A COVID Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving 2020 is now a memory. It was very different from Thanksgivings of the past, to be sure. It was, however, a very wonderful day!

Thursday – Turkey Day

Ella was up bright and early! I had to put the turkey in water to finish thawing it. We got her dressed and ready for her “First Thanksgiving” pictures, which came out great!

Once the turkey was thawed, prepped and in the oven, I realized our meat thermometer was broken. The last thing I wanted to do was head to the store. I didn’t even know if there were stores open! I lucked out and the little grocery store down the road was open. I walked over to the aisle with the kitchen stuff, only to find that all the meat thermometers were gone. Someone had even stolen some from the packaging and left the open package on the hook.

I went to the deli and asked if there would be any other place in the store that there might be a meat thermometer. She said no. I began to walk out of the store when a guy tapped me on the shoulder. He asked if I was looking for a meat thermometer, and I said yes! He had one in his hand and told me to follow him. He explained that they had just moved to the area and they actually had one, but they couldn’t find it because it was still packed in a box. He said it was his only reason for being in the store! He took me over to the candy aisle, where there was a small rotating rack with a few kitchen utensils on it – and two meat thermometers! I was so grateful! He wished me a happy Thanksgiving and we parted ways.

While I let the turkey cool, Sam finished up the mac and cheese and mashed potatoes. Ella sat in her high chair and anxiously awaited her first feast!

By the time she finished, she was wearing her meal! She had mashed potatoes in her ears, her nose, and her eyes!! She really enjoyed her dinner!!

Thanksgiving was typical in that the Detroit Lions lost miserably! This led to the GM and head coach being fired. One can only hope that someone will finally hire the right people. I would love to see them reach the Super Bowl (and hopefully win one) in my lifetime!

Friday – Black Friday

I am not a Black Friday shopper! However, I was this year – not by choice! I needed to get tires for our car. I shopped around getting prices and found that Belle Tire had some Black Friday rebates, and had the best deal. I used to go to this mom and pop tire place who did great work, and had great prices, but sadly, the Covid-19 pandemic has put them permanently out of business.

I was shocked at the line of people waiting to get in at 7am! I was lucky to be fourth in line and I was in and out in just over an hour! Kudo to those folks!

When I returned home Friday, I checked off another project I had on my list. We bought some canvas pictures to hang in the baby’s room months ago. They have been sitting in the box, awaiting me to hang them. Before I went to pick up my son, I measured it all out and got them hung up on the wall. I just love these pictures!

We spent the evening last night watching Christmas movies. My son and my wife had both mentioned that the sequel to The Christmas Chronicles was now on Netflix. We had all enjoyed the first one (Kurt Russell stars in it) and we decided to watch the first one again before watching the second. I found that I still enjoyed the first one very much. I can see it easily becoming a Christmas tradition.

Recurring Dream With a Twist

I am closing in on test time for my Bible classes. I have a week’s worth of classes to finish and then four tests to take! I mentioned this to my wife, so it must have been on my mind when I went to bed. At any rate, I often have a recurring dream where I am at school and I sit down to take a test and my mind goes completely blank! I panic! I freak! I usually wake up with my heart racing.

So I had a dream last night that was similar. Sure enough, I am sitting in a classroom (which is odd because my classes are on DVD and I take them at home) and the teacher passes out the tests. The first thing I notice is that the tests are about 45 pages stapled together! I open the test and I can’t even read the thing. I turn the page and there are some words I can make out, but nothing makes sense. With each page turn, I feel more and more scared. I have no idea what I am looking at! I begin to pull my notes out and try to cheat!! The teacher comes over and obviously has caught me . Needless to say, I wake up at this point with heart racing and glad it was just a dream!

Now I’m wondering how hard these tests are going to be!!

I hope you and your family had a wonderful holiday!!

Weekend Wrap Up

Michigan weather has been just beautiful the past week or so. It looks like we’ll have one more nice day and the temps will drop. Saturday, while the baby was napping and my son was doing homework, I went out and cleaned up the leaves from the driveway. Later that afternoon, my kids and I got to get out and take a walk around the neighborhood. He enjoys pushing his sister in the stroller. It is a good time for us to just catch up.

I decided to take advantage of the weather and get the Christmas lights up. The more I thought about what I wrote in a recent blog, the more I was convinced that putting up the lights early would bring about some happiness in a year that has really sucked. My son and I strung all the lights out on the side porch. The nice temps made it easy to do and with him helping, it only took me half the time.

I got some of the decorations up out front, but I have a few bad strands that I need to check fuses on before I string them up. I am thinking of adding the strands of white LED lights that I had strung along the fence for our 4th of July party. I usually only put the lights along the rails on the porch, so it should be pretty easy.

After I dropped my son off and the baby woke up from her nap, we spent most of the day outside. We took our stroll through the neighborhood and walked a bit longer than normal. I had to laugh because when we got back home, she totally kicked her foot up like she was relaxing!

After our walk, we played in the leaves (until she tried to start eating them), played on the slide, sat on the trampoline, and then just sat in the grass. She was standing next to me in on the back lawn and I looked up and saw our shadows. For some reason, looking at them it hit me how fast she is growing up. I can’t believe she will be 9 months old tomorrow! The shadow was a reminder to enjoy every little moment like this…

Heavenly Jeopardy?

I have never read a bad thing about Alex Trebek. Every interview I watched of him, he always seemed like a wonderful man. With his passing, there has been an outpouring of wonderful tributes to him by celebrities all over the country. A friend pointed out that Trebek and the great Sean Connery passed away within a week of each other.

One of my favorite sketches on SNL was Celebrity Jeopardy. Will Ferrell played Alex Trebek and Darrell Hammond played Sean Connery. In the sketch, Connery has this unreal hatred for Trebek and always made countless jabs about Trebek’s mother. It was always a treat to see Norm MacDonald playing Burt Reynolds in these sketches.

I always waited to see how Connery would take a category and make it dirty – for example:

Real Category: Let It Snow. Connery asks for: Le Tits Now

Real Category: The Pen Is Mighter Connery asks about: The Penis Mightier

I truly hope that SNL doesn’t miss the opportunity to do some kind of tribute to Connery and Trebek this week. I can see a Heavenly round of Celebrity Jeopardy with Ferrell, Hammond, and MacDonald being very funny!

Same Old Lions

Sunday, I got to see bits and pieces of the Detroit Lions game. It was awful, as usual. I saw this on Facebook today, and had to share. I know that this is totally supposed to be more of a political jab, and I am not posting it to be political, I just thing it is pretty funny!

The Election

It was certainly great to hear that voter turnout was so good. Whether your candidate won or lost, if you voted, you did your part! Over the past couple decades, we’ve seen a lot of division. We’ve seen a lot of lost trust in the system and the government. With every election, I hope and pray that the elected officials will do something to bring us together. I may have posted this picture before, but I thought it was one of the most powerful that I had seen this year:

In 2016, after the election, I wrote something on Facebook. It came up in my Facebook Memories today. It is worth sharing:

Maybe we are family. Maybe we went to high school together. Maybe I went to college with you. Maybe we worked together. Maybe we bowled together. Maybe you and I like the same movies or music. Maybe we met at a conference.

However we met, however we know each other, you are here because you are my friend. You and I are Americans. We are citizens of the greatest country in the world. One of the great things about being an American is that we have the freedoms to believe what we want and vote for who we want. We don’t always have to agree. I say this because no matter where you stand as a Republican, Democrat, or Independent…..as a Baptist, Catholic, Lutheran nondenominationalist or Dispensationalist….. heterosexual or homosexual …..male or female…..employed or unemployed….union or nonunion…..I don’t care!!! You are my friend and I am glad you are my friend. You have the right and the freedom to believe what you want and voice your opinion. Knowing that we may not agree is ok with me. There are other things we have in common that led us to be friends. I haven’t deleted any friend or family member because of their vote, because of their faith, because of their sexual preference, or because of their job or financial status. Thank you for being my friend.

Life would be pretty boring if we were all the same! A quote from Andy Hargreaves came across my timeline today and I want to share: “If we were all on the same page, no one’s reading the whole book”!

So what if your candidate lost? So what? One of the first thing I learned as a kid was there are winners and losers in games and elections. So what do we do now? You take the words of a pastor friend of mine who reminded me that “The guy you voted for may not have won, but you should still pray for him.”

So that’s what I am going to do. Here are the Bible verses to back that up:

I Timothy 2: 1-3

I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;

For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.

For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour;

God Bless America!

Football and Family

Ashamed to be a Fan

Like most guys, I’m a football fan. I’m also a very lucky football fan, as my wife loves to watch football, too! For my readers who don’t know, I live in Michigan. The good news is that we have a professional NFL team here. The bad news is that the team is the Detroit Lions. In the 50 years I have been on this earth the Lions have played in 14 playoff games (mostly Wildcard games) and have only won 1 game. Since 1944, only 5 NFL teams have had the embarrassing privilege of going 0-16 in a season – the Lions did it in 2008.

Every year, for as long as I can remember, football fans in Michigan cry “Same old Lions!” after every game. No matter what, they always seem to find a way to lose!

I was surprised to turn on the game in the 3rd quarter Sunday and find that they were actually beating the Chicago Bears 23-6. At the beginning of the 4th quarter, the commentators on TV had to flash up some stats that recounted just how many times the Lions have blown leads and lost in the 4th quarter. It happened again on Sunday.

In the fourth quarter, Chicago scored 21 points to come from behind and beat the Lions. With 6 seconds left in the game, D’Andre Swift dropped the potential game winning TD! It was just sickening!

When this happened, all I could think of was that scene in one of the Naked Gun movies with everyone facepalming:

I am left to wonder if I will ever see the Lions in the Super Bowl, let alone WIN it! Until then, I will continue to watch “the same old Lions”……

Not sure who Robustoman is, but he nails it with this drawing/logo!

The Kids

Since last blogging, our little princess hit another milestone: She is 7 months old!

She’s almost 17 pounds, is sitting up by herself, has two teeth , and is eating real food. She will be crawling before we know it. She truly could be a model, as she has so many wonderful facial expressions. Today, while eating peaches, she was puckering up like she took a bite out of a lemon or something!

I was especially happy this weekend as both boys were over to visit. I made breakfast for all of us, we walked the neighborhood, and had some good conversation. My oldest boy is working a lot of hours, so it was nice to have all of my kids together for the day. Wish I had gotten more pictures, but I was able to snap this one –

Big brothers and their sister

Someone once said, ” In a society that has you counting money, pounds, calories, and steps, be a rebel and count your blessings instead.” Another said, “When you count your blessings, you realize you are doing just fine.”

While I may not be blessed with a winning football team, I certainly have been blessed with three amazing children and one amazing wife!

“Get a load of this guy …”

On Facebook earlier, I posted an article that was written about Honey Radio going off the air.  For the article, they interviewed the “Bard of Lincoln Park”, Boogie Brian (who did an amazing send off for Honey’s last 15 minutes on the air), me, and my partner, Rob Main.  Rob has been on my mind a lot in the past couple months.  Thoughts of him led to the Valentine’s Day Blog on World Radio Day.  I have been meaning to write an entire blog about him for some time, and so here it is.

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I don’t know that I would call him an impressionist, because while he did many celebrity voices, he also did other characters.  His celebrity impressions included Muhammad Ali (We called him “the Champ”), Charles Bronson (We called him “Chuckie Buchinsky” – Bronson’s real name), and Elvis Presley (We called him “EP”, E for Elvis and P for Presley). His other characters included a Hillbilly Ex-Marine named Red Neckman, Red’s brother Earl Neckman (who repeated everything he said two to three times), and Lucky McCloud (the Scottish Weatherman).  What made him unique was that I could say to him, “I need a British doctor”, and he’d be able to come up with the voice.

The first time I ever heard Rob, I was listening to Honey.  I didn’t work there at the time, and I was listening to Bill Stewart.  He was talking to “EP”.  Now I have seen a lot of Elvis interviews, and I gotta tell you, when I heard him, I truly believed it was Elvis!  What was great about the way they handled the character (which continued when we worked together) was that EP NEVER said he was Elvis, but often eluded to the fact that he might be him.  He’d say things like, “I remember when I bought, I mean Elvis bought his mother a Cadillac” and when Lisa Marie married Michael Jackson he said, “I’m very upset about that!  I know Elvis would be upset about it too!”.  I remember that he said his real job was selling cars at Buck Williamson Chevrolet or something…I guess that was his cover.

As I listened to EP, I remember thinking, “If this IS NOT Elvis, whoever is doing this voice has NAILED it!”  What made it work was first and foremost, Rob was an Elvis fan and had a brain full of knowledge about him.  We’d play a song and he’d say, “That song’s from 1958, that’s when I was going into the army” “1961 was the year that I, I mean Elvis made Wild In The Country and Blue Hawaii.  I remember Joan Blackman was so nice to me, I mean Elvis”.  Second, he also knew all of the co-stars, the names of Elvis’ characters in the films, and those things made you truly question whether it truly was The King.  Lastly, he watched almost every Elvis interview.  He had Elvis’ speech pattern down and knew when to pause and when to stretch out syllables and words.  It was perfection.

I remember one Fourth of July, Honey was broadcasting live from the Veteran’s Picnic at Freedom Hill.  I did my show from there and Rob was with me.  He took his microphone and went into some building and we chatted and I’d ask EP why I hadn’t seen him and he’d say, “If I showed myself in public, it’d be pandemonium.  I’m wearing a disguise today.  The disguises that he’d mentioned were things like “My Gregory Peck from Moby Dick disguise” or “No one saw me, cause I was wearing my Chuck Connors disguise from the Rifleman”.  It always cracked me up.

We became close friends, because we shared so many of the same interests.  He was a few years older than me, and he was amazed that I was a fan of old black and white movies.  He loved that we could talk about old TV shows, old actors, and classic films.  He once said to me, “How the hell does a young punk like you know about (Fill in the actor or movie)!?”

He’d comb through old movies looking for “drops”.  A drop is a radio term for a snippet of a movie that you play in a bit, a promo, a liner, or just outta no where.  A drop is often used in a DJ liner.  For example, the big voice guy might say “You’re listening to Keith Allen” and then you insert the movie or TV line “Oh, good….the hippie’s here” followed by the big voice guy saying “On WHND Honey radio” and into a song.  He had some of the most bizarre drops and I would always ask where he got them.  That’s how I came to watch The Jayhawkers (with Jeff Chandler), Mr. Majestyk (with Charles Bronson), Patterns (with Van Heflin), Hercules and Hercules Unchained (with Steve Reeves), The Wild One (with Marlon Brando) and Hotspell (with Anthony Quinn).  We had drops from every one of those films!

Sometimes, we’d just play drops to crack each other up.   Radio is all about theatre of the mind.  It’s about painting a picture.  We utilized sound effects to paint a picture.  We had a “city sounds” tape that we played to make it sound like we were outside in the parking lot.  We had a “bagpipes” tape that played whenever Lucky did the forecast.  We had a door close sound effect to signify when a character had left the studio.  We had a tape marked “fight scene” (which was a barroom brawl from an old western movie) and the sound of glass breaking which we used in a very unique way.

The Chuckie character was “the bouncer”. If we were in the middle of a conversation and someone barged in the studio to yell something at us (which would be the drop), we’d call for Chuckie.  He’d always be annoyed that we called him to take care of the people bugging us.  He’d start to beat the heckler up (the fight scene) and throw them through the studio window (glass breaking) and leave (door slam).  It became such a silly thing, and yet we’d use it often.  Sometimes, Chuckie would have to take care of one of the other characters.  It was insanity.

That last thought brings me to something I have mentioned in the past.  Rob was a wonder to watch as we did a show.  He did all these characters and sometimes, he’d hold entire conversations between two or three of them at the same time.  It was amazing to see him bounce from character to character.  He knew which character was further away from the microphone and adjusted where he was when he talked for that character.  Brilliance!  To watch him argue with himself as two different characters was simply amazing.

If there was a main character that he did, it was probably EP.  I would say the second most used was Red.  Rob said to me that Bill Stewart came up with the name, which doesn’t surprise me because Bill is one hell of a funny guy.  The name is just plain funny.  I’m not sure where this started, but the word was that Red was the station custodian and he lived out in the dumpster behind the station.  Red often fell asleep on the floor of the studio during the show and everyone was always tripping over him.  He spoke with a deep voice and a southern drawl.  He had an opinion about everything.

The final week Honey was on the air was Thanksgiving week 1994.  Red said he wanted to voice his opinion about the Detroit Lions (who were not that great a team that year).  He did this entire rant (with the sound of a teletype underneath his voice) about how he was sick and tired of the Lions always losing and how he was putting his own football team together.  He wanted people to join and offered beer and salami for playing.  He was including members of the Honey Staff and some listeners.  I asked him if I could be on the team.  I think he said I could be the water boy, and then said “No, we don’t have one of those, you can be the beer boy!”

Rob also played himself on the show.  He interacted with me and did traffic reports and such.  I don’t remember exactly what we were talking about, but it had something to do with sailors or something cause I mentioned Popeye.  Rob (as himself) said he remembered Poopdeck Paul, and out of no where Red yells “I remember Captain Jolly!” which cracked me up to where I almost couldn’t recover so as Red he just said, “I think I’m gonna go get me a fish sandwich”….which made me laugh even harder and then we went into commercials.

Lucky McCloud was one of my favorite characters he did.  It was easy for him because he was Scottish.  His mom had a wonderful Scottish accent and I loved when she would answer the phone when I called.  Lucky was basically his mom.  What I loved about Lucky was that he was always accompanied into the studio with his bagpipe player.  He’d always have something to say about Red “That daft man” or me “You’re just a wisenheimer”.  We never knew if it was going to be “Partly McCloudy or Partly McSunny”.

Occasionally, Lucky would talk about how much he loved Scotch (surprise surprise).  Glenfiddich was his brand of choice.  He’d sometimes sound a bit loopy and we’d question him about it and the response was always, “I just had a wee nip”.  That was the great thing about Rob.  I never knew what the characters were gonna do until we turned on the microphone.  That’s a no no in the biz – you always know where you are going with something.  Most of the time, I was able to play along and find “an out”.  Sometimes, it didn’t go so well.  For the most part, what followed was spontaneous humor.

Five of the worst radio moments in Detroit Radio History:  The week Honey went off the air, Rob insisted I do a voice on the air.  I had done it a couple times, but had recorded it.  The character was “Mitch Wallace”, who was loosely based on a real listener who called us all the time.  I had called him at home and used that voice and he said it was so good, he though the guy had his number!  This particular day we had a stupid bit planned.  I was to enter the studio as Mitch.  I was to be upset about the station going off the air.  I was to have a gun and Chuckie the bouncer was going to beat me up and throw me out the window.  If only it had gone that smoothly…….

We had 6 cart (tape) machines.  In #1 was the song we were talking out of.  In #2 was the gunshot sound.  #3 had the fight scene sounds.  #4 had the glass breaking .  #5 had the door slam and #6 had the first commercial.    I had NEVER done the character live before.  So when I did, I saw Rob start to chuckle and I started to lose it.  We both began to laugh hard.  I was laughing so much, I had tears in my eyes and couldn’t see the board in front of me to push the buttons to start the commercial (because by this time, it was obvious we couldn’t do it.  Now out of commercials, we decide to try again.  As soon as I start to do the Mitch character, I started laughing.  We were going to do the weather out of the bit this time, so the first thing I did after laughing was cue up the bagpipe music….miraculously, Rob was able to jump into the Lucky character and eventually the bit happened on the air…..it was a long way to go for something that was probably only funny to us, (which may be why we didn’t find a gig…LOL) but it remains one of my favorite moments on air with him.

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Rob and I spent many hours singing karaoke.  He was in a band and was the vocalist.  He would drag me to this little hole in the wall place on Dequindre called Jacmars.  We’d sing and grab beers.  I’ll never forget there was this one guy who sang there.  No matter what song he sang, he sang it like Mario Lanza or Pavarotti.  We called him Opera Man (this was before the Adam Sandler bit).  You haven’t heard anything until you hear a classic R&B song like Kansas City being sung like its an aria!  (If you have never heard this – consider yourself lucky).  There was another guy who looked and talked like Bela Lugosi.  He spoke like Dracula….and sang like him too!  Rob and I shared many laughs about those nights!!

The week following the station going off the air, we were in and out of the station.  We were editing a tape so we could send them off to try to find a gig.  When we reached a point where we needed a break, we’d go into the old Honey office.  One day, he whipped out this business card and said (like he always did- and I still do to this day) “Get a load of this guy!” It was a guy who was a DJ and his business card was touting him as the best of the best.  Rob grabbed the office phone and called the number on the card.  He got the guy’s voicemail and proceeded to adlib one of the funniest things ever.  “My name is Michael McClingling (I’ll never forget that was the name!) and I was hoping to get you to come to my party.  I hear you are the best and I was hoping you could do a clown act!” (I am literally laughing as I type that!  Man, I wish we had the audio of that) We then wasted the entire afternoon calling this poor guy using different voices and such.

After Honey went off the air, we hoped to find a place to do our show.  Needless to say, there weren’t many stations that allowed for the kind of show we were doing.  Rob was frustrated with the biz and eventually said he was over it.  There was quite a bit of depression afterward, and there were some very difficult conversations that followed.  He was having health issues and I did whatever I could to cheer him up.  He had a lot of stuff happen in his personal life, including the loss of his parents.  There were times I wondered when he hung up if that was the last time I was going to hear from him.  I never knew, because he was buying pay as you go phones toward the end and he always seemed to call from a new number.

The last time I saw him, we had chatted earlier that week.  He had told me that he wasn’t even sure where his parents were buried.  I did some searching and found that they are actually buried at Great Lakes National Cemetery – the same place my mom is buried.  We made plans for me to pick him up where he was staying and I took him to see his folks.  He was overwhelmed with emotion.  He told me that it was the greatest thing anyone had every done for him.  I told him I would let him have some time with his folks, but he insisted that I stay by him. I remember he started talking to his mom and dad.  He told them “I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for this kid. He found you for me.”  He broke down and put his arm around me and said, “thanks – now lets go see your mom.”

After that, we talked once or twice.  He had mentioned that he was sick, but didn’t go into much more detail no matter how much I asked.  I don’t know how I knew it, but I had a feeling this was going to be our last conversation. He was a bit too nostalgic.  He reminded me of so many of the fun times we had.  He reminded me of the people we met and our friends from radio.  He reminded me of the day at the cemetery.  He thanked me for being the kid brother he never had.  He thanked me for the many laughs.  The last thing he said before he hung up was, “I love ya, kid”.  Then the phone calls stopped.

It wasn’t until within the last few years that Facebook connected me with a mutual friend of ours.  It was Mary who told me that Rob had passed away.  I remember the shock at first, and then the last phone call replayed in my mind.  He said what he needed to say.  I wish I had done the same.

Today, whenever I see one of those old movies, whenever I see Gregory Peck or Van Heflin, or whenever I hear Roy Hamilton or Brook Benton, I think of Rob.  When I hear Elvis doing an interview on Sirius XM, when I hear Waterloo by Stonewall Jackson, or when I hear bagpipes, I think of Rob.  I have a feeling that I will be revisiting this blog and adding stories, because there are plenty of them I forgot to tell.  I am lucky that I have the last week of shows that we did on Honey Radio in a digital format and can listen whenever I want.  I have listened to them SO many times, and they are just as funny as when we did them 24 years ago.  Thanks for the memories, big brother.

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