3:58 on a Friday morning
I write this blog because in 20 years no one in America will do what I do. Maybe ten. Okay, five.
I write to you a lot about the transition. I detail for you how we're adding video of radio, podcasts, this blog, photos of radio, Facebook, twitter, live streaming. But the essence of what I do is still to wake up really early in the morning to do a radio show. And I do it in pretty much the same manner as the radio stud muffins of yore did it ten, 20, 50, 75 years ago.
At the core of what I do is to sit in front of a mixing board starting at 5:30am and I talk. After a while, I open the phone lines and people call in and they talk right along with me. It's a talkfest and it's not just about sports, or politics, or new businesses, or upcoming holidays, or new bike paths along the river, or indictments of local leaders, or the sadness of a mother whose daughter just died after getting shot several times on her porch.
It's all of the above. The other day, Dennis from Highland and I did a little beer ride through Griffith. There's three brand new breweries in my former town of residence, and they're all near the big Erie-Lackawana bike path... and it was 78 degrees out in mid- to late- October... so we rode our bikes to all three. We started at Pokro Brewery on Broad St., and then to New Oberkfalls, and ended up at Wise Guys brewing on Main St. At each stop we tasted every beer in the place and then pedaled on. Alexis picked me at the last brewery. Maybe later today I'll go there and pick up my bike.
During the evening, over a double IPA with a slight citrus ending to it, Dennis said -
"Your strength is that you let the conversation unfold."
I didn't really understand, at the time - at the bar - what he meant. I start talking and then I listen to other people talk and then pretty soon the show's over and I got a good six hours of real work to do. It's not as if I deliberately allow people to have their say. It just happens that way.
But now that I think about it, maybe that's at the essence of what I do that no one in America will do in 20 years. Maybe ten. Okay, five.
"You let events, your guests, and your callers drive the show. And that's not easy to do and it still be good radio."
Thanks, Dennis, for the complements... I think. It could be construed that I let the talk reveal itself since I don't have enough talent or chutzpah to direct it myself. Either way, I get the sense that in days gone by radio hosts more often allowed callers and events to drive the show, not the other way around. Now, you turn on the radio and hosts, especially syndicated national hosts, just don't take that many calls. They come in with an outline for the show and they say what will be talked about and they set the tone for how it will be talked about. It's personality driven... not the people driven. That's just how it is. And at 4:21 in the morning I really don't want to analyze why. Just know that I'm a throwback.
I have no idea who's on the air this morning. Alexis tells me that I gotta quit saying stuff like -
"I don't know who's coming up later, but you know it'll be good. Ryan, who's on the show today?"
She says that maybe it's part of my shtick, but it shows disrespect to the people who come to be on the show, that their presence should mean enough to me and to the show that I should know that they're coming.
Maybe. And I mean no disrespect. But in the spirit of the show revealing itself to me, it just works better if I sit there and talk and then through the huge windows I see someone walking in and then I know that it's him or her or him and her that's coming on the show next. I don't know why, but it just works better.
And I can give you a parallel. A couple of them. When I traded,I would often get a bug up my ass and the evening before I'd do a bunch of homework about the markets. I would pore through charts, read market commentary by Alan Abelson and everyone else I could get my hands on. I'd go through all of my trading slips from that day. And I'd come up with a plan for the next trading day. Then I'd go to bed and dream about how I should make the next day of screaming for dollars unfold.
I did that off and on for the first dozen years of my trading life. And then one day I just stopped. And as soon as I stopped, I started to make money. What I think happened was that I realized that there was nothing I could do to exert my will on the markets. That they're too big and unruly and unpredictable and fascinating and if you just go along for the ride... instead of insisting on driving the vehicle.. then you'll probably make more money, have more fun, and smile more. Really.
It wasn't until about 13 or 14 years into my trading career that I made any serious cash... and then it only lasted for a couple of years before I just got burnt out on the whole thing, wanted to do something a little closer to my soul. But for that short period of time, I could feel the rhythm of the trading cosmos. I argue that it takes at least ten years and at least then thousand trades before you can say that. But I felt it. I once read an interview about some huge trader and he talked about plugging in to the energy of the cosmos of the market and listening to the beautiful music that it makes. I heard the music of the cosmos of the markets for a couple years. And it was great.
Here's another example of letting the world come to you, not vice versa. I played college baseball at Occidental College in Los Angeles for a couple of years. Grant Dunlap was the coach. He was really old and had coached at Oxy for nearly half a century. As a matter of fact, by the time I pranced through east LA with my long hair and spacey Midwestern ways, Grant was an old man. A wise, experienced old man.
As a little aside, it was more than a little bit funny to watch this lanky, kinda mopey old man almost get hit by an errant thrown or batted ball on a regular basis at practice. Since he was old, during batting practice he wouldn't necessarily hang out by the batter's box, where he might be able to offer a hint or two about keeping your weight back or opening up your stance a little bit.
Grant would go stand in the coach's box down first base line or he'd wander behind the pitcher. But it didn't really matter where he meandered, at some point during every practice a ball would whiz right at him and this old man would have to gather all of his reflexes and fall to the grass or dive to the left, or duck and then fall. And if you were the nearest 20-year-old shortstop, then you'd have to rush to his side and help him up. This happened at every practice. I'm not kidding.
Anyways, by the end of my second year at Oxy... about the time my dad's company back in Gary, Ind., declared bankruptcy and we didn't have any more money for me to prance around east learning about Shakespeare and Sociology, we had a baseball banquet. And old Grant stood up at the front of the room, as had 47 times before, and he handed out trophies to each and every player.
When it got to my turn, he stooped for the trophy... wait. I just figured out how you could picture old Grant in your head. Think of Abe Lincoln without the beard. And instead of a big top hat, put a black and orange baseball cap on his head. That would be Grant Dunlap. I forgot what award he gave me, but here's pretty much what he said.
"And then there's Dedelow, who batted a solid .350 for the team this year. He's from the Midwest, and maybe that's why I really can't figure him out. I just want to say this - every game, he came to play. But in my 47 years of coaching baseball, I never met a worse practice player."
And then he handed me my trophy and the other players hooted and clapped. That comment by a man who had certainly been around for a long time - and whom I respected very much - has stuck with me. I don't really know what it means, and I don't really know why I would be such a bad practice player - other than when it comes to practicing baseball... or studying charts about the market... or preparing an outline for a radio show - I really don't see the point of it. Just go play baseball, or go trade, or just start talking. It'll all work out. It always does.