Visited the studios of NPR recently. Such an iconic brand that continues to evolve despite the emergence of many other communication channels. In fact, they were one of the first media companies to develop an iPad application – it is still one of the better ones out there today. I also attended a keynote luncheon where Vivian Schiller spoke. When asked where she is taking NPR she replied, NPR is in a unique position where the audience defines and takes us there.
I happened to be in Washington, D.C. for the Online News Association 2010 conference when the Rally to Restore Sanity took place. Needless to say, I took a little walk down to the National Mall to see what all the fuss was about. There wasn’t much fuss, just a few hundred thousand people blowing mainly positive steam on a beautiful fall day in the nation’s capital. I’m neither a Democrat or a Republican, but I do need satire and sarcasm, and John Stewart and Stephen Colbert certainly fit the bill.
I produced the above collage from a few pictures I took that day.
This is a little taste of dark geek humor. I originally took this photo in Philadelphia about a month ago at the Christ Church Burial Ground. Benjamin Franklin is buried here along with some other original signers of the Declaration of Independence. I had a little fun with it and added the names of a few technology companies that recently met their maker (click here for a larger view).
Growing up in Charleston, South Carolina, one would think I would have learned how to play golf. Family play. Friends play. Colleagues play. But I do not play. Not well anyway.
After graduating from Clemson University, I made my way out West. I peddled, paddled, climbed, hiked, and some times even crawled across all kinds of varying terrain, but never once did my trajectory meet a fairway.
Then came graduate school. I was studying business. And you know the saying, a lot of business gets done on the course. Fair enough. So I turned to a classmate who had actually competed in high school and was nothing short of a pro. He gave me some old clubs and took me under his wing….for an hour or two. At least I learned how to keep score and drive the cart.
Directly after obtaining my MBA, I took up a job in marketing and public relations. It wasn’t long after I had gotten over the initial discomfort of being in a new company that my boss announced there would be an upcoming golf tournament where my participation was required. Yes!
The morning began bright and beautiful as I looked out across the well manicured fairways at Lakeridge golf course. My boss, Jennifer, and I were paired with Charles and Melissa. They worked at a creative agency in town. Charles was also the president of the local advertising association.
It is important to note that while I was at least dressed to be outside, the other three were costumed in outfits cut directly from a golf catalogue. But I didn’t feel awkward at all. Nope, not a bit.
I post this image of some guys working a Banshee Bungee at Lori Wilson Park in Cocoa Beach, Florida, not so much because it is a fun photo, but because of what a stranger came up to me on the beach and said after I took it. He joked, “Most folks would think it is pretty crazy to launch yourself in to the air on a skim board with a bungee cord, but I want to shake the guy’s hand who decided it was safe enough to get in their way and take some photos.” Ha! I turned 36 this weekend. Guess I still haven’t learned.
The basic premise of Gasparilla is really quite simple. Close off two adjoining streets, parade a bunch of pirates down one of them, and invite people to come out and party on the other one. Sounds easy enough, but the reality is Gasparilla is a logistical bear that Tampa Bay has been trying to perfect for more than 100 years.
The big invasion can attract upwards of 350,000 people, and they don’t come to sit idly by. Nope, they come to party and parade their own versions of pirate garb to fellow marauding mateys, while collecting as many Mardi Gras beads as possible. Some residents, especially along the parade route, feel that Gasparilla is out of control. Having witnessed 3 such events I can hardly blame them for their concerns. The amount of trash that ends up on the streets and in the waters of Tampa Bay is staggering – the noise is deafening -there are inevitably fights and arrests – and you can be sure it attracts Tampa’s best and brightest. All of this has most self-respecting retirees fleeing for more sheltered pastures. But when I put my branding and marketing hat on I see it as a tradition the city can’t afford to quit.
Many cities struggle to define themselves. You’ll often see destinations go through rebranding exercises every time there is a new head of marketing because no one can truly agree on what best communicates the location. Tampa, on the other hand, is steeped in pirate lore and will always be closely tied to the many bays, rivers, and estuaries that served as hiding places for these buccaneers who now, by the way, can play a mean game of football. People love events that are done well, and it is clear Gasparilla has found the sweet spot.
The annual economic impact of Gasparilla is said to be $46 million annually. In an economy where people are struggling to put food on the table, that’s some much needed change. To alleviate some past transgressions, this year an additional 100 police officers and many more port-o-pottys were added to the parade route. Both were a welcome addition. The strategy of moving people downtown to the music stages was also a wise improvement.
All in all it was a fun time, and I certainly enjoyed capturing a bit of the revelry. The rain kept some people away, but for the most part it went unfelt. A few days later it appears concerned residents have returned to their soft, cozy homes, the streets are clean, parade floats have been put up, and some where a poor turtle is swimming along with a string of beads stuck in its throat, gasping for the next Gasparilla.
If you ever feel like what you’re doing won’t last or be remembered, think about a chalk artist. These folks spent 2 days working on their masterpieces, not for money, but because they love doing it. The key is to blend both. I think the top guy in the picture within the picture is trying to figure that out.
When I moved to Tampa, Florida someone told me there were occasionally waves big enough to surf in the Gulf. I figured I’d believe them when I saw proof. Moving from California and the Left Coast, one gets a slightly different idea of what constitutes a ride-able wave. But lo and behold, one day it puffed and puffed and blew in some slop I squinted real hard at until I convinced myself to paddle out.
Finally, in September of last year Hurricane Ike came through, and I really did get to experience good waves on the Gulf Coast (GC). But other than that, and some more squinting, it has been a lot of trips back and forth to Cocoa Beach and further south to Sebastian Inlet.
The angst builds in GC surfers in the Fall. The promise of hurricanes has every one on edge, hoping for some deviation in the otherwise flat landscape. When Hurricane Ida began to blossom, so did our hopes for good surfing. Unfortunately, it turned out to be overhyped and undersized. But seeing as how I am a GC surfer now, well, it was swell worth riding nonetheless.
While I was waiting for the tide to turn and come back in, I walked out on the beach and captured some footage. I am not endowed with a big video camera, so I no doubt looked rather silly mounting my little Canon DV on a tripod. At one point an older snowbird walked by and stopped, stared, and then pointed and remarked, “look at that little camera.” Hey buddy, I said, it’s not the size of the swell, but the motion of the ocean. He just laughed, stared, and pointed some more at my little camera shooting little waves.
Either way, you’ve got to give it up to these scrappy GC boys making the most of it.
Angst-like music is courtesy of Zeptepi.
A dog is a dog, and a bad one isn’t worth spit; but you get a good one and they’re like a member of the family.
About a year ago I lost one of the best dogs a person could ever have. He died of cancer on my birthday during a trip to the North Carolina mountains. My wife and I had him cremated, and his ashes have sat in Tampa, Florida since that time.
Florida is not a befitting location, however, for he was born and always has been a mountain dog. Last week we returned to the Fall air and decorated mountains of North Carolina to spend time with good friends from Charleston, South Carolina. We brought the ashes with us for the sole purpose of returning him to his proper place.
The headwaters of the Chattooga River have long been a place of solace for my family, and it was here that we decided to say our final goodbyes. The ashes were released to the river and swirled around in a fast moving eddy until they slowly dissipated and eventually disappeared. I pictured him filling up pot holes and bouncing over pebbles as he flowed swiftly downstream. My hope is that he made it all the way to Section 4 before finally succumbing to a sandbank.
This kind of heady stuff gets one thinking about how they’d like to go. A settled grave or a more mobile mausoleum? Hopefully we have a long while to think about that question. Until then, the picture above was taken as a reminder of that Fall day we poured out his ashes.