It’s 4:19 on a Monday afternoon in the middle of July. I had a full day of radio already and that means it was probably a pretty good day.
All radio days are good. Just some are better than others.
I woke up in bed this morning with my wife of 26 years next to me and then I took a shower and drove in a car down to the radio station on the campus of Purdue Northwest.
The studios have a gold glow in the morning, right before sunrise. It’s partly because the colors for that fine institution are black and gold. And some of the carpeting is gold and some of the walls are gold… and it’s also because the sky glows gold at 5:30 in the morning in late July.
There must be beauty in these old airwaves.
Someday, eons in the future, a Martian or
A Lilliputian will hear what I had to say this morning.
I hope the Martian or Lilliputian wont’ be nearly
As disappointed as the three or four of you may have been.
I talked about innocent until proven guilty and
Playing lob ball as a kid and making sure that you
Pee before you leave anywhere anymore. I talked
About Trump and no traffic and how the Cubs keep
Winning and the Sox keep losing. We talked about
How a cop is charged with raping a woman and how
A little kid was killed by a stray bullet and then we
Laughed about Elaine on Seinfeld and how hard it is
To put toothpaste back in the tube once you’ve
Squeezed it out.
Radio is the answer. Radio is the cure. In the morning
Before I even start talking it is gold and it is beautiful
And it is pure.
No arguing with that, mofo.
…. Anyways, after the show, which I did for a full three hours today, I worked out and then sat in Starbucks for a while reading. If I haven’t mentioned it to the three or four of you already, I’m back in school after a few decades. I’m taking the first class on my way to an MBA that has eluded me for a long time. Three or four times I have gone back to school only to stop studying for the first class half way through. That’s probably gonna happen again.
I walked into Starbucks carrying a backpack and a big textbook, bought my hot Emperor’s Mist green tea, and sat down at one of the tables. To my left was also a student. You could tell because he had papers next to his laptop. On my right was a young woman who was also a student. She had a bunch of file folders that it took her forever to gather as she prepared to leave. I think she was pissed about the woman on the phone at the next table over. The woman on the phone talked loudly for a long time. I, too, wanted to leave because of this, but other than my office, I really didn’t have anywhere to go. So I stayed to read the ten pages that I had planned to.
After that, I went to the old WJOB studios where Frank Reynolds used to work and Jan Gabriel and Felicia Middlebrooks did too. Geno Sferruzza was there doing his noontime show and we fixed a bunch of stuff like a hum in the headphones and an overmodulated microphone. We also figured out how he could record his show at decent levels on Adobe Audition. Also, we fixed the Telos, which is a machine that lets you take calls on the air. Evidently, callers can’t hear the station while they’re on hold. I ordered a part and will fix that by the end of the week.
Then, station manager Debbie Wargo and I worked on invoicing people and figuring out our schedule for Pierogi Fest this weekend. We have a broadcast booth that we gotta man for the weekend. We also have to figure out how we’re gonna cover the big Pierogi Fest parade on Friday night. They get a hunnerd thousand people, so they say for the parade. Our booth is right in the thick of it. I think that this year I won’t walk in the parade. I’ll just hang out at the booth and help Rick Kubic and Kat Marlow broadcast the parade live. We’ll see.
I also met with Ben Cowert and Ryan Walsh and Jimmy Mullaney. We’re trying to figure out how we’re gonna cover high school football and college soccer this year. We’re also gonna Facebook Live and broadcast on the radio a dozen baseball games or so from Optimist Park. It’s the Cal Ripkey World Series. The big technical dilemma is that they’re playing the World Series on two fields and we really only have the people and equipment to do one field at a time well. If we split our resources – including how much internet space we have available – we’re risking not having either one of them on. Or we risk doing both poorly.
Like anything else, do one thing well and you’ll make it through life with your underwear not all bunched up.
I’m trying like hell to force out Another Thousand Words for the three or four of you about My Radio Life before Alexis and I go see a movie tonight. On the air this morning. Mad Mac called in and gave his comments on “Dunkirk,” which just came out. Mad Mac suggested that if you’re gonna go see “Dunkirk,” read about it first. I don’t know what that means but I’ll probably take his advice anyhows before I go see the movie.
Tonight we’re gonna go see “The Big Sick.” It will be a welcome break from radio and law, concerts and birthday parties, cleaning out the attic and filling up the holes in the backyard, Every once in a while you gotta sit in a dark, air conditioned theater and watch a movie that may or may not be good.
All movies are good. Just some have better sound than others.
To finish my workday, I met with Shemari Walker, the kid who’s gonna be a junior at Gavit High School. He’s as technically adept in computers and code as anyone I’ve ever met at any age. He and I are working on a special project that I can’t tell the three or four of you about yet… but soon. You’ll like it.
Bye, Talk to you later, the three or four of you who won’t go away.
The three or four of you know how I joke on the air that if everyone else in the Region would forsake me and not listen to my show anymore that I’d still have enough family to keep it going.
That’s no joke. On one side, my German and Dutch people came to Hammond, a couple blocks from where I talk every morning, in 1871. They walked down here after the Chicago fire.
On the Polish side, they came here, a few blocks in the other direction from where I talk every morning, around 1906 to work in the steel mills. And both sides have maintained the Region as homeland ever since. Every so often, a person will be introduced to me.
“JED, this is so-and-so. You guys are related.”
It happened when I went to Indianapolis on Friday to see my nephew Jack play in the state Little League tournament. My brother-in-law, Mark Foreit, made the introduction.
“Jim, this is so-and-so Certa. His kid is on the team with Jack. You guys are related.”
“Short for Certakowski?” I asked,
“My mom’s maiden name was (something-something)-ski. “
“That explains it.”
It was a little obnoxious when I was out prowling around as a wayward youth and once in a while I’d wind up in a gal’s apartment waiting for her to “freshen up.” I’d be sitting there looking at the photos on the end-table, and I’d notice – “what’s uncle John doing in this photo? And aunt Evelyn? And my cousin Dennis?”
And the gal would come out of the bathroom in something other than what she wore to the bar. We’d talk for a moment, realize that we were related, and then instead of rolling around on the sofa, we’d go out for an innocent enough late-night breakfast. This happened to me twice.
Enough of that. It’s a Sunday morning and the British Open is on, so I’d really like to squeeze out Another Thousand Words for the three or four of you and then move on. I’d like to address my uncle Duane’s 80th birthday party yesterday.
My dad and his sister, Gayle, were there. There were four original siblings – Duane, Jim, Gayle and Ed, the youngest. Ed died of stomach cancer a few years ago. He graduated from Morton High School and then went to Purdue to play football for a couple of years before he somehow migrated to Brigham Young University. At BYU, he met Carol, whose dad was an elder in the Mormon church. Somehow Ed and Carol moved to Orlando, Florida, where they had eight kids. Yes, I have eight Mormon cousins and they have a bunch of kids too. They’re all really tall.
Anyways, each tendril of the family has a story. And there were many stories at my uncle Duane’s farm in Crown Point yesterday. Only one of my siblings – my brother Jeff – could make it. But there were still a ton of people.
My cousin’s kid Kevin King flew in with his family from North Carolina, where Kevin has worked for the power company for the past ten years. On our many trips to Orlando, where not just the Mormon side of the family lived but also a lot more relatives, I would take Kevin to Little League practice. And then I’d go across the street from the field and sit in a bar, alone with air conditioning for two hours until practice finished up. It was, sometimes, the best part of my vacation. It was at least the most peaceful.
My cousin Roger, who grew up in Highland, was there from the north side of Chicago, where he’s run the service department at a Honda dealership for a lot of years. My cousin Duane, the former mayor of Hammond, was there. He took an interesting turn after he left politics. He went into the deaconate of the Catholic church. He’s now a chaplain at St. Margaret Hospital in downtown Hammond. I haven’t seen him ply his new trade, but I’ll bet – and so will any of you who ever knew Duane when he was the mayor of Hammond for 11 years – that he does a really good job consoling people. It’s his nature.
With Duane Jr. and eight of my other cousins, we’re related on both sides. You have the stern white people – the Germans and Dutch. And you have the earthy Polish people, who tend to laugh a lot, even while we’re peeing in the bushes at a backyard party. Here’s how the labyrinth plays out.
My uncle Duane, who turned 80 yesterday, and my dad, Jim, are brothers. Simple enough.
But my aunt Irene, who was married to Duane long enough to bear him nine children, was actually my mom’s aunt. My mom’s name was Jean.
It’s a great story, or so I’m told, in that my mom and dad actually got together at the wedding of Duane and Irene. I wasn’t there. That would come a few years later.
What’s interesting about all of this is that my uncle Duane and aunt Irene had nine children. And my mom and dad had five children. And while the 14 kids were growing up, my dad and uncle Duane and a lot of other relatives worked for the family construction company.
We were always together, the 14 kids. It was a huge crew of barely-behaved Dedelow kids going confirmations or on trips to northern Wisconsin or just to work together on the weekends and then to sneak into bars in Gary at 14. There have been some very kind and successful people who have emerged from this mass of humanity, but I get the feeling that it’s in spite, not because, of it.
Yesterday, my cousin Doug manned the barbecue. He’s also delivered, I’m guessing, more than a thousand babies in his life. My brother, Jeff, has detected cancer in perhaps roughly the same number of people. Duane was mayor. The list goes on.
I do not see this mass of humanity nearly enough, and I can tell you with direct honesty (whatever that is) that I miss them all more than I realize. My cousin Doreen was there yesterday from Nashville. She used to hang out with my wife Alexis at a bar called Edo’s for a few years before Alexis and I met. It was actually my family – Doug, who worked with Alexis at Edo’s, and Doreen, who kept them in business, and Dave, who went to Bishop Noll with Alexis … it was actually knowing my family that made Alexis feel safe enough to open her apartment door in the middle of the night to let me in.
Without the strength of the 14 kids, Alexis would have left the door closed. And that would have made all the difference.
I know now, 1180 words into this, that I’m rambling about my family and that it doesn’t have that much to do with the death of radio. But it does have something to do with a death, a horrific and sad death.
There have been many sad deaths in the family. One day I’ll write about my mom’s death. That was horrible. She was sick for a long time while my sisters were in high school and then she died a couple weeks after my sister won homecoming queen. I could write a story about this tragedy. And there’s my aunt Cecilia and uncle Jimmy and uncle Charlie and uncle Dennis. The list goes on.
But the death that I’m thinking about right now wasn’t mentioned at all yesterday at the 80th birthday party for my uncle Duane. That’s because it’s too sad. It will never not be fresh.
You see, after a while, my uncle Duane and my aunt Irene divorced. That was a very sad occasion not just for his nine children, but also for us five children… and my mom and dad too. It was probably inevitable, but it was still sad.
My uncle Duane then married Connie Brewster, the daughter of Kingman Brewster – former head of Yale and ambassador to England, I believe. Despite her cheeky East coast upbringing, Connie adapted to life in the Calumet Region and has been here for more than 30 years. She’s also got a pretty good sense of humor. She’s my uncle Duane’s wife, so she would have to.
You know who else has a pretty good sense of humor – my aunt Irene, the first wife. And I realize this because I was in charge of taking the family photo yesterday. It took forever to line everyone up in the chairs and to try to get the light right. And then I put the timer on for 10 seconds and ran around and sat on the end. Voila, there’s the family picture that you see above.
Then I took my aunt Mary home to her place in Highland, and came home to my kitchen table to post the family photo.
That’s when I noticed the activity at the middle of the photo. On one side of my uncle Duane is his current wife, Connie, and on the other side of him is his former wife, Irene. And in the middle of all of these people smiling while waiting patiently for my 10-second timer to go off, both Connie and Irene are kissing Duane on the cheek.
I couldn’t believe it. And, possibly, neither can you. It just goes to show you that if you wait long enough, anything can happen.
Now, finally, I’m gonna get to the one person who was not there and will never be there when we all get together. And that is my cousin, Luke. He died from leukemia at the age of 19 or so.
Duane and Connie had two children – Shannon, who was there with her adorable little daughter, and Luke. Shannon and Luke were twins. One day, on a trip actually to see my sister Allison in Long Island, Luke had some discomfort down below. He went into a hospital. Some time later – during the reception for my brother Jeff and his wife Laura’s wedding in Bloomington, Indiana – we found out that Luke had leukemia.
That was a surreal situation. As a couple hundred of us gathered on an outdoor veranda at a golf course outside Bloomington to toast Jeff and Laura, several people were inside crying. Luke, I believe, was 18 at the time. Not too long after, he died.
And that’s the thing that’s gnawing at me right now. Luke wasn’t there, at the home he grew up in. It really was a beautiful afternoon. Many of my siblings and even my wife and kids couldn’t attend. But I was there, and perhaps because I didn’t have anyone with me but aunt Mary, I drank a little more freely and stayed a little bit longer. The former mayor and I even got to move away from the crowd and talk about a couple of things politically that are bothering me. Duane counseled me as he has in the past – “Patience, Jimmy, patience. Good things come to those who wait.”
It’s not in my nature to wait, Duane, but for some reason in the specific case that I cannot share with the three or four of you, it is perhaps the best strategy.
Still, Luke wasn’t there. He was the youngest of Duane Sr.’s 11 children. He loved the Cubs and he loved playing basketball with his older brothers and cousins, and he loved his twin sister, Shannon. He would have loved being there for his dad turning 80. He just wasn’t given the chance. That’s about all I can say about it on a Sunday morning in late July when it’s 80 degrees by 8am. It’s a great day for a bike ride. I’m thinking of riding the 15 miles or so to a certain cemetery in Schererville where both Luke and my mom are buried. Maybe I’ll stop by Luke’s grave up on the hill, tell him that although he wasn’t there in body, he was in spirit. And I’ll remind him that the Cubs actually did win the World Series. Then I’ll ride my bike down to the flatlands of the grounds and tell my mom the same. Then I’ll ride back home.
By the time 2017 is done, Alexis and I will have probably attended four bona fide rock concerts – and they all happened in the last 18 days.
Tom Petty once. Grateful Dead twice. James Taylor once. All four took place at Wrigley Field. Life is like that. One day you’re cleaning out your attic. The next thing you know you’re singing out loud with 30,000 other white people and one Mexican –
“How sweet it is to be loved by you.”
It’s 8:31 on Saturday morning. Last night, since radio never sleeps, I hung out at the station fooling around with “This is Dead Air.” It’s a podcast that Lane Paradis the plumber and I do about the Grateful Dead. We play recordings of old Grateful Dead shows and then we talk. That’s the extent of it.
There’s this underground swirl of spiritual pot smoking types that can’t get enough of anything Grateful Dead. We have yet to plug into that swirl. Our average podcast gets about 40 listens. We can count that.