Lucky me. Lucky the three or four of you.
Our satellite went down over the weekend. This is a really big deal in that we run all of our college and pro sports off of the satellite and most of our daytime programming like Laura Ingraham and Clark Howard.
And since I'm too cheap to hire a real, full-time engineer, it was up to me to fix the satellite. In the end I spent a couple of hours chipping ice out of the inside of an 15-foot diameter satellite dish out behind the WJOB tower. Chip chip chip, scrape scrape scrape, sweep sweep sweep in the four-degree gloominess. It snowed just enough over the weekend to be 41 on Saturday and then 14 on Sunday. Flash freeze. Ice all around and somehow a good fifty percent of it wound up cradled in the metal manger of our WJOB satellite dishes.
They're huge dishes. Big, round convex or concave dishes on the back lawn of the radio station. There's three really big ones, and a few smaller ones. Remnants of radio through the years. Forgotten modes of communication you just can't forget about because they were once real.
Anyways, you do remember that I'm a little more than slightly dyslexic, right? I juxtapose numbers all the time. That's easy. But what's really tough is that when I do remember stuff, which is infrequently, I frequently remember what I do remember backwards. As a matter of family lore, that night that I met up with Alexis at Players Bar across from Miner Dunn in Highland, Ind., she told me her address so I could come over to her apartment and, you know, hang out.
It's a good that her address was a simple reflexive. 121 35th Court. I don't know the scientific reason, but for the dyslexic that's a pretty easy one to remember. Hence I showed up at her apartment door. She let me in, and 27 and a half years later she's downstairs watching the national championship game between Clemson and Alabama and I'm up here blogging for the three or four of you.
But if, by chance, her address had been 8347 Magnolia, I'd still be driving around looking for 8437 Marigold. Or 8473 Magdalin. You get the idea.
The same holds true for satellites. I went out back in my new brown Florsheim dress shoes and hat and scarf and chip chip chipped and scrap scrape scraped my way across a satellite as tall as most houses. I even climbed into the thing, which I don't think you're supposed to do, and I'm not sure if it was my imagination or not, but I could swear I could feel energy waves that had just travelled in a jiffy tens of thousands of miles through space. My balls tingled. That's all I can tell you.
Do your balls hang low?
Do they wobble to and fro?
Can you tie them in a knot?
Can you tie them in a bow?
So after a lunchtime of chip chip chipping and scrape scrape scraping and sweep sweep sweeping, Viet Nam vet Larry showed up. That's really only half the story. He did serve during the Viet Nam war, but he was so good at fixing electronic shit on jet engines that they kept him in San Diego as they got the Top Gun program going. If anyone could fix our satellite, it was Larry.
He took out his thingamajig and tested the RG-6 going to the northernmost satellite dish.
"Only five volts. We'll have to replace the RG-6," Larry said. He didn't wear a hat or gloves. His ears were pink from ten minutes in the tundra. So were his hands. A half hour later we were in the electronics aisle at Home Depot and we picked out a couple hundred feet of RG-6. That's really just the black cable you use to connect your Comcast box to your TV or that comes out of the wall for traditional cable. I could have just said "cable" and the three or four of you might have understood what I meant. But it makes me sound technologically viable to say "RG-6" instead. Like I'm talking the code of geeks all over the world and just for a moment I can step into their world. But I am
just a lonely visitor.
I came too late to cause a stir,
Though I campaigned all my life
towards that goal.
...Even Richard Nixon has got
As Larry the veteran of our most shameful of wars waited for me by the orange checkout counter, "Wait," I told him. "Stay right there." And I walked to the corner of the store where I knew they would be - bins full of hats and gloves and neck warmers and headbands. I picked up a couple of each and while I was paying at the self-checkout...
"Jim, really you don't have to do that."
"I hate seeing people cold."
So Larry and I ran new RG-6 from the northernmost of the three satellite dishes to the receiver that rests cozily in the storage room at the back of WJOB. We had to use a snake to twist the RG-6 up through a pipe, get out a couple ladders, brave the wind as it started to get dark and snow, and then, once it was all installed, go inside and wait for the satellite to fire up.
The satellite had not yet started working when I had to leave to take my nephew Al to baseball practice. He had practice at 5pm in south Crown Point so it was a mad dash across the Region as it started to snow heavily. Al didn't talk much except to say he had baseball practice in the dome from 5 to 7 and then basketball practice from 7:45 to 9:30.
When I returned 90 minutes later, Larry met me at the door of old WJOB.
"Wrong satellite dish. You shoveled out the wrong satellite dish. And we rewired it. You told me it was the northern satellite. It's not."
"Oh," I told him, too ashamed to admit to being slightly more than a little dyslexic... how I sauntered across the dance floor at Players and shimmied up to Alexis - "Hi, I'm Jimmy Dedelow." And then we did the twist together and she laughed at me because I didn't do it anything like Chubby Checker. And then after the dance - when I had to go back to the date that had brought me - Alexis told me her address and it was easy to remember and here we are 27 years later.
There was absolutely no way I was gonna tell this to a man who gave his service to our country, and had given his afternoon to the mission of rewiring the wrong satellite during a polar vortex. Ultimately, we found the problem. And it wasn't even outside. A simple "cable" splitter inside by the receiver had just gone bad. The little wiggly wire in the middle of one of the ends had rusted and there was no more connection to carry the Clark Howard Show. It would have taken me ten years to find that problem. But not Larry. He's so good at troubleshooting that our government wouldn't even let him go halfway around the world to fight in a jungle. Lucky him. Lucky me. Lucky the three or four of you.