Let Sleeping Limbs Lie

The other night I got up around 3am because my left arm fell asleep. The more I thought about it, the more I wondered why, in the middle of the night, the rest of me wasn’t asleep. When all of me is asleep does it actually feel as numb as my sleepy arm, only I don’t know about because, well, I’m asleep?

Taking this further, if I start shaking my arm that’s asleep and wake it up, then go back to sleep, have I just wasted my time? Seems like I’m pissing off my arm which was sound asleep, until I rudely rousted it then expected it to immediately return to slumber.

When I finally awakened to start my day and grab some breakfast, it was difficult to lift a spoon to eat my Cheerios. You see my spoon-lifting left arm was lethargic from having its sleep interrupted and was grouchy the rest of the day, at one point, refusing to participate in nut cracking—a two-armed task, and threatened a stirring strike, leaving undissolved sugar at the bottom of my coffee cup.

Oh, I could use my right arm but as a southpaw it would only result in a dreadful mess and give my left arm another reason to elbow the milk carton in a mocking manner.

Consider this a valuable lesson learned. If you wake up in the middle of the night with a snoozing extremity, turn over and let it go. It’s nothing to lose sleep over.

A Breakup, Unmasked

We first met in the spring of 2020, albeit reluctantly. It was more of an arranged coupling. I was quite happy in my current situation but fate mandated our star-crossed relationship. Oh, I suppose we all experience initial errors and false starts when considering what would turn out to be almost constant contact, but I chalk this up to aiming way too low, ratcheting up my vulnerability to levels dangerously high.

Here I was, perfectly healthy with a firm intention to stay that way. Then the “relationship” came into my life at the command of the government. First it was quarantine to stave off an incidious virus, then, in order to take baby steps in public my first face partner was forced on me. It was paper, temporary, barely functional but what can I say, it wasn’t as if there were many choices at first.

I slapped it over my nose and mouth and gamely ventured to the grocery store for a few vital necessities: bread, milk, Oreos, and craft beer. We didn’t get along from the get go. Scratchy, stiff, utterly inflexible—the quick breakup was a relief, but I needed to quickly find a new partner or be sentenced to house arrest.

And then, ah…as if created out of thin air I was presented with a vision of soft, black-lined cloth with a forgiving elastic strap. As I placed it upon my face we were in instant simpatico. I hadn’t felt such comfort and ease since overdosing on Dulcolax during a lost weekend in Inkster, Michigan.

Oh, we had our little spats from time to time. There was the instance where I foolishly decided to enter an overcrowded Cabela’s a week before deer hunting season. My facial protector scowled at my indiscretion scolding me saying, “you KNOW I’m no N95. Why put me in a position of almost certain failure?”

In my guilt I turned tail, made my way around the displays of dead, stuffed wildlife and emerged into an almost deadlier environment—the massive parking lot populated almost exclusively by diesel-powered heavy duty pickup trucks spewing black clouds of lethal dreck. There would be hell to pay when we got home, including a thorough laundering.

Still, we hung together for almost exactly three years through super spreader environments that included malls, air travel, occasional visits to the office and the in-laws. My protector was impervious to it all and I suffered not even a slight runny nose all that time.

But then, just in the past few weeks, I felt a distance—between my mouth, nose and my material significant other. Gaps had formed. It wasn’t the same. I felt vulnerable. It felt loose. Then one night I awoke with a scratchy throat, runny nose and an unexplainable anticipation of the next episode of “Call Me Kat.” Something was wrong.

My family urged me to take a test. I did. I failed. I instantly moved into a spare room isolating me from those I loved and others who were willing to let me win Uno. I called my doctor. A strong prescription was ordered followed by a question only an experienced, training healthcare professional could conjure: did your mask fail you?”

I caught my breath, thought of the good times we had over the past three years, our initial adjustment period but ultimate comfort level between us and then admitted, “yes doc, I believe it to be so.”

The callous bastard ordered me to immediately toss it in a can and replace it with another that would offer sufficient protection for the long haul.

Tough love, he called it. I slowly removed it from my face, said my goodbyes, thanked it for its service. We parted as friends, but not before it landed one last shot.

“You just had to lower me in that crowded Costco to taste that free guac sample…and I get the blame. You’re all the same. No self-control…it’s a damn pandemic.”

Spendid Isolation

I’ve got pretty much everything I need right now. Laptop, tablet, smartphone, big bottle of cold water, three vials of assorted medications, a closed door and an effective mask. No, I’m not on an urban bivouac, I’m in Covid isolation.

As I’m writing this I’m in the middle of day 4 and not feeling sick at all but my latest test was still positive, although the T line (the bad one) is barely there. Is that progress? Maybe, but all I know, and I hate, really hate to admit this, is that I’m really enjoying, in the words of the late, wonderful Warren Zevon, “splendid isolation.”

There are a few ways to look at being closed off in a spare room in my lovely home away from family and salty snacks. For one, I have almost no responsibilities. For the past six-plus years I’ve been semi-retired. For the past four days I’ve been completely retired. No, I can’t travel to a warm client but since I’m technically a victim of a global pandemic nothing is expected of me. I can stand that, at least temporarily.

I do feel bad I can’t enter the kitchen or eat with the rest of my family. My wife has been kind enough to leave food and beverage at my door. In turn I don’t ask for a lot because it bothers me to have her serve me and she knows I’m a shitty tipper.

Early in my isolation I didn’t really feel up to doing anything creative. So I blew a lot of hours gaping at my laptop screen. Watched some old rock concerts..any Tom Petty/Heartbreakers show is the best show. As a guitar player, Tom Petty songs are the easiest to play. He only used a few different chords, none of them very complicated. Thanks Tom, wish you hadn’t gone to the great wide open

Swung over to a long Hall and Oates show they did in Sydney, Australia. Why does Oates only get to sing two solos and barely say anything to the audience? Seems unfair. I wonder if they ever considerd changing their name to “Mostly Hall and A Small Bag of Oates.” Things you think about when you’re on Paxlovid.

Yearning for something completely new I discovered the wonders of the new show Poker Face starring the revelation known as Natasha Lyonne.

Her character is like a modern day Columbo. OK, don’t give me that shit you’re too young to remember Columbo. Look it up. Anyway, she can always tell when someone’s lying and that’s how she solves crimes….and she’s not even a cop. When someone lies she quickly responds, “bullshit!” No one says “bullshit” better than Natasha Lyonne. I actually think she should star in every single show and movie.

Couldn’t get to sleep right away last night so I dove into the memoirs of Mel Brooks. Figured it would be funny and make it easy to gently go into that good night. It was a good strategy. Still only at his early career in the Catskill Mountain Borscht Belt. We went their often in my childhood having been brought up in the NYC borough of Queens—a two-hour drive. The food and the jokes were equally stale but you always came away full, happy and constipated. Loved the Catskills.

I’m told to remain in my subdivision cell one more day after this and I’m sure my family will be happy because I’m hogging the combination guest room and room where my son has a lot of his precious stuff stored that he can’t get to.

But I’m not so sure I’m ready to return to the “outside” and lose my excuse for not doing stuff people expect of me. That’s why I’m hanging onto a couple of those positive Covid tests. Might need them as my ticket to extend my splendid isolation.

I’m Just Mild About Harry

Did you read Prince Harry’s book, “Spare” ? Yeah, I did because it was in my house and my library books were all overdue. I also wanted to “get” all of Stephen Colbert’s jokes and craved anecdotes regarding what happens when you freeze your “todger.” It is winter, you know, and one can never be too prepared for the wonts of nature while pushing the snow blower in the driveway.

I’ve always looked at Great Britain’s monarchy as a human zoo. With no power and an unfathomable love for bagpipe music, really, what purpose does it serve other than a lucrative tourist attraction in a nation that sorely needs the quid.

Perhaps the nation would be better served hiring the functionless bluebloods as knowledgable tour guides to educate the public as they schlep through Buckingham Palace and other assorted castles and musty old places.

This way they’d earn their keep without sucking up scarce public funds to maintain an unjustifiably lavish lifestyle.

It would also be effective in addressing Harry’s main beef in the book regarding the scummy British tabloid press and paparazzi. If the former royals were just working stiffs they’d cease to be of interest. Who’s gonna buy a paper with a headline screaming, “Palace Tour Guides Break For Lunch!” Problem solved.

Now I’ll admit, I did learn some things in the Spare’s book. The boy doesn’t like beer? Doesn’t relish downing a pint of piss warm brew at the corner pub, opting for tequila or gin and tonic instead? Sorry, I can’t hang with a bloke like that.

I learned that freckles on the face of Harry’s wife Meghan were airbrushed out of official photos. He lamented he thinks the freckles are cute. I’d maintain you don’t just eliminate part of someone’s face, unless you’re going to eliminate all of Camilla’s.

I never got the function of curtseying. When I was in grade school they tried to teach us how to pull off a curtsey for some reason. The girls had no problem. They were graceful. The guys just fell down. I always thought if I was in a position where someone thought they had to curtsey to me I would start laughing as I told them, “if you’re gonna go down that far, may as well kill the cockroach by your left leg.”

Frankly, I don’t think the dear, late Queen enjoyed the curtsey. I always imagined Her Highness thinking, “oh for crissakes. I can hear your joints cracking and this purse isn’t getting any lighter.”

Harry does come off as a troubled guy having endured the trauma of his mother’s death fleeing the “paps”, a brother who is portrayed as a bit of a turd and a father more concerned with his image than his offspring.

In the end it’s a little hard to feel sorry for someone who’s living in ultra-rich Montecito, Calif.–.same hood as Oprah, Rob Lowe and Arianna Grande and lots of other lesser-known one percenters. But I appreciate Haz and his family can’t live in just any suburban subdivision given serious security concerns, so no gripe there. But man, the HOA fees must be a killer.

Well, after slogging through 407 pages of Harry’s mostly depressing travails, I’m good. I get it. I’ve had enough. That’s why when Harry revealed he actually cut about 400 pages of content to protect his family but could conceivably publish a sequel, my only reaction is, Spare me.

Secrets of CNN Center From Its First Supervising Producer

Two Eds are better than one. Ed Turner and me at the Supervising Producer pod in CNN Center

The news broke this week that CNN Center in Atlanta will be closing by the end of the year. Here’s something few people know. I was the first supervising producer on duty when CNN Center opened in 1987.

I was working the 11pm-7am shift in preparation for the morning show called Daybreak at the time. Sounds like a shitty graveyard shift, but overnight in the States is prime time for overseas news. Can’t say “foreign” news because Ted Turner didn’t allow it. You had to say “international” or some other synonym for news not happening in the U.S. because, he correctly asserted, people in Bulgaria hearing news about their country wouldn’t consider that news foreign. Ted was a pretty brilliant guy.

We weren’t actually on the air yet from CNN Center. That would happen when Daybreak signed on at 6am. The last live newscast from CNN’s original location at 1050 Techwood Drive across from Georgia Tech University was Newsnight Update, which ended at 1:30 am.

With a TBS camera rolling for an upcoming documentary on the move at the appointed time I called over to Techwood to say something like, “operations are complete at Techwood. Time to move the mile or so down to CNN Center.” I’m sure it was better than that but sadly I never documented my remarks because I was sure they were unremarkable.

A little while later, Susan Rook, who had anchored that last live show from Techwood, arrived at CNN Center with a gift for me. She had removed one of the CNN logos on the anchor set and presented it to me. It’s on my office wall along with a photo from the 1989 CNN bureau chief’s meeting in Ted’s office and a poster signed by Ted wishing the Detroit Bureau luck when it opened in 1982.

I was the Detroit Bureau chief and correspondent from May, 1989 to January, 2001. When I was laid off in the great purge of ’01 I took the framed poster with me. The bureau was closed later that year.

Something else about CNN to which I will sheepishly admit. While the place was under construction I was appointed to a committee to help design the layout of the newsroom. For some reason I had the hairbrained idea it would be cool to emulate a print newsroom set up with circular team workstations with an editor in the middle—the slot..get it?

To my dismay the others loved it and that’s the way the “pods” were built. They were almost universally despised. Writers and producers around the rims were uncomfortable and the editors often complained of feeling like chestnuts roasting on ambient fires.

Once I caught wind of this dissatisfaction I never once, until this moment, mentioned that I was largely responsible for my colleagues’ misery. Apparently no one else remembered and the subject was never brought up. Why am I admitting this now? Because someone is likely to write another “history” of CNN and not get it exactly right. Call me.

For many years I had the blueprints for the newsroom design and I still might, but I can’t lay my fingers on them because there’s a good chance one of my family members used it to wrap Christmas presents and they’ve long ago been buried in a Michigan landfill. I have some boxes to exhume. Maybe they’re in there. But I won’t be looking today.

One of my strongest recollections from being the first supervising producer at CNN Center was learning the layout, especially the location of the washrooms. You see, working at CNN could be very stressful and when someone had the need there could be no delay.

It actually cracked me up as I sat in the elevated supervising producers pod, which was crescent shaped and not round, and crazed producers and writers who hadn’t taken advantage of the advance tours, screamed at me, “where the hell is the fuckin’ bathrooooooom!” If it was someone who had exhibited especially ass-holey behavior to me in the past, I’d kinda look up and ask, “what?” “Gotta go!!!!! Where!!!!!????” they’d holler while nature was hollering back at them. Then I’d point them in the right direction.

Often, when there were finished doing their business and returned to the newsroom they’d offer their appreciation for the information I shared with a familiar hand gesture, which I’m sure, in some culture, meant, “Next time I will pee on your shoes.”

Being the supervising producer meant largely, um, nothing. You didn’t actually produce. You mainly made sure the upcoming newscasts were leading with the best and latest stories, the producers knew of new material coming in on the satellites and if someone called in sick you had to find a replacement.

I loved that part. A producer would call in sick at, say, 1am and I’d ring up the designated replacement. Without fail I had rousted that person from their chaotic dreams and they’d bark at me, “do you know it’s the middle of the freakin’ night?” I’d calmly reply, “it’s the middle of my work day. Need you to come in tomorrow and produce the 2pm show.” Rough words were exchanged but the deed was done. I’d won again.

Working in the middle of the night I often had conversations with correspondents stationed overseas. Sometimes it was to approve a script, but at least one based in Japan just wanted to talk because he was lonely.

During many of the hours when I had literally nothing to do, I’d decide to prowl the oddball nooks and crannies of CNN Center. From the top floor of the CNN space you could look out at the atrium and see all sorts of things. Sometimes I’d see couples emerging from the movie theater or Omni Hotel or offices that were coupled with other people in real life. Omerta!

I remember the very last time I was in CNN Center. I had come down from Detroit in late 2000 to meet with the bosses. It was a one-day quickie. Unremarkable, but somehow I knew my time at the network would end soon. I kinda turned around and took what I just felt was my last look at the place and cracked up to myself thinking, “those poor slobs are still sweating in my pods.”

Storm and Drang

Today’s the second day of winter. You know what happens in winter? It gets cold and often snows. What?????? This is news to you? For the past 48 hours weather people in at least three time zones have whipped up a frenzy about a coming winter storm. I know, they’re trying to give fair warning, keep people safe and mostly, boost ratings and web traffic.

You ever wonder what weather people do in places where none of the crap happens? Where there’s nothing to hype but another great day? It just so happens I was one of them very early in my career. My first TV job was as the weekend weather guy on KGUN in Tucson, Arizona while I was going to grad school at the University of Arizona to earn my Masters in Journalism.

I just happen to have one to show you.

You should know I had no weather training whatsoever. To get the job I went to the library, pulled some books on meteorology, learned a few words I could toss in to make it look good and learned how to decipher a weather map.

I showed up at the station for my audition and was told to just use the map the real weather guy just used on the air. Total prep time with that map, 10 minutes. No scripts. Like other weekend weather guys in that market, I was hired because I was good at spewing extemporaneous bullshit from my experience as a radio DJ.

Now Tucson has three basic weather features: hot, really hot, quick downpours in June and July called chubascos, or typhoons. The rain would last for about 20-30 minutes, flood the streets, then drain out into the desert. After that Tucson weather would revert to either hot or really hot.

That’s not much to fill a 3.5 minute weather cast. So what to do? Turns out there are a lot of snowbirds or permanent transplants from the midwest and the east coast. Many of them spent a lot of money to lead that lifestyle. So I was told to spend 3 of those 3.5 minutes recapping how crappy the weather was in those areas to make the transplants feel good about their moves, and also to give them fodder for calling their relatives and friends back home to rub it in. “Hey Izzie! I hear it sucks in Chicago…like 12 degrees, snow and bastard winds! It’s 103 for the 12th day in a row out here in Tucson…in December. I’m not even wearing pants! Take care, sucka!”

The final 30 seconds of the weathercast was the forecast for Tucson. “Yup, hot again. It might even be hotter this weekend.” One time, though, something unexpected happened. A rogue rainstorm cropped up on a Sunday. Came out of nowhere so it wasn’t in my “expert” forecast.

The next day while at the supermarket with my wife, some guy recognized me and started yelling, “you screwed up my family picnic on Sunday ya bastard!” The folks in the checkout line stared at me and one murmured, “ya eff’d up mine too.” Figures, the one time there was actual weather we missed it.

Weather was never gonna be my thing anyway. It was just a foot in the door on my way to my real goal of being a reporter. But my short experience ad libbing my ass off in front of a weather map followed me years later after I was at CNN for a few years.

I was working at the CNN headquarters on election night 1986 as a reporter when around midnight the weathercaster for the morning show called in that her mother had just died and of course, needed to take some time off. The backup weather guy didn’t answer his page, which caused some panic. Then one guy remembered my dark past and told the boss, “Hey Ed did weather in Tucson.”

The boss came to me and asked if I wouldn’t mind giving it a shot. Why not. We had an awesome weather producer name Ross Hayes and he got me through it. Made the maps, briefed me on top weather features and I had enough to wing it through a half dozen weather segments. I guess I did ok because the boss asked me if I wanted to be a permanent weather fill-in guy. Eh, by that time I was a full-time network correspondent but I didn’t say no. I was never asked the to the weather again.

I have to say, I did enjoy doing the weather because it was a chance to show a little personality, ad lib and not have to cover a shooting or plane crash or city council meeting.

I did learn, however, back in my KGUN days, people don’t always listen carefully. After popping onto the set to report a tornado warning my phone rang. At the other end of the line was a very irate senior citizen with a disturbing question and accusation. “What’s that you just said about President Carter dying?” I politely explained I said nothing of the sort, but rather I reported a tornado warning. “Ha!” she snorted. “Hiding the truth! Can’t trust you weather people!”

An Original’s View of the CNN2 Destruction

Me, on the right in the white jacket in 1982, working on my CNN2 newscast rundown at 1 a.m.

Listen to a podcast version at: https://anchor.fm/ed-garsten9/episodes/An-Originals-Requiem-For-HLN-e1rtb8c

Sometime in November, 1981 I got a tip. CNN was starting a second network and needed newscast producers. I just happened to be a newscast producer at KGUN, the ABC station in Tucson, Ariz.  The person who gave me the tip also gave me a number to call in Atlanta where CNN was based. I called the number, spoke to someone who told me to send a tape of my newscast.

Someone must have liked it because I received a call from Atlanta telling me an airline ticket would be waiting for me on Sunday, two days from then. I was to fly there, be interviewed, then fly back the same day.

The interview seemed to go well, but as one of the big bosses led me to the door to leave, he said, “good luck….no matter what happens.” Shit. It’s wasn’t gonna happen.

I read it wrong. The next day the top money man called me at my desk at KGUN and offered me the job to start as a producer for the new CNN2. Be there in two weeks..or sooner.

The big rush was because Ted Turner, founder and genius behind CNN, heard ABC was going to start a fast-paced headline news type network called Satellite News Channels in 1982. Ted instantly called upon his top people at the network and told them to create and launch a competitor by the first of the year, 1982.

They had just a few months to figure this out…and did. We not only beat SNC on the air, Turner bought it and shut it down.

My first day was November 30, 1981. I showed up in brown corduroy jeans and a checked button-down shirt. It’s the kind of stuff I wore in Tucson where life is eternally laid back. I quickly found out it’s not what you wear when showing up for work at a network.

All these guys in jackets and ties and women in fine business clothes stared at me. The boss smiled as he said to me, “you might have noticed there’s a dress code.” I do now.

Over the next five weeks I experienced the most intense training and evaluation period of my life. The new CNN2 format was brutal. Very fast, very structured and be ready for anything to change and know how to deal with it so it looked seamless on the air. Fun.

Some people didn’t last. I saw one person cry, walk away and never saw her again.

But it was awesome. We put together some of the fastest-paced, content-rich, creative newscasts you can imagine. Yes, the pace was brutal. I’d often get home and fall asleep at the dinner table from sheer fatigue.

However, even when I produced newscasts at 3 a.m. and 7 a.m. working overnights, we had a tight team camaraderie and yes, some spirited competition.

The first section of each half hour was eight minutes long—breaking news and latest content spilling down from the satellites. The goal was to show the anchors as little as possible, moving from video to video to video to soundbite to reporter package to video to video.

We producers took great pride in how much video we could stuff into those eight minutes. I think I once broke 30. The guy in playback collapsed on the couch in the atrium between CNN2 and CNN afterwards.

The pressure to find visual ways to tell a story resulted in some creative solutions. One time there was a story related to the war in El Salvador. I had no video but found a couple of photos on the wire. Hmm…what to do. It wouldn’t be good enough to just pop the photos on the air full screen, I wanted things to move.

So I had a conversation with my director. I asked him, “what if we started with a map showing the location of the battle over the anchor’s shoulder, push it full-screen after the first sentence, squeeze in one of the photos over the spot where it happened, do a 3D wipe to the next photo and pop it back over the anchor’s shoulder.

He loved it and we actually executed the complicated move live on the air. For 1982, that was pretty sophisticated.

You see, it was pure news. No interviews, no opinions, no bullshit. All content on a tight wheel where viewers could almost tell what time it was based on what was on the screen and know if they wanted the hear the latest in sports, around 17 after or 13 minutes before the hour was the time to tune in.

Then it all changed. First, the name. It went from CNN2 to CNN Headline News then Headline News and much later, HLN, which meant nothing to anyone. There was still some live programming but otherwise there was pre-produced content, much of it excellent. It just wasn’t “headline news.”

I worked at CNN2 until September, 1983 when I was promoted to the main network where I first produced the 2 p.m. newscast, then further moved up to the morning show, Daybreak. Eventually, and I’m skipping a lot of time here, I reached my real goal of being a reporter and was made a correspondent in the Atlanta-based Southeast Bureau, did some fill-in anchoring, even did the weather once in an emergency, and eventually was made Detroit Bureau Chief and Correspondent where I served for 12 years before being laid off in that “great” Time Warner-AOL merger of 2001. They also closed the bureau some months later since all that was left was a shooter and producer with no reporter.

Ah…yes..layoffs, shut downs, destruction. It was nothing CNN founder and head dreamer Ted Turner would have ever done. He was about building, supporting, enhancing, preserving. He was never about regression or destruction.

The original genius of CNN2 gradually and tragically morphed into a bit of a catch-all that made no sense. It had long ago served its purpose, vanquished a would-be enemy and probably should have left the scene once it veered off course.

As someone who was sent packing from a job I loved I feel awful for all those suffering the same fate. My message to them is know you did nothing wrong. You have plenty to offer and you will survive. I did so by reinventing myself as a print journalist, corporate communications executive and back to journalism.

Indeed, getting laid off by CNN was the best thing that happened to me. I found out I had much more in me than I thought, enjoyed great second and third acts in my life but always knew, without CNN on my resume, many of those doors may not have opened for me. 

So screw the bean counters, unimaginative executives, corporate assholes…there’s more out there and if the CNN line on your resume helps make it happen, use it..they owe ya one.

When Halloween Candy Turned to Copper

Some people are naturally good at Halloween, some aren’t. I don’t mind saying I, personally, suck at it and always have. That may be, in part, due to my upbringing. No one in my family really took it seriously.

I always had the crappy costume in a box that ripped after you hit three houses leaving my ass exposed to the fall chill while I made my candy demand rounds. Those costumes always included a mask with such sharp edges you looked like one of Freddy Krueger’s victims by the time you returned home.

I lived in a massive garden apartment complex in Queens, N.Y., that outer borough of New York City people in other boroughs kissed off as “out on the island,” meaning Long Island. No matter Brooklyn is also on Long Island, but that’s another battle for another day.

My street was one of three that intersected at a single point, meaning you could hit literally hundreds of apartments just by walking around. I’d score so much candy I’d have to make periodic stops at home to dump my bag. Bad move!

While I was on my next round my parents were picking through my stash keeping the good stuff and pulling aside what they deemed the losers—Mary Janes, marshmallow peanuts, Smarties, candy corn.

Oh no, they weren’t going to eat them. What was going on was a scheme worthy of Bernie Madoff. Instead of actually buying candy, they skimmed my sugar proceeds to dump in some other poor kid’s bag.

Like any pyramid scheme, the perps eventually either tap out or get busted. In my parent’s case, once the supply of their ill-gotten goodies was depleted they had to come with something, anything, to satisfy the treat or treaters.

That’s when things got ugly. My father would call for the extreme, and always, unsuccessful, backup plan—the Boston bean pot. It was way up high in the cupboard when they kept their booze, collection of swizzle sticks and matches. Indeed, the bean pot never made an appearance until late on Halloween night when the door bell still rang but the pile of pilfered candy evaporated.

But no one panicked. The Boston bean pot was moved near the door. When the next group of goblins arrived and demanded satisfaction my father gave them a big smile…reached into the bean pot, pulled out a penny and tossed it in the poor kid’s bag.

The bean pot held the ultimate booby prize– hundreds of pennies, saved all year long just for Halloween.

One kid just stood stock still and stared expecting the penny was just a down payment on something better, until an older kid who’d suffered similar disappointment at our door advised the tyke, “may as well move on. That ‘s all you’re fuckin’ getting here.” The little kid therefore learning a new lesson and a new word.

My brother and I tried to explain the penny thing wasn’t working and would certainly lead to some sort of Halloween retribution in the form of eggs on our door or windows, or us getting whacked with crushed colored chalk stuffed in a sock leaving our clothes and faces with clear signals we’d committted some heinous Halloween crime. Hey! It wasn’t us…it was our parents! Tough gezatz, as they’d say back then.

Once I grew up, got married and had kids I made sure we not only had candy in the house, but tons of it! We never ran out. In fact, we always had extra by the time Halloween ended, which is why we always bought stuff we all liked—Kit Kats, Twix, M&Ms—because we’d be snacking on that sugar all year long till we replenished our supply for the next Halloween.

Oh no…we would not be using coinage to conceal our bad planning and we certainly never stole our kids’ candy. I did tell them the story of my father, the bean pot and the pennies, to which they responded quite earnestly, “you do that, Dad, and our relationship is over.”

But damn, now what am I gonna go with all those pennies? I do have some spare nickels…hmm…

Happy Halloween!

Podcast: Tales From the Beat-Weekly Look At News and PR From Both Sides

One of the features I write for Franco PR as their Integrated Media Consultant is a look at news and PR issues from both sides of the scrimmage line given my long experience in both journalism and corporate communications. Recently, I decided to add a podcast version that I’d love to share with you all.

You can now listen to Tales From the Beat on Spotify, IHeartRadio, Amazon Music and Apple Music.

Here’s the first one related to the recently revived Detroit Auto Show. Love to get your feedback. Thanks!