Dear CWG readers: Please join me in welcoming Scott Zakheim, who is a pursuing a dream to become a famous television weatherman. In an exclusive partnership, Scott will be documenting his journey right here. On his personal blog, the very early phase of this quest is already “on the record” so you can read ahead if you want. You can also follow Scott on Twitter (@weatherdream). But stay with us and we will get you caught up in the next week or so. Then Scott will post original updates right here. Here are his first two entries, somewhat abbreviated. Go Scott go! - Jason, CWG
Day 1: The Dream is Articulated
Here’s my thought: If I can entertain the masses with a fun, witty, and most importantly, real-life account of the pursuit of my lifelong dream to become a weatherman, then maybe somebody, somewhere will trip upon this and decide that I have what it takes to be the next Bob Ryan.
I’m laying it all out for you on the table right now: I’m 29, I’m married, I have a full-time job and a future family to support. I cannot go back to undergrad and press the reset button, I cannot accept a summer internship at NY1, heck I can barely make time to track storms on the doppler these days.
But what I can do is post to this blog, talk about the weather, articulate my dream, the story behind my dream, describe the steps one must take to become a weatherman (both students and old-timers) and then try executing those steps (which I’ll describe all the way through).
Just to give you a taste of where I’m going with this, here’s what I have in mind:
1) I have been accepted as a online student at Penn State’s World Campus. This means I will eventually (money and familial support pending) enroll in a 12-credit (4 class) undergraduate-level Weather Forecasting Certificate program, which will make me legitimate enough to get a weatherman job. Ideally I will do a great job articulating my experiences taking these weather classes, describe what it is I’m studying and even post my papers, tests and grades for you to read. You will enjoy.
2) I will then try to parlay this certificate into eligibility to take the American Meteorological Society’s Certification test in order to receive their seal as a certified weatherman. It’s not a pre-req to getting on the late local news, but it’s good to have. Don’t worry, we’ll get to all this later.
3) Finally I will begin building and posting my audition tapes to become a weatherman. Yup – amateur videos of me doing the weather. These are critical in reaching my dream. A video library of my forecasts where I can strut my stuff, prove my meteorlogical knowledge and be as funny as I can. This is the stuff the weatherman scouts will scour as they look for the next great talent. These vids will probably look very primitive at the outset (me on my computer cam) and will eventually get more sophisticated (graphics, pics, etc). I will post these periodically, ask for your feedback and hope to improve over time. This library of vid posts will be the key to getting noticed and will also be hilarious for the reader to watch.
If you continue reading this blog after the first post, you will learn everything you ever wanted to know about weather, weathermen, how to become a weatherman and how I am progressing in my dream to become a weatherman. So please, if you like where I’m going with this, pass it along to everyone you know. Maybe, just maybe, this link will land on some news desk somewhere and some news director will think I’m cute enough, smart enough weather-wise, and have enough personality to be their next weatherman.
Regardless of outcome, this journey should be fun….
Day 2 – The Explanation, Part 1 (Bad Weather=Happiness)
Since matriculating into matrimony over two months ago and even before that, I’ve spent a lot of time bugging my wife Becca about all the things I should have been when I grew up: a writer, an assistant coach under you-know-who, a circus clown (why not use my god-given gifts), a pro golfer, a pitcher, a gigolo (see god-given abilities), among many other seemingly unreachable and unrealistic professions. In recent months and days, the one desire that keeps popping up during these couch sessions is my hope to one day kill it in front of the green screen.
To be honest though, the real story begins when I was a young laddie in my hometown of Silver Spring, MD. Growing up in Silver Spring, more specifically Montgomery County, we were always off from school. For some reason the Washington D.C. metro area is located on a perfect spot on the map – a perfect mix of latitude, jet stream fluctuations, Arctic blasts and most importantly local attitude and perception. It is a school kid’s dream – the snow-day utopia. Let me explain.
The D.C. area is considered part of the mid-Atlantic (whatever that means, the last time I looked there was land, not ocean, to the west of us), and to many also considered the South (Md. is south of the Mason-Dixon, the Caps and Wiz play in the Southeast Divisions). Absurd too, right?
The last time I checked restaurants in my hometown don’t serve Dr. Pepper from the tap, Hooters aren’t prevalent (enough), there isn’t a Wal-Mart in a 15 mile radius of my house and we send liberal politicians to D.C. every year. More importantly though (and more to point) those who live here, including city planners, municipal governments and school principals, really believe we’re confederates (climatically, at least).
In the link-referenced storm from this past January (when I was still a proud resident of the NBC4 viewing area), the entire locale went into a panicked gridlock on a mid-week afternoon – it took people (including my brother Roger) upwards of 6 to 12 hours to travel less than 12 miles. For those counting at home, that’s 1 MPH in your Dodge Aspens. You’d think god dumped a foot of ice on Aruba. Nope, just another winter storm where I grew up.
Here’s the kicker though: it snows A LOT in D.C. Like in the winter of 2009-2010, DC had the second most snow of any metropolis in America. #2! You’d think people would figure out how to use a plow and a shovel. But alas, they haven’t.
What this all meant for me as a child was that winter equated to tons of snow days (and tons of happiness). We’re talking a day off for a dusting, two days for an Alberta Clipper and a full week or even two for the big ones. A week off from school: are you kidding me?
I have vivid memories from elementary school winter afternoons hearing whispers during my PM classes about a potential storm developing, and getting more and more excited as the rumors (and accumulation predictions) grew. The second we got out of school, it was time to blast WTOP and then head home for the 4PM news with Wendy Reiger (the original DC news babe), Jim Handley and the early storm forecast from Tom Kierein. I guess you could say we were all amateur weatherpeople in those days – running home, tracking the doppler, studying the computer models and making determinations (i.e whether to assume we were off and could stay up late or whether we had to be in bed by 9 because we knew this system just didn’t have the legs).
If we were lucky enough, Montgomery County would get so nervous about the impending catastrophe that they’d cancel school the night before, which meant sleep-overs, late movies and an awesome shluph-in without having to wake up to hear our fate.
I remember one late night in high school I got a call from my good buddy Darata Pumpsh informing me that an “atmospheric bomb” had formed over the area – whatever the heck that meant – and that we were likely going to be off from school tomorrow. Of course I was already tracking the system from my war room, but the confirmation that his computer models were telling him the same thing my computer models were telling me meant one thing: Blockbuster. Shluph-over. No school.
To add to this bizarre phenomenon of missing chunks of school at a time for seemingly no reason (a great theory, btw, for my flawed primary and secondary education and my lackluster hebrew speaking), Montgomery County, MD was an even better place to live for snow days than all the other counties in our area. The reason for this is that MoCo is huge, spanning from the foothills of the Shenandoah (Frederick) right up to the DC border (my mom’s apartment). Let me tell ya – there’s a big difference between the front and back of this county; from demography to topography to climatology it is very very different. Upper MoCo pushes westward into rugged, elevated and colder areas where the snow is always worse. For us in Silver Spring- the eastern edge of the county nestled along the border of the Nation’s capital – our climate is a wee bit more tropical. Yet, because of some weird glitch in the system, if the eskimos up in western MoCo were off, us urbanites to the east were off too. Pretty amazing stuff.
So what does this all have to do with this little weatherman fantasy of mine? Well the way I see it is that as a future weatherman I can deliver so much happiness to children all over (this, of course, assuming I work in DC), breaking them news about clippers, blizzards, ice, sleet and of course, cancellations. And for everyone else in the world, I can make them happy when I tell them it’s sunny out. It’s all about making others happy. :) . Well, not really. But seriously, who wouldn’t want to be the handsome fellar on the TV telling everyone they can snugg up to re-runs of Family Ties and hot cocoa for the next week and change? I sure would.
There’s more to the explanation. I guess I’ll get to it in my next post.