My Own Musical Christmas Miracle

I’m a busy guy. I like it that way. I like to constantly be doing, creating, experiencing.  It’s in my DNA.

The results–I get to do an incredible variety of fun things. For over a year now, I’ve been working the way I thought might be possible, but things are actually going better than I could have ever dreamed.

There’s my own deal, Tim Hunter Creative Services, where I get to connect with friends & business associates I’ve known for years and actually help them with their marketing.  I’ve had a blast working with Opus 111 Group, Pacific Fishermen, Mountain Pacific Bank, Scandinavian Specialties, AAA Fire, the city of Bothell, even the iDrink Phone flask and so many others this year.

Now, add to that, being the Chief Creative Officer for Create Impulse and working with clients like Jack Carroll’s Skagit Hyundai, Sole Perfection Shoes, Bellevue Christian School, Enginuity Jobs and more, and that’s a full plate.

Toss in being an auctioneer, emcee, podcaster, comedy writer and Radio-Online show prep writer, and life is just wonderfully busy.

But when the holiday season rolls around, there are more things I’d like to wedge in.  One of them, self-imposed, is creating a Christmas-themed music video.

Several years ago, I met a singer named Alana Baxter.  I heard her sing and thought, “Hmmm…I wonder if we could….?” and the next thing you know, we did our first video project together, “It’s Silent Night.”  I took a Katy Perry song, rewrote the words, had her record it and then, we went out and shot video on my little Flip video camera.  It was so much fun, it launched a new tradition.

The following year, we let Katy Perry warm up the crowd for us again and did “He rides a sleigh.”  Then, in 2013, I decided to go for an original tune, found a music bed I could write words to and the result was the fairly sarcastic, “I won’t hate you very much tonight (it’s Christmas)”.

Then, last year, the stars just wouldn’t align.  I was in the early stages of my career transition and Alana had headed off to the Arizona desert to go back to school. She wouldn’t return until just before Christmas and I didn’t want to spend Christmas Eve madly editing a video. That kind of defeats the purpose.

So, here comes Christmas 2015.  In late November, I went down a couple of different paths and tried writing some lyrics, but nothing really click-click-clicked.  Then, while working on my annual Christmas CD and reviewing songs, I came across Faith Hill’s “Where are you Christmas?”, a song I had used on a previous Ho Ho Brother CD.  That was at the same time the whole Starbucks debacle began, where they went to a plain red cup and people were upset that the Christmas touches had been removed.  The two seemed to go together, so I began writing and the lyrics just flowed.

Now, I have a song, but also a singer in Arizona that won’t be home until right before Christmas again.  Hmmm…what if I could get her to record it down there?  It was time to call in favors, work out schedules and see if we could pull this off.

I reached out to Tucson morning guy, Bobby Rich.  Bobby’s a Facebook connection, but we’ve never even met in person before.  Back in the 1990s, we were competitors for a while, when he was part of the Rich Brothers over at Magic 108 or I-107, or whatever it was at the time.  We knew of each other, being brothers in radio, but that was about it.

I sent him a message and he said he would love to help.  Now, to figure out when to get Alana in to the studio.  The radio guys were on the air until 9, and out of the building by noon, so Alana would have to come in the morning. Drat. She had classes every morning of the week.  It didn’t look good.

Then Alana found out about a Tuesday where she wouldn’t have class.  One day, one chance.  I checked with Bobby and they made it happen. Alana went into the studio and in two takes, nailed it.  Thanks, Greg, who manned the production room and was so kind to Alana.

Now I’ve got a song–but what about the video part?  Alana was not scheduled to come back until the week before Christmas. That would be tight. Then, her mother’s medical procedure had to be moved up. Alana got special permission to be gone finals week, came home two days before the procedure and in two hours after a Seahawks game, we shot all of our scenes.  I supplemented it with other video I shot around town and a week before Christmas, the video was done.

I hope you enjoy “Where are you Christmas?” featuring Alana Baxter and a host of miracle-workers behind the scene.

Merry Christmas to all!

Tim Hunter

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The Christmas That Finally Happened

Our first Christmas together

Our first Christmas together, 60 years ago

Well, here it is.  And here it flies by.  My first Christmas without dad.

You always know this year would come. Some day.  I always wondered when that time finally came, how would I deal with it?  What do other people do?

First, I’ve always been an internalizer.  Maybe it’s all those years of radio where you walk in, you’re on the air, and it doesn’t matter what’s going on in your personal life, you’re always having the greatest day of your life.  No one wants to listen to a complaining, unhappy morning guy.

Secondly, I always tend to think, and usually over-think things. Dad passed back in early August, just three weeks shy of his 92nd birthday.  That month seemed like a blur. Surreal. I’d find myself getting all teary-eyed in random moments.  Going through the grieving process in my own way.

Now, here we are, 4 months later, during my most favorite time of year.  After thinking and internalizing my brains out, I’m just going to share what I came up with.

Yes, dad is gone.  But he gave me years and years of memories, great memories, fun memories.  It would be a shame to toss those all aside so I could sit around and be sad and self-pitying while the world around me celebrates.  Funny how your brain works.  Part of me thinks, “Well, if you’re not sad, then you’re a callous person or you didn’t really care.”  So far from the truth.

One way I like to try to get a handle on things is to switch people around.  How would it be if I were the one gone and everyone else was still here?  I sure wouldn’t want to be the reason for ruining anyone’s holiday season.  It made me realize that there was so much good to celebrate that dwelling on the end of a person’s life is, well, pointless.

It’s up to us how we feel.  Want to be sad? Sure, that’s easy. Or, focus on what that person gave you, the mannerisms you have because them, the catch phrases they wore out, the stories tucked away in that brain of yours.  Take that perspective for a test-drive and you just might find a happier way to get through the holidays.

“Get through”…like it’s a struggle going to parties, decorating, singing carols, exchanging gifts. I do everything I can to make sure this season doesn’t get away from me and despite my best efforts this year, I still have everything done…but it’s just going by way too fast.

So, I take a deep breath and reflect on those holidays gone by.  The years I woke up to a brand-new bike or a train set that dad had put on a giant sheet of plywood, painted it green with a blue painted like in the middle of it.  My first watch.  The smells coming out of mom’s kitchen when she went on a cookie-baking binge, resulting in cocoanut balls, peanut butter rolls and chow Mein noodle cookies. An Operation game.  Stockings hung on the chimney that said Brother or Sister on the side.  Going over to Grandma’s house to see their short aluminum artificial tree with the rotating multi-colored lights.

Then, when I became a parent, driving home late one Christmas Eve, seeing a plane fly in the distance and telling the kids, “Hey, look at that!  It’s Santa’s sleigh!  You can even see Rudolph’s nose flashing!  We better get home and get to bed!”  Reading “Twas the Night Before Christmas” to my kids and now, reading it to my grandkids, either in person or on Skype.

Dad was a pretty easy-going guy.  He was all about getting along.  This year, it would be easy to focus on the fact that he’s not here.  But he is, in every way I think and everything I do. I haven’t been back home in Torrance for Christmas Day in decades, but it was always nice to hear him on the phone.  I guess that’s the part that will be missing this year.  But the rest will all be there. I’ve made it to another Christmas season and I’m going to make every minute of it count.

Dad would want it that way.  Merry Christmas to all.

Tim Hunter

 

Person of the Year

Big enough for a generous shot of Aquavit

Big enough for a generous shot of Aquavit

I’m going to take advantage of this space on the Internet to brag a little.  The same week Time Magazine selected the president of Germany as their person of the year, the Norwegian American Chamber of Commerce chose the person they wanted to honor for 2015–my wife, Victoria.

We gathered last Friday at the Seattle Golf Club. It’s always amazingly beautiful and decorated so nicely for the holidays.  When you walk in the door, you immediately feel like you could be arrested for trespassing.  I’ve never been the ‘club’ type, but once each year, around 150 of the people I know from the Norwegian Community gather for a spirited kickoff to the holiday season.

And for the fourth year in a row, I had the privilege of emceeing the event.

What that did was give me a great excuse to get-together with the club’s president, Drew Gardner, to not only discuss what I was planning to do…but also, so that he could pick my brain about what he was going to say about Victoria when presenting the award.

Victoria, being on the board, was in on the discussions about who this year’s recipient would be. But the entire board was in on this surprise.  They played along, trying not to give any looks that would be suspicious at their meetings and everything just fell into place.

I assisted Drew in crafting his announcement. You see, you want to make it sound like it could be the person she thought it would be, so we threw things that could have described most of the people in the room.  Has been to Norway a lot, has relatives there, played the guitar, went to school in Norway…..and then, Drew said the word, “she.”  In Victoria’s mind, it was supposed to be a “he.”  Something was up. You can see the magic moment for yourself in this video.

If anyone would know how busy she is, it would be me.  I see her come, I see her go.  And while she does it out of passion and a sense of duty for her heritage, it’s nice to see her recognized by her peers.

Kudos, oh love of my life and congrats.

Tim Hunter

This Is My Kickoff Weekend

When does the Christmas season officially start for you?

For some, they don’t even mention the “C” word until we get to this side of Thanksgiving. Others, begin transitioning their homes and the music they listen to in November, gradually easing into the season.  That’s the route I’ve chosen to go.  I started listening to Christmas music in early November, put up the outside lights the second weekend and basically was all set to take off running the day after Thanksgiving.  For those who have a hard time thinking that way, you’re doing it already.  You’re a Seahawks fan.  They play Sunday.  You’re a Husky or Cougar fan.  They play Saturday.  You don’t hold off on being excited about the Seahawks game until after the college teams are done.  You’re excited about both.  That’s how I treat Thanksgiving and Christmas.  It gives you more holiday bang for your buck.

If there’s even a remote chance I’m not in the holiday spirit, by the end of the first week of December, I’m there.  It’s always a 3-day Christmas kick in the butt, with great reminders of how much fun this time of year can be.  Here’s what I have coming up this weekend:

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“Julebord”  I had never heard of Julebord  (pronounced yoola-bord) until I met my wife, Victoria.  It’s a formal Christmas meal, served at lunch time, in the elegantly decorated Seattle Golf Club, just up the road from our house.  I joke that it’s the only day of the year that they’d let me into the place.  A nutshell description:  you arrive, enjoy a glass or two of champagne and then head upstairs for a lunch that looks like a dinner of roast pork and all the trimmings, non-stop wine, beer and Aquavit (a Norwegian licorice-flavored liquor). There are musical performances (my brother-in-law, Kris, Victoria’s brother, is one of the traditions), plus the crowd is led in some Christmas songs.  The first four years, I attended as a guest.  This year will be my fourth as their emcee.  I’m really excited for this year’s monologue that I do at the beginning to kick things off.   Hope to share some highlights with you next week.

“The Arrival of Santa Claus at Country Village”  This funny little tradition started at least a dozen years ago. I show up shortly before 6pm, put on a Dickens-style “town crier” outfit and run around ringing a bell, saying things like “Hear ye! Hear ye! Santa Claus is coming!!”.  Then, at 7 o’clock, as a choir sings on the stage, Santa arrives, lights the Country Village Christmas Tree and hands out candy canes until the last child present gets one.  Special note–right across the street from Country Village is the annual Lutefisk Dinner at the Bothell Sons of Norway lodge.  Every year, a sell-out. I’d go but, yeah, well, I’m busy…..

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“Norwegian Ladies Chorus of Seattle Holiday Concert” The third installment of my holiday trifecta is held every first Sunday of December, at Our Redeemer’s Lutheran Church in Ballard, beginning at 3pm.  (Our Redeemer’s is where Victoria & I were married and we’re members there)  Besides the ladies’ music, this year they’ve invited Joe Carolus as their special musical guest.  Joe is not only a great guy, but one of the most talented pianists you’ve ever heard. A $12 donation is requested and there’s a fantastic dessert buffet following the concert.

How can you not break into the Christmas feeling after that 3-day holiday boot camp?

Well, if you’re still having trouble, try out my 2015 HO HO BROTHER Christmas CD.  Just finished it this week.

Yes, it IS Kickoff Week for Christmas.

The best of the season to you and yours,

Tim Hunter

Being Thankful Is Tricky

Thanksgiving Blog

Thanksgiving Blog

Once again, we’ve reached Thanksgiving Day.

As a kid, Christmas was by far the biggest holiday of the year. Easter would have been second, but it lost out to Halloween because even though both involve lots of candy, you had to get dressed up and go to church on Easter.  Oh, the Easter Bunny tried to compensate for that by bribing us with chocolate replicas of himself.  But with Halloween, you dressed up in a fun costume and then just went out to strangers’ houses and collected candy.  Is this a great country or what?

But, the years roll by and the next thing you know, holidays start coming around faster and faster.  That’s why, in my book, Thanksgiving has risen to the number one spot.  As hard as Christmas tries to overshadow it, Turkey Day remains a no-gift holiday, where you simply gather with friends or family or both and eat way too much. And there’s football on TV, from 9am to 9pm.  It’s like I won the lotto!

And even if my wife manages to sweet-talk our crowd into turning off football and watching the first Christmas movie of the season that day, I’m in!  I have a collection of 15 or so movies that I must see every year, or it’s not Christmas.  Thanksgiving weekend can start with “Miracle on 34th Street” (since it begins with the Thanksgiving Macy’s Day parade), I never get tired of “Plains, Trains and Automobiles”, and then maybe a “Home Alone” or two.

Then I’ve got three weeks to wedge in “It’s a Wonderful Life”, the Alastair Sim version of “A Christmas Carol”, “One Magic Christmas” and all the other holiday standards. It’s just a great time of year.

The Christmas season officially kicks off big-time the first weekend of December, but I’ll get into that with you next week.  For now and the next 36 hours or so, it’s Thanksgiving.

Being thankful is trickier than it should be.  When you go online and start rambling about all the things you’re thankful for, there’s a chance someone is reading it that isn’t having a great year.  Maybe they lost someone close to them.  And here you are, talking about how much you have to be grateful for–how dare you!

Then, if you don’t say anything, there are those who consider you ungrateful.  “What’s wrong with him?  Had a bad year?” You can’t win.

Thanksgiving began unofficially when people escaping religious persecution risked their lives to travel to a new land. When you go through something traumatic like that, not knowing if you’re going to live or die or what’s on the other side, you tend to get grounded and be appreciative of the basics.

President Lincoln had to deal with a country torn apart. No doubt it was a big part of his push for a national day of Thanksgiving.

Now, here we are in 2015, getting ready to show our thanks in a world gone mad (while the truth is, it’s always been mad. It just comes and goes.)  We have real problems, like what’s going on in Turkey with Russia, ISIS and such.  And then, there are the manufactured problems. As I watch hyper-sensitive revisionists declaring war on things because of their victim mentality, I just shake my head and wonder just how far this PC insanity will go.  In case you didn’t hear, students up at Western Washington University want to get rid of the Viking as their school mascot because he “represents violence”, while students back at Princeton have decided that President Wilson was a racist and so his name should be completely removed from the school.

I grow weary.

I maintain a pretty crazy, on-the-go schedule, but I do keep reminding myself to just take a look around and appreciate all that I have. Not things, but situations.  My marriage, my kids, I have a roof over my head–yeah, I know, there he goes bragging again–but this year, especially, I’m grateful to be able to do what I want to do for a living.  For most of my career, I’ve been in that situation, but with someone occasionally sticking their nose in and telling me how to do it.   Now, I wake up every day, look at a list of projects, tackle the ones I think are the most pressing, watch some TV, go to bed and start all over the next day.

Just a moment ago, while writing this blog, my ventriloquist buddy Mark Merchant called me from Cabo.  He wanted to make sure I got the notes on three upcoming gigs he has.  After this, I’ll sit down, look at the notes and start writing jokes.  Yeah, I get to do that.

A year ago, I rolled the dice and quit a job, hoping it would all work out. It has. I’m grateful for everyone’s support, for the clients that hired me and for every single person I stay in touch with.  If you hear from me during the year via Facebook, email, a phone call or we manage to actually pull off a coffee or lunch, it happens because you are among those I care about.  I appreciate your friendship and right now, would just like to say thanks for being a part of my personal E-ticket ride on this earth.

My  Thanksgiving wish: that everyone reading this blog sits down to a bountiful feast tomorrow, bows their head and quietly sends out a group text to everyone at the table, saying “Happy Thanksgiving!”

Tim Hunter

WHY I’M NOT A DETECTIVE

Yeah, the hat just doesn't look good on me

Yeah, the hat just doesn’t look good on me

My wife, Victoria, and I have our weekly TV shows.  It’s a nice collection, most of which there are mysteries to be solved, or we’re watching for clues to see if the good guys are really bad guys.

All this to say, while watching “Gotham” or “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”, “Blindspot” or “The Blacklist”, we often start talking out loud about our suspects and theories, vying for the honor of Top Living Room Detective.

The other night, we were watching “Elementary.”  It fulfills the need until Benedict Cumberbatch gets his butt in gear and cranks out a new season.  In this episode, someone was killing people.  (Yes, that’s true in most of the episodes)  Anyway, a policeman was murdered and it was plain as day to me.  It had to be his partner, I explained, because she was acting too relaxed when they interrogated her.  You know, it could have been….

And before I could even get out my entire theory, she was the next victim.  I’m serious, I was mid-sentence in my wrap-up and there she was, on the floor, dead.

Moments later, Victoria pointed out who the killer probably was and half-an-hour later, she was proven right.

Then again, so was I. There was a really good  reason why I didn’t become a detective.  Good call on my part.

Tim Hunter

I HAVE A THEORY…

The issue of homelessness has risen to an insane level in the Seattle area.  Seriously, since the time I arrived here back in the 1970s, it’s gone from those small groups gathered down at Pioneer Square, to countless numbers squatting on any piece of land they can find to call home.  We’re number 4 nationally, with only Los Angeles, New York and Las Vegas having more people living in the streets than we do.

The homeless have always existed. Whether it’s from a streak of bad decisions, an unfortunate series of events, a downward spiral in the economy, alcohol or drug abuse or mental illness, you can go back over time and they’ve always been there.  They were bums, freeloaders or hoboes and they were an accepted part of our society, those not very visible.  They were a footnote, not a force. I even came across this picture of my cousin wearing her Halloween costume years ago, dressed up like “a hobo.”

Back in 1963, it was OK to be a hobo for Halloween

Back in 1963, it was OK to be a hobo for Halloween

So, what’s the deal with the increasing numbers of homeless people?  There are no blanket answers, or quick fixes. In my on-going pursuit of finding out what’s working and what isn’t, I discovered Hopelink. Yes, it provides food and essentials to those in need, but does it in a nurturing environment, helping thousands of homeless people and families get back on their feet.  They aren’t a spigot that turns on to give out the goods and then says, “See you next time!”  They help, train, feed and inspire those down on their luck to get back up and rejoin society.

But again, how did we get here?  Where driving down I-5 looks like a Boy Scout jamboree, with tents pitched everywhere.  Where so many people just give up or assume that it’s their lot in life to spend their days outdoors, begging for money. I have this theory.

I’m old enough to remember a time when there was authority. Where there were rules.  Not all of them fair, not all of them in our greater interest, but they maintained order.  As students of the 1960s know, the rules began to break down.  We stopped taking government’s word for it.  We questioned wars.  We saw society rules and started asking “Why?”  All good.

But then, it became a passion.  Nothing was right, rules were meant to be broken.  It was the evolution of society, but also a beginning of a break down.  Because one of the underlying themes became fairness.  Yes, that’s a law, but that’s not fair.  Everyone needs to be treated fairly. Harshness is bad, generic all-acceptance is good.  A lofty goal, in principal. but not always practical.

All that being said, here’s my theory–the current abundance of homelessness is our own fault.  We’ve bent over backwards to coddle and protect and keep everything fair so much, that in the end, these people head out into the adult world (which isn’t always fair) and get knocked down the first time mom and dad aren’t there to take care of a problem for them.

There are as many styles of parenting as there are parents, but my way was to be as close to my kids as possible during those formative years, and then, when it’s time to let go, let ’em fly away from the nest.  I’m very proud and at peace knowing that, if I dropped dead tomorrow, both my kids (hopefully after some extended periods of grieving) would easily be able to carry on with their lives.  They’re both independent adults that can stand up for themselves.  It’s exciting to watch their lives evolve, as they carve their own path through this life.

There was no single defining moment where homelessness became OK, but there’s a belief that we need to accept it.  I refuse. To me, it’s not an acceptable lifestyle. At one point, they all had dreams and aspirations and goals.  They’re fellow human beings that deserve our compassion, help and guidance on how to become citizens again.  Pity doesn’t solve anything and standing next to a freeway exit with a cardboard sign is not a career.

Seattle, which just asked the federal government for additional help in dealing with the homeless, already spends $25-million a year on them. As of last January, we had 3,772 people living on the streets in Seattle.  Divide that money up and that’s almost $7,000 per person in spending.  Are you saying that we can’t help someone improve their lives with $7,000?

King County actually began a program to help the homeless and reduce the numbers 10 years ago…and instead, the numbers have increased.

There is a solution, somewhere out there.  Perhaps it’s all of the private entities working on the problem partnering with government to combine resources and efforts.  Maybe it’s a commission led by a Homeless Czar that oversees it, constantly checking to see that whatever direction we go, it’s working.

These people need our help and this is a serious problem that’s worsening and just won’t go away.  Not even if you give each of them a trophy.

Tim Hunter

Freddy

I’m pretty sure Red Skelton would be labeled

“insensitive” for this today