Sunday, March 21, 2010

walk and chew gum

Before I was asked to auction off a meal with the Bishop at the annual fund-raising dinner for Catholic Charities of East Tennessee, I had already agreed to be the honorary chairman for their "Kids Helping Kids Fun Walk." The event benefits Columbus Home, a refuge for boys who are victims of abuse and neglect. Sponsors are still needed for the walk. Sponsorships are $250 (full), $125 (half), or $50 (partial). Call (865) 524-9896 if you can help.

The annual walk will be on Sunday, May 16 at All Saints Church. The parish grounds have a walking trail that is popular with Knoxvillians of all denominations.

WBIR anchor John Becker and I recorded a public service announcement for the Fun Walk. He wore a WBIR track suit and I wore one of Fr. Ragan Schriver's shirts with a Catholic Charities logo on it.

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Sunday, December 06, 2009

man of the hour

When the parish council started planning a farewell reception for Fr. Ragan Schriver, he said he hoped that it would be fun. It was more than fun, it was hysterical. This afternoon's event at All Saints Catholic Church, was inspired by the old Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts.

I was asked to serve as roastmaster. In addition to the guest of honor, the dais was populated with three other priests, a local news anchor and me. Fr. Tony Dickerson and Fr. Michael Woods talked about the craziness of life in the rectory with Fr. Ragan. Former pastor Fr. Chris Michelson gave a different perspective on the story of hot candle wax spilling onto Fr. Ragan's head at the Easter Vigil. John Becker of WBIR often plays tennis with Fr. Ragan. He told a funny story about the priest's car smelling like a locker room because of all the sweaty workout clothes tossed into the back seat.

Like at the 2007 Adult Social, I did some of my own material before, between and after the other roasters. In honor of the three points in each of Fr. Ragan's homilies, here are three of the stories I told about him. I deviated from my script slightly but two of the stories are completely true!
Fr. Ragan has been at All Saints for a long time and maybe it is time to move on. After 12 years and 600 plus Sunday masses, he has officially run out of "3 Things." I hate to bust you on this but the sermon about the baby in Walmart? Heard it! In fact I heard it again last week when I went to Mass at Holy Family. I did a little research and found out that the little baby… is now 13 years old!

Last year there was a big tennis event at Thompson-Boling Arena called Rock N Racquets. They had Andy Roddick & Serena Williams plus entertainment by rock singer Gavin Rosdale. Gavin is well known in the music business for the alternative rock band he used to be in and he's fairly well known in the People Magazine world for being married to singer Gwen Stefani (she sings Hollaback Girl and a bunch of other songs you might know). Well Fr. Ragan doesn't know any of those songs. He's backstage waiting to meet the tennis players and finds himself standing next to Gavin Rosdale. He's trying to make conversation and the only thing he can think of to say is "so… you're married to Gloria Estefan?"

Fr. Ragan is well known in the community. It seems like everywhere you go, at least one person has a Fr. Ragan story. I was recently at a function with several local TV reporters. Two of them said they had interviewed Fr. Ragan in the past. One is a married woman with two kids who talked about how impressed she was with the work they do at Catholic Charities and how impressed she was with his enthusiasm about getting to know his new neighborhood in Seymour. The other reporter is a bit younger and single. She said "Oh Fr. Ragan! I could go CATHOLIC for him!" She went on but I'll stop there. Suffice to say, the phrases "if only" and "not celibate" were involved.

After the five roasters, Fr. Ragan made some remarks and thought we were finished. At that point, we told him to cut a cake that turned out to be an iced cardboard box. Under the lid was an assortment of fruits and nuts. The two ladies who organized the party closed out the festivities by singing a tribute to the tune of "We Love You Conrad" from "Bye Bye Birdie." During the song, Fr. Michael displayed props like a cup of yogurt and a box of Fiber One cereal. At the end of the song, all the roasters sprinkled soaked Fr. Ragan with some dish-washing sponges on wire handles, much the same way he overdoes it with holy water during the Easter season.

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Saturday, October 17, 2009

deadly force

The smell of gunpowder was still in my nose hours after returning home from the firing range at the Phil E. Keith Training Center. The facility, which belongs to the Knoxville Police Department, was the scene for today's meeting of the FBI Citizens Academy.

After a safety lesson from the firearms training agent, I started my day on the range by shooting four different guns. We could visit the four stations in any order. I chose a roughly chronological order, starting with a 1928 model Thompson submachine gun followed by a 38 caliber Smith & Wesson revolver. In the years since an infamous Miami shootout, the Bureau switched to the next two guns I tried. I shot a 40 caliber Glock pistol and a Colt M4 Carbine assault rifle. I went back for a second round on the old revolver and showed significant improvement from my first attempt.

While I was with the group shooting real guns, the other half of the class was inside working with a computer simulation of various scenarios. Once we switched places, the first few people in my group were given simulations of domestic disputes. When it was my turn, the scenario was a school shooting. I saw two bloodied students on my right and two uniformed police officers on my left. The students were gesturing behind them to the right. Suddenly there was a spray of blood and all four of them dropped to the ground. I saw gunfire coming from behind a dumpster on the left so I started shooting toward it. Then a second shooter emerged from the woods in the distance but my fake gun stopped working. Apparently the CO2 cartridge in it had emptied. The screen went black, which I assume meant that the second shooter had taken me out. When they played back my scenario, we saw that I killed the first shooter with my second shot.

After lunch, we learned about the Special Weapons and Tactics force. We saw examples of the weapons they use and then went outside to see the Oshkosh Humvee used by local FBI SWAT agents. Prior to this, I thought the only thing Oshkosh made was children's clothes. We each had a chance to climb inside and pose for photos. Hana Kim from WATE-TV asked me to pose with her. She was delayed in getting to the range because she had to anchor the weekend newscast this morning. We've had a chance to chat during breaks from class. I found out that Hana grew up in Northern Virginia and graduated from McLean High School and the University of Maryland.

The day finished with a lecture on explosives and a demonstration out on the range. First the special agent bomb tech blew up a blasting cap in a coffee can. He then blew up a blasting cap in a coffee can filled with shaving cream to show us how the cream absorbed some of the impact. Next he showed the effect of explosions on soft tissue by blowing up a blasting cap inside a chicken from Food City. I don't know why he made a point of telling us that. Maybe he wanted to make sure the bird hadn't been pumped full of sodium.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

sacré veinard

"Who is Gilles Marini?" asked one of my Facebook friends when I posted that I was going to interview him. I assumed everyone knew the debonair Frenchman from "Dancing with the Stars."

He may have lost to Shawn Johnson but his career has definitely benefited from the exposure. He is soon to be seen on "Brothers & Sisters." Thanks to his good looks, he was asked by record producers if he could sing and is now working on recording an album. I was interested in his childhood because I read that he practically grew up in a bakery. Mmm... cake.

Anyhow, I played some highlights of my interview with Gilles on the air this morning. The Internet gives me the opportunity to post the entire 8 minute interview for all the Gilles fanatics out there. The best part is probably when he says he learned English from listening to hip-hop music. Really.

After I put down the Zoom H2 Handy Recorder, I asked Gilles to show me some moves I could take to the dance floor.

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Friday, July 31, 2009

it's Harry Potter day

When Jo Rowling made up a birthday for Harry Potter, she gave him one that would be easy to remember, her own. Happy birthday to them both!

On the night before "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" opened, I had great fun at the Einstein Simplified show. In one improv game, I played a video store clerk who was overly excited about the new film. Since today is a Harry Potter day of sorts, here is the video of that scene. The first time you watch, try skipping past the first 2 minutes and 17 seconds. During that time, the audience suggests three movies while I am outside in isolation. If you start watching when I re-enter the room, you can try to guess what the customers want to rent before I do.

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Monday, June 01, 2009

yo old lady

Marshal Andy Smalls invited me to his Big Band Showcase at the Bearden Banquet Hall yesterday afternoon. He performs there on the last Sunday of every month, alternating between big band and western shows. The price of admission includes a buffet meal from Buddy's Bar-B-Q. They were supposed to serve chicken yesterday. Due to a scheduling mix-up, we had some delicious pulled pork instead. Normally the pork is served every other month during Marshal Andy's western music show.

My wife and I sat at a table with Brad Walker and Gary Bluemel, "the singing deejay." Gary would sing two songs with the band later on. During lunch, Brad told me about his new show on WKTI, Sunday afternoons at 3:00. He said he might have me on as a guest to talk about some of my favorite songs.

The Sisters of the Silver Sage were the opening act. They sang songs like "Mr. Sandman" and "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" rather than their western tunes. Their calendar shows them performing at Marshal Andy's Cowboy Jamboree next month, presumably with pulled pork on the menu.

Near the end of his set, Marshal Andy surprised me by announcing that I was in the audience and asking me to come up to the microphone. Although it was the Big Band Showcase, he was going to try to teach me to yodel like Eddy Arnold. I warned him that I couldn't sing, much less yodel. All I had to do was follow him, he said. Before starting, he said that if I knew the song, I should make sure not to get ahead of his lead. I didn't want to offend the good Marshal but I don't know any Eddy Arnold songs. In fact, until recently, I used to get Eddy Arnold confused with the guy from "Green Acres." Fortunately (I think), my wife was quick to grab the camera and switch it to video mode. You can see me nervously grabbing my pockets.

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Thursday, April 30, 2009

should you choose to accept it

If there is an encore performance of "Star 102.1's Dancing With the Knoxville Stars" and if I can make it, I will study the video of last Thursday's show in an effort to improve. The footage is now posted on YouTube and the station website. There is talk of having an encore show on a date I am currently holding for a potential corporate gig with Einstein Simplified.

After Abby Ham jokingly wrote on my Facebook wall, "Can I be your dance partner next year? :)," I wrote back, "Sure, if you want to do a plodding rumba with elements of comedy thrown in." As I watched myself "dance," I realized that my steps were even more plodding than I thought when I wrote that to Abby. During the performance, I thought I was being graceful. Ha!

Thank goodness for Emily Loyless. She deserves the credit for all 26 points we received from the judges. Our strategy was to go for overall entertainment value rather than technical merit. Of the nine dance teams, we were the only one to have a story line. It was based on Emily's "Mission: Impossible" to teach me the rumba. I think they call it a "show dance" in the business. Or maybe I don't know what I'm talking about.

Our efforts have so far raised $1890 for East Tennessee Children's Hospital. As you probably already know, the total take for the night was over $27,000. That amount will be presented on one of those giant checks at the upcoming Radiothon.

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Monday, April 20, 2009

dance like no one is watching

Carol Scott from "Hell's Kitchen" is determined to be the top fundraiser in "Dancing with the Knoxville Stars." Over the weekend, she sent me the following message on Facebook: "ooh, that Lori Tucker just passed me! Time to make more phone calls." Before long, Carol's total had zoomed past Lori's thanks to contributions from her relatives, including her Uncle Nutzy.

Each dollar I raise counts as one vote for my dancing. Sadly, I am lagging behind the TV women (and Terry Morrow). They have all received multiple donations in the three figures. While contributions of $100 and up are awesome (thank you, blog reader Tonya Estep!), we could catch up if each of my daily readers only donated $10. Of course not everyone can, but some can do $20.

As promised, I will continue to mention those who donate to Children's Hospital through my fundraising page. Thanks to Ice Bears fan Lori Ingram and her family, active All Saints parishioners Vicki and Bill Christensen as well as their daughter Shiona, former "Door Girl" Jennifer Bohlken, a nice person named Kristen, my partner Emily's parents and my own lovely daughter.

You can click here to contribute. So how am I doing on the dance floor? Here's a new video to watch while you reach for your credit card. Thanks to BJ Mora for putting it together.

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Monday, March 30, 2009

lack of rhythm is gonna get me

Friends and family members outside the listening area have been asking for details about my participation in Star 102.1's Dancing with the Knoxville Stars. Fortunately, I can use my blog to keep them in the loop. The event, which is a benefit for East Tennessee Children's Hospital, is scheduled for Thursday April 23. About nine or ten local media types volunteered to learn a ballroom dancing routine, myself included. While I'm waiting to see the finalized cast list, I'm pretty sure that WATE's Lori Tucker and WBIR's Beth Haynes will both be involved.

Some of the contestants have been paired with instructors from Dance Dimensions. Tonight, I met my dance partner Emily Loyless and had my first lesson at Academy Ballroom. I am not good. Emily has a lot of work ahead of her to get me ready. She will give me ten lessons within 24 days. I was trying on dancing shoes when Emily introduced herself. In an effort to get me to feel the beat, she had me put my hand on the subwoofer.

As Emily and I attempted the most basic steps of the rumba, Carol Scott was gracefully gliding around the floor with her partner, Johnny Tang. Not only might Carol win "Hell's Kitchen," she might win our Knoxville dancing contest too. By the way, Carol is hosting a public "HK" viewing party this Thursday night at Gettysvue Country Club.

No still photo can really do justice to the art of the dance. That's why they invented moving pictures, right?

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Saturday, March 07, 2009

it rocks

The last time I took a vacation, my wife and I had the good fortune of seeing the World's Largest Rocking Chair on the one day that it actually rocked.

I signed the guestbook and have occasionally gotten correspondence from the Fanning Outpost and General Store. I'm starting another vacation today and can spend a little extra time at the beach by copying and pasting some excerpts from the press release the Rocking Chair folks sent me:
The steel 42’1” rocking chair that took its place on Route 66 on April 1, 2008, celebrates its 2009 birthday with the Guinness World Records designation of Largest Rocking Chair. The Guinness designated Largest Rocking Chair adds one more Route 66 attraction to the Show-Me State, which bills itself as "Close to Home, Far From Ordinary."

As part of his plans for the rocker Dan Sanazaro began the process to have the chair certified by The Guinness World Records organization. Cuba’s Mayor Kenny Killeen and family priest Father James Finder certified the official measurements and details of the rocker. Cuba Fire Department personnel measured the chair.

Officially, the chair measures 42’1” tall and 20’3” wide although heat and cold cause the chair to expand and contract. Sanazaro estimates that the rocker weighs about 27,500 pounds.

One more detail that Guinness requested was that the chair actually had to rock while it was videotaped. Joe Medwick cut the welds so that Sanazaro and some of his workers could push the chair to rock it. Medwick then re-welded the chair in place.

With the documentation mailed to the Guinness corporate offices in England, it was a waiting game for official notification. There was one setback when Guinness officials told Sanazaro that his documentation never arrived and appeared to be lost. However, it surfaced and the Guinness Certification arrived in February.

In December, a Route 66 mural by John Bland took its place on the side of the store building to add to the setting. A civil war cannon replica sits near the rocker. Sanazaro is trying to figure out how to fire it once a week to create even more interest.

The businesses are expanding. To complement the outdoor 3-D archery range, Sanazaro is building a computer generated Techno Hunt indoor archery range to add to his full service archery business. The second annual archery tournament is Sept. 26. New taxidermy customers arrive weekly. This spring the General Store adds Mother Road Red Wine to its current offerings of Rt. 66 Red and Fanning Outpost White wines. The store has its own World’s Largest Rocking Chair candy bar. Soon an old fashioned “penny press” will create Route 66 mementos that celebrate the rocker’s new designation.

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Monday, August 18, 2008

do come a knockin'

Serendipity is the act of making a fortunate discovery by accident. As a fan of world's largest things, a most serendipitous thing occurred to me today.

My wife and I happened to stop off for a visit with Jere's cousin Tom on our way to Branson this morning. While there, we happened to notice a sign for the World's Largest Rocker, just four miles farther down historic Route 66. If our visit with Tom had been any longer or any shorter, we would have missed history in the making.

As luck would have it, we arrived at the World's Largest Rocker just as it was about to rock for the first and only time. Dan and Carolyn Sanazaro, owners of the Fanning 66 Outpost chose today to record the event for the Guinness Book of World Records. The chair was erected on April Fool's Day of this year. For safety reasons, it is normally welded into place. If Guinness is to recognize it as a rocking chair, it has to be capable of actually rocking. After cutting the chair's runners free, a group of men set the giant seat in motion. Our camera was there. The folks at Roadside America will be very interested.

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