Thursday, February 22, 2007

We were Seinfeld

J.D. and I just returned from a mini college reunion this last weekend in San Francisco. The weather was fantastic. Our buddies from college are like a tapestry of the best characters in a sitcom that preceded a very famous one, you know the one that starts with a “S”. I hearken back to the days in the dorm, the weeks living off Serramonte Boulevard in Daly City and on Funston Avenue near Golden Gate Park and finally graduation. Little did we know that we were an all-star cast in a comedy about nothing, yet about everything. We still star in this comedy. How did that happen?

When you major in Broadcast Communication Arts with a bunch of people it’s just funny, no matter where you are, whether in school or out, you’re always “on the air”. Our sitcom has been running for the last 22 years – one of the longest running sitcoms in history. You are probably wondering “what the heck is she talking about?”

We were all bound together in a little society of students that ran the news operation of the college television station back in the early 80’s. It was broadcast on cable channel 35 in San Francisco to about 4 subscribers, including our teacher who watched us on the air and then ripped us apart afterwards for our clich├ęs, bad grammar and very long news packages. (I think I broke a record for the longest “short” in news35 history – a mini series on Pier 39). Anyway but I digress. We were so serious about our future careers in television that we took trips to Tahoe when it snowed just to get video tape (yeah right – we went because our friend’s family had a cabin up there). Dispersed in our attempts at serious journalism, we cooked, we drank and we made tapes. Those tapes turned into mini series primarily because when you major in broadcasting, your friends are comprised of writers, producers, directors, floor managers, talent (ah yes, we all wanted to be the talent) and people who generally loved to watch themselves doing nothing at all. Does that sound like a famous sitcom you know?

Anyway, this last Presidents weekend, after a long hiatus, we ventured back to the City and congregated at a lovely little house in Pacifica with an ocean view and had a lovely steak dinner with the old gang. The conversation always light and friendly and the camera rolling always…we had ourselves a lovely little trip down memory lane. In the “better late than never category’ it was nice to finally hand over videotapes to our buddy whose wedding was 13 years ago. He is a famous morning drive radio personality in San Francisco and yet he neglected to videotape his own wedding. Since we never go anywhere with these people without a video camera, the whole day (along with our insightful commentary) is now preserved in four hours of videotape that for some reason we held onto all these years and were now able to deliver to him and his wife. I hope they enjoy reliving their wedding day all over again.

Our tapes of each other go from college to vacations to weddings to projects and back. Our lives and friendship is chronicled in VHS and BETA format and sometimes these are edited with sound and music. Some parts are funnier than others and probably most of it would be boring unless you knew us; nah…you’d probably laugh. In our group we had our Elaine, our George, our Kramer and Newman. Yes, we had them all.

Our college class was special. We enjoyed being with each other, we enjoyed supporting each other’s careers and watching some rise high than others from local news and production to the networks. Our best man is now a network cable news anchor. One of the nicest compliments I can pay to our old friends is that they are really down to earth people. We all met in a little cubby hole on the campus of San Francisco State University in a classroom with a fantastic professor who taught us the essentials of good writing and editing, while at the same time encouraging us to be ourselves and follow our dreams. It was at this Professor’s home at Christmas time in 1985 that J.D. and I met for the first time and the rest is history.

In our heads we’re still those youngsters, a little grayer, a little older, more mature; our reunions a little more contained. We hold mortgages, second & third careers, marriages and families now, but when we’re together we’re still those kids, because in a twist of irony only we understand, we were Seinfeld before Seinfeld was Seinfeld and our series is still “on the air.”

Tammy Maher is a resident of El Dorado Hills and biweekly columnist for the Mountain Democrat. You can reach her by email at or on the web at

Thursday, February 08, 2007

The mini monsters

Published February 8, 2007

"The mini monsters are a team of three spies who are no bigger than my little pinky finger. The first monster’s name is Go-Go. He is funny and smart. He knows that 2 X 2 is 4. He goes to school and says “it’s so much fun!”
The other monster’s name is Jo-Jo. He is always sad but he loves being a spy. The only problem is that he sometimes cries in the middle of an investigation, which makes people wonder if he’s right in his head. He has been a spy since he was ten years old. When you are only about 2 ½ inches tall, it’s hard to tell if you are 10 years old or one hundred.

The third monster’s name is Ko-Ko. Ko-Ko likes to watch TV all the time and he is weird when it comes to command of the remote control. The remote is five times as big as Ko-Ko, but he doesn’t notice it at all. Ko-Ko’s strength cannot be matched. He is the mini monster who does all the heavy lifting in the team. Ko-Ko likes art too. He draws and paints the big people, especially the ones who are always into trouble when they think no one else is looking….and so begins the adventures of the mini monsters…..”
My daughter’s fourth grade essay starts out interesting and after reading it, I see potential for a cartoon series or a Pixar movie release, but then again…Monsters Inc. was already done. Oh well, at least I was able to share it with you.

We were at my parents for Dad’s birthday last weekend. The grandkids were unusually occupied for a gathering at my parents. They simply weren’t around. I opened the door to the garage and heard voices coming from the upstairs room my Dad built when I was a kid. It’s been a place where my father cuts hair and carves wood, but in the olden days it was an official neighborhood clubhouse with furniture, a small kitchen and cubby holes to put stuff in. For admission to the clubhouse you had to fulfill a set of requirements. Since I was the oldest sibling, it meant that my friends were all “in” and my sisters were officially “out” of the club. We made signs that declared who was in and who was out. These were posted carefully on the walls for all to see. We had secret passwords for entrance and secret meetings, much in the genre of “My Gang.” If there were any mean teenagers in the neighborhood and there were a few; they were officially declared to be “out” of the clubhouse. You can still see evidence on the wallpaper in the clubhouse of our time there.

And so history and imagination took over once again, 35 years later. As I listened to the thuds of the feet upstairs in the old clubhouse, I knew that some things just capture the imagination of a child in ways adults can hardly remember. Except this time it was the younger kids (the mini monsters) who had commandeered the clubhouse. In a twist of irony and revenge, the children of my younger siblings and my youngest daughter reclaimed their birth right, complete with home made signs that declared who was “in” and who was “out”. Their first official act after making their home made signs was to clean up the place and make a little couch out the cushions that were in storage in the cubby spaces. If you were a teenager in this family, it was clear you were not welcome. Well, some things never change.

The imagination of a child is untainted in their ability to believe or see things that adults lost long ago and far away. In thinking about what it is that attracts kids to cubby holes and upstairs rooms where their imagination and creativity unwinds, I am comforted by the fact that some things might just be generational, and that eventually the mini monsters will prevail.

Tammy Maher is a resident of El Dorado Hills and a biweekly columnist for the Mountain Democrat. You can reach her by email at or on the web at