A biker at Burgdorf’s

I knew better, still I clad myself in biker-chick attire.

I spent twenty years teaching in a high school in Phoenix’s inner city. During that time, my students and I had constant battles concerning the dress code. I did understand their frustration. We all, myself included, want to wear what we like and what’s comfortable. But the point of the dress code, I explained, was to prepare students for the fact that in the real world they would often be asked to wear certain clothing to work.

Choruses of, “That’s not fair!” and “I’ll wear what I want!” often drowned me out.

“Look,” I would say. “When I was in television, every time I moved to a new TV station, I was immediately sent to a consultant, where my clothing, hair, makeup, and jewelry were scrutinized. I’d then be informed that my “look” would need to be updated.”

“You could’ve said no,” some child would share.

“And then what do you think might have happen?”

“You be fired?” someone would say.

“Exactly! So, when they asked me to change my look, I did. I never argued or complained.”

However, on one occasion I did protest in a not-so-subtle way. It was when I first got to ESPN in 1990. I’d been hired to anchor SportsCenter, a venue predominately peopled by men, most of whom had no idea what a woman should wear on camera.

ESPN, like all the stations I worked for, insisted that I change my look, so I was off to Burgdorf’s to meet with a consultant.

“You need to go into New York. Your appointment’s at noon tomorrow,” my boss informed me. “You’ll be meeting with some people at Burgdorf’s.

My ears perked up at the mention of the fabled Fifth Avenue department store known for its high fashion and even higher prices.

The next morning, I surveyed my closet. I knew exactly what to expect at Burgdorf’s. Think Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, when snooty sales people refused to wait on her and intimated that she should leave because she was not their type of client.

Despite knowing better, I pulled out a pair of black jeans, a black turtleneck and a black leather jacket. Keeping with the theme, I donned a pair of soft black boots. While I did put on black-and-silver earrings, the overall look was that of, well, a biker chick.

Why I did I do this? ESPN was the fourth TV station to hire me as a sportscaster, so perhaps I was just tired of all the fuss. Or maybe it was the memory of the station that insisted I perm my hair. I battled those Shirley Temple-esque corkscrews for months. Or maybe I was just obstinate.

I felt fine on my Amtrak trip into the city and as I walked up Fifth Avenue past all the pretty store windows. But, when I stood before Bergdorf’s, I stopped and considered my appearance.  There was no doubt my sartorial choices were not in Bergdorf’s ballpark. Still, I took a deep breath and entered those hallowed halls. Chandeliers sparkled from above, lighting goods arrayed like artwork in a museum. A hush descended, as if I’d entered a church. Pretty saleswomen spoke softly as they hovered around well-dressed customers.

I stood for a while, unsure of where to go. I thought someone might offer to help me, but no one did. In fact, they didn’t even look at me. Eventually, I located the right floor and approached a saleswoman. “I’m here for an appointment.” The woman scanned me from head to toe, but I don’t recall her speaking.

“I’m from ESPN. I have an appointment.”

“Just a moment.” She walked away, her face blank.

I busied myself looking through a rack of jackets and gasped at the prices.

“You are Anne Montgomery?” A voice behind me sounded incredulous.

“Yes, I am.” I beamed her a smile.

The saleswomen at Bergdorf’s hovered around me like I was Cinderella headed for the ball.

What followed was hours of putting things on and taking things off. The number of saleswomen multiplied over the course of the afternoon. Then, a serious-looking lady approached. “We’ve had a call from ESPN.” (Yes, this was before most people had cellphones.) “There might be a story you have to cover and they want you available for a live shot.”

I felt queasy. My hair was pulled back in a ponytail. I had no makeup with me. And, of course, there was my biker-chick attire.

In an instant, those women were on me. I felt like Cinderella preparing for the ball, only with a host of fairy godmothers. They’d dress me in one outfit, shake their heads, and pick another. Then another, all while I continually checked the clock. No one said when the live shot might be.

Then someone tut-tutted at my hair and a stylist appeared. My silver earrings weren’t right and someone arrived with a handful of jewelry. I recall my nails were atrocious–a constant state with me–but there was no time for a manicure. “If you can hide your hands, do.” Someone suggested.

When they finally spun me around for a look in the mirror, I might have laughed, had a live shot not been looming. I was still brand new to ESPN and I didn’t even know what the story was about. The thought of going live on camera under the circumstances was making me ill.

“Ms. Montgomery.” I turned from the mirror. “Your news director just called. Your live shot has been cancelled.”

I let out a long breath and noticed that all the women looked a bit deflated that their handiwork would not be on broadcast display. As I changed back into my biker gear, they bagged up my purchases. The women all smiled sweetly as a left.

The price tag for my afternoon at Bergdorf’s came to just over five thousand dollars, which today is almost ten grand.

It’s funny, don’t you think, that no one seemed to mind my attire on my way out the door.

A WOMAN FLEES AN ABUSIVE HUSBAND

AND FINDS HOPE IN THE WILDS OF THE ARIZONA DESERT.

Published by Liaison – A Next Chapter Imprint

Rebecca Quinn escapes her controlling husband and, with nowhere else to go, hops the red-eye to Arizona. There, Gaby Strand – her aunt’s college roommate – gives her shelter at the Salt River Inn, a 1930’s guesthouse located in the wildly beautiful Tonto National Forest.

Becca struggles with post-traumatic stress, but is enthralled by the splendor and fragility of the Sonoran Desert. The once aspiring artist meets Noah Tanner, a cattle rancher and beekeeper, Oscar Billingsley, a retired psychiatrist and avid birder, and a blacksmith named Walt. Thanks to her new friends and a small band of wild horses, Becca adjusts to life in the desert and rekindles her love of art.

Then, Becca’s husband tracks her down, forcing her to summon all her strength. But can she finally stop running away?

Order your copy here: http://mybook.to/wildhorsespb

A Star Trek lesson we need to heed

Fifty-five years ago, the original Star Trek TV series was launched. The show survived just three seasons, still that does nothing to diminish the impact the program had. If you don’t believe me, take a look at your cellphone. Then, glance at Captain James T. Kirk as he flips open his communicator. Looks familiar, doesn’t it?

Captain Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise traveled the galaxy in the hope of doing good.

Kirk and his crew were tasked with exploring the universe. The opening voiceover still gives me chills. Space: the final frontier; These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds. To seek out new life and new civilizations. To boldly go where no man has gone before!

While I was just a kid at the time the series came out, I was enthralled by the situations the Enterprise crew endured. I know what you’re thinking. The show today looks cheesy, with sometimes silly special effects and actors routinely chewing scenery. But back in the mid-1960s it was mesmerizing. And often the stories had deep sociological meaning.

While there are several episodes dealing with planetary pandemics, I will skip those since I, at least, need some rest from that particular subject. Instead, the one that sticks in my head is “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield.” The story centers around the planet Cheron whose people have been fighting a civil war for 50,000 years. Kirk and his crew attempt to negotiate a peace with two ambassadors who are so embittered by their hatred toward one another that no one on the Enterprise can get through to them.

Commander Spock and Captain Kirk struggled with the prejudice of the people on Cheron who’d been entangled in a race war for 50,000 years.

The ambassadors insist that their people are too different to get along. Finally, Spock—Kirk’s Vulcan second-in-command—points out, “The obvious visual evidence, Commissioner, is that he is of the same breed as yourself.” What Spock is alluding to is the fact that all the people of Cheron are black on one side and white on the other.

I was 14 when this episode aired in 1969. Race riots had plagued the US for several years, including those in Newark, New Jersey, not far from where I lived. The TV images of the anger and destruction were frightening. Though I will admit here that I was raised in a predominately white suburb, I camped every summer with girls of all kinds—black, white, brown. We spent our days together, slept in the same tents every night, and never gave it a second thought. So, the violence I watched on the news was confusing.

Kirk has no idea why the ambassadors of Cheron hate one another. Finally, in exasperation, he looks at them and says, “You’re black on one side and white on the other.”

One man puffs up his chest. “I am black on the right side.”

When I heard that line, something clicked in my brain. I now understood the idiocy of racism. And—don’t laugh—I truly believed that soon everyone would realize the stupidity of demeaning others because of what they looked like. In my misguided innocence, I thought that very soon racism would be relegated to the past and that we would all get along. Cue “Kumbaya”.

Of course, that didn’t happen. Today, at 65, I wonder what went wrong? How did so many people of my generation not get the message?

I’d like to think we can still repair the damage we’ve done to one another, but maybe we can’t. Perhaps, if we’re not careful, we’ll end up like the people of Cheron, who annihilated themselves and destroyed their planet because of their hate. My 14-year-old self found it hard to feel sorry for them. After all, they were the instrument of their own destruction.

We might be too.

Here’s hoping we come to our senses in time.

A WOMAN FLEES AN ABUSIVE HUSBAND

AND FINDS HOPE IN THE WILDS OF THE ARIZONA DESERT.

Published by Liaison – A Next Chapter Imprint

Rebecca Quinn escapes her controlling husband and, with nowhere else to go, hops the red-eye to Arizona. There, Gaby Strand – her aunt’s college roommate – gives her shelter at the Salt River Inn, a 1930’s guesthouse located in the wildly beautiful Tonto National Forest.

Becca struggles with post-traumatic stress, but is enthralled by the splendor and fragility of the Sonoran Desert. The once aspiring artist meets Noah Tanner, a cattle rancher and beekeeper, Oscar Billingsley, a retired psychiatrist and avid birder, and a blacksmith named Walt. Thanks to her new friends and a small band of wild horses, Becca adjusts to life in the desert and rekindles her love of art.

Then, Becca’s husband tracks her down, forcing her to summon all her strength. But can she finally stop running away?

Order your copy here: http://mybook.to/wildhorsespb

Children do not have the right to play school sports

A recent vote by the AIA to cancel winter sports had parents and athletes in an uproar.

Recently, the high school sports governing body here in Arizona—the Arizona Interscholastic Association—voted to cancel the winter sports season, a cautionary measure taken due to the alarming prevalence of Covid-19 cases in the state.

The hue and cry were immediate. AIA board members were harassed and threatened, while athletes marched outside the association’s headquarters protesting the decision. Parents pushed back, demanding that their children be allowed to play, saying that the kids had the right to participate in sports.

But that’s not true. As a high school teacher of twenty years, I often had to correct my students in this regard. Sports— as well as all extracurricular activities— are a privilege not a right.

School sports are a privilege not a right.

Now, before you jump to conclusions, understand that I spent forty years of my working life in sports, both as a journalist and an official, where I called football, baseball, ice hockey, soccer, and basketball games. (As a disclaimer, note that I worked baseball and football for the AIA.) That said, I agree wholeheartedly that children glean important life skills from participating in sports, like being part of a team, understanding the need to win and lose graciously, and learning how to get up and try again after they’ve been knocked down. I always encouraged my students to participate in sports.

However, we are in the midst of a worldwide pandemic that has killed close to 380,000 people in the U.S. alone and almost two million worldwide. Over 90 million people have had the disease, some of whom may have debilitating side effects for the rest of their lives. And the virus shows no hint of waning.

Arizona is currently the worst hot spot in the country. So, when a host of doctors proclaimed that it would be dangerous for school sports to continue at this time, the AIA board made its decision.

“Unfortunately, it is expected that the state will see a continued rise in Covid-19 hospitalizations for some time,” Dr. Kristina Wilson, the chairwoman of the AIA’s Sports Medicine Advisory Committee, said in a recent article in the Arizona Republic. “As medical professionals we cannot in good conscience recommend that students engage in a winter season under the current conditions.”

It was not surprising then that the board members decided against having winter sports, though the 5-4 vote shocked me. With our hospitals verging on full occupancy and infection rates ravaging the populace, I would have expected a 9-0 vote.

Kids are tougher than you think. Disappointment is part of life and, despite what parents are saying, it’s not generally a tragedy.

But what really stunned me was that, following hysterical online bashing and wailing about the terrible damage this decision would do to kids, the board backtracked. A second vote was taken and the winter season was reinstated.

The parents of these athletes should be ashamed, especially those claiming that their children’s mental health is at stake. Kids are tougher than you think. Yes, there will be disappointment, but that’s part of life and dealing with it is a lesson that can’t come too soon. And let’s not forget patience, perseverance, and perspective.

This reminds me of the lyrics to that old Rolling Stones song. “You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, well, you might find, you get what you need.” It’s time we imparted that message to our kids, not the one that says you should bully people into submission to get your way.

A WOMAN FLEES AN ABUSIVE HUSBAND

AND FINDS HOPE IN THE WILDS OF THE ARIZONA DESERT.

Published by Liaison – A Next Chapter Imprint

Rebecca Quinn escapes her controlling husband and, with nowhere else to go, hops the red-eye to Arizona. There, Gaby Strand – her aunt’s college roommate – gives her shelter at the Salt River Inn, a 1930’s guesthouse located in the wildly beautiful Tonto National Forest.

Becca struggles with post-traumatic stress, but is enthralled by the splendor and fragility of the Sonoran Desert. The once aspiring artist meets Noah Tanner, a cattle rancher and beekeeper, Oscar Billingsley, a retired psychiatrist and avid birder, and a blacksmith named Walt. Thanks to her new friends and a small band of wild horses, Becca adjusts to life in the desert and rekindles her love of art.

Then, Becca’s husband tracks her down, forcing her to summon all her strength. But can she finally stop running away?

Order your copy here: http://mybook.to/wildhorsespb

Officials in the booth? Really, it was all my idea

A long time ago, back when I hoped to earn a paycheck in front of a TV camera, I had what I thought was a moment of brilliance. Why, I opined, wouldn’t TV networks want to hire sports officials and put them in the broadcast booth? The idea seemed like a win-win.

Of course, I was a tad biased. I had taken five years and learned to officiate five sports: football, baseball, ice hockey, soccer, and basketball. All with the hope that my new-found on-field expertise might wrangle me a job as a sportscaster. While blowing whistles and calling balls and strikes did eventually help me get my foot in the sports journalism world, I never in 15 years as a reporter met any other broadcasters from the officiating ranks.

When I was a SportsCenter anchor at ESPN, I suggested it might be a good idea to put former officials in the broadcast booth. My colleagues thought I was crazy.

Fast forward to today, where former officials are now miced up and sharing their thoughts on calls with the viewing public. That makes me want to hop into Mr. Peabody’s Wayback Machine and confront my old colleagues at ESPN.

“It would be great,” I explained in the newsroom back in 1990. “You could put officials in the booth and they could explain why certain calls were made.”

Crickets.

“You know, clear up confusion for the viewers.”

My remarks, as I recall, were met by head shakes indicating that I was certainly out of my mind. Who would ever want to listen to sports officials speak? They intimated.

Fast forward thirty years and there they are, with the NFL leading the way. Former officials and now rules analysts Mike Pereira, Dean Blandino, and Terry McAulay, among others. Then there’s Gene Steratore, who along with his 15-year NFL career spent 20 years calling college basketball games and is now an analyst for both sports.

The question is, what took the networks so long? Sports rules are complicated. Don’t believe me? Ask someone to explain what constitutes a catch is in football. Or the reasoning behind and execution of an infield fly in baseball. Or the difference between a foul ball and a foul tip. Or when icing is waved off in hockey. Or how to tell a charge from a block in basketball. Or what constitutes traveling. Oh, wait. No one calls that anymore.

While fans might better understand their favorite sports by listening to former officials in the booth, maybe they’re happier just arguing about the rules.

Anyway, if you don’t believe me, pick up a rule book. Just read one page. I dare you. Rules and their corresponding diagrams can sometimes look like hieroglyphics with descriptions written by folks from MENSA. So why not hire people who study those books for a living? Then they can dumb down the rules to make them more digestible to the viewing public.

Then again, many fans thrive on controversy and arguing about calls is high on their list of entertaining things to do. Maybe if they actually understood the rules, some of the fun might be drained out of sports fandom.

As a purist, I think it’s better to truly understand the rules, but since I spent four decades as an amateur official, I’m clearly more than a little biased.

A WOMAN FLEES AN ABUSIVE HUSBAND

AND FINDS HOPE IN THE WILDS OF THE ARIZONA DESERT.

Published by Liaison – A Next Chapter Imprint

Rebecca Quinn escapes her controlling husband and, with nowhere else to go, hops the red-eye to Arizona. There, Gaby Strand – her aunt’s college roommate – gives her shelter at the Salt River Inn, a 1930’s guesthouse located in the wildly beautiful Tonto National Forest.

Becca struggles with post-traumatic stress, but is enthralled by the splendor and fragility of the Sonoran Desert. The once aspiring artist meets Noah Tanner, a cattle rancher and beekeeper, Oscar Billingsley, a retired psychiatrist and avid birder, and a blacksmith named Walt. Thanks to her new friends and a small band of wild horses, Becca adjusts to life in the desert and rekindles her love of art.

Then, Becca’s husband tracks her down, forcing her to summon all her strength. But can she finally stop running away?

Order your copy here: http://mybook.to/wildhorsespb

Doggy Drama and Kitty Stress

Our obligation to our pet friends is to be there when they need us.

As pet parents, we enjoy the lovely pleasures our four-legged friends bestow upon us. But, of course, it is then our duty to take care of them, which I don’t oppose. However, sometimes, those trips to the vet can be daunting.

One such time involved my blue-eyed cattle dog Bella. A frantic call had me hustling home from school to find my dog with a severely injured leg. When the vet took a look, she shook her head. “I’m sorry. Bella appears to have either ruptured her Achilles tendon or broken her leg.”

Though I hated to ask–lest I seem like a bad mom–I inquired as to the expenses.

“With X-rays and treatment, somewhere between two and three thousand dollars.” The vet appeared apologetic.

I wanted to ask if it might be easier—and cheaper— to amputate Bella’s leg, but I didn’t want the woman to think I was a barbarian. So, I would have to put my dog down, because despite my love for her I had to have a modicum of fiscal responsibility. I started to cry.

Blue-eyed Bella was labeled a drama queen by the vet.

“Let’s take a look.” The vet whisked Bella away while I blubbered.

A short time later, the doctor returned with a strange look on her face. “Well…it appears…”

I braced myself.

“…there is nothing wrong with Bella.”

“What?” I squinted at my dog who appeared to be smiling at me.

“I’d say she’s just a drama queen.”

Then I got the bill, which came in at $603. Drama queen, indeed.

More recently, my cat Morgan began acting strangely on a Sunday afternoon. Anyone who has ever had a pet knows that, more often than not, they get sick on the weekend, when the majority of veterinary clinics are closed. So, the only option is to take one’s sweet beast to the emergency vet, where upon entry one must fork over their first-born child and the proceeds from a 401K.

 Still, pet owners are obligated to stem their pet’s suffering, so off to the emergency clinic we went. Morgan—and I see no way to put this delicately—couldn’t pee, a life-threatening situation.

Morgan, on the left, suffered from kitty stress which sent us to the emergency vet on a Sunday afternoon.

The vet estimated that after treatment and recovery I’d owe two thousand dollars. I blanched. My son looked into my eyes. “I’ll pay half, Mom.”

“Do we have any options?” I asked, trying to figure out how to tell my boy his cat would soon be dispatched to the Rainbow Bridge.

“Well, we could treat Morgan and you could take him home and keep an eye on him. That would be $646.”

I let out a breath. “Done!” I handed over my Mastercard.

When Morgan was safely ensconced in his carrier for the trip home, I asked what had happened. She gave me several possibilities before hitting on the main culprit. “He may have suffered from kitty stress.”

Kitty stress? I mulled that over and eyed the cat. “What, do you have a mortgage payment due? Are you worried about buying groceries? Problems at work?” Morgan stared at me with big gold eyes.

We finally determined that the night a neighbor’s cat bolted in the front door for a brief visit might have been when said kitty stress occurred.

I signed the credit card receipt.

My son smiled. 

The cat, still high on pain meds, purred softly on his fluffy blanket.

My job now is to limit kitty stress. I’m open for suggestions.

A WOMAN FLEES AN ABUSIVE HUSBAND

AND FINDS HOPE IN THE WILDS OF THE ARIZONA DESERT.

Published by Liaison – A Next Chapter Imprint

Rebecca Quinn escapes her controlling husband and, with nowhere else to go, hops the red-eye to Arizona. There, Gaby Strand – her aunt’s college roommate – gives her shelter at the Salt River Inn, a 1930’s guesthouse located in the wildly beautiful Tonto National Forest.

Becca struggles with post-traumatic stress, but is enthralled by the splendor and fragility of the Sonoran Desert. The once aspiring artist meets Noah Tanner, a cattle rancher and beekeeper, Oscar Billingsley, a retired psychiatrist and avid birder, and a blacksmith named Walt. Thanks to her new friends and a small band of wild horses, Becca adjusts to life in the desert and rekindles her love of art.

Then, Becca’s husband tracks her down, forcing her to summon all her strength. But can she finally stop running away?

Order your copy here: http://mybook.to/wildhorsespb