Friday, August 21, 2009

On Location in the FOX News Studio, Chicago, IL

Lights, Camera … me?

The Green Room. One cup of strong, major-league-caffeinated coffee, 2 cream, 2 sugars. My hand trembles ever so slightly as it holds the finger-scorching double-stacked paper cup. My visage is being powdered and poofed by a makeup artist. As she’s applying the lipliner, the nurse in me is wondering how many others have been lacquered with the same brush??

It’s 5 minutes to air time. I'm ushered into the studio. Mind is blank. Intention whithered.What have I gotten myself into?

Less than 36 hours ago, I was an aging, anonymous git with a feather up my keister about the healthcare coverage issue. And now … oh, only 4 minutes to air time - I’m sitting in a studio chair waiting to have my brain picked by a high-ranking television muckety-muck. The camera in front of me, centered in the otherwise darkened studio, is a flat shadowy square surrounded by a row of retina-bleaching flood lights.

In the distance, I see the on-air monitors. (Don’t look at them, you’ll be distracted, I chide myself. )

I’m listening for the audio que. The cameraman has just inserted an earpiece into my right ear. OK, that’s sort of my not-so-deaf side. Now he’s clipping the lavaliere mic on my blouse neckline. I don’t have tie to clip it onto.

Now I sit and wait, in front of hot studio lights. My mind as featureless as the dark side of the moon. Geez. I hope it doesn’t stay blank. I have notes, but …

Gum. Oh yeah, get rid of the gum. I stick the wet little glob onto the back of my notes and put the stack onto the black table to my left. What’s supposed to be on the table besides my sweaty notes and the ball of stale gum leaving a watermark on the inked text?

In the background I hear Neil Cavuto interviewing another guest speak. Who, I’m sure is much more talented, thinner, cuter, younger, smarter, well-heeled, jaunty, winky, blinky and nod than I.

Sound check. “Miss Lonze we’re checking sound levels, please count to 10”. Breathe. Breathe. “One. Two. Three. (er, what comes after three??) “OK that’s fine. Can you hear Mr. Cavuto?” Yes.

Yes, I’m thinking. I hear him. In fact, I listen to him every day. He’s a god in the broadcast industry. On the other hand, I’m a mere peasant, raked in from the field. Ready to be turned on the spit. Fed to the wolves. Leftovers for jackals and tsetse fly larvae.

I am acutely aware of my life and credibility stretching before me, and sinking like NASDAQ futures after an overnight Asian markets plunge.

“We’re going for a commercial break. Then you’ll be on. Listen for the que”.

The que? I’m also acutely aware of the fact that my panties are inside out – the result of a hurried shower and reassembly. This sorry fact was discovered when I made a last-minute visit to the ladies, just before air time.

What the heck am I doing here? Must be some mistake. I’m just me.

But I have something to say. I’ve written it. It’s published. Mr. Cavuto read it. There’s no turning back.

Neil’s voice flows into my right ear. He’s asking a question. He’s very nice. He’s very smart, and an excellent interviewer. I like him anyway. I won’t disappoint him. It’s his show. And it’s my chance.

We banter back and forth about the issue at hand. He liked my article and it complements his show theme. More importantly, he gives me a chance to speak my mind, and perhaps put a voice to the fears and concerns of my cohort having genuine concerns about how the decisions of the current political machine will affect their lives.

We speak. We question. We tackle the issue at hand.

Soon, it’s over. I didn’t drool; didn’t pick my nose, hem, haw or stumble.

I’m honored. I’m happy. I’m humbled. Thank you, Mr. Cavuto. Thank you, readers. Mission accomplished.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Oconaluftee Indian Village, Cherokee, NC

The year is 1829. As a young woman in Southern Appalachia, you hold property rights to a farm producing corn, beans and squash. You fight in battles, vote, make speeches and have an active voice in government. You are head of a household, perhaps even a chief. You have power and prestige. You are Cherokee.

This is the advanced culture nearly destroyed by white settlers eager for farmland and quick riches, after gold was discovered on tribal lands in Georgia.

Following passage of the Indian Removal Act 15,000 Cherokee people were rounded up into concentration camps and marched off to Oklahoma in the bitter winter of 1838. Along this “Trail of Tears”, over 4,000 perished of cold, disease and starvation.

Only 400 natives, known as the Oconaluftee Cherokee, were allowed to remain in their stockade towns. Today, their descendants are one of the few Native American tribes to still occupy their original homeland that now makes up the 100-square mile sovereign nation of Cherokee.

Oconaluftee village on the Qualla Reservation is in Cherokee, North Carolina. Wander through this outdoor museum. Take the self-guided tour to see baskets woven by women who learned the craft from their mothers. See a demonstration of weaponry. Did you know the Cherokee were the only North American people to use blowguns?

Around the bend, another member of the tribe stands beside a giant log topped with burning embers, telling how dugout canoes were made. Later in the evening, watch the story of the Cherokee unfold in the outdoor theatre production of “Unto These Hills”. Experience what it means to be Cherokee.

Oconaluftee Indian Village is open seven days a week May 1 – October 24 from 9am – 5pm. Tickets are available on line and at the door. Nearby is the Museum of the Cherokee Indian, Qualla Arts & Crafts center. Cherokee hosts numerous cultural events throughout the year.