Pie For Breakfast & Other Snacking Tips From Stephen King & Me

By Anita Garner

Here’s a way to ignore calories while enjoying the snacks we love. Change the rules.  If you eat it at a different time of day it’s calorie-free.  Pie for breakfast or whenever a pie mood strikes.

It’s also calorie-free if you change what you call it and how you cut it. Don’t call it dessert.  Don’t cut pie into wedges.  When you cut a round pie into squares it has no calories.  Or switch to slab pie which was never meant to be cut into triangle shapes in the first place. In addition to having no calories because they’re square, a nice healthy chunk of slab pie can bring on happy memories of potlucks and bake sales.

This Thanksgiving season, I will follow one of my own traditions.  Bake an extra  pie, cut it into squares and visit it at many non-dessert times.

Stephen King covered a similar topic, his own  snacking-without-calories suggestions in an article for Entertainment Weekly magazine years ago. I’m going to go ahead and validate his ideas in advance because Stephen King is smart and occasionally silly.

Stephen King’s Healthy Entertainment Diet

“…A number of people have asked your Uncle Stevie for dieting advice. Me, a guy who never met a fat calorie (preferably deep-fried) he didn’t like. At first I thought giving such advice didn’t fit my job description as a commentator on the pop cult scene, but after further consideration, I decided it does. Because staying current with pop culture is mostly a thing you do sitting down, right? And if you’re watching TV, listening to music, or going to the movies, you want to eat, right? So the question then becomes, Uncle Stevie, how do I maintain my keen pop culture edge without turning into a sumo wrestler who knows every single word to the Brady Bunch theme song?

Luckily for you, I have some tips — stuff that would put Weight Watchers out of business. I’m taking a chance here; the Diet Police will certainly try to smear and discredit me in the press, but for you guys (he said modestly) I’m willing to take the risk.

… fortunately for the devoted snacker, cakes and pies are what nutritional experts call baked goods, and when stuff is baked, the calories shrink from the heat and draw in to the center.  When enjoying Bundt cake, cut around the center ring and throw it away. The rest of the cake is calorie-free (except for the frosting, but you can’t have everything).   When you serve yourself a nice fat wedge of chocolate pie, just remember to cut off the pointy end, because that’s where the calories are.”


Christmas Music – too soon or never too much?

By Anita Garner

The debate about Christmas music starting too early has already begun on social media.  I spent years on the radio and all of us on the air worked from a playlist which we didn’t often get to select. Program directors and consultants and sometimes the station manager’s family decided what we played.  That last one isn’t a joke.

Just before in-earnest holiday madness began, Christmas songs were slowly merged into the playlist, but no matter when they started, someone on the air staff hated it.

Here’s a scene from a typical radio programming meeting, where on-air people wrestled with the Program Director.

PD: So guys – and Anita – you’ll notice on your playlist that we’re rotating one Christmas song each hour starting…

ME: …Couldn’t we play more than one each hour?


PD: And then by week three of the season, we’ll play four an hour.

ME: Couldn’t we play more than that?

EVERYONE ELSE: Shut up, Anita.

ME: Could I have more Christmas music just on MY show?

ON-AIR PERSON: I’ll be calling in sick.

ANOTHER ON-AIR PERSON: You can’t call in sick, because I’m scheduling all my dental work now. I’ll be gone for a month.

The foregoing is only slightly exaggerated. I haven’t met many people who like Christmas music as much as I do.  My personal Christmas music marathon begins when I say so and ends when I decide it ends and there are the occasional times during the year when I dip in for a song or two when I need a little Christmas.  There have been more than a few of those dips during this particular year.

It doesn’t take much to bring on the spirit.   I go over to You Tube and hear  guitarist, Chris Whiteman, play anything from his holiday collection, James Taylor singing Joni Mitchell’s “River”  and “In The Bleak Midwinter,”  (this version from “The Crown” on Netflix) Vince Guaraldi playing anything, and on and on.  A few favorite holiday songs and  lights that twinkle and the holiday season is right here, right now.



Two Sweet Sixteens

By Anita Garner

In our three-person Northern California quarantine family the 2020 birthday cycle completes this month. Caedan Ray, our November girl, celebrates Sweet Sixteen in a few days.

It’s a milestone I don’t take for granted.  My daughter, Cathleen,  waited a long time for this girl.  I think we were both convinced there wouldn’t be grandchildren in this family so when Caedan arrived in 2004 she felt like a miracle.

Sixteen brings in the real world to wrap up parts of childhood, or at least that’s how it works in a non-pandemic year.  Sixteen is old enough for a work permit.  Caedan hopes her volunteering at the local library might turn into a part-time job when things re-open.  Driving is another big step. A learner’s permit comes next.

Cathleen notes big occasions on the calendar.

Her mother’s  Sweet Sixteen was in a restaurant in a hotel.  We booked a small private room inside “John Q’s” at the top of the Holiday Inn across from Old Sacramento.  Guests dressed fancy and gathered for dinner at one big, noisy table.

The cake was a gift from the hotel pastry chef.  It was a perfect replica of a drum set.  Cath’s Dad was teaching her to play in those days. The party was posh but it wasn’t a chapter from the lifestyles of big-spending parents.  The hotel was a client of my advertising agency and they did us proud,  compliments of the owner, John Q Hammons.

Of course we embarrassed our daughter. It’s what parents do. We hired a birthday-gram, requesting a singer to deliver roses and sing “Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen.”  The singer turned out to be so close in age to the birthday girl that as soon as he started singing the Neil Sedaka hit both of them went all shy and squirmy.  He blushed the color of the roses all the way through his song.

None of this sounds like anything that would interest Caedan Ray. I’m picturing her in a more casual outfit, which is her style, though if you sent her a birthday-gram sung by any of the young men from BTS she might agree to some lip gloss and her favorite dangly skeleton earrings.


A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes

By Anita Garner

Cinderella was the first movie I ever saw. It was at the Alex Theatre in Glendale, California.  My brother and I came out from the Deep South in 1950 to visit our Gramma and attend school while our parents completed a long revival tour.  Daddy was a preacher whose religion taught that movies were sinful and though there were plenty of picture shows where we lived, we drove right past them.   Gramma didn’t hold with his concept of sin so as soon as our parents dropped us off we got our first look inside a movie theatre.

Cinderella wasn’t the movie I’d have chosen that day.  It was Gene Autry I wanted to see up there on the big screen.  I already had my own dream relationship with him through his “Melody Ranch” radio show.  Our family listened every week, then Daddy and Mother strummed his songs on their guitars and we all sang them together. Music from the secular world was embraced in our house but the film versions were banned.

I planned to marry the Singing Cowboy, not so much because of all the ropin’ and the ridin’ and a chance to meet Champion the Wonder Horse, but because of his music. In the car on the way to California Daddy and I sang “Back In The Saddle Again” and he dropped in a little whistling break,  a sign that he really liked a particular song.

Then I saw Cinderella and all that Disney movie music started other thoughts going around in my head, promises we make to ourselves, things like…

“If you can dream it you can do it.”

“Never give up.”

“Just keep trying.”

Years went by and more Disney movies with songs about possibilities  came along.  My 8 year old self was an instant believer but my growing-up self reminded me not everyone has a fairy godmother.

Grownups become goal-oriented.  Most of us do more planning and less dreaming.  But sometimes I hear a certain Disney song and I return for a couple of minutes to a time when a girl in Arkansas believed she could marry the Singing Cowboy and go to the Alex Theatre on Saturday to watch movies that promised everything will be all right.

Click on the picture below if you want to sing along with Cinderella and the tweety birds. According to the counter on this You Tube clip, millions of people already have






Composers: Mack David, Al Hoffman, Jerry Livingston.
Sung by Ilene Woods, who also voiced Cinderella in the movie


The Myth Of Persistence

By Anita Garner

By the time we come to the last days of 2020 in this Year Of Our Angst, some of us are going to need a reboot. We’ll be looking to retool, reinvent. Our tribulations  may not end when the year does but we need to get ready for what’s next as soon as we poke our heads up out of this mess.

Thank goodness reinvention can be called on as many times as we need it.  I’ve already tested it several times and if, like me, you don’t get it right the first or even the third or fourth time, it’s good to know there’s still a way forward.

There are people who know a lot about exactly this subject.  I found two of them talking about this on the radio at KALW Berkeley, California a few years back and I made notes.  I was listening while Marty Nemko,* career counselor, hosted his weekly show, “Work With Marty Nemko.”  His guest was Rick Newman,* author of the book,  “Rebounders, How Winners Pivot from Setbacks to Success.” I recently  contacted each of them for clarification on a couple of points.  (*More information about Rick and Marty below.)

The try and try again theory I grew up with doesn’t always work.  In the past I’ve stuck with some losing propositions way too long.  I asked Rick about the myth of persistence.  Here’s what he said.

“It would be great to get your failures out of the way fast, if you were mature and wise enough to learn what you need to from them! Alas, most of us aren’t that wise when we’re young, but failing smartly can make us wiser. I wrote about persistence being overrated, or misunderstood, because the bumper-sticker version of this suggests you should just keep trying the same thing if you fail at it. Just come back swinging again and if you take enough shots you’ll finally succeed.

That’s not what I found in my research at all. If you fail at something, you need to understand why, or do your best to understand. Once you think you understand why, then you’ll know whether you should try the same thing again, try it again but do something a little different, or give up and do something completely different. Some of us just aren’t good at things we wish we were good at. If you keep trying to succeed at something you’re not good at, just because you wish you were good (like me playing electric guitar), you’re missing the point. If you try at something and fail, maybe what you need to learn is it’s not for you. At least you tried!

Persistence is really important as long as you’re willing and able to learn what you need to come back for another shot. But nobody should keep trying the same thing over and over, in the same way, if they keep failing at it. Sometimes failure produces the lessons we need to succeed. Other times, the message is, try something else.

Marty’s radio show drifted away, as many of our favorite radio shows seem to do, but career and life counseling are still his focus.  There are blogs, a podcast and regular contributions to Psychology Today.  Here’s what he said when I asked about trying and trying again.

“I’m fond of singer Kenny Rogers’ advice: “You gotta know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold em.”  The problem is that it’s not usually easy to figure when that is. Best I can suggest  is to consistently ask yourself, “Are the chances better of my having more or more important success if I persist at least a little longer, or am I likely to have a better yield if I redirect my efforts.”

Here’s one more theory, originally attributed to Buddha.

“When the student is ready the teacher will appear”



*More about Rick and Marty.

Rick Newman is the author of “Rebounders” and three other books and columnist for Yahoo Finance.  Click the book cover for Rick’s website with contact information.

Marty Nemko, Ph.D is a career and personal coach based in Oakland, California and the author of 10 books. Click the picture to go to his website.

Every Little Celebration

By Anita Garner

This year all our seasons got misplaced.  Smooshed together. The weather hasn’t matched any of them exactly and we’ve spent so much time inside, we’ve taken to decorating and celebrating whatever we want whenever the mood strikes.

In our part of Northern California, after record-breaking heatwaves this summer, a few leaves just now got together and decided to fall.  Out in the yard, if you know where to step, you can hear autumn underfoot.  On the tree outside my office window a few leaves are about to be in motion.  I’ll need to dedicate time to follow the progress of one particular leaf floating.  It’s a beautiful thing.

October is usually the start of my favorite time of year. Everything’s in place. Plaid shirts move to the front of the closet.  Flannel sheets go on the bed. The winter comforter comes out of storage and takes  a few turns in the dryer.

I’m not a big Halloween person, but the people I live with are and they started in September.  A rather large skeleton belonging to the Grand appeared and now sits on top of the hutch.  Orange twinkle lights are on a bookcase. A vintage centerpiece brought in by my daughter, the Thrifting Queen, is on the dining table.  It puts me in mind of the 60s and 70s when we used to decorate for every dinner party.

Some say spring is renewal time, but for me autumn has always been the season of promise. This year, especially, it’s not just the fragrance of pumpkin and cinnamon and nutmeg, though I’ll never underestimate their impact. It’s not just the anticipation of fireplaces and rainstorms and Hallmark movies.  This year, this season, in this house, there’s hope for better times ahead.

“Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.”
…George Eliot


L.A. Radio Guest Columnist – I’m it today.

Anita Garner

Our esteemed host, Don Barrett, invited me to tell the story about one more media person’s memoir – mine.  It’s been in the works for a while and now it’s in the “Coming Soon” category.  Here’s the cover.

Turning the tables on Don, I should let you know that he’s been part of this project from way back.  We met when he was writing his first book, “Los Angeles Radio People” in the 90s.  Thousands of people from around the world visit his site, laradio.com, every day.  Click his artwork above to join them.

Don was conducting one of his thorough interviews about my time on the air and we bonded over the fact that both of our mothers had ALS and we were caring for them.

I showed him a short story, material planned for a someday book about my gospel-singing family and our life in the Deep South during the 1950s.  He sent the story to a friend in the movie industry whose wife was an agent. She liked the material and asked if I’d adapt it for the stage. I did and we had play readings in Los Angeles, so though I haven’t been steadily working on this book since the 90’s when I met Don, pieces of it did exist back then.

I knew I needed to finish telling the stories I’d begun, so I set myself the task of finishing a book manuscript by a certain date in 2017, pulling out reams of stories and rough chapter outlines and notes on scraps of paper and putting in long days and nights until it was ready.

I submitted to a university press in the Deep South. The Glory Road:A Gospel Gypsy Life, is a first-person memoir, but it’s more like a novel about some colorful characters I’m related to, singers and songwriters and musicians, with American music history woven through.  It takes place during times of enormous change in music and religion, when Saturday night came to Sunday mornings, when my family’s gospel music merged with rockabilly and church became entertainment.

My brother and I sang harmony with the family and lived much of our lives on Route 66 moving from tent revivals to radio stations to All Day Singings to churches and just about any place a microphone and amplifier and speakers were set up. I wanted this material and the music the family made to become part of Southern history. I learned that many university presses keep their books in circulation and keep printing for years into the future. That matters to me.

What does this have to do with radio?  Just about everything.  Without radio, my parents’ music wouldn’t have been heard by people who eventually recorded it, and who later offered Mother her own recording contract. We appeared on radio stations where the studio was in the antenna shack outside of town and other stations located in fancy hotels. My first radio appearance was on WDAK, Columbus, Georgia, at age three.  No adjustable booms.  Stand the little girl on a chair stacked with stuff until she can reach the mic and she’ll sing her part.

After my parents passed, a record label re-issued their music and it appears everywhere these days – movies, TV shows, downloads, wherever there’s music. I’ll post a couple of links that’ll take you to a current Netflix show soundtrack where my mother, Sister Fern Jones is singing and a wayback link to Johnny Cash singing a song she wrote.

My book releases April 21, 2021.  Here’s the publisher.

And here’s a nice thing someone said about them.

“University presses have long been key in the literary ecosystem when it comes to issuing original, risky work, and ’Bama’s is one of the most innovative.”

Just this week, the contract arrived from my audio book publisher. Media people, especially voiceovers, tend to record their own manuscripts. I’m not doing that. I want to sit back and listen to someone else tell these stories.

I write a new blog about once a week here at this site Dave Williams (KLIF/Dallas) and I share.  I write often about The Glory Road and sometimes I include excerpts from those days.

Here’s a song from Sister Fern.  You can find others on You Tube.

And here’s a song she wrote, recorded by Johnny Cash with the Tennessee Two

Johnny Cash - I Was There When It Happened


Thanks, Don, for the invitation.  It’s good to visit laradio.com.  I do it every day.




Mariachis make everything better.

By Anita Garner

Last Sunday our three-member quarantine family enjoyed a socially distanced brunch on the patio of a Mexican restaurant.  With mariachis!!  It’s just around the corner but it’s a new world when your family hasn’t been to a restaurant in ages. There’s a charming fence around the patio so the musicians can strum and stroll and be seen and heard. I had my song request and tip money ready.

In the 1950s, traveling with our family on The Glory Road through the Deep South, the revival circuit took us to Texas many times and during one long stay in El Paso, Daddy began learning Spanish.  He loved Spanish guitars, was drawn to all songs played bolero style and he made a special effort to learn some of Mother’s favorites.

My brother, Leslie Ray, and I grew up listening to Daddy’s Southern drawl stretching out lyrics in places where perhaps they hadn’t originally stretched.  His Spanish version of Maria Elena was Mother’s favorite.

Leslie and I adopted a love for Latin beats and for visiting restaurants with strolling mariachis.  Leslie’s Latin favorites lived in the jazz world, Cal Tjader and Poncho Sanchez among them, while Daddy gravitated to Jose Feliciano, Trio Los Ponchos, Los Indios Tabajaras and Eydie Gorme’s Spanish language album.

On Sunday, between renditions of Happy Birthday in Spanish and English, we were treated to some beautiful ballads.   One of them was my request for Sabor a Mi.  I added a version of it below, along with Maria Elena.  It’s sung in Spanish but it’s missing Daddy’s Southern drawl. And a bonus, Eydie singing Nosotros with Trio Los Ponchos.



Gospel Gypsies Adapt

By Anita Garner

Early publicity tour
The Joneses traveling The Glory Road
Oklahoma 1950

That’s my family on the road, stopping at every radio station to sing a couple of songs and let people know we’d be coming soon to an All Day Singing or a tent revival near them.  Our parents, Brother Ray and Sister Fern Jones, made it through the 1950’s with limited-to-no resources, touring with a car full of musical instruments and harmony-singing kids. We were the advance team  driving from town to town with Leslie Ray and me mailing homework back to schools where we registered before leaving again.

When I signed a book contract last year  I already had a publicity tour planned. I was eager to get going.  The ways authors tell people about their books today keep expanding, but even with the boost from social media, the path to book sales still includes suitcases and planes and stops in many towns.

The publisher has two catalogs a year, Fall and Spring.  I hoped my book would make the Fall, 2020 edition.  I thought, oh yeah I can do that, get all my tour stops confirmed and hit the road by then.  Two things became clear.  1) I knew little about the process and 2) Authors would not be hitting the road in the second half of 2020.

Getting a book into the world via a University Press is a much longer process than I knew. Having now been through acquisition, vetting, peer review, board review, editing, design and working on marketing plans while moving into production, Spring, 2021 makes sense. Today I feel a pang for every writer who worked long and hard on a manuscript and counted the days til their Spring 2020 or Summer 2020 or Fall 2020 release.

I’ve now received more release details. The Glory Road: A Gospel Gypsy Life arrives in April, 2021 from University of Alabama Press, 232 pages, 22 photos and lots of stories.

April, 2021 is soon enough.
We have stuff to do.

Everything we’d planned for publicity is being retooled. There’ll now be a different kind of launch, one I’m excited about.  There will be guests. There will be music. How could there not be music?

I don’t accomplish this by myself.  My part of the marketing plan for The Glory Road involves many people.  Thank God for talented friends.  We’re right this minute creating the ways we’ll share this show. If Daddy and Mother could see all this communications magic, they’d immediately adapt to using everything at their disposal. I saw them do that many times.

At the end of my book, there’s a list entitled, Gospel Gypsies Know.  In light of the events of this year so far, the caption above, Gospel Gypsies Adapt feels more appropriate.




List Season

By Anita Garner

My daughter’s illustrated birthday wish list.
Found on my office door

We’re a small family in this house.  Me.  Daughter, Cathleen. The Grand, Caedan Ray. Two out of  three have birthdays during the last quarter of the year.  Cath’s is this month.  Caedan Ray will have her Sweet Sixteen in November.  Then, of course, it’s Holiday Central.

Two of us do the planning and shopping for the celebrant.  Weeks in advance we’re nagging for  THE LIST.  Also, we need to know preferences about the day itself.  No party gathering this time but the  birthday girl chooses her dinner and what kind of cake she wants.

Cath did her list proud this year. It’s cheery and colorful and detailed. Do we attribute this to pandemic boredom? Or maybe she really, really wants only that specific kind of garlic press. And peanuts?  She had to put them on a list?  We know about her love for peanuts.

No, we don’t plan to get potholders for her birthday, but we get the hint that favorite old threadbare potholders need to be replaced once in a while. She does most of the cooking here and deserves consideration.

No sense teasing about the bunny slippers.  She really means it.  She loves those big slippers with animals on them, plush and heavy and I don’t even know how she walks in them.  The two pups, Charlie Brown and Benny, share her fondness for them.  Every day before Cath comes home from work, at least one slipper is dragged to the entryway to wait by the front door. She goes through slippers pretty quickly with the help of doggies dragging them.

Of course she won’t be getting all these things because shoppers also like to choose.  There are three bossy women here and it’s not logical to think you could make up your mind all by yourself about your own birthday celebration and have all your wishes come true.

The two shoppers will also buy things that aren’t requested.  Surprise!  Bet you didn’t even know how much you’d love this thing we decided to get for you.  Maybe Santa will bring the rest.  Or not.  The Or Not Factor is always a consideration when bossy women get together.