Creating Another Memory Time Capsule

This week in the news, some southern California beaches had been closed–the very ones I use to play on when I was a kid–because of “tar balls” that had washed ashore.

That triggered a stroll down memory lane and a few cul-de-sacs along the way.

You see, growing up in Torrance in the 1960s, our family found its way to the beach quite often.  Most times it was mom, my sisters and me, laying on the sand, jumping into the ocean to cool down, putting a little more zinc oxide on the nose, then back to the water to ride an air mattress or paddle board.  Eventually, as I got older, skim boards came into play.  I even made my own in wood shop. Some of my friends took up surfing, but I just didn’t have a spare $50 or enough of an interest to pursue the sport.

Growing up on the sand, you learn not to run near other people’s towels, don’t mess around too much during lunch or you’ll get sand in your food, be sure to wash the sand off your feet up at the showers on the way to the car and, once home, hold your feet up for mom to inspect.  If there were blobs of tar (and it happened more times than not), mom or dad would get a rag, pour on a little paint thinner and then wipe it off.

That was the norm.  Tar balls on the beach?  Aren’t all beaches like that?

It got me to thinking back to that time and just how much the world has changed since then.  When I played outside with my friends, some days we’d have to take breaks because our lungs burned. Yeah, the smog was pretty bad back then.  Again, I just assumed it was that way everywhere.

Nope, this was the Los Angeles area in the early 1960s.  We had only one neighbor with a color TV and they were nice enough to invite us over one New Year’s Day to watch the Rose Parade–in color!

Hey, it's Uncle Walt!

Hey, it’s Uncle Walt!

It wasn’t until I was older that I found out “The Wizard of Oz” wasn’t entirely done in black and white.  We had stores like Thrifty, where you could go in and get an ice cream cone for a nickel.  Want a triple scoop?  Oh, that’ll cost you 15-cents. There were stores like Zody’s, Woolworth and White Front, now long gone.

The more I thought about that time, the more memories of the way things used to be came to mind. I guess that happens when you’ve carved out almost 60 years on this planet.  There were “party lines”, where several families shared the same telephone exchange. You could pick up the phone to make a call, hear voices talking and then hang up until they were done.

I remember McDonald’s hamburgers going for 19-cents.  Go to Der Wienerschnitzel and you could get 5 hot dogs, your choice of regular, mustard or chili, for a buck.

I was doubly-blessed when it came to baseball because I had baseball-fan parents, who never missed a game.  Back then, only a few games were on TV, so most evenings were spent listening to Vin Scully and Jerry Doggett on the radio.  During that decade, the Los Angeles Dodgers went to the World Series three times, winning twice.  I grew up assuming that your team usually went to the World Series.

I asked for a recorder one Christmas and got a little reel-to-reel machine.  I recall my mom going back and getting her high school degree when I was a kid (I still remember going to her graduation), because when growing up, her parents felt they needed her on the farm more than she needed to go to high school.

No, there weren’t wagon trains passing through town and Lindbergh had already made his trans-Atlantic flight.  But the world was a much different place when I was growing up.  As fast as technology and the pace of the world is moving, my kids are pretty much able to say similar things about when they grew up and that was just a couple of decades ago.

I’ve never been much of an oldies music fan.  That being said, I loved the music I grew up with and those great memory-filled songs of my college years.  However, that’s why I like to only listen to them occasionally.  That way, when I hear them, it’s special and it stirs up a flood of memories which, like an old friend, is great to see again.  I know way too many people in my age group who latched on to a time in their life and basically, their life froze.  There are too many new things to do, to learn about, to discover.

The past is a fun place to visit, I just don’t want to live there.

This quick trip back brought to you by the makers of tar balls and the smell of paint thinner.

We now return you to the present.

Tim Hunter

 

 

 

A Little Late to the Farewell Party

David Letterman’s last “Late Night” show was over a week ago.  I taped it, watched it, enjoyed it.  It was a nice chunk of television history and a glance back at some of the fun he brought to television over a 38 year span.  Pretty darn impressive.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that last week was more about the King of Norway than about the King of Late Night.  Well, the last reigning King of Late Night.  Jay Leno had stepped down the year before.  Johnny Carson had handed off “The Tonight Show” to Jay instead of Dave, which sparked years of controversy over who was better; who was funnier; who was the better late night host.

The simple truth of the matter is that it’s the classic apples versus oranges–which one do you like better?  One isn’t necessarily better than the other, but opinions run strong.  Letterman people seemed to despise Leno, while Leno people just didn’t seem to get Dave.

Years ago, before he took over the Tonight Show, Jay Leno was a stand-up comedian.  Another stand-up, Frank King, found himself bumping into Jay on the comedy circuit and they got to know each other.  When Jay ascended to the NBC throne, Frank asked Jay if he could shoot some jokes his way.  Jay said, “Sure!  Here’s my fax number!”

And so White Collar Comedy was born.  Each day, Frank would write some jokes, submit them and, if Jay used one, it meant a check was in the mail for $50.  In time, Frank added a former writer for the Pat Sajak Show, Pat Gorse.

This is where I came in.

While at KLSY, the Smooth Jazz morning show guy was Matt Riedy, another former stand-up, who had worked with Frank.  One day, he suggested I reach out to Mr. King about submitting the jokes I had been writing for the Murdock, Hunter & Alice Show.  Thus began a 10-year run as a Tonight Show “fax comedian.”   Pat, Frank and I would compile our jokes in one fax, Jay would give them a read and if he liked ’em, he used ’em.  No credit, but eventually the bounty went up to $75 per joke.  Plus, I got to hear Jay tell one of my jokes, often word for word as submitted.

Then, one week, our little trio sold around 7 jokes in one day.  Our theory is that Jay’s union writers complained about using so many jokes from the fax machine over their jokes and we were dismissed.  Just like that.

I know during his final couple of years, Jay bought jokes from another local funny guy, Pedro Bartes from the Bob Rivers Show.   A big believer in things happening for a reason, I decided I had a taste of writing for people exposed to a national audience, so I continue to contribute gags to ventriloquist Mark Merchant, the comic strip “Dustin” and political cartoonist Steve Kelley.  I would be remiss in not mentioning Ima Norwegian or Radio Online Daily Show Prep.

Back to David Letterman.  Dave, I respected the heck out of you and that show of yours, but if I had to make a choice on who the better late night host was, I’d have to go with Jay.  For two main reasons:

  1. Jay bought quite a few jokes from me.
  2. I once submitted an application to write for you—jokes, a top ten list, filled out the whole application completely–and all I got was a “Thanks for your submission” form rejection letter, which I still have packed away in a box in the basement somewhere.

Yeah, I’m pretty transparent.

But nice job anyway, Dave!

Tim Hunter

 

 

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