Back in Business

Hahaha, Hi!

So I’ve been MIA for the last week or two and I apologize.  It’s been a pretty draining couple of weeks, both mentally and physically, and when I would go to write a post or process pictures I would just fall asleep.  I’ve been yelled at over and over again for taking naps that start after 7pm (they seem like a good idea at the time).

But I swear I am not depressed (as my Mom thought) or dead (no one thought that), it’s just been a busy time.  And now that my imminent departure is quickly approaching, I am trying to tie up loose ends. 

I had big ideas for a post on November 19th because a month from that day Jillian would be returning to the United States for Christmas.  When that passed I had HUGE plans for a post on December 2nd because a month from that day Jillian and I will be on a plane on our way to Haiti.  But they all passed, and now I have no record of those dates ever happening, so I have now forgotten them all.

But this all began with the White House Crashers, and as the old Chinese proverb said, “The White House Crashers ruin everything.”  Last week started with a call on Sunday night asking if I could be out in front of their house the next morning.  The idea was to have a shot live between 6-9am in case they came out to talk.  That meant leaving for work at 4am.  I don’t hate many people, but the crashers are creeping up to the top of the list.

That’s their house, and that’s their limo, and that’s our camera pointed at their vacant house and empty limo.  One producer in NY asked over the phone why, if they had so much money, they weren’t spending any of it on landscaping?  Good question.  But there we were giving them exactly what they wanted, more attention.

The next day I was the pool producer for an interview with Vice President Biden.  What that means is that I arranged the logistics for all the major networks to interview Biden with our camera.  What that also means is that I had to leave for work this time at 3:30am.  We then turned a library at the Naval Observatory grounds from THIS:

TO THIS:

Other than one of Biden’s top aides farting loudly during one of the interviews, the morning went really well.  And no, there is nothing I can do to make Biden not look like a California Raisin (…Andy). 

Thursday meant a live shot with Admiral Mike Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  I walked into the Pentagon and met two women who both told me my Father had hired them.  “Then why aren’t you giving me more interviews!” I wanted to scream at them.  “You owe me this!” .  If only I could say that my Dad could fire them too.

At the end of that day my Dad, Tammy, and I jumped on a plane for Jacksonville, FL to celebrate my Dad’s 50th by hitting some golf balls into the water at TPC Sawgrass.   It was a great cap to a crazy week that I’ll post on later. 

So there it is, photographic proof that I wasn’t just slacking on the blog just to slack.  Jillian will be here in 11 days, I will be leaving my job in 15 days, and we move down to Haiti together in 25 days.  It’s all coming just as fast as everyone was warning me it would, but for some reason it’s caught me off guard.  Expect more panicked posts soon.

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(Not Quite) Crashing the White House State Dinner

Today is Thanksgiving Day, a day in which we look back at things that we are thankful for.  I am thankful for Jillian, my Family, and peanut butter ice cream.  One thing I can assure you that I am not thankful for is the couple that brazenly crashed the Obama’s first State Dinner on Tuesday

The two aspiring reality stars walked to the White House gates acting shocked that they were not on the guest list, and in the craziness of the evening, they were let in to the most exclusive party in DC.  They are now the only people EVER to have crashed a White House State Dinner.  They even posted pictures on their Facebook:

I’m relatively speechless here.  On one end you have to admit that they have the biggest balls in DC just strolling into the White House and taking pictures like they belong there.  On the other end you have to think about how sad it is that this older couple (that’s probably old enough to have a kid my age) thought it would still be cool to do something like this.

But the reason why I’m not thankful for them this Thanksgiving Day is because they were the only thing stopping me from a peaceful, turkey-induced coma.  I was working today, and there is NOTHING else going on in DC this holiday weekend, but their stunt has created a media frenzy whose ground zero was my cubicle.

I was sent to their house in Front Royal, VA in an attempt to reach them to figure out who the hell they were.  They live in the country about an hour from DC on roads that even the GPS can’t find.  We rolled up and parked in the driveway, next to a single white limo.  Inside the doorway there was a picture of the two of them with Jerry Sienfeld.    Peering inside these people’s house was exactly how I imagined spending my Thanksgiving.

After talking to their neighbors it turned out they were relatively scetchy people in general.  One neighbor even claimed that debt collectors and repo men frequented their house, another neighbor mentioned how police had been asking about them recently. So I returned the tape to civilization in time to celebrate Thanksgiving Dinner with my Dad and Stepmom…crisis averted.

But the real reason why I started writing about this in the first place is because I was (legally) given a glimpse at what the State Dinner would actually be like.  Tasked with attending the First Ladies’ preview on Tuesday, I was given an opportunity to see how I could wine and dine if I had donated tens of thousands of dollars to the Obama Campaign:

I was pretty excited.  As we walked into the front door of the White  House (That’s right! The front door that I always thought would be fun to knock on), I had the strange feeling that I was not really suppose to be there.  It was probably around the same feeling the crashers had later that night.

The press filed into the State Dining Room and I grabbed my camera, ready to attack.  I looked to my left and a Reuters photographer gave a long sigh and said, “Man, this sucks.”  I, not understanding why he would not be excited about being in the White House and seeing the First Lady, responded, “I guess…I mean, it could be so much worse.  It’s kinda cool!”  He turned to me and just said, “No, this sucks.”

So after getting over the curmungeonous of the White House Press Corp, the event began and the First Lady strolled in.  While snapping photos I had this nagging feeling that someone from the White House was going to figure out who I was and ask me to put my camera away.  Not only that but I took this picture and was immediately like, “Oh crap, she saw me!”

But it turns out other reporters were taking pictures with cameras that screamed spectator.  Point-and-shoots galor.  I was safe.

The event was quick and painless, a lesson on the history of State Dinners and what we could expect that night.  Even if I was 20 feet away, it was a little bit of history, and seeing the State Dinning Room was a memory I will not soon forget. 

So we were escorted out of the room as the First Lady tasted desert selections for the night with girls that she mentors from the DC area.   And as I walked out I gave a little knock on the door, something I had wanted to do since I was little, ending a pretty sweet trip to the White House (that I was actually invited too).

Happy Thanksgiving!

A Big Day for your Esteemed Author

Anyone remember the photo above?  Well I didn’t either until I drifted over to DCist.com.  You see, DCist is a blog that includes all things DC.  From concerts to food to ‘Skins games, you can get your fix of what’s next in the metro-DC area by checking out this sight. 

But because there are about a million kids in DC that like to take pictures like I do, and we all dream of being published someday, DCist has created a brilliant business model that has all of us submitting pictures to their site that they can use FOR FREE!  DCist has a Flickr pool where you can submit photos you think they could use, with no expectation that you would get anything in return. Looking back, this sounds more and more like a scam, but hey, it worked:

http://dcist.com/2009/11/wsj_makes_paper.php

There is a slightly amazing feeling having your name under a photo on the web.  While it may be one picture out of the millions floating around, at least I know that the people who read this post saw a little bit of my work.

But to make the day ever crazier, I went on an assignment to the White House to preview the Obama’s first State Dinner (which I will post on later), and one of the correspondents asked me to take pictures with my blackberry and shoot them over to him.  Well, wouldn’t you know, I made another celebrity appearance on the internet(s):

I have now made it as a journalist.  I can now leave my job and feel that I have reached the zenith of my career.  Mark Knoller is a legend in the White House, someone I’ve looked up to for a long time.  Being mentioned in his Twitter is, for a journalist, like a teeball player being mentioned by Cal Ripken Jr at a game.

Now, I’m kinda kidding about it being a big deal, but it is pretty cool.  Turns out his tweets get around, and my stepmom sent me a link that she found where they linked to my pictures on his twitter.  Not only that, but they ended up using one of them on our website.

So I think it goes without saying that I am a pretty big-deal photographer now.  You need me to take pictures for you?  It’s going to cost you at least 5 or 6 dollars.  Too much? OK, I’ll probably do it for free.

BTW, here are the pictures (remember, they were taken with a blackberry):

Signs of Life

The weather in Alexandria recently has been a roller coaster.  On Monday you will be bundling up to fight off a nor’easter, and by Friday you will have walking the streets of DC in shorts and a t-shirt.  In fact, my buddies, my Dad, and I are going golfing tomorrow because it’s supposed to be so nice when two days ago the region appeared to be seconds away from horrible flooding.

But this moss is growing outside my Dad’s house on the brick sidewalk, and it struck me as strange that something new would be growing in the middle of November.  Maybe Al Gore was right!  Sike! (in-laws, please still love me)

The Very Best – Yalira

I’m one of those people who gets goosebumps when they listen to good music.  Apparently this doesn’t happen to everyone, Jillian says it doesn’t happen to her.  But whether it’s a song that reminds me of a good time or just a really catchy chorus, there’s nothing like a song that makes you physically feel great.

This week’s Song of the Week is “Yalira” from the album “Warm Heart of Africa” by The Very Best.  The band includes a Malawian singer and two European DJs that collaborated after they met in a secondhand shop in London.

Lead-man Esau Mwamwaya sings most of the songs on this album in Chichewa, which is a native language of the Bantu tribes in Southern Africa.  And while many of the songs are not sung in English, the messages they seem to portray transcend the gap that’s left by not understanding the words.

I usually hate music in foreign languages.  Even when the song is great, if I don’t know what is being said I usually can’t really relate to it.  But for some reason, this song still gives me goosebumps even though the lyrics make no sense (to me at least).

“Yalira” gives me the feeling I imagine I would have waking up in the middle of Malawi and thinking I could do anything.  The song has a sense of hope engrained in it, and the simplicity of the drum-beat-background lets you focus on the harmony in Mwamwaya’s voice.

This song may not be for everyone, but at the moment it’s one of those tunes I find myself singing to myself when I walk down the street, even if I’m sure I look like a lunatic singing gibberish words that I just made up.

Fall Foliage

It’s not breaking news that the leaves are changing.  Actually they’ve pretty much all changed already.  This is one of those times of year that you get excited about before it’s happens, but then regret having not taken advantage of when it’s over. 

“Oh look!  The leaves are changing!  How pretty!” you say in August.  But then in December you realize your mistake:  “Oh man! Where did all the leaves go?”  you scream as you slide your car into a snowy ditch.

But considering I take pictures of everything, I realized after seeing this picture on ‘Dooce’ (which is a [women’s] blog that I [embarrassingly] read everyday) that I had not taken the time to capture the colors.

 

These photos aren’t up to par with the stellar pictures on ‘Dooce’, but it’s always good to have something to work towards.  I need to get out and do it again before it’s all over, but procrastination is the name of the game here, so the next pictures you see will likely be of snow.

Alexandria Sunset

I was watching football in the loft at my Dad’s house yesterday and the sunset outside was amazing.  Because I couldn’t get a clear view from the porch, I climbed up a ledge seperating our porch from our nextdoor neighbor’s porch to get a better look from the roof.  It was a pretty amazing view, even if I risked my life to get it.