Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Welcome to the Pastel Jungle

One of the reasons I even have this blog is because of my editor, Nancy March.

Nancy came up with the idea of giving me a blog shortly after my experience of jumping into the Schuylkill River on New Year’s, something that can be viewed here.

The Elephant Man and I had such a time. - Photo by J. Strickler

Basically, after the silliness (and, quite honestly, the unadulterated fun) of that day, while discussing my coverage of the event, Nancy came up with the idea of having me blog about the various events I’m assigned that, outside of my job, I’d never go to.

Of course, the day she gave me her idea for my blog was also the day she floated the idea of having me cover the local cheese festival or something along those lines.

Luckily, that particular event did not come to pass.

Instead, one of the more recent events I covered that I’d normally not be caught dead at was the Mercury-sponsored bridal show at the Sunnybrook Ballroom.

I don’t think I’ve dreaded or been as nervous in anticipation of something I’ve covered. That includes the night I came flying into Pottstown on reports of some guy spraying .40 bullets around his block.

I was less keen on walking into a room full of flowers than possibly catching a bullet with my face.

PICTURED: Less stressful than looking at wedding dresses.

It was a bright Sunday when I pulled into Sunnybrook’s parking lot. What I quickly noticed was that in the flock of people in the parking lot, there was just one guy other than me.

That guy was the parking attendant. He was staying outside.

A lot of friends said I should be glad to be amongst so many women.

But my real problem was coming from the fact that I was in a place that no man ever would go of his own volition. This is not a pick-up bar. This is a place where frills and pastel colors live.

On top of that, I am naturally pretty shy. Approaching strangers to talk about themselves isn’t easy for me, which is obviously not a benefit in this line of work.

Inside, the bridal show itself was great. By all accounts, it went very well and those coming did what they needed to do: the vendors sold their products or services and the brides-to-be got what products and services they needed. All the while, everyone was standing in a sharp-looking, historic venue.

It was great for all involved. I just had some extenuating circumstances.

I made sure to have my press pass displayed at my hip and my notebook in hand. My main concern was to not look creepy. As Evan Brandt told me once, part of reporting is “looking like you belong.” So I made sure that everyone that happened to even take a passing glance knew that I was there as a REPORTER.

As such, I was constantly writing in my reporter’s pad. I wrote down everything I saw, heard, smelled, everything. I took some of the most detailed notes of my life. Even when I’d exhausted the things that could possibly be even tenuously pertinent to the story, I continued writing such nonsense as, “My back itches,” “That Lionel Ritchie can sing,” and “Will Katy Perry ever love me as much as I do her?”

A question that concerns me to this day. Photo from www.people.com

Any second that I was just standing there, I felt eyes on me.

“What is that scruffy guy doing standing alone next to the scented candles and mini-cupcakes?”

That reminds me: I also forgot to shave, the one thing I promised myself I’d do the night before to at least help me look less like Gary Heidnik-esque.

But I forgot, so I stood there with my 8 o’clock shadow, sweating it.

It's okay, ladies. I'm a legit professional.

The most awkward moment was trying to find a prospective bride to interview for the story and, more importantly and more creepily, for video for the website.

There is an awkwardness that, in this era of .xxx websites, goes with a man asking a woman if he can take video of her for a website. It’s unavoidable and more than once I’ve been forced to explain, “It’s not for that kind of site.”

Facing that adversity, I set out to find the right person.

I’d already taken lots of video, too much video, of the various vendors there. That was easy. First, they were stuck at their tables alone, captive. Second, they wanted to talk. It was good advertising for them.

But talking to the table-less was a different prospect and required a different strategy.

Quickly, I found myself in the mindset of a lion (or lioness? Who goes out to hunt?) on the Serengeti. I scanned the room looking for a young woman taking in the scene that wasn’t with a large group, a bride separated from the herd like an unfortunate wildebeest.


Now, that mindset can be construed as creepy. But, of course, I was looking to interview, not eat.

By talking to someone with just one companion or alone, it was easier to approach them, rather than fight through six or seven people vying for one soon-to-be-bride’s attention. Additionally, the person might be more inclined to talk if they don’t feel as if they’re holding up an entire group.

After finding two women that were nice enough to talk that also gave some good quotes, I took one last look around, was satisfied that I had everything I needed, and got out.

For as nerve-wracking as covering the show was, the article I wrote turned out well. I had an abundance of information, pretty good video and enough angles to actually keep myself entertained writing the article on a slow Sunday night. It actually became a fun article to piece together.

And that’s why I go out to these things (outside of being explicitly told to by my bosses). In general, the stories that I’m most nervous to go out and get turn into some of the best.

So I looked like a creeper for an hour or two. I got a decent clip out of it.

It was worth the sweat.


  1. I don't remember telling you those things ON THE RECORD!

  2. Did we mention the new reporter also gets to cover the Pottstown Home Show -- every day -- for four days in a row? Sunnybrook will soon have your name on a parking spot.