Brian’s Blog: Lessons From The Past

It is amazing how you can find out so much about yourself, by taking a look at those who came before you.

One of my growing hobbies is genealogy; the study of family history. At first, I did it for myself out of curiosity. I wanted to know who came before me; who those people were and what they did. Now I continue the work for the benefit of my boys. I never want them to be in the dark about who their immediate ancestors were as well as those who names and faces have been all but lost to history.

Through my work, I have found that I am related to people whose names are household words: writers, politicians and the like. But the two people whose lives continues to touch me time and again and those of my maternal grandparents: Perry Weatherly and Alice Lorraine Keller.

I had the benefit of growing up with them in a very real way. Grandma and Grandpa weren’t people I visited only on the holidays. I grew up with them in the same house. They were always there. By the time I knew them, they were older. My grandparents were 55 years older than I was. A full generation (and then some) separated me from them.

One thing I always try to find in my research is what they were like when they were younger. What made them tick when they were in their teens and their 20’s? What were they like when they were the age I am now? These are very specific pieces of a very specific puzzle that I am trying to put together.

So I was thrilled when I was able to come across a picture of Perry and Alice Lorraine when they were in their early 20’s and not yet married. I do not know exactly when the picture was taken. I also do not know exactly where but if I had to venture a guess, I would say Des Moines, Iowa…where both of them were born and raised.

Perry & Alice Lorraine

This picture of Perry Weatherly and Alice Lorraine Keller was taken sometime in the last 1930’s or early 1940’s, likely in Des Moines, Iowa.

I look at this picture and I think so many varied and different things. This is, to a large degree, how I remember them: standing firm and standing together, side by side, two of them against the world.

It is interesting to look at them and see something that resembles youthful optimism. I suspect Alice Lorraine is standing on something, because Perry was nearly a foot taller than she was.

I look at them, standing together and I know that at this time they had already discussed early plans of marrying and making a life together. But what they did not know when that picture was taken, but what I do know thanks to the hindsight of history, is what their life together would hold. Within a few short years, Adolf Hitler would threaten the world. They would marry and then Perry would leave for four years of overseas service.

When he came home, they resumed building their life together. They held the reins of their own business and eventually started a family of their own.

There would be weekends at Rock Creek near Kellogg. There would be races at Knoxville. There would be births. There would be deaths. But the constant through all of their decades together was that they had each other.

My Grandfather was the toughest man I ever knew. I had him in my life for 24 years and I saw him cry once; on the day my Grandmother died. She was my best friend growing up and it is amazing to me that I have now lived more of my life without her than with her.

Perry and Alice Lorraine never gave up on each other. And they were about as opposite as they come. They held similar beliefs and similar goals. But the differences were real and stark. He loved to laugh. So did she…but not as often as he. He would occasionally have a drink. She never touched alcohol. She had patience. He did not. And when they would argue, it would be something to see. I clearly remember her saying to him, “Perry, sometimes I think I need a 2 by 4 to get you to understand what I am saying”. And during arguments….he would get so flustered that he would run through the names of everyone in the house when he was trying to say only hers. “Brian…Kathy…..uh…Lorraine…..”.

But there was no doubt they loved each other. They were such a team. They were such a superb team and wonderful people. And when I look at this picture of them, it makes me feel happy….because I know that they accomplished what they wanted to: a happy life together. But at the same time, I also feel sad. Sad because with Perry and Alice Lorraine…life has done what it was supposed to do: if gave them a period of time to be together and then eventually….first her….and then him….that time came to an end.

Perry lived six-and-half-more years without his bride. But I wonder what those years were really like. I benefitted from more time with him. But I wonder if he was really happy. I wonder what he thought about his life without her. I wonder if he ever silently closed his eyes and relived the past in his mind. Because in the past, he could still be with her. In the present, he could not.

I know they are together now.

Rome

 In the Fall of 2008, I was given an incredible gift and an amazing opportunity. It was a chance I never expected; a chance to retrace some of my Grandfather’s steps overseas.

My Grandmother and Grandfather on their wedding day in Princeton, Missouri in October of 1941. Two months later, Pearl Harbor would pull the United States into World War II.

 My Grandfather was drafted into the United States Army just months after Pearl Harbor was attacked in December of 1941. He ended up serving as an engineer in the 5th Army. That unit’s exploits are legendary. The men of that unit fought and moved through Algiers, Morocco, Africa and Italy. It was the 5th Army that helped liberate Italy. My Grandfather was there in the square in Milan when Italy’s brutal dictator, Benito Mussolini, was hung.

The bodies of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini and some co-conspirators hang in a town square in Milan, Italy in April of 1945. My Grandfather was there.

 For all the horror and hardship my Grandfather experienced during the war, the bright spot was always Italy…and particularly Rome. I can remember Grandpa telling me that he was just a kid from Iowa and that he never in a million years thought he would see the things he had seen and experienced the things he had experienced.
 It was while in Italy that this “Iowa boy” developed a life-long love for Opera. I can remember to this day…if Opera ever came on Iowa Public Television, we would have to watch it. Also in Italy, he learned to love Italian food (especially lasagna). He became close with an Italian family and they called him their “Pisan”…an Italian term for friend or buddy. Growing up, Pisan was one of Grandpa’s nicknames for me.
 It was evident in speaking with him all those years that Italy touched his mind and his heart. He always said he wanted to go back and visit. But his wish went unfulfilled and when he died in November of 1997, that was it for him.

 But not his wish; not entirely.

 Flash forward to the Fall of 2007. I was working at KSFY Television in Sioux Falls and I was presented with a unique opportunity; to host a tour of South Dakotans, Minnesotans and Iowans to Italy. I about fell over. I felt like Grandpa must have this; this Iowa boy never thought he would be going to Italy.
 The folks hosting the tour told me I could bring along one person. I chose to bring along my Mom. She had heard the stories even longer than I had about how much Grandpa loved Italy and I wanted her to have the same experience I would have; to tour the country he loved so much.

This is a picture of me and my Grandpa Perry. It was taken in the Summer of 1993 in Des Moines, Iowa. He was an amazing man and I loved him very much.

 The tour would last over a 10-day period and we would visit several Italian cities; Milan, San Gimignano, Florence, Venice and Rome. While I wanted to see all of it, I NEEDED to see Rome.
 Growing up, Grandpa’s stories had always centered primarily around Rome and one story in particular.
 The 5th Army had moved into Rome and had begun the process of taking the city back from the Axis powers. But the city was by no means safe or secure yet. And there was still a threat that the German Army would swoop in and attack and take Italy back.
 The 5th Army used as their temporary bivouac area the historic Roman Colosseum. The place where Gladiators were born. The place where Christians were made to fight for their lives against lions. The place where the first sporting competitions were held. This is where my Grandfather pitched his tent and laid down at night, under the stars, dreaming of an end to the war and a return to Iowa.
 One night, under the cover of darkness, the buzzing sound of airplane engines cut through the night. Air raid sirens in Rome sounded. There was fear and panic everywhere. My Grandfather ran under one of the Colosseum’s massive stone supports and waited. He could hear anti-aircraft guns being fired. He heard explosions but could not see any flashes.
 My Grandfather told me that on that night, he thought he would die. He thought after four years of trudging across the Middle East, Ethiopia and into Italy, that he would die and the last thing he would see was the Roman Colosseum. He prayed to God that his death would be painless and that his family wouldn’t grieve too long.
 The airplane buzzing stopped, as did the anti-aircraft fire. The darkness of the night in Rome became still again. He and all his buddies had survived. He was amazed, grateful and in shock. He thought for sure that his story was going to reach its final page that night.
 This story was fresh in my mind as we entered Rome. What a beautiful, historic city. People say Paris is romantic. I think Rome might have it beat. And what amazing history. There are roads there were carved out years before Jesus walked the Earth, and you can still use them in Rome today. It is amazing.
 A Roman emperor first ordered the construction of the Colosseum in AD 72. It was completed in AD 80….meaning the Colosseum is 1,931 years old. How much history has happened between then and now? It boggles the mind.

Inside the Colosseum in Rome, Italy. I took this picture in early October of 2008.

 On the day we toured the Colosseum, I had a mix of emotions. As a huge history buff, I could not wait to get into the place and walk its halls and corridors. To feel the surface of the stones that were used to build to build the place. It was an odd feeling to stand in the middle of this structure and know it existed so long before I did and that it will be here for hundreds if not thousands of years after I am gone. If you ever want to feel insignificant and small, go stand in the Roman Colosseum for awhile.

It is amazing to stand in the Colosseum and just breathe. It is something else to just stand there and contemplate your life in the midst of all this history. I took this picture in early October 2008.

 We had a tour guide who led us through most of the Colosseum. Then we were allowed some free time to walk around what I call the Mezzanine area; it was the walking area that separated the higher seats in the Colosseum from the lower seats. It was a wide area, a testament to the fact that thousands of people would cram into the Colosseum to visit events. The guide told us that ancient Roman engineers figured out a way to flood the floor of the Colosseum and keep the water from leaking out..so there could be re-enactments of sea battles held there.
 My eyes drifted down to the Colosseum floor. This is the area where my Grandfather would have set up his tent and lived an uneasy life as a U.S. soldier in the midst of enemy territory. I looked around and saw any number of stone support columns…one of them was the one he ran to when he thought he was going to die. 
 I am not sure why, but the tears just started streaming down my face. I imagined his fear and his insecurity. I imagined his deep voice reaching for the words to ask God for either safety or peace in the afterlife. I closed my eyes and imagined the hornet-like buzz of the bombers that cruised over Rome that night 63 years ago. What is it like to know someone high above you is trying to kill you? I can not even imagine.
 I cried because he was gone. Because he wanted to come back to Rome and never got the chance. I cried because I was there; through me the war-time prodigal son had been able to return. I completed the journey Grandpa was unable to make. I came back to say a silent prayer; fate had spared my Grandfather that night. Had he died, I wouldn’t be around.
 I felt a hand on my back and a pat. It was my Mom. She had seen me and wanted me to know I was not alone. I wiped the tears off my face and looked at her.
 “We completed his journey, Mom.” I said to her.
 “We sure did, Hon.” My Mom said.

 We left the Colosseum soon after that. As we pulled away, I told myself I would like to come back to this place and see it again. I then realized that was the exact same thought my Grandfather had when he left the Colosseum. The question now is; will I ever make it back? And if not, will anyone complete my journey for me?

This picture shows the floor of the Roman Colosseum. This is the area where members of the U.S. 5th Army bivouacked in 1945. My Grandfather was one of those soldiers.

Felicitaciones a mi hermano, David

 When I worked at KLAS in Las Vegas, I had the chance to work with a number of talented photojournalists. I was blessed to be partnered (primarily) with four of them over about a 3 year period; Brian Podner, Mark Mutchler, Kyle Zuelke and David Suarez.

This picture was taken in January of 2006. David Suarez and I turned a New York City hotel room into a makeshift bureau for a story we were covering for KLAS in Las Vegas. It was a whirlwind day.

 I was paired with David Suarez for most of my last year at KLAS. He had come to Las Vegas from El Paso, Texas. He was an extremely talented and hard-working photojournalist. I knew from my VERY FIRST DAY of working with him that he and I were going to make an awesome team.
 We were assigned that first day to do a story on the Las Vegas heat. It was in the Summertime and I think the high temperature that day was forecast to be 117 degrees. By the time he and I went out to start working on the story, it was already 112.
 We caught up with a city street crew who was doing some asphalt patching work and we focused our story on them. Could there be anything more miserable? It’s already 112 and your shoveling out asphalt that is also hundreds of degrees? Ugh.
 We turned the story and it aired on that night’s newscast. We thought nothing of our work until we came in the next morning and found out our story had been run on the CBS Morning News. We had worked together for 1 day and our work went to network. From that moment on, he and I worked almost exclusively together.

This is a picture of David Suarez outside of NBC studios in New York City. David and I worked on a project in January of 2006 in NYC. We did a lot of work and we had a great time. Thanks David for a ton of memories.

 What is interesting is that David and I are about as opposite as night and day. The chief difference, and what ultimately would bond us as friends, is our cultural background. He is Latino and grew up on the Texas/Mexico border. I am a kid that was born and raised in the heart of Iowa. But we both valued hard work and quality and it showed. We ended up being one of the news crews at KLAS that would always be dispatched to the big, breaking stories. The assignment desk knew if you could get Brian and David to the story, you would GET the story.
 We were pretty crazy. We would shoot stories and then go to the nearest Burger King and set up shop for a while. We would order lunch and I would write the stories and when I was done, David would bring a laptop editor into the Burger King and edit our stories. Yes, we turned fast food restaurants into newsrooms all across the Las Vegas Valley.

This is the "Casa Don Juan" restaurant in Las Vegas. It was the site of many Allen-Suarez lunches. (Photo courtesy: Las Vegas Sun)

 I remember one day we were having lunch at a Taco Bell near the campus of UNLV. I looked at Suarez and said “This is really good Mexican food!”.

 I thought he was going to choke to death, while would have freaked me out because I don’t know the Heimlich Manuever.

He then said “This isn’t real Mexican food!” and the next day he introduced me to Casa Don Juan. It is an authentic Mexican restaurant located near downtown Las Vegas. So authentic, you have to order your food in Spanish. Really. After we found Casa Don Juan, we ate there almost exclusively. Sometimes just the two us, but most times with a whole bunch of KLAS’ers who we had turned on to the place.

Mi y mi hermano David Suarez in la ciudad de Nueva York in Enero de 2006.

 Some of the stories about Suarez and I are legendary and still talked about at KLAS in Las Vegas.
 There were the mornings where Suarez and I would look at the number of assignments we would receive for that day and just begin saying out loud “No! No way! That is too many stories! Packages at 4 AND 4:30!?”.
 There was the time we went to Reno for a story and everything that could go wrong did go wrong (satellite truck failed, our equipment was different from the Reno station who agreed to help us, we were supposed to complete three stories and we got ONE done). That night, at the Reno Airport, I may have had some drinks that weren’t ice-cold milk. David had to walk me through security and onto the plane and get me into my seat.
 There was the time where David and I were covering severe thunderstorms moving through Las Vegas and the newsroom wanted us to put the mast up on the live truck and go live…with tons of lightning in the area. David got on the 2-way radio and said “I’m not putting the mast up! If I do you’re going to have a dead beaner and a dead gringo!”. I almost laughed myself into unconsciousness.
 I remember one Summer night where David and I had worked a double shift and that week we had already been put through the wringer. In a parking lot before a live shot, David may have told me he was sick of working with me and I may have told him that he could file his complaint in an area where the sun does not shine at any time.

The man I love like a brother, David Suarez, and his fiancée Nichole.

 Suarez is a good man. He and I would spend some of our time together talking about the rigors of broadcast news; how the hours are long and how sometimes you are putting yourself in direct danger to get a story (like the time he and I did an 11PM live shot in North Las Vegas about a gang shooting..as cars were driving by with people yelling “bang-bang” at us). He also told me how he wished he could find someone special to complete his life. Someone he could love.
 David left KLAS about three years after I did and moved to Austin, Texas. And wouldn’t you know it, he did find that someone special. Her name is Nichole. David says she is his soul mate. I believe him. I have never seen him happier or heard him sound happier. I am grateful that he has found real, lasting love.
 Tomorrow, David and his fiancée will take their vows in Austin, Texas. I wish I could be there to see it. I will not be. As with the rigors of TV news, I will be in Pierre covering the inauguration of South Dakota Governor-elect Dennis Daugaard. But my heart will be in Texas with a guy I came to depend on both personally and professionally.

 David, le deseo nada más que la felicidad en su nueva vida con Nichole. Quiero que tengas la vida que siempre has soñado, el que la vida y me gustaría hablar en Las Vegas. Usted ha encontrado el amor verdadero, sino el tesoro y cuidarlo. Es raro. Te amo hermano. Sé bueno.

David Suarez at work behind the camera for KLAS in Las Vegas. Suarez would always tease me and say "You know, for a white guy, you speak pretty good Spanish." My usual reply; "Yeah, it's even better than yours."

The trip I totally forgot about

 It is amazing how your memory can just fail you and for whatever reason block out memories, experiences, et cetera. I experienced that this week in a rather unusual and surprising way.

 For those of you who follow my anchoring and reporting work on KSFY Television, you know that in late November I, along with Troy Timmerman and Jonathan Wachter, produced a story called “The Secret Of The Tree”. If you would like to take a look, click the YouTube link below.

 This story was about people who are researching their family trees. I visited with an amateur genealogist and I visited two historic sites; the Ingalls Homestead in DeSmet, South Dakota and the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum in Walnut Grove, Minnesota. Both locations are fantastic to visit if you are a history buff. To my knowledge, it was the first time I had visited either location.

 Turns out, that wasn’t true.

 I have a small blue photo album that I have carried with me in my travels, ever since I moved away from home at the age of 20 to work in the real world of broadcasting. Lately I have been thinking about my family a lot. At the end of the month it will be 20 years since my Grandmother died and it is really weighing heavily on me.
 So I was flipping through this photo album and I came across a picture. It is a picture of me. I am maybe 9-or-10-years-old. I can’t tell. There is no date written on the back. The picture is of me standing in front of a covered wagon and written on that covered wagon are the words “Walnut Grove, Minnesota….On the banks of Plum Creek….Home of Laura Ingalls Wilder”.

 What?!?! I don’t remember this trip at all. But there is clearly evidence that I visited Walnut Grove as a child.
 On my way home from work last night I called my Mom and had the following conversation;

 Me: “Mom, did we ever visit Walnut Grove, Minnesota?”

 Mom: “Yes, don’t you remember?”

 Me: “No!”

 Mom: “You begged us to take you. You were reading the “Little House” books and you wanted to see where she lived.”

 So not only had I been to Walnut Grove, Minnesota….I asked my family to take me there and they did…and STILL I forgot about the entire thing. Poof! No memory whatsoever.

This is a picture of me taken sometime in the 1980's in front of a covered wagon in Walnut Grove, Minnesota. BTW, I am rocking those high top socks.

 And that’s not all. Apparently we went to the Ingalls dugout site along Plum Creek in Walnut Grove and saw Jack The Dog’s grave. Again. Poof. None of this is clear to me now. All I have is the picture.

 Thanks again for all of you who are taking the time to read this blog. I sit here and write and don’t expect anyone to click on over and take a look. But a lot of you do. Thanks for doing it.

The guy with the pipes

 Within the last 24 hours, you have hopefully seen the video of a Columbus, Ohio man named Ted Williams. He is currently homeless, partially by his own admission that drug and alcohol abuse ruined his life.
 He now says he has been sober for two years and he is trying to find a way to get his life back on track. What does he want to do? He wants to be a radio announcer, something he used to do before his life fell off the tracks.
 If you have not seen the video, take a look and be amazed. A camera crew found Ted at the side of a road, begging for money. Once they started talking to him, Ted’s amazing voice came rolling out.

 I first saw this video on the Facebook page of my buddy Tommy Lang at KCJJ in Iowa City. Then I put it up on my page. Then it appeared on the Facebook profiles of my friends Steve Scott at WCBS Radio in New York and voice over legend Charlie Van Dyke. It continued to snowball from there. All of us saying essentially “This guy is good and everyone deserves a second chance”.
 This morning, I was pleasantly bowled over to learn that Ted Williams has been hired to do Public Address announcing for the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers. In addition to that, he was on the NBC Today Show this morning. And I did some digging around, look at these other job prospects that Ted Williams is being offered;
 (1) A possible voice-over gig with NFL Films
 (2) Work as the commercial voice for the Ohio Credit Union League.
 (3) Possible voice over work with MTV.
 (4) Possible voice over work with ESPN.
 (5) A possible DJ position with a radio station in Pennsylvania.
 (6) Possible work as the narrator of a homelessness documentary being produced by WBNS Television in Columbus, Ohio.

 I don’t know about you, but this story is just about enough to make me cry. Here is a guy with amazing talent who knew he blew up his life through addiction and probably thought he would spend the rest of his life on the streets. But someone with a camera told his story and now his life is well on its way to being dramatically changed forever and for the better.
 Folks, this is the power journalism can have. Never forget that.

The Younkers Tea Room

 It was a staple of my childhood growing in Des Moines, Iowa. The wonderous, amazing, classy Younkers Tea Room.

 Oh it was a beautiful place. It was so fancy that it was almost regal in nature. This was during the 1970’s and 80’s. I was extremely young but I remember the Tea Room like I was there just yesterday.

I am 4-years-old in this picture, which is the approximate age that I first went to the Younkers Tea Room. By the way, this picture was taken at the 1977 Iowa State Fair. I apparently wanted to be a firefighter.

 I can close my eyes and remember the place almost perfectly. There were HUGE windows everywhere. Tied back by those windows were long, almost ceiling-to-floor length purple curtains. They looked velvet and they were  a maroon color. So was the carpet, which was plush. Sunlight shone in and the rays glanced off the crystal in the chandeliers that hung throughout the massive Tea Room. Waitresses brought out glasses off water and the water was served in crystal-like goblets. The napkins were linen and heavy. The wait staff were all professional, they walked quickly, they were attentive. The chairs were a deep dark color, heavy wood. The entire place just screamed class.

Postcard (year unknown) featuring the Younkers Tea Room in Des Moines, Iowa.

  I remember going there a lot when I was a kid. And for a family that was fairly laid back, going to the Tea Room was a real affair. Grandpa put on dress slacks and a fancy coat and wore his Fedora hat. Grandma put on her best blouse and dress and dabbed at herself with the fancy smelling perfume. My Mom would dress up and so would I. We were not a church going family but when we went to the Younkers Tea Room, we were wearing the equivalent of our Sunday best.
 A brief bit of history: the Younkers Tea Room was located in the downtown Younkers Department Store. Back when downtown was king, Younkers ruled the roost, with downtown workers and residents flocking to Younkers for clothes, household goods, delicious homemade candies. It seems everything was at Younkers. 
 

A picture of life inside the Younkers Tea Room in downtown Des Moines. I am guessing this picture was taken sometime during the 1980's.

 I forgot to mention another important element of the Tea Room. Look in the picture above and you will see a small stage area with a piano on it. A lot of the time at the Tea Room, a live pianist would be on stage to provide what essentially was background music for everyone’s conversations. I can remember sitting at the Tea Room with my folks, just bored to tears with whatever they were talking about. My attention would then always fall on the pianist. It was never the same person; sometimes I saw a man, sometimes I saw a woman…but always what I ended up hearing what just beautiful, perfectly performed music. I can remember just being enthralled with watching the pianist’s hands and then listening for what would come next.

You got to the Younkers Tea Room through a vintage, wood-paneled elevator. It shook a little bit on the ride up and down.

When you exited that elevator, this is what you would see: the exterior doorway that led into the actual Tea Room. Notice the artwork above the doorway and the classic design which mixed wide curves and hard angles.

   The place was vintage and classic. By the 1970’s, when I started going there, it had already been a staple of downtown Des Moines for decades. I always enjoyed going to the Tea Room. I knew it was something special, even as a child, because any other place we would go to eat…was not like the Tea Room. Other places were rushed and hurried with food that just wasn’t as good as the Tea Room.
 Every time I went to the Tea Room, it was a good time.

 Except once.

 I was probably 16-years-old. I had spent the day hanging out with my friend Barry Blessing. I can not remember what we had been doing; it must not have been memorable. What I do remember is Barry saying “I’m hungry, let’s go get something to eat”. Now mind you, I am dressed in a Chicago Bears sweatshirt and I have a baseball cap on that says “Ford”. In short, I was truly casual in my dress, not at all classy.
 Next thing I know, Barry is parking downtown so we can go to the Younkers Tea Room.
 “Are you nuts?” I said in a near panic. “I’m not dressed for the Tea Room!”
 Barry assured me that I was fine. Barry, by the way, was dressed in Khaki pants and a golf shirt.
 We went in and sat down. Thankfully the place was not packed. I stuck out not only like a sore thumb, but like a thumb that had been repeatedly beaten by a hammer then dipped in yellow paint before being beaten again and then stuck under a spotlight. I just wanted to die. The waiters could not have been nicer. They treated me just like they always had.
 And that was the last time I was ever in the Tea Room. This was in 1989 or so.

 (Editor’s Note: Since originally publishing this blog, I was reminded by a friend of mine, Phil Dally, that WHO Radio held their Christmas Party at the Younkers Tea Room in December of 1990. Meaning THAT was the final time I was ever at the Tea Room.)

 The downtown Tea Room stayed open into the 90’s but eventually closed when Younkers determined the downtown location was not financially viable anymore.

It was once the flagship of a department store empire: the former Younkers Department Store in downtown Des Moines.

  The building is still downtown but it sits empty. When I go home, I usually try to drive by it and see the building that used to be the center of everything.   
 The Tea Room is still the gold standard in my mind. While it was gorgeous during the day, it was even better at night. It would be dark outside and the chandeliers were “just right”; not too bright, not too dark. There would be light piano music playing in the background and the dark tones of the carpet, drapes and woodwork just screamed class. To this day, I enjoy eating at night, in places that are lit “just right” and where the atmosphere is conducive to good discussion and some relaxation. It’s what “fine dining” should be about; an atmosphere were you can just kick back and enjoy yourself and whoever you are with.

An artist's rendering, perhaps from the 1950's, of the main lobby area of the Younkers Tea Room in downtown Des Moines, Iowa.

 If some enterprising businessman in Des Moines is giving this blog a read, think about investing in something similar to the Younkers Tea Room. It would be an extremely classy thing to do and you would have at least 1 customer for sure…and I’m betting many more.

Please, just get out of my head

 Do you ever have songs or pieces of music that are constantly popping up in your head? Really, you will be sitting there doing something completely random (such as trying to drive a nail into a wall using a fish) and BOOM! A randon song begins running through your head and the more you try to ignore it, the more it just sits there…running like a freight train through your mind.
 In this blog, I am going to tell you about the 5 top songs/pieces of music that I keep coming back to again and again…completely by accident. Again, totally random, no rhyme or reason.

This is a picture of me in front of NBC in New York. This picture has no relevance whatsoever to this blog, other than the fact that it is totally random...like the songs that pop into my head. Ironically, while in New York I never once had the song "New York, New York" pop into my head.

#5) The Theme To The Game “Pyramid”

 No, I am not kidding. I think this is one the catchiest TV themes in all of game show history. I remember one time writing an investigate piece at my desk and hitting writers block. As I sat there, searching for the right words to convey the right thought, I noticed that I was whistling the “Pyramid” theme. What?!? How does that even make any sense? Whenever I hear this music, I think about being a kid at home sick from school and watching Dick Clark talk with his celebrity guests Nipsy Russell and Mary Crosby. OK, I pulled those names right out of thin air. I don’t know if they were ever on Pyramid or not. Catchy theme though, right?

#4) “Boom! Shake The Room!”

 I should confess right out of the gate that I don’t know any of the words to this song other than “Boom shake shake the room”. But that is apparently enough to take hold in my mind.
 Before a newscast, I will often sit on the anchor desk and go through my scripts to make sure there are no tricky phrases or words that might cause me to trip over myself while reading. It is usually during this review period that I will find myself saying to no one in particular “Boom shake shake the room”. Why? No clue. No idea at all. It just happens. Again, if I had to sing this song at karaoke, I would be so dead in the water…until we hit the chorus.

#3) “Misery”

 On the other hand, if I had to sing “Misery” by Maroon 5 during karaoke, I would nail it every day of the week and twice on Sundays. I love this song. I think it has an infectious chorus and an infectious bass line. It is a quinessential “pop” song. I love it. I will not only find myself singing and humming this song unconsciously but I will sing it under my breath while walking into work, while walking around work, while driving home from work. How much do I like this song? My 6-year-old son can sing this song word for word. My 3-year-old can hit the chorus like a champ. Fantastic song and, as always, amazing vocals from lead man Adam Levine.

#2) “Immigrant Song”

 Bring it. That is what I think whenever I hear this song. How can you not love this gem? From Robert Plant’s intense vocals to the non-stop driving beat of John Bonham’s drumming, this one is near the top of the list of songs that I hear and then it takes up residence in my mind for what seems like weeks. Plant’s beginning chorus of “Ahhh ha” is almost hypnotic; it instantly draws you into the song like a fly into a spider’s web.
 I will often find myself just humming the drum line of this song or quietly belting out the “Ahhh ha” chorus, just because.
 A funny anectode about this song; this Summer I took my son Austin to a Sioux Falls Pheasants Baseball game. This song came on over the loudspeakers and both Austin and I hit the “Ahhh ha” chorus at the same time. A guy sitting next to us looked at Austin in disbelief and said “That is amazing!”

#1) “The End”

 Yup. John, Paul, George and Ringo are at the top of my list. Not so much for the vocals but for the drum solo (which kicks in at 20 seconds into this song). I love that! Great work by Ringo. I frequently find myself tapping that solo out on the desk top during meetings, during commercial breaks and while waiting for a newscast to begin. There is so much energy in that one drum “pop” that it can’t help but energize you. It is good stuff. And the message at the end of the song?
 
 And in The End
 The love you take
 Is equal to the love
 You make

 Priceless.