Friday, May 18, 2007

Strange day at work

An hour into work yesterday, my boss tells me to go out and "find an illegal immigrant." No, the AP has not decided to find cheap labor. The national desk was working on a story on reaction to the proposed bill the Senate is discussing this week, a "touchback" system for illegal immigrants to apply for citizenship. I don't think it's going to persuade a lot of them, however. I mean requiring a $5,000 fee and to return home and wait eight to 13 years. Not exactly ideal conditions. Anyway, I had to go get the opinion of an actual illegal immigrant, which meant finding one who would talk to me. So, where did I go to fulfill this quest? Why, Home Depot of course.

I went out to the parking lot of a Home Depot supply store near my old place and sure enough, there were like 10 Mexicans waiting for work. At first they all came toward me out of curiosity. As soon as I explained I was a reporter, more and more began to walk away. Can't say I blame them. I had to talk to them really loud over the noisy traffic and, switching from Spanish to English, assure them we were not out to report anyone. I just needed someone's opinion. I ended up meeting a nice 56-year-old from Morelos, Mexico named Daniel. Another guy, Jorge, interpreted Daniel's answers for me. It was interesting talking to them and of course, I felt fortunate that I did not feel such a need for financial gain, that I would make a risky journey into another country. I don't want to get political but let me just say I understand Daniel's perspective.

The day still goes down as strange because in the afternoon, my boss informed me I would have a small but pivotal role in covering an execution. Next Tuesday at 10 a.m.., Arizona is scheduled to hold its first execution in 20 years. A man guilty of repeated raping a woman and killing a man at a camp site in 1987 will get taken out by lethal injection. Another reporter--even younger than me but much more savvy--will be covering and witnessing the actual execution at death row. But the media there won't be able to get to their phones for about 30 minutes because they aren't allowed to. There will be a media staging area in the prison nearby where phones are allowed. That's also where a corrections officer will come out as soon as the execution has occurred and inform everyone. So, I need to be in that room to call the office as soon as that happens so they can put out an urgent news alert on the wire. That's pretty much all I'll be there to do. And to top off the wierdness, I might have to help with "American Idol" coverage that day. What a juxtaposition. My boss says "executions and 'American Idol,' two things that happen no matter what."

Jordin Sparks, one of two remaining contestants, is from Glendale, Ariz. She has also become a "beat" for me. I had to write a profile on her and wait outside last Friday in 100-degree heat for her to show up at a very staged hometown visit put on by Fox. I think Jordin is great and deserving of praise. I just think the PR machine around her is disturbing. At that visit, I thought I was going to puke after seeing how much was about catering for the cameras of the local Fox affiliate. The whole thing was just too slick. Though I'm far from an "American Idol" addict, at least the coverage got me a chance to go on the national wire.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Yah for the Bay!

How funny that I've been staying up late to watch Conan O'Brien to get a taste of home, or the Bay Area in general. Conan is broadcasting his show from the Orpheum Theater in SF this week. I had to watch at least his first show Monday night. Here are some of the jokes from his monologue (a bit rocky at first):

After entering on a small-scale version of the Golden Gate Bridge: "How's that for a replica? We had a replica of the Bay Bridge, but it collapsed."

"San Francisco--the only city where marijuana is legal but plastic bags aren't."

"Mayor Newsom sent me some flowers. Very nice. When I called to thank him, he said they were really for my wife."

He did really funny comedy bits from Coit Tower ("I'm just going to run up inside because it looks like a giant penis."), Washington Square where all the elderly Chinese do Tai Chi (he actually tried to do a fan dance exercise) and my favorite, Chinatown where nobody recognized him. He ended with the most important attraction of all--besides the transgender, TransAmerica pyramid--the house from "Full House." It was especially amusing--and a tad creepy--when Bob Saget actually answered the door. I'm glad SF is getting a nice shot of publicity from Conan.

Speaking of Chinese attractions...I was flipping through today's Arizona Republic. They just put out their "Best of" Calendar issue where they publish readers' votes for every kind of food, drink and entertainment place. I saw for Best Chinese Restaurant that P.F. Chang's was a runner-up. Are you freaking kidding me???!! And another runner-up was this place called Flo's which looks like an upscale restaurant that markets to non-Chinese. The winner was a place called China Chili that is actually run by a Chinese man. Still, I ate there a couple weeks ago. The food wasn't any better than Great Wall, the place owned by my aunt. Metro Phoenix's idea of Chinese food again reminds me of why this place has a long way to go before it can match the cosmopolitan feel of San Fran.