After my show, per usual, another Kevin Smith who is into hockey – this one an attorney – came into the studio. Kevin hosts the Mayor Tom McDermott show. This is a tradition that dates back generations. The mayor of Hammond comes on WJOB on Friday mornings. That’s just how it is.
As McDermott’s show started, I left the studio and went for breakfast. I go to one of three Greek restaurants near the studio and sit at the counter and read the Sports section. The women at all three counters, after some intitial back and forth making fun of each other, let me be. I read box scores in a meditative state. I eat egss and potatoes and drink a hot tea. I used to eat three or four pieces of toast with each meal, but now I don’t. My daughter put me on a gluten-free diet and I feel a better now than I have my whole adult life. For 30 years, I thought that you were supposed to just feel kind of shitty all the time. Now I don’t.
I came back to the studio at 8:30. That was to host a show with the head of the Lake County Democratic party, Jim Wieser. He holds a special place in the history of My Radio Life. Right now, as it stands, Jim Wieser is the only person who is still active in an elected, appointed, business, or otherwise leadership position from when I first worked at WJOB in the 1980s. I interviewed the shit out of Wieser when he was the president of the Lake County Council back then.
What the rhythm is is that I start out a project and then someone else takes it over. After a while, after something gets going, I just drop out, sometimes with no warning. I go with my gut on just about everything, including when it’s time to move on. For now, I host Jim’s show. It’s our newest show as part of the Community Programming Initiative. I’ll know when it’s time to move on.
9:30am – I worked out. And it wasn’t just any kind of workout. I did hot yoga right next to my buddy Ray Candelaria. He got cancer a few years back and turned from a big weightlifter to a yoga guy. He teaches, writes about it and even does a show on WJOB Facebook Live called “Shanti Wellness.” For the whole time Ray was fighting the throat cancer and for a good time afterwards, he bugged me about coming to a yoga class that he teaches. Finally, just to get him off my back, I went.
“Then will you leave me along?”
“Yes. Just come once. I’ll never mention it again.”
It only took once. Now I’m as sissy as it gets. I don’t eat gluten, per the directions of my daughter who lives in New York City. And sometimes I go to hot yoga with my buddy who is in remission from cancer.
“It saved my life, Jimmy. It helped me beat this disease.”
To honor my nearly fallen comrade, I join him at hot yoga on Friday morning, along with a dozen or so women who just dropped their kids off for school. Yesterday had a little wrinkle to it.
I laid out my mat in the middle of the fray, a minivan-driving mom to my north, south, east and west. Ray was up a little farther in the class, near the front. That’s where you put your mat if you come late. A lot of the time, Ray comes late. He’s half Puerto Rican and half Mexican. That means he’s always fighting to comprehend time.
So we start doing this downward dog stuff and one-legged tadasana, and I smell something. It’s gasoline.
“Which one of these women around me works on cars? And washes her hands off with gasoline?”
The scent grew stronger as we all started to sweat more. It’s 95 degrees in hot yoga so it doesn’t take too long for that to happen.
And then we did one of these stretches where you bury your head in your shoulder and pull your arm through underneath you. That’s when I realized – it’s freaking me that smells like gasoline. And it was strong. I had grabbed the shirt from my backseat. I had smelled it and it smelt fine, like laundry detergent.
“Great. I have a clean shirt to put on,” I thought. The other option was the twice-used shirt in my trunk. That one would also smell, but in a different way.
The longer the class went on, the more I started to sweat. The moisture mixed with the gasoline in my shirt and next thing you know I was about ready to pass out from the fumes. No one said anything. The instructor, a substitute, came and stood over me for a minute but didn’t say anything. I almost – ALMOST – took my shift off and did the class with my hairy white fish belly hanging out. But that would have made me entirely like my friend Ray, who takes his shirt off and wears really tight shorts. It’s difficult to imagine that we once played high school football together.
By the time the class was over, I had sweated out a couple pounds of toxins… into my shirt full of toxins. The whole yoga room smelled like a filling station out of the 1950s. And not one woman said anything. Thank you for good manners.
After this filling station fiasc, I walked out to my car, where I leave my phone. There were 15 text messages, almost all of them asking me if I had heard what mayor McDermott had said on my radio station.
“I know you never listen to your radio station, but you gotta go watch the Facebook Live video of the mayor today. It’s priceless,” one text says.
Instead of listening to the mayor, I went and got a haircut. It was at Nat’s barber shop at Calumet Avenue and Broadmoor in Munster. It’s where I got my first haircut more than 50 years ago, when it was called “Smitty’s Barber Shop.” I sat in the exact chair that I sat in the day I cried my ass off.
The chair next to the one that I always sit in had the cushions missing.
“What’s up with that?” I asked Justin.
“The cushions are being replaced. The stuffing was hanging out.”
I sat down in my regular chair and Dustin started buzzing around on my head. It had been a while, with the pace of My Radio Life and all, since I had had a haircut.
“I got a question, Dustin. Does that mean that the chair I’m sitting in is all original. This seat I’m sitting in has never been reupholstered?”
“It has not. The one metal arm had to be replaced, but the rest of the chair is orginal.”
That’ made me feel better. My ass was sitting where it had 53 years ago. My dad had sat in that chair hundreds of times. So had my brothers and cousins and uncles and even a few people I don’t like at all.
It also made me feel good that they could make a chair that could last 60 years without being reupholstered.
“You mean that all these years no dude ever sat down with needle-nosed pliers in his back pocket and ripped this leather?”
“No needle-nosed pliers. No rips,” Justin said. I thought about that barber’s chair the rest of the day, or at least until Alexis and I went to the Andrean at Munster game.
My WJOB guys were broadcasting the Munster game on Facebook Live video and on the radio at AM 1230 WJOB and 104.7 FM. My niece, Katie Dedelow, is a cheerleader at Munster, and although the high school’s a couple blocks away, we had not been to a game to see her cheer. Two birds with one stone – see my broadcast team and see my niece.
And besides, it was just a few months ago that the good folks at Munster inducted me into their hall of fame. I’m still having a tough time figuring out what I did to draw this wrath, but I accept it. And I somehow feel this nagging sense of duty to support the school, and its basketball team, once in a while.
“Sure, I’ll go,” Alexis said when she got back from work. Of all of the things that I’ve heard in the past couple of weeks, this was the most surprising.
“We need to go see Katie cheer,” she said.
“And I need to visit my broadcast team.”
The team last night was:
- head producer and play-by-play announcer Ryan Walsh
- color analyst Dan Repay
- Video producer Jimmy Mullaney
- Cameraman Andrew Garcia
Alexis and I got there at halftime. That’s because I took a nap before the game and Alexis and the daughter who shall go unnamed went to dinner. It’s lent and a Friday, so they brought me back a perch dinner. And a curious thing happened with that perch dinner – I got to eat it alone.
You have no idea what a pleasure this can be. I had woken from a nap to a hot plate of eight pieces of perch and some fried potatoes – and no one sitting across from me while I ate it.
I eat fast, real fast. I grew up in a family of five children and we hung out with the nine cousins of the triple kin variety and when my aunt Irene and my mom put food on the table, you ate as quickly as you could. My uncle Duane and my dad wouldn’t let us reach for seconds until you ate your firsts, so you get the picture.
And then I worked as a construction laborer. At 9:45, you get a 15 minute break. And if you’re hung over and young, you eat the lunch that your mom made you for your morning coffee break. By the time you retrieve the sandwaich, that’s five minutes. And it took five minutes to clean up your mess and be back at your jackhammer. That left five minutes to unwrap and chew a whole corned beef sandwich and down a Coke. I already had the abililty to eat fast, from being a child amongst a lot of children. But I certainly refined the ability as a Laborer.
Throw in trading on the floor of the Board of Trade, and you round out the training. You’d send a clerk for a sandwich. She’d bring it back. You’d sit down amongst the fray, unwrap the hunk of food, and in three bites down the whole thing. Chewing was optional. In three minutes, you’d be yelling for dollars again. Fully recharged.
So yesterday evening, with my daughter cleaning her room and the wife trying on different scarves, I was free to pick up a piece of perch, dip it into some cocktail sauce, and eat the fish whole with just a couple of perfunctory chews. And then do it again and again. A couple of times I interrupted the routine with a stray French fry and a swig of Diet 7-up. But for the most part I was left free to devour fish. And it was great.
Alexis and I shook a couple dozen hands on our way to taking seats behind our announcers at the Andrean-Munster game. When we walked in, Andrean was leading by nine points. By the end, Munster won the game by 15 points, avenging an earlier overtime loss to Andrean.
I played on that court, and I’m pretty sure they have the same lights in the ceiling. And the same heating system. It’s hard to regulate. It’s either 55 or 85 in the Munster fieldhouse. Last night, it was 85. I went up to the top of the bleachers and visited Andrew Garcia on the camera.
“How you doing up here?” I asked Andrew.
“Pretty good. But it’s kind of hot in here.” Andrew was wearing a spiffy white shirt and a black tie, covered by a cardigan. He’ a senior broadcasting student at DePaul downtown. He had gotten up at 4am to help produce my morning show and then worked all day and ran the camera at night. He was toast, and melting.
“Keep up the good work,” I told him.
Ziggy Waisnora and Larry Samano were the referees for the game. In the past, after games, I would go out for beers with Ziggy’s older brother Mike and his refereeing partner John Goss. Mike left for Florida and Goss died. It was a sad funeral filled mostly with high school basketball addicts like myself and Waisnora.
Ziggy and Samano and I met my broadcast team of Repay, Ryan Walsh, and Jimmy Mullaney at Johnny’s Tap, which is right next door to where I got a haircut. After a while, our other main announcer, Sam Michel, joined us. Alexis was there too and so was Samano’s wife, Laura Waisnora, whom I went to high school with.
We laughed our asses off for an hour, and then Alexis sang out that familiar refrain –
“JED, I’m hungry. Let’s go to White Castles.”
So that’s how the evening wound down, with this former Laborer and a current judge sitting in the parking lot of White Castles at 165th and Calumet wolfing down miniature cheeseburgers. I put a ton of that Duesseldorf mustard on mine. Alexis doesn’t on hers. We share the sack of fries and the overly fizzed Diet Coke. Life is good. We later fell asleep holding hands, if you can imagine that.
I forgot to mention one thing in this My Radio Life diatribe for the three or four of you. After my haircut, I looked at my phone and saw this text from WJOB station manager Debbie Wargo –
“We have a gas leak at old studio. Meeting NIPSCO there now.”
It turns out that we did have a gas leak, a big one. A huge hunk of ice on the roof smashed a gas pipe and the dials on the meter had been spinning for a few days.
“It’s gonna be expensive,” Debbie texted.
So I drove over to our old studio building. It’s 5600-square feet directly underneath the 400-foot tower in the middle of Hammond. A car dealership, Smith Chevrolet, sits right in front of it.
I met Scott Betustak there, whom I know, and a woman named Diana Campbell. She’s the hero of the day.
“Diana smelled gas and tracked down the leak to our roof,” Debbie Wargo explained to me.
I shook Diana’s hand. She works for NIPSCO.
“Have you ever smelled gas before like this and found a leak on a roof?” I asked her.
“Not really,” Diana said.
So I texted the NIPSCO communications guy, Nick Meyer, whom I was already in contact with all day on another matter.
“And btw – Diana Campbell of NIPSCO damage prevention was driving by our old building today and smelled gas. Called your team and it turns out melting ice broke a pipe. She saved the day big time. Use that in your marketing.”
Nick Meyer texted back :
“Talk about good timing. Glad to hear everyone is OK. Will definitely recognize her internally.”
So if one of the three or four of you works for NIPSCO, let me know if Meyer forgets to recognize Ms. Campbell for her heroic work. A gas leak like that next to a car dealership and a 400-foot tower is not a good thing.
That should do it for now. My broadcast day is about to start again. At 1pm, the PNW women’s team takes on #1 ranked nationally, in division II, Ashland University. We broadcast PNW games on Facebook Live and sometimes on the radio. Ryan Walsh and Sam Michel will announce the women’s game.
And then at 3pm, I’ll announce the men’s game. As with the women, PNW men don’t have a real good chance of winning. They’re 2-20 on the year. But it’s Kids Day and Best Buddies Day and Joe Williamson is getting inducted to the Hall of Fame. A ton of festivities surrounding the games, and I’ll stand at center court to guide through some of it.
I’ll also be guiding ten broadcasting students. As part of the Sport Broadcasting class that I teach at PNW, the students are coming out and announcing today’s games. They’re not doing them live, just taping them. I’ll listen to their calls of the game later and give them a grade. When they’re not on the mic, they’ll be on cameras and switchers learning how to run a professional sports broadcast. Because of this starting soon, I gotta go. I didn’t even get to tell you about Tom McDermott telling everyone on the radio that he’s gonna kick Dave Dowling’s ass. And I didn’t even get to talk about the 13 Russians indicted by the Department of Justice in the election rigging case against Donald Trump. Real life is so interesting these days, why make anything up?