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

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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