Working from Home (With Dogs)

By Anita Garner

These aren’t my dogs. They belong to my daughter, Cathleen and granddaughter, Caedan Ray, and I’m babysitting them.

They’re both rescues. I believe Charlie’s some kind of terrier mixed with other stuff.  Benny’s chihuahua and something else. I can testify that Benny is mostly mouth.  You look at this tiny body and wonder where does that big sound come from?

Charlie Brown came from a shelter years ago. She was named by four-year-old Caedan at Christmas time.  Benny came later and Cath insisted it was her turn to choose the name. If you know how much Cath loves Benecio del Toro, there’s where you’ll find the answer.

I’m a writer working in an office in the far corner of the house.  I don’t speak dog as well as Cath and Caedan do.  Here’s a glimpse of my average work day.  This is not an exaggeration.  Don’t even ask about the day the garbage trucks come, three different trucks for three different bins.

Every time you see the word “Benny” below, please know these are very loud barks.  Charlie has a small woof, but is equally insistent about pawing the leg of the person in the desk chair.

Benny – MAIL!

I get up and check the mailbox.  Nope.

Benny:  I MEANT MAIL TRUCK IS JUST AROUND THE CORNER AND MIGHT BE HERE SOON!

Charlie:  Paw paw paw on the knee.

Me:  What?  Do you need outside?  I open the door.  Nobody goes out.

Benny: WOMAN WITH A STROLLER OUTSIDE!

Me.  Benny, please be quiet.

Charlie: Paw Paw Paw

Me:  Do you need outside?  Up again and open the door.  Nope, she was asking for a friend.  It’s Benny who needs out and gets Charlie to ask me.  Benny goes out and immediately runs back in to say,

Benny: BOY ON A SKATEBOARD!

Me:  Please be quiet.

Benny: DOG WALKING BY!  WAIT!  IT’S TWO DOGS AND A PERSON!

Me.  Benny, stop.

Charlie: Paw paw paw on the knee

Me:  You don’t need out.  Benny doesn’t need out.  The mailman isn’t here.  It’s okay for other people to walk around the neighborhood.  WHAT?

Charlie: Skips out to the kitchen.  Woofs by the fridge.  Translation:  Do we have any more of those tiny carrots in the veggie crisper?

Me:  Here ya go, Charles.  Here ya go, Ben. Good doggies.

Even Pinocchio would be impressed by the number of whoppers people tell their dogs.

*****

 

 

The Leisure Seeker

By Anita Garner

When we named this website a long time ago, I’ll bet we thought we’d write more about aging than we actually do.  It turns out Dave and I are both fortunate to still be busy doing stuff, but we’re also aware this aging thing is happening, even when we’re not writing about it.

When I was young, aging was an abstract notion.  Nothing to do with me.  I knew old people.  I liked them.  They reminded me I’d be old someday.  If I had given it more thought, I’d probably have hoped to look more like Helen Mirren.

Aging and how it’s represented in the world is a crucial issue to me now.  It comes with a set of complications I’m not sure we really experience until it happens to us, to someone in our family, to friends whose lives are changed forever by what they can’t do.

Along comes my book club – first one I’ve joined in decades.  My turn to host is coming up.  I choose The Leisure Seeker, by Michael Zadoorian, and not just because it was turned into a movie with Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland.  The movie’s good. The book continues to percolate around in my head and heart.

It’s about this couple who find themselves old and with no choices.  But they make a choice anyway and we’re off with them doing what they decided to do about it.  Road trip. Route 66 plays a big role, and that resonates for me.  I spent years of my childhood on that road.  These two aren’t pretending they’re young.  They’re just taking one last shot at deciding for themselves how they’ll be old.

I read up on Michael Zadoorian. He’s a writer who loves radio, works in advertising, and has  driven every bit of Route 66 that still exists.  He writes with compassion and elegance and truth.  I’ll be reading his other books now.

Michael Zadoorian
writer of mighty fine books

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The Way You Make Me Feel

By Anita Garner

We’re not supposed to judge, but of course we judge.  Sometimes it’s to set standards for ourselves, even if we don’t declare it that way.  Sometimes it’s simply based on a feeling we get around certain people.

Aren’t we always forming judgments?  Don’t we have to, in order to establish values?  And if we stick to ours, sometimes we can’t stick with a relationship. When I leave you, if I feel slightly soiled because of the things you said or the way you treated people or just the way you are in the world,  that begins to feel like a reflection on me and my choices.

Some people work hard to make us feel good about ourselves because it’s good for business.  I have no quarrel with that.  Professional niceness goes a long way.  I’m always going to prefer to sit in the section of the coffee shop where the server smiles and seems glad to see me.

A few years back, a close friend had stopped driving so I took him on his errands. He insisted on doing business in person with people who knew his name.  If they weren’t working when we stopped by, he asked about their schedules and said he’d return when they were there.  If they were busy with someone else, he’d wait.

He wanted only to be with people who made him feel good, who greeted him, remembered him.  We drove around so he could hand them his bank deposit, pay his bills in person, wait in the line at Safeway for his favorite checker.

The people who make me feel good about myself don’t have to do it with flattery. That only works some of the time.  If it always worked, we’d never learn any other approach to interactions. If that worked, every stranger with a sales pitch would be our new best friend.

I like to listen to how people treat others.  Some people do it so well they create behavior that actually leaves behind calm and positive feelings.  It’s aspirational on my part. I want to be more like that more often, so I need to be around it.

When I leave wondering why I’ve spent time with you, it diminishes my opinion of my own values and eventually I’ll need to eject myself from the relationship.  I can’t always get away from the source of the discomfort, but I can limit my exposure by raising an emotional barrier.

Maybe it’s not just you.  Maybe it’s not just me.   But it’s definitely me with you that has to change.

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When an artist makes a Christmas gift.

By Anita Garner

From artist, Steve Bradford

This right here is a tile.  A very heavy tile.  Aged and glazed and whatever else are the processes by which it turned into artwork.  It’s evocative.  It’s personal.  It’s rustic, which suits my taste perfectly. It’s everything a gift can be when someone talented and thoughtful has an idea and the ability to execute it.

And so it came to pass this Christmas Eve, this arrived from a studio in Maine, carefully packaged, along with a duplicate tile.  I reached the artist to let him know I’m astonished and grateful.

This is the original artwork for my play, The Glory Road, which is about to become the book, The Glory Road, and the artwork appears on everything to do with the story so far, script books, manuscript submissions, correspondence, websites – everything.

I love it.  Of course I was curious about the duplicate tile in the package.  Steve said the first one he made didn’t survive the process, so he made two in case that happened again.  He said when The Glory Road gets famous, I can give the second one as a gift to someone who’s been helpful in launching these projects.

Daughter, Cathleen, and The Grand came into the office to look at this new addition to my Steve Bradford collection and I was explaining what he said about the duplicate.  I’d only gotten to the part about how I could present it to someone who helped, when Cath took it and said thank you with her best award-show-acceptance face.

 

 

Broadcast people – don’t they beat all!

By Anita Garner

Broadcasters are some of the most talented people I know.  They’re doing their radio and television stuff, then a whole bunch more.  Standup comedy, voicing characters in cartoons, writing plays and movies, acting in them, producing and directing, singing and writing songs and playing instruments, painting pictures, writing newspaper columns and stories and books and on and on.

I’m in awe of the variety of talent among my colleagues, and after years of attending their performances and reading their writing you’d think I’d be used to it, but once in a while there’s another sweet surprise.

I met Allan Hotlen in San Francisco in the 80’s when he was Program Director at KSFO (studios in the beautiful Fairmont Hotel. Sigh.)  We talked about doing something together.  I was living on the slope-y part of Green Street between North Beach and Russian Hill, floating all over town, soaking up a life I loved, in talks with KOIT radio (studios on beautiful Maiden Lane. Sigh) about doing a show for them.

Before either KSFO or KOIT could happen, Gene Autry’s Golden West Broadcasting sold KSFO and it would be “going in another direction.” KBIG Los Angeles (sister station of KOIT) made me an offer I thought I’d better not refuse.  Allan moved away.  I went to L.A.

Years later, I was producing and hosting Something Special, a syndicated show, and choosing songs for a Christmas special when I came across  Christmas Isn’t Christmas Without You, a song I loved that wasn’t played often enough. The composer listed was Allan Hotlen.  With two l’s. Could this be radio Allan I’d met in The City By The Bay?

It was.  He was then across town, programming a Los Angeles radio station.   Yes, he said, he did write that song  with Peter DeAngelis.  I asked if he’d record an introduction for the Christmas special and he did.

This year, listening to Christmas music, I played his song and started to click over to Facebook to say hello, then decided to say hello this way, right here.  So, hello dear Allan.  Thank you for years of good radio and for this beautiful song.

Click the picture to play the song.

“Christmas Isn’t Christmas Without You”
Written by Allan Hotlen
Sung by Wayne Newton

 

 

The Last of KFWB’s Seven Swinging Gentlemen has something else to say.

By Anita Garner

Elliot Field onstage – 1950’s

It’s Hollywood in the 1950’s.  It’s the high school cruise.  We’re up and down Hollywood Boulevard then looping over to Sunset and back.   We’re listening to the radio and sticking our heads out car windows, greeting students from other towns whose radios are also blasting KFWB.

KFWB’s disc jockeys, the Seven Swinging Gentlemen, are celebrities.  We know where the studios are and we know we aren’t allowed up there on the second floor at 6419 Hollywood Blvd., but we like being close to the stardust, so we honk each time we pass  the building.

Decades later, I met Elliot Field, the last of the Gentlemen, through Don Barrett, Los Angeles radio guru, and we were immediately friends and collaborators on two books.

Conversations with Elliot are adventures. He’s multi-talented.  He’s brilliant.  He’s feisty.  And who gets to have hair like this in his 90’s?

Now he’s talking about a new book.  He’s written a few pages and do I want to hear?  What he read to me a few days ago is visceral and beautiful.  Do I think we should do this one more time?  He has things he’d like to say.  About being one of the early polio cases during the gruesome era of iron lungs and leg braces.

As told in his first book, getting the job at KFWB presented challenges none of us listeners knew about.  The fact that the Hollywood Boulevard studios were on the second floor meant planning ahead to navigate steps in heavy metal braces to get to the microphone in time to do his show.

He’d like to share some thoughts on what life is like now, about how polio affects aging and vice versa.  I urged him to do it because when Elliot tells a story, it’s worth listening to.  His goal this time is to write brief essays about different aspects of his life in Palm Springs today and he’s offering to share his experiences with individuals and organizations that can use the information.

One worry he has  about putting together a new book is losing the word he’s reaching for.  He said when we started this phone conversation he had a word in mind and now it was gone.  Did I think we could put together a book, even if he loses a word now and then?  Yes I do. I’ll try to help fetch lost words.  One idea – I can be his thesaurus, suggesting words until one comes close. Another device that might work – changing the subject, stop grasping for the missing word and see if it’ll drift back in.  We agreed to get started and were about to say goodbye when he said,

“Dinosaur.”

“Pardon?”

“Dinosaur.  That’s the word I was looking for.  That’s what I am,” he said. “Not complaining.  Just stating a fact.”

Timeless.  Wise.  Witty.  Those are words I’d suggest.

In his first book, Elliot wanted to end with his greatest hope, staying vertical, so here’s where we left off.  Stay tuned for the next chapter.

Vertical

It’s the last leaf in the plant pot.
It stands up straight and tall and proud.
I so admire its presence and strength.
The other leaves are bent, bowed, and almost horizontal.
One is vertical.
I’ve always admired vertical.
I think vertical is worth the effort.
It’s not an easy way.
It’s not uncomplicated.
But, I’ve always felt it’s worth the effort.
I water and feed Mister Vertical.
He responds with strength.
The other leaves also get water and food.
I’m always hoping they’ll stand up.
One of them is really making an effort.
We know the time will come when all of the leaves will lie down,
Will rest forever.
Meanwhile, I’m feeding all of them,
And cheering on the survivors.

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It’s the lights. It’s the music. It’s the coffee. It’s the season.

By Anita Garner

I’m not a good shopper nor an artistic gift-wrapper and am sometimes running late before reaching full immersion in the spirit of the holidays.  However, I do feel fairly confident a few December rituals will eventually turn things around.  Early in the morning, while it’s still dark, I plug in the office lights, turn on the Christmas music and coffee my way toward daylight.  While Willie sings “Pretty Paper,” I’d love to share another couple of favorite spirit boosters.

Visiting the lights in whatever place makes a heart feel at home.  That works for me.  Cities that twinkle all over, or a little tree and a country cabin, I’ll take either.  Before I had the opportunity to live in the Bay Area, I declared San Francisco my favorite city and visited often.  Then I moved across the Bay where it’s always a thrill to arrive at the Ferry Building.  By the end of November, the  Embarcadero Four buildings are stunning, outlined in lights. If a person has to shop, a person might as well do it then and there.

My agent’s office was in a beautiful old building on Geary, across the street from Neiman Marcus at Union Square.  I’d take the vintage elevator up to Joan’s office, then across the street for a bite inside the glorious rotunda.

Like many broadcasters, I have a substantial holiday music collection, going back to the days when record companies sent them to us. I treasure them.

My website partner, Dave Williams, and I were producing audio for another website a couple of years back and searching for music, I met Chris Whiteman and Colin Tribe on YouTube and have followed them ever since.  Their holiday songs are part of my tradition.

My office lights now stay up all year.  The old Christmas CDs still work in my computer and when they don’t any more, I’ll keep downloading and carry on.

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Here’s Chris Whiteman, who lives in Virginia and plays and teaches everywhere.  Click the picture to visit his YouTube channel

Here’s Colin Tribe with grandson, Edward.  Colin lives in England where he composes, arranges, teaches and plays the you know what out of that ukulele. Click the picture for his YouTube channel.

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Follow me here anytime.

 

Get your fifteen minutes right here.

By Anita Garner

As soon as our family landed in a town, top of Daddy’s list of things to do was to find a radio station for our show. He preferred a Saturday morning program.  That way he could promote any nearby Singings or tent revivals or concerts where we’d be performing through the weekend.

When we stopped in Louisiana to pastor a church, the station Daddy chose was playing only country music records. No Southern Gospel. But a live show could be had if you’d bring in enough fans and if you came in fully sponsored. Those were the rules.

Since we traveled constantly, The Joneses had built up a good fan base.  It was a surprise though, when our first sponsor at WHXY turned out to be “The Beautiful Pine Tree Inn,” the very building where the radio station was housed.  Mr. and Mrs. Pine Tree Inn weren’t even members of our denomination, but they were fans of Southern Gospel.

Then came our fifteen minutes. Each show opened with a theme song with Daddy on guitar and Mother on piano or accordion. The four of us sang that one then a few more songs from all of us and sometimes a guest, like Brother Gene Thompson, an Arkansas evangelist who came to visit and heated up the airwaves with his guitar solos.  A brief devotion from Daddy, short and sweet and gentle, like the blessing before a meal, then out with the theme, which Kousin Karl, the deejay n duty, faded as he resumed regular programming.

We packed up instruments while Karl reminded listeners they could send in their cards and letters with requests and he’d make sure The Joneses got them before next week’s show.  Daddy stopped by the station during the week to pick up fan mail and true to Karl’s promise, we always performed at least one request each week.  In the 1950’s, songs were so short we packed in lots of music in our fifteen minutes.

Karl entertained my brother and me with his dramatic readings of Hadacol’s outrageous cure-all commercials that aired shortly before we went on the air – way too close according to Daddy.  Daddy knew the magic liquid in the bottle was  mostly hootch.  Karl messed around with different versions of the commercials, changing them every time, performing them with and without his Louisiana accent, sometimes with a deep voice, then next time a high squeaky, anxious delivery, as if nothing would help cure that voice except this product.  He’d pretend to take a swig, and magically his voice returned to normal.

Karl’s career took off.  As we were leaving Louisiana, he was becoming a successful concert promoter and a scout for record labels. He continued encouraging  Mother to get the songs she wrote to people who could record them. And onstage, when he had occasion to introduce “Sister Fern” his build-up to her performance was so flowery, we were surprised Daddy wasn’t jealous. Karl helped make Sister Fern’s fifteen minutes last a good deal longer.

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Just before Hadacol went out of business (false advertising, owner was a swindler, numerous other charges) it was huge.  Hadacol was said to be one of the biggest advertisers in the Deep South with a budget second only to Coca Cola. Here’s a sample of the kind of commercials Kousin Karl had to read.  Click the bottle to listen.

 

 

Calling on the saints of lost objects

By Anita Garner

I’m sharing office space right now with stacks of scrapbooks and photo albums, with boxes and bins filled with photos, searching for pictures meant to be in my new book.My forthcoming book (“forthcoming” is such a lovely word) will contain photos and the publisher’s waiting for me to decide which ones.  I’ve decided.  I just can’t find them.

There’s no shortage of pictures available, but I have specific memories in mind.  Later, The Glory Road website  will be updated for the book’s release and there’ll be room for lots more there, but where are the ones I’d set aside for the book?  They were here a few days ago.

It’s time to invoke St. Anthony (specializing in finding lost objects) and St. Jude (specialist in hopeless causes.)   When we lived in Louisiana Bayou country, all my friends were Catholic.  I envied them their array of saints who are apparently available all the time.  We little Pentecostal preachers’ kids were advised to talk to Baby Jesus, but then we were also cautioned about when we should and shouldn’t be specific with our requests so we weren’t always sure we were doing it right.  With St. Jude or St. Anthony you can say, “Will you help me find my keys?” and sometimes they will.

I don’t want to put things away until I find what I’m looking for.  In old movies, Irish characters sometimes said, “Saints preserve us!”  If the saints know exactly where my misplaced photos are, this would be a good time to show me. I’ll be most grateful.

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Follow the song.

By Anita Garner

I’m unloading the dishwasher.  Music is playing.  Randy Owen (Alabama Band) sings one of my favorite old hymns with The Isaacs and I’m right back there in places where I first learned the song.  Follow the music to the Deep South during the ’40’s and ’50’s and find a story.

Off the highway and down a dirt road, nearly impassable during heavy rains, in a clearing just big enough to embrace a small building, stands a sweet little church.  It was built long ago by a community who walked miles to get here or rode in wagons carrying food to share after worship. We make the trip decades later in our big old very used sedan.

This church has no full-time pastor.  It’s not much different from the circuit-riding preacher days of Little House On The Prairie.  Daddy, one of several ministers from other towns, travels here to conduct worship or sometimes to say words over a departed member of the congregation.  They don’t meet every Sunday.  They meet when a minister is available.  Today it’s our family’s turn.

It’s a Sunday afternoon, after Daddy has already preached at our own church.  Mother’s home resting, waiting for the birth of our new baby.  If she’s well, she sometimes comes along to sing, but today it’s Daddy, my brother, Leslie Ray and me.  A visiting preacher might bring his own guitar, but it’s not necessary. It doesn’t take many souls to fill this chapel with song.

Today, no matter where I am or what I’m doing, when I hear families blending like Randy Owen and his cousins in Alabama and The Isaacs’ exquisite harmonies, I think of my family singing our own homey version when any one of us started off with this song.

Click the picture for Randy Owen with The Isaacs,  I Need Thee Every Hour

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