In the ongoing effort to chronicle the travails and exploits of local radio guy (me), we gotta talk about going out into the public and doing shit.
Last night, Alexis and I had dinner at John's Pizzeria in Munster. Table for two by the window, so it started out date-like enough that we could have some decent couple talk, which is essential to any marriage. Somehow the talk centered on how socially awkward I am.
When we first met and would go out, you would just sit there quiet. I talked nonstop just to fill the silence. That would go on for a half hour sometimes. You would just sit there and say nothing.
Now I am not the strong, silent type, but I do remember those early days at dinner with Alexis... almost 30 years ago now. I'd take the train or drive down from Chicago and we'd go out for dinner and the whole time I'm looking at her, I'm picturing her in various forms of undress... and various placements of contortion. I'm pretty sure I'm not the first male to sit quietly while his female talked and the whole time he's just waiting for dinner to end so they can get back to the apartment, a little tipsy, and, you know...
Those Walter Middy-like fantasies explain the silence at dinner, but they don't explain my general difficulty when it comes to carrying my weight in social situations.
I don't get it. I wake up and listen to you on the radio and you sound like the most affable man in America. Knock-knock, 76 trombones, the way you guide old women into talking to you. You have pretty good social skills on the radio. How come you can't do that when you're not on the radio?
And in that question comes the story of Warren Freiberg. He used to be on WJOB back in the day and on other stations, sometimes with his wife, Libby Collins. Warren was, to use a phrase, affable enough behind a microphone, but if you tried to talk to him off the air, he would look at his shoes and mumble. If people came to see him at the station, he'd run to the washroom.
But on the air, he was great, especially when another local radio legend, Libby, his wife, guided the show and let Warren be Warren. I didn't get it then how a guy could be so talkative behind a microphone yet so freakin' awkward at a wedding. But I get it now.
That's why you used to smoke so much pot, isn't it? You're sitting there full of anxiety because there's people around so you smoke weed and all is good. Whoopee.
This couples talk went on until the baked ziti and a shrimp sautee arrived. Then people we know started coming in. First it was Don Erminger of Strack & Van Til's and his wife, Denise. They sat right next to us and the wives started up a conversation about the Republican debates on Thursday night. We spoke across the tables over our food and drinks and that was okay, but if you look back on it, Alexis did almost all of the talking from our table. That happens a lot.
Then Dr. Claude Foreit came in and stopped by the table, with another Dr. Claude Foreit, his son, and a bunch of other Foreits and so there was a general hullaballoo right by our table. Alexis handled it well, hugging and talking to everyone while I mostly smiled. I did get in to a longish, roundabout conversation with the elder Dr. Foreit about Donald Trump's bankruptcies, and I did say a few things to keep it going... but in the end if you watched us talk from the other side of the restaurant, you'd wonder if I was stupid or sumpin.
Aha, though, there is a point at which the inner talker and instructor in me awakens. Ten-year-old Sam came over and said he's taking pitching lessons with Trent Howard and that he's gonna take hitting lessons with "Coach Jeff." That led to a five-minute discussion, dominated by me, about watching Sam pitch last week in an All-Star game and that he had to keep up the lessons to improve. It was more of a lecture than a conversation but what else can you do with a ten-year-old?
So you get the idea. At the next table there was a guy from Hammond High, Dave Davies, I think, and he told me about his buddy Ray Jovanovich, who used to live in Hong Kong and he did sports radio updates there. That sounds kind of interesting and since he's in town, maybe I'll have him on the show. Then we ran in to Kitty and Randy Potts and talked to them for a while - Alexis mostly - and there was Joe Kotso at the bar, with mostly Alexis talking to him. You get the picture.
The picture is this - when Alexis and I go to places and there are people, there's a chance we'll know some of them. It might friends, or in the case of the Foreits - family. Or, more likely these days, it might be listeners. And in all of these cases I'm expected to talk at least some, especially with listeners, who give their morning time to hear my corny shit.
Thank you so much for listening. Sometimes that's all I have to put out before the listener tells a story, or, more perfectly, my wife interjects an anecdote and carries the conversation along so I don't look
2. socially awkward
I'm not Warren Freiberg. I don't look at my shoes so that words will come out of my mouth. But off the air, I just never had that ability to flow easily from topic to topic or light up a room... unless of course I was drinking. Then maybe.
Now you hear stories of famous radio personalities or even TV talk-show hosts being reclusive and not easy to talk to off the air. I don't know how Howard Stern is or Johnny Carson or Laura Ingraham were or are off the air. But I do know that off the air the late Warren Freiberg and I share the ongoing struggle of what to say next. Put a microphone in front of us - live - and, well, that's a whole different story.
.... Speaking of social situations.... Today there's a whole bunch of them.
3-7pm - Pints in the Park, Wicker Park, Highland, Ind. Craft Beer festival.
7:30-10pm - Beatlesfest, downtown Hammond. 10 bands playing Beatles songs.
11pm-2:30am - WHAM. The Whiting, Hammond, Highland, Munster After Midnight Ride. You ride your bike 30 miles across four towns in the middle of the night. Pretty cool.
I promoted the shit out of all three of these events on the radio, and we're pretty tight with the promoters of Pints in the Park and Beatlesfest. Jeff and Jen Detlo and Brian and Bridget Cook are putting on Pints and we do a lot of stuff with them... and Jon Vezmar puts on Beatlesfest. His coffee shop is actually where my coffee shop used to be and we've been there from the start of Beatlesfest 10 years ago. So you get the picture.
In a few minutes, I'll ride my bike over to Wicker Park and help the guys set up the tents for the 38 breweries coming to the fest. Last year, I showed up and took pictures and interviewed people and didn't put up a single tent. That became a running joke on the air, so to preserve the running joke I'll arrive just a little bit late, take some pictures, interview a few people, and, hopefully, not put up a single tent. How's that sound?
I do have to tell you something, though, about riding my bike around town. If you look at my blog post from yesterday, you'll see that I was stopped by Jim Zmudia while I was riding my bike. He got out of his car and we stood there talking for a while. At one point, he stops the conversation and says -
You know, you ARE a real freaking DP, you know that?
What are you talking about?
Look at you. You're riding your bike around town in long pants and dress shoes and a collared shirt. Only DPs do that.
And then of course I looked at myself. I like my shoes. They're brand freaking new brown Florsheims. I bought them at DSW last week for 39 bucks off the clearance rack. And I like my black socks that leave indentations in my calves, and I like my somewhat faded Levi's, and my pressed polo shirt. I like my bike, with it's strap-in pedals and little carriage on the back in case I gotta carry a book bag or some groceries. And there's a light on the front, and a red light under the seat for those behind me. And I'm wearing Ray Ban sunglasses...
I ride my bike around all the time, and on one's ever called me that.
DP. I'm tellin' you. Freakin' DP.
So there. I'm a freaking Dump Pollack. Imagine that. For now, I'm gonna put on my bermuda shorts and a tank tee-shirt, my Sox hat, some sunglasses, some black socks and my brown sandals... and I'm gonna strap my backpack with all of the cameras and microphones to the carriage over the back wheel... and I'm gonna ride my bike straight down Ridge Road a few miles to, ahem, help put up tents for the beer fest. DP, imagine that.