4:17am. There's this lightning that keeps flashing across the bedroom and this thunder that rolls on top of itself for a good 15 seconds. I'm not sure what "rolling thunder" actually means. But if you're in radio and there's lightning and thunder and big rain, the first thing that flashes in your mind is if your tower's okay and your transmitter and your studio equipment and the cable and the phone lines and the power. You get the picture.
You wake up early worrying that you're not gonna be able to do the show this morning. It's a bit of an irrational line of thinking in that the odds are certainly in your favor that one way or another you will be able to blab for four hours. Still, when it storms like this you wake up early and cross your fingers.
I don't know what's on the docket for this morning. As a matter of fact, every day that I walk in to the studio, turn on the tea maker, look for my headset, start jotting down some notes... I have no idea who I'm gonna be on with that morning. That's Ryan's job. If I worried about who was gonna be the guests, then that would be two people doing one job and what the hell good is that?
As local radio guy, there are perks. Especially if you're local radio guy in the Calumet Region of Indiana and Illinois. Last night after work, Alexis and I walked the few blocks to the St. Thomas More festival. It opened at 6pm for a five-day run and we were there for the opening... of the beer garden. That's where we just leisurely sat down for an evening beer with Nicole Jamrose warming up her guitar in the background. And that's also where the stream of colorful characters just wouldn't stop coming by.
In the end, you don't make a lot of money as local radio guy. You just don't. Maybe if you turn it into something digital you can make some dough, and that's certainly my hope, but as terrestrial local radio guy you turn to something a bit harder to pin down as your form of currency -
Quality of Life. Now don't let that term confuse you. There are plenty of bureaucrats who have co-opted that term for one of their many useless organizations. I get it. But in the end there is some value at the root of the term "Quality of Life." It's a value that is largely forgotten these days. No shit. Talk to a kid in college. "I need to study something that's going to result in an immediate high-paying job," she might say. There is no talk of becoming a well-rounded, well-educated individual who can make reasoned decisions and live a balanced life.
This was the gist of a conversation I had with a guy named Marty Keil. It might even be Dr. Marty Keil for all I know. But Marty is this 63-year-old I got to know over the years playing pick-up basketball. And I'd run into him running around Wicker Park or hanging out at the local watering hole. Marty has an interesting story and is one of the reasons that there is currency in the Quality of Life of local radio.
Marty was the psychologist for the school town of Munster... and now he drives a bus in Griffith. You might be tempted to ask - what the hell happened? But it would be the wrong question. A more appropriate comment might be - Dude, you're my fucking hero.
Which is exactly what I told Marty last night sitting in the beer garden of the St. Thomas More festival on an evening in which it was supposed to rain but didn't. Until he was 53, Marty did the psychologist thing for Munster schools. Somewhere in there he was also put in charge of the busses for the school town. He became a guy really in to the busses. After that long-running gig, he went to East Chicago for five years as a psych guy, and you can imagine the stuff he ran into in that most colorful of all towns in America.
At some point he chucked the whole career pressure thing and started driving a bus for the school town of Griffith. But not too much bus driving.
I start at six in the morning and end at 8:30, he told me.
And then you come back for the afternoon pickup?
Nah. I told that's all I want to do. And they let me.
Then what do you do all day.
I read a lot of books. I probably read 2-3 full books a week. It's great. And let's see. My wife and I volunteer reading to kindergartners in the City... and we help out at the shelter. I run, ride my bike....
That's when I told him what is true - You're my new fucking hero, dude. And he is. Not just for the evolution from degreed academic turned transportation wonk... but for his understanding of something I rarely talk about on the radio. The value of quality of life. The appreciation of the moment right now and how you fit into it and not a constant, constant push to succeed, make money, become well-known, to have a career. You get the picture.
I explained to Marty that I rarely talk about quality of life on the radio, about prioritizing balance in your life.
Let me guess, he said, they say you're lazy.
You got it, Marty. Somehow prioritizing the currency of quality of life over the currency of actual currency has become synonymous with being lazy. But what the hell? You only live once, and you might as well add a tinge of laziness to the whole thing. Now get out of here... I got a job to do. I gotta go trudge through the rain to do a radio show.
It's kind of weird. Sometimes these days when something happens that would normally piss me of and throw me off my game, I'm able to shrug it off by reasoning this -
Hey, at least I can put it in my blog.
That's what happened this morning when I was babbling on about some thing or another about 6:23am. Texts starting come in on the text line and the phone calls started coming in - Dead Air.
Normally, this wouldn't have been much of a surprise. It was raining out, and if you read this blog like you should, then you know that when it rains our connection between our new, temporary studio and our old, antique of a studio goes out. We don't know why. Comcast and I both have scratched our heads to no avail.
What Comcast did last week, though, would surprise even the most jaded of communicationists. I suggested that maybe the problem lie in the old wires that connected the old studio to the fiber that runs down Indianapolis Boulevard. So, and I'm not making this up, Comcast sent a crew out there and replaced those old wires. Just like that.
Hey, think you can get out there and run new wires between the poles and connect them to WJOB?
Anyways. Maybe this morning it wasn't the rain... but the lightning and thunder. Maybe there was a power blip and not a short in the lines. Who knows. For whatever reason, we lost contact between the studios. So I grabbed my headset, my hot tea (which I had just made. Can't leave that behind), newspapers, a pen, notebook and Debbie Wargos directions on what spots to play, and I drove down Indianapolis Boulevard back to the old studio.
On that drive from new, pristine surroundings to old, musty surroundings, I sailed through green lights at every intersection, which gave me just enough time to think this -
At least I can put it in my blog.
And that's what I'm doing. At 6:45am, three women from the Roller Girls team showed up and we talked as if nothing really stupid like going off the air had just happened. I may have even had a little more fun than normal. Not necessarily because I was surrounded by three women who like to mix it up... but because I had a secret.
Adversity had come my way, and I had looked it in the eye, grabbed my tea, and got on with finding a solution... thinking the whole time - at least I could put it in my blog. Thank you.
.... Thanks also to Harold Snure for coming by the station. Harold's a broadcast engineer and one of our clients has hired Harold to establish a Barix encoder connection between the JED.tv studios and their own offices. This way they could eventually do their show live from Crown Point. It's a huge job to set the IP's correctly and the gateway and the kbps and so forth. So Harold hung around for most of the day.
While that was going on, Wes Lukoshus walked in to record Purdue Calumet Sports Insights, which just so happens to be one of the longest-running radio shows in the same time-slot in America. Wes started the show in 1985 at WJOB and he's still doing it.
And I was there the day he started. Cub reporter straight out of Berkeley. I was sitting in the newsroom with Sports Director Mike Farkas, with whom I sometimes hosted a Friday night scoreboard show (back when they mattered) when Wes came out of Colby's office with a big smile. That was because he had just landed a weekly show Friday evenings at 5:30pm. And it's still going in pretty much the same format today.
But it wasn't just Wes and I who would have been present on that day in 1985. Harold Snure may very well have been in the building also. He was Julian Colby's engineer and general fix-it man for a lot of years. So after Wes, Harold and I realized that we were all inescapably WJOB lifers, we took a picture and you can see it above. It's a photo we could have taken, if we had so desired, 30 years ago.