When the five of us sit down to take in My Radio Life, perhaps we’re merely participating in a Sociological experiment.
This is the kind of breakdown will put your feet to sleep. This kind of thinking will make you yawn, scratch your privates, look out the window at the bus rolling by.
But in the end, there is a method to what we’re doing, and it started in Berkeley. That’s where I earned my undergraduate degree in Sociology and it’s where I first learned of Reflections of Fieldwork in Morocco by Paul Rabinow.
Berkeley this and Berkeley that,
to what do we owe this pleasure?
If you just hung out on Telegraph
long enough, you’d wind up eating
from a garbage can. People’s Park
was supposed to be something
grand, but it wound up being
where you could buy drugs
and have sex.
Once when I was walking back from
the library,I heard a rustling in the
bushes. There was low moans and
slurping noises. Then there were the
the unmistakable sounds of a woman
“If I wanted to hear this,” I thought at
the time, “I’d have just stayed at the
There were so many things that were
supposed to happen in Berkeley but
didn’t. A new kind of society, accepting
and kind, was supposed to develop.
But it turned into something else. You
could never lose the idea that young men
and women were just trying to escape
the swimming pool backyards of
After a Berkeley adventure,,
and more of the same in
subsequent years, they would
return to the swimming pool
backyards of Southern California.
They’d plaster“Steal your Face” on the
barbecue next to the diving board,
but it would be the same old thing
their parents did, with the possible
exception of craft beer instead of
whiskey, red wine not martinis.
One time I was sitting at a lunch place
on Telegraph Ave and I watched a man
come up to a garbage can, reach in,
and pull out a piece of pizza.
He didn’t look at it before putting it
in his mouth. He chomped ferociously
while rummaging through the rest of
the rubbish. Then he unceremoniously
moved to the can across the street.
He was efficient if not dirty.
He was a man on a mission even
though he may have long since
forgotten why he came to
Berkeley in the first place.
What for? Why is everyone so gung ho
about finding an alternative way to
screw the pooch? What’s the big hurry
to prove to your parents that you are
not them? Do you know how many
suburban kids I watched descend
into drug-addled delirium and
live on the streets?
There was this one guy named Jofa.
He started out as a student from
some suburb of Los Angeles. He ended
up as a drug addict on the streets of
Berkeley. I’m not sure exactly how it
happened, but if I can steal from
Mark Twain or was it F. Scott -
At first it happened swiftly,
then all at once.
Jofa stole my camera and the 50 bucks
stashed in the jeans at the back of
my closet. It baffled me how he could
know about the 50 bucks,
unless of course he didn’t know at all.
Perhaps, like the guy eating pizza, he
was simply efficient and thorough.
In the end, Jofa loved drugs more than
Biology. He wound up at People’s Park
in a tent made of bedsheets. I visited him
there a couple of times. We never
discussed the 50 bucks.
There’s a purpose and there’s a
reason for just about everything,
but for the life of me I couldn’t
figure out what we were all
looking for besides raunchy
and complete sex while
on drugs perhaps reading
Walt Whitman. If you push hard
enough, physically and mentally,
you can feel something that
you think is being felt
for the first time
Then you wake up in the morning
or, better yet, in the afternoon, and
realize that it’s the same kind of
hangover you had in high school,
with the same empty feeling.
Who cares, though? It was an
experience. It was a former
cheerleader whose dad set up a
backyard swimming pool.
It was a hookup made in chlorine
and telephone calls, two vectors
crossing only once on
the graph of life.
Once again, I ramble. We’re talking about method. I learned about a lot in Berkeley:
- scientific calculus
- Charles Manson
- Charles Dickens
- Paul Rabinow
It’s the latter who has something to do with this blog. As mentioned to the three or four of you in the past, it brings me much chagrin that I did not chronicle in real time the final days of the Chicago Board of Trade. That fine institution was around for 170 years, and then it died. An entire craft, an entire institution went away. I lived it, but I was too preoccupied with making money to write it down. I tried a couple of times, but there was no weebly or blogspot. You should be able to just write it and post it and be done with it.
I hired a guy once to build me what was just becoming to be known as a “blog.” But it boiled down to I had to write my blog on a computer, save it on a disc, then run it over to his office where he would post it on the internet on some obscure sight. That was too cumbersome. I continued to write, but I didn’t post it. Most of my experiences at the Chicago Board of Trade are lost forever.
It wasn’t groundbreaking material, and there wasn’t that much of it. But I would sure like to go back and look at it. It was an exciting time and I was a different person then. I was so full of myself that I would forget that my family was with me at dinner. I would talk to myself out loud about trades. I would wake up in the middle of the night to call the overnight trading desk and put on a trade – any trade. One day I will write an expose on what it’s like to be a trading addict. I’m surprised others haven’t done so already.
Back to Paul Rabinow. He was a professor at Berkeley who wrote a book about how people live in Morocco. His story wasn’t that big of a deal. Anthropologists/Sociologists do this kind of thing all of the time. They go to an area that’s exotic and far away and they write all their stuff in a notebook. Years later, they come out with a book that leads to tenure and a cushy retirement. It’s the cycle of professorial life.
Rabinow, if I remember it correctly, wrote his book…. and then went back and rewrote it. In the first version, he wrote a standard anthropological report. In the rewrite, he wrote about his own reflections on Morocco.
I didn’t take a class from Rabinow, but most of the Sociology professors in the department really looked up to him. Several assigned his book. Why?
Because it was a new way of doing Sociology and Anthropology. Instead of just writing up objective observations of what was happening, you could now write subjective observations of what was happening. You could record what you saw and you could now record what you thought. It opened up a whole new freedom to the process of experiencing things and recording it. You could still look outwards, but in a movement started with Mr. Rabinow, you could look inward too. That has stuck with me. This line of thinking contributes to what the three or four of you absorb on a regular basis. It started with Reflections of Fieldwork in Morocco. It continues with My Radio Life, and, next thing you know, you’re sleeping in a bathtub.
If you open up the world to reflecting in a subjective manner on the things around you, then the whole world is something to experience and talk about. It’s an exciting way to view the world and interact with it. Once I learned about Paul Rabinow, I realized that I could write my journals with impugnity. Up until that point, I felt bad that after a night of partying sometimes I wanted to come back to whatever shithole I was living in and just write for a couple of hours. A few times I passed on what was sure to be raucous sex to scribble my notebook. Sometimes I passed on free drugs. Once, I passed on swimming naked in the Bay. I passed on riding a bicycle no handed down University Avenue and I passed on going to a strip club for lesbians. There is an infinite number of possibilities when you’re high with pretty women. Believe it or not, sometimes I passed on them to record my Reflections on Fieldwork in Berkeley.
That being said, yesterday was supposed to be another day off from radio. It only turned out partially that way. My daughter took me and her boyfriend Daniel to the Planet Fitness in Hammond. She worked us out like ragdolls. My back is sore and I’m eating like a horse. But after a week of Jeanie, I can feel my triceps.
Following the workout, we went to the South Bend Washington high school basketball game at Highland High School. My cousin’s kid, Alex Francoeur, plays for SBW. On the way in the gym, I ran into a longtime fan of high school basketball. I see the guy at all of the games but can’t for the life of me remember his name. There are a lot of these guys in Indiana. They get older and go to high school basketball games just for the hell of it. I will become one of these guys.
“Hey, JED, you got a nephew playing for Andrean, don’t you?”
“No. He plays for South Bend Washington.”
The guy stood there. It was snowing with a 20-mile an hour wind. He had flecks of snow in his ponytail.
“Oh,” he said, surprised. “I get it. He must be number 11.”
“You know what? I don’t know what number he is.”
“Nope. I know exactly who he is. He’s number 11.”
I walked into the Highland High gym trying to figure out how this basketball fan knew that my nephew is number 11. First glance, though, told the story. He’s the only white kid on the team. Duh. I went with Jeanie and Daniel and we found our relatives and sat with them. Here’s who was there?
- Uncle Jimmy Sinclair
- his wife Joy Sinclair
- their daughter Jessica who’s finishing pharmacy school at Purdue
- her boyfriend
- my uncle Danny
- my cousin Scott
- my brother Brian
- nephew Al
- uncle Denny Francoeur
- Aunt Diane
- their son-in-law the Hammond cop Mike
- his daughter the leading scorer for Highland
- and some others.
After the game, we took a family picture and then cousin Scott and I went to go sit in a bar. We went to Traditions on Highway in downtown Highland. I was surprised that there were so few people there for a Saturday… until someone reminded me that it was Thursday.
Eventually, other family showed up after work. Here’s the party:
- my wife Alexis
- sister-in-law Michelle
- my daughter Jackie
- daughter Jeanie
- her boyfriend Daniel Berner
- sister Jennifer
- her husband Mark Foreit
- and some others
I live not only a life of local radio. I live a life not altogether different from that of Hemingway in “A Movable Feast.” Any time, any day there’s a place to drink and be jolly. It could be with family. It could also be at 8am after my radio show with shift workers who shoveled slag all night. There’s an endless amount of possibilities when both sides of your family settled this area more than 100 years ago… and have not left.
Today will be another Movable Feast with my cousins coming in from Detroit. That would be my uncle Dennis’s kids, Monaca, Jason, Noah and Shawn. My uncle Dennis, who lived with us when I was growing up, died from cancer a decade ago. The kids, my first cousins, come in once a year. We’ll laugh and then tell a couple of Uncle Dennis stories without laughing. Monaca, Jason, Shawn and Noah will drive back to Detroit. We’ll do it again next year.
As mentioned before, I am grateful beyond words for this life that has been handed to me. To fulfill a debt of gratitude, I tell you about it in the tradition of Paul Rabinow. Hope you don’t mind.