I am being technologically challenged tonight and have gone from computer to computer to computer trying to do what I want to do — what I NEED to do. I was trying to cut a spot and that is something I get paid for, so I like to fulfill that sort of request, but I was stymied for a while. My Old Nellie computer that weighs about as much as an end table full of magazines may have finally bitten the dust. I no longer use it for anything except cutting spots because it has software that I can’t afford to replace on the new computer. But tonight it didn’t give me the option of using it. Mark’s computer still has the software that I use so I had the bright idea of using his with my audio equipment, but it didn’t work well so I was back to my new computer with software I don’t know how to use. I eventually managed to get the spot recorded and sent it off. I didn’t like the way it sounded and am not proud of putting out work I don’t like, but I hope they will accept it, though they may need to do some tweaking when they get it.
After all that technology, I sure didn’t want to deal with difficulties with cameras and pictures, but things went pretty smoothly here as I tried Picassa’s online editing software Picnik and it did just what I needed it to do to make a photo look good for my blog. This is the photo I wanted:
I’m sure it would appear that that is a lousy picture because I cut off the people’s head and it is all ground, but the ground and the tree limb is what I was focusing on. That’s the limb that almost did me in last week.
I was walking to the writing class I’ve been taking on Thursday nights. Tomorrow is the last class and I will miss it a lot. Since I have a little time before class, I went to Shady Grove and had a hippie sandwich for dinner and watched some of the pre-game festivities of the World Series. Then I headed to class through their big back parking lot. I was passing along the driveway from the front parking lot to the back parking lot when this green Toyota was driving by. There was room between me and them, but I was walking as close as I could to the other cars and gate on the other side. Suddenly, I heard a huge crash/crack and didn’t even have time to have false ideas about what it was. I immediately saw what is in the picture above: Â a large cottonwood limb from a super tall dead tree had crashed onto their car and onto the drive between their car and me. It broke into a lot of kindling upon impact, but there is no doubt it could have seriously hurt or killed me if it had fallen on top of me. If this car had not come along, I might have been right in the middle of that drive. People get killed by cottonwoods every year. You know how many? A lot, I’m sure, but my Google searches were fruitless, so you’ll just have to take my word for it. It is a dangerous tree, though one of my favorites.
So let’s move from my near death to my Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead for you gringos) altar. My sister sent me a picture of the altar of one of her friends and it is beautiful. Mine makes me very happy. I had a friend ask me this weekend how I came to know of Dia de los Muertos since I’m not from this part of the world where it is so common. I honestly can’t remember when I started being interested in them or when I set my first one up, but I know I have been doing it for several years now. I may have to go look through my diaries to see if I made notes about it. This is my altar for this year. I know Mark took some beautiful photos of my altar last year, but I tried it this year and it is hard to capture the glow of the candlelight and have the picture be in focus, too.
This year I didn’t get as elaborate as I have some years, but that is primarily because we have a kitten. The mantel was the only place I could (almost) guarantee that he wouldn’t be Â disturbing the dead. When I pulled out some of the things I had for the altar I was pleased to see the arch. Mark made that for me last year from a drum rim. The arch signifies the entrance to the spirit world. I also had several sugar skulls in my box so that saved me a trip to the Mexican bakery to get them. At the centerpiece, you see two of our Day of the Dead skeleton figures: she’s playing the accordion and he’s playing the drums. Macabre, yes, but everyone needs to realize that we are just passing through. There are lots of marigolds in vases and scattered about. The aroma is pungent, but pleasant. I walked through the living room earlier and had that moment of “What is that?” before I realized.
I did not have good pictures of all of the people represented on my altar this year. You can see the picture of Mark’s aunt Margaret Harper. She passed away last year just a day Â after the Day of the Dead on November 3. She was Mark’s grandmother’s sister and she was 98 years old and still taking care of the rental properties she owned and quite independent.
All of the others on my altar this year didn’t have pictures. Only one other is a relative, my cousin Martha Lee. She died in September and I went to her funeral in Waxahachie. I do not have a good picture of her. She was a very sweet lady and we had a lot of correspondence about genealogy. Her husband and my mother are first cousins.
All the others on my altar are my broadcasting friends. Hard to believe that 3 of my fellow broadcasters died this year– all from the same station in Amarillo. Eric Stephens was just a little older than me and we worked together. One memory I have of working with him was when my partner Chuck and I got to work at 5 a.m. one morning and Eric was the all-night guy. He was very upset because he had talked to a man who was threatening suicide. Eric talked to him and tried to bolster him and talk him out of it and was meanwhile calling the police and trying to get help, but he didn’t know where the guy lived. We tried to reassure him that the guy probably just needed someone to talk to and Eric had been there for him so he probably wouldn’t kill himself then. Sadly, the next morning, we found that man’s obituary in the paper. It was very sad for Eric and an example of how tenderhearted he was and how much he cared about his listeners.
Mark Shannon is also on my altar. He was less than 10 years older than me, but at 19 (me) that seemed very grown up. He was the morning man when I came on board at KPUR in Amarillo, though I had listened to him when he had been on afternoons for a long time. He was funny and irreverent and the epitome of what a great disc jockey was in the late 70s. We all loved being around him and his sense of humor. Since I worked nights and he was in the morning, I didn’t get a lot of opportunity to work with him or be around him, sadly. He was very kind though. He got a great job in Philadelphia and moved up in the world, but wrote me a really nice long letter of advice about the business and what I needed to do to advance my career. I wish I still had that letter. With as much stuff as I have retained over the years, I might, but I haven’t seen it in a long time if I do.
Finally on my altar was my dear friend and part of my morning team in Amarillo for 5 years, Bob Izzard. He died this summer and was in his 80s and had lived a long truly full life. He was an American hero. He was shot down over France in World War II when he was only 21 and he was hidden by the French Underground for 100 days and never discovered by the Germans. I believe the French even buried his plane so it wouldn’t be found. He was able to go back to France and reacquaint himself with his rescuers in later years. He wore wild, brightly colored suits left over from his TV news days. Some people would equate his TV persona with Ted Baxter of Mary Tyler Moore’s show, but that isn’t right at all. He had a distinctive delivery and the bright coats, but he was incredibly intelligent, modest, and so easy to work with. I can only imagine how I was at 6 in the morning day after day for years, but he was alwaysÂ impeccablyÂ dressed–even with a tie–and happy to see me, happy to bring me the temperature each hour, get me coffee if I needed it (he often offered). He was brilliant behind a microphone and never used a script or had copy to read from. He would just have a few notes of information and he would tell the story without ever stumbling or correcting himself. I want to go through my reel-to-reel tapes and see if I am lucky enough to have some audio of Bob’s newscasts. They were memorable and I can still hear his voice in my head.
There are so many things to write about, including the World Series. And a new cousin that has found me through my blog. And on and on. But it is also late and Day of the Dead is upon us, so I will go check to make sure the spirits are happy and go to bed.