Monday, November 12, 2007

I was in the middle of work yesterday afternoon when my cell phone rang. It was an unrecognizable number from Washington and I almost didn't pick it up, but I thought it might be one of my nephews calling from their cell phone. I was both happy and surprised when I discovered on the other end of the line two very dear, old friends I hadn't heard from in some time. The three of us worked together in Olympia, Washington when I worked for a radio station there, KQEU, back around 1990. I was right out of high school and extremely green, and Randy and Dale, the afternoon and night guys respectively, both took me under their wings and became big brothers to me. We had kept in touch sporadically over the years since I left Olympia around 1992. I wouldn't hear from either of them in forever, then one of us would call the other, happily chat for a couple of hours, and promise to keep in better touch this time. Unfortunately, life always gets in the way and we never get to talk as often as we should.

My elation at hearing from them quickly changed to sadness when they told me the reason they were calling - an old friend of ours from the station passed away last week after a long battle with cancer. Carl Cook was a bit of an unwilling celebrity in Olympia. He had been the voice of radio there for many, many years, starting with a stint at KAOS, the college station while he attended there, then at KGY, the main station, and ultimately at KQEU where we all met. You could never have met a less celebrity-like person than Carl. He had grown up in San Francisco in the 60s, dropping acid and going to Janis Joplin concerts. Though his first love was photography, he somehow stumbled into radio and stayed there for years and years.

When I knew Carl, he was in his mid to late 40s, very anti-establishment. He just wanted to come in, play some cool music, and get out the door before he got hit in the face with any station politics. I found it very admirable, and we became quick friends. He was the first mentor I ever had, not just in the radio business, but in life. He came from an era I was fascinated with and told story upon story about life in the 60s, Vietnam, and the Summer of Love. I learned a lot from him. By 19, I knew an excessive amount of information on 60s musicians. He was also a great guy to have intellectual discussions with. His point of view was not always predictable, and was often from a different perspective than I expected from him.

We once had an argument because he was trying to explain to me how much people change over the years. And I, with all the insightfulness of an 19-year-old, dug in my stubborn heels and insisted I wouldn't change one iota as I grew up. He laughed and said, "On your fortieth birthday, wherever either of us are, we'll get together and have lunch and talk, and you'll see how much you've changed." Whenever I talked to him on the phone or wrote to him after I left town, I always reminded him of his promise, and he always remembered our deal. Before I was even 30, I realized how much I had changed and knew he had been right all along. I looked forward to seeing him eventually and being able to tell him this. I hadn't talked to him in probably 10 years, had exchanged only a short e-mail around 2000 when I got married. In the back of my head, I always knew that when I turned 40, he would have the same phone number and I'd call him up and make arrangements, and we'd have that lunch.

But here I am, not even 37 yet, and he's gone. I wish I had kept in touch, wish I had known he was sick these past years. I would have called him and had the opportunity to tell him how much influence he'd had on my life. We always think there is always time, and in the end, there just isn't.

I wrote an essay about Carl when I was in college and had hoped to post it here. However, after several hours of looking through boxes in my garage last night, I was unable to find it. I have it on disc, but it's on a floppy, and I just got rid of my drive. Whenever I recover it, I'll post it. It will give you a much better idea of who Carl Cook was and what he meant to me.

Carl was really an amazing photographer, and his photographs from the 60s were fantastic. They could have easily been in Life magazine to document life during that pivotal decade. Later, he got really interested in nature photography and did an exhaustive study of the wolves at Wolfhaven, a wolf sanctuary in Tenino, WA. You can see his work at his website.

The song of the day is "Nights In White Satin" by The Moody Blues off their 1967 album Days of Future Passed. This is just another one of those songs I learned to love in those days I worked with Carl. I can't remember if he even liked this song - he wasn't a big fan of popular music - but for some reason, it always reminds me of those few years. The Moody Blues, Tommy James, Strawberry Alarm Clock - how else would I have known anything about those bands?


Blogger Diane said...

What a lovely tribute you have written - I'm sure he would be pleased and be proud. His photos are gorgeous - I was especially interested in his wolf photos, which I noticed were taken at a wolf sanctuary. I hope he had the opportunity over the past 10 years to get to Yellowstone and photograph wolves in the wild . . .

3:36 PM  
Anonymous Randy Roadz said...

Tiffany... Randy Roadz here. A more fitting tribute could not have been submitted about Carl. I have to take responsibility for something- I wish I'd phoned or emailed you that Carl was fighting Cancer. I apologize that I didn't. One of the many great things about Carl was he stood on his own, didn't give in to the "establishment" or the radio suits that frequented our building at the Radio station where we all worked. Carl was the Production Director and I remember how it used to drive him crazy to get crap commercial scripts from the Sales geeks with phrases like "conveniently located", "visit our knowledgeable staff", "for all your _____ needs", and all the other useless, meaningless phrases. Carl posted a note card on the jock lounge bulletin board one day that simply read "eschew obfuscation"- in other words "don't use big fancy words when simple words and phrases will do". I loved Carl and it was always a treat to meet him for coffee. I last saw him in May of 2005 at the Dancing Goat coffee house on the Olympia, Washington waterfront. Great treat. I phoned him just three weeks ago to check on him and we visited for about 10 minutes. Carl told me thanks for the offer to visit in person but he wasn't taking any visitors. Not wanting to be selfish I told him that I understood and that I'd call and check on him in a week or two. That opportunity never came. He knows we're talking about him now though... I can almost picture him looking down at us all with his walrus mustache and saying "hi neighbor"! Goodbye for now, Carl.

6:42 PM  
Blogger EditThis said...

Roadz - Thanks for those memories. Yes, we always went to the Dancing Goat (or "limping" goat, as Carl called it) for hot chocolate or coffee. And I remember that note card. Thanks for reminding me.

6:53 PM  
Blogger Kelly J. Compeau said...

I'm very sorry for your loss, Tiffany. Sounds like Carl was a really great guy.

11:12 AM  
Blogger Kings Fan said...

Amazing and touching tribute. After reading through it, I was reminded of someone like that in my life that I lost. A true mentor that I never got a chance to say goodbye to. It was a pleasure reading your words and I felt as though I was there while reading. Would love to read what you wrote about him in college so I do hope you are able to post it.

2:10 PM  
Blogger LA said...

Edit - Damn, now I'm mourning your friend, and I didn't even know him!

I echo everyone else when I say that your tribute to Carl was extremely touching and poignant.

May your friend rest in peace.

12:34 PM  

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