I got off the show early but not before talking about:
- 8 murders in 7 days in Gary; Sheriff Buncich admitting on Chicago TV that we may not have control of our streets
- Patrick Kane, Chicago hockey hero. Rape allegations. Are you kidding me?
- The Republican debate. Rubio stock rising, Rand Paul's tanking. Trump's still the leader. Jeb Bush looking like a high school librarian.
It's the first Friday of the month. So that means...
It's the first Friday of the month. So that means I leave at 7:45 and I'm done. Mayor McDermott buys a piece and then the Whiting-Robertsdale buys a piece and I get to go home and sit on the bed in my underwear and type to you. Truth be told, I stayed up way too late last night watching, tweeting and then listening to the first Republican debate. Pretty good theater.
Andy Qunell, the head of the Munster Republican party, joined me off the bat this morning. We went back and forth on Trump. He thinks the Donald is bad for Republicans; I say it's finally not boring. After Qunell left to catch a plane to Memphis, the talk turned to Gary and the murders. It's summer and there's a lot left of summer and what the hell are we gonna do about the rampant and indiscriminate shooting? The tower sits about a mile and a half from Gary. It is part of us. The killing and the crime and the rundown houses are not something that happens far away and you can put it out of your mind. Last night on Chicago news, Lake County Sheriff John Buncich also said that the other communities of LC are in danger. Yikes.
Lots of callers this morning and you can follow who they are and what they said as soon as intern Lis Lanman posts the notes above. Lis has another week with us before heading back to Indiana University, where she'll no doubt party for the eight days that she'll be there before classes start. At least I hope so.
... I've been getting into marketing. I'm not kidding. Had several meetings with potential sponsors of the new studios. Speaking of which, all the walls are up and we're waiting for some wiring and lights and stuff to get an occupancy permit. A week from today we plan to move back to the old studios for a month.. .and then back to the brand spanking new teaching studios of WJOB, or something like that. I can't freaking wait.
For now, we're trying to figure out how to lay out the interior of the studio. Rob Ellis and Angel Jimenez and others are helping me. But in the end, as with the design of the walls and windows and stuff, it's my call. Right now, we have a bar height broadcast table - it's freaking huge and beautiful - that Rob built. I don't know if that's what should go in the new studio or should we buy more traditional radio studio furniture. I'm leaning towards the latter, partly because the room where the studio is, with it's wall-to-ceiling windows all around, is so freaking comfortable that I'm reluctant to bring a huge piece of furniture in there. We can use the big, custom-made table elsewhere, so not all is lost with that.
Anyways, back to marketing. As you know, Alexis and I have owned WJOB for 11 years, and for most of that time we've been driven by PMS. Before you make any comments that you'll regret about Alexis, Debbie Wargo and my sister Jennifer running the place, note that PMS stands for - Passive marketing system. This has served us well for more than a decade. We do great local radio and advertisers call us to be on the radio. Bingo.
But I want more. We really are looking to test if you can turn local radio into local web TV. I hope so. We're hundreds of thousands into the bet and it'd be cool if there was some return on the TV side. Also, it's an experiment to see what kind of impact we can have on broadcasting education at Purdue Calumet and elsewhere in the Region. A hub of innovative media products and education. We'll see. Either all of this or it's just radio. I can't decide which.
As far as the marketing... we've finally come up with the brochure, and we have an FAQ page that outlines what we're selling. And we're even gonna come up with a sports sponsorship piece sometime today. It's fun. We can tell that there's a lotta people listening and we can tell that folks want some local, NWI-based TV because we already did it before and we actually had too many people watching, if that makes any sense. I'm excited and the PMS crew... I'm sorry, the new marketing team is excited. And so now with all of that excitement it's time to take a nap for a while and then go back and work on some more radio...
And local web TV and broadcasting education.
12:43pm. Friday still.
“I hope I go to Heaven, and when I do, I'm going to do what every San Franciscan does when he gets there. He looks around and says, 'It ain't bad, but it ain't San Francisco.'”
Rode the bike to Giovanni’s for lunch. It’s what I do on Fridays, except Eric the bartender wasn’t there so I didn’t get my glass of red wine. Most times I nod to Eric and he chooses a red for me and that’s a nice rhythm so if he’s not there I just bag the whole idea.
I did run in, per usual, to a number of listeners, but for some reason I ran out of words after 20 hours of talking on the radio this week. The four or five casual acquaintances must not know what to think. But after talking on the radio that much all that you can muster sometimes is a hmmph or a grummphh and that makes you look
b. socially awkward
Or, better yet, all of the above. The walleye pike for 15 bucks was amazing. Now, how about some Cheetos?
For some reason on the ride back, a guy (Jim Zmudia) pulled me over to talk about something on the radio. He got out of his car and waved me down and then told his story about St. Stan’s elementary school and the new principal there, and I politely asked a couple of questions and listened intently for the answers. But it was one of those conversations in which on one level you’re talking, listening, looking the guy in the eye… and on another level you’re working in your head what you want to write in your blog when you crawl back into bed. I wonder if that’s what’s known as the creative process… or if it’s just bullshit.
But what I want to tell you – and what I worked out in my head on the ride on my bike back from Giovanni’s – has to do with Berkeley. Or, more appropriately, as you will see - “Berserkeley.”
I start in a lecture hall on the north side of campus. I don’t remember which building, and to tell you the truth if you pressed me for the names of buildings on campus… it’d be tough.. unless I was sitting on the toilet with nothing to read and all of the sudden a name popped into my head and I said it out loud. “North Gate Hall” or “Moffitt Library” or “Wellman Hall.” I remember the first two names, but to tell you the truth I looked up a map of the campus on Google and came up with Wellman Hall. I have no idea if Wellman Hall was there when I was there or not. But it sounds good.
Anyways, I’m sitting in the back of the room. There’s maybe 20 or so other English majors and a professor in, no kidding, a tweed jacket lecturing to us. It’s a junior- or senior- level English class about baggy monster novels of the 1800s and early 1900s. I have already fallen in love with baggy monster novels, read every one I could steal from the library. But, as with the names of Berkeley buildings, if you asked me the names of the baggy monsters that I read, well, I’d have to wait until I next sit on the toilet. “Sister Carrie” or “Vanity Fair” won’t come out of my mouth until then. There’s just a lotta smoke in between then and now and sometimes you just can’t see through it.
After class I walk outside onto the most beautiful campus in America and, of course, it’s sunny and not humid and there’s a smallish mountain behind the campus to remind you that you’re in California and not the flatlands of the Midwest. I start walking – by myself. Never, ever make friends with a guy in a college English course, unless it’s a chick. Otherwise, you could be stuck with an interminable walk across campus, through Sather Gate, across Sproul Plaza and then down Telegraph. Instead, I look down as the yoga gal from north Berkeley I had been talking to after class for a few weeks bats an eye at me like “hey, we gonna talk?” Instead, I look away and start walking toward Sather Gate in a hurry, like I have somewhere to get to.
It’s not an act. I do have somewhere to get to, and I feel an urgency to make it happen. It has something to do with the radio that I do now and the radio that no one will most likely do ten years from now. But I gotta get there, so I look away from the magic of a Berkeley co-ed just dying to discuss Thackeray, and I rush away… mumbling to myself. I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date.
I walk south through Sather Gate, the same one that Dustin Hoffman hangs out at in “The Graduate,” which as a loyal Berserkelyite, I’ve seen probably a dozen times. Then I fight the crowd in Sproul Plaza. That’s probably even more famous than Sather Gate. Sproul is where Mario Savio stood on a police car and gave birth to the free speech movement.
There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part; you can't even passively take part, and you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop. And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!
That was near the end of his speech, I believe, right before students rushed the administration building and sat there for a freaking long time. It’s a historic place. You can walk right over where the cop car sat and Mario stood and not even know it. I did that a zillion times and only a couple times did I think of poor Mario.
I say “poor Mario” because that free speech speech had to be his pinnacle. Years later, in 1983, I went to a rally at People’s Park off Telegraph Avenue. I can’t remember what the rally was about, but I do remember that Mario was there. And he gave a speech. And it was about negotiating proper fringe benefits for the members of the union to which he belonged. It might have been the longshoremen’s union. I left People’s Park shrugging my shoulders – another icon revealed to only be a man.
Anyways, after you cross Sproul Plaza, you go south down Telegraph Avenue towards Oakland. It’s all different these days. There’s an Amazon building where the food co-op used to be and there’s shitty little tee-shirt shops all up and down Telegraph. The culture or, more precisely, the counter-culture, is dead.
But back then, in 1983, I walk south on Telegraph and I feel as if I’m at the center of the universe. There’s card tables up and down the sidewalks and you could buy a pair of sandals that a guy cuts right in front of you, or some jewelry made of lava rock, or incense, or a tee-shirt with Jerry on the front, or more incense, or even some weed if you asked the right guy in just the right manner. But who, back then, needs to buy weed. It’s everywhere. Just walk out your door in the co-op, sit on the ground in the hall, and within ten minutes you could be smoking someone else’s weed.
I walk past Blondie’s Pizza, the cheapest and best over-stuffed piece of pie that you could buy for a dollar anywhere in the world. It’s open all the time. You could go down there at two in the morning after partying your nuts off all night and get a piece of Blondie’s and a Coke and all would be well. You might meet a hippie chick who after a ten minute conversation would ask if you knew of any place to crash, and you’d once again remember that you’re not in the flatlands of the Midwest, that you’re amongst the magic of the East Bay on a Thursday night and there’s no rain in the forecast for like three weeks.
I walk past Armadillo’s, where you could buy a used jean jacket for a buck and wear it for the rest of your counter-culture life. I walk to the corner of Dwight and Telegraph, and there’s a little coffee house there that serves the best veggie chili this side of Westwood. It takes every ounce of effort I have to walk past the veggie chili but I do. Because I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date…
I walk past Barrington Hall, which looks ominously like what it once was – an army barracks – and I cross the street to this little market that looks like it’s gonna fall down any minute. It’s a shack with a copper pipe stuck in it. And there’s a little hand-painted sign above the door that says – Gerlach Liqours. I walk in, and there’s Gerlach. He has a beard like every other eastern European lost in the East Bay and he’s sitting behind the antique register reading the paper.
You going like it today, he tells me. Goot stuff.
And he reaches behind the counter and puts my “stuff” on the counter. I give him some money and I run hurriedly across Dwight Way towards Barrington Hall.
Now you could write a book about Barrington Hall. Or, better yet, I should write a book about Barrington Hall. It was the most famous of the counter-culture cooperatives in Berkeley. It’s reputation for drugs and sex was hard-earned, and not entirely inaccurate. Army turned hippie. Wine dinners and dancing naked and sunbathing naked on the roof while you observe the Bay Bridge, acting disinterested at the mostly-naked women who come and go, talking of Michelangelo. The yellow fog rubs its back upon the window-pane.
It is sunny, but it is not the sunshine of the flatlands of the Midwest. In, say, Lake Station, Indiana, when it’s sunny out it’s just sunny out. You look across the street and you can see the dollar store clear as day, or the trailer park. But in California, you’re sitting naked on top of Barrington Hall and it looks, right around you, sunny as hell. But then you look to the west and there’s the Bay Bridge and a zillion cars a minute coming and going, talking of Michelangeloing, and they look like they’re doing so in a fog that rubs its muzzle upon the window-panes. It’s a curious phenomena. You’re sitting here on the roof reading Dickens, naked, with a towel over your you-know-whats to prevent sunburn, and next to you is a girl with her top off charting her organic Chemistry. But then you look towards San Francisco and you can’t even see it. There’s a fog that lingers on the pools that stand in drains. It must be the Pabst you’re drinking, or the heat on the towel that covers your genitals, or… the stuff that Gerlach gave you.
Oh yes, there is a reason that I sat antsy in the land of baggy monster novels, and there is a solid reason that I didn’t strike up a conversation with the long-legged yoga freak in the purple halter top. I must get home, if that’s what you could call a co-operative on the edge of the counter-culture in Berserkeley, California. I’m late, I’m late. I must get my “stuff” from the dirty yet wise Gerlach. I must scurry to the roof, clothed or not, and lay my stuff out on one of the musty mattresses, and I must open my stuff and…
Yes, start reading. For it is only in the Bay Area, and it is only in the San Francisco Chronicle, that yellow-papered rag, that you can find the thousand words a day of Herb Caen. I’ll explain to you later how this all relates to radio.
Time for bed. I rarely make the 10pm news on the weekend unless we go out. If we stay home, forget about it. Tomorrow at this time we'll be at Beatlesfest in downtown Hammond.