What: Chicago Bears first exhibition game. Vs. Miami. Where: South lot, Soldier Field. Who: Alexis and me.
Sometimes you do things so you'll have something to talk about on the air. So it goes with heading up the Dan Ryan to a Bears mid-week exhibition. We budget for a ton of traffic, but since there is none, we arrive two hours before game time. Every gathering around us has foldout chairs, a barbecue, coolers of beer, maybe even a portable bar and television. These people are professionals. We are amateurs. We open up the tailgate of the SUV and sit there with the two bears that we brought. Bears officials walk around with plastic bags, reminding women that they can't bring in their purses.
"Here, honey, can you carry my lipstick in your pockets," Alexis says in response.
We set on a journey to look for people we might know to bum another beer. Two vehicles over we run into Terry Sullivan, whom I used to trade with at the Chicago Board of Trade. We rehash old times and then I say, "this is kind of embarrassing, but can we have a beer?"
"Oh my god, yes," and this guy from Crown Point who is with Sullivan opens a cooler and there's 48 Coors Lights in there. After a while, I ask facetiously - "you're from Crown Point and you don't know who I am?"
"Just moved in from Illinois. I'm a F. I.B."
FIB stands for F***ing Illinois Bastard. After a while Alexis and I continue on our journey. A few cars down this guy flags us down. He looks kind of familiar but per usual I can't place him.
"Ruiz, I won some tickets one time and talked to you when I picked them up," he says. And he introduces me to four other guys, some who work at the steel mill with him.
"I listen, JED. WJOB rocks," one guys says. "Me too," says another. One's a current Hammond cop. Another guy is Fred Behrens, who once upon a time was the police chief in Hammond.... while my cousin Duane was mayor. Small world.
Behrens has a lot of energy and he tells stories about how he and my cousin the mayor would go out partying all hours of the night... which is kind of ironic in that my cousin's not the mayor any more. He's a deacon for the Catholic church and he works as chaplain for a hospital and he visits prisons and sick people. He doesn't go out partying all hours any more.
Several times, Behrens says - "oh my god. You talk and move your hands just like Duane. It's so weird."
"That's 'cause we're double kin," I tell him.
"Huh?" Behrens says. He laughs like hell when a couple minutes later Alexis asks for her lipstick.
"What kind of Region Rat carries his wife's lipstick?"
The guy from Crown Point who didn't know who I am walks by on his way to Soldier Field. "Do these people all know who you are. OK. I'll give it a listen."
One listener at a time, baby. One listener at a time.
7pm Thursday. Inside the stadium.
It's an exhibition game, but still the soldiers hold the huge American flag at midfield and players enter the field from the mouth of the inflatable Bear. There's stage fog and fireworks and a lot of really pretty women walking around. I would photograph those for you but, you know, I like to sleep in my own bed.
Alexis sends me for popcorn and I wait in line for 30 minutes, miss the opening kickoff. It's a practice game for the vendors, too, evidently. They better get it right for the real thing. The Bears' QB Cutler, the second highest-paid in the NFL, doesn't do much but backup Jimmy Claussen does. He looks great. On the way home Alexis and I stop at White Castles for two sliders each. In the old days we'd eat four each. Times have changed.
6:22 Friday morning.
I'm in the middle of doing a radio show... and we go silent. Dead air. As you know, we broadcast from temporary studios at the Purdue Commercialization Center. We're set to be here for only a couple more days. Then we move back to our old studios so we can make final preparations in our top-of-the-line permanent digs at the Purdue center. The connection to the tower only has to make it a few more days.
But it doesn't. In the middle of the show I have to hightail it seven blocks north and start talking from the history-filled, bunker-like studios behind Smith Chevrolet. This has happened before. We're used to it. The problem is that I haven't set it up yet so we can play commercials and bumpers from the old studio. I start talking about 6:30 and can't stop until replacement producer Alex shows up 45 minutes later with a laptop that has spots on it.
Guests like Lisa Wein and Kenny Benich show up from Haven House. We talk about kids caught in homes where the dad beats the mom. The shelter's full right now. They need bras, size 50, cup size G. My former football coach John Friend shows up to the old studios. We talk about the upcoming celebration of 50 years of Munster football. If you tagged along with me during all of the commotion at the temp studio, and then on the Mr. Toad's wild ride to the old studio, and then the pressure of talking without the possibility of stopping - you might have gotten kinda freaked out. That's your issue, not ours. All radio is good, just some is better than others.
11am sales meeting. I tell Debbie, Alex, Kelly that I want two things - data and results. We have this new sales software and I'm having trouble telling who they talked to in a day. I want a rundown each day of potential leads.
"Good data leads to good results," I tell them.
Noon Friday. Salzeider foundation golf outing. I normally play at this outing but my back's messed up. So I drive around on a cart instead. That's a lot of fun. Dan Repay, Mike Gozdecki, Chris Peterson, Rocco, Rick Baltenzberger, my brother-in-law Mark Foreit, Bill King, Johnny Salzeider, his dad John and brother Jerry are all there. I'd love to play and win the damn thing but it's not worth tearing up my back.
2pm Friday. Business development meeting. Potbelly's. Highland, Ind. I meet a guy to talk business and we wind up also talking to Harry, Potbelly's manager. After general discussion, I hit up Harry about buying advertising (always be selling) and he tells me who to call at the corporate office. Bingo.
3pm. Temporary WJOB studios at the Purdue Calumet Commercialization and Manufacturing Excellence Center. I'm trying to figure out why we went off the air this morning. Hmm. I keep playing Pink Floyd songs on the computer... and I eventually find the solution. The problem is that I don't realize that I'm playing Pink Floyd directly onto the air.
Oops. Afternoon hosts Ron Harlow and Amanda Sandoval are back at the old studio interviewing Jim Coventry on the phone about fantasy football.
"Do you hear that," Harlow says to Coventry on the air.
"Yeah, it sounds like 'another brick in the wall,'" Coventry says.
Finally, I read Amanda's text - "We can hear you playing Pink Floyd."
Oops. At least I fixed it.
5:30pm. Fundraiser for Hammond city judge Jim Harkin. Wicker Park Pavillion, Highland.
My wife's a lawyer so every once in a while we go to fundraisers for judges. That's how it is in the legal community. At this one, I run into Hammond councilman Anthony Higgs, who says -
"Your double kin's in there" and he points to a picnic table where my cousin Duane and wife Laurie are sitting. I remind myself not to cuss since Duane's now a man of the cloth. We hug and talk for a while and I tell him about running into his former police chief, Fred Behrens.
"He's a piece of work. When he gets rolling, watch out."
We talk for a half hour about his kids and our kids, and then it's goodbye. I talk to Cindy Murphy from the Hammond school board - "Why are you beating up on us so bad on the air?"
"Because you deserve it."
Alexis, guy from Crown Point, Terry Sullivan and another guy
Fred Behrens showcases my wife's lipstick
Miami's McLeod Bethel-Thompson throws a pass
Tired Bears fan
Lisa Wein, Kenny Benich on domestic violence. Old studio
Me and Yirorgi Karnezis, Munster soccer player
Me and the Munster High soccer team
Double kin. Cousin (Deacon) Duane and me
6:30pm Friday. Salzeider Foundation after-golf picnic.
Alexis and I go to the other side of Wicker Park to Shelter #1 for the outing picnic. As we're walking up, Jason McColly, a Munster soccer coach, hails me down.
"I brought the whole Munster soccer team, and you gotta meet this one player. He listens to your show ALL THE TIME." And McColly trots out Yiorgi Karnezis with a full beard. He thinks I'm funny. He's funny too so I promise to bring him on the air with me. We take a picture with the whole Munster soccer team. One of the golfers catcalls - "a local celebrity's in the house, everybody." Alexis and I hang around for an hour and then stop at my sister's house on the way home. We hang out casually. Teenager Maddie is home. She just started high school.
"It's so big I got lost on the first day. And the upperclassmen just push you over and they hate freshmen. Why does everybody hate freshmen? I've had people ask me if I'm related to the guy on the radio."
... By the way. Double kin is what councilman Higgs calls Duane and me. He's the oldest of 11 and I'm the oldest of five. Our dads are brothers and his mom - Irene - is my mom's aunt. That makes us related on both sides - double kin. My mom's been dead for almost 27 years. Aunt Irene is still alive. Sometimes she listens to the show and when we get together we share stories of not being able to sleep through the night. When aunt Irene wakes up, she cleans. Me, I type. It's sunrise in an hour or so. It's a lot easier to be up in the middle of the night when the sun's out.