Barry, oh, Barry...

Chili recipe-author Barry Shlachter has a bean (hah, get it?) to pick with yours truly, downtownfortworth.com's editor Robert McKee, but I'm about to hand him a habaņero with more Scoville units than he can handle.
You see, I have run this lovely website since 1998, and one of the staples of our website is the crowd-pleasing annual Letter Scavenger Hunt which we have run for the past 8 years, encouraging literally thousands of people to traipse around downtown Fort Worth in search of letters taken from various signage in a bid to win fabulous downtown prizes.  This year we had a hearty 450 people enter ther contest, many of which spent countless hours having fun walking around downtown with their neck craned to the sky trying to find letters.  Unfortunately, just after the deadline of the contest, my brothers and I needed to take an overseas trip to meet some newly-discovered relatives (which actually found us thanks to the Fort Worth Star Telegram -- more on that later), causing a delay in the updating of the results of the contest.  While I had limited Internet access in Scotland, I was not able to FTP, therefore the site was unable to be updated by me.  I was frustrated that I could not update my website, but at the same time assumed that it's something so miniscule in relation to the purpose of my trip, that I dedicated my concentration on the trip, hoping people would be patient enough to wait until I returned. 

Well, most people were.  While standing in the rolling hills of western Scotland, feet away from a gravestone that marked ancestors who share my name going as far back as the 1700s in perhaps the most scenic cemetery I have ever set foot in, my phone began to ring.  At $1.29 per minute for international roaming, I was hesitant to take the call, but after the fourth consecutive call, I decided to answer.  It was one of our prize contributors telling me that one of the contest entrants was upset and is calling all the other prize vendors as well as the Fort Worth Star Telegram to voice his anger that my website hasn't been updated.  I was in disbelief that I even needed to entertain this ridiculous "issue" from abroad, but nonetheless, I was now being distracted by this.  Shortly thereafter, Mr. Shlachter, who writes for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, called me to ask me about this.  I politely obliged and informed him how our contest grading process works, and that the results were not fully analyzed before I had to leave on my trip.  There was to be a delay in the posting of the results, and they will be updated upon my return.  Not a big deal. 

When I returned to the hotel, I was forwarded an email from one of my friends that owns a business downtown and was a prize contributor.  It was from this angry man who was demanding results because he worked so hard on this contest, but admitted he knew he didn't win it nonetheless.  Huh?  So, again, I am taking time out of this incredible journey so I can answer to this loon.  I wrote him and explained where I was and why the website has not yet been updated.  He wrote back almost immediately, and insisted this was an issue he was going to pursue regardless.  At this point I realize I am dealing with one of those rare people that are just so insensitive and immune to any human compassion or feeling whatsoever.  I broke from my normal calm and angrily responded "I AM AT MY FATHER'S FREAKING FUNERAL" to send a message that, while I love running the contest and I love how passionate the players of the contest are, I am overseas honoring my father's life and this takes precedent.  Sorry.

I forwarded all of these emails to Mr. Shlachter so he can see what I was putting up with, and hoping that perhaps he would agree this is a baseless complaint by a bitter contest participant who believes everyone who applies effort wins a cookie.  Ol' Barry and I got into an email dialogue which quickly turned strange.  All of a sudden he started questioning how I could possibly be at my father's funeral when he died "a year ago".  While it was resourceful of Barry to do a little research, I stress the word "little" because my father actually died in December 08, but who cares about the details?  Nonetheless, I found myself now having to prove to him where I was and why I was there.  Needless to say, this was very irritating and distracting to me, but sensing that he's going to write something about this, I obliged and actually sent him a photo of me spreading my father's ashes at the cemetery.  Something that I should have kept private, as, really, it was actually none of his freaking business.   



Spreading the ashes of my father at his ancestors' grave. Barry apparently found it relevant and somewhat amusing to describe what's actually a Mossimo pixellated print as an "Aloha shirt", his attempt to be snarky in his own little old-fashioned-speak way. Har, har, ain't that real hilarious, folks? So what do you wear during moments of atonement at your parents' graveside? Who cares, you ask? Barry does!

Well, guess what.  His article ran on Sunday, June 21st, and it is more centered around the purpose of my trip to Scotland than it is this idiot's baseless complaint about my website.  This man, Mr. Barry Shlacther, professional Chili recipe book author, actually and shamefully decides to then offer the semantics of why I called what I was doing a "funeral", followed by a little jab about the attire I was wearing in the photo I sent him.  Sorry, Barry, I guess I didn't know there was a dress code or time limit on honoring a dead parent.  I guess spreading one's ashes on a gravesite must not be referred to as a "funeral" unless certain conditions are met, is this right?  Yes, my father had an official military funeral in New York, as the Star-Telegram beautifully detailed in its tribute to him as a hero firefighter who saved the life of a child in a 1970s fire, but it was because of that tribute that my father's brother in Scotland which we (including my father) did not know existed, and found my brothers and I.  It was then decided we would have another ceremony in Scotland at a grave plot with McKees dating back two centuries that I would not have actually known about if it weren't for the Fort Worth Star Telegram.  Does it really matter that this trip took six months to make happen?  I have two small children, a very hard-working wife and a job.  Taking a week trip overseas without them would take a little planning, and June offered the best opportunity not to mention weather.   I grew up reading that newspaper, and I have appeared in it many times for various and often fun reasons (funny enough, in the very Sunday paper while I was gone, I was in a whimsical article about people who like to wear Hawaiian shirts), and certainly the unknown family of people that found me through it make me eternally grateful.  However, the publicizing of personal details which I furnished to Barry for the sake of clearing up his curiosity indeed crosses a line of journalistic integrity. 

To quote, "Scattering ashes in an Aloha shirt (he sent us a picture) may not be the same as a funeral (his father died in December), but why quibble?"  Note the very out-of-touch Barry snarkily calling my shirt with a pixellated floral design on it an "Aloha shirt", in an effort to somehow trivialize the very somber and touching moment of that day.  How would Barry like it if I were to critique descriptions of his attire during a private moment at a family member's gravesite?  He also mentions that my website was still not updated, even though it was updated on June 19th, three days before it was published in print.  The man, who on the phone snapped "I'm just checking the facts!" during his questioning, indeed did not check his facts.  He should have added "as of three days ago by the time you are reading this.." but putting that in would remind readers of the delay newspapers must endure versus the immediacy of online news sites, I suppose.  As a final note of correction, the town of Dailly, Scotland where we were is clear across the country from Edinburgh, about three hours away, not "a small town outside Edinburgh," as he had written, but why quibble?

You can read the article here:  http://www.star-telegram.com/business/story/1445471.html

Update! McClatchy Watch has spoken: http://cancelthebee.blogspot.com/2009/06/new-low-in-insensitivity-star-telegram.html

Update II! FWWeekly's brilliantly written piece: http://www.fwweekly.com/index.php?option=com_wordpress&p=604&Itemid=482

Comments

Gravatar
By: Cindlou
On: 06/22/2009 12:46:17
I read that article and you are spot on. The details surrounding the method in which you chose to "bury" your father is completely irrelevant. He could have said "Robert says he was in Scotland taking part in a service for his deceased father" instead of criticizing your choice of terminology. A funeral is objective to the participants who are celebrating or remembering the dead's life, however long past the death itself may be.
Gravatar
By: Steve Simon
On: 06/22/2009 16:57:24
Wait, so the guy who started this mess knew he had a maximum of 22 letters found? Lol! As one of the people who tied for 2nd place, I would like to kindly offer him a piece of STFU. Great contest, as always, Lobster, keep up the fun stuff!
Gravatar
By: Donna Hill
On: 06/23/2009 12:39:10
As another of the contestants who tied for 2nd (B is now my least favorite letter BTW :) it was agonizing waiting, but I did. I figured I would just keep checking back on the website. Finally, the results were posted and and a little groaning on my part, in a "so close but no cigar sort of way". No explanation was necessary (as to the short delay), but it was kind of you to share your very personal story with us. The fact that bozo pursued that story after your explanation shows his character, or lack thereof.

Can't wait until next year. I have always loved Fort Worth and downtown is a real winner.

Please pass on to the sponsoring businesses just how much I appreciated the fun contest and their participation. I found some neat new stores to shop at (like BARSE) and some neat places to eat (ZIPPY's).



Gravatar
By: Dan 'cheez' Brown
On: 06/24/2009 08:21:11
Lobs-
You're perhaps the most tireless proponent of downtown FW that I've ever heard about. Don't let one sourpuss and one poor writer with far too few good leads and a figurative sword of damocles hanging over his head turn you off from your hard work!

Selfishness abounds in this modern age, and your free-wheeling selflessness is in short supply. The world needs more folks willing to try to improve their city around them- and less whose job may be to report on the city, but who seem to only care to be snarky, judgemental and degrading, instead of writing about the good and great things that go on every day in Tarrant County.

The best part was, nobody had _any_ issue with the contest! Just the timeliness of the results being published. GET OVER YOURSELVES!

love and peace
-cheez
Gravatar
By: Mike Hornsby
On: 06/25/2009 19:24:34
Robert, just a note from another contestant and one who truly appreciates the effort you and downtownfortworth.com puts into this contest.
I hope that the one bad apple (maybe it's two in this case) don't spoil the bunch. I never really thought twice on the length of time, I guess I'm just naive enough to think it takes that long to go through that many contestants. I'm glad I'm that naive and I am not ashamed to say that I regularly checked the site for an update, but patience is a virtue.
I hope all in all, you had a wonderful trip that not only did your father's life justice, but gave you and your family peace in your heart.

Mike Hornsby
The second place winner, but why quibble.