Thursday, October 30, 2008


It's amazing how little you know about your friends when you think about it. I just found out my good buddy, Marco, used to be a competitive break-dancer. I went to Brazil with this guy and trekked through the Amazon with him. I never would have known. Thank you, Facebook.

Earlier this week I was chatting on the phone with another guy friend. I was telling him about a touching story I read that really spoke to my heart. It was about a woman who had a double mastectomy. She felt ugly, broken and undesirable and was worried that she would never again be a whole woman for her husband. Her husband just held her and said "I will never stop loving you because that's who I am." She said it reminded her of how Christ loves us, through our brokenness and the cancer of sin, simply because of who He is. After I shared this whole story with my friend, he responded "well at least you didn't have to have a double mastectomy to learn that lesson." Such sensitivity.

I have two guys friends who I refer to as my "kissing friends." Not that kind of kissing. Get your minds out of the gutter. Cheek kisses, pecks, the kind of kiss you give someone as a greeting. One of these guys is a church friend and the other is a work friend. One is single and the other is married. I'm not really going anywhere with's just interesting. I'm not sure how I developed kissing friends. But I appreciate them.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Trio Vita

I had the opportunity to interview these guys and record them performing Smetana's Piano Trio several months ago. Smetana wrote this composition shortly after the deaths of three of his young daughters. The piece fascinates me. There are sections where the mood is very excited and happy, but then abruptly cuts short. Other sections are filled with anger and outrage. The music sometimes devolves into despair...other times it bursts forth in fantasy and delight. It's almost as though Smetana was contrasting music that reflected the lives of his little girls against music that reflected his own turbulent emotions over their deaths. I could listen to it over and over.

Monday, October 27, 2008

From Our Moscow Bureau

In our efforts to always bring you the latest most compelling information, our Moscow correspondent brings you this update from the Middle East.

Greetings from a land that prospered 4,000 centuries ago. I have only been in Egypt a few days now and I have learned so much. First of all, I am quite certain that these people did not build these pyramids. If they had, I am sure that they would collect all of the trash that is laying in the streets and alleys of Cairo and construct another. Cairo is one of the dirtiest and craziest cities I've ever visited. There are over 20 million people living in Cairo. I think the night that I was there they all decided to get in their cars and drive frantically thru town honking, swerving, and screaming obscenities in arabic. The good part is that they are very friendly, when not driving, and are willing to help you with anything (for a small price, my friend). The pyramids were amazing! Much larger than I could have ever imagined. Another thing that I found interesting is that there are over 90 of them in Egypt! All my life I thought there were only three or four. Again, I am certain that they could break the 100 mark if they'd just start picking up the trash in town and piling it up in a geometric-like fashion.

I went to the valley of the kings today. To be honest it was kind of morbid. No one to my knowledge really enjoys going to a cemetery to see people they do not know. Why we enjoy going inside the tomb at a cemetery is beyond me as well. They have two separate cemeteries. The valley of the kings (for the boys). And the valley of the queens (for the girls). I kid you not, the tombs of the queens were always much better decorated and even smelt better (I know you think i'm exaggerating but I am not). Some things don't change. Even in the afterlife.

My guide was a devout muslim (like most of the people here). He was very nice and he was very respectful of my beliefs. He also informed me of several lies that we in the West have been told. First of all, he does not understand why the Jews do not want to come and visit Egypt (he calls it the Paris of the Middle East). I told him that it probably had something to do with being in bondage here and having to escape with the help of "the only True God". He then told me that the Jews a) were never slaves here and b) did not construct the pyramids. He then told me that during 911 that it is a fact that all of the Jewish workers that lived in the towers stayed home that day (implying that they knew of the attack). I told him that it just proves that God is looking out for them as He must have told them to stay home! Again, I learn something new everyday.

On a much lighter note, when eating at the touristy places I have found delight in listening to the rag tag band of musicians that hang out near the entrance. They only play music when the tourists walk by. The music last for about six or seven notes (depending on how long the tourists take to walk by and if they give them some money). Every new group of tourists get a new song. Because the songs are so short, we hang out near the entrance at night and play "Name that Tune". It's amazing the things you'll do when you don't have a television to occupy your time.

~The Moscow Correspondent

Friday, October 24, 2008

Celebrity Sighting

No, I didn't spot a celeb on the street. I AM the celeb.

Yesterday I was chatting with the volunteers here at the station, thanking them for helping out with our fundraising campaign. As I talked to one guy he suddenly exclaimed "You're Laurie Johnson! I can't believe I've been sitting here talking to you. I listen to you all the time!" I thanked him for listening and made small talk for a bit. Then I started to move away to head back to the studio, but he stopped me, stood up and pulled out his cell phone and said "I know I shouldn't do this...but I just can't help myself..." meanwhile I'm thinking "oh dear God, please don't let him ask for my number." He looked a bit embarrassed and asked "can I take a picture with you?" Whew. What a relief. He handed his phone to another volunteer and we posed for a picture. I'm now in this guy's iPhone as a celebrity sighting. I'm sure he'll tell all his friends how he met me and asked for a picture. Next thing you know I'll be signing autographs.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

It's a Great Day in the City of Houston

A perfect day, really. If I had the day off on a day like this in Houston, here's what I would do.

9:00 - Waffles & Wings at the breakfast klub

10:30 - browse the Menil Collection and walk around the neighborhood between galleries

12:30 - light lunch at Krafts'men Baking

1:00 - walk off lunch while visiting thrift shops along Westheimer, especially antique shops and Buffalo Exchange

3:00 - coffee and some reading at Empire Cafe...ok...maybe some cake too

5:00 - a ramble through the Japanese Gardens in Hermann Park

6:30 - stop and watch the sunset

7:00 - glass of wine and light meal at Backstreet Cafe

9:00 - moonlight stroll through Discovery Green

That, my friends, is about as perfect a day as one can get.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Notes from Backstage

Despite my nerves, everything went well last night. My date (the real one, not David Sedaris) and I arrived and were ushered into the private reception in the Green Room. We mingled a bit and were both amused by the adoration of one of my radio fans. This really sweet woman was clearly a bit starstruck by being in my presence. She couldn't even bring herself to come close to me, but rather chose to hover nearby and, as my date put it, "watch Laurie Johnson from afar."

Highlights of the evening included:
  • Meeting David Sedaris. He was very friendly and told me I looked far too young to work for a public radio station.
  • Getting catcalls and whistles onstage when I told the story about my mom's fears.
  • One listener told me she always imagined me as looking studious, but upon seeing me thinks I'm "so glamorous"
  • Walking through the parking garage back to our car, a woman's voice calls out "Laurie Johnson!" I turn around and see a stranger beaming behind me. She told me she recognized me from my shoes.
  • My shoes. Seriously, they looked hot.
  • Facebook messages from friends who saw me at the show.
  • My date (the real one, not David Sedaris). He looked hot too.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Tonight's the night!

I can't decide if I'm more nervous or excited. I feel a little queasy.

Monday, October 20, 2008


Blogging may be spotty over the next two weeks. Busy is an understatement.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Tales from the Office

This is me and my co-worker Stephanie. Notice any similarities in this photo?
Earlier this week another co-worker, Patrick, sent me an email with this link. Betcha didn't know I had tap-dancing skills.
Sometimes my job requires me to do some very strange things. Yesterday I spent about ten minutes snorting black pepper. I wish I was kidding.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Purse Challenge

Mindy has thrown the gauntlet. I'm called on to reveal the contents of my purse to the blog world. This should be interesting for the men out there. I've noticed men are always intrigued and slightly mystified by women's purses.

First, a description of my purse. It's a medium-sized black handbag with one large carrying space and three small inner pockets. It's not very large (about 8"x12") but deceptively can hold a surprising amount of stuff. I don't have as many things in there as I usually carry.

Right now it holds:
  • My date planner (for all my fabulous dates)
  • checkbook
  • coin/cash purse
  • card case
  • chewing gum
  • compact mirror
  • sunglasses
  • Excedrin (never leave home without it)
  • keys
  • hairbrush
  • hand sanitizer
  • Starbucks receipt for 1 free latte
  • feminine hygiene product
  • 1 small bag containing the following items: Neutrogena foundation, sponge, three lipsticks, lip gloss, mascara, 1 bobbypin and 1 snap-barrette
  • plastic hair clip
  • extra car key that I keep forgetting to leave at home
  • iPod Nano
  • mini contact lens solution
  • new lipstick (not to be confused with previously listed lipsticks)
  • chapstick
  • ballpoint pen
  • one pair of earrings
  • Blackberry
  • stamps
  • coupons

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Last week I blogged about my upcoming date with David Sedaris. I mentioned that I might be compelled to buy a new dress. A few days later I was visiting with my family and one of the first things my mother said to me was "don't wear a dress to that event, you should wear pants."

"Why is that, Mom?"

"Because the people in the seats might be able to see up your dress."

That's my mom. And people wonder where my quirkiness comes from...

Love you, Mommy!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

If you were falling,
then I would catch you.
If you'd need a light,
I'd find a match.
'Cause I love the way you say 'Good Morning'
and you take me the way I am.

If you are chilly,
here take my sweater.
Your head is aching,
I'll make it better.
'Cause I love the way you call me 'Baby'
and you take me the way I am.

I'd buy you Rogaine,
when you start losing all your hair.
Sew on patches
to all you tear.
'Cause I love you more than I could ever promise
and you take me the way I am.

~Ingrid Michaelson

Potty Humor

Last night I met a couple girlfriends for dinner. After the meal I excused myself so I could go to the ladies' room. I walked inside and nearly let out a yelp. There was a man in the women's room! I looked at the door again, just to make sure I was in the right place. Yep. No mistakes on my part. I turned around and walked out again.

Monday, October 13, 2008

One of Us

It's a tough day for Houston's news media. We've lost one of our own. ABC 13's news chopper crashed about an hour ago. The pilot and photographer are dead. They haven't released their names yet. It's a sickening feeling for those of us in the media. That photographer was probably someone I knew. I've probably laughed and joked with him at various press conferences. Even if I didn't know that photographer very well, he was a colleague. The news business is a small world and there's a certain camaraderie that comes from being in this exclusive, strange club.

It's sobering to report the news when the news actually comes from within our own ranks. And it's hard to think about our friends over at Channel 13, who are having to report on their own tragedy.

And it's a grim reminder that our jobs are often more dangerous than we think. We're called upon to go into risky and sometimes life-threatening situations. That pilot and photographer were performing what, for them, is a normal day on the job. But tonight they won't get to clock out and go home to their families. They won't eat a meal with friends, or fall asleep in front of the TV. And the reality is most of Houston will forget about them.

So next time you turn on the news, or tune into the radio, think about what it may have cost for you to be able to see that report from a war zone or hear that update from high above the city. And next time you criticize the media for all their failures, ineptitude and idiocies, remember that you are blessed to live in a country where the media is free to mess things up, to make mistakes, to cover controversial subjects, to critique our politicians without fear of retribution and to willingly go into places and environments that you never could or would enter.

Friday, October 10, 2008

For All the Doubters

I've told many of you the horrors of eating meals in Cuba. I suspect people don't really believe it was as bad as I made it out to be. But I finally have photographic evidence! One of my Cuba teammates recently sent me a picture she took of one of our meals while we were there.
I give you...

Boiled Pork Fat nestled on a bed of Rice and Yams

Thursday, October 09, 2008

It really IS like Christmas!

The Rockettes dropped by the station a couple of days ago. They looked so cute in their Santa costumes. We were all a little star-struck. We've had people like Alan Alda, Debra Winger, Kevin Costner etc come through here...but the Rockettes definitely drew the biggest crowd of excited public radio employees. Most of the crowd was composed of men...hmmm...

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Butterflies in My Stomach

I have a date with a man I really, REALLY like. It's at Jones Hall for a special one-night performance. The man is David Sedaris.

I've been asked to introduce him onstage! I am SOOO excited!

I think I need to buy a new dress.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

This Old House

Sometimes I look back on my life and think how odd parts of it seem upon reflection.
I've never lived in an apartment, but I've lived in Alaska. In the winter.
I've lived in a log cabin in the woods. With a creek running through our yard.
And the best place I've ever lived was this old house.

My dad was transferred to a post office in the Texas Hill Country when I was about 17. My family would go house-hunting on the weekends and we'd usually end up passing this house while we were out and about. I would always jokingly (and longingly) say to my parents "THAT's the house I want to live in!" It was so beautiful sitting up there on the hill. Back then it was yellow, with a white porch and shutters. There was a nice red barn at the far edge of the yard. I think for me it symbolized tranquility, stability, simplicity...all things I was craving at that point in my life. Of course we would all laugh at the idea that somehow we'd be able to live in that amazing old farmhouse on the top of the hill.

One day, my dad came home from work and said he had some exciting news. A man had come into his office that day and said he heard we were looking for a place to live. "Yes, that's true," my dad said. "Well I have an old house you might be interested in. It's nothing special. It's kinda lonely, but you can have it if you want it," the man said. "What are you asking for it?" my dad wondered. "Can't sell it, but I could rent it to you for $500 a month," the man replied.

Needless to say, my dad immediately concluded this house was going to be a dump. But he told the man he'd like to take a look at it and see if it would work. Much to his surprise, the man took him to that beautiful yellow house on the hill. My dad took one look inside and told him we'd take it.

The first time I walked into that house, my jaw dropped. The living room was at least 30 feet long, with a huge picture window at the end overlooking the gentle hills in the valley. There was a fireplace on one side, easily big enough for two grown people to actually sit inside. There was a sunroom with black and white tiled floors and french doors opening onto the back deck. The guest bath had a giant clawfoot tub and beautiful brass fixtures. The house was built in the late 1800s and still had the original wood floors, walls and ceilings. The house was so big it had three air conditioning units to cool it.

I was in love.

I have many memories of that two best friends spending weekends with me, exploring the fields and climbing around in the family sitting on the back deck watching the chickens peck in the yard...driving my car up the dusty lane through a herd of stubborn cows...standing outside on a frosty Christmas Eve looking in at all my family sitting around the fireplace while the lights on the Christmas tree twinkle through the glass...that house made me feel like I was living inside a Hallmark card.

I went back a few weeks ago. The house is still there. As you can see in the picture, it's no longer yellow. And the new owners have changed some of the exterior details...probably the inside has changed too. But they can never change my memories.

Monday, October 06, 2008

From Our Moscow Bureau

Today I want to address a very troubling problem for me that has engrossed the male population here in Moscow. No, I'm not talking about alcoholism. Nor am I talking about the overwhelming popularity of the mullet. No. Today I want to address a very sad display of masculinity that I cannot leave my house without seeing. This is something that causes me to bow my head in shame and utter disbelief. I'm referring, of course, to "the man bag".
Usually the man has the purse slung over his shoulder and is strutting down the street. If you're in a better part of town you might get to see the men who have accessorized. They'll most always have the matching shoes, but sometimes they will even have a matching belt. I won't even get started on how gay the shoes look, but they accentuate the problem when they sling that purse over their shoulder.

Don't get me wrong. Sometimes I'm forced to carry more than I can fit in my pockets (a laptop, a couple of books, ipod, sunglasses, vanity mirror). In that case I'll be sporting a backpack. And the odds of that backpack matching my shoes or belt are slim and none.

The part I don't get is this. The bags are usually the size of a small to medium size binocular case. This means that the guy is either carrying a pair of sunglasses and a wallet in his purse, or he's got a small handgun that won't fit in his pocket. Regardless, my way of thinking is that if it won't fit in my pocket, then it's going in my backpack.

My favorite thing to see is a man and his girl walking side by side, purses swinging. I can't help but stare in disbelief. I would love to make a snide comment to every man that I see sporting his Prada or Gucci European Carry-all (thank you Jerry Seinfeld), but my fear is that one of three things might happen. 1. He'll start slinging his purse at me. Although most of the purses aren't big enough to do much damage. 2. He'll pull a hand gun out of his Louis Vuitton hand purse and bust a cap in me. Or 3. His girlfriend will chase me down and beat me up. Number 3 is likely the case, so I usually just look at him, shake my head, and if I'm smooth enough, I'll get my camera out and snap a couple of photos while he's not looking.

Friday, October 03, 2008

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like...Christmas!

Okay, maybe it's not. But I've hit that recurring point in the year when the temperatures begin to drop and the air feels soft and welcoming and psychologically it just makes me want to go Christmas shopping!

I tried to stave off the urges by baking some pumpkin bread and making cinnamon butter. But I don't think I'll be able to contain myself much longer. I've already made my 'to-buy-for' shopping list. And to be perfectly honest, I already have a gift for at least one person on that list.

And I haven't been able to resist doing some catalog and internet browsing on Crate and Barrel's site...which just makes it even harder. Gahhh! I think I'll have to succumb this week and start stockpiling my Christmas treasures.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Brilliant, Terrifying

I recently watched a Romanian movie called 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days. I can honestly say that's the first Romanian film I've ever seen. I can also honestly say it was one of the most horrifying, disturbing, breathtaking and captivating films I've ever seen.

It's not for the faint of heart. It's more sickening than any Hollywood slasher movie could ever achieve. People who love horror movies should be required to watch this movie -- a depiction of real-life horror.

But the movie is not graphic in the traditional sense. There is some nudity and violence. And it's upsetting to watch, but not gratuitous. Mostly it just gives you a sense of what it's like for people who live in despair and hopelessness.

I actually found myself praying for the characters in the movie at one point. I had to remind myself that it was just a movie and these people weren't really experiencing what was depicted on screen.

If you watch it, be prepared for it to stay in your thoughts for a long time.