks again next time, if offered.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The only constant change, so they say.

Who are "they", by the way? "They" are quoted more than anyone else in history but I've never quite figured out who "they" are.

But, I digress, as they say.

Anyway, it looks like I haven't posted here in over a month and a half. Here are some updates:

My trek back to full strength continues, but I'm not there yet.

I've fallen off the wagon when it comes to my cardiac rehab workouts over the last few weeks. I haven't been perfect on my diet but I'm still eating alot better than I did before the heart attack.

Somehow, I haven't put back the weight I've lost over the past few months.

Here's me now. I'm about 198 pounds in this picture.

And here's me shortly before it all happened, at about 221 pounds.
So, there's that. That's some progress I'm happy about although I still have a ways (about 15 more pounds) to go. And I still plan to complete that Insanity workout program. It's not even so much about the weight loss and strength gains promised in the infomercial - it's about the principle of meeting a challenge I set out for myself and it's about proving that I am, in fact, back to full strength and recovered from the heart attack.

I think that I'll feel like that entire episode is behind me once I'm back to full strength.

In other news, the little project David White and I started in 2007 called "Missouri Viewpoints" may be coming to a radio or television near you soon.

My public affairs project that began as short interviews with camcorders in the now-defunct Hard Bean Cafe is not being recorded in an HD studio at Lindenwood University. That happened through the partnership with Missouri News Horizon, my other job, and the university.

We're making the show for both radio and television and already have one radio station on board in St. Louis. One cable channel in St. Louis has also agreed to air the program weekly as well. There's also been interest expressed by two other television stations in the state...and this has all happened before we officially launch the program and begin our marketing effort!

As I type this, three full shows are already "in the can" (completed) and we'll have three more done after I do new interviews this coming Tuesday.

The program will not be just political. We're going to also highlight health, economic and cultural issues that affect the state. Frankly, this project has been alot of fun so far. I should probably not have any more heart attacks for the time being, because I don't want to get behind on this one.

The target launch date for the show is December 1st.

I remain blessed to be able to work at KLJC in Kansas City as well. I'm now hosting the afternoon show solo (3:00 - 8:00) because my partner-in-broadcast crime, Leslie James, moved to the morning show after one of the hosts had to leave due to health reasons. It's turned out to be a good move for the entire station.

I'm now down to one kid in the house, as Austin has chosen to go live with my ex-wife in Florida. I covet your prayers for him as a result.

Otherwise, I am close to having a schedule as busy as before with the radio show in Kansas City (not to mention my role as Program Director here), a television show in the St. Louis area, anchoring news and directing a non-profit news organization as a part time job and even working in a little writing for Kansas City's Christian newspaper, the Kansas City Metro Voice, sometimes.

But, the change I'm struggling with the most right now: I now have a Mac.

Yep. I'm a Mac-snob-in-training, assuming I ever figure out how to work this blasted thing.

My FIRST night with the Mac? Election Night. So, I was trying to post news coverage of Congressman Todd Akin's election watch party on a computer system I've never used. Reporters from four different organizations took pity on my and showed me enough of the Mac basics to get through the night. One of them was a direct competitor of ours but media types tend to help each other out at times like this.

I couldn't thank them enough and I'm sure they appreciated the amusement of my staring dumbfounded at the contraption most of the evening.

That's about it for now. There are many things ahead for me and Amber that we'll be learning from and sharing here. Until then...