Monday, November 12, 2018

5 days of fire, so far...

Our house is up in a canyon. One canyon west of Topanga. We live in Ventura County, right next to the Los Angeles County line. Our house is just under 30 miles from the ocean. It’s about the same distance to downtown LA.

Up the canyon from us is the northern edge of the Santa Monica Mountains Preserve. The Preserve runs south and west to the Ocean. It goes around towns and small suburban LA suburbs, if you’ve been watching or listening to the news you’ll recognize some of the these names. West Hills, Calabasas, Agoura Hills, Westlake Village, Oak Park, Camarillo, Malibu and of course, Thousand Oaks. If I climb to the top of the Preserve I can see most of them. And since Thursday, they’ve all been on fire. We’re lucky, we are on the windward side of the fires.

The winds this time of the year blow in from the desert east of us. The winds are called Santa Anas. The blow warm and hard. They blow for days. Friday the Santa Ana wind was blowing between 25 to 30 miles an hour, with gusts to just under 50. Santa Ana winds are relentless, they last for days and weeks. Today, Saturday, the winds stopped, they dropped to a light breeze. The forecast says they’ll pick up and again Sunday and blow until Tuesday, maybe longer. Fire likes the Santa Ana wind. The drop in the wind is giving the firefighters and chance to regroup and begin to contain the fires. Fires that have been out of control from their start Thursday.

We’ve got our bags packed, important papers in a plastic box. Dog supplies for our German Shepherd. Should we pack our camping gear, food? It’s under discussion.

Well over 250,000 people are under evacuation orders. The hotels are full all-over Southern California, the freeways are bumper to bumper, where would we go? We have family in San Diego and Santa Cruz, friends in between.

We have Spectrum cable for television and internet it’s not working, hasn’t since Friday afternoon. We have T Mobile for our cell phones, they don’t work either. If we drive down the canyon we can get cell service. The cable company says it’s a fiber optic problem, T Mobile says they can’t get in to fix the cell tower for our area because it’s in a fire restricted area.

We’re getting our information from AM radio. KNX News Radio and KFI are doing a wonderful job.

KNX is all news, the news right now is all fire. The station has reporters everywhere and there are constant updates. KFI is a talk radio station. Like many talk stations they go paid programming and syndication on the weekends. They blew that all off because of the fire, their regular hosts are anchoring and KFI is all fire like KNX. Both stations are doing what radio has always been tasked to do, KFI and KNX are serving the community. They are really doing a great job. The programming is informative and it’s interesting. Both stations have partnered with local TV stations and essentially been able to double the coverage. Neither station has neglected to provide coverage of the tragic Camp Fire in northern California. Both carry news conferences live, they have meteorologists live and both have been really, really, good on traffic.

KFI and KNX are powerful reminders of what radio should be and can be. Congratulations to both stations.  

It’s mid-morning on Sunday. Right on cue the Santa Ana winds are back. We have our internet service back. We’re listening to KFI. They just carried a press conference. A few facts, 8,000 fire personnel are on duty. 700 LA and Ventura county deputies have been assigned to looter patrols. There has been very little looting, so who knows.

While watching all news television station KCAL 9, my wife said “Oh no!” It was a story on burned out home in Malibu, she knows the house well. She directed a photo shoot there when she was with an agency a few years ago.

The LA Rams train in Thousand Oaks, 75 players, coaches and other Ram employees live in TO. They had to evacuate. Several players have donated their game checks from Sunday for community relief efforts. Others are organizing an auction of memorabilia, like game jerseys, for the same cause.

This morning, Monday, I looked out my office window to the Northeast, there was smoke in the clear blue November sky. I was downwind from it. I went outside, I could smell the smoke and I heard helicopters. I went back to my desk and checked Ventura County Fire. Sure enough there was a fire on Rocky Peak, less than 5 miles as the crow flies. That was at 10:30. The fire burned up to the Freeway, the 118. Just after 11, the wind died, the helicopters water bombed the fire and killed it in its tracks. It took multiple aircraft and 50 fire crews to take care of it. The Freeway was closed for 3 hours in both directions from Topanga to the Yosemite exit.

It was tense, I walked two blocks to where I could get cell service and called my wife, told her the dog and I were okay and staying put. We are in a red flag area, that means, be alert for possible evacuation.

It’s windy again, gusts to 40mph, it’s cooler and cooler weather helps lessen the fire danger.

This is the 5th day of fire, everybody is stressed. We haven’t had to move, I can’t imagine the stress level of people who are living out of their cars, staying in hotels, worrying about their pets and possessions, their homes. 
This is exhausting.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Seasonal labor...

"This reminds me of you" my frie4nd Taylor said and sent this link the other day...

A season for contemplation

I didn't read it right away. He poked me about it and I finally responded.

"Hey asshole, I just got to it, my fucking day has been busy, I had to box up all the god damn Halloween shit and haul it to the fucking garage, which is across the god damn street from this fucking house. Then I had to carry it up a fucking ladder to put it on the top shelves. I almost went into cardiac arrest, do you have a fucking clue how much ceramic jack o fucking lanterns weigh? Three of the mother fuckers, plus a shit load of other shit like a full size skeleton with light the fuck up eyes. 

Shit, I just looked up and realized the fucking 4 foot furry spider is still hanging on the god damn wall. Incidentally that bastard's eyes light up too!" 

Friday, November 2, 2018

Good, Clear thinking on "FEAR"...

My sister sent this,  written by her paper's Minnesota Farm columnist, Brent Olson.

Independently Speaking

Publication Date 11-1-18

Don’t be so afraid.

Seriously. It’s a little embarrassing, not to mention un-American. America is not a country founded by fear.

I’ll be the first to admit it’s a hard world, and there are a lot of bad things happening in a lot of places. But you know what? Being scared fixes none of it. A scared dog will bite a friend and a scared baby cries.

Scared of the immigrant caravan coming our way? Well, first of all, they’re still a thousand miles away and on foot, so we’ve got a little time. And even if there are 5,000 of them, that’s not so many. A few years ago, I leaned on a railing and looked at the border crossing south of San Diego. About 90,000 people cross the border there every day, and they’re pretty well controlled. Turning back a caravan of 5,000 people might not even make it into the day’s paperwork.

If you’re just opposed to new people coming into the country without the right papers, I’m with you.  We need a lot more immigrants to do the jobs Americans don’t seem to want, but they need to be properly documented so they pay into the system and are protected by the system just like anyone else.  And, that’s what’s happening. Twenty years ago, about 1.2 million people entered the country illegally each year. That number has been dropping every year and now it’s down to about 10% of that amount. To put that in perspective, my home town has a population of about 450 people. If we had our share of undocumented workers, that means one new person would move to town every year and a half. So, don’t be scared of immigrants. If you want to hire someone to milk cows or mop floors in a hospital, there’s a pretty good chance it’s going to be someone with an accent. It’s always been that way.

You can be as scared as you want, and it won’t change a thing. Let’s face it, if you live in the Western Hemisphere you’re the descendent of an immigrant, whether your ancestors strolled across the Bering Strait 10,000 years ago or got off the plane yesterday.

Perhaps we could take a moment and look at the reasons a person would be willing to walk a thousand miles carrying a baby. If our government is contributing to the problem, we should make it stop. That would help a lot, because, in the end, the only real solution to people fleeing their homes is that their homes are safe enough that they don’t need to leave.

“How about MS13?” you might say.

Well, yeah. Those are really bad people - brutal criminals who need to be arrested, prosecuted, and locked up for their crimes. And that’s what law enforcement is doing. It’s nothing new. In the 1840s, the Bowery Boys were a violent street gang in New York who hated the Irish and the Catholics. A few years later, the Irish and the Jews had their own gangs, after that the Poles and the Chinese had a run at being street criminals. The Italians were a little late to the game, but they do get credit for the whole Mafia thing. When I was in high school, people were worried about the Hell’s Angels. Now many of those Hells Angels who aren’t in jail have grey hair and prostate issues. There are factors as to who becomes a criminal that are far more important than skin color and religion. That’s just the truth, and letting someone convince you that you need to be terrified of…well, of anyone, is of no use at all.

I deeply, passionately disapprove of people who want to make me scared. They are like sleazy salesmen who want to sell you something you don’t need and are willing to say anything to get the job done.

That doesn’t mean I float through the world in a rose-colored glasses fog. We face real problems. For instance, for every dollar the U.S. Government spends, it borrows about a quarter. Do that with your credit card and you’ll lead a sweet life for a while.

But not forever. 

The scientists at NASA say that due to climate change, my area of the country is going to see more droughts, hotter temperatures, AND more floods. Right now, farm incomes are down, expenses are up, and that’s with really good weather. Farming has never been a relaxing profession; it’s not going to get easier.

You look around the world and some really bad people are in some really powerful positions of control.  Dealing with them is going to require friends, allies, persistence, and clear thinking.

These are some of the real problems I think about, and being scared won’t fix any of them.

There’s an election coming up. Please vote. I’d suggest you vote for candidates who tell the truth, who believe in science, and, you know, facts. People who are for something and not just against something. 

Especially don’t vote for hate or fear. It’s just un-American.

Copyright 2018 Brent Olson

Monday, October 22, 2018

Carrie and I buy a car...

Carrie Fisher and I are walking down the street, We're holding hands, we've been walking for a long time.

"Jesus, I'm tired of walking, we need to buy a car to get around." Carrie says. "Walking is good for us, but this is insanity."

"What do you want to get?"

"My Mom had a Thunderbird when I was a little girl, I loved that car."

"Maybe we can find one, keep walking."

In an hour or so, including a stop for coffee and a donut, we realize we're in North Hollywood. Strip Malls, body shops, recycling centers, manicure shops and tacky bars line the streets, finally we see a used car lot and damned if they don't have a white 55 Thunderbird up on a display lift. Carrie is so excited she wraps her arms around my neck and gives me a movie star kiss. Carrie is sweaty from all our walking, so am I, but it doesn't matter. A guy with a neck tattoo, sticks his head out of the window of his 4x4 Tacoma, honks his horn at us and yells "Take it to a fucking motel you assholes!" We were kissing in the crosswalk and he had the green. Carrie says, "Good idea." I nod my approval and we jaywalk to a drive up to the door motel called The Loveland and check in.

3 hours later, moony eyed, but refreshed we step onto "Nick the Greek's Only the Finest Pre-Owned Automobiles" lot. Out of nowhere Nick appears, he's short, wrinkled, he's wearing a polo shirt that's is at least 2 sizes too small. White chest hair is sticking out of the neck of the shirt. He has garlic breath because he just finished a lamb Gyro, his hand shake is greasy. Carrie is repulsed by his greasy shake, she sticks her hand into the open window of a customer's tan Camry and wipes her hand on the headrest. I maneuver around so I can put my hand on Nick's shoulder in a gesture of confidence and friendship. I wipe my hand on the shoulder of his maroon polo.

"We'd like to take a look at the 55 T-Bird."

Nick doesn't respond, he's checking out Carrie's boobs.

"Excuse me, I said we'd like to look at the T-Bird."

"Don't I know you from somewhere?" Nick says. His eyes still on Carrie's boobs.

"No." Carrie says.

"You look familiar to me I swear to god I know you."

"Not a chance,"

Nick shrugs and says, "Okay. Let me get it down off the lift. Hey, Alonzo, get that fucking Bird off the lift, we got a couple of hot ones, they want to look at it." An old Mexican guy in a worn, white stained mechanic's jumpsuit comes out of a two stall shop, The name tag on the suit says Alberto. Alonzo is wiping his hands on a greasy rag. He's wearing knee high black rubber boots. It took awhile, but he got the T-Bird on the ground. It won't start. He heads back to the shop for a jumper cart. Nick looks nervous.

"It's a shit box Carrie, let's go."

"No, no, it looks like the one my Mom used to have."

Nick turns to me, "She likes the car, you say her name is Carrie?"

"Connie, dammit." Carrie says. "My name is Connie, you fat Greek shit!"

Carrie likes to move around town incognito, can you blame her?

An hour later we drive off Nick's lot in the T-Bird. Carrie is driving. I notice we leave a faint trail of blue smoke every time she steps on the gas, same thing when she lets off. The valve train is noisy and it has slight rod knock. It pulls to the left when she hits the brakes. All that matters to me is Carrie is really happy.

"I'm so fucking happy honey, we have a car and we don't have to walk everywhere. LA sucks when you have to walk all the time."

"You hungry?"

"Starved." Carrie whips into In 'N Out. We order to go. We get two Animal style, we share fries and a large strawberry shake On the way out, Carrie drives over the curb, I hear a clunk.

"Stop the car baby, I need to see what that sound was." She pulls to the curb. I look at the car and get back in. I have to slam the door twice to get it to close.

"What happened?"

"A chunk of bondo fell off the right rear quarter panel. You know this car used to be red?"


"Never mind, just drive."

"Let's show our new car to my Mom, she'll be so excited, she'll pee her pants."

"How would you know, she wears those new Depends, doesn't she?  Are you going to eat all  the fries or are you going to share them?"

Carrie is driving with her knee as we get on the 101, she hands me the shake and the fries. A napkin blows out of the car as she does, we get passed by an asshole driving a silver Audi in 3rd gear, the napkin is stuck in his wiper, he gives Carrie the finger, she flips him back. Carrie turns to me and says with a smile,"Don't you be a pig baby and eat them all." She turns on the radio, LA Woman by the Doors is on, Carrie turns it up, the right hand, aftermarket speaker goes to hell when she does, she starts banging on the dash.

"Get your hands back on the wheel, I'll feed you fries sweetheart and stay in your damn lane." The Doors sound like shit on one channel.

I feed Carrie fries and hold the strawberry shake so she can suck on the straw while she drives, we get off 101 at Desoto and take a right on Roscoe. We stop in front of an old two story apartment building, it's a fake Spanish with tiny decks in front of the sliding glass doors of each apartment. The decks are so small, two little chairs take up all the space and the wrought iron railings are rusty and peeling. The door buzzer doesn't work. Carrie suggests I toss the rest of the shake at her Mom's window to get her attention. My arm isn't as good as it used be, but I hit the slider dead center. The strawberry shake looks like modern art as it slides down the glass. Carrie's mom sticks her head out, looks around, she wearing a multi-colored, flowing caftan and has a scarf around her head, The music from her apartment is really loud.

"Carrie, what's that music your Mom is playing?"

"Some bullshit from the "The Unsinkable Molly Brown" last month it was the soundtrack from "Tammy",  God I hated that shit when I was a kid. Come to think about it, I still hate it!"

Debbie finally notices us standing on the sidewalk and says she'll buzz us in. We have to wait at the door until someone comes out so we can get in the building. We waited around 10 minutes until an old man with a shirt, tie, coat and no pants comes out."Carrie, remind your Mom the door buzzer doesn't work" I said as we went through the door. "At least the guy had fresh boxers on."

"I've been telling her that for months." We got in the elevator for the short trip to the 2nd floor. It doesn't take long, seems longer though because the elevator smells like cat pee. Carrie and I take a right out of the elevator, walk to the end of the hall. Carrie says, "Fuck! Mom's place is in the other direction!" We turn around and head back. One of the apartments has yellow police tape crisscrossed over the door.

"Is that where Durst lived?"

"Uh huh, Mom says he was one weird bastard."

We get to Carrie's mother's door, we both beat on it so Debbie can hear us over the music, Carrie kicks the door and hurts her foot, she's hopping around when Debbie opens the door and says, "Where the hell have you two kids been? I've been waiting forever."

More to come, maybe...

Friday, October 12, 2018

Jim Harper explains us and a lesson for you…

George got a nice note from Detroit’s Jim Harper:

“This is the most productive and potentially “golden” advice any morning jock could ever expect to receive. And it’s free! Then again…generous. Old Pros do that…never when asked, but when you least expect it and they sincerely want to help talent. I hope jox realize that Bob’s phone call script/outline should be stolen and produced with a killer-close…tomorrow! And George’s break-by-break then repeat-outline is a million dollar secret.”
Nice work, Gentlemen.

Thanks, Jim.

George and I were chatting this morning about something that’s always irritated the hell out of both us, especially about morning show talent.
The big sports news, the news really, is Baseball’s League Championship Series have started.  Dodgers-Brewers, Red Sox-Astros. The winners go to the World Series. It’s huge, even for people who don’t avidly follow baseball or listen to sports radio,

Here’s the deal, all over the country, radio people, who know zip about baseball, will begin pontificating on baseball. It happens every year. Don’t do it, you’ll sound like a moron.

I had an afternoon talk show host, a smart, interesting guy, great numbers. He knew nothing about sports and hated baseball. We carried baseball on the station, we did it for the cume, but that’s another story.. Anyway, our team ended up in the World Series. For the Series, we set up a remote broadcast studio in the parking lot right by the main gate of the ball park. We’d move the station to the ball park every afternoon prior to the home games. The talk show host pitched a bitch because he didn’t want to sound like an idiot on the air. The solution his producer and I came up with was simple, surround him with experts. We had an ancient, regional sales manager who had been a pitcher in AAA ball for the Phillies. He was so old, he played before MLB expansion! The guy knew baseball in and out. He was always fun to go to a game with, he carried a baseball with him and explained each pitch and the grip needed to throw it. We put him with the talk show host. We found baseball writers, TV guys (even Bob Costas dropped by) and retired ball players (Gary Carter) to join our guy for his shows prior to the games. Our guy was good, he knew when to shut up and he began asking the right questions. He got the “experts” to tell their stories. He was relaxed and comfortable with baseball during those shows. He did a great job doing something he initially didn’t want to do. There was a lot of laughing and good times on the radio, just guys talking about baseball. The callers asked good questioners and the experts gave them great answers.
When the teams moved on to play in the other teams home ball park. Our once reluctant talk show host couldn’t wait to get our sports guy on the phone to talk baseball.

The Series went 7 games, when our team won it, the happiest guy in the ball park was our talk show host, who a few weeks earlier hated baseball.

Jack Cole (RIP) was a pro.

And let that be a lesson for you.

BTW, We didn’t originate the games, but we carried them and made them our own. We won numerous awards for out sports production. Our production director was at the presentation ceremony in in New York and the committee was blown away that we weren’t the originating station for Marlin’s baseball.

It’s called “Theater of the Mind”.

Personal sidebar: My first date with my wife was the 7th Game of the World Series between the Marlins and Cleveland. The Cakes hasn’t been to a baseball game since!

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Funny how things happen, isn't it....

     Ray, George and I celebrating Geo's birthday a few years ago on the porch "Up in the Canyon"

It's October 3rd, my pal George's birthday. He's old like me. I've known George since the early 70's and we've celebrated a bunch of birthdays together, maybe too many. Not really, we're both glad we're still alive. This year's birthday is being celebrated in Tampa, Geo's baby daughter, college girl is throwing a party for him. I hope he can keep up with Cami and her friends. I know he'll do his best. Know Geo like I do, he'll fade.

In 1996, George and I were working together in the Fairbanks Corporate office in West Palm Beach. When our Boston stations were sold that spring, I was transferred to West Palm. I hated to leave Boston, but I needed to eat, so off I went. In short order, I was out of my relationship in Boston. 
In January of '97 I was at a charity event at a classy bar on Clematis Street in downtown West Palm. I let myself be picked up by a dazzling, British woman. In a few weeks we were a "thing". She swept me off my feet so to speak. In March, I took her to the Palm Beach Film Festival, Formal dress for the banquet, Very nice evening at the Breaker's Hotel, we had a great time. I pulled in her driveway at 1 in the morning, Sheila put her hand on my arm and said, "Love we have to take some time off." I asked "Why?" Sheila continued in her posh, Brit accent, "My husband is coming home for a few weeks and I can't let things get messy. We have an understanding between us, so you can see how this could create a problem don't you Robert? We can resume in when he leaves."

I was stunned, I was speechless, I didn't know what to say, I simply said, "Get the fuck out of my car!" 

I drove home and drank a half a fifth of Basil Hayden and went to bed. On Sunday morning my head was pounding. I took the dog for a walk, The dog and I drove to the Palm Beach News Stand and bought the papers. I swam in my little pool, by 10 that night by hangover was gone. I decided I was finished with women. I also decided I was pretty much done with everything except work. I stopped going out, I stayed home all the time. I went to work and went home for 7 months. George and our buddy Eric would come over on Saturday night, I'd cook, we'd get drunk, smoke cigars and watch "Cops" on TV.  I just stayed home in my little house on Rutland Blvd.


For months, I read a shitload of books, made excellent meals and played with Straka the Dog. I had enough money to finally pay off my divorce attorney, my back taxes and keep up with spousal support all at the same time. No sweat when all you do is shuttle from the office to home day after day. I even saved a buck or two.

7 went by, I finally agreed to go out for dinner on George's birthday. Eric, George and I met at an Italian place on Clematis, the food was good, so was the wine. We drove over to Palm Beach, hit a few spots. Eric didn't have a jacket on, at Au Bar, they made him slip into one of their "emergency" jackets. Eric, the spitting image of John Candy, was a 50 long and they tucked his fat ass into a 42 short and portly. It was a greasy, brown, nubby wool number. It looked outstanding with his Hawaiian shirt. Eric didn't care he reveled in it. A snotty Pam Beach type, said "Nice jacket." Eric, a Harvard drop out, said, in his deep baritone voice, using his best upper class Boston accent with a wide but insincere smile on his face, "Why don't you go fuck yourself,"

                                                       Eric Chaney, RIP. One of the best.

The three of us went to another club and as usual George faded from the scene around 10:30. Eric and I felt the urgent need to smoke a cigar. The Chesterfield Hotel's Leopard Lounge was just down the road, off we went. Eric in his huge, black, early 80's Fleetwood sedan. (he bought it from a funeral home) Eric loved his old Caddys and me in my 5 Series. 

The Leopard Lounge was empty, just a piano player, a tired looking woman server, a bartender and a guy with two women sitting at the bar. Eric and I sat down, we ordered from the bartender, lit our cigars, Eric asked me, "What do you think?" I said, "I think I just saw the best looking woman I've seen since I moved to Florida."

It was Jan. She had been to a birthday dinner for her friend Susie, they ended up at the Leopard Lounge too. Jan, Susie and the guy, neither of us can remember his name, joined Eric and me, we started to chat. The stars and the moon aligned, I gave Jan a ride home. We made a date, I got a peck on the check and the rest is history.

A few weeks later George starting calling her Cakes and that's how that got started. 

We were talking about Geo's birthday last night. I said "1997." Jan said "21 years", We both rolled our eyes.We always remember George's birthday! 

Sunday, September 30, 2018