But It Was All Worth It

When I heard the news, I immediately knew I had to visit the place just one more time.

Down in the U-District, not far from Terry Hall, the dorm where I lived during my first three years at the University of Washington, was a pizza place called the Northlake Tavern. Yes, it was a tavern, but their pizza was legendary. Thick, greasy, loaded with toppings, a college student’s dream. Well, at least back in the 1970s.

Because it was a tavern, I didn’t go there very much my first couple of years. But by my junior year, my confidence had grown and I had accessed a fake I.D., so we would occasionally stumble down the hill and order one of those amazing pizzas. However, when I graduated, I headed east of the mountains and just didn’t have the opportunity to swing by there.

When I did move back to the area three years later, I lived in the burbs and just never seemed to make it that way. Over the next 40 years or so, I think I got back there maybe twice, for old times’ sake.

At the same time I had moved on and the Northlake Tavern became just another college memory, a fellow I had worked with in the dorms, Abdoullah, had gone to work at the Tavern, where the owner took him under his wing, taught him the tricks of the trade and eventually, Abdoullah bought the place! He was one of three brothers who had come over from the Middle East, each scattering into their field of specialty and reaching success. In Abdoullah’s case, he kept the Northlake alive and thriving.

But time marches on and now, in the year 2023, the time has come for Abdoullah to call it quits. Sadly, he’s been battling Parkinson’s, so after all that hard work, retirement is probably not going to be as he had hoped. The good news is that he found a buyer, the local pizza chain Mario’s, who will close the restaurant for a couple of months to refurbish it, then re-open it as a Mario’s.

The official closing date was Tuesday, January 31st. When that was first announced, the line began to form. After all, when you’ve been doing what the Northlake Tavern has been doing for 68 years, a lot of people have memories attached to the place.

Including yours truly.

So, a couple of weeks out, my friends Tank, Steve and I agreed to meet for lunch there at noon on Thursday, January 26th. But as that date approached, pictures on social media kept showing up with people saying they had to wait an hour to get in. Then 90 minutes. We adjusted our plan to meet there at 11am, when Northlake opened, so hopefully we could be eating by noon.

Ha.

Now, quick side bar. Each of my Monday through Friday workdays are a carefully plotted out collection of various jobs, scattered out through a series of 12-hour days. It’s just how I roll. I try to top-heavy the week so that by Thursday and Friday, I may only work 10 hours. Maybe.

When the big day arrived, I completed most of my radio show prep duties and a couple of projects, and just figured when I got home after lunch, I’d crank out my radio show. Perfect plan.

After a 10:30am Zoom at home, I dashed to the car and drove to Northlake. Not a parking spot to be found. For blocks. For a half-mile, where I finally a 2-hour parking spot and began the walk to the restaurant.

When I arrived, I found Tank & Steve around the corner at the end of a line of about 60 people. That shouldn’t be too bad. Over time, a couple of people were allowed in the restaurant, and the line would move up just a little more.

But inside, the kitchen was overwhelmed. Not only making pizzas for those in the restaurants, who were ordering two pizzas each–one for now, and the other to toss in the freezer when they got home. But there were also to-go orders being phoned in. You can see where this is going.

Sadly, while we waited in line, a woman came up to the restaurant with a printed receipt for some pizzas she had purchased online. It turned out, she had been swindled. The restaurant wasn’t selling them online. Those scamsters work fast.

Meanwhile, back in line, I faced a dilemma. At which point do I decide, “Oh, this is ridiculous!” and just go home. Or, because I’ve already invested an hour, it could be just a few more minutes.

I had lots of time to think about my decision because were not seated until 1:46m. Yes, 2-hours and 46-minutes just to be seated. When a waitress finally made it to our table, she apologized for the wait, said she could take drink orders but that the kitchen was so backed up, it may be a while until we would see a pizza. Beer was ordered, and we went into a new waiting mode.

On the positive side, I had some quality time with a couple of guys who have been like brothers to me over the years. We have been through a friggin’ lot—marriages, health scares, tragedies, life moments, so to that end, I was grateful for the FIVE HOURS we got to share together.

Yep, it was an hour and 16 minutes until a couple of delicious pizzas came our way. We were allowed two per person, but just settled for two of their $31 medium pizzas–a Combo and a Meat Lovers.

I’ll be honest, I had reached out to Abdoullah to see if he might remember us and was secretly hoping for him to say, “Oh, you guys are coming in? We’ll save you a table!” He said he did remember us, but no table offer was made.

Meanwhile, as we sat there in the pizza-ready position, waiting our beer, Abdoullah walked into his restaurant. He looked frail, needed a cane to walk and apparently just can’t verbally communicate well anymore. When I saw him, I yelled out, “Abdoullah!” He turned. I pointed to each of the characters. “Tank! Steve! Tim!”

His eyes widened and he smiled. We said some other things to him, which I don’t remember, but it was how his eyes lit up that will be the moment I cherish from that day.

Yes, that’s a big slice out of a workday. Leaving the house at 10:40am, getting back home at 4:34pm. However, I got to revisit an old haunt from my college days one more time, hang with old friends, see someone I hadn’t seen in almost 50 years and get a smile out of him. Yes, it made for a tough rest of the workday.

But it was all worth it.

Tim Hunter

Where Have You Been All My Life?

This week, I’m going to drag you along on my search for a decent shave.

There was a time, back when this whole shaving thing began, that I was a razor-and-shaving-cream kinda guy. It’s what my dad did, what all the other guys in the dorms at Terry Hall did. Oh, maybe there was a graduate student with one of those fancy electric razor gismos, but for the most part, it was all about dragging this really sharp blade across your face while not being far away from your styptic pencil.

The clunky, old two-sided razor eventually gave way to the new sleek and sexy razors and then, the sleek and sexy disposable razors. The problem was, on those morning when I was in a hurry or distracted, I’d have to take the time to get the bleeding to stop before heading into work.

Then, somewhere along the line, I made the switch to an electric razor. I’ve easily had a half-dozen or so over the years, each progressively better. However, the closeness of the shave was always “ok” and I’d always have to do some careful follow-up work with a Schick disposable.

Eventually, I found myself the owner of a Braun electric razor and it was pretty good. In fact, I’ll bet you anything that I’ve had it close to a decade. But the pattern that developed was this: new blades would give you that close, comfortable shave for a couple of months…until it felt like you were plucking the hairs out of your face. No fun. Then I’d have to see how long I could wait before I’d pony up another $35 for new blades. I’m so damn cheap.

The new blades would arrive and then I’d be happy again….for a while. What helped was that I tried out those Harry’s blades and everything they say in the ads is true. So, that allowed me to put up with a crappy shave from my electric razor, then easily fix the spots it missed with one of Harry’s finest.

However, this time when the Braun blades dulled again, I decided to use that Consumer Reports subscription I pay for but never use and see what their research on electric razors had to say. I couldn’t help but notice that only the mega-expensive Braun was recommended, but there were an awful lot of Panasonics in there. Really? It was a departure in design from what I was used to, but the reviews were in and while Panasonic’s top of the line model was in the $200-$300 range, I found one for $99. Sure, it was the lower-level model without the bells and whistles, but I wasn’t looking for a singing/dancing electric razor, I just wanted a close shave.

And we have a winner.

This is the one. This is what it looks like. It glides across my face, not irritating it one bit. At times with the old Braun and my refusal to keep paying the new blade extortion fee, I’d occasionally get razor-burns. Nope, every morning when it’s time to trim the whiskers, it’s one smooth experience after another. And in the two weeks I’ve been using it, it’s still mostly charged. It even has a gauge on the front to tell you how charged up it is.

So, after an almost 50-year search for the perfect shave, I have finally found it. Thank you, Panasonic. Where have you been all my life?

Tim Hunter

That’s How You Do It Right

If someone asked you to list 100 things wrong with the world, you’d probably respond, “Only 100?”

I’ve noticed that, as you get older, you have to compromise your expectations because things just aren’t done they way they use to do them. Expect a certain level of service or quality and you’ll hear catch phrases like, “supply chain issues”, “we can’t find people to do the job” and so on. You’ve heard ’em all.

So, when a company does something not only really right, but above and beyond the kind of service we settle for these days, I have to shout their praises to the rafters. Well, I don’t have rafters, so you’ll have to settle for it in writing.

It all began when I realized how corroded the burners were in my barbecue. The flames shot up unevenly, which made it really challenging to cook anything. One end of the steak would be black, while the other end was raw. It was time for new burners.

So, I did what any other red-blooded American does these days–I went to Amazon. I found some burners for my Char-Broil grill, placed the order and soon, the package arrived.

They sat patiently on a downstairs desk until I had the time to take on the barbecue. You can’t put new burners in a filthy barbecue, so I removed the old, corroded burners and threw them out. They I cleaned out the barbecue so it would be a welcome home for those new shiny burners. I went to install them and…..they didn’t fit. They were too thick at the bottom.

OK, Life Lesson #14,490–you need to make sure you order the correct burners for the model of your Char-Broil grill.

The good news, of course, is that I could just return the wrong ones. But the challenge came when I went to find replacement burners for my model and they were nowhere. I searched on and off Amazon, carefully comparing the ones for sale with the 9-digit model number and….nothing.

I reviewed my Amazon orders and discovered it wasn’t really THAT long ago I bought my barbecue. It was an Amazon “Best Buy” and I really liked the grill, but if all I get is 18 months of use before I have to buy a new barbecue…..well, then this is definitely going to be my last Char-Broil purchase.

Before biting the spatula and going out to buy a new barbecue (which I might add have gone up significantly in price in the last couple of years) I decided to take a couple of last swings. I would reach out to local appliance gurus Judd & Black, and also write to the manufacturer to say, “What’s up with this?”

Both responded quickly. Judd and Black told me that I would have to contact the manufacturer. Yes, the folks at Char-Broil. And this is where it started getting good.

Char-Broil actually called and emailed me. I missed the call, but when I called the number provided in the email, a friendly voice took my information, and let me know that the burners were actually covered by a warranty. I mentioned that I needed all the guts for my barbecue, and they said, “No problem. What other parts do you need?”

This couldn’t be happening.

In fact, when I was forwarded to their credit robot that would ring up my sale, I tried to punch in the credit card numbers on the phone and got disconnected. I called back, got the same person and he personally took me through the purchase.

Friendly. Treating you like a valued customer. Making sure you really were happy. It was numbing. All in one day, in a matter of minutes, really, and the matter was resolved. The barbecue I was perfectly happy with will live on and I won’t have to spend hundreds of dollars for a new one.

But when that time comes, I guarantee it will be a Char-Broil, because they understand customer service.

That’s how you do it right.

Tim Hunter

 

This Has Been A Tough One

Each week, I try to take on a different topic in this little corner of the Internet, to share an experience, a perspective, a funny story, whatever.

There were lots of directions I could have gone this week. Saying farewell to the Northlake Tavern in the U-District, a special occasion destination back when I lived just up the hill at Terry Hall at the University of Washington. It first opened back in 1954, but now, after all these years, it’s going to be sold to someone who is going to change it into the newest location of a local chain, Mario’s Pizzas. The amazing part of this story is that the owner and I used to work together in the kitchens at the dorm at Terry Hall.  He was one of a trio of brothers, who had come to the U.S. to attend school at the U.W.. Never in my wildest imagination did I think Abdoullah would graduate and then take over the Northlake Tavern and that legendary pizza. I’ve already reached out to him and said I’m going to do everything I can to get in and see him this month before he closes so he can focus on a health issue.

That tends to happen to us around our age. Man, those U-Dub dorm days seem so long ago….

Or, I could have gone in the direction of the Seahawks after that draining need-a-couple-of-miracles Sunday and the fact we’re actually going to the playoffs. I had an idea for another topic–how there are really two of each of us. The person our friends and acquaintances see us as, and the person we know when we’re by ourselves. I promise, that’s going to be a definite future blog.

But instead, I’ve been haunted by the topic of my last writing and the passing of local radio show host, Dori Monson. To keep new readers up to speed, Dori was a home-grown boy who eventually became the most listened-to radio show in the Seattle area. Every weekday, from noon-3pm, he’d confirm to some that there was someone out there who actually thought like they did; others, he would drive crazy, but yet, they’d continue to listen.

Then, while using up vacation time during the holidays, his heart decided to give out on him at the very young age of 61. (and, as I like to say, getting younger every day)

Over the past week, knowing darn well he was no longer with us, I would still react to a story I heard or read with the feeling, “Oh, I’ve gotta email that to Dori!”

Then I remembered.

One friend let me know she a sorority sister to Dori’s wife. I never knew that.

Another friend grew up across the street from Dori in Ballard and when we started talking about him, she recalled the things they did together as neighbor kids. A version of “Work Ups”, a baseball-type game you’d play in the streets with whoever was available; they rode their bikes together around those “mean streets of Ballard” as he liked to say; they played “Batman”, with Dori insisting that he was the only one who could be the Caped Crusader.

Both, stories I would have passed along to Dori via email and then, he would take the time to respond and thank me for sending.

What bothers me so much about Dori’s passing is the suddenness. Living his radio dream, having a family and friends he loved, all that success and then just having it all just yanked out from under him.

He, like myself, was also quite the workaholic.  If it were a contest, he would win, because after getting a taste of six hours of sleep a night, I’ve come to really like it. But for me, still, most workdays are 12 hours long and the ones that aren’t are longer. Yet, when that 5pm mark arrives, I’ve trained myself to shut down and whatever needs to be done can just be added to tomorrow’s workfest.

One of my long-held beliefs is that there is no way I’ll be able to get everything done that I want to do during my time here, so I constantly feel this sense of urgency to get things done.  I don’t want to leave a bunch of un-finished projects behind. So, if I think of something–a new project, an aspiration, a bucket-list item–I’ll put it on the master list and make sure I eventually take that on.

Even in my retirement years, I’m envisioning finally getting back to those screenplays I wrote, polishing them up and submitting them to some folks I’ve met over the years. I want to put my life story down in writing, not for the world, but for my kids, grandkids and those beyond, so they know what all went on during my time here.

In a way, I believe Dori also knew his time here was limited. His radio shows were all archived, with KIRO playing “The Best of Dori” to fill his time slot until they decide on an heir apparent. To his credit, Dori like to push himself beyond his comfort zone, to try new things, regardless of the results. I remember when he put his one-man show together and I really wanted to go catch one of those productions, but I just couldn’t work that into the calendar.  Fortunately, someone smartly videotaped the last show he did down in Federal Way.

This may be more Dori than you’d be interested in, but he did a nice job of getting up in a theater in front of a bunch of fans and telling stories about his life.  This is from 2019, so coming up on four years ago and before the “great pandemic”, so I’m glad he got it in when he did. You’ll notice he occasionally needs to rest his knee that was starting to go out on him.

I was fortunate enough to have had my path cross his, if only in a minor way, but it had a lasting effect on me and how I do things.

Dori would always get uncomfortable when it came to saying good things about him, but sir, you taught me a lot–about broadcasting, about keeping family important regardless of what happens with your career, and the ultimate reminder that our amount of time he is not guaranteed.

Thank you.

This has been a tough one.

Tim Hunter

PS Fellow KLSY-kateer and cartoonist Frank Shiers did this touching cartoon. He was lucky enough to work at KIRO for a while and with Dori.

 

And Then He Was Gone

Thinking about it, I don’t think I have the right to call Dori Monson a “friend.” I would say a brother in broadcasting, a peer, and truth be told, I would call myself a fan.

Dori passed away suddenly on New Year’s Eve when his heart gave out, at the getting-younger-by-the-day age of only 61 years old. I can only imagine the grief felt by his wife, his daughters and all those who were lucky enough to work with him because I felt that suddenness when my broadcast partner Alice Porter died just months after our morning show blew up at KLSY. She was only 44.

I did know Dori in several ways. Mostly, as a listener who has followed him the bulk of his radio career in the Seattle market. There are others over the years that I would try to catch, to study their craft and how they played on the radio. The broadcast giant Paul Harvey used to make me stay in my car and listen until his noon report was done, back in my KOMO radio days. I’d also catch an occasional “Police Blotter” with KJR’s Gary Lockwood. I’ll confess, there was a Rush Limbaugh phase in there, but eventually he wore me down and I had to leave. I didn’t discover Bob Rivers until the last couple of years of his show, as he was on the air when I was, but broadcast brilliance. Seattle has been very lucky to have so many major talents.

Dori was a master of his craft and you could hear those years of experience paying off with every broadcast. Back in the early days of his show, he had the pre-recorded voice that would say, “That’s Dori, with an I” whenever a listener got his name wrong. (and they did) From his bits, “You be the Jury” to “One on One Against The Nuns” (where he’d do football picks with a couple of local nuns), his on-air parachute jump and so many other great radio moments, I listened with awe. He chatted with his friends on the air, he talked about his family, how he grew up on the “mean streets of Ballard,” how his father was an alcoholic, that his mom pretty much raised him, I heard how he met his wife, heard stories of the early years of his marriage, how proud he was of his three daughters and the impact of losing his sister.  Oh, and he had a thing for Olivia Newton-John. If you listened to Dori, you knew Dori.

But as our country went down the path of becoming so divisive, so did his show. KIRO was mostly left-leaning, and while Dori proudly proclaimed himself a Libertarian, I’m convinced a consultant told him to be more centrist, if not right-leaning. And as ratings went up, he evolved into quite a Trump supporter in one of the bluest cities in the country. At times, the Biden-bashing became so ruthless, it was unlistenable. Criticism is one thing, but brutal negativity and mocking is just not listenable. In recent months, if I hopped in my car between noon and 3pm, I would flip him on to see how long I could keep listening. Basically, an audio form of bronco-busting.

Before KIRO decided that on-air phone calls were not a good thing, I managed to sneak in on the air with him one afternoon. I don’t remember what the premise was, but he went to my phone call and I got out the line, “If God didnt’ want us to eat animals, why did he make them out of meat?” Dori just let that line hang there, didn’t comment, and then pushed the button to wrap up his show.

Whenever a funny line came to mind involving local news, I would email it to him. He would thank me and life went on. Sometimes I would hear the line on the air.

The photo with this blog is from the time Dori and I emceed the 17th of May parade together in Ballard, his home stomping grounds. Over the years, whenever I reached out to him, he couldn’t have been kinder and treated me like a member of the radio club, even though we had never worked on the air together.

Last year, I reached out to him by email and asked if he’d be up for an interview to talk about KRKO’s 100th birthday. He couldn’t have been more excited and when we finally connected via the Internet, it was like old friends getting together. Again, he couldn’t have been more gracious. You can hear that interview right here.

Knowing him more like a listener than a friend, I had no idea that he had been battling some health conditions. Again, on the air, he was a pro. The audience doesn’t need to hear about all the details of your personal life, just the entertaining ones.

It’s just numbing to think the Dori Monson era in Seattle radio is over.

As I mentioned, he grew up in Ballard as did my wife and her siblings. Victoria’s brother Kris and Dori were, I think, the same age and I could see that his passing really shook Kris up.

A couple of other Ballard-raised friends also shared their stories about growing up with Dori on Facebook:

So sad to hear this. Dori and I grew up together at Calvary Lutheran Church, Ballard High School (he was a grade behind me and skipped ahead and graduated a year before me!) He married my sorority sister from the U of W. So sad for his family and our community! — Laurie

I am in total shock that Dori Monson passed away on Saturday. His older brother Liel was one of my best friends growing up.  I spent a LOT at the Monson house in Ballard. Dori was 6 years younger than us so he was a ‘little kid” brother until we all got older. He was a child prodigy as far as his “smarts” zipping through school right into the UW at such a young age. Of course, we were all so proud of him when he became so successful in radio. I would only see him occasionally. He looked so much like his beautiful Mom Sylvia. She was so good to all us kids growing up. I practically lived at the Monson house during the summer. His dad, Orville Monson, was so good to us as well. Always rides to school and later gave Liel his Nash Metropolitan which we renamed the Metro, painting it purple and black & putting ridiculously high lifters on the back axle!  We weren’t old enough to drive so Ron Lindahl’s older brother Steve would drive us all down to cruise Golden Gardens. Orville let us take over the whole garage to play around with the “Monson Mobile”. They recently lost older sister Karla who we all loved growing up. I am devastated over this. Dori was a good man. — Norm

And my broadcast brother, Keith Shipman (the two of us were laid off from KOMO on that fateful day back in 1984), had some great stories to share:

I’ve been struggling with what to write about the passing of Dori Monson, a friend of 43 years, who passed away at age 61 on New Year’s Eve.
We first met in college, when broadcasting a WSU-UW baseball game at Tubby Graves Field in Seattle (he for KCMU-FM, I for KWSU-AM). A few years later we began spending evenings together watching the Mariners (occasionally making a small wager on the announced attendance), Sonics and Seahawks at the Kingdome, which strengthened our bond.
Dori and I eventually worked together at KING 1090 and KCPQ-TV as we chased our sports dreams. He soon embarked on a very successful talk show career at KIRO Radio, where over the past three decades he held court with one of the largest radio audiences in the Pacific Northwest (and for that matter, for a locally produced talk show in America). He was a brilliant broadcaster, studiously constructing and executing a daily program that inspired passion from the far left and the far right and entertained most of us in the middle. Was he controversial? Yes. Did he make you remember what he said? Certainly. He was much like former Seattle Post Intelligencer sports columnist Art Thiel in that manner – you remembered what Art wrote and you remembered what Dori said.
Dori was one of the most intelligent people I ever met, and our conversations rarely, if ever involved politics, or for that matter, sports. We talked about marriage, about friendships, about the interesting people we encountered, about our kids and the communities where they were growing up. Away from his day job, Dori connected people – he built communities among those he crossed paths with – those in the industry, those in athletics, those in his village. He once told me that he wanted to be a great husband and father, host a radio talk show and coach basketball. That would be his perfect life. He did all three – and guided the Shorecrest Girls Basketball team to a state title in 2016. It was a great delight for me to call him not long ago to let him know that he is among those to be inducted into the inaugural class of the Washington State Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame.
Dori was a sensational husband and father and had legions of friends. He was fiercely loyal to Suzanne, his bride of 35 years, and adored his three daughters. My heart weeps for Suzanne, Kelsey, Haley and Keegan.
He was a terrific friend to many. I’m grateful I was among them and shall treasure our friendship for the rest of my days. Rest easy old pal – it was a pleasure knowing you. Much love to you, and the family and friends you’ve left behind.

Dori Monson came into this world and was determined to succeed. In family, in life, and especially in radio. He gave 110% in everything he did, he had his own, unique style and he loved to laugh. Of all the things I’ll hear in my mind when I think of him is that laugh. 

Another broadcast brother, John Curley did an AMAZING job on the first day back after the holidays, hosting a five-hour show featuring clips and stories from his friends and co-workers. You can hear that here.

It’s still not real. It doesn’t feel fair. Dori gave us 40+ years on TV and radio, delivering nothing but his best.

And then he was gone.

Tim Hunter

What the hell was I thinking?

I’m pretty tech savvy.

I know my way around a computer. Thanks to some patient techy gurus over the years, I’ve learned a lot about those beastly machines that we stare out every minute of every day.

But not all technology is kind.

For years, I fought the idea of using a Keurig coffee-making machine. Oh, I’ve used them at times when visiting friends that have them and, so I don’t look inept, I learned how they work.

Then, recently, one was made available to me and so I thought, “What the heck?” and set it up on the table around 12-feet behind my desk. I was thinking, “That’ll be so convenient! Now I won’t have to run up and down the stairs to the coffee maker kitchen. I can have a hot cup of coffee anytime I want it in a couple of minutes.”

Or, so I thought.

It sounds so simple on paper. But here’s how it has been working for me. It’s late in the morning or early afternoon and its been hours since I finished my daily pot of coffee and I’m feeling like I could use a boost about now. So, I get up, walk over to the Keurig and turn it on. Yeah, it has to warm up first.

I go back to work. A half-hour or so passes and I think to myself, “Whatever happened to that coffee? Oh, yeah, I forgot to make it.” So I go over, put in a new pod, hit the brew button and go back to work.

Another half hour passes and I’m feeling like that cup of coffee and I realize, “Crap! I never went over and picked it up!” So, I have to take the now lukewarm coffee upstairs, stick it in the microwave for a minute and then, finally, I’ve got my hot cup of coffee.

I take a sip, get back into work and by the time I remember I’ve got a cup waiting to be drank, it has cooled down to tepid at best.

So let us review: 30-minutes Keurig warm-up, 30-minutes after I brew the coffee, I pick it up, take it upstairs and zap it, then bring it back down. Easily 80-minutes of time invested in having a convenient cup of coffee.

What the hell was I thinking?

Tim Hunter

An Amazon Christmas Miracle

There are so many reasons to not like Amazon. The impact it has on smaller businesses, the fact you can’t just talk to anyone there, etc.

I’m old enough to remember when they started back in 1995. They ran radio commercials, bragging how they were the largest bookstore in the world. Just as Nordstrom started out as a shoe store, then went full-on clothing, Amazon kept growing and growing and soon, started selling everything under the sun. As the New Year begins, they’re going to begin drone delivered in two U.S. cities, Lockeford, California and College Station, Texas.

I tend to be a steady Amazon shopper. Did you know that if you use them through the website smile.amazon.com, every time you buy something, they make a donation to a charity of your choice? I have my monetary fragments going towards the Norwegian Ladies Chorus of Seattle.

What really appeals to me about Amazon is that you can buy something and they take care of delivery. If you purchased something at a store, you’d have to wrap it for shipping, then take it to the post office. If you’re an Amazon member, shipping is free! For me, that more than pays for the annual membership.

But it’s not a perfect world, and that includes Amazon.

So, this year, for my mom’s Christmas present, I thought it would be cool to get her a new bird bath for the backyard. She currently has an ceramic, perhaps cement bird bath in the center of the backyard that, every year, she would paint again with this sky-blue paint I bought back in 1972 to paint the Senior Pond at Torrance High School, during a pond-cleaning party. After 50 years, the paint finally ran out. (God knows how much lead was in there) So, it’s definitely time for a new bird bath.

Being a fan of hummingbirds, I thought mom would like this one and so I ordered it for her.

Three days later, I was notified that it had been delivered. Yes, on the box, it said “Paper Towels” and I thought, “How clever? So she doesn’t know what it is, they put Paper Towels on the outside. Brilliant!!”

Then the big day finally arrived. And what should appear as my 94-year-old mother opened up this cherished gift from her eldest child and only son?

Friggin’ paper towels.

Well, that tainted Christmas and later in the day, I got online with Amazon to chat with one of their representatives working on the holiday. The first agent was great, apologetic and said mom could just keep the paper towels and they’d get her a new bird bath. Great!

But then he transferred me to a less sympathetic, pissed-off-they-were-working-on-Christmas-Day employee who told me, “Nope! You’ve got to return those paper towels or we can’t issue you a refund.”

I explained and re-explained what happened, that they had screwed up royally, but she said, “Return those paper towels or no refund.” Oh, sure, what could possibly go wrong with that? The UPS guy shows up to pick up a bird bath and the box says ‘Paper Towels’. Or, it gets all the way back to Amazon and they say, “This isn’t a bird bath! He’s trying to scam us!”

Now, it’s not like my mom doesn’t like paper towels. In fact, she said that she actually needed some.

Thanks to sage advice from my youngest sibling, Debbie, I reached out to Amazon again this morning. Debbie’s thought is that when you’re talking Christmas Day, you’re going to get a member of the Customer Service B-team and she was right. Her theory continues that, the later in the day, the lower the grade and by 5pm you’re chatting with the D- or E-Team.

Well, this morning, the Tuesday after Christmas, I was connected with Ashish, who apparently has a Master’s Degree in customer service and by the time we were done chatting, she had fixed everything. My refund was on the way, mom gets to keep her paper towels, and mom’s actual bird bath will arrive on Friday.

It was an Amazon Christmas miracle.

And to all, a good night!

Tim Hunter

The Tradition Continues

Some people have normal holiday traditions, like making home-made eggnog or having prime rib for Christmas dinner.

I make a music video.

With my career in radio, I’ve always created just the audio portion of parody songs and around the time the holiday season arrives, I start thinking that way. What could I do this year?

A lot of times, that would result in me writing up the lyrics, creating the necessary music bed, and then singing it myself. I’m not awful, I’ll hit most of the notes and it’s all for the sake of being silly. Here are a couple of early gems from back in my KLSY days, “Snow Rider” and “Tired of the Snow.”

Yeah, I have fun.

Then, 11 years ago, my buddy at Destination Market, radio brother Scott Burns introduced me to a young lady named Alana Baxter. She was in to do a commercial voice, but it eventually leaked out that she was a singer. A real, on-key singer. I asked if she would be up for working together and suddenly, I had a partner.

In the past 11 years, we’ve created 10 gems that you can view here on my YouTube channel. I’ve created a playlist just for them. In those early years, I was filming with a Flip camera (remember those?), I then switched to a Canon 70D SLR camera but eventually, I just started using the technology available from my iPhone and it worked just fine. I mean, we’re not creating feature films here.

They’re good enough for a laugh.

And that’s the goal of each of those videos. But before I share with you this year’s triumph, while out scouting out scenes to use as a background, we came upon the Nutcracker House in Ballard. Someone actually bought all the props from a previous Pacific Northwest Ballet production of The Nutcracker and they put them up every year for the holiday season. Talk about your ultimate display!

But as we got out of the car, Alana experienced a rush of memories because she, as a young girl, was in many of those productions. When she started telling me stories I said, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, let’s not waste this.”

So here is Alana’s personal tour of the Nutcracker house display.

So, after filming this tour and a few scenes for this year’s video, “Do You Have What I Have?”, we continued hopping around to various places like Swanson’s Nursery and a newer Seattle holiday attraction, Kringle’s Filling Station and in two hours, we had all the footage we needed to complete the music video.

After six hours of “grabbing edit time when it’s available”, I managed to put together this year’s song and I’m proud. Actually, I’m proud of each of the treasures we’ve produced over the years. To see the complete collection of Alana song videos, just click here.

After you’ve enjoyed this year’s achievement. Have a merry one.

And the tradition continues.

Tim Hunter

A Thought Salad

Yeah, each week, I try to focus on one thing and take a deep dive, but I got a bunch of topics rattling through my brain this week, so here goes.

A SUCCESSFUL JULEBORD

That’s the Nordic Christmas I emcee every year for the Norwegian American Chamber of Commerce at the Seattle Golf Club, pronounced YOOL-uh-bord. Last Friday was the big day and really, the kickoff to my holiday season activities. I went in, armed with jokes for my monologue and another Christmas parody song I had worked up. I took “Whoomp! There it is!” and changed it to “Whoomp! Julebord.”

I started up the music, yelled out, “Nordic people. It’s me, your emcee, back here at SGC, with just the right song for our Julebord today…that goes a little like this…..”

CLICK THIS TO HEAR IT

Adding to the fun, I had my musical partner in Christmas music crime, Alana Baxter, join me to rap, and then dance while I wrapped it up.

Oh, and that’s “Shot ‘o Linie”.

The sad part is that I don’t think there’s any video of that performance, but it worked out better than we could have planned. First, to go from a formal dinner to “Whoomp! Julebord!” in less than a couple of minutes and two, we had Alana dress up like part of the wait-staff, so when I handed her the microphone as if to challenge her, she took off. Just awesome.

NO IT ISN’T

Yes, I order way too much from Amazon. So, having my Alexa say, “You have a package delivered” is not unusual. But then, I got photo confirmation, and it looked like this:

I see the package and think to myself, “Oh, cool! It arrived.” But then I took a more careful look and had to ask, “Uh, whose front door is that?”

So, I thought I would stroll the neighborhood and I didn’t have to go far. Keeping my eyes peeled for some orange doors, I found the above scene at my next-door neighbor Carl’s house.

Seriously, how hard is it to match up address numbers?

LUTEFISK AND MEATBALLS

So, Saturday afternoon, we attended the Bothell Sons of Norway’s annual Lutefisk and Meatballs dinner at their lodge on Bothell-Everett Highway. Being in that neighborhood the first weekend of December was not unusual for me, as for most of 16 years, I was the town crier across the street at the now-defunct Country Village Shopping Center.

I used to crack jokes to the crowd gathered at the Village about the Lutefisk dinner across the street and how the Haz-Mat team was over there cleaning up. But now, I’m over on the other side of the highway.

And man, what a treat!

The amazing crew of volunteers there cooks up enough meals for over 500 people in one day, at $35 a pop. And every year–sold out.

I can understand why. It was delicious. The much-maligned cod, when prepared properly, is delicious. I had two helpings, some of the people we were with went back for thirds.

And we were stuffed.

EVENTUALLY, WE’LL ALL BE CONNECTED

So, you’re aware of this blog. Checking the date, my very first entry goes back to Veterans Day of 2008. So, a new blog once a week, 52 weeks in a year times 14 years and you have well over 100 blogs and counting. (I didn’t want to do the math)

Thanks for the read.

Tim Hunter

Well, Here We Go

I debated as to whether I should tackle this particular topic in this rather intimate space. But I have tried to be an open book here, with my honest feelings, opinions, while also passing along the events and adventures that have gone on in my life, both good and bad.

So, yeah, it’s time to talk about a little bad.

Now, before I pass along the breaking news, this is not a plea for pity. I’ve known several people to go down this road and while we touched the surface of their experience, I’m finding out there’s a lot more when they move you to the front lines. It’s not going to be the only thing I talk about from now on, but there will probably a week or two where I share something that could be beneficial to know for someone fighting prostate cancer.

Up until my diagnosis 10 days ago or so, to me, prostate cancer was that, “Oh, it’s no big deal” cancer.

  • Sure, these days, they cure it all the time.
  • Yeah, a couple of rounds of radiation and it’ll all be behind you.
  • I know lots of people who have had it and they’re now cancer-free!

And so on….

It’s a bit more complicated than that, because no two diagnosis, patients, treatments and results are alike.

We’ve (that referring to me and my personal physician) have been keeping an eye on my situation because of my rising PSA numbers over the past 5 or so years. Since we’re making this an educational class and you may put in for college credit, the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test is a blood test that measures the level of PSA in a sample of your blood. They use the numbers as a measurement that may indicate if there is cancer present. If your doctor notices your number has exceeded X, he sends you to a urologist who tells you that an increased number is natural for men as they get older. That happens a couple of times, the PSA continues to go up, so then they do a prostate biopsy. Yes, the fun-filled task of taking a dozen plugs out of various parts of your prostate, to see if they can strike cancer. In recent years, I’ve had two of those with no cancer to be found.

But in my most recent blood work, I must have hit a magic number, which trigged getting an MRI and undergoing an “Artemis Biopsy”, which includes the traditional 12 plugs plus 3 bonus plugs that are taken out of the area where the MRI showed as suspicious. Once again, the 12 were fine, but the bonus plugs put me in that fast-growing club nobody wants to belong to.

The really good news: the cancer appeared to be confined to the prostate and I somehow managed to get the slowest growing cancer available. If you were going to have cancer, this is the one to get.

What’s next? Homework. My urologist ran through all of the treatment possibilities and instructed me to set up consults with two different doctors–one, in case I wanted to go the surgery route and the other, for radiation. Those are in the works.

An almost-relative and retired Seattle urologist graciously offered to look at my lab results and come to our home (yeah, a doctor making an actual house call), taking my wife and I through each possible procedure, the pro’s and con’s of each and answered all of our questions. I’m sure there will be more.

I also wanted to talk to people I knew who had been down this road before. I have a high school buddy that I’ve stayed in touch with, as well as another friend, all of us the same age, both who had to deal with this challenge. They each were diagnosed with stage 4 prostate cancer but, after Proton treatments, they appeared to have beaten it. Or, so I thought. After having lunch today with my high school buddy, even though he was zapped 6 years ago and considered cured, the cancer came back with a vengeance. Once again, he’s fighting stage 4.

I don’t need to go into details on what happens with the surgery or the radiation treatments, but as one friend said, “Things just aren’t going to be the same again.” The first couple of days after finding out I actually had it, I went from sad, to angry, to depressed, to overwhelmed. There are a lot of decisions to come over the next couple of weeks and then, whatever happens with treatment. Again, with having the slowest-growing variety, I don’t have to rush my decision. But when you’re hearing about the after-effects of which ever direction I go and hear things like “incontinence” and “impotence” and other i-words, frankly, it rattles your world.

My dad had prostate cancer very late in life. So late, the doctor said that he would die of something else before the prostate cancer took him and they were right. He was diagnosed in his late 80s, I’m in my late 60s. I don’t understand why my prostate was in such a hurry.

At this point, I’m going to do everything in my power to continue doing all the things I do and then deal with this in my spare time. It’s therapeutic to dive into my comedy-writing, advertising, video production and all the things I love to do because I actually forget this is even going on. Until I notice that piece of paper to my left which reminds me of the appointments I still need to set up.

I’ve still got a Julebord to emcee this Friday, an annual Christmas CD to put together and I’m working on another holiday parody song with Alana Baxter, plus getting out the annual Christmas letter, the Christmas cards, gotta grab a tree and do some shopping. There’s a lot of really good, fun, positive stuff coming and I’m going to enjoy every minute of it.

While also dealing with the elephant in my prostate.

Well, here we go!

Tim Hunter