Wednesday, April 24, 2013

One day I'll learn how to better handle all the public attention ... but it's still a work in progress ... .

In the days leading up to Norman Lloyd's (now retired) visit yesterday, I was so careful to not breathe a word except to those who needed to know.  This was surely a sign of my insecurity, and tendency to under-anticipate events.  When something really big is in the offing I tend to go into "dimmer" mode which most resembles an emotionally-unresponsive artificially-induced light coma!

On those days scheduled for my two o'clock presentations in the theater a pattern has not yet formed. We never know who will come.  On some days there are few visitors, while on others its standing-room, only.  I had no idea what to expect yesterday, but I'd been told that "the news of his visit had gone viral," and that there would be many in the seats for my short talk.  Not so.   I'd discouraged those who indicated that they might show up,  "just for support."  What I didn't need was a room filled with my friends for whom the stories are old.  What I did need would have been enough faces, eyes, for whom the stories are new so that there is a freshening of the too familiar material -- the kind of resurrection of ideas that I need in order to keep my own interest in the stories alive.  The day they become mechanical, robotic, is the day I retire, I think.

As the hour arrived there was nary a soul in the Visitors Center.  Not even Norman Lloyd had arrived at the agreed-upon hour.  Of course.  It was just as I'd figured.  No surprises here.  That's life, right?

During my presentations I always have the lights turned up when the film ends so that I can see the faces -- the eyes -- of those in the audience.  Since I'm working with material that rises from memory, and that is pretty repetitive -- I'm totally dependent upon the feedback from the people sitting on those attractive red-painted benches.  I not only need that, but could not do the talk without it.

I remember a time last year when I was invited to participate on a radio panel with 3 in the studio in San Francisco, and I, the fourth -- coming in by phone from our offices in Richmond.  I was literally sitting alone in a sound-proof room speaking into a telephone while listening to the conversation across the Bay.  It was impossible!  I never did join the conversation; only contributing dead air!  The only way to participate would have been to interrupt, and I couldn't think of anything I could say that would be important enough to warrant that.

But,  Lloyd did arrive, and with two friends in tow.  That trio was joined by a visiting park ranger and an intern he had in tow in a training exercise that had brought them to our park from Golden Gate National Recreation Area across the Bay.  I believe that there was also a woman who crept in at the beginning of my commentary, after the film ended.  I felt only half-alive in my delivery, but at some point I could see reactions on the faces -- especially that of Mr. Lloyd -- and it was finally comfortable.  As I got more deeply into the story his face became animated, alive, interested.

Lloyd and Bradley in Vietnam
We went to the classroom when the theater assignment was completed, and we were able to become acquainted.  He was obviously interested in exploring his idea of creating some interest in our story for CBS, but what was important for me was what I learned about him.

He was a close friend of my favorite on-air journalist, the late great Ed Bradley!  The two had traveled to Vietnam at one point where Lloyd was Bradley's cameraman on an assignment for a documentary that involved returning to those battlefields with 5 Vietnam veterans in a search for friends lost in those killing fields during the war.  He gave me two DVDs of his work in Southeast Asia which I'll watch when time allows.

This is just the beginning of explorations, and where it will go is hard to guess.  There was mention of at least one other producer who is currently with CBS, and who could be brought in to see if there's enough of a story for a national audience, I suppose.  But, wherever it goes, I've met some new and very interesting friends who may provide new edges to grow from.

Stay tuned ... .

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