I am not apologetic that I am white. It’s how I was born. My parents and my older relatives are pretty good people. We’re all white, at least as far as I know.
We have mated with non-white people. That has given the gene pool a darker tinge. The darker-tinged relatives, like the lilly whites, are good people.
There’s so much to feel bad about in this world that I just don’t want the people that I love to feel bad about being white or not white. Forget about it. Just go about your business being white or semi white. Mow your lawn, turn on the sprinklers, take out the trash and change your oil every 3,000 miles.
Oh, and don’t fall in love with the Russians. They’re not your friends. Even though they’re white.
I used to be in speech in debate in high school. I bring this up out of order in this blog to the three or four of you because one of the first speeches I gave was how communism is like a weed. You have to cut it at its base or it will come back even stronger. Capitalism is good. Communism is bad. I gave a speech like that when I was 16 years old and I would give the same speech today.
But we don’t think in those terms as much anymore. We don’t think about the long-term ramifications of autocracy, which I equate with Russian communism. We don’t’ think about the differences in how they run things and how we run things. We think in terms of skin color. It’s a lot easier to comprehend. None of us like reading anymore, so how are we gonna know that Lord of the Flies could happen even on Mars, if we wind up colonizing there.
What I’m trying to say is that Russians look way more like me than black or brown people. It’s true. As a matter of fact, my brother did a DNA test and it turns out a good part of us may be from the Ukraine, not Germany or Poland like we thought. The Ukraine to Russia is like Indiana to Illinois. What’s the difference?
I ramble on to the three or four of you like this because I’m confused. This confusion is part of the reason that I started doing “JED in America” every morning outside the Strack & Van Til studios on the campus of Purdue Northwest. I don’t know what’s going on in America. I really don’t. This troubles me as much as it fascinates me. Something big (and possibly terrible) is happening, and I don’t know what it is at all. A related fear is that nothing will happen and I’ll be stuck with my shvinia in my hand on Indianapolis Boulevard with nothing to talk about.
Our president is a little bit nutzo. We all know that. But we elected him and that must mean we’re a little nutzo. I know I am. And I’m guessing that the three or four of you who stop what you’re doing to read my blog are a little nutzo too. President Trump appeals to the part in all of us that is a little nutzo.
But where is that going? Is president Trump shaking things up enough that by the time he’s gone we’re better off because we had to re-examine who we are? Or does he help break down American institutions so that an autocracy can take hold made up – you guessed it – of mostly white people?
Now one of the things that we do here in My Radio Life is write this blog for broadcasting students 50 years from now. There probably won’t be any local radio then, at least not how we know it. I write to them so that they’ll know what it was like for one man to live a life of local radio. You come along for the ride and I thank you for that.
So maybe you can tell me what the hell’s happening in America so that I can tell broadcasting students 50 years from now. It’s way more than there’s so much hate going around. I saw the hate, masquerading as a love fest, when Barry Obama came to Wicker Park a couple days before he got elected president of the United States. The people who fell at the Obama altar hated something. I just couldn’t tell what it was. I still can’t.
The hate nowadays is just as strong, if not stronger. And I still can’t tell what the hate is. The people who fall at the altar of Donald Trump hate something – the swamp, the border, abortion, etc.. But what do they really hate? For the life of me, I can’t figure it out. I am in a constant state of hate confusion.
I don’t know what the liberals hate
I don’t know what the conservatives hate.
And I hate that. I’m the kind of person who just likes to figure out how things work. Every once in a while, I’ll watch a bunch of videos about an obscure software program that we may or may not use just because I want to know how the software is organized. I’ll take apart the pressure washer. I’m going to graduate business school right now, for crissake. When people ask me why, I don’t really have a good answer.
“I’ve always wanted to get my MBA. That’s all.”
But it’s way more than that, or less. If I had to answer truthfully in a sentence, it would be –
“I just want to understand what bad business decisions I’ve made over the years.” It all comes back to me for me. I am most confused about myself. The confusion brought on by the actions of the masses doesn’t begin to compare to the confusion brought on by my own thoughts and actions. I am in a constant state of confusion about life.
I hope this begins to explain why I stand outside on Indianapolis Boulevard and yell at big trucks going by. There’s a lot of big trucks that go by, by the way. We live in perhaps the most industrialized area of America. We breathe industry, exude heavy industry, make love like we’re heavy industry. Sometimes in a tender moment, I reach out to caress my wife’s shoulder and I wind up screwing a pipe wrench the wrong way. That doesn’t make any sense unless you grew up around 55-gallon barrels to keep your hands warm.
So for one half of an hour every weekday, I strap on a wireless microphone and stand out on the road. Jimmy Mullaney follows me with a camera. And I just talk. I don’t take any phone calls. I just talk about what I see as what’s going on in America. It is not definitive truth. That, truth, seems to be a movable thing these days. It rolls around in the trunk every time you turn. The best I can do is aim at something that is true right here, right now, before the light turns green and all hell breaks loose again.
In the end, it’s about Russia. White people America. White people Russia. Melting pot America. Not melting pot Russia. I know that it is true that a lot of white people don’t like black and brown people just because they’re black or brown. Just as I know that a lot of black and brown people don’t like white people just because they’re white. It’s an interesting time in radio history. Just as guys like me are dying off, we are needed more than ever. Where did the people go who don’t give a shit who wins the war? They went to radio wasteland. They went to Wampum.
I look at Vladimir Putin and he could be my cousin. I look at our past president and he couldn’t be anything remotely related to me. Do a lot of white people recognize this?
Vladimir = white = like me.
Barry = black = not like me.
This is not a pleasant topic. It gets to the core of who we are in America. It also begs a painful question. What is the priority: to be white or to be communist? It’s all becoming clear. It’s time to go to bed. I’ll fall asleep, dream about chicks at Berkeley who didn’t shave their armpits, and then I’ll wake up just as confused as before.
I’ll talk and talk and talk along Indianapolis Boulevard and it will pretty much go nowhere. That’s because I literally don’t know what I’m talking about. I try to talk about America, but the more I do, the more confused I become.
I used to write pages and pages of journal every night. I have done this for 39 years. I write the stuff and then throw it out or just lose it. Millions of my words are floating around garbage dumps from California to New York, northern Wisconsin to southern Florida. I do not discriminate on the basis of the quality of the local garbage dump. I just write the shit then throw it out. Writing this stuff to you is really the only stuff I’ve ever kept for posterity. And I don’t even know why we do it.
Except for this one reason. Maybe you’ve sensed it. The more I ramble, the more confused I seem to be. And then something happens. Some clarity sets in. Sometimes, literally, I would write my shit out for a month, thousands of words a day, trying to get to a point where what I was doing in my life made sense. That way I could make a reasonable decision going forward. It might be a decision on what school to go to or what job to pursue. Or how to best feed and protect my family. Instead of laying in bed and looking at the ceiling, I would write it out on a train or sitting at the kitchen table. Or sitting on a towel at the beach or laying in bed next to my wife.
The key is the search for clarity. I am on a search for this right now. One day, I just told Ryan and Jimmy –
“Follow me outside with the camera. I want to say something to America.”
And then I just started talking. JED in America. You might think it is to provide good radio or to gather more listeners and viewers for our growing list of advertisers. This may be part of it. But really I just want to know what’s happening in America. Just as I did on the rooftop of Barrington Hall in Berkeley, California, or on the balcony of an apartment on Melrose Place in Chicago. Or at the pool at Tanglewood apartments in Hammond, Indiana, or in front of the TV at 1544 Fisher Street in Munster, Indiana.
I talk on the boulevard just as I would write in all of these places. I talk, I write, to understand. And, believe me, I am completely befuddled when it comes to what is happening in America. The only thing I sense is that whatever is happening, it is big. I get a feeling, a lot less vibrant, that whatever it is that is about to happen is also terrible. It is possible that whatever happens could just be big and very good. Or big and, as Mexicans would say it, “asi asi.” It’s just okay.
Or it could be very bad. Some broadcasting student 50 years from now could run across this blog with the three or four of you. He or she could read and think –
“Oh my god, this guy is writing this just before the _________ happened. He doesn’t know what is about to happen to America.”
Tell me, communications student of the future. Tell me what’s about to happen. I could talk until I’m blue in face outside on Indianapolis Boulevard. I’m not gonna figure it out until it happens. That’s the sad mystery of it all.
It’s Saturday morning, 5:23am. A bunch of birds are hacking it out with chirps and tweets. I have no idea what they're so excited about.
In the morning, I ride my bike to WJOB and do a radio show.
The rest of the day, I try to build a TV network and an app.
In the evening, I have been partying like a rock star.
There’s variations on the theme. Yesterday, I rode my bike to WJOB, did a radio show, rode back home, worked out, then went to a Cubs game with my daughter, the one who just graduated from DePaul.
We drove to 22ndStreet, where we boarded the Red Line to Wrigley Field. The train was packed with people in Cubbie blue. At the Addison station, you had to wait a bit to walk the long stairway to street level. Everyone seemed happy. It was sunny and the Cubs were playing and there wasn’t any humidity. Life is good.
We had bleacher seats. We found some room about halfway up on the right field side. As soon as we secured seats, my daughter left. She came back 20 minutes later with the most perfect hot dog laid in a bun next to a full-length dill pickle. The whole thing was covered in ketchup. She also brought two beers – a 312 for her and a Bud Light for me. I drank mine in three gulps. She nursed her 312 as proper swill for a hot dog at a Cubs game.
I have not sat in the bleachers in many years. I did it a couple times as a trader at the Board of Trade. I specifically remember bringing a few of the younger traders to a game in maybe 2002 or so. We drank margaritas the whole game. We stumbled out on to Waveland and continued the revelry at Bernie’s. Life is good when you let it be. Life is a drunk-filled stupor when you need it to be. Trading really was a lot of stress. You need a release.
Billy Baker and I also used to sit in the bleachers, especially in our first summer after graduating from college. It was a recession. Not a national recession, just one around the steel mills. Once a generation, the rest of the country could be doing okay while our little area of northwest Indiana struggles. These are localized steel recessions. We were in one in the mid 1980s.
Since there were few jobs, Baker and I would drive to Wrigley Field in the middle of the week and sit in the bleachers for two dollars. We would be extra friendly with groups of businessmen and older women in hopes that they would buy us beers. Sometimes it worked. We could watch Ryne Sandburg, drink, meet some chicks sometimes and get a sunburn in the same American ritual. It was as beautiful as it was traditional.
It was also a bit of history yesterday. My daughter and I almost never do things together. We just don’t. She has a boyfriend and a mom and a sister and a bunch of cousins and aunts and uncles. We do things as a cluster, rarely as a duo.
It was perhaps the best day of the year to go to a Cubs game. I looked on my phone and it said 80, 80, 80, 80, 80, for four hours in the middle of the afternoon. There was just enough breeze in right field to make the day tolerable. Today, it’s supposed to be 95 in the right field bleachers. That sounds like a hot sweaty mess of fun, but it’s not. You endure a Cubs game when it’s 95. You enjoy one when it’s 80.
In the seventh inning, Jackie and I left Wrigley Field.
“Dad, I heard of this Thai place a couple blocks down Sheffield. You could probably get some gluten free stuff there.”
This is a challenge these days. After decades of suffering through a bloated stomach and general achiness, I stopped eating gluten. I am a new person. I have energy. My eyes aren’t blurry. When I was 15, a doctor at the Hammond Clinic did a bunch of tests on me.
“You’re allergic to yeast. That I know. But there’s something else going on. I can’t figure out what it is.”
Forty years later, the other daughter, Jeanie, suggested something.
“Dad, maybe you’re allergic to gluten. Quit eating gluten and see what happens.”
As soon as I did it, I felt better. And it’s held that way for a more than a year. It’s a bitch finding something to eat at a Cubs game – we had to leave to find me a meal – but it’s an amazing feeling to be sitting in the right field bleachers with your daughter and you don’t feel like shit. I spent 25 years feeling like shit a lot. After a while, I just accepted that that was how you were supposed to feel.
At the Thai place, Jackie got something called “glass noodles.” The guy at the table next to us suggested it.
“It’s my favorite. I get it every time,” he said.
When the guy left, we made up that he’s a med student and he just slipped away from studying to eat some Thai food and watch drunk people walk around. He was headed back to his apartment to study for a review on Monday.
I got cashew chicken with rice and vegetables. It was amazing. We watched the end of the game on the TV. The Cubs wound up winning 5-4 - barely. By the time we emerged from the restaurant, the game was over and there were drunk fans everywhere. Drunk in blue. Drunk in spirit.
The funny thing about a Cubs game
is everybody’s drunk.
If they’re not, they’re
either an alcoholic
or don’t have
for a beer.
It’s glee and harmony and
alacrity all wrapped
up into a Midwestern
respite from highways
When you live in the city,
going to a Cubs game
isn’t a big a deal.
But when you live in
Bourbonnais or Munster
or Westchester or
Long Grove, you think
you did something
really special when
you go to a Cubs game.
You get drunk, you
cheer, you put your
arm around someone
at some point in the
It’s just Clark and Addison.
Jackie went to DePaul so she knows the trains. We walked a few blocks and got on the brown line south. This train line does not go by Wrigley Field, so there were few people on it. The reason that this is important is that if you get on the red line after a Cubs game, you’re in for both a treat and a nightmare.
After the game, thousands of people swarm the Addison train station and wait on the platform for the next train. When the doors open, as many people as possible smash into this moveable tin can. Then the doors close. Most everyone is drunk or on their way there, so there’s a lot of funny things yelled out.
Sometimes, though, it’s tough to breathe. There is a mass of humanity pressed against your chest. If everyone inhales at the same time, the metal seams of the train car would burst. If everyone farted, it would explode.
So a little local knowledge helped. Jackie sat on the train with me for a few stops. We barreled through the north side of the city, apartments and parks, pizza places and futon stores.
“Now dad, take the brown line to Harold Washington library. Get off the train. Walk one block east – toward the Lake – and one block north… “
She spoke to me as if I was the child and she the adult.
“You’ll have to go under State Street at Jackson. You can pick up the red line there. Most of the people will be off by then.”
Basically, she had me take the brown line south then pick up the red line after downtown.
On her way out of the train, I became the worried parent once again.
“Jackie, do you have your phone? Do you need some more money? Do you have a jacket in case it gets cold?”
Yes dad. Yes dad. Yes dad. She’s 23. I’m 56. I worried like hell as she got off at Fullerton. She was meeting up with DePaul people. That made me worried. This feeling will never go away. Even though, right now, she’s sleeping in the room right next door, I am worried. I am a dad. I worry.
Finally, I made it to Cermak station. You might at this time wonder why I wouldn’t just drive all the way up to Wrigley Field. We live way on the south side of the metropolitan area of Chicago. We drive up the Dan Ryan to get to the city. Then you have to traverse the city and drive through the neighborhoods of the north side to get to Wrigley Field.
On normal days, you can do it, although it’s a hassle. But Lollapalooza is in town. This changes things. There’s people everywhere. That means cars everywhere. So Jackie and I did what smart Region Rats have been doing for generations. We drove to 22ndStreet/Cermak, parked our car, and took the red line to Wrigley Field. We talked in the train. We talked in the bleachers. We talked over Thai food. We rarely talk like that in our own home. I can communicate adequately enough with the three or four of you, but I don’t have the same level of aptitude when it comes to talking to my own children. My wife does most of that. That’s why it was so important to sit in the bleachers of Wrigley Field and drink a few beers with my daughter and just talk about things. Unhurried, no judging, no advising, no blaming, no pressure. Just drinking beers in the right field bleachers. It’s a memory I will pull up when I want my eyes to water.
At the platform at Cermak, two things happened. First, a guy in a wheelchair couldn’t make it across the crevice between the train and the platform. He was backing up out of the train and was ready to tip over. This black guy in a yellow hazard vest and I met eyes.
“You ready,” he said.
“Ready,” I said.
And we lifted up his back wheel and placed it on the platform. Then we pushed him across the crevice.
“Thank you so much,” he said. And then everyone went their way. This is a Chicago happening. Not New York, where people would rather wait for subway personnel than lend a helping hand.
Chicago = helping hand.
New York = you’re on your own.
On the stairs down to street level, I looked over. There was this 60-year-old guy with hair longer than it should be walking right next to me.
“Hey, dickfor,” I said.
“Oh my god. What are you doing here?”
It was Tom Keilman, the pride of Hessville. He has worked in community relations for BP for several decades. He was with his daughter. I talked to her about IU for the walk to the parking lot. Smart Region Rats know to park at Cermak and take the train.
“You sat in the bleachers. Did you wear the hat?” she asked.
Now this is something that I forgot to tell you about. The first 5,000 people in the bleachers got a Japanese-like Cubs hat. It has a suspension system that keeps the cloth off your hair. It’s like an umbrella on your head.
“Nah. Just gutted out the sun.”
“Oh,” she said. So I did the right thing. I reached into my daughter’s backpack and gave her one of the two hats.
After the parking lot cleared out, I placed Jackie’s backpack on the trunk and acted like I was rummaging through it while I quietly pissed on the back wheel. On the way home, the wife texted me –
“What do you want to eat?”
I got off at the Skyway and drove through north Hammond to El Taco Real. It was sunny at Wrigley, on the train, at the Thai place, at the Cermak parking lot. It was a sunny 80 degree day in Chicago. And it was a sunny 80 degrees in the parking lot at El Taco Real. I sat for a little and listened to the end of Dire Wolf by the Grateful Dead. Then I went in and talked with the waitresses in Spanish while waiting for the food.
Alexis and I ate dinner at the kitchen table watching CNN and talking. It was pretty cool. It was a pretty cool day.
A drop in the price of
men’s underwear led to
a restructuring of the
A 10 to 12 mile an hour
wind created a life-changing
event for 10 men on
the other side of the
If you’re gonna dig in,
If you’re gonna bow out,
But if you’re gonna
sit on the fence,
then go back from
whence and where