Category Archives: Memoir

September 11, 2001: “She must be watching a movie…”

September 11, 2001, Glendale California. Shortly before 6 a.m. A ringing phone wakes me up. I hear my girlfriend groggily answer it, and I can hear, all the way over on my side, the voice of her mother, upset about something. Lots of “What? What? What?” coming from that side of the bed.

“What’s she on about?” I manage to mumble.

“My mom says a plane hit the World Trade Center in New York.”

wtc fireIt takes a minute for that very unlikely sentence to sink into my sleepy brain, but the answer was plain as day to me. “She’s must be watching a movie or something,” I said.

“She says to turn on the TV!” There’s an urgency in her voice, and annoyed at what I think is her mom being confused and upset over nothing, I find the remote and turn on CNN.

There it is. A gaping hole. Smoke billowing out. We can see flames.

Now I’m awake.

It must have been some massive failure of the air traffic control system, some huge computer foul-up. I tell her that somehow, some pilot wasn’t looking out his window, was looking at some instruments that were obviously completely screwed up, and flew right into the building.

But then I start thinking about how many systems would have to break down for that to happen. And what would a plane be doing flying that low anyway?

Still believing it was some small commuter plane, the CNN anchor breaks in and says they’re getting reports it was a jet. An airliner.

And as confirmations come in that it was a jet that hit the WTC, that’s when we see the second plane. Not sure of what we just saw, the news network (I can’t remember if we stayed with CNN or if we started flipping around) helpfully replayed the footage.

hijacked-united-airlines-flight-175-l-flies-toward-the-world-trade-cen

Our mouths are hanging open. I start to say, “How the hell can a computer mix up explain a f—ing SECOND plane—” but as we both look at each other we have the same sudden, sickening thought forming in our heads, and the news anchor says at the same time, crystallizing the realization and finishing the thought for us, “This can’t be an accident. This is a terrorist attack.”

Cecil the cat jumped into bed with us, wondering why we were awake so damn early and decided to capitalize on the opportunity and meowed for food.

I don’t think our eyes left the television the whole day.

On the radio…

Microphone. Photo by Rob Archer.

I was still in high school when I started my radio career. Broadcasting has been the only job I’ve ever had. This summer I’m celebrating my anniversary, but please forgive me if I fail to mention the number.

As every radio veteran knows, there are more ups and downs in this business than one can count. The downs can be awful, heartbreaking, devastating… but the ups can be pretty damn great. I have had the great and humbling pleasure and honor of working with some amazing individuals through the years. In their orbits I’ve learned and grown, and have been able to be a great many things — a DJ, a programmer, a boss, a news anchor — that wouldn’t have been possible without learning at the feet of some pretty elevated masters.

I’ve met my best buds (you know who you are, Gary & Frank), plenty of interesting individuals, and I’ve worked for, worked with, and managed some amazing human beings. I have been in awe of all of them, not just the ones who turned out to be friends.

There’s one person in particular I worked for a few years ago… It wasn’t until this week with a simple congratulatory email he sent that I realized he was a father figure all this time. By simply expressing that he was proud of me, I had the sudden and emotionally overwhelming feeling of being blessed beyond measure. I can’t say thank you enough, JK. Dammit man, you made me cry.

Every chapter in my journey has been wonderful, and I’m embarking on a new one. I am so incredibly lucky to be able to turn the page and find the book’s not nearly over. No one’s more surprised than me.

Thank you all for being. And if there are any gods, may they all bless you with the wisdom of a mountaintop guru and the happiness of a roomful of puppies. May you all hit the post and may your air never be dead.

Cancer steals some more laughter.

From left to right: Me, David Hernandez, Cinda Vivanco & Barry Weinberger at Punch 59, May 1999.

From left to right: Me, David Hernandez, Cinda Vivanco & Barry Weinberger at Punch 59, May 1999.

Cancer has stolen another person away.

This time it’s David Hernandez, a buddy of mine from Florida with whom I performed back in my PUNCH 59 sketch comedy days in the late 90s. Cancer took him last night. He was the Bill to my Bob and “we was Siamese twins, joined together at the upper lip, we shared a brain stem. When we was separated, I got the upper part of the brain and he, well, he knows how to breathe.” Gods, he was funny, especially when he would argue back, “No, YOU smell like a fish.”

Those were good times. The sketch comedy was a creative outlet, and in addition to writing a few bits, I got to play in the troupe a few times. David was always one of the best to work with, and when there were new characters that needed to be brought to life, David found the funniest way possible to give them breath. He got the laughs, man.

In the end, cancer took that breath. He’d been fighting it for a while, and from time to time he’d post updates on his progress. In the last few weeks it seemed he was getting somewhere. He talked about going home, and from his positive tone I just assumed that meant he was getting better.

Over the years since I’d moved to L.A., he’d private message me occasionally, reminiscing about the fun we’d had playing in sketches together. I would always remind him his great comedic timing made everything work, and it was always a joy to be on stage with him and ride the laughter as naturally and easily as could be. And more than once, he was the guy who made me crack up in the middle of the sketch.

I’ll see you in another life, Batman.

And screw you, cancer.

Starlog

So… every issue of Starlog magazine has been scanned and put online. I bought the first issue when it came out, and then the next 30 or so before I lost track of them. It was a magazine devoted to science fiction, and I was a wee little nerd in the summer of 1976 — this was pre-Star Wars and Close Encounters, mind you.

I’m proud of myself for only wasting half the day looking at them.

Starlog eventually folded but has recently been resurrected as a website. You can see the old magazines at archive.org in all their grayed-page glory. It’s fascinating to see things again I haven’t seen in nearly 40 years, and have them bring back so many childhood memories.

I only wish I remembered what happened to my collection. I either threw them away or bequeathed them to my little brother.

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A quick tour of my old high school

I graduated from what was then known as Christian Day School in Belle Glade, FL in 1981. I probably haven’t stepped foot inside the building since then.

I was surprised to find the building still there… The last I had seen it, it was abandoned and had been sold off by First Baptist Church in Belle Glade, which had owned and operated the school. It appears the church has reopened it and turned it into a youth center.

The video was taken by Ronnie Loaiza who is a personal trainer and could not resist stopping to give someone tips on her exercise routine.

The Moon and The Boy

I was all of five years old, and my grandparents had let me stay up late to watch.

I was already a space nerd, read as much as I could about the space program, knew all about the Mercury and Gemini missions, had written fan letters to the astronauts and even gotten a few replies, had a closet full of space and rocket toys… and now, there I was, lying on my stomach in front of the TV console, watching grainy images of the first men walking on the Moon.

Was it any wonder I grew up loving science fiction seeing as how I was living it? Seeing as how I was growing up as the human adventure in space was just beginning? Seeing as how I was born not long after mankind had managed to take a leap off our planet and into orbit for the first time?

I still remember vividly those images on that TV screen. I remember not moving from that spot on the floor for a long time, entranced by watching something that had never ever happened before in all of human history, watching something that a thousand years from now might be the only thing for which America is remembered… Neil and Buzz landing and then walking on the Moon.

What a triumph for a dream thousands of years old to be made into reality by technology and guts and know-how and imagination and romance and science.

Here comes the rain again

Here comes the rain in SoCal and everyone’s talking about it – it’s a “storm,” the “rainpocalypse,” an excuse to stay home because freeway denizens don’t know how to drive when the road is wet.

When I grew up in south Florida, a “rain storm” was when you couldn’t see the hood of your car, so instead of going 80 on the Interstate, you went 70 because you figured everyone else had pulled off the side of the road.

No, I am not exaggerating. Those summer thunderstorms in Florida were a daily occurrence in the hot season, and during the big downpours you really couldn’t see the end of your car hood.