After a while, cable show memories tend to blend together. For several hundred cable volunteers who spent a long, steamy Saturday in New Orleans re-proving the axiom that cable’s strength is rooted in local communities, The Cable Show ’08 will stand apart for years. For many volunteers, the day began before 8 am, as they boarded busses from the Convention Center for a 10-mile trip to areas whose encounter with Katrina three years ago remains too visible. The landscape the busses passed was a pastiche of abandoned homes next to FEMA trailers next to pristine houses, where families obviously have renovated.

The Children Are Our Future

For the majority of volunteers, their memory filled day was spent helping New Orleans’ children. A pair of schools was wired for cable and Internet access by volunteer techs from cable ops and vendors, including Cox, Motorola, CommScope, Juniper Networks, LG and Intel.

Those transformations highlighted cable’s brain power. Two other schools— more exactly, trailers grouped together and serving as schools—were on the receiving end of cable’s elbow grease. When cable volunteers began the day at Reed and Williams elementary schools, they found water-logged soil, mud and a humid smell. When they left nearly 8 hours later, the water-logged soil had been replaced by dry mulch. To the delight of children, parents and teachers, atop the mulch were spanking new swings, slides and jungle gyms, gleaming in the Sun.

At Reed, whose rebuild was sponsored by qubo Channel and Ion, kids frolicked in their new playground with Larry the Cucumber and Bob the Tomato. At Williams, grateful 1st graders serenaded volunteers with a Stevie Wonder song, adding rap lyrics that included "cable cares." Later Nickelodeon treated them to a performance by The Naked Bros band, and, of course, Nick brought its slime truck.

Mud In Your Eye

Also shining despite the mud were cable’s volunteers, including former NCTA senior staffer June Travis and CTAM‘s normally pristine Seth Morrison, beaming in a mud-stained tee-shirt at the Reed school. "We started with six inches of solid mud," he said at day’s end, but the "very well-organized people from KaBoom! [a non-profit that’s built nearly 40 playgrounds in New Orleans since Katrina] knew exactly what to do."

Nearby was our Paul Maxwell, smiling in filthy sneakers. "We literally carried an 18-foot pile of mulch over to the playground," he said. "Everyone worked their asses off." One of cable’s dirtiest was Audible Magic‘s Jeremy Stern, knee-deep in mud. But Stern was sanguine. "I’m used to rolling around in the mud as a former cable lawyer," he joked. But the day was not a joke. Fox Cable‘s Matt Grim spent several hours in the nurse’s office having thrown out his back. By day’s end, he seemed fine.

Also smiling late yesterday was Cable Positive‘s Dana Levitt, who conquered her fear of heights to help build a 440-foot wall at a Unitarian church that prepares meals for AIDS patients. "Not bad for a jewish girl from Long Island," she said. Said Cable Positive chief Steve Villano: "I spent my day gardening [at a New Orleans home for AIDS patients] with [ SES Americom media pres] Bryan McGuirk." Yesterday Villano and his small staff were supplemented by NBCU employees at the AIDS homes, and Rainbow‘s Josh Sapan donated 35 works of art to two of the homes.

Just blocks away from The Convention Center, The Sportsman Channel and 50 volunteers prepared and served lunch to homeless men. The fare was venison, donated by local hunters. Helping were groups from Charter, ACA, CAB and NCTA, including a striking blond named Alison McSlarrow. After a photo op at the homeless shelter with show co-chairs Rocco Commisso and Debra Lee, Kyle McSlarrow joked, "My wife did the work and I pose for pictures." Is that the case at the McSlarrow home? "No," Ms. McSlarrow said. "I don’t cook, and [Kyle] can’t fix things. It’s worked for 10 years." The good memories of cable’s work on Sat will last even longer.

The Daily

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Cable TV Pioneers Induction Friday

Set your alarm for 9pm ET Friday. That’s when C-SPAN 3 and C-SPAN.org will televise the induction of the 54th annual Cable TV Pioneers Gala. The event will be available for encore watching on

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