Houston People

Yao Ming? Moses Malone?

If you had a chance to chat with an NBA star or two, what would you say? If you have had that opportunity, did you regret not saying everything you wanted? The other day I saw Yao Ming on the news, watching his former team, the Houston Rockets, play. A camera had panned the arena and I was happy to see that Yao looked to be in good health. He’s in town for the All Star weekend, which promises to be a fun event. His parents and the family restaurant are here in Houston and it’s assumed that he comes in when he can. Ming has kept busy since retiring from basketball in 2011. He’s taken university courses and become a vintner. It seems that his company made an excellent first effort with some lovely Napa Valley cabernets. Several years ago, I had the wonderful experience of sitting next to Yao Ming for an hour. We were filming a spot for a conservation organization called WildAid ( The group is dedicated to ending illegal wildlife trade through public awareness campaigns. It’s motto is “When the buying stops, the killing can too.” (Afterward, I went to their website and signed the pledge to not eat shark fin soup. So, at Chinese weddings and banquets where it’s served, I’ll pass and share with tablemates why. ) The shoot took most of the day, but Yao & Team (or should I say Entourage?) came in later. Joe Grisaffi of Southwest Casting had assembled a large group of students, waitpersons, and other non-actors to simulate a busy restaurant in Asia. It was being shot in the beautiful Landry’s restaurant, Downtown Aquarium. There typically aren’t a lot of Asian actors in the Houston area, so a call went out to all sorts of groups. I do the occasional talent gig so was quite happy to be cast as a principal. (In the group photo below, I’m the one in red.) Before Yao Ming’s arrival the group received instructions, including no photographs and no rushing the man when he came in. You could feel the excitement, as Yao is such a megastar to Chinese around the globe. His group sat off to the side while everyone else snacked and chatted and made a miniscule effort to not stare. When everything was set up, we sat down. There were instructions of “Look at the shark”, “Look at the soup”, “Look a little longer”. In between takes I introduced myself and the other table mate, whom I had met earlier. As time wore on, the directions became repetitious. Finally, when the director told Yao to look at the soup, Yao misunderstood and looked at the “Soo.” I did what anyone else would do to help the scene along. With my back to the camera, I made a scrunchy silly face! After the take, Yao looked at me and said he almost laughed. That broke the ice and it became easier to talk. I asked how his leg was doing. The last six years of his basketball career was spent recovering from injuries. With the amount of wear and tear that extremely large frame received, it was not unexpected. His reply was pretty direct. With a slow shake of his head he said, “Not good.” Said he’d just come from physical therapy and it wasn’t healing as well as the doctor thought it would. Now, mind you, this was a day or two before a news release stating that same fact. That was the moment I wished I had said more, that I would pray for him. Sometimes it can be a comfort to know that others will be thinking of you and supporting you. That was actually the second time I had met an NBA star and wished I had said more. The first was way, way, way back in the days of the Rockets’ Moses Malone. At the time, I was working a talent gig for a builder by the name of General Homes. If you remember Arte Johnson of “Laugh-In” fame, you might remember him playing a general in a series of television commercials. The scene was a dinner party in one of the homes. A couple of the men recognized the towering Moses Malone, so we went over to introduce ourselves. He wasn’t very talkative, so after a few minutes we left him alone. One of the guys said he probably came from a small town and was shy. Later, I was placed next to him at the dinner table. Between takes I tried again to start a conversation. No progress. I was also young and didn’t want to seem pushy. It would have been nice to ask him about his exciting career, but some people like to keep to themselves.   If you’d like to share your story of meeting a celebrity, please comment! Click to see: Yao Ming, Shark Fin Soup Image

Social Media

An Intervention – Mine!

The year began with an unexpected scene. At least to me, it was…

Our car is just leaving a relative’s house after a satisfying New Year’s Day lunch. The conversation begins immediately. One child clasps my hand for support (or to keep it from doing harm?). The other launches into a long list of family and friends’ reactions to my “addiction.”

“Mom, you gotta stop taking so many pictures with your iPhone! The cousins and my friends are telling me that’s all they see you do. Adam was telling me about all your photo apps.”

Well, Adam didn’t know what Aviary was until I showed him! My response? “Almost all of them were free.” I was brought up to be fairly frugal.

The other child chimes in with, “My friends told me you were taking pictures at a Red Egg party and you’re not even family! And you were taking pictures all during a baby shower.”

I had no defense for the first party. Then, an indignant, “I was assigned to take photos for the shower!”

“You’re always checking your phone, even during dinner.”

“Oh, do I?”

“You spend too much time playing with your pictures.”

I DO have to edit them.

“You always were taking too many pictures, but since you got that phone, you’ve gone crazy!” That comes with a silent “I told you so” thrown over my husband’s shoulder as he continues driving. Now, mind you, I struggled that first week of learning how to use such an unfamiliar phone. So much so that one child said, “Mom, you’re not ready for this.”

Finally, I conceded. I agreed that the past year of enjoying a new toy with awesome apps and learning to tweet just sucked me in. They didn’t buy the “I’m doing it for research” bit, though it IS partly true. Who can resist exploring when the world is at one’s fingertips?!? Any question or subject can be googled! Tweeting with new friends across the globe is sweet!

Even so, I stated that I would try to do better this year. Went home and within two days deleted not all, but close to 2,000 images from my camera roll. Of course, those were copied over first!

I make a conscious effort to not take my phone with me everywhere around the house. There have been a couple of days I forgot my phone when leaving home… and I’m still alive!

If you have a similar addiction, don’t wait for an intervention. It’s quite unpleasant. Take baby steps, like mine. Come on, we can do it together!

“This is the day that the Lord hath made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.”

Psalm 118:24