For some reason, I’m dreaming about potato salad, which is ironic in that of all of the things that I’ve eaten in the past 28 hours, none of it has been potato salad. There’s been:
- red salsa
Now try to figure what was the best thing to eat on this list. That’s right. The sweet potato casserole. Alexis makes it by doubling up everything on the recipe that’s except for the sugar. The key to sweet potato casserole is to not make it too sweet.
I suppose that goes for a lot of things, like radio shows and marriages. I started to talk with the three or four of you yesterday about the other side of “A Christmas Story.” Let’s continue with that.
Now I’m too freaking lazy to do anything that might remotely smack of research, but as far as I can tell, soon after the period of simple elegance depicted in “A Christmas Story,” Jean Shepherd’s dad left the family for his secretary at the local candy factory. If it’s the candy factory that I’m thinking of, it still sits there. They don’t make candy there anymore, but you can at least think about Jean Shepherd’s dad working there, doing his secretary.
For some reason, other than waking from a slight doze dreaming about potato salad, I’m also thinking about Jean Shepherd’s dad. It would only take a minute to google his first name, but I’m not gonna do that. One of the pledges that I’ve made to the three or four of you – and to broadcasting students at a small liberal arts college in the East 50 years from now – is to tell you about My Radio Life, perhaps daily. And one of the other pledges that I haven’t necessarily verbalized to the three or four of you is that I’m just gonna give it to you straight from what’s in my head. If I gotta do research or prep to have this discussion, then forget it.
And by the way, since we’re on the topic of broadcasting classes, please note that I should soon be teaching one. That’s right. If all goes well, I’ll be the instructor for Sports Broadcasting at Purdue Northwest this semester. The class meets 11am-12:30pm on Mondays and Wednesdays. Over the holidays I gotta come up with a syllabus and exam schedule for what is right now 11 students. If it gets out that I’m teaching it, expect single digits.
Anyways, besides potato salad, I really want to know what happened with Jean Shepherd’s dad. Let’s just call him Old Shep. How did he first start getting attracted to the secretary who would eventually break up the family? Was she younger? What did she look like? Did she wear high heels to the candy factory, or flats? Did they have sex by the suckers, or did they do it mostly by the candy bars? What was her name?
Let’s call her Wilma. I don’t know why I choose Wilma, but let’s just call her that because it agrees with the terms of our understanding. I don’t do any research or preparation. I just write down to you what comes next to my mind and then my fingers. Any other filter on the process would amount to lint on a sportcoat, a mustard stain on an otherwise perfectly good tie.
Wilma sits at a desk outside of the office of Old Shep. She answers the phone, types letters, keeps Old Shep’s calendar, gets him coffee… maybe after lunch sometimes she starts rubbing his neck. Old Shep, you see, once played football and every once in a while his neck hurts. Back then, that’s what secretaries would do. They’d rub your neck if you asked them.
And perhaps Wilma was more than ready to rub Old Shep’s neck.
“Yes, Mr. Shepherd. I can make that appointment for you.”
“Thank you, Wilma. For that you get a brand new green sucker.”
Over the years – or was it only months? – Wilma grew fond of the sound of Old Shep’s voice through the door. She wasn’t all that busy except for when Old Shep would call her name with something to do. Once in a while, he would call her into the office so that he could dictate a letter, and they would talk about things other than the letter.
“That’s an interesting story, Mr. Shepherd.”
“Just call me Old Shep, will you? That’s what Dedelow’s gonna call me in his blog in 90 years.”
One time, Old Shep had to make a presentation to a business in East Chicago. He was asking Wilma about the outline as he put on his coat. She was explaining the pagination of the presentation to Old Shep as he was walking out the door.
“What about the conclusion?” Shep asks.
“Just page to this marker, and then read through to the bottom of the page. And then flip over three pages –“
“Just come with me,” Old Shep said. “You can sit in the back and I’ll call on you if I have any questions.”
So they drove through north Hammoond and got caught by a train. It is trains, you see, that are the constant of everything that is what we call the Calumet Region. We are at the bottom of Lake Michigan. All of the train tracks that cut across America north of the 46th parallel (I’m making that number up. Remember – no research) cut through Hammond, East Chicago, Gary, Griffith, Highland, St. John. Back then and now, you run the risk of getting caught by a 78-car freight train every time you start your engine.
They talked while they waited. They talked about Wilma’s high school English teacher who lisped when she said “Charleth Dickenth.” That made Old Shep laugh. While the train slogged by, Old Shep noticed Wilma’s knees, her nylons covering them, the high heels. He noticed that the skin on her face was smooth and supple. His mouth watered.
After the presentation, which went well, he suggested to Wilma that they don’t go straight back to the office.
“Let’s make a quick stop,” Old Shep said. He pulled into a liquor store, bought a bottle, and next thing you know they’re making out underneath a bridge. It could have been the exact same bridge that my mom and dad went to to makeout under. Maybe it was the Nine-span, maybe it was the bridge over the Grand Calumet River. Maybe it was a bridge that used to be there but was torn down a long time ago.
They laughed and they kissed and next thing you know young Shep was writing about the events preceding this catastrophic event 40 years later. He would be by then an adult in New York City and a famous radio host. He made his living by telling funny stories of his youth in Hammond, Indiana. New York people liked the funny stories, but they would have never liked the story of his dad coming home to tell his mom that he was doing the secretary. That would be real heartbreak, and who the hell wants to hear about that, especially on Christmas?
…….. I do have to address the creativity of one Rick Kubic. He’s the 6-7 drummer. He once held the sticks for a band called “Madder Rose.” He travelled the world beating on the drums.
Yesterday, Kubic travelled from his home where it was warm and welcoming to Wicker Park, where it was snowing and cold. I was there, too, with Kirk “the Minnow” Smith. Minnow and I were out on the course JEDgolfing. This is when you take one stick, two balls, and you play golf in a relatively swift manner. It’s really nothing like snail golf, which is for people who want to think about things before they do them. In JEDgolf, you tee off, either run or walk swiftly to your ball, and without thinking, you hit it. And then you do it again. By the time you’re through, you’ve worked up a sweat and you feel better about yourself.
That’s a definition of what sex is also, by the way.
I have played JEDgolf since 1994. It got started when I would go for a run around Wicker Park and then meet my buddies to play golf. That took a lot of time. After a while, I just put the two together and I started running between shots. And here we are 24 years later and I still play golf that way.
The trouble is that when you JEDgolf, you play 18 holes in about 90 minutes, sometimes quite a bit less. This means that you’re always coming up on snail golfers. And they rarely want to let you play through.
So I wound up starting to play in the Spring and Fall when fewer golfers were out. And then I started playing in the winter, when no snail golfers were out. At first I just played when it was cold but no snow on the ground. You could hit the ball and watch it bounce on the frozen tundra and the run up to it and hit it again. You could hit a 7-iron 200 yards sometimes, with the combination of your body being all limbered up and the fairway frozen.
Then one day there was snow on the ground and I played anyways. I lost my two balls by the third hole. Next time I did it, I brought orange balls, and that made all the difference.
Anyways, back to Kubic and Minnow. Yesterday, Christmas Eve, it started to snow in the morning. I was planning on riding my bike down the Little Calumet River and over to where Jean Shepherd grew up and where his dad used to live before he started doing Wilma. Instead, Minnow started blowing up my phone –
“Fresh powder. Looks like a JEDgolf day.”
I didn’t answer the text. I was at Planet Fitness with my daughter, Jeanie, who was working me out way past my abilities.
“Let’s go. One stick, two balls.”
Eventually, I had to answer him. Minnow has donated his time for 13 years to do the color announcing on football and basketball games for WJOB. He deserved at least a response. The trouble is, as Minnow knows, there’s few things I would rather do in life than play JEDgolf. There’s family, of course. That’s first. But I’m not sure, given the choice of:
…. I’m not sure which I would choose. And Minnow knows this. I turned him on to the wonders of playing golf like I play it. And Minnow knows that no matter what time of what day it is, I could be persuaded to chuck all that I am responsible for doing to go play some JEDgolf.
So I rearranged a whole bunch of Christmas Eve stuff to JEDgolf with Minnow. When we started, there was about two inches of snow on the ground. By the time we finished, there were four. And the wind was whipping off the Lake and it was 19 degrees out. Perfect weather for JEDgolf. I didn’t lose a ball and neither did Minnow. It was, if you’re into this sort of thing, a perfect late morning on one of the most majestic pieces of land in America – Wicker Park golf course.
On the fourth hole, I did a video that a couple thousand people have watched by now. One of them was Rick Kubic. He saw me do the Facebook Live video and he either walked across the street or drove and did his own Facebook Live video. He describes JEDgolf as follows:
“Two clubs, one ball and one nut.” Kubic took it even further. He wrote the following in snow on my back windshield:
“JED is cookoo.”
That about sums it up. You should watch the video that Kubic did (link above) and you can watch the Facebook Live that Minnow and I did on the fourth hole. I’m sorry that Shep had to live through his mother sobbing in the bedroom day after day. And I’m sorry that Kubic and the rest of humanity haven’t yet discovered the wonders of JEDgolf. It really is an amazing experience. Good night.