It’s 10:15 on the Wednesday night of holy week and the air is still enough to hear the peaceful hum of 18-wheelers on 80-94 three blocks away.
We spoke about this on the show this morning, me and my seven or eight listeners. I shared, in a moment of vulnerability, that it is comforting to me to listen to the rhythmic hum of the highway that carries the most trucks of any in America. It’s similar to white noise, but it’s trucks and motorcycles and minivans and Toyota Corollas. Once in a while there’s a siren. That messes the whole thing up.
Then, as a kid, and now, as an adult, I live about three blocks from the Borman Expressway. It really does carry more trucks on it in a day than any other highway in America, or so I’m told. That makes for a constant rush, like running wate,. Tonight, the air is calm. That allows the decibels to waft over the Little Calumet River and across tons of pavement to my bedroom window. Alexis is not in here. She fell asleep on the couch as we watched “Veep.”
Tonight Alexis and I ate some dinner at True Barbecue in Munster. They’re not a sponsor, so I probably shouldn’t have done that. But I met there with Tom Keon, the chancellor of Purdue Northwest. He’s from Boston originally, and he tells really good working-class Boston stories about a time when everyone paid their bills in cash. He loves Fenway Park. After the chancellor left, Alexis and I ran into Jennifer Yuengling, a sixth-generation owner of Yuengling Breweries in Pottsville, Pennsylvania. It’s the oldest continuous brewery in America. 188 years ago her ancestors started brewing beer there.
Jennifer was a good interview, especially for someone in operations. That’s tantamount to being in IT in terms of general communication skills. I brought this up to Jennifer in the interview, and she shook it off like a pro.
“They let me out once in a while.”
I also asked Jennifer what it takes to run a business as a family business, and she said something like – and don’t quote me on this – “that you have to know your area of the business.” Hers is operations.
You’re probably wondering how I went from chatting with the chancellor to eating a quiet dinner with my wife to interviewing Jennifer Yuengling. Me too. Jennifer came in with a group of guys from Indiana Beverage, which is distributing Yuengling beer in northwest Indiana. I knew one of the guys from IB – Brad Hendrix.
“You don’t remember how we know each other, do you, Dedelow?” Brad said. “Here’s a hint. We spent a whole evening partying together once in Tallahassee, Florida.”
Yes we did. Brad’s head of sales for IB and he and I and Brad’s wife and a guy named Brian Cook prepped in a bar for the Notre Dame-Florida State game in Tallahassee in 2015. That’s the game that Notre Dame had won until a ref called a penalty on a late touchdown by Notre Dame and gave the game to FSU. Total ripoff. Southern homecooking… and I don’t even like Notre Dame.
Anyways, at True Barbecue next thing you know Alexis is holding a cellphone and Jennifer Yuengling and I are doing a Facebook Live video. I ask what her favorite Yuengling beer is, and Jennifer says, “They’re like children. I love them all.”
I posted the video above in case the three or four of you are interested. Jennifer agreed that next time she comes to town to promote the family beer that she’ll come to WJOB studios and “we’ll do it up right.”
…. In other ME news, I wrote a poem. Wanna hear it?
Never Want to Sing
I wish you could answer honestly
But I don’t think you could.
The smirk you wear
Says you don’t care
Like I always thought you should.
Sorry’s just another way
To say you’ll soon be gone.
It means nothing.
Not if you’re not gonna be here.
Be strong. Be absent
The hugs we shared
And fires we lit
No longer mean a thing.
A cold dark night
Keeps gripping me.
I’ll never want to sing.
Here’s how it goes with me and poems. One moment I’ll be sitting there listening to Grateful Dead, and the next moment I’ll pick up a napkin and write a poem on it. There’s not a reason for doing so. And there’s no way to deliberately write a poem. They just come when they want to. Whether they’re any good or not, I have no idea. They just come.
With the above poem, I was thinking about girl named Irene that I used to fool around with in the cooperative at Berkeley. She was crazy about this guy John, who like me played basketball in high school. He played for a place like Pacific Palisades south of LA and I played for Munster High School. He played center and I played guard.
As a matter of fact, John and I teamed up to form a Barrington Hall intramural basketball team, and we won the campus cooperative tournament two years running. Put that up there with winning 15th in the state of Indiana in extemporaneous speaking and All-Lake Suburban conference honors in three sports in one year.
Anyways, sometimes John and Irene would be together, and sometimes they wouldn’t be. John, you see, discovered what a lot of young suburbanites discovered once they came to Berkeley – that he had a weakness for illicit drugs. He got lost in them and wound up wandering around Strawberry Canyon behind the football stadium looking at the stars and talking to himself. He lost interest in Irene for weeks at a time.
That’s where I stepped in. I always thought of myself as kind of a utility infielder. I could play third, shortstop, second base and even catch or play outfield. There was a guy who played for the Cubs in 1970s who could do all of these things. His name was Carmen Fanzone. I was the Carmen Fanzone of Barrington Hall.
It’s not like I went around stealing other guys’ girlfriends. That was never the intent. But since Irene and I both liked reading Bukowski, we’d trade his books back and forth. Every once in a while we’d wind up sitting on her futon and next thing you know, well, Carmen Fanzone.
There wasn’t any love to the making. It was more like we were both there and a little drunk and there was Neil Young and Crazy Horse on the turntable, so next thing you know I’m slipping out of her room at five in the morning. Carmen Fanzone to the rescue.
Back to the poem. For some reason here in 2017, a couple blocks from a highway that carries more trucks on it in a day than any other in America, I was trying to think what Irene – who by the way was a great singer - might have had to say to John if she had the chance. Hence the poem, and hence Another Thousand Words.