It's 1:24am on the day before the day before Christmas. In four hours and six minutes, I'll start talking on the radio.
I'm a little embarassed that if you come to this blog, you get nothing for a good month and a half. Sorry about that. But if you read my stuff enough, you know that it’s not just about radio and that I’m searching for the right medium to express what it is I want to say. I’m not sure what to create in – radio, writing, photos, videos, podcasts or even something else that I haven’t thought of. While waiting for it come to me which medium to use, I use them all, in rotation.
And that’s not necessarily a good thing. I do a radio show every morning on WJOB. That’s one thing. And I write this blog in a haphazard manner. And I do two podcasts. And, of course, I am a pioneer of using Facebook Live video for radio. That means making and posting a lot of videos. I also have a really nice Nikon DSLR and Sony mirrorless camera for when I feel as if it’s photography that can tell the story of beauty and pain, chuckles and frowns. Once in a while I even pick up my guitar to try to sing the force that lies within us all. Let me check the front page of my new website – jedcastradio.com – to see if there’s any other ways I try to paint the world with words and meaning.
Yes, there is one more thing, but I’m not sure if it’s the same as radio, podcasts, videos, photos and music. It’s JEDgolf. This is a sport I made up 22 years ago and have been doing ever since. You take one golf club and two golf balls and you run or walk the course. I’ve concocted a whole bunch of rules and suggestions, and one day someone will find them and change the game of golf forever, but for now it’s just something I do mostly by myself. Recently, I’ve attracted four other guys who play JEDgolf with me – Kirk Smith, Gary Bell, Matt Meneghetti and Danny Darlson. We played three times over last weekend and got more than 3,000 views on Facebook Live videos. So, technically, JEDgolf isn’t a total secret anymore.
After the radio show this morning, I would, if it were a normal Friday in December, play JEDgolf. We played the other day when it was six below zero with a half foot of snow on the ground and the wind howling. I can’t describe how sublime and beautiful it was walk on the snow with a golf club in my hand. I had been doing this for a couple decades by myself, and all of the sudden there were other people with me looking for their orange golf balls, too. It was great.
Obviously, I can’t make up my mind how to tell the story of My Radio Life. Why the hell, you ask (the three or four of you), would I want to tell the story of my life in radio?
A couple reasons. 1. Radio is dying. I want to record what it’s like to do radio in the old-fashioned sense. And I want to record as it changes – and I change – from something out of the 1970s to something out of the 2030s. It’s happening.
2. I want to find the right way to create. I really have tried to be a radio show host, a newspaper publisher, a reporter, a blogger, a videographer, a venture capitalist, a sprinkler installer, a construction worker, a public relations account exec, a pit trader, a father, wife, brother, and would-be musician. I even wrote a novel once that I put in the freezer in case we had a fire. When my stepson’s friends would come over, they’d say to Steve – “Hey dude, did you know there’s a binder in your freezer?”
Out of all of this, I really haven’t found my “legend,” as a recent guest on my radio show said. His name is Garrett Mintz. He coaches college students and recent grads on finding what it is that makes them tick, that inspires them. I’d find his website and copy the link (that’s called a “resource link”), but I’m much too lazy for that.
Back to the neverending search to find my “legend." I never find it. I write and write a blog and journals, and then I don’t. I do radio shows and cut promos and bumpers and IDs and I fix the log so that things play in order on the show. And then I don’t. Sometimes my radio show sounds like a professional production. And sometimes it sounds like I just rolled out of bed and started talking. It depends on where I am in the cycle of creativity.
If it’s radio’s turn, then the show is professional. If it’s video’s turn or writing’s turn, then the radio show sounds like I forgot to do my homework.
That’s how the rotation goes. For a while, it’s writing. I’ve been writing in relative silence and obscurity for 37 years. More than 99% of the malarkey that I produce gets lost. And, believe me, it’s better that way. Come to think of it, I’ve also been playing JEDgolf in obscurity for 22 years. And, some would say, I’ve been doing radio on and off since 1985 in obscurity. Although I would argue with that last one. There is nothing obscure about giving your life to local radio. Some people get it. They love radio and they love the Calumet Region and, in a weird way, they love you.
I got a letter from a family today. You wanna hear it?
Our father, Richard Jones, passed away this year. He was a huge fan of your show. I feel you are to radio what Johnny Carson was to TV: you come into people’s homes and become a familiar part of their everyday life. Your station was how he started his day.
Our dad had macular degeneration/poor vision, so your station became his lifeline to the world… news, sports the last few years of his life. He had a radio in every room and level of his home so he could always hear you.
He really wanted you to have this Jean Shepherd radio show because he knew you were a big fan.
Thank you and your station do for the Region. Happy Holidays.
The family of Richard Jones.
…. Wow. I don’t know what to say. To tell you the truth, I get stuff like this once in a while. I open the email, read the first couple of lines, and go on to the next email. If it’s a letter or card, I read the first few lines and then it sits on my desk half-read usually until it mixes with the newspapers and gets thrown out. That’s completely disrespectful of me to treat people’s feelings and comments that way. I get embarrassed by the attention and intimacy. Then again, it’s not about me, it’s about radio… and respect. And I should be ashamed of myself for the lack of respect I have shown listeners at times.
And to tell you the truth, this Christmas card from the family of Richard Jones would have gone the way of yesterday’s sports section had it not been that we had our WJOB staff Christmas party today. It really was a joyful occasion. Alexis and I have owned WJOB for 12 years, and it took a long time, but we have a group of people who can stand each other and are working together toward a common goal – making traditional radio and making new radio. That’s all you really want.
Anyways, my daughter Jeanie who's in from New York was hanging around my rather cluttered desk after the little party.
“I don’t know. Oh, it’s a card from some listener.”
After she read the card, Jeanie said – “Dad, this is beautiful. You have to read this. And there's a CD of radio shows by some guy named Jean Shepherd.”
“Yeah. Yeah,” I said, lost in the reverie of reviewing the bank statement.
“No, really, dad. You have to read this.”
So I did. Just now. I read the letter from the family of Richard Jones. I don’t know if you’re one of the three or four people who read my blog, the unidentified family members of the late Mr. Jones, but I thank you with as much genuine gratitude as I can muster up this side of my eyes watering. I only wish that I could have met your father, brother, grandfather, friend. Maybe we could have talked about Jean Shepherd. He’s from Hammond, you know.