Monday, June 30, 2008

Light Weight Traveler

Pack It! Pack It All, and Let the TSA Sort it Out
© 2008 Leighann Lord

With ever tightening airport security rules and airline price increases for extra baggage it pays to travel light; this clashes quite a bit with the Girl Scout motto: Be Prepared. When deciding what to pack, my rule is I'd rather have it and not need it, then need it and not have it; consequently my carry-on is jammed. My travel size essentials include:

Matches (Lighters are verboten on flights.)
Iron (Not all hotels have one.)
Hair Dryer (See iron.)
First-Aid Kit (Accidents happen.)
Ben Gay (See first aid kit.)
Toilet Paper (It’s not cute to be caught wanting at a vulnerable moment.)
Paper Towels (See toilet paper.)
Lysol (Germs like to travel, too.)
Hand Sanitizer (See Lysol.)
Teddy Bear (My parents never broke me out of the habit and he's the one furry thing in my life that doesn't snore.)
Duct Tape (See below.)
I perform on cruise ships and even on the lowest setting the air conditioning gives my cabin that breezy meat locker feeling. I prefer my room to be only slightly cooler than the equator. So to cut down on the draft I break out the duct tape and tape up the ducts. Add in the clothes, shoes and accessories, and I've got a densely packed carry-on suitcase that my Husband affectionately calls The Hernia Maker.

I avoid checking a bag whenever I can. I don't want to pay extra money and I certainly don't want to spend time waiting at the carousel while the baggage handlers riffle through my belongings. I'm not disparaging all baggage handlers, just the guy who stole jewelry from my checked bag on a flight from Miami to New York. To his credit he had a very discerning eye. He took the real stuff and left the junk.

I also don't want to run the risk of an airline losing my luggage, again. USAirways lost my bag on a connecting flight through Pittsburgh. The airline representative told me -- with a straight face -- that my bag “could have ended up in any city that starts with a 'P.'” Pasadena? Portland? Paris? Perfect.

American Airlines lost my luggage on a direct flight from Miami to Nassau. How is that possible? They removed my bag from the plane because of weight restrictions. (I've got to put my Teddy Bear on a diet.) They promised to send my bag on the very next flight. It got to me six days later. My Teddy Bear was in that bag. I was distraught and he was pissed. After that he refused to travel in anything but my carry-on.

Traveling without checking a bag means mastering the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) 3-1-1 Rule:

Travel size containers 3 ounces or less
In a one quart zip-top bag
One per person
I have this rule down to a science, or so I thought. On a recent trip I forgot to switch my hand lotion from my handbag to my baggie. I realized this while watching my bag go through the x-ray machine. I mentally prepared myself for the indignity of a second screening, which can include: a probing security wand, a criminal-style pat down and a thorough bag search; but nothing happened.

I should have been grateful that I flew under the radar losing neither time being search nor product being confiscated, but shouldn’t my Bath & Body Works Moonlit Path hand lotion have set off a code red airport lock down? What kind of security is this? Is it a setup? Will I be on the list for a “random” cavity search before my next flight? I might have a hard time explaining the teddy bear and duct tape.

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Monday, June 23, 2008

Ask an Honest Question, Get an Honest Answer

Not as Refreshing as It Sounds

© 2008 Leighann Lord
We don't have a Caribou Coffee in New York so when I spotted one while passing through the Detroit airport I thought I'd give it a whirl. I'm finicky. I find most coffee to be terribly strong and bitter. What I really enjoy is a warm beverage of cream and sugar with a splash of caffeine. "How's the coffee?" I asked the counter girl. She said, "I'm young. I don't drink coffee."

Really now? Judging from the bevy of teenagers aggressively taking up space at my local Starbucks, youth no longer precludes one from drinking coffee. Unless they're all sharing a grande latte, they're respective allowances must be very generous. Maybe Miss Caribou didn't get the text message; too bad. From the sleepy way she leaned against the register a good cup of coffee could have done her a solid.

And while I usually applaud honesty, I couldn't help but wonder, "If you don't drink or like coffee, why are you working here?" Even if she's not ringing up coffee on commission, a slightly more positive attitude would have been nice. She could have said, "I haven't tried the coffee, but our most popular flavor is... customers seem to like... our best seller is ..." Maybe The Caribou Company is counting on the fact that coffee sells itself; and it does, when the staff isn't actively dissuading the customers.

Presumably on a roll or perhaps not quite understanding where the company gets the money to pay her, Miss Caribou began enumerating the disadvantages of drinking coffee. I bet she was the Girl Scout who never made her cookie quota. "I don't eat cookies. They make you fat." This attitude wouldn't fly at Starbucks. Say what you want about the ubiquitous coffee cult, but they make sure their people are trained to raise the bar in Barista.

Oh, Miss Caribou's biggest reason for not liking coffee: "It makes your breath stink."

So does sleeping but I can't seem to help it; hence the coffee. This just might explain why there's an assortment of breath mints for sale at the register. Maybe she didn’t see them since she was leaning on them. Honestly, I hadn't realized my java Jones was indicative of advanced age and reckless oral hygiene. So I passed on the coffee and ordered a garlic bagel.

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Monday, June 16, 2008

The Worst Three Hours of My Life!

A CrackBerry Addict Drops Off the Grid

© 2008 Leighann Lord

I dropped my BlackBerry and the screen went blank. No big deal. I reset the battery, pressed the "on" button and abracadabra, nothing. I tried it again and all I got was the faint red glow of the indicator light. When that sputtered out, I began to panic. "I'm out here all alone without my BlackBerry?!?" Mind you, "out here" was the grocery store less than five miles from my house. I had my car, my keys, and my wallet. I even had a quarter to use a pay phone, but unfortunately pay phones don’t have speed dial. And thus my mind slipped quickly and easily into the sad and pitiful grip of BlackBerry withdrawal.

I guess subconsciously I believed my BlackBerry was indestructible. I've dropped it on a few occasions, and like a Timex, it took a licking and kept on ticking. I just knew the fine folks at Research in Motion (RIM) had crafted the device from pure adamantium. (For you non-X-Men fans, that's what Wolverine's skeleton is made from.)

Things were easier when phones weren't so smart. Back then, a lost or broken phone was just that. Now, a felled phone costs you your date book, camera, mp3 player, mobile internet connection; not to mention all the third party applications. And so an inopportune meeting with parking lot concrete turned my smart phone into a dumb paper weight.

What to do? The Panicked BlackBerry-deprived Voice in me said, "Groceries by damned; go buy another phone." The Calmer let's-not-make-hasty-financial-decisions-in-this-economy Voice said, "Call tech support and see if they can fix it." Yes, that's it. Good looking out, Calm Voice.

Forty-five minutes after backing up my data, deleting and reinstalling the hand held software, the screen was still black. "Josh," the RIM Rep sighed and said, "Sounds like the LCD screen is damaged. You're gonna have to send the unit in for repair." He said the words half heartedly knowing full well that no self respecting BlackBerry owner is going to part with a gadget so vital and integral to their daily lives. Send it in? Pish posh, Josh.

As I drove to the T-Mobile store to get a replacement BlackBerry it finally hit me: I'm not just a casual fan of a cool piece of technology. I’m an addict. There’s a reason why they call it a CrackBerry. I went off the grid for a measly three hours and I was a wreck. How did this happen to me? I used to mock people with BlackBerrys as card carrying members of the Matrix. I guess I mocked too soon. Mock not, lest Yee be mocked.

Naturally, this is all my Husband's fault.

I never wanted a BlackBerry. He did. But my Sweetie is not very technically savvy, so the BlackBerry sat in the box until he gave me The Face and said, "Baby, can you please set up my phone for me." Sometimes I think he only married me for my technical know how. (Take that any way it amuses you.) And so -- since I'm a sucker for a furry face -- I read the manual, called tech support and when I was done I was ready to join the BlackBerry nation.

This was a major hardware shift for me. For years I was a Palm purist. I've had the Palm Pilot, Palm IIIxe, Palm M130 and two Palm m515s. The Palm Treo -- Palm's foray in the combination PDA/Cell phone market – should have been the logical next step for me, but I was deeply skeptical back then of all-in-one devices. Instead of one gadget that can do many mediocre things, I wanted good quality dedicated devices. I wanted my camera to be my camera, my PDA to be my PDA and my phone to be my phone. I guess in retrospect I should have gone with my instincts.

I also couldn't ignore the declining quality of Palm's customer service. Excruciatingly long hold times for help prompted me to buy a speaker phone. You know you’re on hold for too long when the cartilage in your ear starts to hurt. And then when I finally got a live person, I was disturbed to find I routinely knew more than they did. "Dude, do you even own a Palm?" By contrast, RIM has great tech support. It’s accessible and free, 24-hours-a-day; the reps are kind, courteous and competent. Is it any wonder that I made the switch?

Now, crisis averted, I plan to get the LCD screen repaired so I have a back-up BlackBerry. I know this sounds like I’ve taken a big swig of the berry flavored Kool-Aid but I use my phone for business. I need to know at a moment’s notice who’s hiring me for a show, poking me on FaceBook, or if the nice Nigerian diplomat needs my help sorting out his country’s finances.

Seriously though, I’m not addicted to my BlackBerry. I can turn it off and put it down anytime I want to. No really. I can walk away from any gadget, any time: Ipod, laptop, desktop, car, indoor plumbing, electricity, air … I can go "Little House on the Prairie" with the best of them. That’s right. You didn’t know I could roll like that didja? But, of course, I’d have to be Nellie Olson; because if anybody in Walnut Grove would have a BlackBerry, it would be her.

Gotta go; phone’s ringing.


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Monday, June 9, 2008

Lucky To Be A Daddy's Girl

Happy Father's Day!

© 2008 Leighann Lord

Much ado is often made about sons needing their fathers, but quiet as it's kept, daughters need them too. Never has this been more evident then when watching the disturbingly popular "Flavor of Love." I'm not an overly religious woman, but an episode of this show moves me to quote Archie Bunker, "Take me now, Lord! Take me now!" This is not the flavor of love, but the lack thereof. Perhaps if we had more Daddy's who paid attention than Father's who just paid support, these type of shows wouldn't exist at all. Is this putting a lot of pressure on men? Yes, but no more than they can handle.

I learned a lot of cool things from my Dad. He taught how to draw a perfect circle, catch a ball, change a tire and play cards: go fish, war, solitaire, black jack, poker, gin rummy and I play a mean game of spades; trump tight or not. As my Dad says, "Anybody can play a good hand; the skill is to play a bad hand well." As the former founder and president of my college spades club, I spent many a happy afternoon in the student center forcing squeeze plays, pulling spades, and when necessary bidding blinds to bring me back from the brink.

Despite an affinity for cards my Dad taught me not to bet. If Las Vegas and Atlantic City depended on me they'd be broke. It's not an issue of morality, but common sense: There's no such thing as a sure thing. To further cement the lesson my Dad would trick me into betting.

He’d say, "You bid a six with that hand? I bet you get stuck."

I'd say, "Okay, you're on."

And then he'd say, "Okay, you're grounded. I told you not to bet."

Lesson learned: the house always wins.

My Dad spoiled me. As my husband often says to him, "Sir, you've made my job very hard." My Dad says nothing, but the twiggle in his mustache says, "Mission accomplished." I love my husband, but I can honestly say I've always dated good guys. My Dad is a good man so I guess, subconsciously, that's what I looked for. I believe this has saved me a great deal of superfluous drama and heart ache. Almost to a man I've been treated with love and respect. Players, abusers and psychos need not apply.

Between the ages of 15 and 21 my relationship with my Dad was not always so "Father Knows Best." How could it be? We were at cross purposes. I wanted to date boys and he wanted to lock me in the house. Reflecting on the exploits of their youth, I doubt many fathers are comfortable with the idea of their daughters dating. But unable to fight the inevitable, my Dad made sure he gave me the best advice he could. Because of him, I was going Dutch long before it was fashionable.

"Don't let a boy pay for dates," he said. "Eventually he's gonna want to be paid back and what he wants, you can't afford."

"It's not what a man can do for you in bed; it's what he can do for you when he gets out."

"While you're looking for 'Mr. Perfect,' what are YOU bringing to the table?"

"Love is not ownership."

"Do or not do. There is no try."
Oh wait, that was Yoda.

A friend once told me that she received similar pearls of wisdom from her grandfather. Multi-generational father figures are also important to a young woman's development. He, however, put things a little more bluntly: "You play pussy, you get fucked." Whoomp, there it is.

Is having a great Dad the reason I have no desire to be a contestant in reality shows that are little more than televised prostitution? Who knows? It could be any one of a combination of things: right place, right time, right parents, right mind. Maybe I'm just lucky I have the best Dad in the whole world. Now you might be reading this and thinking "you've" got the best Dad in the whole world. And you're right. You do. I wish we all did, and then maybe more people would know real love doesn't come in the flavor of exploitation.

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Monday, June 2, 2008

Good Night, Harvey

A Personal Memory of Harvey Korman

© 2008 Leighann Lord

Like most of America I came to know Harvey Korman from his weekly role on "The Carol Burnett Show." I'd like to say he was my favorite cast member, but in truth I loved them all as an ensemble. Each uniquely talented in their own right, the group chemistry was delightfully magical. The sketches were hilarious, and they were even better when the cast broke down and struggled not to laugh through a scene. It looked like Carol, Harvey, Tim Conway, Vicki Lawrence and Lyle Wagner were having the time of their lives. A job with funny and talented co-workers, who make people laugh and enjoy themselves in the process? Sign me up.

I got a chance to meet Harvey Korman in 1993 on the set of Radioland Murders. It was my first movie and to say I was excited is an understatement. Not knowing or caring about the Hollywood caste system I talked to everybody from the property master to the key grips and was constantly under foot. One of the highlights of this experience was chatting with Harvey Korman.

As "The Old Guy" on the set he was delightfully crotchety. He good naturedly grumbled about the business, "Herbie the Love Bug" and his agent. "I've got to stop taking his calls," he said. According to Harvey, his agent had to talk him into doing "Radioland" when all he wanted to do was stay home. I loved every minute of it and I wasn't fooled. When the cameras started rolling, Harvey was a pure pro: in character with impeccable timing, he delivered the funny in every single scene.

When he found out I was a comedian he told me to let him know when I when I was in LA because he knew the owners of The Comedy Store. I did not take him up on the offer. Though young in the business, it didn't take long to figure out that the phrase "look me up" is in the same league as "let's do lunch," "the check is in the mail," and "you were great!"

Cynical? Bad Hollywood stereotype? Maybe, but my experience tells me different. I've worked with more than one well-known celebrity (don't ask me, I'm not telling) who asked me to call them, their lawyer/agent/manager/flunkie so we could meet/talk/have coffee /work together. How many messages do you leave before it becomes stalking?

I'm not pushy and I'm not the groupie type who gloms onto the rich and famous in the hopes that they'll do something for my career. If you dig me and want to help, that's cool. If you don't, that's fine too. Like I said, I'm not pushy; which makes unsolicited and later unrealized offers of help even more perplexing.

Maybe I’d have a better understanding of this behavior if my degree was in psychology. In lieu of enlightenment I've learned that some offers just can’t be taken at face value. Sometimes -- without malice -- empty offers and hollow praise can drop as automatically from the tongue as does a "god bless you" to a sneeze. Sometimes a "call me" means "don't."

Is it possible that Harvey really meant it? Absolutely, but part of me didn't want to find out if another one of my comedy idols was full of shit. The older you grow, the fewer illusions you get to keep; and you don't always get to choose which ones. I chose to keep my happy memories of a very funny man who I was incredibly lucky to work with; who with a phone call wouldn’t hesitate get me some coveted LA stage time should I need it.

For the record, if he had said he had friends at "The Tonight Show" it might have been a different story. Illusions be damned. I’d of risked a restraining order for that.


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