READY WORLD?

I’ve never met a world leader.

Probably, the closest I ever came was to be within 25-feet of someone who eventually became a world leader.

It was 1966. I was 11-years-old, had my Sears version of a Sting Ray bicycle and was fearless. It was a time when kids could run around Southern California without fear of ending up as a storyline on C.S.I. or Cold Case. We’d do what kids do until Kelly Toman’s dad put his fingers together and let out that dinner whistle around 6 o’clock. That was our cue that another day of playtime was nearing the end and we’d all scatter home.

One Saturday that year, my friends all seemed to be busy doing other things and so I found myself on my own, riding my bike. I had heard that a guy who was once a Hollywood actor was running for governor and he was going to be over in the Sears parking lot, around 4 blocks from where we lived. On a bike, that was just two minutes away.

So, I rode over and there, standing on the back of a flatbed truck, decorated with lots of red, white and blue, was none other than Ronald Reagan. OK, I saw him. I listened for a while. I even got pretty close to get a good look. Then, I grabbed a couple of buttons and bumper stickers and rode towards home.

Yeah, one of those!

Yeah, one of those!

Flash forward to this week. I now live in Seattle, Washington, and thanks to my wife and her many Norwegian activities, I’ve been invited to three different affairs this Friday, where I will be in the same vicinity as the King of Norway, Harald the 5th.

It begins at a barbecue, followed by a gathering in a nearby Norwegian-themed park and then, it’s off to the formal dinner at the Seattle Sheraton. One of my Norwegian buddies suggested I get a press pass, so I could take lots of pictures, which I would have been doing anyway. But that should give me great access to capture some pictures of this momentous occasion. I’m particularly anxious to grab lots of shots of my wife Victoria who, thanks to her involvement in restoring the mural at Bergen Place Park, actually gets to introduce and shake the hand of said king.

It’s going to be a very special day for all of us and I really don’t want to do anything that might ruin it for everyone, especially my wife. I promise I won’t point out he spells his name wrong.  I won’t ask what the V stands for in Harald V.  And I’m definitely NOT showing up on my Sting Ray bike. Although, I admit, the idea did cross my mind.

If it was up to me....

If it was up to me….

Wish me luck! Pictures to follow on Facebook and maybe a few special ones posted here next week.

Hip, hip, hoorah!

Tim Hunter

Our Ever-Shrinking World

Yeah, just try to not that song in your head now....

Yeah, just try to not get that song stuck in your head now….

Once each month, Victoria, my wife, leads volunteers in cleaning Bergen Place Park in Ballard, a Seattle suburb with Scandinavian roots.  Of course, I tag along to help.

During our most recent cleaning party, I heard her calling my name.  I looked up and she was standing next to some guy I’d never seen before.  There was an introduction, the mention of his connection to her, but apparently back in the day, they went to Ballard High School together.  “Interesting,” I replied.

“But he’s actually here to meet you.”

Huh?

It seems that Ed Henry (Ed, if I don’t remember your last name correctly, I apologize—I had a rake and a dustpan in my hands as we talked and didn’t write it down) was a long-time reader of this blog.  Oh sure, it’s one thing to say it.  But Ed started citing certain stories I’ve done over the years, like the one I did on the passing of Joe South. Yeah, you’d have to dig deep in the archives, but it’s there.

Now, let’s take this up a notch.  He was up visiting his mom in Everett, but he actually lived in Paraguay.  Once each week, 6,444 miles away, he reads my latest blog entry.  He commended me on how much of life was contained in these writings and it was from them that he knew about the monthly work parties at Bergen Place Park.  He had simply stopped by to say hi and let me know he was out there, apologizing if he seemed like some kind of stalker.

I said, “Of course not!”   At least, I think that’s what I said.  He’s outside on the front lawn.  Is that right, Ed?   He said, “Yes.”

Truly, I was flattered beyond words.  So I’d just like to promise Ed and any of my other faithful readers returning each week that I will never settle for anything less than mildly amusing in all my future writings.

Thanks for being out there.

 Tim Hunter

 

 

OK, Playtime Is Over

Seattle has earned the reputation of being too nice, too accommodating when it comes to anarchists.

So, unlike most major cities in the U.S., when May 1st rolls around, we allow our downtown area to be held hostage by a large collection of thugs wearing masks, throwing rocks, bottles and anything they can get their hands on at p0lice, buildings and other public and private property.  All in the name of “punishing corporations.”

It’s time to stop tolerating this coward’s party.  Yes, you’re mighty brave behind that black mask, hanging around a bunch of like-minded morons.  Obviously mommy and daddy told you to be you, to be “the best anarchist you can be” and after a night of destruction, there’s probably a nice plate of milk and cookies waiting for you at home in your basement room.

As you might pick up, I’m done.  I’m embarrassed.  For as much as I like to brag about my adopted home town, when the 1st of May rolls around and Seattle tolerates this kind of destruction–when businesses have to close early out of fear what might happen to them or their employees–that’s nothing short than legitimized terrorism.

You have the absolute right to peacefully protest.  This country was built on that right.  Spraying buildings with graffiti, breaking out the windows of a news car, carrying a rifle into a crowd (yes, there was a guy that was interviewed on TV), ALL are not protected under the U.S. Constitution.

So, I have solutions.  I have thoughts.  I have ideas on how best to deal with this problem to greatly reduce the number of participants every year.  See what you think.

1) Every police officer on duty that night wears camera vests.  That way, when you’re arrested and taken to trial, we’ll have video proof of which crime you so boldly committed while wearing your mask.

2)  Police snipers are set up where ever the crowd gets out of control.  They take their position, armed only with paint guns and when they see someone break a window, the sharpshooter nails the perpetrator with a paint gun ball.  He’s marked, police arrest anyone marked with paint gun stains, and we make the largest arrest of unruly protesters in May Day history.

3)  Besides the sharp-shooters—more video cameras, to capture the broad scene for further prosecution.

You wouldn’t have to do this every year.  One out of three.  Or as needed.  Once this happens in Seattle, like rats when their safe hangout is disrupted, these thugs will find another city to target.  Although, I believe this model could prove effective for almost any city.

I’m all about peaceful protests.  There were several of those in Seattle yesterday as part of May Dy. But being destructive for misguided reasons is NOT an excuse.  We’re standing up to bullying in our schools.  It’s time to take that cause to the streets.

Besides, threatening police lives should be a crime.  In fact, I’m pretty sure it is.

May Day Seattle

My final suggestion. The parents of anyone arrested for causing damage to property will be invoiced for compensation.  You turned out this gem of a human being, so you get to pay for them. Either that, or we bring out that mom from Baltimore and turn her loose for a couple of ass whoopin’s.

Mr. Mayor or Seattle Police, if you need any more suggestions, please reach me at my usual number.

Tim Hunter

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

"A good deed, eh?"

“A good deed, eh?”

For years, my broadcast partner Bruce Murdock would say that phrase at the appropriate time.  It happened enough that, eventually,  I found myself saying, “Well, no good deed goes unpunished!”

11 years after our last broadcast together, those words resurfaced last week.

I had gone to a small coffee shop in Edmonds for a new business meeting.  Being the first to arrive, I went ahead and ordered my usual–a tall non-fat latte.  I waited….and waited….and then, finally asked the barista, “Uh, my drink?”  Somehow, in the rush between me and the other customer, the order had gotten lost.  Apparently, to make up for the error, they served up my drink quickly and extra hot.  Now, I had to wait for it to cool down.  While I waited, my co-worker showed up, noticing that the coffee shop closed in 20 minutes.  That wouldn’t work for our meeting.

So, before the client arrived, we regrouped at a restaurant across the street.  That meant taking my coffee out to the car.  I certainly wasn’t going to go into the restaurant with coffee from somewhere else, so I took a sip and hoped it would still be hot by the time our meeting was over.

It wasn’t. Lukewarm, at best.  Oh well, I probably should cut back on the caffeine anyway.  On the way home, I decided to run a couple of errands and for every store that I visited, I contemplated getting rid of the coffee.  But then, it would have just headed to the landfill.  If I just waited and took it home, I could put the coffee and paper cup into the food compost container, and the plastic lid in the recycle container.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is what they call, a ‘good deed.’

When I arrived home, I lifted up the unwanted beverage and sure enough, the very hot coffee combined with sitting in a paper container for several hours meant that, at the very second it was directly over my lap, the bottom gave out and I was soaked.

I cleaned it up as best I could, but the stale coffee smell is still there, serving as an aromatic reminder of those words, “No good deed goes unpunished.”

For those who have been on Pirates at the Caribbean at Disneyland, remember the talking skull and crossbones, right before you go down the waterfalls?  You know, the one saying, “Dead men tell no tales?”  In my head—its the same voice.

“No good deed goes unpunished….”

Tim Hunter

Later Than The Late

mime funeral

Earlier this month, we received an announcement in the mail.  The man who had paid for my step-daughter’s education at Seattle University and her first year at Bastyr University, had died.

He was a well-to-do eastside businessman, who decided to reinvest some of his money into helping people make more of their lives.  Somehow, he became aware of Kjersti’s promise and so, he covered her SU tuition.  It was a very generous and noble thing to do.

So, when the announcement came from his widow and we learned of a memorial service at the Bear Creek Country Club on April 18th, my wife felt a strong calling to attend that service.  I would go along for support.  We read in the program sent to us that Tim Eyman was going to be the main speaker.  By the sounds of it, it was going to be quite the gathering of the who’s who of area conservatives.

The morning came, Kjersti was unable to attend because of teaching a class, but Victoria and I headed out to Woodinville.  We were running behind, so I picked up the pace as best I could.  We still arrived there a few minutes after noon, hopped out of the car and dashed up towards the clubhouse.

Nothing.  No signs of where the memorial was being held.  In the main dining hall, staff was setting up for a wedding reception.  The head of catering was busy and said that he would get to us in a few minutes, which went even longer.  It was then I said, “I’ll run out to the car and re-read the program.”

I got to the car, read the date and location carefully again.  Yep, April 18th.  Bear Creek Country Club, check.  Oh, wait.  The important detail we had failed to notice on the program—April 18th, 2014.

Yes, on the one-year anniversary of his passing, his widow had sent the funeral notice to us.  Probably taking care of loose ends, thinking Victoria and Kjersti would want to see it and most likely wondering why they hadn’t been there a year ago.

For the record, we were there–exactly one year after the service.

As for being late to events, I now have a new personal best and a feeling that record might just stand for a while.

Tim Hunter

Announcing the 2016 Presidential Campaign Sweepstakes

edimage

Greetings Facebook friends!

I’m standing on my blog soapbox today to announce an exciting new contest–the first-ever, Tim Hunter Presidential Campaign Sweepstakes.

Here’s how it works: you post something on Facebook extremely negative, nothing more than partisan poison being passed around by the side that knows better and I ‘unfriend’ you.

That’s it!  Pretty darn simple, huh?

I already know what’s coming.  The negative ads that take vague swipes at candidates using half-truths, quarter-truths and close-enough-truths invading my favorite TV and radio shows.  You know the ones I’m talking about—filled with an arrogant attitude that if you believe my way, you’re smart and if you’re opposed to it, you’re an idiot.

Just today, a very vicious attack on Hillary Clinton made it into my feed, which was just two news stories away from a childish name-calling meme about Ted Cruz.

This just in–it’s not funny, it’s not entertaining, it’s not what I want to be subjected to over the next year and a half.  Funny is one thing (and I actually know a thing or two about funny), but when all you’re doing is saying to your fellow D’s and R’s out there, “Hey, look!  I called him a Poopy Pants! Ha!” and you find that entertaining?  Let’s just say I’ve evolved.

In fact, I’m proud of the fact that I don’t vote party.  At this particular point in time, there is no one aside from Morgan Freeman that I feel is real presidential material out there.

So, back to the rules of the game.  Get it all out of your system between now and midnight.  Because as of April 15th, 2015, make a snide political comment or post a caustic partisan piece on this guy’s Facebook feed and we will be disconnected.  I’ll consider reconnecting after November of next year, but not until then.

It’s a free country, for both of us.  You have the right to be a raging partisan, but the constitution also allows me to confine my Facebook feed to beer bellied bicycle crashes and cats playing pianos.

Have a great election!  Oh, and congratulations to all of our winners.

Tim Hunter

If Pipes Could Talk

Lousy artist's conception of what The Talking Pipe looked like.

Lousy artist’s conception of what The Talking Pipe looked like.

Last week, I bared my soul about a sensitive topic.  It’s an issue on which people have very strong stands and it’s entirely possible, I may have offended at least a couple of folks along the way.

If you didn’t have the chance to read it and be offended, you’ll find it immediately below this one.

These blogs are a bit of a time capsule.  The world is an ever-evolving place, and I consider these ramblings to be a scrapbook of thoughts that I hope live on the Internet long enough for future generations to learn from them.

As I approach my 60th birthday, I feel very fortunate to have already experienced so many things that anyone under 40 find hard to comprehend.  There was a time when TV was only black & white, telephones were tied to walls and had rotary dials and party lines.  The number of TV stations was in single digits. Stores were closed on Sundays.  Yeah, it was that kind of world.

Coming off such a serious topic last week, I really wanted to keep it as light as possible this week.  So, I sat back, let the mind wander a bit and then, I managed to extract this little gem from the depths of my memory bank—the Talking Pipe.

The what?

I grew up in Torrance, California, now famous for being the home of Louis Zamperini.  During my high school years (at the same school Louis attended, just a couple of years later) Friday nights after the football game meant driving up to the Palos Verdes Peninsula, looking out over the city lights and enjoying some romantic moments with your favorite girl.

One of the secret little hideouts for teenagers was a dead-end street, which became famous among necking circles for being the home of The Talking Pipe.  It was a large steel pipe (thus, part of the name) that protruded out of the ground, about four feet tall.  If you walked up to it and put your ear near the opening, you would hear voices.  Nothing you could make out, but they were definitely muffled voices.  Every time we performed this ritual, the pipe “talked”, just as the legend claimed.

Of course, since then, with only the slightest of mental effort, we figured out that this pipe sticking out of the ground high on a hill acted as an antenna.  Because of its location to a nearby news station’s broadcasting tower, the broadcast signal was picked up and sounded as though it came from deep inside the pipe.

Mystery solved. However, The Talking Pipe is one of those high school experiences I remember fondly. 

Almost as fondly as what happened in the car afterwards.

Tim Hunter

 

 

 

We’ll Have a Gay Old Time

There was a time where that was a line from the theme song from “The Flintstones.” Or when we sang “Now we don our gay apparel” and didn’t give a second thought.

This week, when Indiana made it legally OK for someone to not conduct business with a person because they were against homosexuality, it’s forcing this person to speak his mind.

I have very conservative friends. Good friends, even relatives who are opposed to gay people being able to live their lives because of religious beliefs.

I just want to scream. But instead, I’ll write.

First off, it’s God’s job to judge, not ours.

Secondly, let’s say it’s legal to not conduct business with people because you disapprove of a lifestyle or religious belief. We might as well make it easy for you to discriminate. After all, there are a lot of gay people who don’t “look gay.” What about those sneaks who could be gay but appear heterosexual? Or, if a gay guy is with his sister and so you mistake them for a heterosexual couple? Let’s see….a scarlet letter goes back way too far. I seem to remember one country that forced people to get serial numbers tattooed on their arms for easy identification. I guess we’ll let the Indiana legislature figure that one out.

To my relatives and friends who feel there is no wiggle room on this issue because of what’s said in the Bible, let’s get into that. You quote verses you that you claim support the notion that homosexuality is “clearly a sin.” So, it’s sinners that you have a problem, or simply that particular sin? According to the most recent U.S. census, the number of sin-free people living in our country was….zero. But if you’re avoiding contact with sinners, then you probably better have on your list: liars, cheaters, the people having affairs, those living together “in sin” without the institution of marriage, the people full of hate (“love thy neighbor”) and the list goes on and on.

Also, if you’re using selected Bible verses to condemn gays, here are a few others that you’ll want to get to know:

  • “But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head…” 1 Corinthians 11:5 (been in a church without a hat?)

  • “But if she bear a maid child, then she shall be unclean two weeks, as in her separation: and she shall continue in the blood of her purifying threescore and six days.” Leviticus 12:5   (Have a daughter who gives birth to a girl, she’ll be unclean for 66 days)

  • “For every one that curseth his father or his mother shall be surely put to death: he hath cursed his father or his mother; his blood shall be upon him.” Leviticus 20:9 (If your kid swears at you, game over)

  • “And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched.” Mark 9:43 (There was a guy at the UW in the dorms I lived that dropped acid one night and took that one literally. Yep, sawed it off)

 

Or wait—are you saying only certain parts of the Bible apply and you get to choose which ones?

Finally, there are gay people in the world. They’re that way. I have many gay friends, know gay couples and this just in from the newsroom—we’ve had gay relatives on both sides of the family! Sadly, most of them lived a closeted life from the rest of the family because of the possible lack of understanding.

There are so many things wrong in this wacko world—pilots crashing jets full of people into mountains, religious fanatics cutting off heads and putting it on the Internet in the name of their god. If you’re personally opposed to the concept of being gay, no one is asking you to sign up or join a club. I’m far from a spokesman, but from what I’ve seen, the vast majority of gay people just want to live their lives and be happy.

If you’re still a fan of legalizing discrimination, our country’s political system gives you that opportunity. But when it’s your time to face God, be sure to allow a little extra time for the explaining you’ll have to do.

One last thought–Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss.  Good luck on those two ever being able to order a pizza in Indiana.

Tim Hunter

Jesus

The Silence Grows

Just a week ago, I attended the memorial service for longtime Seattle news guy, Jim Kampmann.  He was honored well, with a huge turnout at Holy Family Church in Auburn.  Jim spent 17 years in rock radio as the edgy voice of authority, while I got to know him during the next 17 years of his life that he spent as a Green River Community College Radio teacher and nice guy news presence on KIXI & KLSY.  “Kampy” as he was known, became more thoughtful, caring and reflective as the years rolled by.  Sadly, it’s been probably a decade since I last saw him.  A lot of people commented they hadn’t seen him in a while, but it says volumes when you leave that kind of imprint on people’s lives.  There are some wonderful photos of him on his Facebook Memorial Page and, because it doesn’t hurt to give it a plug, they’ve established a GoFundMe page for the Kampmann kids to cover college.  Any little bit helps.

I was blessed to have met Jim, to have gotten to know him and follow his life adventures and misadventures.  To those who didn’t have the pleasure of meeting him, I offer a couple of clips.  Here’s a commentary he did during his tenure at Sandusky radio. And there’s this wonderful collection that John Maynard and friends put together.

However, brace yourself before watching this.  It’s a behind the scenes look at Jim and really gives you a glimpse at the tremendous human being we lost.  That was Kampy.

Just this morning, I found out about the loss of another Seattle radio voice.  Former Smooth Jazz-kateer Cedric James lost his fast and ferocious battle against lung cancer.  Cedric & I worked in the same building over there in Factoria, but most of our encounters were a quick “Hey!” while passing in the halls of Sandusky. He was a Smooth Jazz guy, I was a goofball over at KLSY.  After we both ‘retired’, we connected on Facebook and stayed in touch over the years.

On March 6th, he shared the news that he had been diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer.  All too reminiscent of my late broadcast buddy, Larry Nelson.  He announced the diagnosis on Facebook and kept his friends and followers updated on his condition.  Just this past Tuesday, he made his last post:

“I have reached the end of the crossroads and it’s time to make the decision. I am headed for hospice. It is time to die peacefully. My oxygen intake is facing slowly and the doctors are chasing the answer. As a result, I am pulling the plug and preparing for the end. Some time in the next week. I bid you all peace and love. May the Devine white light of mother and father God shine on your heart as it has shined on me. Amen.”

A few hours ago, his son, Cedric Jr., posted this message:

“I am sorry to inform you all of this not so great news. My father did not make the night. He passed away and he went in his sleep.”

I look back on my 30+ years in radio and have lots of fond and not-so-fond memories.  But I have to say, some of the people I met along the way were nothing less than amazing. Unique. Characters.

And now, there are two less characters in my story.  Gentlemen, I look forward to seeing you both again some day. God’s peace to both of you.

Tim Hunter

Not As Crazy As I Seem

A police artist's sketch of the suspects

A police artist’s sketch of the suspects

There have been times I’ve wondered, “When you go crazy, do you know it?  Are there warning signs or do you just wake up one morning and proclaim yourself King of the Butterflies?”

I ask this, because of an incident that innocently began back in January.

I saw this Groupon for personalized M&Ms.  With not only the anniversary of the day we met coming up, plus Valentine’s Day, I figured that would be a nice gift for one of those days, depending on whether they arrived in the mail.

So, I bought the Groupon, went to the M&Ms website, uploaded a picture of us and placed the order.  I gotta say, by the time everything was done, even with the Groupon these bags of chocolates decorated with our picture cost about as much as a dozen roses flown in fresh from Brazil by a guy named Juan on a Lear jet….on Valentine’s Day!

But I thought it would be fun.  Different.  So, I sat back and waited for them to arrive.

I remembered buying the M&Ms the week prior to the anniversary of the day we met.  They had not yet arrived. Valentine’s Day approached, so I made dinner reservations and bought a card.  I was sure they’d show up by then.  They didn’t.

So I wrote to M&Ms and asked, “What happened?”   I didn’t hear back.  Then I remembered the confirmation email saying I could track my order.  They said those special M&Ms with our picture on it had been delivered.

Now, I’m second-guessing myself.  Did they arrive and I hid them until one of the big days?  I emptied out t-shirt drawers, sock drawers, checked inside shoes….all the places I would stash something for later, to maintain the surprise.  Nothing.

Then I wondered if they had been stolen. You always hear about someone’s package arriving, and right behind the FedEx or UPS guy, a robber walks up to the porch and steals your goods.  They must have been after me M&Ms!!!! (yes, I meant to say ‘me’. I was having a Lucky Charms moment)

It’s now been over a month since I had hoped to surprise Victoria with these custom candies.  Not a day goes by that I don’t second-check a cabinet or a desk drawer.

This morning, the phone rang at 7am.  It was a toll-free number.  Gee, the telemarketers are starting early today.  However, for some reason, I decided to go ahead and answer it.  It was the M&M people.  First, they confirmed all my information.  Then they informed me that my order had slipped through the cracks and was never filled.  They apologized profusely (just shy of any kind of refund) and promised they would put a rush on this order and have it out to me tomorrow.  Yep, one day service.

I have to admit, I was talking myself into taking the blame for this one.  Their website said the candies were delivered.  I imagined that I had probably opened the order and quickly hidden them away.  I even pictured what the package probably looked like and that, in time, I would stumble across a moldy pile of rock-hard chocolates in one of the best present hiding spots ever.

So many times, things like this happen and you never learn the story.  I can’t be mad. In fact, I’m somewhere between relieved and happy.  I’m taking great comfort, knowing that I’m not losing my mind and going crazy. At least not yet.

I’d love to continue, but apparently my subjects are awaiting a speech from me out in the Butterfly Garden.

Tim Hunter

GIVING APPRAISAL WHERE APPRAISAL IS DESERVED

I made it. I crossed the finish line. The long personal nightmare is over.

I sold my home in Bothell.

It was a great home, a rambler, backed up against a greenbelt in the highly-desired Northshore School District. I don’t know if you’ve been keeping up with all that’s going on in Bothell, but that city is being transformed. I found out at a Bothell Chamber board meeting this week that the new McMenamin’s complex opens up October 15th of this year. With all that’s going on, property values in Bothell are sure to go up.

When I bought my home there, the year was 2006. House prices were escalating and I figured if I didn’t buy now, it wouldn’t be long until I couldn’t afford to live there. So, I locked in the house at $367,000 and settled in.

Without going into details (because you know them all too well), the housing market crashed. When my new wife and I decided we needed a larger house, I tried to sell the Bothell home. However, prices were falling faster than Howie Mandel’s hair.

So, I turned it into a rental. But from the time I started renting it until the last tenant moved out, I was anywhere from $300-$500 under what the mortgage payments were. Each year I hung on, it cost me up to $6,000 to keep it. I rented it for 8 years. Don’t do the math, it’s depressing.

That isn’t to say I didn’t seriously considering doing a short sale—letting the banks take the hit, not me. Sure, my credit would be dismal for a few years, but that would certainly be better than losing all that money.

However, it just wasn’t the right thing to do. I’m no saint, but if there’s a right way to do things, I usually try my best to make it happen. So, I continued to take the beatings, year after year, hoping that someday the market would turn around.

When my last renter gave notice they were leaving at the end of the year, that was the kick in the butt to make a run at selling it. I poured another $6,000 into new carpeting, painting, repairs, etc. Paid to have it landscaped, paid to have it staged…

My efforts paid off!   The hot market combined with all the nice touches inspired 30 couples to pass through during that first open house and by the end of the day, I had three offers, two over the asking price. The top bid–$380,000!

This usually is where the theme music builds, the credits start rolling and we all savor a happy ending.

But enter the appraiser from hell, Allan Mankis with Everbank.

If you get an appraisal of the asking price, it’s smooth sailing through the financing seas. If not, there’s trouble.   Allan’s appraisal of the house came in at $3,000 less than asking.

The way it works these days (post-housing crash) is that you don’t have any say in who gets selected for the appraisal. Apparently, there were a lot of generous appraisers boosting values of homes that helped fuel the housing price increases.

OK, I get it. We all learned.

But now, there are a few cowboys who feel it’s their job to wrangle prices in. We’ve returned to a seller’s market, where bidding wars occur and values are heading up again.

It would be easy to dismiss my views as being personal and “my opinion.” But here are just some of the facts that Mr. Mankis conveniently ignored:

  • Home values and prices were escalating everywhere, not just in my neighborhood.
  • Watch the evening news every once and a while and you’ll hear there’s a low inventory out there.
  • ‘Comps’ are supposed to be comparisons of similar homes AND recent sales prices.
  • The $330K home that was used as a comp was sold LAST AUGUST. Hmmm….do you think house prices have gone up since then?
  • A  smaller 1248 square foot rambler that sold in the neighborhood last October for $372,000 was mysteriously left out of the appraisal as a comparable. Isn’t that convenient?
  • Included in the comparison: a tri-level. So now, tri-levels and ramblers are pretty much equal when making appraisals? Good to know.
  • He made comments in the report about the updated windows not adding any value compared with homes who still have their original aluminum windows from the 80’s. Really? New triple-pane windows add no value over the aluminum windows of three decades ago? I must notify the utilities and window manufacturers immediately.
  • He also ignored that I had forced-air gas heat, which apparently had no added value over electric baseboard heat. His removal from reality rivals “The Matrix.”
  • He included pictures of “Toilet in the hall” and “Bathroom to be repaired”. Ya think? When the inspector noticed some minor water damage (caused by water that splashed out of the shower and NOT a leaky toilet) I went the extra distance and had it over-repaired by a licensed and bonded handyman. Ripped out the old linoleum, installed new, reseated the toilet and $1100 later, the bathroom was like new. It was a two day project and when does the appraiser come? A half hour before the handyman came to make the final repairs on day 2.
  • He pointed out a broken board in the deck. It must have happened during one of the open houses. Funny, but the inspector didn’t even mention it when he looked at the house. It was a broken board that someone had punched through. I replaced it, (and had done several hundred dollars’ worth of repairs on that deck as well prior to his visit) but Mr. “I’m going to make this house look as bad as possible” showcased it.
  • Comments I heard from several real estate people when I was telling them of this nightmare: “They like to play God.” “He had clear stats that could have easily brought the value to the agreed-on sales price.”

In spite of his negative comments and off-base personal opinions expressed in the appraisal, the buyers and their agent were fine. They knew better. Everyone knew better, which is what drove the price up so high. It is a seller’s market.

Apparently, this appraiser goes to the gas station each week to fill up his vehicle and refuses to accept that the prices have gone up.

His appraisal came in $3,000 less than the $369,000 asking price, which affected the financing and otherwise smooth transaction. This forced me into choosing between lowering the price or putting it back on the market. Mr. Mankis, your under-valued appraisal of that house cost me $3,000.

I am confused why, on your Linkedin profile, you’re listed as a Commercial Review Appraiser. Heaven help any commercial real estate owner who is lucky enough to have you assess their value.

The past 9 years have taken quite an economic toll on me, but I played the game the way it was supposed to be played. Congratulations, Mr. Mankis, you were able to sneak in one last sucker punch before I left the ring.

But remember this—karma always wins.

Tim Hunter

Secrets

secrets

I love secrets.  I know quite a few. We all have a couple tucked away in our memory bank.

Maybe it’s about a family member, a co-worker, a friend who turned to you and trusted you enough to share.  Then, we have to decide–are we keepers or ones who like to share?

Some things start out as secrets, but in time, we all find out.  Putting years between us and the uglier truths seem to make it OK to share.

I recently was privy to the story behind the Christa compound.  Now a religious broadcast facility, senior housing and the home of King’s Schools in Shoreline, Washington,  it once was a tuberculosis hospital.  What’s even better is that there are a series of tunnels underneath which were used to remove the bodies of people who died from the disease.  It sounds like a great urban myth, but actually true.

However, I was not prepared for a story I heard recently and because of its nature and the fact that the person involved is still living, I have to be a bit vague.

The woman who shared this powerful truth swears it’s true.  Now, I should point out that she is a life-long Democrat. Say the “R” word and she’ll get a stern look. Her daughter will be among the first to tell you that her 90+ year mom loves to pass along her stories.  But this one is a real shocker.

As I sat at the table next to her, she began by asking, “You know how President Roosevelt died, don’t you?”   Wanting to show off my knowledge of her generation, I matched her matter-of-fact manner and said, “Sure.  He was sitting at his desk, uttered the words, ‘I have a terrific headache’, had a stroke and died.”

“That’s not what really happened,” she replied.

FDR

According to her, she was working that day at the “Georgia White House.”  It was where FDR got away and relaxed, along with his girlfriend.  Our storyteller said she had been brought in as a staff member and that she was no more than 3-feet away from the president when he ended his life.

The president’s health was not good and he was confined to bed.  That day, a secret service agent removed his gun, and put it down by a bedside table.  Why?  Unknown. But she said she watched as the president quickly reached over for it and before anyone could stop him, shot himself in the side of the head.

Everyone was in shock.  The head of staff told those present to pack up their bags and prepare to leave and ordered that no one was to tell anyone what had taken place.

Now, I’ll be honest–I had never heard this theory before.  But she told it to me like it was God’s truth.  Remember, this is a dyed-in-the-wood Democrat, so why would she want to tarnish the memory of one of the great D-presidents of all time?  Now, hop on Google and you’ll see lots of other similar stories that are circulating about this rumored suicide.  Noting the times and the fact that FDR was not allowed to be photographed in his wheelchair, it wouldn’t surprise me that a presidential suicide would be swept under the rug.

So, that’s the secret.  I’m hoping to interview her soon, so that some day I can share with you the passion and detail with which she told her story.  Otherwise, you’ll probably have to wait another generation or two before finding out what actually happened that day.

Until then, now you know the secret.

Are you a keeper or one who likes to share?

Tim Hunter

One of Life’s Little Lessons

lessons-in-life

So, as I begin to detach myself from the Bothell home I’m in the process of selling, I noticed that the garage door opener had a pretty loose button.  It worked, but it was obvious that it wasn’t long for this world.

On page 284 of the “Nice Guy” manual, it says that I should probably get a replacement for it.  I went to Smile.Amazon.com (the charity arm of their website–they offer the same stuff, but if you order there, a portion of your purchase goes to the charity of your choice!  See, you’ll actually learn two things in this blog) and saw that a couple of replacements would set me back $20.  Done deal.

When they arrived, I popped them open to set the code to the same one as the worn-out remote.  That’s when I made the discovery–during the entire 9 years I owned the home, the garage door opener code was the same as the default code from the factory.  The two new ones were already set to “up-down-up-down….etc.”

The lesson here:  if you inherited your garage door openers from a previous owner or just used them the way they came, any burglar could drive along your street holding a button down and open your garage door.

I should have known better.  I’ve often told the story of my old Bothell neighborhood, where we had an ongoing problem with a garage door that just opened randomly.  I’d come home from work and it was open.  I’d be out washing the car and it would close on it’s own.

Then one day, I happened to be at the right angle.  As our door began to close by itself, I looked up and saw our neighbor pulling into his driveway as his garage door was opening up.  I grabbed my remote, walked down to his house and hit the button.  Sure enough, his door started closing.  It seems we had BOTH left it on the default code.

So, now I’ve given your brain another wrinkle and provided some wisdom when it comes to garage door openers.  I also may have inspired would-be burglars, but that’s the risk you take in a free society.

Don’t do it.

Tim Hunter

Yes, It’s Hot in February

Here we go!

Here we go!

I’ll be honest. When I heard the news stories talking about this being “a seller’s market”, I was thinking when it came to my involvement that would mean a “Peter Sellers market.”

After all, when I bought my Bothell home back in 2006, I was watching house prices escalate at a phenomenal rate. Part of my inspiration to buy was the feeling that if I didn’t buy now, it wouldn’t be long until I wouldn’t be able to afford a house in Seattle.

So, when my real estate dude Bruce Fulton found this little 3-bedroom home backed up against a greenbelt in Bothell, I made a run at it. And, to make sure we got it, I gave them an offer $3,000 over the asking price of $367,000.

It was right after the ink dried on that contract that the signal was given for the economy to crash and the housing industry to bust unlike it had done in the last 100 years.

But, no worries. I was in this for the long haul.  Eventually house values would come back up.  I would just sit on the back deck, listen to the birds chirping, watch the rabbits dash through the yard and just take it easy.

Then I met a girl, fell in love, and we decided that little home wasn’t big enough for my new family configuration, so we bought the closer-to-Seattle home where we now live. I turned the Bothell residence into a rental. I only enjoyed living there for a year.

Luck was on my side, as I managed to get two great renters over the past 8 years. When the latest renter informed me she was no longer interested in buying the home and was moving south, it was time to make a run at selling it.

As poorly timed as the purchase was, the selling apparently was the complete opposite. Bruce said we should have no problem getting $369,000 for it. That was much welcomed news, especially since Zillow had two “values” posted for the home, the highest only $323,000. (just this week, there was an online news story about Zillow and their unreasonably lower values)

To make sure that it sold as soon as possible, I pulled out all the stops. Tweaked the inside to perfection with new carpeting and touched-up the painting. Put in a gravel path on the side yard, re-stained the deck on the two dry days in January. I had already put on a new roof this past year, repaired the garage door, replaced the front porch. Around $4,000 of freshening up later and the house was ready.

Oh wait—the smart money suggested “staging” the house. You’d think that wide-open rooms would look big, but having the right furniture in them makes all the difference and helps buyers with limited imaginations see how the house could look.

Now THAT'S staged!

Now THAT’S staged!

 

Another $1,700. (estimates were as high as $2500)  OK, now we’re ready.

Day 1:  On Thursday, the home’s first day on the market, one of the first people in the house made an offer–at full price, but they wanted me to cover the $5K in closing costs. With an open house scheduled for Sunday, we decided to wait and see what happened.

Smart move.

Day 4:  30 couples came through Sunday afternoon, between 1-4pm. At the end of the day, there were 3 offers on the table, two above asking price. We looked at each of the buyers and when all was said and done, I was signing documents Sunday night at 8 for a $378,000 real estate deal. Yep–$9,000 over asking price.

It’s been a long road and I still won’t recover what I put in, but the journey is almost over. There’s a couple that is going to get a great house they’ll enjoy for years to come and that part of my life is now about to close.

As much as I enjoyed Peter Sellers, I’m glad it has become a good old-fashioned seller’s market. If you’ve even thought about selling in the near future, current market conditions and the low interest rates pretty much say, “Do it now!”

Tim Hunter

Musings of a Depressed Seahawks Fan

Yeah, it's how I feel

Yeah, it’s how I feel

Ever since that final play of Super Bowl 49, I haven’t stopped thinking about the game, how it could have been SO different, why we decided to “snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory”, etc.

So, throughout the week, as my brain continues to work overtime, I’m just going to assemble a collection of my thoughts so I can press them in my scrapbook of Seahawk memories.

1) For baseball fans who don’t follow the Seahawks, Sunday’s Super Bowl loss was like the Mariners going to the 7th game of the World Series, having a one-run lead in the bottom of the 9th, then, with the bases loaded, walking in the tying and winning runs.
I guess the good news is, in football, you get it over with a lot faster.

2) A survey says that 14% of all Baby Boomers are being treated for depression. Most of those, Seahawk fans.

3) Even Johnny Weir was asking, “Why did they pass instead of giving that Skittles guy the oblong ball thing?”

4) The Scientology commercial that ran in the Super Bowl promised “the Age of Answers.” Can we start with that last play call?

5) That’s it! Seattle’s offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell is NOT getting a Valentine from this guy this year.

6) Seahawk Sam poked his head out of the rubble in his living room, saw it wasn’t just a bad dream & that means 6 more weeks of depression.

7)  (I channeled Marshawn Lynch on Facebook with this one) “I’m only here so I won’t get depressed.”

8) Every time I try to rerun that last play in my head, I pass instead and it gets intercepted.

9) It’s “Groundhog’s Day”, that day when you live life over and over until you get it right. Where was this day when we could have used it yesterday?

10) Congrats to Hank Wackstrom, Pee Wee football coach from Twisp, Washington. Hank was the winner of the Seahawks “You call the play” contest, where Hank got to call the Hawks final offensive play in the Super Bowl. Way to go, Hank!
Only way I can explain it.

11) Now I know what the Green Bay Packers fans felt like. Is this where I say, “The better team lost?”

12) There was the picture of the seagull with the Seahawks logo on the chest and the caption I put above him, where he’s saying, “Hey, even with my brain that was a bad call.  Just sayin’…”

13) The Seahawks last call really soured me on the entire game.  It reminded me of my bar days.  I always hated the last call.

14)  Hey, Atlanta–how about if we keep Dan Quinn and you get Darrell Bevell?

15) We finished 2nd.  If we have a parade, shouldn’t the team parade be on 2nd Avenue?

16) I heard Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell wants the parade to go over the mountains on I-90 because he prefers the pass.

17) Ironically, after that Super Bowl loss, it’s the Seahawks that are feeling deflated.

18) I mean, it was crazy: one minute I’m watching the Seahawks in the Super Bowl and then it turned into a Cougar game! (WSU friends, insert ‘Husky’ here)

 conspiracy

 (my brain went here–history will decide if I’m right)

Why did the Seahawks pass instead of giving Marshawn Lynch a couple of tries of running it less than a yard?

Theory 1–The Seahawks wanted quarterback Russell Wilson to be the hero, not the crotch-grabbing, few-on-words Marshawn Lynch.

Theory 2–The Seahawks came up with a difficult play that made it impossible for Wilson to complete, thus making it appear as if he blew the game.  Then, when end-of-the-season contract negotiations are underway, he can be reminded of it and be offered millions less.

How did a rookie defender anticipate an a slant pass in a definite run situation?  The only way a play like that could have worked was to incorporate the element of surprise.

Theory 1–The New England Patriots intercepted the play call as Offensive Coordinator Darrell Bevell talked to Pete Carroll on their radio connection.  The information was passed to the New England defense, who knew exactly how to defend this unlikely play.

Theory 2–Because of everything the Patriots and the NFL went through for Deflate-gate, the league decided the Patriots needed to win.  Russell Wilson threw it directly into the arms of a New England Patriot player from 15 feet away with the promise that the Seahawks would be allowed to win it next year.

Oliver Stone, eat your heart out.

Tim Hunter

 

 

 

The Home That Got Away

Shooting the Penguin Windows commercial at the house

Shooting the Penguin Windows commercial at the house

On February 4th, I’m putting a little piece of me up for sale.

It’s the home I bought back in 2006, when I was starting life anew.  I found this little rambler in Bothell, backed up against a greenbelt, with a huge deck and fenced yard.  I was watching house prices skyrocket out of control and figured if I didn’t hurry up and buy right then, I’d never be able to afford to buy a home in the Puget Sound area.

That was the thinking.  I had $60K as the result of a divorce that I was going to invest somewhere and this seemed like the perfect little place. 3 bedrooms, large master bedroom.  I even allowed the company I worked for at the time to use it to install Penguin triple-pane windows and film it for a TV commercial.

I remember a great summer backyard open house out on the deck and what fun it was.  A deer once wandered through the neighborhood.  Being in the back of the development, only people who lived there would drive by.  There were the neighbors, Dana & Tammy, Norm & Susie and several others whose names I’ve forgotten.

Then, less than a year after buying it, I met a woman too amazing to let get away.  My little rambler was too far from downtown to make it ‘our’ home, so we ended up buying a different home and I planned to sell off the Bothell residence.

But you may have notice the key phrase, 2006, above.  I bought at the absolute peak of the housing market and the crash that followed prevented me from selling.  So, for the next 8 years, I rented it out.  I had never planned to be a landlord, but I found myself in that position–having to fix garage doors, replace a water heater, re-roof, etc.  Combine that along with the fact that rent was hundreds under the payment and it was basically a financial stone around my neck.

However, I got lucky, with two dream tenants who treated the home as if it was their own.  When the most recent tenant decided to move south to be closer to family and with the market recovering, it just seemed like the right time to make my move.

Ten years from now it would be the perfect place to be.  We’re just not at that stage yet.

What I’d like to share with you–with all the preparations that have gone into getting it ready to sell, it’s a really awesome house.  More awesome than it ever was when I lived there.  That made me realize what a shame it is to live in your home and never enjoy its potential.  I’ve become even more resolved, once this adventure is over, to get our Seattle home to where we imagine it could be.  To get it ready to sell, and then… just live there.

If you know someone looking for a home, you might pass this link along to them. It gives a snapshot of what the house is all about, but I’ve got to tell you: it now looks even better.  Just send a note to tim@wackyweek.com and I’ll hook you up with my real estate guy.

I look forward to being an ex-landlord, but at the same time, I’m going to miss that little place.

Tim Hunter

A Rare Opportunity

12 logo

Recently, I blogged about Christmas, encouraging everyone to absorb what was around them and enjoy all that the season offers. It can be such a magical time of year if we just allow it. But, as they say, Christmas comes but once a year, always making its annual arrival at Costco, sometime in August.

Right now, Seattle Seahawks fans have one of the rarest of opportunities available to any sports fans. To follow a team that generations will look back on as one of the greatest N.F.L. teams in history.

In my near 60 years on earth, I’ve had the good fortune to be able to cheer for a championship team or two. There were the 1963 Los Angeles Dodgers, that swept the New York Yankees in the World Series, four games to none. Two years later, they blew the first two games of the World Series, only to come back and beat the Minnesota Twins in seven games. Two championships in three years!  That was back in the days when World Series games were played during the day and the cool teachers were the ones who brought in a TV so we could watch during school.

Always while growing up, I got to experience an NBA championship.  However, it was after years of the Los Angeles Lakers losing to either the Boston Celtics and the New York Knicks (I think the league made them take turns).

When I moved to the championship desert of Seattle in the early 1970s, I began my conversion to the local sports teams. That worked out well with the Sonics, as they won the N.B.A. championship in 1979.

And then, the great dark period began.

The Mariners came close.  OK, our W.N.B.A. team, the Storm won a title. The UW Husky Football team won a co-National Championship in ’91. But our professional baseball, football and even our soccer teams would only flirt with greatness: a playoff game or two, then done.

When the Seahawks actually won the Super Bowl last year, you know what it was like. 12 flags all over town, jerseys everywhere. People not normally sports fanatics were talking about them. Then, upwards of 700,000 people took to downtown Seattle in the frigid cold for a victory parade. Amazingly, not a single arrest.

It was a special time that the pundits said was highly unlikely to repeat. And it’s happening. A win this Sunday and we have a chance at winning our second N.F.L. championship in a row.

I believe we can do it. Yes, you risk a serious heart-break if you allow yourself to get caught up in the madness and we fall short.  But first, don’t think that way.  Secondly, if we win—we get to experience sports nirvana. This team is special. The owner, the architects of the club, the talented, colorful and talented players, are the special concoction that every team in the league is trying to mix up. We’ve got it.

I hope you’re going in deep. That you believe. That you’re ready to experience something very few cities ever see. The beginning of a sports dynasty.

And brace yourself—because we just may have to do this all over again next year.

Let’s just focus on winning Sunday, then the re-Pete.  Then, the 3-Pete next year. Go Hawks!

Tim Hunter

Randy & Me

Baseball’s “Big Unit” was voted into the Hall of Fame this week and rightfully so.

6′ 10″ Randy Johnson will go into Cooperstown wearing an Arizona Diamondbacks uniform, but that’s fine by me.  He gave us some impressive years with the Seattle Mariners and they gave him a World Series ring, not us.

But Randy’s new home in the desert resulted in a chance for me to work indirectly with him.

Back in 2005, I was in my rookie year at Destination Marketing, a northwest advertising agency.  I was making the transition from being on the radio to writing copy for radio & television. And just a few months into the job, I was writing commercials that were going to include Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher, Randy Johnson.  Randy and one of our clients, Sleep America, had worked out a trade deal.  We’d set up his home with new mattresses and he’d be a spokesperson.  First, the radio commercials were to be recorded.  It was Sleep America’s spokesperson, Debbie Gaby and Randy in a studio in Arizona and me listening in and coaching them from up here in Seattle.  I gotta say, I was pretty intimidated until we started recording.  Randy can speak his mind when he’s not looking at a script, but he had some serious challenges in the acting department.  Commercials that probably should have taken 10 minutes to record easily took a half an hour and had to be edited together very carefully.  But they came out great.

My next brush with Randy was writing TV commercials for him to do with his family.   I came up with the concepts and wrote the initial spots, but the copy was a little morphed by the time it reached him.  Still, I can lay claim to the fact that I at least had a hand at these.

 

Wow, that was a lot longer ago than I remember.

Roll the credits:

Those were directed by Doug Cooper, written by me, edited by Rich Reynolds and other voices provided by yours truly, Scott Burns and Debbie Gaby.

Just sharing my close encounter with the Johnson kind. Congrats, Randy and thanks for all you did for baseball in Seattle.

Tim Hunter

Start The New Year A Little Smarter

Perhaps this isn’t news to you.  But not all those phone solicitors are legit.

They call during the day.  They call at night.  One time, as late as 9:20pm.  They call, saying “They’re the fire department” or “Helping Veterans” or even “The Shriner’s Hospital.”

Their script tells them to say “Thanks for your help in the past” and while you flip through the rolodex of your mind, trying to remember if that’s really true, they go into their big ask.

The other night, I got one of those calls.

ME: “Hello?”

HIM: “Is Victoria there?”

ME:  No and can you please remove us from your list?

HIM:  Is this Victoria? (strike one)

ME:  Can you please remove us from your list?

HIM:  I wasn’t calling to ask anything.  I’m calling for the Shriner’s Hospital and I just wanted to thank her for her past support. (strike two)

ME:  Please remove us from your list.

HIM:  I’ll call back later. (click and strike three! He’s out)

Now I’m ticked.  It seems that we have laws and that if you ask a telemarketer to remove you from their list, they have to do that.

So, I look up Shriner’s Hospitals.  The nearest one is in Spokane.  I write to them via their Facebook page and much to my surprise, they responded fairly quickly:

I checked with our corporate PR director and there are no telemarketing efforts on a corporate level.  I have a call into our Spokane hospital to check locally.

The ID appeared on the phone as a private number.  Now, we’ve all been trained to be polite, not hang up on people, etc. but I’ve hit the wall.  From now on, if it’s an out-of-area call or private number, I answer, give it a beat, and then hang up.  That practically guarantees Publisher’s Clearinghouse will try to give me a million dollars this year, but it will be well worth it.

That might have been them tonight.  Or at least one of the three calls I hung up on.

Tim Hunter

Christmas Is Up To You

Santa in Hammock

I’m guessing that, with Christmas falling on a Thursday this year, this blog is probably my last in 2014. I’m pretty convinced the world won’t spin off its axis, that it’ll still rain in Seattle and you’ll have watched at least one of the versions of “A Christmas Carol”. (the 1952 Alistair Sim version is really the only version)

So, with that buried deep in my sub-conscious, I’m being more observant of all the things going on around me. I’ve thought about going several directions with this piece and I’ve decided to go in all of them.

Today, I was at the Post Office, trying to get out my parents and sister’s Christmas package in the mail so that it would arrive before the big day. I walked in, saw a HUGE line at the in-person desk (with only two clerks), but there was a six-person wait at the automated machine. No-brainer. I get in the line, waited….and waited for my turn. I was almost there, when the person ahead of me informed me that the machine was full and could no longer do packages.

So, I headed over to the in-person line, which was even longer than when I first arrived. About ten minutes into that, the person who had been in front of me in the other line came over to give me the good news: the machine was working again AND there was no one in line! By the time I had taken care of the postage, I was in and out of there in less than 25 minutes. These days, that’s pretty good.

To my next story.

Without going into the “who”, I saw an acquaintance yesterday that I knew had been having health issues. Here it is, the “happiest time of the year” and she was one of many people having to deal with real life. This particular friend had spent last week getting medical treatments. This week, she was home, but you could just look at her and know things weren’t right.

The other day, I got a call from a friend, going through her first Christmas without her husband of 38 years.

Then there’s the tradition that was rekindled this morning, when I record “A visit with Santa Claus” with my radio buddy Bryon Mengle for his radio station back in Iowa. Something that I wrote and that is most likely heading to next year’s Christmas CD.

That’s another cool tradition. For the 14th year, I’ve put together a compilation of Christmas songs and comedy bits for a CD I call, “Ho Ho Brother.” This year’s edition is “Ho Ho Brother 14.” In all those years, I’ve only used the same version of a song once. Otherwise, every collection is different. I thought, for a while, about just offering it as an audio file, as CD’s are this close to extinction, but I know too many people on my list that still use that technology.

I’m rambling. But where I’m heading with all this is that Christmas happens during life. There will be ups and downs. I’ve got a dad who is failing in health and may not see another Christmas. This is the year to make it count. To enjoy every carol. To watch the amazement of kids when they meet Santa or rip open that present on Christmas Day. To realize that being happy and hopeful and full of dreams is a much-preferred way to live.

As I wrap this up, terrorists from North Korea forced Sony Pictures to stop the release of a movie. A fictional tale of an attempt on the leader of North Korea, but an idea that was crushed by international bullies.

So, what’s next?

I’ll tell you what’s next. Next Wednesday night, millions of kids around the world will find it hard to sleep because they don’t know what Santa will leave for them and what he’ll put in the stockings they left out.  Will he take a bite of that cookie they left on the hearth? And drink the glass of milk?

It’s Christmas. Let it be a magical time for you and yours.

And then, come December 26th, we’ll get back to dealing with all that real world stuff.

Merry Christmas.  See you all next year.

 

Tim Hunter

God Rest Ye This Old Guy

grumpy_old_man_decal

I came to a stop. The light was red. I had slipped into my spot in the left turn lane when, over the Christmas music playing in my car, I heard yelling. I turned off the music and since the light was still red, searched for the source. Maybe it was someone in trouble?  Maybe this was my big chance to help someone, just in time for the holiday season?  How special would that be?

I looked out the rear passenger window and there was an old man yelling out of his car window while looking at me. He looked more mad than troubled, but maybe his face just contorted that way over the years. I’m sure he was at least in the 80-year-old club.

So, using those new-fangled power windows of mine, I rolled down the rear passenger side window to listen: Doesn’t anybody go the speed limit anymore? Why do you people just speed around? Was I going too slow for you?”

I asked for clarification. “What are you talking about?”

“You know goddamn well what I’m talking about. You and the others just whipped right passed me. Don’t you know what a speed limit is?”

At this point, I’m getting a little ticked. Here I was, out of respect for a senior, opening up my window to hear what he had to say and all he could do is be a bitter old man.

I could have said so many things. “If you had a front lawn, I’d be walking on it right now!” or “Prunes! That’s the answer!”

But instead, when his outrage at the world paused for a moment, I just stared at him for a second, then yelled out, “Merry Christmas!”

I rolled up my window, turned up my Christmas music and re-entered the world that he had apparently left a long time ago.  The spirits have another job to do this Christmas.

Tim Hunter

Here Comes Dennis Brown! Here Comes Dennis Brown!

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Tucked away in a little booth-like store in Bothell’s Country Village is a sculptor named Dennis Brown.

Dennis has been doing what he loves and making a living out of it for 45 years. He’s mastered the art of taking some clay and turning it into his own, unique figurines of Santa Claus, elves and other mythical creatures.  And somewhere along the line, he decided to embrace the fact that he looks like Father Christmas.

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To walk into his shop, you could easily feel like you accidentally wandered into Santa’s hobby shop, where he goes to get away from the clanging of the toys being made or Mrs. Claus asking him to eat more & maintain his bowl full of jelly appearance.  Except, he genuinely appreciates you coming into his craft room, where he works on more pieces while displaying his various works all the way up until the second they’re sold. And he does sell out every year.

We stopped by and chatted with Dennis on Saturday and heard the thumbnail version of his story.  While he maintains his store year ’round, starting November 1st he’s at his little shop selling his crafts 7 days a week until the last one is sold. It’s then that he’ll relax and enjoy the holiday season or at least what’s left of it. Because on January 1, the process starts all over again as he begins to restock his shelves with more of his unique-looking clay sculptures.

People actually come from all over to buy his works.  Dennis told us the story of the family from Connecticut who  has a 16-year tradition of flying out here just to see him, buy some Santa’s, and then head back to Holiday Inn country. His works are hard to resist and we left with a family heirloom for the kids to fight over some day.  I asked if he would pose with the one we bought.

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Dennis is the one on the left.  We now have our first Dennis Brown Santa on display at the Hunter household and I have this feeling that it won’t be the last.

So, if you’d like a little kick-start to your holiday season, want to just hang with Santa and maybe even start collecting a few pieces of hand-crafted art, aim your sleigh towards Bothell’s Country Village Shopping Center and say hi to Dennis Brown.  Or, you can always just order things from him online here.  Good guy.  A right jolly old elf.

Tim Hunter

 

 

 

 

Random Thankfulness

turkey

It’s the day before we’re supposed to officially be grateful for all we’ve got, but I thought I’d get a head start.

I tend to over think things and so, the first place I go is that “if you talk about all the good things in your life, you’ll make someone having a tough time right now feel worse.”  That is not my intent.  Intention has to count for something, right?  This collection of words is about gratitude.  As we approach a season dripping with “What can I get?”, I’ve already got plenty and I just want to acknowledge it.

I have to start with the fact that my wife and I are in good health and our kids are all doing just fine. Life will never be perfect, but each challenge is an opportunity to grow and help better equip you for the next bump that comes along. They happen.

As recently as yesterday, I found out that we’ll have all the kids with us at Thanksgiving brunch.  We might actually be able to get in a group picture and as you get up in there in years, you know how challenging that can be to have everyone in the same spot at the same time.  This year, Photoshop gets the year off.

I’m waking up every day and doing exactly what I want to do and that’s among the greatest blessings anyone can ask for.  In the almost two months of Tim Hunter Creative Services, I’ve had a steady stream of meetings and projects that pay the bills. You just can’t ask for much more than that.

I find it ironic that a day originally designed to be free of gifts, commercialism and want has been invaded by stores being open and sales that intend to make you want more than what you’ve got.  You can shop any time. In this day and age, wake up at 2am, think “I need that”, go to the computer and order it and it’s there two days later.  Do everything you can to keep Thanksgiving a day of reflection, football, roasting turkey or tofurkey in the oven and just talking with family who won’t always be there.  These are the times we’ll remember in the years ahead.

I’ve been around long enough to realize that “the good old days” are actually right now.  Over time, our selective memories filter out the blemishes and we’ll recall that year back in 2014 when we started making sure that every Thanksgiving Day counted.  When we  remembered all that we have instead of all that we need or want.

The happiest of Thanksgiving to you and your kin.

Tim Hunter

Soda A Nice Thing To Do

One of my most often-read pieces on this blog had nothing to do with the writer and everything to do with the topic: the late photo-journalist Bill Strothman.

I met Bill in college at the University of Washington and I loosely stayed in touch over the years. Bill, his wife Nora and I were members of Bothell First Lutheran Church together. He worked at KOMO TV when I worked at KOMO radio.

You may not have known Bill personally, but all I have to say is “that KOMO photo-journalist who was killed earlier this year in that helicopter crash” and you know who I mean. But, for all the good deeds and amazing body of work Bill compiled during his days on earth, it would seem a shame to identify him by how it all ended.

And so it is, with a huge pile of gratitude that I’d like to thank the folks at Jones Soda for the tremendous salute they gave Bill. I love subtlety, and it was during the summer that Bill’s son, Dan, first pointed out that the folks at Jones Soda used an old photo of his dad on one of their sodas. Dan posted the picture they used on Facebook and it’s a free-spirited, hippie version of Bill, just as he began conquering the world. It turns out that one of Bill’s neighbors worked at Jones Soda and spear-headed the efforts to get him on the package. There, at the bottom of the packaging, a handwritten, “Bill Strothman…Bothell, Washington.”

I was in the Holman Road QFC the other day, when Dan posted on Facebook that he was lucky enough to nab the last “Bill” soda’s in his nearby Thriftway. That was a perfectly timed reminder for me to check QFC to see if they had any.

I headed straight to the soda aisle and, at first glance, it appeared I was out of luck. I began removing 4-packs and going deeper into the shelf until I found one. I felt like I had won the lottery!

Now I am a proud owner of a Bill Strothman pack of Jones Soda. I have placed it in a spot of honor in my office, surrounded by Husky memorabilia. It seems like a perfect fit.Bill Strothman

Most mornings, when I stumble downstairs to begin another day of writing, I look up and there’s hippie Bill, reminding me to make the most of this day and every day I’m lucky to still be around.

Good reminder, Bill. Very cool, Jones Soda.

Tim Hunter

I’m In Love

OK, I’ve had this relationship for several months now and it’s official–I’m in love with my Surface Pro 3.

One of my biggest faults is being a Microsoft early adapter.  A new operating system comes out, I install it, disaster ensues.  I’ve made a career out of it. Yes, the next time something comes along, I’m in stalling the beta version and hoping that this time, it’ll be the greatest ever.

That’s been true of all the various forms of Windows that have crawled out of Redmond over the years—’95, Me, Vista–I embraced them all.  I even struggled through the first version of Windows 8 and for a while, regretted ever giving up my 7.

Truth be told, I did not rush out and buy a Surface when they first arrived. I waited until this spring, when finally, the hype became unbearable.  So, on that opening weekend, I went to the Microsoft store, took a Surface Pro 3 for a test drive and the honeymoon still continues.

There are plenty of reviews by experts, pro and con, on every electronic device ever made.  If you’re an Apple-head, there’s nothing I can do for you.  Most of them are pretty elitist when it comes to computer and a PC will always be below them.  That’s OK.

But if you are in the market for a laptop or tablet, here’s your chance to get both at a bit less than you’d pay for an Apple anything.

The details–I got the $999 version.  Add in the keyboard and the unconditional warrantee so even if I drive over it, they’ll replace it….oh, and the tax….and it clocked in around $1,350.

From my view, the pro’s–

  • The touch screen–OMG, once you’ve had one, you’re hooked.  Now, when I want to get a closer look, no matter what computer I’m using (I have 5) I try to adjust the screen by touching it.  Much like your phone.
  • The keyboard magnetically attaches, as does the charging cable.
  • The kickstand lets you use the tablet or laptop version with ease. (not available with a Mac)
  • It has a USB connection. (also, Mac’s are above that sort of thing)
  • There’s the electric pen that lets you write on the screen and take notes.  Awesome.
  • The size–it’s in-between a full and a mini, but a comfortable size.  So, the next time you’re on a plane and the guy in front leans back, you can still set it up and work.

The drawbacks

  • Windows 8.  Bill, you still got a few things to make easier on the user.

Seriously, the best thing you can do is go in and take one for a test drive. Or not.  Just trying to make your life a little easier for you.

I consider it one of the best investments I ever made.  And, I remain, in love.

Tim Hunter

Maybe After All This Time, It’s You

What a difference a couple of years can make.

What a difference a couple of years can make.

Politics is such a touchy subject.

I’ve blogged about this before, at the risk of alienating some friend or relatives.  But that would be OK.  If you are that far off the chart, then we probably should communicate less. For the greater good.

Because, you see, I’m pretty loosey-goosey when it comes to politics and religion.  I have my ideas, my beliefs and they’re all mine.  I continue to search for input and growth, but how I think is entirely up to me.  The same is true for you.

Witness the election results from the past week.  Once again, there was a political swing in this country.  The ones on the losing side discount it or belittle those who voted that way.  The winners gloat, as if they’ve been given permission to revolutionize the planet.

As always, the truth is right there, smack dab in the middle.

When you don’t have an agenda, or a checklist that you measure everything with, you can actually have an open mind.  That gets back to that “thinking for yourself” outlook on life.  It’s a great place to be.

As you saw with the TV political maps, there are red areas of the country and blue areas.  However, they didn’t just print those maps up a couple of hundred years ago.  The reds and blues, much like the website passwords I can never remember, keep changing.  Yes, there are areas that will always be blue or tend to go red.  So let’s remove those from the discussion and focus on the rest of the country.  I’m proud to say, it swings based on how people feel the job is getting done.  There were states that voted Reagan in who elected Barack Obama to be our president.  This last election, there were states that elected Barack Obama who voted out senators and congressmen in his party.

I’ve watched the posts on Facebook.  I live in a fairly liberal, very blue part of the country.  You would have thought Martians had landed and taken over.  Nope, those are Republicans who went back to the basics of the party, rather than the fringe wackjobs that have forced themselves up on the stage in recent years.

Being an “in the middle” guy has its drawbacks.  Because there are a lot of things I don’t like about both of the major parties.  I want our government to help people, but not to create a land of dependency.  I’m glad to give you money to improve our lives, but not to recklessly spend it.

Maybe you’re one of those who fills out your ballot by looking for the D or the R.  You’ll always be red or blue.  But as we go back to the map, you’ll see that the majority of the country went red this time.  A lot of those people were blue just two years ago.  That gives me hope, as people are realizing they have the power to tell our politicians to do their job, or we’ll find someone who can.

While the negative campaign ads drive me nuts, election night results are the payoff.  Vote how you feel the world should be run and then let’s see what the majority thinks.  I’m not always in it, but I’ve been around enough to see the country swing right, then left, then right again and back to left.  It’s healthy.  It’s what a democracy is supposed to do.  Those people who voted differently than you this time are just voting with their hearts and minds.  It’s how they feel.

If you can’t understand how they could possibly go away from the promises and rhetoric of a party, consider just for a moment–instead of them being less qualified to vote on the important issues of the day, maybe it’s you?

Tim Hunter

Put a Little Howl in Halloween

Tim the Hobo

I was actually much happier than the mask would indicate

There are lots of ways to divide people: religion, politics and the holiday some are celebrating this Friday, Halloween.

Most holidays that roll around, people take ‘em or leave ‘me. “It’s St. Patrick’s Day? Wasn’t even on my radar.” “Veterans Day? Better put out the flag.”

But Halloween either makes you smile or cringe. There are some people who just won’t dress up. Something happened in their childhood. Not sure if it was a moldy Snickers bar or they once got lost as a kid at Display & Costume, the idea of putting on a costume just isn’t them.

Then there are those of us who have always dressed up and actually put some thought into what we’ll be this year. The 2014 edition of the Hunters in Disguise will be inspired by the TV show and book series, ‘Outlander.”   I actually bought a kilt, puffy shirt, sword and ordered shoes for the outfit, while Victoria bought a medieval-style dress, so we can look like we just walked off the show. Here’s hoping for everyone’s sake it’s not a drafty night.

Going back to the days when I was growing up, Halloween costumes were a thin material one-piece outfit with a plastic mask that prevented you from breathing easily and could barely see out of. Then, you hit that age where you’re old enough to go out on your own, but you hear the clock ticking and know that you have one, maybe two years left to do this massive candy round-up.

During my kids’ Trick or Treat days, we lived in a pretty cool neighborhood, with nice houses and people who answered the door with treats and something for the parents to drink. After a while, it became quite well-known and groups would actually bus in their kids to give them a safe place to trick or treat. It would mean going through a half-dozen Costco bags of candy, but you got to see a lot of very cute kids enjoying a magical night in the neighborhood.

I do remember one Halloween in particular, when my daughter Christina was around 3 and it was probably 25-degrees outside. With Halloween costumes being more about cuteness than warmth, I remember wrapping her up in a blanket, walking her up to a door and ringing the bell, letting her get her candy and then re-wrapping her until we got to the next porch.

So many Halloweens ago....

So many Halloweens ago….

As adults, I’ve seen ‘em all, including the time KLSY sponsored a Halloween party with round trip airfare for two to Transylvania as the first prize. OMG, were there some great costumes, including a 9-foot alien and a Cleopatra being carried around (but it was really just one person). It was just a year ago that a group of former KLSY-kateers gathered at the Brooks residence for a party, and most dressed up. The Brooks family decorated their “mansion” to the nines.

Maybe it’s the idea that when do something that a child would do—dress up—you’re pausing the whole adult thing for even just a few hours. You get to be silly and have swapped a little bit of dignity for that feeling of being a kid again.

To those who refuse to join in, I understand…but I don’t. It’s your call, but if it’s been quite a few years since you put on a costume, maybe, just one more time—give it a try. I don’t expect you to head out to the most sincere pumpkin patch and hope to catch a glimpse of the Great Pumpkin, but you just might experience a type of fun you haven’t known in years.

Tim & Kristin

Happy Halloween!

Tim Hunter

 

My Two Cents

two cents

Sure, why not?  That’s what this little corner of cyberspace is all about. A soapbox for whatever I want to think about.

I’m pretty sure you have an opinion on this one.  Actually, if you’ve had kids in sports, I know you’ve got one.

Before I offer my view, I’ll give you my background.  I helped raise two very active kids.  We let them play whatever sports they wanted to be involved with.  For Christina, that was softball, soccer and basketball.  Tyson did the boy version, Little League, soccer and basketball.

I was the coach for most of their teams.  Not because of any great expertise, but usually because no one else had volunteered.  But the more I coached, the more I really loved it.  The biggest reason—I could give these mini-adults some very valuable life lessons at a pretty influential time of their life.  My coaching years went from the kids’ 3rd grade, all the way up until the rec leagues of high school.

Over the years, I was more than happy to hand off the responsibility and just be an active parent or an assistant coach.  So, as many times as I sat on a bench with the players, I was also up in the stands to cheer them on.

It’s from that experience that I got to know the various types of parents who attend these games:

  • “The ‘There for the kids”—This breed is rare, but does exist.  In fact, I’m pretty sure a lot of the categories started here or at least, intended to be that way.
  • “The Cheerleaders”—God bless ‘em.  They’re the ones that do everything they can to be positive, even when it means yelling “You can do it” when a child is about to strike out for the 7th time in a game.
  • “The Back Seat Coaches”—You know, if THEY were calling the shots, this team would be winning. Or, at least, they want everyone in the stands to believe that.  The sad truth—no one does.
  • “The Get It Rights”—These are the people who either got picked last, were cut by their coach and by God, their kid is going to be the superstar they should have been.  If they just yell louder, things will go their way.  They just know it.
  • “The Bad Sports”—These folks have the qualities of both of the previous groups, PLUS, they love to taunt the parents and even sometimes the players of the other teams.

I also remember hearing stories over the years of drunk parents, angry parents challenging the ump to a fight, individual adults being banned from games…the list goes on and on.

The reason I’m wandering down the path of this topic:  A group of Bothell parents made the news when they tangled up with some Renton parents at a recent junior football game.  I’m talking 9 and 10 year olds.  Seriously.

Several of the Bothell parents are actually being charged with assault.

The end result—both teams have been banned from the playoffs.

And I commend those in charge for decision.

As I said in the beginning, everyone has an opinion on this one.  But here’s why I believe banning everyone from the playoffs was a smart and courageous thing to do.

First off, the behavior is beyond inexcusable. No, you just can’t do that.  I can’t tell you how many times I attended games where ugly parents probably could have gotten to that stage, but didn’t, and those are just the games I attended. Millions of baseball, softball, soccer, basketball and football games are played every year.  It’s going to take a penalty of this magnitude to stop these kind of incidents once and for all.

Yes, the kids won’t get to play in the playoffs.  Their ‘careers’ are ruined?  Oh, for God’s sake!  Kids recover.  When they talk about “a long time ago”, they’re referring to last week.  The players on these two teams have the opportunity to experience a very powerful lesson that’ll stick with them for the rest of their years.  And, if one of their parents gets ugly next year, who do you think will be the ones to say, “Knock it off!”?  It will probably be the other parents AND the kids racing to silence them because being banned from the playoffs is a real possibility.

What other scenarios are there?

Let the kids play their game, but don’t allow parents.  Yes, it lets them play a game, but it doesn’t address the problem.  And who is going to patrol that game, so that the banned parents don’t sneak in?  Do you have all their names?  What do they look like?  Well, that looks like someone banned, but they claim they’re someone else?  Oh, and who’s paying for all this security?  I’m afraid that would also teach, “If you don’t like the penalty, complain enough and they’ll cave in.”   Don’t do it.

There are so many  traumatic things that can happen to a child while growing up.  I think you’d have to agree, that it’s harder than ever to have a childhood compared to when we grew up.  This is about responsibility and drawing a line.  Being an arrogant, screaming, profane, looking-for-a-fight parent has no place in this arena.  It may not stop all of them, but if it makes a few think twice, we all win.

We can all just shrug our shoulders and say, “Oh, well, some parents are just that way.”  Or we can try to deal with it.

My vote–season’s over, see ya next year!

Tim Hunter

 

 

My Favorite Season

I have to say, since giving up the steady 9-5 grind and going out on my own October 1st, it has really been a dream come true.

There’s less stress in my life, I can greet each day as something to look forward to and I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface of potential out there (by the way, if I actually do scratch my Surface, I bought the extended warranty, so I’ll be fine)

It’s with this unlimited menu of opportunity that I’ve found myself reflecting on some of the more basics things about day-to-day life.  The other day, I just randomly passed along this thought to my wife, Victoria:  Just in case anyone ever asks or it comes up on a game show, my favorite season is fall.

While giving my reflection muscle a work out, it seems the reason is because it’s a season of change.  Winter is when things lie in wait….spring is when promises of a better future are made….summer is when we savor the present….and fall signals change.  I’ve always been big on change.  While it makes a lot of people uncomfortable, change is so refreshingly good for you and presents you with possibilities you didn’t even know existed.

So, it’s not surprising that I chose fall to launch this latest phase of my career.  Aside from the hair falling like leaves from my head, this was the perfect launching time for something new.  So far, it’s been a cornucopia of projects and, over the upcoming weeks, I hope to launch a weekly newsletter–just a brief one–to pass along that week’s golden moment.

Since that newsletter doesn’t exist yet, let me offer up this little tidbit.

Part of my wanting to focus more on the things I do is to give me more time for writing comedy.  It’s a passion and I was finding myself wedging it in when I had “spare time”, which by definition is the hours most people set aside for sleep.

Years ago, a comic friend of mine, Frank King, connected me with another funny fellow named Steve Kelley.  The guy is not only a political cartoon genius, but also manages to create a daily cartoon strip called “Dustin.”  Steve is kind enough to accept my jokes on a daily basis and when he sees one he believes would be a good cartoon, he lets me know, purchases it and creates a visual version of the joke.

Just this week, he grabbed this one from my collection of daily one-liners and turned it into this.

Kelly Cartoon BrokerI will always remember October as the month of my biggest  personal growth ever.   So, when you combine Husky and Seahawks football, baseball playoffs and the World Series, all the leaves turning and the beautiful fall colors, those great wind storms and thunderstorms, a cozy fire in the fireplace and all-new episodes of my favorite TV shows, toss in Halloween and Thanksgiving–the holiday where no gifts are involved and it’s all about food–and what’s not to love about fall!

Oh, did I mention that night we get to turn the clocks back and get an extra hour of sleep?

It’s the season that just keeps on giving.  Happy fall, everyone!

Tim Hunter

 

BEHOLD: The Deacons

The band takes the stage

The band takes the stage

Last weekend, we got to travel back in time.

My wife, Victoria’s mom’s cousin—you still with me?—John Sandvig, invited us to come down to PLU for a very special homecoming dance.

Neither of us were PLU alums, but there was a special reason for the invite. The band that was playing. The band John Sandvig performed with, as the lead singer, back in the 1960s: The Deacons.

That was a decade when it seems like everybody was in a band. Dick Foley and some of his frat brothers formed The Brothers Four. My old broadcast buddy, Larry Nelson, was in a doo-wop band, The Shades. He loved to tell the story of how he would stand out on the Ave in the U-District and they would pay kids to go in and buy their record, so they could get airplay on KJR. After all, sales equaled airplay.

But in this case, it wasn’t about record sales. Sure, they went into a studio or two and recorded some songs, but for the Deacons, it was all about the live performances. I believe the number John told me was over 350 dances in 3 years, mostly in the south Puget Sound. But they also performed at various venues from Vancouver to Vancouver.

But back to the special occasion of the Homecoming Dance at Pacific Lutheran University. Somehow, someone there thought it would be great to bring back the band that played at the very first co-ed dance ever held at the school in 1965: The Deacons.

Picking up where they left off

Picking up where they left off

The members were contacted, weekend and long-distance rehearsals were planned and the next thing you know, the big night had arrived. John’s wife, Bunny, even sewed some blazers similar to what the band wore back in the day.

Yes, 49 years later, they were back. Older, yes. Grayer, absolutely. Needed the words written down on a music stand, you bet. But for just under 3 hours, the boys were back and a very appreciative crowd of all ages, ate it up.

The night’s special guest—the Tacoma News Tribune’s Larry LaRue, who had previously written this cool article about the band and personally remembered their glory days.

It was a night of northwest music history and I was fortunate enough to have been there.

Behold: The Deacons

Tim Hunter

John & his family strike the pose

John & his family strike the pose

They Just Don’t Get It

It’s been almost 11 years since I was informed of my retirement from radio.  Since then, I’ve watch group ownerships get bigger, consolidations followed by layoffs and all this, while local radio has devolved into an efficient-as-possible money-making machine.  Phase out the big-name shows, hire green talent to step in, and slowly but surely become less relevant to the audience that grew up with you.

My latest frustration with the world of radio came during the major league baseball playoffs, when I had to be on the road during one of the games.  I surfed up and down my AM and FM dial, past 5 different sports stations and not one was carrying the game.  Or any baseball playoff game for that matter.  Now, I would expect that in a smaller market, but in Seattle–a market with a major league baseball team.  Oh, we want you to be a fan, but ONLY if it’s us.

Radio basically came at me with the question, “So what are you going to do about it?”  What they fail to realize is that today, there ARE options.  I can download an app and play the game on my phone.  Or, if nothing else, you’ve trained me to search for what else is out there.  And lookie-there….satellite!

For a $1.83 upgrade charge, I suddenly had all the games in my car, whenever I need to be on the road.

Yes, I already had satellite in the car.  Got one of those free 3-month trials and fell in love with the static-free, commercial-free offerings.

I had a lot of fun in my radio days, but this incident is another reminder of why it was probably a good thing I got out when I did.  I’m a big believer of “things happen for a reason.”  Sadly, the people running radio these days are doing nothing more than cashing out, and trying to make as much as they can while they can.

Just passing along my latest experience and further proof that they just don’t it.

Tim Hunter

A LONG TIME COMING

And thar he goes!!!

And thar he goes!!!

It finally happened. After just shy of 10 years at Destination Marketing, my work home for the past decade, I left the building for the final time. The next time I’m in the neighborhood, there will be a new door code. I could possibly see some new faces. It will be the site of my former job.

It would be only natural to second-guess myself. To ask, “Why would I give up a job where I get to do some of what I like to do, would start getting six weeks of paid vacation if I stayed a couple of more months, enjoy a good healthcare plan, steady income….?”

The key word in there is “some.”

Destination Marketing was where I eventually landed after my radio career imploded. It was a natural fit for the reinventing of myself as a writing-focused creative guy. Radio was the only thing I had known for 28 years, but advertising had always been a part of that. Talk to this client and write a spot, record this commercial before you go home and so on. As I made myself a new home at an advertising agency, that quickly expanded to TV, print and Internet ads.

DM, as the DM-ers call it, helped me grow into a more media and marketing savvy guy. I don’t know it all, but I’ve picked up a lot of useful information along the way and, what I don’t know, I’ve met people who do. To that end, it was the right time for me to head off and do my own thing.

What I had been doing was putting in my hours at Destination Marketing and then, before and after, doing the things I really love, like comedy, producing videos and voice work. Clients were usually an account director or an account manager away, so I didn’t often get to work with them directly. Having built up a few side clients that really appreciate what I do, I feel like I’m going to work for friends. And I am.

I’ve also had an ever-growing list of things I want to do, but just lacked the time. I have comedy to write, videos to produce and scripts to peddle!  Events to host!  Auctions to auctioneer at!

I have spent most of my life working for someone—Sears, United Airlines, the kitchen at the Terry Hall Dorms, radio stations and, finally, Destination Marketing. During my tenure at DM, I worked with 100 different people over those 10 years. Now, I’m working for me.

I’ve already lined up quite a few meetings, lunches and coffees and want to thank all of those base clients that allow me to get this thing going. It all just seems to be coming together. I don’t know where this path will take me, but since we all only get one shot at this, I’m just making sure to do it my way.

I also have to definitely thank Victoria, my family, all the friends and others who have encouraged me in taking this big step.

So…….Tim Hunter Creative Services, here we go!!!

Tim Hunter

Deal of the Decade

tim and car5_6094361441849985415_o

I’m cheap.

Call it ambitiously frugal, or a “true Scotsman”, whatever—I get a thrill when I score a big deal.

There have been several “great deal” moments over my life. The first that comes to mind is “the great Christmas tree score of ’12.” I had gone to Lowe’s to see if they had any after-Christmas killer deals and I came across a sign by their Christmas trees. “All trees $20.”   We’re not talking the little guys, ALL trees, $20. I asked several employees if the sign was right and they replied, “Yep!” So, I left the store with a 9-foot Westinghouse tree, pre-lit, the works, a $260 value….for $20 bucks.  I only wish I had grabbed several.

That particular exchange earned a spot in the Tim Hunter Great Deal Hall of Fame.

My latest entry came last weekend, while visiting my folks down in Los Angeles.

I had reserved a car at a rental place I’d never heard of before: SIXT. They claim they’ve been around since 1918. Whatever. I had gone online and reserved a sub-compact (the smallest thing you can get this side of a skateboard) and scored a smokin’ deal: 5 days for $99 (plus tax, etc.)

How do you beat that?

By showing up at the airport after several flight delays. It was after midnight, it came my turn to check in and the SIXT employee at the desk let me know they were all out of sub-compacts. So, I was going to get the car waiting for me out in spot 315.

Without looking at the paperwork, we headed straight to spot 315 and my wife Victoria and I just stopped and stared: “This must be a mistake.” Before my eyes, a beautiful 2014 Silver BMW 328i. I hit the open door button on the key chain they had given me and yep, for 5 days, we would be driving in luxury for just $99.

I’ve made a decision: this deal is not just going into the Tim Hunter Great Deal Hall of Fame, it might actually make it on to the poster.

SCORE!!!!

Tim Hunter

Oh and a P.S.

Hello?

Hello?

This would be on the dining portion of our evening last Friday at McCaw Hall.  So, being an after-work Friday evening Ian Anderson concert, we decided to make reservations at Prelude, inside the theater.  I used the OpenTable app, locked in a 7pm reservation and we were set.  The reviews on the web weren’t stunning, but how bad could it be?

We found out.  Got there at 6:50, seated at 6:58.  Waitress showed up and took drink orders…..delivered them around 7:10……we ordered the three course meal…..salad by 7:25…..main course by 7:40pm

Yes, and we had planned to leave for the show by 7:50pm, to make sure we were in our seats before it began.  After all, the tickets said “Show starts promptly at 8.”

All around us, I heard people complaining about the service.  The waitress told us they had scheduled only half the staff they really needed.  The food was good, slow to come and we had to leave early before dessert, so they told us to come back at intermission, which we did.

As we returned to our table during that intermission, we found our desserts waiting for us and the bill for our wine, since we had pre-paid for our dinner.  Wait a minute!  Since I hadn’t given her a credit card before, honesty forced me to track the waitress down after dessert and point out that we hadn’t  paid for that $35 a person 3-course meal.  She said I should have paid for it with my ticket price, that this was a private event for ticket holders and that she couldn’t do anything about it.

In other words, dinner was on them.

I’m still feeling guilty to a degree, but at the same time, whoever is running the Prelude: “This is your last call!”  You’re not going to in business very long with many more nights like last Friday.

 

Tim Hunter

 

It Was a Nice Place To Visit

He stills plays a mean flute

He stills plays a mean flute

 

The late 1960s and early 1970s were my formative years. I had emerged from a small private Lutheran school, survived 7th & 8th grades at my first-ever public school and then went off to Torrance High, followed by the University of Washington.

Along with me for the ride was a rock group called Jethro Tull.  They were less pop than the big groups of their day and their music found itself more on the new FM radio stations that began popping up.  Hard to believe there was a time when FM was new, but I was around to see it.

There were a lot of groups around those days, trying to impress the rebellious youth of that era.  Ian Anderson, the lead singer of Jethro Tull was this long-haired, almost homeless-looking bearded wonder, who sang with a distinctive voice AND played the flute.  Throw in lyrics like, “Snot is running down his nose” and how could a junior high boy turn that down?

I’ll be honest: I wasn’t aware of most of their music.  I knew of “Aqualung” because of a friend’s older brother.  “Locomotive breath” and “Thick as a brick” made it to Top 40 and some of those new FM stations, but other than that, me and their sound were casual friends at best.

But I always had a high appreciation of Ian’s musical talents—I mean, a flute in a rock band?  He made it work.  Their albums broke the mold, with story-telling, poetry and you just didn’t know what you’d be getting when you took one for a ride.

Last Friday evening, a packed house at McCaw Hall enjoyed the present and the past of Jethro Tull.  Ian Anderson led a very talented group of musicians, playing music from their album.  Then, because they couldn’t call themselves Jethro Tull, they “played the music of Jethro Tull.”  With Ian’s voice, it was them.

How are they doing? Well, time has taken its toll.  Ian and his flute are still a power combination, although his voice started strong and then faded as the night moved along.  That’s why he has with him a second vocalist, who alternatives lines throughout the performance, to keep it strong.

One thing they did as well as anyone I’ve ever seen in concert: they connected video on the screen behind them to the performance.  As Ian sang in real life, video of him singing that same song many years and lost follicles ago played on the screen.  It was a solid night of entertainment.

I felt like we were lucky enough to catch Ian and the band on their near-to-last call.  I enjoyed some of the new songs, but I’ll also be downloading some of those classics for some personal flashbacks of my own in the years to come.

 

Tim Hunter

 

Like Yesterday

It was just another day.  A Tuesday.  The alarm clock went off at 2:17am.  I thought that particular setting gave me time to wake up, do some initial show prep, take a shower, then head into work so that we were on the air by 5:30am.

Another Murdock, Hunter & Alice Show was underway.  The day before we had interviewed the author of a new book, that was all about 9-1-1 calls.   I’m sure his publicist thought it would be a good idea to do a tour and let people promote it on the date, 9-11.

In order to get the maximum amount of payoff for our efforts, we would air interviews early—like around 5:45am….and then, give them a replay later in the day, when more people were in their cars on the way to work.  Our first commercial break happened around 5:35am. The three of us checked in, made small talk, mentioned we had this author coming up in a “pre-sell” and then hit the spots.

The spots finished, we played a song and then, after Alice gave her traffic update, we launched into the feature.  As it played, we started seeing news reports about a plane crashing into New York’s twin towers. At first, the thought was that it was a small plane, like a Cessna.  Then reports kept coming in.  By the time we got to the top of the house, as we followed events on TV, we knew it was more than that.

KLSY was a music station.  Whenever we did a break, if it went over four or five minutes, it had to be the greatest thing ever broadcast on radio.  That day, September 11th, 2001, we went wall to wall talk.  Following the events as they unfolded, passing along information from news sources, as well as listeners calling in.  It was my first real experience at a talk radio program and I would like to say I enjoyed it, but it was if being in a bad dream. During our entire time on the air, it didn’t seem real.  By the time I got it through my head that a commercial airliner had crashed into the building, another one came in.  There were reports of people hijacking jets and crashing them intentionally into buildings.  You’ve gotta realize, at the time, nothing like this had ever happened.  Now, not once, but twice.

No one event in my days on this earth has been so life-changing. Innocence was lost.  Days of greeting people out at the airport gate were gone.  Unthinkable things became reality.

I don’t look at this day as a day of sadness, but rather, as a reminder of vigilance.  We’ve cried and adjusted our lives to better defend ourselves.  When September 11th rolls around, it should be a reminder to us all.  To just pay better attention to what goes on around is. To remember that, as sad as it seems, there are people in this world who feel it is their job to destroy us.

We will never forget those we lost.  It’s our duty to remember as much of those events vividly and do everything in our power to make sure that something like it will never happen again.

God bless the U.S.A..

Tim Hunter

The Long Weekend in Long Beach

Occasionally, I slip into travel-writer mode. It’s because I’ve had a great experience and I’d just like to share, in the event you ever feel like trying something new.

Perhaps you’ve already discovered Long Beach.  For the Labor Day weekend, we made our second trip there and had an amazing time.  Part of the amazement came at the way the weather timed out–while it was pouring in Seattle, our rain was confined to overnight.  We’d wake up to fog and low clouds, it would clear and the sun would take over.

What to do in Long Beach?  Lots of things that you never seem to find the time to do at home. Fly a kite. Go for a bike ride along the board walk.  Walk the miles and miles of available beach (thus the name).  Or zip across the border and visit the beach towns of Astoria or Seaside, Oregon.  I managed to sneak in a round of golf at a fun course down there over looking the water.  $16.  Less than a dollar for every ball I lost!

In town, there’s a decent number of shops to peruse, including the museum/store that is home to “Jake the Alligator Man.”  There are quite a few collectibles worth seeing, it’s free and you can cross “seeing an alligatorman” off your bucket list.

 IMG_4387

The hotel we stayed at, the Adrift Inn, was OK.  Really thin walls resulted in Victoria asking if that was me that sneezed when I was in the bathroom…and in fact, it was the guy next door.  And every morning, we were awaked by the pitter patter of little feet from a three-year-old running back and forth across the floor above, obviously hoping someday to run a marathon.

I do have to say the restaurant at the hotel was incredible.  We ate breakfast there twice because was so good.  Fresh, organic, but not over-priced.  I recommend the Oyster omelet and the fresh-squeeze mimosas.

Adventures included almost running into a herd of elk as we approached town. It was not even 3pm and 7 of them decided to run over the highway just ahead of us.  There was the time I was in the men’s room, using the urinal when a blur to the side of my eye came in,  quickly turned around and then yelled “Sorry, sir!” as she darted out.  It was a cleaning person who forgot to knock.

Our main purpose for the trip there was to say goodbye to Mack Barnette, best described as my brother-in-law’s father-in-law, who passed away last year.  We were there to spread his ashes on the beach and have the tide carry him away.  His daughter, my sister-in-law Bev, did a great job of corralling family, assigning duties and making a very memorable event happen.  It was a nice sendoff.

The gang gathers to say goodbye to Mack

The gang gathers to say goodbye to Mack

It’s a long drive, but what else would you expect to get to Long Beach?  If you want a shorter trip, head for Short Pier, Washington, and remember to brake.  Everyone should have a little Long Beach in their life.

Tim Hunter

Huh….

So, I did it.  I went to a local talent agency, prepared to wow them with my ability to ad lib, tell stories, hear my voice…..

And I bombed.

Well, I’ll admit, I was nervous.  You go into a room, sit in front of two people and perform.  The instructions were to do a monologue.  To me, Jay Leno, David Letterman, etc, those people open their shows with monologues.  It’s a comedy staple.  Well, strike one–when they said monologue, they meant an acting piece, around 3 minutes.

My bad.

I delivered a monologue about myself, including a couple of true stories that I always felt would belong in a standup bit.

But I could tell the second I was done, something was wrong. “Well, that was nice..but…”

The good news–I haven’t been banned from the place yet.  In fact, I was invited back to come in and do an actual theatrical monologue, which of course, now I have to figure that one out.  I looked at this as going outside of my comfort zone.  Not just doing what I have done throughout my life, but going out on the edge and taking a swing.

So, as a follow-up to my last blog, Spielberg hasn’t called yet.  I have no representation.  But I’m going to get back on that saddle and try it again.  Or, maybe I’ll just leave the saddle at home and stand there.

Wish me luck.  Oh and yes, I’ll let you know the end result.

Tim Hunter

Well, Here Goes Something

I’m going in for an audition today.

Those who know me realize that I’m not exactly a wallflower. Combine a 30-year radio career with emceeing dozens of parades, events, Santa arrivals, concert intros, Julebords, even lutefisk eating contests, and the plain truth is, I get around. I don’t have to go up front and be a goofball, but when I do, I really enjoy it.

So, as I prepare to evolve to the next stage of my career, the one I want to ride out into the sunset upon, I plan to expand my exposure. Go in for a few auditions, record some audio, maybe do some TV and perhaps pick up some extra gluten-free beer money. (I’m not gluten intolerant, but just saying ‘beer money’ seemed boring)

All of those factors resulted in me booking an audition with the Topo Swope Talent Agency today in Seattle.

As the Creative Director of an ad agency, we’ve used them to find talent before. Now, I’d like to move to the other side. To go to a building for the first time, in front of strangers and put it all out there for rejection. Or acceptance.

My current scheme for the years ahead is to be even more diverse than I am now, but with a higher priority on my personal projects, as well as working closely with a small group of clients on their marketing, advertising, whatever. With four decades plus of marketing, broadcast and media experience, I’d like to put it to work, my way.

I don’t have a firm picture of what it will be like, but I know what some of the pieces will be.  So, today, I’m making a run at one of those pieces.

More to come. Details on the way. I’ll let you know how it goes. But in the meantime: do I have any broccoli in my teeth?

Tim Hunter

You’re The Reason, Gary

Hangin' With The Norwegians

Hangin’ With The Norwegians

My broadcast friend Gary Engard passed away this week.

Gary was an engineer during most of my days at KLSY, but in the times since I left that building, we would only occasionally touch base.  Every now and then, Gary and another former radio guy, Dick Cross, would meet me for lunch, we’d start talking …and an hour would just evaporate. I enjoyed those lunches so much—hearing about each of their radio adventures—that one Saturday, I went out and met them in Issaquah at Dick’s house to interview them and capture some of those great stories on tape. I had this hair-brained scheme at one time that it would make for a decent weekend radio show on KIRO or something. However, for now, it’s just been added to that long list I have of things I’d like to do IF I had more time.

But I didn’t want either of them getting away without preserving at least some of those great times. When I get a chance, I’ll dig that out and put together something you’ll love to hear.

After bumping into Gary and his wife Debbie at Bob & Kim Brooks’ Halloween party last year, we did a major reconnect. Especially after we realized they lived ust a couple of blocks away from my in-laws. When my father-in-law Ernie had some health challenges, the two of them volunteered to walk their dog for a couple of months, never asking for anything in return.

I invited Gary to a couple of the Norwegian events I attended and he loved it. It reminded him of his days up in Alaska, where he belonged to every Scandinavian organization up there EXCEPT the Sons of Norway. To make up for that, he joined the Leif Erikson lodge in Ballard. He, like I, really enjoyed the “small town feeling of it.”

We were seeing each other almost more than back in the radio days, when Gary had to fly back east to help take care of his wife’s dad. It wasn’t supposed to take as long as it did, but he ended up staying there almost half of this year. However, when he returned, it was his turn: his health took a turn for the worse. He had cancer. The cancer spread. Last Friday, he lost his battle, with his wife by his side, on their 38th wedding anniversary.

Gary wasn’t done living. His jovial laugh and good nature just made you feel at ease. When you went off the air and ran around screaming with your arms flailing, Gary would calmly say something like, “I’ll see what I can do.”

So, Gary is to blame for the way I feel about Robin Williams. Yes, Robin had demons, yes he had depression. But otherwise, he was healthy and had a good number of years to go. Yet, he threw his life away.  Gary didn’t get to vote.

I explained in a previous blog why I feel Robin Williams was selfish and I stand by that. Look, we don’t have to agree on the subject. For all of our modern medical advances, something can be done. Allowing depression to be a pass for doing the unthinkable—whether it’s drowning your kids, shooting a former Beatle or a president or taking your own life—it’s just simply not OK. When we make it OK or understandable, we plant the seed for other people to consider tossing away their life as an option, since society now views that as ‘understandable.’

Gary, I thank you for all your did over the years and your friendship.  Robin, you were a comedy god and one of the most unique talents I’ve ever witnessed.

But I will never understand suicide and, frankly, never want to.

Tim Hunter

Sorry, But I’m More Mad Than Sad

No doubt, this blog will upset some people, anger others and cause yet more people to label me as insensitive.  I don’t care.

Robin Williams took the coward’s way out.

OK, you’re depressed, you think no one cares.  Robin, you were too smart to think  no one cared about you.  You had a wife and little kid, not to mention the grown ones.  You had an adoring public. You spent your lifetime making us care and we couldn’t get enough.  Mork & Mindy, the Genie in Disney’s Aladdin, the serious actor in Dead Poet’s Society or the Academy Award winner in “Goodwill Hunting.” One of my favorite roles was his portrayal in “Good Morning, Vietnam.”

You were brilliant, or so I thought. You battled depression demons, that was no secret, but take your meds.  Or, go online and ask, “Hey, does anybody out there really like me?”  Within minutes, Robin, people would have reached out to you by the thousands.

Speaking as a fan, I just don’t get it. You went to rehab, had several marriages, your life had some incredible highs and disastrous lows. I would have gladly been your life coach.  I would have helped you realize just how much you meant to people.

I guess you live long enough, you rack up quite a count of people you know who commit suicide.  A former radio colleague, an uncle, one of my son’s classmates in junior high.  In all my years on this rock, if there’s one lesson I’ve learned, it’s that suicide doesn’t make the pain disappear.  You just spread it around among those who care the most about you.

Are you really that selfish?  You know how dark you feel–do you really want other people to absorb your suffering, your pain?  There is no better word than selfish.

Robin’s life was full of extreme ups and downs.  I was just saying to someone today, as much as I would love to be a famous comedian, it seems as though the bulk of them are such tortured souls.  Perhaps being in the middle of the pack, with more moderate highs and lows, is a great place to be.

I think that almost everyone has, at one point, let their guard down enough to think, “Hmm, what if I were to just end it?”  Back in college, my high school sweetheart decided to break up with me to turn around and marry a junior minister two months later.  I remember driving along the I-5 express lanes one day and giving serious thought to driving into the cement pillars at the exit.  Quick, done, over.

Had I done that and left behind a legacy of pain, I also never would have had the kids and grandkids I enjoy today…have experience an amazing 30-year-old radio career….or met the woman I am lucky enough to call my wife.

Robin Williams was an amazing talent.  He could have stayed anonymous and just been the life of the party at his friends’ house.  But he chose to seek the limelight, to make us care and boy, did we.  He was brilliant, hilarious and sincere, but his last act was that of a complete coward.

Before yesterday, we’d watch any Robin Williams movie and, at the end, marvel at his talent.  Now, at the end of each film, our admiration will quickly turn to sadness as we think to ourselves, “That’s too bad about him.”

There are lots of ways to feel after someone you knows commits suicide. I’ll get to sadness, but right now I’m embracing anger, because I never want suicide to be OK, to be considered just something people do when they’re having a bad stretch of days.  You don’t know what up’s are unless you experience the down’s. Life is just the way.

I don’t mean to take away from Robin’s brilliant body of work, but that’s being pushed aside for a while so we can remind the rest of us that depression kills.  Talk to someone.  No matter how much you think the world doesn’t care, we really do.

Robin, that included you.

Tim Hunter

 

 

An Old Love Returns

Back in the day, I played guitar. Somewhere in my teens, I had told my parents that I wanted a guitar and I ended up with a 12-string. Pretty darn fancy. I had it through college and, truth be told, it might be somewhere in the basement along with my baseball cards and stamp collection. But I haven’t really played anything since back in college, when I’d wander into the stairway of the dorms which added a reverb sound to every strum. I was never really any good and just learned enough chords and songs to make people think I knew how to play.

Fast-forward a few decades and my wife’s cousin and her husband came out for a vacation. Among the places they wanted to see: the Experience Music Project. I’ve been before, but to take it in with someone as passionate as my cousin-in-law Donnie, was a whole new experience. Each of the various guitars inspired a story from him—“I used to have that one” or “I remember borrowing one like that from..” and so on. It made me remember how important my guitar was to me all those years ago.

But the lesson I learned from the 12-string—it gives you twice as many strings to try to keep in tune. So I asked Donnie about a good, basic 6-string guitar. Without missing a beat, he told me about a Gibson that he bought at Best Buy. Really? The guy who has played ‘em all, who was once the guitarist for Chicago and who has several extremely valuable guitars in his collection: YOU bought one from Best Buy?

For $89. Including shipping.

My new guitar arrived the other day and my adventure begins. It’s one more thing that I’d like to get good at, to be able to add to my arsenal of abilities, so we’ll see how this goes. So far, all I’ve been able to find time for is to tune it and stumble around some of the songs I used to know—“It don’t come easy”, “Proud Mary”, “I’d love to change the world.” But for less than the price of admission to Disneyland, why the heck not?

Tim Hunter

The View From Retired Headphones

The Day of Our Last Show

The Day of Our Last Show

 

I’m not sure if I know too much or don’t know a thing.

It’s been interesting to listen to the Bob Rivers Show the past couple of mornings.  This past Monday, he announced that he was going to hang up his headphones and end the morning radio show portion of his career.

When that final show airs August 8th, it will cap off an amazing 42-year-run, with the last 25 of those years right here in Seattle. Bob has a first grandchild on the way.  He’s got bees to tend, a music career, his passion for World Vision and so many things to occupy his time that not having to get up in the middle of the night and sleeping in until 6am probably has got to be pretty appealing.

Was it Bob’s idea to step down?  I doubt it.  What probably happened was his latest contract came to an end and the minds of Clear Channel decided that now would be a good time to reboot the radio station. This is the part they don’t want you to know.  As unplanned as it may sound, a decision this major has been given lots of thought. Here’s one theory on what’s about to happen. The rumored replacement is a show out of Sacramento that will be syndicated here in Seattle. As we all know, that works so well.

I have so many directions to go here.

As I read the Facebook posts and hear loyal listeners saying that they’ll stop the listening to KJR if they’re dropping this show and changing format, guess what:  that’s exactly what they want you to do that.  You see, the money is in the under 35 crowd and this is where radio is heading down a dead end road.  The under 35’s have found other places to get their music and entertainment: phones, streaming internet stations, satellite with no commercials, to name a few.  The over 35’s don’t want to leave, but are being pushed out the door as they try to figure out why such a popular show is coming to an end.  The industry, meanwhile, continues to ignore the trends and where technology is going and chases an audience that doesn’t want them.

I have to admit, I would have preferred to have my radio career wrap up the way Bob and the gang are going out.  They’re getting the chance to say goodbye and are going out on top. The Bob Rivers Show is a finely-tuned ensemble that commands attention and is, on a daily basis, as fresh as the day’s news.  Over 17 years together, the Murdock, Hunter & Alice show had also achieved a loyal following.  I still have people come up to me today and remember things from back in those days.  But in 2003, we were doing a live Christmas show one day and out the door the next.  I still have a good number of the supportive emails that were sent my way and, yes, threats to never listen to KLSY ever again.

But that short-sighted decision by management sent my career in a new direction and I’m grateful for everything that’s happened along the way.  I’ve picked up skills and have had opportunities I never would have experienced had I stayed in radio.  I’ve thought about doing the radio thing again because I’ve never really lost the desire to sneak back into the madness.  However, the “radio” I want to return to no longer exists.

Which brings us back to the Rivers Show.  They experienced ratings and a large following that we never reached.  Yet, despite their strong fan base, Clear Channel is still deciding to sweep them all to the side and, along with them, their fans.

Spike, Joe, Jodi, Erik, Luciana and Pedro are talented and have lots to offer.  I hope that some station will seize this opportunity, bring them on board and allow them to demonstrate that this show had a lot of life left in it.  Radio listeners over 35 increasingly have more disposable income and tend to be a loyal audience. They also still embrace the fast-fading technology of radio. If you want to see loyalty, show up at any of the 25 concerts Spike & The Impalers or Heart by Heart perform during the remainder of the year. Bob performs in both and Spike’s Impalers include appearances by the rest of the show.

I had hoped to attend my radio brother Larry Nelson’s last show at KOMO, but I had my own show at the time and couldn’t be there.  As I mentioned in a previous blog, I wasn’t lucky enough to listen to Bob and the gang until my radio gig blew up.  Now, like a lot of people, I’m trying to figure out a way to get by and see them in action just one time before they wrap it up.  I have become a fan.

I know better than to write the station, to stand outside and protest, to try to convince the corporate minds they’re making a mistake.  And so does Bob.

It’s funny, but something inside told me that Murdock, Hunter & Alice probably wouldn’t make it to a 25th anniversary show, so I put one together and we did it on our 17th anniversary of being on the air together.  I’m going to have to dig that out sometime.

For now, I’ll get up for another week and enjoy one of the greatest little collections of personalities this market has ever seen. It’s so refreshing to hear radio done right.  It’s a dying art.  I need to get it while I can.

Tim Hunter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Rivers’ Run Through

I'm the one on the left

I’m the one on the left

Bob Rivers announced this week that he’s stepping down from behind the microphone after 42 years on the radio, the last 25 here in Seattle.  In fact, it will be exactly 25 years a week from Friday, when Bob utters his final words on the radio.

While a brother in radio, Bob and my career paths ran parallel to each other.  As I think back on the years, I remember the big deal about  his coming to town.  At the time, I was part of a radio show of my own–Murdock, Hunter & Alice–and he popped on my radar because of all the hoopla that came with his arrival.  However, being on the air at the same time, I rarely had the occasion to  hear him.  And, after all, he was on one of the rock stations in town.  With us being a female-targeted Adult Contemporary station, I didn’t really consider us to be competing.

I remember one time when our program director took for a limo ride one more to have us listen to what else was out there.  There was Ryan & Ryan on KBSG.  The Rich Brothers on Magic 108.  Kent & Alan.  What I remember about The Bob Rivers Show was that it was so slow-paced.  It was conversational before I realized the value of conversational.  We were a tight, never talk more than 4 minutes, get at least four songs in an hour, morning show.  It’s how I imagined a morning show was supposed to be.  What I realize now is that our conciseness made us more easily forgettable.  Again, radio is that free thing in your car that you listen to on your way to work or heading home.  If it’s not working,, you just press another button.

With the Bob Rivers format, you talked about relevant topics, as fresh as the day, and let everyone star.  I wish we had realized that at the time.

Over the years, Bob’s influence in the market was unavoidable.  I had a couple a couple of parody songs that I produced and entered into the Soundies (the local radio awards) in the song parody category.  I offered them up as lambs to the slaughter, because that became known as the “Bob Rivers Category.”  Bob would take what I tried to do in my spare time and jack it up to the perfection level.  I never thought I would win knowing he had an entry, but even having a couple of my songs being nominated was honor enough.

When the Murdock, Hunter & Alice adventure blew up after 17 years, I found myself not getting up at 2:17am. (yeah, that was the magic time)  When I married my wife, Victoria, she had been a Kent & Alan fan (yeah, that hurt).  But then she became restless.  I encouraged her to try Marty & Jodi over on The Mountain and she liked ’em…until one day, they both turned on American Idol.  That didn’t work.  So, she was open to another show, so around the time Bob Rivers and the crew checked in to KJR, I said, “Let’s give them a try.”

We never looked back.

Bob & the gang have been a part of our wake-ups for as long as they’ve been at 95.7.  In another one of those close crosses, The Bob Rivers Show was among those rumored to be offered the KLSY morning show when we were in our final months.

I remember the time visiting a friend who was in the hospital and this quirky guy walked by the room, then backed up and came in to say ‘hi’. He had taken time out of his long day to visit a sick friend.  They had apparently met years ago when both were in the hospital for a procedure.

What’s also been exciting to see is how Pedro and Luciana have excelled and become a part of that show.  I remember both haunting the halls of KLSY, working on one of the other Sandusky stations, while students at Green River Community College.

I was also fortunate to “direct” Bob and Spike in an iHeartRadio video plug for Car Toys.  Again, consummate pros.

We’ve been to two Spike and the Impalers concerts and I have this feeling we’re going to be going to a lot more. I cannot express how much admiration I have for this team and for the consistently entertaining mornings they’ve provided to the Seattle radio audience. If you have not gotten on board, please, do give them a listen for the next two weeks while you can.  It all goes away Friday, August 8th.

I worked with Pedro and Luciana.  Never met Erik.  Got to meet Joe and Jodi on Facebook.  Worked with Spike several times.

Bob, I just want to say it was an honor to semi-know you and you have my ultimate respect.  Congrats on a job well-done and savor every second of your time away from the 5am microphone. If anyone deserved it, it’s you.

Tim Hunter

 

Can’t Figure This One Out

Manhattan Transfer BEFORE we left

Manhattan Transfer BEFORE we left

We went with some of my wife’s cousins and family to the Smooth Jazz festival last Saturday.  It was an amazing day, but a bit on the unusual side.

It all started well, with a decent place in line, perfect weather and a strong line-up ahead:  an up and coming jazz talent, Lee Ritenour with special guest Dave Grusin  (can you believe he’s 80!?) , Spyro Gyra and to cap it off, Manhattan Transfer!  Chateau Ste. Michelle wine is in a league of its own and we had plenty to choose from.  Started with Chardonnay, moved to Cabernet.   Life was good.

Temperatures eventually were in the 80s and everyone there was just basking in the sunshine.  We had brought snacks, but managed to sneak in some food from a couple of the booths, including chicken shish-kabob and blackened salmon Caesar salad.

Of the acts that performed, Lee and Dave stole the show.  They easily could have played the entire afternoon and they left to a standing ovation.  Check out Dave Grusin  on Wikipedia and you’ll be amazed how many songs he’s done that you’re familiar with.

The biggest disappointment: Manhattan Transfer.  In their defense, they had mixing problems.  The smooth blend we hear on the studio songs just wasn’t there.  Now, here’s where it gets weird—people started leaving.  I don’t mean a few, I mean in droves.  That would include us.  The bulk of our group was done with them and we decided to go with the crowd.  Had we stayed, it would have been to tough it out, but after being there 10 hours already, we decided it was just time to go.

The biggest learning curve for me was making sure we have clip-on umbrella’s for the chairs on the next hot day concert we attend.  They ask you to take them down during the music, but with this day a steady 80-degrees, it would have been great to have them.

A tremendous day overall, but so odd to see so many people–including ourselves–walk out on the headliner of a concert.  I’m reminded of the old saying, “It wasn’t just the heat—it was the humility.”

Tim Hunter

My Cousin-In-Law Donnie

That's Donnie back in his Badfinger days on the far right

That’s Donnie back in his Badfinger days on the far right

We’re wrapping up a week of a staycation, where you actually stay put in the beautiful place you live rather than spending a bunch of money to fly somewhere.  Joining us in our exploration of our hometown were my wife’s cousin and her husband, Donnie Dacus.
I already knew quite a bit about Donnie going into this–a former guitar player for Chicago and a principal character in the movie version of the musical, “Hair.”  Needless to say, the guy has a million stories in him and, if you ask, he’ll tell.  And I do.

If you read the Wikipedia link above, you’ll see some of his other musical achievements, such as being among the backup singers on Billy Joel’s “My Life.”  While we explored the San Juans, Pike Place Market and Snoqualmie Falls, he was totally open to questions like, “What about Joe Walsh?” or “What was the deal with Badfinger?” (a Beatles-eque group from the 1960s that seemed cursed–two of their lead singers committed suicide.  Donnie played with a latter version of the group)

Every question I asked sent him off into a different direction of music history.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said to him, “Man, we should be recording this!”  He’s got enough for a book full of music industry stories and he’s told me that he’s working on one.  It would be a shame for these stories to simply disappear one day.

But that’s not my decision, not my call, so in the meantime I’ll just keep enjoying them as they’re told. All it takes is putting on some music from the 1970s and then asking, “So, did you play with them?”  And we’ll begin another stroll down Music History Lane.

And now you know a little bit more about my cousin-in-law, Donnie.

Tim Hunter

Once Again, I’m a Jerk and Didn’t Realize It

OK, I’ll tackle it. The race thing.

The reason this comes up as the topic of this week’s blog is that a Seattle Times writer decided to take on the Gilbert & Sullivan musical, Mikado. Go ahead, read the review, I’ll wait. In fact, while I’ve got you distracted, here’s what radio guy Dave Ross–one of the performers in the local production–had to say about it.

Because the actors in the show were white (Anglo-Saxon) and wore makeup traditional to the role, the writer claimed that it was a case of “yellow-face.” Think “black-face.”

Yeah, looking back, the whole Al Jolson thing was a bad idea, I get it. Of course, it was before my time and long gone before I was even a thought. Yet, believe it or not, in the year 2012, someone I know actually thought it would be OK to do a video that included a white person wearing black-face make up. No, seriously.

But, I digress.

The writer in the Seattle Times was Chinese, but she was taking offense at a white person putting on the white makeup and pretending to be a Japanese person. I’m sorry, but that escapes me.

I just find it hard to imagine to plan waking up tomorrow and dedicating my purpose for being as figuring out something that offends me. Oh, look—there’s something over 120 years old! Let’s target that!

Look, I get being sensitive. I don’t think any less of you because you’re (insert your ethnicity here). I also don’t think any more of you. I was pretty color-blind growing up in Torrance, California. I had friends with the last names of Ishibashi and Ikemoto.   I also had pals with the last name of Rico, Duarte and Espinoza. That was just their last names. So what?

We were a bit shy on our African-American count (I’ll bet we had three in the whole high school), but when I eventually had co-workers and friends who happened to be black, I never gave it a second thought.

There are the rules with race. Not overly sure I get all those, either. If you want the n-word to go away, stop using it. But it becomes a territory and you can say it, but I can’t. Never even thought about using it, makes me uncomfortable hearing it or reading it, but whatever.

I understand that people get offended. Tell a Norwegian and Swede joke and depending on how you insert the ethnicities, one will get offended.

OK, this has gone on long enough. Here’s the deal—I don’t hate you. I don’t want to make fun of you any more than I want you to make fun of me. I understand that people of almost every non-white heritage have undergone discrimination (see the Jews).

Yeah, it’s a topic people don’t like to talk about, but I want you to know that there are a lot of us out in the world who don’t mean to offend, who aren’t out to get you, who spend most of our time thinking about our own future and the bills and everything else going on in our own lives that we don’t have time to make being bigots a pastime. Oh, racist a**holes exist, I’m just not one of them.

Seriously, I don’t mean for your life to be difficult. But here’s a suggestion: don’t focus on what’s wrong with the things around you. Zoom in on the good things because, until you do, you’re missing out on a hell of a lot.

Oh, and sorry about what really bothered you when you woke up this morning, but I honestly didn’t mean it.

By the way, I’m not a fan of opera so I won’t be going to Mikado, so I’ll never know what you are talking about or how “unfair” it is. Then again, you wrote your review before you even saw this production, so I guess we’re even.

Which is,  ironically, how I’ve felt about you all along.

 

Tim Hunter

CURSE OF THE PRIUS

This looks like it.  Uh, no.....

This looks like it. Uh, no…..

 

Let me start by saying that my Toyota Prius does exactly what it was hired to do—saves me a bunch of money on gas.  I like that.

Now, you don’t get a Prius to live the life of luxury.  The road noise is a bit much.  I don’t have a luxury version of the car.  Like so many things in my life, I tend to stay in the middle.  So, I’ve got some cool features like satellite radio, GPS, etc. but for the most part, it’s your standard, run of the mill Prius.

This is my second one.  My first Prius was silver, so fairly easy to keep clean. However, there was the Costco challenge: coming out of the store, pushing your cart full of goodies and making a beeline to the first silver Prius you saw, which usually wasn’t the only one in the lot.  I remember once pulling up, hitting my keys, the door not opening and then after a moment, realizing I was standing next to the wrong one.

To make matters worse, a guy pulled up in his car, rolled his window down and yelled, “I saw that! HA!  I did that the other day with HER car!”  As his wife embarrassingly slunk down into her passenger seat.

So, when the time came to get a new Prius (or “re-up” as they call it in the lease business) I decided to go with a more unique color. Behold, a dark, smoky gray…almost black.   It had more bells and whistles and, most important, it wasn’t silver.

Last week, I left Costco with just a couple of photos I had picked up, approached my car, hit the key chain, heard the beeps, opened up the back door and tossed in my pictures.  Just as I was closing the door, I noticed something odd: there were peanuts on the floor.  I didn’t have peanuts in my car.  I took a step back.  And sure enough, it was another black Prius.  In what must have been overwhelming odds, someone else walking to their car hit their open-door beeper at the same time I hit mine. I just assumed it was to my car.  This Prius owner had left his doors unlocked and I had almost hopped into the wrong vehicle.  Again.

So you know, if you own a Prius, you can never relax.  The second you don’t think about it, you could end up in the wrong car.

But all I have to do is keep remembering—I’m averaging 50 miles to the gallon.  My Prius makes it all worth it.

Oh, wait. No, not this one.  That one over there.  Oh, whatever….

 

Tim Hunter

 

The Tradition Continues

Lilly has a new younger brother to share the parade with this year!

Lilly has a new younger brother to share the parade with this year!

We all have our various traditions.

Some we share, like holidays, or going up to see the tulips when they bloom, the opening of fishing season and so on.  In fact, next weekend, an unlikely tradition for me continues:  I’ll be emceeing my 7th Lutefisk Eating Contest at Ballard Seafoodfest.

However, one of my favorite traditions is tomorrow, the 4th of July, when Bothell holds it’s annual Freedom Festival Parade and, for something like 10 years in a row, I’ll be the emcee for coverage of the parade on the Bothell City Cable Channel.  Yes, for the next couple of months, they’ll be replaying the parade over and over, with me doing the play-by-play.  Tim Smith and his crew will do their camera magic and everything in their power to make me look good.

The benefits are many. While some people have been locking up lawn chairs along the parade route for over a week to secure their spots, I’ll be able to wander up at 10:30am to a secure where my wife, along with my daughter & her family join us to watch the kiddies parade at 11, followed by the Grand Parade at noon.

Kids as far as the eye can see

Kids as far as the eye can see

It’s nothing fancy. Mostly the people who live and work and play in Bothell and the Northshore area coming out for a sun-drenched celebration of our country’s birthday.  The mayor, city council and other politicians will be there, along with any opponents if it’s an election year.  I’ll get to say hi to Tom Bainter and the football coaches from Bothell High, some former neighbors and friends.  There will be churches, dentist offices, even the Waste Management trucks will be there and, with any luck, the Seafair Pirates will wrap things up.

If you’re in the neighborhood, come by and say hi.  We’re usually set up across from Alexa’s Café, right there on Main Street, and I always look forward to it.

Happy birthday, America!

Tim Hunter

Hey, they gotta do something in the off-season!

Hey, they gotta do something in the off-season!

Louie’s! Louie’s! They Gotta Go!

20140625_181109

Word is spreading slowly in the Ballard community, but Louie’s of China closes forever this Sunday.  Here’s a very nice note from the owner.

I can’t say this was a long-time favorite spot because I’ve driven by it for years, but it wasn’t until recently that I actually went to Louie’s for the first time.  And, it was awesome.  It became one of those places that everybody knew about, but would forget to go.

Oh, there are the regulars and the folks who make it to the happy hours and the occasional dinners.  But had Louie’s been as busy as it has been this last week of operations, they might have considered staying open a little long. Maybe.

Then again, $2.49-million to retire is a pretty tempting offer.

Yep, the place has been sold and is most likely destined to be a future condo complex in Ballard.  There are rumblings about the owners or at least involved parties re-opening somewhere else in town.

Louie’s has been around for three generations.  No doubt, the building needed some serious work.  As 15th became busier and busier, it has become more difficult to get there from the north end of town.

After making my initial visit a couple of months ago, the moment I heard about it was closing, I felt compelled to work in one more dinner.  It was only my second time at the place and it did not disappoint.  The place was hopping, with a crowd of people waiting to be seated when we arrived, but fortunately they take reservations. (you can even do it on Open Table)

The Ballard version of The Last Supper

The Ballard version of The Last Supper

However, I wouldn’t wait.  If you’re after one more Louie’s of China experience, make it quick.  After Sunday, it joins the long list of all those other places that used to be in Ballard.

Sorry to see it go, but glad we met.

20140625_185906

Tim Hunter