It’s Christmastime again

Well, here we are once more.

The calendars are running out of days, we’re about to shift from fall to winter, and the various forms of Christmas surround us.

Some might say there is only one Christmas, but look around at what we go through every year. It’s an annual blend of “Awesome! Isn’t this great!” and “Oh, my God. How am I ever going to get all this done?” Add in, “No, we’re going to do it THIS way” or, “No, we were with your family last year” and there are unlimited combinations of ways for it to go wrong.

Christmas has become a blend of joyous events, parties, Santa pictures, holiday treats and gatherings, paired with deadlines, stress, expectations and hardline requirements on what makes a perfect Christmas.

Oh, I have a perfect Christmas in mind. It would be me and my kids and their kids all gathered at the house, with grandma getting a chance to see her descendants in person instead of just on Facebook. But grandma lives in California and these days, traveling is just not an option. Both my kids and their families are playing it safe and minimizing their holiday celebrations, out of concern for the safety of themselves and the family. I get it. Perfection will have to wait for another year.

Over the years, very, very few Christmas celebrations have ever been perfect. But if you look for the good, think of all those great moments you did get to experience. I start with those days as a child, when I was the one so anxious to see what Santa had brought me. Then suddenly, you find yourself a parent and get a front-row view as a dad. I remember driving one night in the Bothell area on our way home from somewhere when I saw the flashing red light on a tower at the Country Village Shopping Center. The kids were in the back seat and I pointed out the light, saying, “Look! It’s Rudolph’s nose! That means Santa is on his way. We better get home and get you to bed!”

What a great, great moment.

This year, even more than in previous years, there are ample ways for things to go south. Some families want to still get together regardless of the threat of COVID, while others are hunkering down, hopeful that playing it safe will keep them safe.

I think what a lot of people are missing is that every year, a great Christmas and a complete disaster are both there for our choosing. We can expect holiday perfection and be disappointed, or focus on just the good things that occur during this time of year.

I’m all about the latter. I’m doing everything in my power to cherish the festive lights, the great wine, the movies we watch again, the music that churns up the memories. Folks, it’s Christmas and if you need a little mental attitude adjustment, may I recommend listening to my holiday blend of music and fun this year, called Ho Ho Brother 20. It’s the 20th year I’ve put together one of these collections, and I feel it’s my best one yet. But then again, I say that every year.

Here’s to a healthy & happy holiday season. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to put my imagination to work so I can spend a few minutes at that perfect Christmas I told you about earlier.

Yeah, that’s nice.

Tim Hunter

Here Come The Holidays

I’m writing this on the final day of November. December arrives tomorrow and, as is tradition, the first week is the one to survive.

I want to say that in years past, I was even busier. However, these days, I took the remaining items on that first weekend list and intensified them.

You see, in “the old days”, the first weekend of December included emceeing Julebord–a Norwegian Christmas dinner at the Seattle Golf Club. Saturday would involve being the town crier at the Country Village Shopping Center, where I would run around, ring a bell, and announce the arrival of Santa. Then, on the Sunday of that first weekend of December, the Norwegian Ladies Chorus of Seattle would have their annual Christmas concert. A pretty darn packed three days of the weekend.

Well, Country Village is gone and soon to be townhouses. The Ladies Chorus has moved their concert to a virtual one on December 18th. (and all I used to do was videotape the concert. Not happening this year) On paper, this has all the makings of me being days away from an easy weekend, right? Pffft!

Because we can’t gather this year for Julebord, it has become a virtual event. And I have gone from saying a few jokes and singing a silly song to producing a YouTube event, complete with 30-minute countdown, the main show and an “after party.”

Oh and did I mention (and I know I didn’t) that vacant Saturday night has been filled with the Bothell Kenmore Chamber Annual Auction, during which I’ll be auctioneering from my home. There’s something else planned for Sunday, I’m just choosing to not remember what it is at the moment.

So, for me, I’ll begin to relax this weekend when I put the finishing touches on the video that will air on Friday for Julebord. I’ll be doing that Thursday night. By the way, this year because it’s virtual, the event will be open to anyone and will be broadcast on YouTube this Friday afternoon, starting at 3:30pm PST. This will really give you an idea of what goes on at the annual event, one that sells out every year and with a pretty pricey admission ($120 for non-members). But like I said, this year is free so if you can join us, just shoot me an email (tim@wackyweek.com) and I’ll make sure you get the YouTube address.

Then, after this week, I’ll get back to relaxing by putting together my annual Christmas CD and get those Christmas cards out.

Oh, and for those of you wondering, yes, there will be another song with the talented Alana Baxter. As a matter of fact, I’m dragging her into the whole Julebord thing, to combine efforts. For those unfamiliar with our annual holiday collaborations, here are the videos we’ve done over the years.

Basically, I like to do as much as I can while I can. I know the day is coming where someone will ask me, “Don’t you miss all that stuff you used to do during the holiday season?” and of course, my response will be, “I’m sorry. What was the question?”

Tim Hunter

HO HO BROTHER 19–Quid Pro Ho

Well, I did it again. For the 19th consecutive year.

Let’s go back to where it all started, in 1999. I was playing radio as part of the Murdock, Hunter and Alice morning show on 92.5-KLSY in Seattle. Technology was beginning to pick up some serious speed. We had these cellular phone things that allowed you to make phone calls from practically anywhere if you were willing to carry the big battery it came with. It was the beginning of the digital world as we watched records and ‘carts’ replaced with amazingly clear compact discs or ‘CD’s.’

I have had several technology gurus over the years, going back to the early 1980s when I paid $1200 for a computer that ran DOS and had a monochrome monitor.  My neighbor Paul generously helped me learn all about them.

Over time, another neighbor in another neighborhood who worked at Microsoft came to my rescue more than once. Neil was a godsend as I took risks, screwed things up, but thanks to his tutelage, I learned what I did wrong and my computer know-how grew by leaps & bounds.

But it was as the century closed that Rick Taylor, the Sandusky radio chain I.T. guy, handed me a CD of Christmas music he had put together. “You what?  You found songs and then made your own CD? Tell me more.” And he did.

With enough knowledge to be dangerous, I created my first Christmas CD of holiday fun and favorites: HO HO BROTHER 1. It was a mishmash of Christmas songs, sentimental and goofy, while weaving in some of the Christmas bits I had produced over my radio career.  It was well received, and so the following Christmas I did another. And another. And another.

This became one of my Christmas traditions and I challenged myself to find songs you probably had never heard before, or different versions of the old classics, as well as creating original comedy, all blended together in a non-stop 68-minute Christmas-palooza. My self imposed rule was to never use the same version of the same song twice. In time, I even incorporated an original Christmas parody song that I wrote and local singer Alana Baxter recorded. We would even produce a music video to go along with it.

My goal was always to create a holiday experience that you could pop into a CD player and a little over an hour later, find yourself fully immersed in what this time of year was all about.

These days, I’ve got it down to a system. In fact, from the minute I put the finishing touches on the current year’s collection, I start stashing songs for next year’s compilation.

Here’s this year’s lineup:

HO HO BROTHER 2019—Quid Pro Ho

1) Dr. Phil’s Opening Big (Fred Bugg)

2) “Sugar & Booze” Ana Gasteyer

3) “I’ll be home for Christmas” Lea Michele with Jonathon Groff

4) “Christmas Tree” Meg & Dia

5) “Frosty the Snowman” Shannon & Keast

6) “Santa Stole My Lady” Fitz & the Tantrums

7) 1-877 SLAS-4-ELVS (Me)

8) “Christmas Cookies” Oak Ridge Boys

9) “Finally it’s Christmas!”   Hanson

10) “Colgate Tooth Powder Commercial”

11) “That’s What I Want For Christmas”   Shirley Temple

12) “I Love Christmas” Tommy James

14) “Little Drummer Boy”   Pink Martini

15) “A Willie Nice Christmas” Kacey Musgraves with Willie Nelson

16) “Merry Merry Christmas” John Legend

17) “Beer, Joy of Man’s Desiring” Christmas With Beer

18) “Santa Claus is Coming To Town”   Tommy Dorsey & Orchestra, Cliff Weston & Edythe Wright

19) “Christmas Comes But Once A Year”   Joe Bonamassa

20) “Jingle Bells” The Ray Conniff Singers

21) “Some Day At Christmas” Alana Baxter

22) “It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas”   Bing Crosby

23) “Mele Kalikimaka”   Chris Isaak

24) “O Come All Ye Faithful”   Susan Boyle with Elvis Presley

25) “I Believe In Father Christmas”   Greg Lake with Ian Anderson

26) “Walken In A Winter Wonderland”   (Scott Burns)

 

I’m really proud of this year’s edition. I stumbled across a Tommy James Christmas song he did that’s a lot of fun that I had never even heard of before.  There’s a Shirley Temple tune that brings back some childhood memories.  There are modern entries, some classics and two of my radio brothers bringing their best for the Dr. Phil open (Fred Bugg) and and Christopher Walken close (Scott Burns).  I am truly blessed.  Yeah, and that’s me not being able to resist doing 1-877-SLAS-4-ELVS.

With all the being said, enjoy this year’s collection right here.  Just click on it to listen, or right click it to save on your computer. Put it on your phone and you have a Christmas party to go!

And now with another shift in the technology, CD’s are going away, but I still make a few for those who still have players. Here’s what this year’s label looks like:

The little girl is from a photo taken in 1950s Seattle, as she gazed at all the dolls in Frederick & Nelson’s window.

I still don’t have a new song written for Alana yet this year, but we’ll pull it off again somehow. It always works out.  Last year, we did the “Someday at Christmas” you find on this year’s HO HO and filmed the video at Bothell’s Country Village, which is no more. It’s where I was a town crier and welcomed Santa most of the last 17 years. It’s amazing how quickly things we do become things we used to do.

That’s why I cherish this time of year and probably go overboard in holiday commitments and activities. But you know, one day, those will be the things I’ll remember that I used to do.

Make it count. Yeah, it’s not even Thanksgiving yet, but it’s going to be a short holiday season, so let’s get this show on the road.

Merry Christmas.

Tim Hunter

PS Oh, and yeah, here’s last year’s Alana Baxter video. Enjoy!

 

The Hardest Christmas Tradition

Look, for starters, I love Christmas. I’m a bit of a Christmas nut. Love the songs, the love traditions, feel it’s not Christmas if I haven’t over-done the house. You know, that kind of a Christmas guy.

I write up a family Christmas letter with an assist from my wife, mail out cards to over a hundred people, and put together a Christmas CD that has become a tradition. This year, I produced the 17th annual edition of “Ho Ho Brother” and, if I may say, it was my best version yet.  I’m already working on the 2018 version.

But something I also took on several years ago was doing a Christmas parody song about the holiday season. Through my Destination Marketing buddy Scott Burns (actually, radio brothers who never had the chance to work together on the air), I met a local singer named Alana Baxter.  I would write the lyrics, Scott helped me record and mix her songs, I experimented and learned about shooting video and while they were rough, we still managed to pull off some pretty good holiday tunes, including “It’s Silent Night”,  “He rides a sleigh”, (yes, that’s me in the cow costume), “I won’t hate you very much tonight (It’s Christmas)”, and the salute to the Starbucks holiday cup debacle, “Where are you Christmas?” .

But lately, the project has gotten pretty challenging. Alana got a medical degree and moved to Hawaii. Last year, while she was in town for the holidays, I managed to write and record a song with her, called “All I need for Christmas (is booze)”. Fun concept, but we hurried through it. I wrote it quickly, she came over and recorded it with the idea of releasing it this year. However, when it came to put it all together, while listening to the tracks, it just wasn’t up to par. So, I called in some Hawaii radio favors and connections (thanks, Chip Begay and Dan Deeb), Alana slipped into a studio and I got some in-tune, fresh vocal tracks. I had already put in 5 hours mixing down a preemptive video, but when the vocal tracks didn’t match the old version, I had to start from scratch.

12+ hours of remixing and re-editing of video later, we have a song. I hope you enjoy it. “All I need for Christmas (is booze)” is too late for this year’s Christmas CD, but it has inspired me to already begin working on the 2018 edition, which will include this.

It wasn’t easy, but totally worth the effort to keep the tradition alive–here is Alana Baxter and “All I want for Christmas (is booze)”.

 

Merry Christmas to all!

Tim Hunter

HO HO BROTHER 2017

Somehow, I managed to pull off another one.

At a time of year when commitments and gatherings and parties consume my calendar, I decided to add on traditions that are incredibly time-consuming, but oh, so rewarding.

One of them is an annual Christmas CD, that I gave the name Ho Ho Brother.  In the late 1990s, I was working with an I.T. guy named Rick Taylor at KLSY.  Rick was my ambassador to the techie world, which I had a fascination with, but limited time to explore. I believe it was in 1998, he gave me a Christmas collection of songs that he had rounded up and burned to a CD. Some odd ones, some funny ones and some sentimental favorites. The following year, he burned a Christmas CD complete with fancy label that featured all Jewish singers that sang Christmas songs. Bottom line, the technology existed that we could collect songs or anything pre-recorded, put it together and then give to family and friends to spread Christmas cheer.

I loved the concept, so in 2000, I produced my very first collection, Ho Ho Brother. This year (for those of you lousy at math), I’ve put the finishing touches on Ho Ho Brother 17.  The secret formula isn’t that secret–it’s a blend of comedy bits, new and old, holiday classics, fresh new songs you may not even know existed and with a personal goal of not repeating any of the recordings I’ve used before. I think a couple of repeats have slipped in during the past 17 years, but I’m of the opinion if I don’t remember, why should you?

I know that the days of CD’s are waning, but I’m still burning them for those who have CD players. Reality hit me this year when I bought a new Hyundai Ioniq that didn’t have a CD player in it. The move is to digital, but since everyone is not there yet, I still hand out these CD’s to friends and family as a holiday spiff. Something festive and to a few, unexpected. It’s fun to watch the first-timers get a puzzled look and say, “So, what is this?”  But I love giving it to the people who have been looking forward to the latest edition and comment that they were just listening to a previous year’s Ho Ho Brother while decorating their home.

One of the regular contributions I love to include in this mix is an original song and, this year, I’m sorry to say, that didn’t happen. Well, it did, but it didn’t. My regular singer, Alana Baxter, got her medical degree and headed off to Hawaii.  We managed to record her voice last year while she was home and I had all the intentions of including our new song, “All I want for Christmas is booze.” But, after carefully listening to it, we weren’t pleased with the voice.  So, thanks to connections over on the islands, I was able to sneak her into a studio last week to re-record the voice.  I will have that song and matching video for you in next week’s blog, but it was just too late for this year’s CD if I wanted it to reach distant relatives by Christmas.

That’s how it was meant to be, I guess. I’m already working on next year’s CD and song in an attempt to be even more ready for 2018. And, of course, that is when I’ll include Alana’s latest holiday hit.  I’ll get more into that next week.

For now, here’s this year’s Ho Ho Brother collection for you to download, put on your phone or computer and enjoy.

Click to play or right click here to “Save As” audio to your Mac or PC

Right click here to download the playlist

Apply generously and enjoy.

Merry Christmas to all!

Tim Hunter

The Calm Before The Holiday Storm

My wife made the comment just this morning: “Can you believe it’s just a little over two weeks until Thanksgiving?”

After decades of going through this ritualistic season, you’d think we’d be better at it. But like clockwork, you’ll hear the same things, year after year:

  • “It’s too early to decorate for Christmas”
  • “I’m waiting until after Thanksgiving.”
  • “Your holiday party is that night, too?’
  • “Outside decorations are up. That’s all you’re getting this year.”
  • “When are we getting the tree?”
  • “Are we doing cards this year?”
  • “When’s the mail deadline?”
  • “I haven’t had time to shop!”
  • “I’m so stressed out!
  • “How am I ever going to get all those presents wrapped?”
  • “I can’t believe it’s over.”

Seriously, you’ve heard ’em all before. But I do have to say, in spite of our really busy personal schedules with work tossed in, I think I’m doing a decent job of actually enjoying the holiday season. I do have over-achieving as a goal, but somehow each year I pull it off and it’s just about time to fire up the engines again.

Here’s my collection of annual holiday “duties” I thrust upon myself. (because I know that one day, I’ll look back and remember when I used to do all this)

The N.A.C.C. Julebord–I began attending this when I married Victoria, the uber-Norwegian. It’s an annual lunchtime gala at the Seattle Golf Club that is decadent and extremely fun. Within a couple of years, the elderly emcee had to give up the microphone and I was called into service. I think this is my 6th Julebord (pronounced YULE-uh-BOARD). It’s actually a pretty cushy gig and let’s me get being a goofball out of my system. I do a brief monologue at the beginning which evolves into me doing a parody song about something. Then it’s just keeping the event moving along, with songs, door prizes and a tad bit of drinking.

SANTA CLAUS ARRIVAL AT BOTHELL’S COUNTRY VILLAGE SHOPPING CENTER–I believe I’m in my 14th year (at least) of hosting this event. My evening duties begin at 6pm when I stroll the village dressed up like a town crier, “Hear ye! Hear ye!” bell and all, announcing that Santa Claus arrives at 7pm.  Back when I started, Santa’s sleigh actually flew in on a wire, but eventually, the liability became too much. I’ll never forget the year that someone parked right in the flight path and I led the crowd in a “Tow that car!” chant until they eventually did. Longest 25 minutes of my life. The event means even more to me because we’re down to the final two Christmas’s where I’ll be doing this. The village has been sold and after the 2018 Santa arrival, the place will become history.

THE NORWEGIAN LADIES CHORUS OF SEATTLE HOLIDAY CONCERT–What I love most about this is I just have to show up. I usually go up in the rafters and videotape the concert and, much like country village, this could be a limited-time tradition. Our Redeemer’s Lutheran Church in Ballard–where we were married–is going to be undergoing a massive renovation in the near future, which includes taking down the choir loft.

Those first three events happen in order on the first weekend of December–Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I also take on–

MY ANNUAL CHRISTMAS CD–The days of it actually being a CD are limited as well. In fact, only a select few will be burned this year, as the world moves towards digital music. This will be my 17th edition of “HO HO BROTHER”, which features fun, festive and funny Christmas songs, along with some original comedy bits from either my radio past, or new ones. If you’d be interested in getting this year’s collection, just let me know and I’ll put you on the naughty list.

MY ANNUAL CHRISTMAS MUSIC VIDEO–This is probably the most ambitious thing I do and I need to get going on it. I hooked up with a young singer named Alana Baxter some years ago and we have done a series of silly Christmas songs, complete with video. Now, since she has relocated to Hawaii, it’s made the task even more challenging. So what we did last year was to record this year’s song. I’ve got her voice track.  I’ll just have to round up some video and be creative and then we’ll have another one to add to the collection. Her song is also usually included with my Christmas CD collection. If you’d like to enjoy some of our previous works, here you go!

“It’s Silent Night”           “He Rides a Sleigh”            “I Won’t Hate You Very Much Tonight (It’s Christmas)”           “Where are You Christmas?”

Add to all that the holiday shopping, the annual parties, a Bothell Wine Walk, watching some favorite Christmas movies, getting out the Christmas cards (we’re STILL doing that) and everything else that crops up and yes, we are heading into one, busy, festive season.

But as I said, there will come a time when I’ll be reflecting back on these days and all of this will be nothing more than my ghosts of Christmas past.

So, I’m just going to enjoy the heck out of them while it’s all a part of my present.

Ho, friggin’, Ho!

Tim Hunter

A Visit From #1

christmas-tim

For as long as I can remember, watching “A Christmas Carol” has become a mandatory experience every December.

Last night, we watched the George C. Scott version. Christmas cannot arrive without experience my favorite version with Alistair Sim. The Jim Carrey animated one was better than I thought it would be.  There’s also the original 1938 rendition with Reginald Owen. Patrick Stewart, there’s a Mickey Mouse version, even “Scrooged” with Bill Murray dances around the plotline: a jaded person is changed by being visited by three spirits. (four, if you don’t include the messenger, Jacob Marley)

Spirit #2 was sent to make Scrooge more aware of the world around him in the present day. Spirit #3 had the job of showing him what would happen if he didn’t change his ways. The best job of the trio–Spirit #1. In the days before home movies, he showed Mr. Grumpy Pants those special moments of his life that he had pushed away.

I like to imagine the stories that Spirit #1 would show me, if he ever pays me a visit:

The year of the train set.  When my parents decided I was old enough, they went to Sears and bought a scale model train set. I don’t remember if it came on the board, but my dad took a sheet of plywood, mounted the tracks and painted grass and a lake in the middle so that I could watch it go ’round and ’round.

The year of the bike. I was old enough to ride, so the Sears replica of a Schwinn Sting Ray (can you tell, we were a Sears family) showed up one year, compliments of Santa. It’s a stretch, but I can remember using the planter out in the front of our house to gain my balance and launch off down the street.

The year of the no hockey set. I remember clearly asking Santa in my letter for a hockey set. You know, those table-top things that you played by sliding rods and twisting them. It looked so fun on TV. The kids were smiling and laughing. But Christmas morning, no hockey set. Thinking about it, that could have been one of my uber-naughty years. Never mind.

Going to church. Yeah, we spent a lot of time there. Every Sunday. Every Advent service. Christmas Eve. Christmas Day. New Year’s Eve. New Year’s Day. I have to say, there’s nothing more torturous than waking up to see what Santa brought you, seeing a pile of presents under a tree and then having to wait until after church to open them. It did make the gift-giving last longer, I suppose.

The Snow Man Family. We lived in southern California. I’d bet that we spent most of our Christmas Days in 70-degree weather. But one year, my dad bought some designs (kind of like McCall’s for men) that you glued on to plywood and then mounted in your front yard.  He made a snowman, snow woman, two snow kids and a snow dog. And to make it even cooler, he bought fiberglass snow.  You’d roll it out on your lawn and it would look like snow. Well, it did the first year. You couldn’t walk on it, or it would get the snow dirty. And even then, after a couple of seasons, it looked more like old snow and we eventually tossed it out and just planted the family in our grass.

I’m excited because a couple of decades ago, I bought the same pattern, but never got around to making my own Mr. & Mrs. Snowman. In between all the madness this year, I’m attempting to bring them to life by this weekend. I’ll let you know if I succeed next week with pictures.

The Holiday Food. OK, we ate well as kids, especially in the Christmas cookie department. My mom made some incredible treats, and I’ll try to remember as many as I can:

  • Chow Mein Noodles. Sounds weird, but imagine chocolate or butterscotch-covered chow mein noodles with Spanish peanuts thrown in. Pretty tasty.
  • Coconut Balls. Chocolate-covered shredded coconut and I seem to remember an edible wax being put in the chocolate to help it firm up. No wonder I can put a wick in my mouth and it’ll burn for a week.
  • Peanut Butter Rolls. Taking a break for a moment from covering everything in chocolate, these were made with powdered sugar and mashed potatoes. Then, once you have that rolled out, you spread peanut butter on it, roll it and then slice it. The peanuts gave it protein, so it was a healthy snack.
  • Pfeffernusse. I think that’s the name. Kind of a ginger-bread cookie, apparently German-style, covered in powdered sugar. They weren’t my favorite, but I believe it was my grandmother’s recipe, so I had to honor the tradition. I should be thankful I wasn’t Norwegian. It could have been chocolate-covered lutefisk.

As for the main course in Christmas dinners, it was either a turkey or some kind of special Yugoslavian ham that dad was able to get through his work connections at United Airlines.

After growing up and having a family of my own, I did experiment one year when I was going through a serious Dickens phase, and actually prepared a Christmas goose along with oyster stuffing. It became known as the year nobody ate except me.

The Doll House.  Now, I’m one of the parents. The Great Idea Department thought it would be a wonderful surprise for our daughter, Christina, to wake up to a spectacular new doll house. I mean, on the box, it was beautiful. But to aid in the surprise, we waited until the kids went to bed before opening the box to assemble it.  That’s when we realized it was more of a model, than a toy. I’m talking individual shingles that each needed to be glued to the roof. I believe we went to bed that year around 3am.

OK, the ghosts of Christmas Present and Future got tired of waiting and left. But actually, who needs ’em?  If you live in the present, that puts Ghost #2 out of work and really, Ghost #3 is just trying to scare you from a worst-case syndrome. If you’re living in the present, as you should, you’re in control of your life and the future will happen as it should.

Thanks for letting me drag you along through these holiday home movies and may I encourage you to set up a meeting with Ghost #1. I’ve already nabbed him for another appointment next week. Grab him before he gets too busy.

Merry Christmas.

Tim Hunter