Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Thrill is Long Gone for Waterside Streaker

At some point before midnight, January 1, 2010, Rodney Furkin will jog nude through Waterside one more time.  What began as a dare during Harborfest 1989 has stretched into a two decade long streak of streaking the downtown Norfolk marketplace at least once a month.  For the last few years, Rodney, a 43-year-old ice delivery truck driver from Portsmouth, has been able to stroll Waterside at a leisurely pace totally unclothed - sometimes completely alone.  "It's weird," he says, "nobody's there at all in the daytime anymore.  I can get food at Mongolian Express, read a book on a bench in the food court completely nude and not be bothered.  That would have been impossible back in '93 or '94!"

Prior to its current flaccid state, Waterside was a bustling social center.  "I used to time my streaks for maximum crowd levels.  Friday nights were the best, right after the Fudgery would sing a song and people would be lined up for free samples.  I'd sprint by and surprise everybody.  Security would chase me, but I was super fast in those days.  Never got caught.  Ever."

Steve Conkle, owner of the "Maximum Keychain Extravaganza" kiosk, says the public nudity is good for Waterside's rapidly shrinking business.  "People get a real kick out of it.  Rod will stop and let people take their picture with him...well, when there are people.  He's like a celebrity around here.  Plus, he's a real nice guy.  Last Christmas he wore a Santa hat and helped me unpack and set up a new shipment of keychains.  I'm gonna miss him."  Waterside's Assistant Manager of Public Relations, Bonnie Thurmell, did not return Tidewater Log's phone calls to comment on this story.  When we knocked on her slightly open office door it opened - revealing a skeleton wearing a wig and glasses, sitting behind a desk covered in cobwebs.  She still refused to comment.

Why is Rodney stopping now - right when Waterside needs him the most?  "I'm getting old," he explains, "This summer I slipped on a slippery spot near the elevator and laid there on the ground, moaning in pain for about 6 hours before somebody noticed me...and streaking on crutches for a while after that just wasn't as exhilarating.  I'm okay now, but it's time to pass the baton to someone else.  I'd like to hope Waterside stays open for at least a few more years so somebody can have as much fun streaking it as I did.  It used to be a real blast.  I met my wife while I was doing it in August of 2000!"

Rodney won't give any details on when his final nude running will take place, but offers some advice for the new guy...or gal that wants to keep the streak streak going beyond 2009 - "Watch out for glass, hide your getaway clothes somewhere good, and smile."

Rodney streaked Waterside one last time between 12:41 and 12:48 P.M. on December 31, 2009 - and received a standing ovation from the janitor

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Gala Gives Anchors a Way to Honor Themselves

The following speech was delivered last Tuesday evening at the 73rd Annual Hampton Roads News Broadcasters Association's Dinner Gala in downtown Suffolk by President Burl Hofheimer Sr.

Good Evening Ladies and Gentlemen.  Thank you for coming and thanks to all of you for driving separatley.  Can we fill up a parking lot or what?! (light laughter)

As 2009 draws to a close, so does another year of excellent local news broadcasting.  Despite our dwindling ratings, hundreds of people still rely on us to tell them the news.  If it's raining - we're outside to show them.  If a car accident happened - we're there, several hours after it happened, to show everybody that everything's fine.  If grease left on a stove started a fire that destroyed a few apartments - we're there, again - several hours later, to interview somebody that may have seen or heard something.

I would like to thank everyone for the continued, in-depth coverage of our greatest local heroes.  The noble young men that deserve our highest praise - the high school football players of Hampton Roads.  (resounding applause and cheers) Who won?  Who lost?  The mood of all Tidewaterians depends on our extensive coverage of every single one of their games.  Their fearless running, catching and kicking each Autumn fills a void that we must endure during the rest of the worthless, boring year.

A special thanks goes to our camera men and women for getting the tightest possible close-ups of people's faces while they're being interviewed.  With our new high-definition broadcast technology, the pores on their faces look like the finger holes on a bowling ball.  And when someone doesn't wish to appear on camera, I applaud your decision to increase the mystique of their identity by only filming their hat or feet or a hand.  A normal newscast suddenly takes on the feel of a strange, experimental foreign film.  I urge you to do more of those - even if they don't wish to remain anonymous.  Does anyone else detect the faint hint of an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Gold Baton in the air?  (Andy Fox claps loudly)

For 2010, I only have a few suggestions.  I cannot (bangs podium) stress the importance of remembering what the housewife in Kempsville, the night desk clerk at a hotel in Hampton, or the stay at home mom in Ivor wants interspersed between 17 minutes of Haynes Furniture and car dealership commercials in a typical half-hour Hampton Roads newscast.  Is it raining?  When will it rain?  Did it rain while I was sleeping?  What did it look like?  What got wet?  Don't dwell on car accidents, gang fights, robberies, assaults, beach bacteria, swine flu stuff, troop deployments, local layoffs and such.  Those can all be summed up in sound bites -unless, of course, they happened in the rain.

 Also, the feigning of lighthearted small talk by all of you in the few seconds before Conan, Letterman, or Nightline must stop.  It's obvious it's forced, folks.  Just say goodnight and look down at your desk or watch or something.  No more umbrella jokes or anything. (coughs) Lawson!

So, now, (reading from card) Ladies and Geraniums - without farther, further...addoo, please...welcome Dabney Morgan and his puppet..."Mulch"...for a...an irreverent stroll through the garden of...laughter.

(light applause as Seal's "Kiss From a Rose" fades up)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Mission: Eerie Position


Luther Wooten's headlamp died.  He was in the basement of the Union Mission building in total darkness.  The occasional blip of his Handheld Paranormal Activity Sensor (H.P.A.S.) became a solid, uninterrupted beep.  It became so hot that it melted like a marshmallow.  The hallway seemed to expand and tilt as he searched for a way out.  Door knobs dissolved to his touch.  Claws grabbed at his ankles.  He began to suffocate.  Someone whispered in his ear to run, but he couldn't.  It was like he was underwater.  Then, suddenly, he was on the roof - surrounded by a crowd of screaming, faceless figures.  The entire city of Norfolk was in flames below.  A winged demon whisked him away as the roof disintgrated and - "that's when I blacked out. The next thing I remember is being in my bed - in my home."

In 2004, Luther disguised himself as a homeless person to gain entry into the shelter and conduct a Paranormal Activities Investigation (P.A.I.).  "Before it became a shelter in 1972 it was the Naval YMCA.  I wanted to spend a week there, but after the first night, I couldn't go back.  I could feel the lingering presence of thousands of demented, battle-scarred souls once I set foot inside.  It was, by far, the most frightening experience... and experiment of my life."

He expected to detect a few magnetic disturbances in the 100-year-old building after a former volunteer informed him about some strange occurrences.  "She described doors slamming, lights turning on and off, and a file cabinet hovering upside down - pretty normal supernatural stuff for me.  The afternoon I arrived, I interviewed some residents.  Real nice folks, just down on their luck.  They all said it was definitely haunted, but they had nowhere else to go.  As everyone prepared for bed, I snuck off to begin the investigation."

Since 1979, Wooten has explored all of Hampton Roads' rumoured haunty holes including the ruins of Grace Sherwood's house in Pungo, the Peyton Randolph house in Williamsburg, the Bayne Theater in Virginia Beach (currently Captain Cline's Pirate Adventure Ride), Janaf Shopping Center, and the Fuddruckers on Virginia Beach Boulevard.  None of them matched the Union Mission's spookiness.  "It makes the hotel from 'The Shining' look like the inn on 'Newhart' - and I sure as hell wouldn't want to live there."

Last week, Mayor Fraim announced that US Development Co., from Columbia, S.C., has bought the building and plans to turn it into apartments.  City leaders hope it will lure hip, young iPod owners to downtown Norfolk.  Gentrification opponents fear it will lure rich, boring iPod owners to downtown Norfolk.  "Ipod or not - whoever moves in there better be ready for some downright terrifying supernatural occurrences," states Wooten.

Union Mission administrators, US Development Co., and  the City of Norfolk declined to comment on this story because they think the Tidewater Log is fake.  Yep.  Fake.  Tell me, how can it be fake if you're reading it on your computer monitor at this very moment?  It's right in front of you right now and it's still here when you're not online for everyone in the entire world to read.  That, my friends, makes Tidewater Log as real as ravioli.