Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Believe -Part 2- Sister Surprise

It was after midnight when our wheels touched down on the cold dark tarmac of Moncton Airport. Our flight had been delayed slightly and I was worried that perhaps the folks at Avis might have called it a night, stranding me and my excited mother, in Moncton for the night.
But it was not to be, a friendly Maritime smile was waiting at the rent-a-car desk and we were quickly on our way to Saint John.
Wow, lots had changed since I had last been on that stretch of highway. Nothing like darkness and a bit of fog to make it all the more interesting.
My mom of course was very animated and full of conversation as she no doubt thought that it would keep me awake as I pointed the car toward the Southbound lanes of the Trans-Canada.
I cannot remember exactly what was being said, but our conversation was such that I almost missed the interchange in Sussex that takes you on the final leg to Saint John.

We arrived at the Harbourside, Hilton in Saint John, shortly before 2am. At this point all we want is our room and a bit of sleep before the big surprise in the morning. We are given our keys and told that our room is in fact the last room in the inn.
At this point, I'm thinking that I cannot believe we are actually here. As I swipe the key card in the door, the tell tail beep and green light of the lock, we are in. Crunch! The door only opens 2 inches and comes to a sudden stop. The lock chain is across the door. Someone is in our room!

Ok, a quick trip down to the front desk. The desk checks the status of the room. It appears that the desk has given our RESERVED room, guaranteed with a credit card to someone else.
It is suggested that the hotel staff roust whom ever is in that room and we sort this out. The desk checks the reservation and asks Mom for her name and confirmation number again.
He then states that someone of my Mom's name had already checked in earlier in the evening.
Now we have a big problem.

By this time I am growing impatient and it is not lost on me that in just a few hours we would have to get up and get ourselves ready for Susanne's leg of the Torch Relay. I tell the clerk to give my brother Dan's room a call. He gives me some flack about how he has a "do not disturb" order for his room. That's when I really begin to loose my temper.
"Look buddy, pick up the phone and call his room, ring until he picks up. My mother, his mother has just travelled across this f#%*ing country, You have given away OUR room, you will make this call or I will,,,,"
He picked up the phone and called Dan.

Mom and I spent what was left of the night in Dan's room. Needless to say Dan was surprised to see us there. We had not told a soul that we were coming. Lucky he had a double room.

Funny how fast morning comes when you're tired and a bit jet lagged. The phone rang. It was Dan's wake up call- my Aunt Susanne- suggesting that he get up and meet at the elevator in the next few minutes. Breakfast with the family had been arranged and he as part of the family would be required to attend.

By then we were all up. I figured I had managed about 2 hours sleep. I grabbed my camera and Dan explained that Susanne's room was next to his and that we should go down for breakfast. The knock on the door was Susanne. I could hear commotion in the common area next to the elevator.

The door opened, I could see Susanne waiting at the elevator, her back to us. She turned and expecting to see Dan come out of his door, but instead she spots her sister, my Mom and me. The surprise was complete!
The moment we surprised Susanne.

Tears of surprise and joy are exchanged between the sisters. Hugs and laughter all around, it is a perfect  moment, all before 7am.

Susanne looks over to me and says "nobody has ever surprised me before, nobody. I can't believe you are here, I'm so happy.

As we embraced, she repeated, "I can't believe it"
And with a bit of a tear I whispered into her ear,  "Believe, Susanne, Believe"

Sisters - Believe

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

"And That's the Kinda Day it's Been"

Tomorrow Sept 1. will mark the end of a broadcast era in Canadian Television as the words "and that's the kinda day it's been" is spoken for the final time when "Canada's most trusted" News Anchor signs off of the CTV National News Desk. Yes Lloyd Robertson is stepping down at age 77.

Some of my first recollections of Mr. Robertson were when I was just a boy watching the CBC National News. I remember his coverage and commentary of several of the "moon shots of the 1960's and 70's. His presentation was part of the reason I became interested in News and Current Affairs television.

Lloyd is to Canada what Walter Cronkite was to our American cousins. A trusted voice, a solid journalist, if Lloyd told us about it on our nightly National News then it must matter and it must be important.

I had the privilege to meet Mr. Robertson several times during my own Television Career and had the honour to work on a couple of special projects with him. I aways found him to be a classy fellow that was never too big to give thanks to his crew. Lloyd only needed to meet you once, and you were forever embedded into his razor sharp mind.

My encounters with him were always friendly, he always had a story to tell and enjoyed hearing your story. Each time he would always remind me of how he worked with my Aunt in the National News Room many years ago and would regale me with how she came by her news room nic name- Strides.
It aways brought a smile to my face.

I, like most Canadians will miss you Lloyd, and although you will be still working on some special projects, not having that familiar voice proclaim "Thats the kinda day it's been" every night will take some getting used to. Happy trails Lloyd, happy trails and thank you.

Broadcast Legend- Canada's Most Trusted Newsman- Lloyd Robertson with me at the wrap party for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games- and yes he regaled me with the "Strides" story on that occasion again.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Believe Part 1-

This is a story about family, keeping the faith, and the Olympic Torch Relay.

I had entered all of the contests to become a Torch Bearer, but was unsuccessful. One of the places I had applied to run was in my home Province of New Brunswick. As the month of November was coming to a close it was to pass through my home town. It would have been nice to have been selected to run there, but fate would have other plans and purposes for me.

Murman rolling the camera during a Torch Stop at CFB Comox,  on Vancouver Island

I had just got back from Vancouver Island after the opening 4 days of the the Olympic Torch Relay. I had taken many pictures of the events, the places, the Torch Runners, our crew and the Flame itself during that time. As I reviewed the hundreds of files, it brought back all of the emotion and joy, that many who came out to watch, experienced. I just knew at that time that this relay and this bright orange flame would ignite a country.

The orange glow that ignited a nation

This was also about the time that the CTV Olympic promotional machine was in full swing with the "Believe" campaign. "Do you Believe?" Remember those segments throughout the CTV and Broadcast Consortium lineup? They had been running for about a year or more before the actual opening date of the 2010 Games, their message to the country was infectious.

The Relay by now was in Canada's far North with the Caravan team going into many small places. The Flame was headed to Canada's East Coast and would zig zag across the country back to Vancouver for the Opening Ceremony in February. Over twelve thousand torch runners would eventually carry the Flame. They would come from all walks of Canadian life. And for one glorious Olympic moment they would be Rock Stars to whomever they would pass with Flame held high, for all to experience.

It was on one late November Friday when I received an email message that my Aunt Susanne would be a Torch Runner in our home town of Saint John, NB. She and my Uncle would be making the trip there from Toronto and many Boyce family members would be making the trip from other far away parts as well. My Bro was coming up from New Jersey, Uncles and cousins over from Halifax and the rest of the family who were still living in Saint John would be there as well. Wow, would I ever like to be there with everyone. But here it was late on a Friday, Susanne's leg of the Run was on the next Tuesday and with Christmas coming, money being short and a list of other things including my current assignments- all conspiring to prevent me from getting on a plane.

I called my mother, who also lives in Vancouver, and we both lamented how it would be nice to be able to get up and just go. We both understood it's pretty much out of the realm of possibility for us. At the end of the conversation I accepted that fact and I would have to settle to be there only in spirit.
That was until my very good friend Jazz, who at that time was sitting at the work station beside me, said that he could not help over hear my phone conversation and set me on a different thought process.

"Dude, this is a once in a lifetime, you gotta take your mom and go" he said.
"Jazz, I am in the middle of an expensive divorce, money is very tight" I said.
Then he said something so incredible, so moving, it brought me to near tears.
"Murman, you've got to go, I'll help if you need it. Believe!" he said

It was then, at that moment that I discovered two things: One- just what an incredible friend I have and -Two- that this was too important a family moment to miss.
I thanked him for his generous offer but declined. Determined now by his words of encouragement, I managed to get the funding together by some sort of magic calculator and got onto the computer to begin and see if I could get flights back to New Brunswick leaving that Monday in less than 3 days!

I went into my ND's office to plead to get three days off to make the trip. She agreed. And I was off to the races.
I again got onto the computer and began to work out the details, two seats from Vancouver to Moncton NB was the best I could get. Leaving on the Monday morning Vancouver time, arriving just before midnight in Moncton. The plan then was to rent a car drive to Saint John, power snooze, get up early and see Susanne run at 9:30ish Tuesday morning Atlantic Time.

Next- call Mom, surprise her with the news that she should pack a camera and a carry on. That she and her first born, were going to be on a plane in two days. As I spoke to her, I insisted that she tell NO-ONE back east that we were coming. I figured that this should be a surprise and maintaining radio silence is the only way to accomplish this.
Mom was very keen.

In a blink of an eye, Monday morning had arrived. I packed very light.  as we arrived at YVR, Mom told me that she had booked a room for us at the Hilton. She knew that would be the place that Susanne and Uncle Brendon, brother Dan, and as it turns out, all of the out of town kin folk were staying there too.

"Passengers are reminded that in case of emergency or sudden loss of cabin pressure,,,,,,,,"
We both now in our seats, a big sigh of relief from me and Mom looks over at me and with a smile and says to me,

"All we had to do was "Believe"."

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Gift Marker

I had been given a gift a year and a half ago. I knew at the time it was a gift, but did not begin to comprehend just how much of a gift those memories and reflections continue to be. These are my first few days back from a two week break from anything News or News Gathering. And boy, wouldn't you know, the soul needed that break.

Vancouver Island was the place that I would go to recharge the mental batteries and free the spirit. The drive to my final destination of rest and relaxation would spawn images and memories of this wonderful gift.

It first hit me as I am listening to some 80's hair band over the satellite radio, not thinking of anything in particular, when all of a sudden the place around me looks strangely familiar. I am on route 4, passing  through a very small village called Hilliers. It was at this rather rural place, which I had never heard of before, where the true meaning and spirit of what this "gift" was, beginning to take shape. And just like that I am transported back in time. Thoughts of me in the back of a modified Camper known as "Media One", my lens pointing out the back, toward a happy young man, his arm out stretched, holding the Olympic Torch as it passed through this small, yet excited, little community of Hilliers BC. It made me smile and think of just how lucky I was to be there at that moment in time, to bare witness to the beginnings of a Nation about to become a glow in the celebratory light of the Olympic Flame.

One of only Two Torch Bearers in the Town of Hilliers

Murman in the back of Media One as we enter Port Alberni 

That event was the beginning of Day 3 of the Vancouver Olympic Torch Relay. An assignment that will be one of my favorites of my long career. 
As I continued to drive toward Port Alberni, memories flooded my head of that day almost a year and a half ago. Little stops here and there, the Relay Team trying to maintain a strict time line so as to be at the Port Alberni Community Celebration by Noon. It would be at Alberni, where I would jump off of Media One and meet up with Producer Chad Varhogg, who had been driving my wheels, to continue onto Tofino where our SAT Truck and the rest of our production crew would be. From there we would broadcast our 6 PM cast and because of time conflicts and demands of both the Network and our Local Desks we would be challenged to get it all shot, edited and fed before the show began. 
Added difficulty to us was there was only one road to Tofino, so getting out infront of the "Torch Convoy" was a must. Very quick stops for a splash of gas and a petro-sandwich and we were off.

I smiled as I passed that gas station a week ago, remembering just how we scarfed down those rather bland sandwiches and how fast we sped out of the parking lot.

Continuing on that narrow winding road on that day, the weather began to sour. The sun which was so warm and inviting in Hilliers was now gone. Rain was now in the cards. Funny, I had been to Tofino on assignment before and I had yet to experience the place with any sunshine.
Chad and I discussed what had been shot and "in the can" and what needed to be shot. There were two things that could not be missed. Well I suppose they could be, but that would likely shorten or potentially  end ones Olympic Career. Failure would not be an option on this. The first "Mission Impossible" was to shoot a Torch Bearer at Long Beach surfing the Flame in from the Pacific Ocean. Chad and another Camera Op would draw that one. The problem was to then get those pictures back to Tofino and to the SAT Truck before the "Convoy" clogged the only road into town. 
In the end, Chad and his Camera guy got the shot, but just outside of town, Chad himself ran the disk past the roadblock and to the truck. His Olympic career was safe.

CTV Producer Chad Varhogg after his Run to the Truck

I had drawn more of a local assignment, I was to document and shoot CTV Anchor Keri Adams as she ran the Flame in Tofino proper. The trouble was, this was not supposed to happen until just before 6. 
Be that as it may, it was a great privilege to be the Photog to shoot my friend Keri and her moment with lighted Torch. 

As the time drew near Keri became more excited, she had her husband Jay and her two daughters, one around 2 and the youngest still an infant. She realized that she was about to carry the Torch not for her, but for her family. It was truly an emotional moment. 

Each of the Torch Bearers would be assembled prior to their big moment, briefed by Relay Operations people, loaded up onto a bus and then dropped off at their respective start points or hand off points. These were marked by an Orange disc with the number of the Bearer, stuck to a sign or pole. Those of us on the Torch Relay Assignment had become very familiar with these markers. Keri's marker was no different. After she was loaded up, I headed directly to her marker to wait. 

Tofino was no different than most in that the whole town came out to line the streets to watch as The Torch Runners would pass by. Plenty of flashes from cameras of every make and model. People would cheer. It was a very festive and happy time for a place when the Olympic Relay came to town.

It was now getting dark on that November Sunday, Jay and the children had found an awning to keep out of the drizzle that had become a bit more uncomfortable. Then all at once the flashing lights of a Police escort, and the tell tail lights of the Torch Bearer Bus. It stops at the marker which happens to be affixed to the first Stop Sign as you enter Tofino. 
Out pops Keri, to the cheers of all around. The only thing brighter that the headlights was her smile. It wouldn't be long. Folks posed with her and the Torch as she waited with her "Key Master". (These were guys on bikes that had the key to turn on and off the gas cylinders in the Torch)
Excitement grew and as we looked down the road the orange glow of a runner making her way to Keri's location. It was the moment she had been waiting for. Jay and the children looking on with pride.
All at once the "Flame Kiss" and Keri's Torch was alight. Her smile as bright as could be. She took a moment and let it all sink in. Her eyes catching the pride on Jay's face, then upward basking in the Olympic Flame's glow, she began her 150 meters of the longest torch relay in Olympic history. It was magic to be pointing my lens in her direction. 

Olympic Torch Bearer #153 Keri Adams

Keri as she carries the Olympic Torch in Tofino, BC

As fast as it began, it was over and the emotion was not lost on her as her Torch went out at the end of her segment. She looked at me and game me a hug, tears now rolling down her eyes. Even ol' Murman was a bit misty eyed. As she hugged me, I felt a burn on one side of my face. Damn Keri, that Torch is still hot. It made for a funny story for when we would get back to the office. I had been burnt by an Olympic Torch, how many others can say that.

Fast forward to last week. I am driving into Tofino, the sun is shining ( for the first time as I visit) and lo and behold, on the first Stop Sign going into town is a faded Torch Relay Marker, that bears the number 153, Keri's Olympic Torch Relay marker still there, the memories flooded back.
It was a gift indeed.
It's still there Marker #153

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Return to Flight Status

Yesterday was my first day back in the skies for quite some time. The reason for my absence is not important, but it suffices to say, you don't know how much you enjoy something until its not there. That is an absolute when it come to my time aboard Chopper 9.

Chopper 9 Pilot Guiv readies for takeoff
I could hardly wait to get back in my seat, camera control panel on my lap, but the News Gathering Gods would not cooperate. I had to settle for a single beauty shot for the 6. It didn't matter, it was just good to be in the air.

I retired for the evening after the show flight, grateful for the ride. I hoped that something would happen this week that would warrant the unique features of news hunting from the sky.
At 10:57PM I would get my answer.

That answer came in the form of a phone call from my Ops Manager, requesting I get my ass out of bed at first light to fly over a high voltage power pylon that had collapsed into the Fraser River near the Port Mann Bridge. The lines were in the river and several other pylons were now in jeopardy of collapsing.

Needless to say 5am comes pretty quick and I managed to get myself in for a 6am flight to the incident. As we took off, again I was reminded of just how much I enjoy this gig.
We soon got a look at just what a problem this downed hydro tower was to the area. Authorities closed the Port Mann Bridge, a main crossing from the city of Surrey to the south side of the Fraser. Commuters   from the Fraser Valley going to Vancouver now have to detour to other bridges and via otherwise quite neighbourhoods to get to Vancouver.
The situation is one of "Traffic Armageddon". One radio report says "If you can work from home, then stay home." Who knew a simple downed line could cause such a mess.

A shot from my window of the downed Hydro Pylon

We flew over the scene along with all the other regular "traffic watch" aircraft. We did not have any particular show that we needed to service, but we gathered tape and the boys back at the station were ingesting our feed for items for the 5 and 6.
We flew for about 90 minutes when word came that the Bridge was about to be reopened. We stuck around for a bit longer and sure enough the trickle of vehicles slowly became a torrent across the Bridge.
I am sure we will be back on the scene before the end of the day and again for the 5 and 6.
Its not as sexy as a land slide or a riot or a big fire, but hey its a living and I love it!

I'll be blogging on a regular basis form here on in and as time goes on and I work the rust off of the keyboard. I hope to give you the reader some entertainment and perhaps some insight of what it is like to be in the chase as we try to bring stories to our viewers.