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April 2001

April 28, 2001
7:22 PM EDT

Last weekend was a wonderful time, as I flew up to Louisville, KY to go to my old friend Brad Ott's wedding. Brad is a great guy, and we had some fun times back in the day in college. Plus getting to see the likes of Smitty and Combs was cool, and also some people I hadn't seen in a VERY long time, like Pud.

I nearly missed my flight out of Tampa. Trying to be Mr. Timing, I left work early, at 6 AM, and figured with a 15 minute drive to the airport I would be fine for a 7 AM flight. But then I got the clever idea of parking in "economy" parking, but that meant having to wait for a shuttle bus. By the time I got to the Southwest Terminal, it was 6:30, and there was a long line at Southwest.

Luckily, Southwest seems to have good employees, as they were working hard and fast. I got checked in by 6:40, but I was told to "run" to make it on time. I had to take a shuttle train to the departure gate, and from there it was a mob scene with a ridiculously long line for the security checkpoint. Time ticked away far too quickly, and by the time I made it through the line it was 6:57. I needed Dramamine, and luckily a store was right there, so I bolted in and demanded to know where the Dramamine was. I bought it as quickly as I could, and I sprinted over to the gate. They were making the final boarding call at that point, and I barely made it.

Once in Louisville, Brad and Kyle (Brad's brother) met me at the airport. We rode around and ran some errands; no hurry for me, as my hotel room wasn't available until 2 PM. From there we went to Brad's parents house, which is a really nice place. After talking some with Brad's family and watching some Family Feud on TV, we headed over to Brad's place where Sarge and his wife Susan were staying. I found out, much to my surprise, that Sarge is now a police officer in Tucson. Imagine that! Anyway, drowsiness was starting to kick in for me (remember, I normally work all night and sleep all day), and the 1 1/2 hour long nap I had on my flight in wasn't enough. We made it over to the hotel, and I almost immediately fell asleep. Smitty came by (and I woke up long enough to say hi). Finally I got up just in time to catch a ride over to the wedding rehersal.

It's funny, because people mostly reacted to me with surprise, since I have a shaved head now. I need to get a new picture for the front page with it (especially since my pic on there now is from 1997). Combs had the most crude comment of the weekend, calling me "Lou-kemia", which is really not a funny thing to joke about (ever see that episode of Seinfeld where Jerry tries to bomb on stage and he breaks out a cancer joke?) I was told that I look like Moby (the singer) with my head shaved. Smitty made the astute observation that it gives me a distinctive look for the clubs; between my shaved head and my black dragon shirt, I'm set.

The wedding on Saturday was long (being a Catholic wedding, which includes a mass), but it was cool. After the wedding I saw... Gigolo Joe Pacheco, who drove down for it (I hadn't expected to see him there). Then I found out that he and Chaz are engaged! So I guess Joe will finally be able to lose the Gigolo moniker. Joe and her had been dating when I moved to Huntington back in '99, but I had lost touch with Joe so I hadn't heard. He invited me to their wedding in September (up in Fort Wayne, IN), and I plan on going to it. I finally got to talk with Mary, Brad's new wife, at the reception. With Brad being in Louisville and me being in Evansville/Huntington, I'd been out of the loop.

The reception was a fun time as well, and I talked with Stacey, who admitted that she didn't recognize me at first (I look very, very different than I did at Harlaxton), but she tells me that she might end up down in Tampa this summer, which would be very cool. Between her and Smitty both talking about moving here, it seems like this is the place to be. Smitty had bought the latest Trivial Persuit on Friday night, and that made for hours of entertainment. He and I made a good team; I know sports well, he knows medicine well, and the other stuff like history etc. we know decently enough to make it work. Late night Friday night he and I had a classic game against the team of Pud and Big Red. I did get a bit pissed about missing a question about Andrew Lloyd Webber (you know how it is when you know the answer, but just can't think of it...) Also, for some reason (7&7), I decided it would be a good idea to throw a Twizzler at Werner, who was over by the window... but the Twizzler ended up going out the open window. Oops.

Sunday morning I knew I had to fly out at noon, so I was set for that. I was down in the lobby trying to figure out how I'd get a ride, as most of the people were planning on going to a brunch at the Cracker Barrell. Sitting on the couch in the front lobby, I made a horrific discovery... my flight ARRIVED in Tampa at noon; it left Louisville at 10:05 AM. It was 10:10 AM when I realized that. As you might imagine, I was less than thrilled. After some consulting and a rather hectic call to 1-800-I-FLY-SWA, I tried getting a ride from Patrick, who had been asleep, but then Brad and Mary gave me a ride over to Brad's parents house, and they got me to the airport. I was told that it would cost 60 bucks to upgrade my ticket, but I said that was fine, whatever it took to get home. I then found out that there were no more Louisville to Tampa flights for the day, but that instead I had to fly Louisville-Birmingham, Birmingham-New Orleans, then wait 3 hours and catch a New Orleans-Tampa flight. All of that... STANDBY. And, to make matters worse, the Louisville-Birmingham trip was sold out. D'oh! But the cool guy at the gate didn't make me pay to upgrade my ticket, and luckily there was one seat left, so I made it to Birmingham, then stayed on the plane on to New Orleans. I tried calling my friend Mike Miller, who lives in New Orleans, but I got his answering machine. I sent out some e-mails from this interesting "Free Internet" kiosk thing they had set up at the airport, and I bought a book to read. Finally, the Tampa flight was set... and there was room for me on it. I made it back to Tampa just in time to drive home, change clothes, then immediately head to work. A wild trip, huh? I think of what Bill Murray told me last month, "That will work out for you, just like everything always does." If I had needed to call off from work... that would have been a very bad thing. Luckily, it all worked out.

Besides that, it's been busy here, with work taking up quite a bit of my time. This week we debuted our new set and a brand new super package (supers are the graphics you see on TV newscasts). Also, they changed the name of our morning show from "10 News Daybreak" to "10 News This Morning". Radio DJ Bubba the Love Sponge ribbed our new set as looking like "Balsa Wood", but it really does look nice...

April 15, 2001
3:18 AM EDT

"With a chance to make it good somehow
Hey, what else can we do now?"
-Bruce Springsteen "Thunder Road"

I had my first chance to investigate the nightlife here in Tampa this weekend. Last night I went to a club called The Empire, which played some really good music, but unfortunately had far too many dudes; it was a total sausage fest. But it had a cool atmosphere, including an interesting catwalk-type setup. Plus, their $2 Long Island Iced Tea special was tough to beat.

But tonight... tonight was great. I went to a place called The Amphitheatre, and I knew my luck was running strong when I found a $5 bill on the ground at the ticket booth; as if fate decided that I'd be paying half-price tonight (the cover is a rather steep $10 there). But once inside... wow, what a great place. They had a rotating dance floor, and some incredible music. I'd heard good things about the Tampa club scene and the music here, and it managed to live up to the hype.. and then some. And the women, wow... very nice.

Hello to all my new co-workers at WTSP. I found out this week that when the announcement was made of my hiring last month there, they posted the URL of my webpage. So.. that gave them a chance to find out a bit about me before they ever met me, which is pretty interesting.

I was very surprised about the ouster of Amber from Survivor this past Thursday. Colby looks awfully tough to beat, but with my pick to win, Jerri, already gone, I'm not sure what will happen now...

I'm looking forward to seeing the new show The Weakest Link on NBC on Monday night. It's a port of a British show to American TV; it worked with Millionaire, though in this case they're keeping the British host on (Chris Tarrant does the British version of Millionaire, and of course Regis Philbin does the U.S. version). If you like game shows at all, you should check out -- they have some interesting shows in the planning stages...

April 14, 2001
5:55 PM EDT

"Man, go to Tampa and never come back to Huntington. There's nothing to do here."
-One of the movers from Martin Transit, April 5, 2001

"You can never escape, you can only move south down the coast..."
-Counting Crows "Mrs. Potter's Lullaby"

"475 West -- Birmingham Tampa"
A sign on Interstate 75 in Atlanta, Georgia, offering false hope at 5 AM, April 6, 2001

First of all, let me wish a happy birthday to my brother, Matt Pickney. He turns 20 today, so if you by chance run into him tonight in Nashville (for all you readers in my hometown), wish him a happy one.

Here's the story of the Tampa move. On Thursday, April 5th, I picked up the Ryder truck from a place in Huntington. Because of availability problems, they didn't have a dolly for the truck, so instead the guy hooked me up with a car carrier. Now let me mention at this point my dislike for driving large vehicles -- I hate it. Trying to maneuver in traffic, dealing with no way to look through the back window (kind of hard when the truck has no back window), etc. just isn't my idea of fun. As it is, I'd just as well have someone else be driving, but with it being me, and only me, moving to Tampa, I had to suck it up.

I carefully drove the truck from the Ryder place to my apartment. My timing was perfect -- I had the truck there at 9 AM, right when the movers from Martin Transit were scheduled to arrive. When they hadn't shown up by 9:30, I was concerned, so I called and was told that they were running late on another job... but that they'd be there as soon as they could.

At 11:30, two and a half hours after their scheduled time, the moving crew showed up, two young guys, and Robert Martin, the owner of Martin Transit. The first order of business was for Mr. Martin to ask incredulously how I couldn't have any "pads", which I presume is moving business lingo for padding. I apologized, as I had no idea that was something I needed. As it was, I thought I was doing well to have most of my stuff boxed up (which was a week-long ordeal, involving landing boxes from liquor stores and grocery stores and the like). The two guys then tried to start loading my stuff into the truck, but then Mr. Martin began yelling at them about the way they were loading the truck (and there was no problem with how they were doing it -- Mr. Martin was just being an intolerable prick). Finally, the truck was loaded by about 12:55 PM. One of the guys talked with me about the bill, and the price was $75 -- $50 an hour for 1 1/2 hours. I asked if a check was okay, and he said sure. No problem, right? Riiiiiiiight.

I gave the check to Mr. Martin, who said "I don't need no check, I need cash." Glad he mentioned that before. He asked me who told me I could write him a check, and I said that one of his guys did. So that meant a quick trip to the ATM for me.

I had asked the two guys if they could help me line up the Ryder truck with my car carrier, as I had to unattach it so they could get the ramp down. The guys were fine with it, but once Mr. Martin had his cash, he wanted to go. I was desperate at this point, and I pleaded with the two guys to help me like they had promised. I mean, it only took 30 seconds, just having them direct me in backing the truck up. But Mr. Martin wanted to head out -- and he started the truck. But then one of the guys said, "No, man if the situation were reversed I'd want you to help me," so he and his co-worker ignored their boss and helped me line up the truck. "I'm a full grown man, and I make decisions for myself," he told me. I thanked them profusely, and then they were gone.

The strange thing is that Watts Bros. moving, which was already booked for the day, recommended Martin Transfer to me. But for those of you in Huntington -- do not do business with Robert Martin and Martin Transfer.

Oh, but the fun had just begun. I had Mrs. Bell, my landlord's mom who lived two doors down, keep an eye on my truck while I headed to the hardware store for a lock. The lock I had purchased at Kroger was unfortunately too small. However, the closest hardware store... had closed down. D'oh! Wonderful Huntington economy... So I headed to a nearby Dollar General and found a lock there. I returned and locked up my truck... then went to sleep on the floor of my then almost entirely empty apartment.

I woke up at 6 PM, after maybe 3 hours of sleep, and went over to WSAZ. My boss, news manager Ken Selvaggi, and I went to dinner at Red Lobster and talked things over about my time at the station, plans for the future, etc. My final day of work was a sad one, as I said goodbye to the people who I had really come to like and enjoy working with at WSAZ. After the last newscast, we had a going-away breakfast in the lunchroom. In an embarassing moment for me, they were clamoring for me to make a speech, but I was like "Let's eat." What can I say, I wasn't thinking clearly on 3 hours of sleep. Afterward I realized that I should have thanked them for all of the hard work they put in to make Sunrise/Today such a success. So guys, if you all read this, know that I most definately appreciate everything you all did to make things work so well day in and day out, and more importantly for making WSAZ such a great place to work.

I went home.. and headed to sleep. 8 hours later, it was time to leave town. I had a few things left to load up, and I still needed to clean my bathtub (which was pretty dirty). Time passed, and before I knew it, it was 7:30 PM. I had called my friend Brandon Gunnoe, who I worked with at WSAZ, and he called me back and agreed to come over and help me get my car loaded on the car carrier.

Brandon arrived soon thereafter, and I gave him the 12 or so beers left in my fridge. He helped me load up the remaining few things I had left, and then we were set to load the car. But then, as if by some script, the skies opened up and the rain began to pour. Quickly we did out best to get the car loaded and then secured, which proved to be an inexact science. Once the rear tires were strapped down, he helped to get the car chained down, and finally we were set. From there, the even bigger trick of backing the truck out into the alley awaited, but with his help I managed to get it out of there. Brandon's help was invaluable, and I don't know what I would have done if he hadn't been there.

Once on the road, I drove west on I-64 through a thunderstorm. I didn't dare drive faster than 50 MPH, as the wind was whipping violently. South of Lexington, then on I-75 South, I stopped at a rest stop and called home. Mom expressed her surprise that I was still in Kentucky, as she thought I'd have been in southern Georgia by that point.

The hours passed by slowly on the open road, but my concentration was called on constantly. With no cruise control, I had to work to maintain my speed the whole way, not to mention navigate the traffic. Fortunately, with it being the Friday night overnight, I didn't face too much in the form of heavy traffic.

The radio was my only friend at that point. I found an awesome station out of Knoxville called 100.3 The River, an all-too-rare AAA station. It had an incredible range though, as I think I listened to it for nearly 3 1/2 hours.

In Atlanta, I saw Tampa referenced for the first time, as the sign for I-475 told me to go West for Birmingham and Tampa. I felt happy, thinking that I was closer than I really was to my destination. It was 5 AM at this point.

Down into southern Georgia, I realized that I had longer to go than I thought. A stop at a particularly dirty Chevron near Valdosta hit me with some discouraging news -- I was 5 hours drive-time from Tampa. I called Day's Movers in Tampa and told them that I would likely be late, but that I hoped to be to town by noon.

I passed the Florida state line, then stopped at the Florida Welcome Center. A gentleman working there told me that I was 3 hours drive time from Tampa by this point. I was tired, but I thought I could make it. I drove for maybe a half hour after that, and I passed the big interchange with I-10. Maybe 5 miles beyond that, the oil light went on, and then an instant later the SERVICE ENGINE SOON light illuminated. I lost the power to accelerate, and I pulled over to the side of the road. By sheer fortune, there was an emergency box maybe 20 yards from where I stopped. Florida has emergency boxes located every mile on the interstate, which really helped me out there. I hit the button for having a breakdown, and I waited.

A half hour went by, but no one stopped. I guess being a 6'2" guy with a nearly shaved head didn't work to my advantage at that time. Finally, a tow truck came rumbling by. An old man got out, and I told him what happened. He told me that it would be $35 for me to use his cell phone... but he offered to give me a ride to the nearest exit, even though "it's against company policy" as he told me. Leaving my truck, and my car, and hell for all intents and purposes all of my possessions behind, I rode off with him.

He took me to a Chevron at the next exit, which was SIX MILES down the road. Just think if that help box hadn't been there. I'd rather not contemplate that... I called Ryder's 1-800 number, and the guy dispatched a driver from Gainesville. I then bought a phone card, and I called home. I got the answering machine, so I left a message. Unfortunately, in my haste and sleep deprivation and all, I left my big long list of phone numbers behind in the truck. I called WSAZ, though I'm not quite sure why, but no one answered. I then called WTSP and told them what happened so they could pass the info along to the management.

Sitting on the curb at the Chevron, I felt pretty low. I was zonked, spent emotionally and physically and mentally. I thought of Robert Frost, and the line "And miles to go before I sleep." Finally a guy showed up in a van, and he drove me back up to the truck.

Luckily no one messed with it while I was gone. Now to explain what happened to the truck, I discovered after pulling over that engine coolant was pouring out of the truck. So, the Ryder repair guy looked things over and determined that my radiator had busted a leak. He poured some more coolant in, and then instructed me to follow him to the exit. Once there we went to an Exxon, where he bought some sort of leak block liquid. I'm not quite sure of the particulars, but from there he had me follow him about twenty miles down the interstate to Gainesville, where the Ryder center was located. After checking it out again, it seemed that the leak block had worked.. at least for the moment. He offered two choices: giving it a try and continuing down to Tampa, or waiting there, have them load everything into a NEW truck, which would have taken until Monday. I opted to continue on to Tampa.

By this point it was close to 2 PM, and I was two hours away from Tampa. I hadn't slept in 20 hours, but I didn't have much of a choice, at least the way I saw it.

I popped No-Doz caffeine pills and hit the road. Luckily, I had no more problems with the radiator. But, many challenges remained.

An hour north of Tampa, I stopped at a BP for gas. I had managed to hit mostly truck stops and the like with plenty of room on the drive down, but this was a regular BP. A pickup truck was over a bit farther than it should have been, but I decided to be cute and squeeze in to make it to the pumps on the left side. I made it.. but I was stuck. Somehow, and I don't know exactly how this happened, but I managed to get positioned where my car carrier didn't have room to make it past the poll next to the pump. It's difficult to describe how it looked, but suffice to say that I was stuck. I felt a bit of panic, as I didn't know how to get out. Remember what I said earlier about hating to drive big vehicles? However, some guys helped me out, and directed me to back the truck out. The top of the truck was hitting the side of the metal canopy above the pump, and the carrier was wedged in the way of the pole, so maneuvering out was a trick, but somehow I made it. I thanked the gentlemen profusely, and I wish I knew who they were so I could do something to help them out in some way. Cause without them, I would have been in a world of hurt.

Back on the road, feeling even more frazzled and tired, the final hour awaited. I opened a Mountain Dew that I bought at the BP, but it ended up getting shaken up and some of it spilled in the cab. As if I needed more problems at that point. But fighting sleep and exhaustion, I made it into Hillsborough County, and then soon thereafter into Tampa.

Driving down I-75, I made it onto I-275, and then to I-4 and the exit I needed. By this point I was almost shaking. It was 4:45 PM, and I was beyond drained.

I pulled up at the Camden Ybor City office, and I got out of the truck. I met up with Natalie, who works in the office. However, I found out that she needed a $608 money order -- right then! So I went over to my truck and looked things over. I didn't want to drive that thing anymore that day... so I unloaded my car from the car carrier. Now living downtown has its downside, which is a sometimes unsavory element. A ragged looking guy walked up offering to help me if I would pay his bus fare to Plant City. I declined his offer, as the last thing I had at that point was extra money to be handing out. I went over to a nearby Amoco, but the ATM machine there would only give me $100 tops (and of course they hit me with a $1.75 fee). I had $200 in travelling cash with me, so that gave me $300. I tried to buy the money order with a credit card, but the guy refused -- cash only. I went back to the office, feeling desperate and near breakdown level. I think Natalie took pity on me, as I was a pretty ridiculous site, with some grease on my hands from the truck breakdown and sweat on my forehead and sleep deprivation leaving me very weak. She ended up letting me pay half cash and half check, which I am very very thankful for. Again, I don't know what I would have done had that not been workable.

At this point the movers couldn't be reached, so I moved in a few boxes and drove my car into the gated parking. Camden's Park at Ybor City has an interesting setup, with parking on the first floor, and apartments on the second and third floors. I was impressed with the size and brand-newness of my apartment, but I was more impressed with the chance to SLEEP. I was still hopped-up on caffeine, so sleep actually came slowly. I was worried about my truck, which was locked up but still not in the gated area. Along with the Plant City guy, some dude came by offering to sell me gold (I gruffly told him no). So I was concerned, but finally sleep came, and I slept well.

Ultimately, I ended up getting everything moved in by the movers on Monday (I moved some boxes in Sunday, and ended up getting a bit sunburned for my efforts), and the people at WTSP were gracious enough to give me an extra day before I started, which was on this past Tuesday.

There is more to say, but it will have to wait for another time...

April 9, 2001
9:07 PM EDT

I survived the trip to Tampa, though it was not easy getting here. Details will come later...

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