Splendid is the nature of a wet sidewalk in the morning,
Aggrieved is the emotion you get when somebody leaves you,
Anger is what comes up when you don’t listen to the other side.
Relief is what happens when it’s all over.
It’s late at night mostly that we get together. That or the wee hours of the morning. It’s 11:11pm on a Monday night. I can’t watch any more CNN and Fox.
There’s talk and more talk about the drinking habits of Brett Kavanaugh. And there’s speculation about if he assaulted women and showed them his penis. What kind of man is Brett Kavanaugh?
My guess is that he partied his ass off as a youngster to look cool. For some reason, however, he is lying about it. Or, more accurately, denying it. I guess that if he admits to drinking like a fish when he was younger and blacking out once in a while, then senators will take that to mean he could have blacked out and sexually assaulted Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. What a mess.
At issue is a seat on the Supreme Court. There’s a week-long investigation going on into the drinking and sexual escapades of judge Kavanaugh. Where’s it gonna lead? I have no idea. I figure that something really weird is gonna happen, though. Something weird already happened when Jeff Flake changed his tune on Friday. What is about to transpire may make that look like a blip on a radar screen.
So it goes. Kanye West goes MAGA on Saturday Night Live. FBI investigators interrogate Kavanaugh’s classmates from Georgetown Prep 36 years ago. Black people and white people don’t seem to be getting along. Hispanics shake their heads. Asians, Jews, Russians and Muslim zealots all have a place in the new world disorder. We are one. We are done. We are living on the edge.
It makes for good radio and mobile video. I’ve taken to doing this. I walk outside onto Indianapolis Boulevard at 5:30 in the morning with a wireless microphone. I stand in front of the window so that the camera can take me in. It’s kind of stupid to do a radio-television show through a window. But for whatever reason, it works.
I stand outside on the Boulevard and I talk for 20 minutes. It is in complete contrast to what’s happened for 94 years at WJOB. Instead of giving lunch menus or the news, I talk almost exclusively for 20 minutes about what’s happening in Washington. It’s called “JED in America.” Absorbed in my own sense of self importance, I try to make sense of what’s happening in America - from a Midwestern point of view.
I am different from what I see on national feeds. The background behind me differs from every background you can see on any of the many news channels.
I was just watching CNN. Don Lemon is the host. He gets a big box on the left side of the screen. On the right side of the screen are four other boxes. In each of them, there’s a talking head. Their backgrounds are the cities that they are in. Sparkling lights, big buildings, the White House. There are no trucks. There are no tankers.
When I stand outside of the Strack and Van Til studios on the campus of the Purdue Northwest Commercialization and Manufacturing Excellence Center, there are plenty of trucks and plenty of tankers. As I stand on Indianapolis Boulevard, box trucks, tankers, steel haulers, garbage trucks, vans, street cleaners and beer trucks roll by. It is industry waking up to do the work of America.
You will never see my background on a national news feed.
Truth be told, when I designed the studios, I had to fight with some of the Purdue folks to make sure that we preserved the view of the trucks. It’s beautiful when you’re sitting in the studio doing your show and an 18-wheeler vrooms by. You can feel the vibration. It’s even more beautiful at 5:45 in the morning when dozens accelerate by in unison. It’s loud and it’s beautiful.
Some people complain that the truck noise overwhelms my voice and it’s hard to hear me talk on AM and FM radio. But not too many people complain. We understand that big trucks and long trains are part of our DNA. Many of us like the rush of a big truck in the background. It reminds us that we are home.
Trucks are one thing. Independence is another. When you’re driving around listening to the radio or a podcast, odds are that the people you’re listening to are either on one side or another. They give cues to let you know which.
If you turn on WLS 890 in the evening, there’s Mark Levin ranting about stuff. He’s on, for lack of a better term, side A.
If you sit down in your living room at night and watch Rachel Maddow rant, odds are that you understand that she is a mouthpiece for side B.
There’s side A, which is associated with president Donald Trump and all of his minions. And there is side B, which is having a tough time articulating what it’s all about.
This god or that god,
but not no god.
That seems to be the mantra by which media live and which listeners and viewers and clickers live. There is no middle ground, at least few people live there. It’s as if there’s two countries separated by a strip of land. You can live in country A or in country B, but you can’t live on the strip of land between the lands. There’s not even a fence to delineate the separation between country A and country B. That’s because if you venture out onto the land that marks the difference – and you stay more than a couple of minutes – you will be gobbled up by Earth.
That’s how it feels living out here in the Midwest talking on the Boulevard in front of big trucks. I stand out there all alone. I am all alone.
I hope that this makes at least a little bit of sense to the three or four of you who read my blog on a regular basis. I thank you for doing this. It makes it easier to put all this effort into recording what my life is like. I really do feel as if what we’re doing is important. For two reasons.
This god or that god,
but not no god.
If you stand alone, apart, you cut a fart and your name is Bart, then you may very well get gobbled up by monsters below. It is forbidden land between country A and country B. People used to live there. Now, if they do, they are destroyed.
How is that I can at least attempt to live in the forbidden land?
Let’s rephrase the question. How did I get to the point at which I can choose neither god A or god B? What in my past could lead to this?
If you watched or listened to the show this morning, then you may be even more perplexed. My dad came on the show. A couple of yahoos set up a barbecue in the middle of the night in the parking lot where I stand. They smoked ribs and barbecued chicken all night. When I got there, we had an early-morning taste test.
It’s hard to say who won. The smoked chicken of Mad Mac is just different from the slow-cooked ribs of Zubay. My dad showed up to help with the taste test. He’s 79 years old and he got back at two in the morning from a trip to Vegas.
It is not, however, the kind of trip to Vegas that you might infer he would take, judging from my bad habits. No. He was there to play softball. He’s one of the best 80-and-over softball players in America. I’m not kidding. (You can be 79 and play on the 80-plus team).
Anyway, after a sunrise feast of stuffed jalapeno, grilled vegetables, smoked chicken, barbecued ribs, baked beans and more, my dad and I sat around talking on the air.
“It’s a travesty what they’re doing to Brett Kavanaugh. The Democrats should be ashamed of themselves. Brett Kavanaugh is a good judge and a good American. It’s a sham.”
My day, obviously, hits for team A. That’s Trump’s team. He’s a Trumper. He’s also the single biggest influence on me left on this earth. You could argue that my mom had a bigger influence, but she’s been gone for 30 years.
Yikes. I just realized that at the end of this month, it’ll be 30 years exactly that my mom passed away. That’s an eerie feeling sitting here alone in the guest bedroom typing to the three or four of you . Crickets chirp. A fan whirrs. I type.
My dad was not overtly political when he was raising five kids. At least that’s how I remember it. My mom would sit in the kitchen with a dishrag over her shoulder and say stuff like –
“What goes on behind closed doors.”
“See how people are about money.”
My mom looked askance at people in power. But it wasn’t necessarily a political stance. It was just a skepticism about people’s motives regarding money. My sister Jennifer repeats the latter all the time.
At Berkeley, there were certainly pockets of the societal underground and all of the left-wing fringe politics that go with it. But there is also a huge conservative slant to Berkeley that doesn’t get much play. I boxed and studied Sociology. I lived on the streets for a while, slept in the library, rented hotel rooms just so I could go to school. I worked delivering auto parts. I didn’t have much time to march or go to rallies or hear people speak.
My first real mentor on how to view the political world came from Larry Peterson. He was the long-time newsman at WJOB. He would start at 6am doing the news every half hour on the radio. At noon, he would do his own two-hour talk show called “Partyline.” Larry was as independent as they come. I studied his every move for a year and a half.
And then I left. I didn’t just leave WJOB. I left the whole world of politics and current events. I fell into a trap known as the Chicago Board of Trade. For 18 years, I didn’t come up for air. I barely read a paper about what the current president was doing. I knew even less about what was going on in my own community. My growth about how to react to the world got stunted. I learned from Larry to remove your opinion from the situation. I learned from Larry to see both sides of every argument.
That independent way of thinking festered in me for 18 years while I traded. It actually grew. I could look at any public policy issue and immediately see both sides – and not take a side. After doing this for 18 years, you basically subvert any political ideology you might have had in the first place. You become a vessel of interpretation. You lose political passion.
While independence festered in me, the rest of the world chose sides. There have always been warring factions, but the differences started to heighten with the Clintons, and then Bush. By the time it got to Obama and Trump, you were either on one side or another.
Where did that leave me?
Nowhere. I explained that already. I was caught in the land in between. And no one was there with me. At least no one who would admit to it. They’re out there, by the way, trapped in the world of wishy washy like me. They’re just waiting until it’s safe to show their faces in the light of day.
Make no mistake, it was dangerous bringing what had become of me to the radio airwaves. When we bought WJOB in 2004, the tide had turned. You either had to be on side A or side B or you were nobody. Whereas Larry Peterson could live a life of a non-commital recluse, I could not. It almost destroyed me and WJOB. Some people wanted to destroy me. They could only understand that I was not on their side:
“If he’s not on my side, then he must be on the other side.”
There was no acknowledgement of the existence of the land that is neither A or B. It took a long time for locals to accept me as I am. There are still some out there who would like to destroy me and WJOB, but not as many.
I subscribe to the dictums of Larry Peterson. That’s what I learned. And then I stopped learning. I brought the lessons of 1985 to this millennium.
Another factor brings me to the land of in between. I am dyselexic. When I look at a word, I see it both ways. The three or four of you know this if you listen or watch my shows and all of the sudden I start talking backwards.
I could do it right now if you want.
I dluoc od ti thgir won fi uoy tnaw.
You won’t believe how many times this talent got me laid. But that’s not the important point here. When I hear a theory or an opinion, my mind automatically lines up the other side. To me, it’s part of the same thing.
This is basically what a good lawyer does. But for me it’s different. Even if I want to accept one way of thinking and reject the other way, the other way still comes alongside, weakening any passion I might be building up. Side A might seem like a good idea, but there’s side B hanging around to balance the chemical equation.
It’s a trap. I have described to you before how I feel as if I am trapped in the Now. Maybe it’s related to seeing everything reflexively. Even time. The past is here with me sitting in my underwear typing to the three or four of you. And so is Now and even the future. It’s my excuse for never completing the writing of a book. I start to write a story about something that happened in the past, and I just can’t do it.
So I try to write a story about something that could happen in the future. That doesn’t work either. All that I am left with is Now. I could write a million words in the Now. I have.
And Now, for you and me together, is coming to a close. I’m trying to type furiously until I am tired, but that’s not working. I have watched enough political TV, like everyone else in America, that there’s nothing left for talking heads to say to me and you that hasn’t already been said. The best thing to do is to log onto flicklives.com and listen to a Jean Shephers show out of the early 1960s.
Think of the irony. I’m gonna wake up in a few hours – if I ever get to sleep – and I’m gonna stand on the Boulevard in front of big trucks. 147 years ago, after the Chicago fire, my forefathers walked down that same path to their new home just a couple blocks away. That’s a little eerie to think about, especially at 5:45 in the morning all alone on the pavement.
A few blocks to the east of where my people settled, Jean Shepherd lived and walked around. He most likely walked around right where I stand outside every morning. It’s the circle of life and I can’t get away from it. Neither can you. Good night.