Friday, July 6, 2007

A Prized Show--& Ultra Surprised Host

So, not quite two Saturdays ago, WMNF held its annual Volunteer Banquet, a gathering of about 250 folks, including the small number of station staffers and the huge number of volunteers--some of whom one can hear on air, most of whom work tirelessly behind the scenes at the station, at the concerts and other events presented by WMNF, and in assorted other capacities.

Having only been on the air at WMNF for a year and a half, this was my first such banquet, and I was struck by the warm, friendly atmosphere as people socialized, enjoyed a meal, then settled in for the presentation of the awards. That is, I was struck by this while remaining focused on the non-stop activities of my three-and-half-year-old son, Mike, who--along with my wife, Colleen--accompanied me to the banquet. (He's pictured at the banquet, mid-shenanigans, in a picture above, taken by WMNF's Dawn Morgan.)

I had been encouraged to bring Mike by a handful of longtime WMNFers, who noted the event was informal and that other young kids would also likely be there. Still, it didn't work out that great--partly 'cause we'd attended not long after making the three-hour drive to Tampa from our home in Jupiter Farms, partly 'cause it was "just one of those days," and partly because (did I mention?) Mike is three and half years old.

On the huge plus side, to my utter shock and amazement, I won an award--named the station's News & Public Affairs Programmer Of The Year. The Mike Factor and winning this award made for an unusual juxtaposition, if not collision.

At this point, in fact, this situation may be best addressed by providing a copy of the e-mail I sent the next day to WMNF's Assistant News & Public Affairs Director Mitch Perry, who presented me the award. The "Rob" I allude to is News & Public Affairs Director Rob Lorei, who gave me the opportunity to broadcast "Talking Animals" on WMNF when I was looking for a new home for the show after my family and I relocated from California to Florida. Here's the e-mail:
Hi Mitch,

Thanks so much for the award. As may have been all too apparent, I was stunned in every sense of the word. For starters, in the wake of urging from Carrie & polling other MNFers--mostly with kids--I brought my 3 and-a-half-year-old lunatic, Mike, to the banquet, which through nobody's fault (but mine) turned out to be a bad call. So my wife & I (& our tablemates) braved his hijinks til around 5, at which point my wife took him out for good (not in the assassination sense, though that was tempting), and I walked out with them.

I was kinda frazzled from the Mike misadventures & attendant distractions, so as I re-entered Maestro's, I looked forward to grabbing a beer, chilling out and watching the awards ceremony unfold. As I step to the bar, I half hear you mention Nellie McKay & Bob Barker, then like some cartoon, I whip my head around & hear you say something about Emmylou Harris.

Like some sort of drug experience (well, what I've heard about those), my sense of time & space became all distorted. I don't know what the heck's happening, but I head to my seat--at which point I think I hear you announce my name. I'm still not sure what's happening--in addition to being out of sorts from young Mike Strauss, this is my first MNF banquet, & the first award of the day--so I lean over & ask Miss Julie, who's temporarily roosted at my table, if I'm supposed to go up there, or what?

So this is the backdrop for what I was like when I got to the podium--shocked at winning the award, somewhat disoriented overall & more than a little uncertain what to say or do next; I was like an awards ceremony double-buffoon: In the bathroom (or at least away from the awards room) when about to receive an award, AND the dipshit who forgets to thank people--in my case, that certainly should've included Rob, among others.

What's done is done--I mean, I don't think I said anything abysmal, or urinated all over myself or anything. I just wish I'd been in the room, a little more calm & collected, and had heard what you said. My wife (who regrets having left the room mere minutes before, to whisk our loon away) wondered if you might have a copy of any written remarks you might have made before announcing my award, or if anyone was recording the ceremony? If not, no prob.

And, lemme extend my huge & heartfelt thanks to you & other members of the MNF juggernaut--even if those thanks were woefully MIA yesterday.

So, obviously, I was ultra surprised.

I was also thrilled, flattered and honored.

And, heck, maybe in all his nuttiness, Mike was a good luck charm.

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