#9 Why Not Put on a Show in the Garage?Posted: February 22, 2012
In 1971,Seattle was still known as a less sophisticated San Francisco. That was before Microsoft, Starbucks and too much traffic. One of my jobs while at the University of Washington was announcing ski reports on Washington, Oregon and Canadian radio stations for a ski magazine, at dawn. The company wake up service knew to call me twice because I’d fall asleep on the couch on the way to the bathroom. There was always a bit of banter with the disc jockey on the air before the report and that led to my working for one of the best radio stations in the west, KVI. It was owned by Gene Autry and years later I still got Christmas cards from Gene and Ida.
The station hired me as Continuity Director, which meant I was in charge of all commercials that went on the air. Half of them had to be typed because advertisers wanted the on-air personalities to read them live, but I could barely type a term paper. There was one commercial I messed up every time, The Pizza Peddler. I typed “Pizza Piddler” and the announcer inevitably cracked up.
That’s how casually things happened. I was exhausted working two jobs while eking out the last few credits in school. Why not work in radio? Or, why not put on a show in the garage?
Life there was good. I was “the kid” working with wonderful people. The woman who trained me was part friend, part supervisor and part maternal. She died last year and I miss her.
I got to go up in the small airplane that was used for traffic reports in the afternoons. What people didn’t know was that I was often flying the plane while the pilot was on the air. Later I took flying lessons at Boeing Field, landing right behind the new 747’s. And 90 days of the year, I could see Mt.Rainier from my office. Seattle had its first baseball franchise, so we went to games: tough out there because it wasn’t a spectator sports town. The Pilots later became the Milwaukee Brewers, a team I also saw when I lived there a few years later.
My newly formed dream was to own my own radio station in Seattle, maybe twenty years later. It was a dream, not a plan. And in my mind that meant I needed to go to New York for experience. The Army was sending my brother to Fort Dix,N.J. I jumped at the chance to have my belongings sent with him. I announced I was moving to New York so people at the radio station wrote letters on my behalf. I was leaving without a job, or a home, and 3,000 miles toward the unknown.
I filled my zippy black and gold Opel Kadett Rallye with clothes and my little dog Sammie. She lived at my mother’s house and just when I was about to leave, Alice informed me that Sam was going with me. Whoops.
I loved to drive, though the longest distance I had done on my own was ski trips to Vancouver, B.C. It must late fall so I didn’t go too far north to avoid snow. I made tracks with little money, therefore very little sightseeing.
I had been on the road about six days when I stopped first at Fort Dix, New Jersey to see my brother and his wife. But I needed to get to Manhattan that night. Coast Guard friends of my father’s were letting me stay with them on Governor’s Island. My timing was either idiotic or accidentally brilliant. I crossed the George Washington Bridge and maneuvered the West Side Highway at rush hour. After that I was never intimidated driving in New York.
I found the ferry terminal at the bottom of Manhattan, right near the Staten Island Ferry. Sammie and I took the quick ride across and I found the gracious house of my friends. I had been there a couple of years earlier for a visit, so that had a lot to do with feeling confident about the move. They lived in a grand historic brick house on Colonel’s Row. The Island has a fort from the Revolutionary War. It’s been British and American, Army and then Coast Guard. My father’s friend was the Commanding Officer. Every morning I woke to Reveille and at sundown I heard the peace of Taps.
I had mastered New York rush hour traffic, but when I drove up to the house I had to face my next hurdle. My friends did not know about Sammie. It’s one thing to take in a friend’s daughter, but with the surprise of a dog? I didn’t want to push my welcome so the poor pup slept in my car for a few nights. But soon she was part of this generous family.
There I was with no agreement about how long I could stay with them, no job, no apartment and next to no money. I had no plan.