9am Thursday - After the morning, I skidaddled across Hammond to the memorial at the Local 1010 of the Steelworkers union. This is always a solemn occasion. It’s when they honor local 1010 workers who have died at the mill.
Can you carry
the weight of your
life? It's a lot to do.
If you can't, good for you,
But not your wife.
The most solemn moment is when the families of fallen steelworkers come to the front of the room for a moment of silence. Even I cried a little behind my cheeks.
Afterwards, I asked local president Steve Wagner for the list of 328 steelworkers who died. He said yes. I plan to read each and every name on the air one day.
I will pause when I get to the name “Keith Laczi.” He lived in a house behind Alexis and me and Steve when we lived in an apartment in Griffith. His son, Eric, played with Steve. It was a sad day when Keith died. It was something about a ladle of hot molten steel having an air bubble in it. When the bubble popped, the hot molten steel went all over Keith.
5pm Thursday – A couple of my favorite unions – Ironworkers 395 and Electricians 697 – are a big part of raising money for the American Heart Association. They had their annual Hard Hats for Hearts soiree at Gamba Ristorante in Merrillville. It was actually the second time I had been to Gamba in a couple days. On Tuesday, I was there as a member of the NIPSCO Citizens Advisory Panel.
The CAP panel is an interesting involvement. For whatever reason, NIPSCO keeps asking me back to give input on what they should or should not be doing as a corporate citizen. People come and go on the committee, but I’m still there. This is surprising in that I usually pipe up with direct and sometimes obnoxious suggestions.
Anyways, at the Hard Hat thing on Thursday, I sat by Tom Gozdecki of Emcor-Hyre Electric. We went to grade school together. It was good to make fun of each other. Needless to say, I stayed way too long and wound up with a thick head for the morning show on Friday.
The beauty and
art of living
construction. At 4 you
wake, you can't bake, but look
what you have made.
Friday 5:30 am – I was standing outside on the Boulevard yelling at Big Trucks. I wore a lavolier microphone that you can’t see from your car. I know and you know that if you’re driving by and you’re not a listener to the show then you think I’m an nut yelling at trucks. Maybe I am.
Friday noon – After sweating out a week’s worth of poison in a quick workout, I headed to Steger, Illinois, with Andy Qunell to Martin’s Bar. I thought we were going for lunch, but it turns out it was a liquid lunch. The bar’s been in the family for 60 years. They are having a celebration of this anniversary on June 8. I hope to be there. Don’t you?
Jimmy behind the bar and I became instant Grateful Dead friends. This is what happens when you meet someone who likes the Dead as much as you do. You have an instant bond. Vonnegut would call it a “granfalloon” like being a Hoosier or graduate of Notre Dame. Still, it’s a fraternity all the same.
Andy and I met a woman who was back in Steger for a funeral. She left Steger when she was 18 for California and never came back. That was in the 1970s. She showed us a picture of her in a bikini when she was in her 20s. And she showed us her daughter’s Instagram account with a zillion followers. I wish, like always, that I would have written down the Instagram handle so I could tell the three or four of you about it. But I didn’t. Instead, I drank Bud Lights and played the slot machines.
place serves up a
barbecue sauce that makes
me want to whistle and
sniff my armpit.
5 pm Friday – Attorney Kevin Smith turned 50, so there was a big party at 18th Street Brewery in downtown Hammond behind the federal courthouse. I ran into Kate O’Halloran, the former Lake County prosecutor, and her husband Bill Padula. These people are always good to see. Back in the day, the two families would take turns driving the kids to St. Thomas More. Billy would show up every day with a front seat full of candy.
“Damn it, Bill,” I told him once. “We’re trying to keep the kids off candy and you show up every day in your Cadillac with a Halloween feast. Cut it out.”
Of course, I didn’t really mean it. I said this at the behest of my wife. She was in charge of all things discipline concerning the kids. I just wanted to be left alone to indulge in my addiction, which was trading. Alexis wanted to do things more responsible like instill some discipline and good habits in our kids. That was her department. Not mine.
6:15pm Friday – Speaking of Alexis… she was the keynote speaker at the Hammond Hispanic Scholarship Awards banquet at St. James Parish in Highland. Six high school kids from around Hammond – all Hispanic, of course – received scholarships. Almost all are going to Purdue or IU to study Biology or one of the other sciences.
This fits with something I read in the Wall Street Journal. It was a section that asked – are the humanities dead at colleges? If you were at the Hammond Hispanic awards dinner on Friday night, you would most certainly say “yes.”
Now here’s where my big mouth gets me into trouble. Debbie Trevino, who is on the Hispanic committee, went through the trouble of leaving a “HeyJED” message to promote the event. These are 22-second messages you can leave on this app that Shamari Walker and I developed. It’s so that you can promote your event.
Anways, Debbie Trevino made a HeyJED that said that “Alexis Vazquez Dedelow” would be the featured speaker. She said it like the three or four of you and I would say it – Vaz-kwez.
But that’s not how Alexis and her dad say it. They say it “VAH-squez.” So I made fun of Debbie Trevino on the morning show.
“Hey, Ryan, play that again. Listen to the Hispanic woman say it like a juera.” A juera is a white, non-Hispanic person.
So when we got to the dinner, Alexis couldn’t figure out why so many people were coming up to her – “Now how do you pronounce your last name? We want to get it right.”
When the program started, Debbie Trevino stood at the podium and said – “Hi, I’m Debbie Trevino, the JUERA who is running this thing tonight.” I was sitting in the front row. She scowled at me like only an angry Mexican woman can do. I, of course, cowered.
Maybe I will
later. But for now, for
having me, my mom, I
freakin hate her.
Perhaps Debbie didn’t have quite the sense of humor I was hoping for. But several Hispanic men from East Chicago did.
I make fun on the air of how East Chicago guys always want to hug you. It drives me crazy. Of course, Adrian Santos, the EC City Clerk, came up and gave me a big hug and even rubbed his Aqua Velva-filled cheek on mine.
Another guy – Tito -, a former EC cop who now works for CSX, came up and lifted me off the ground. You could tell that he was waiting all day to do give me that hug.
“When he pulls up in the driveway,” his wife told us. “You can hear ‘Big truck, big truck’ all the way in the house.”
9 pm Friday – "The Big Event" at Bishop Noll. This is the annual fundraiser for the Catholic high school where my wife went and used to be on the board.
As is now customary, several husky East Chicago guys were waiting to give me hugs, led by the Whelan. Sean Whelan, a Chicago cop who lives in Mt. Greenwood, hugged me for an uncomfortably long time and told me that he listens every day but that he loses the signal by Midway.
“Download the TuneIn app and listen on the internet,” I whispered in his ear.
Pipes on the road.
Someone lost his
load. There will be a crane
and some pain for the clown
who tied it down.
Noon Saturday. The Big Sell at the WJOB studios on the campus of the Purdue Northwest CMEC center.
The Big Sell is a competition in which 12 finalists present their inventions to a team of three judges and then NIPSCO gives the top three finishers checks.
The Big Sell has been around for a while but may have lost some momentum in the past few years. So I said we would hold it in the WJOB studios and broadcast the whole thing in video on Facebook Live, Amazon, Apple and Roku AND live on the radio.
If you’re in media, then you know that this is a complicated production. You’re basically doing 12 different shows back to back, both on TV and on the radio. In a moment of weakness, I volunteered the WJOB studios and said I would produce the whole thing, along with Ben Cowart and Sonny Santana. We put in many hours to make it right… but along the way I forgot about something.
Maddy Foreit and Megan Dedelow, my nieces, had their senior prom. And Annie Foreit had her junior one. I forgot entirely about it. There was a pre-party at my sister's house and then pictures at Kelly Pack's house. And then, of course, the whole town comes out for the grand march at the Munster High fieldhouse.
I missed all of it. And I feel horrible about it.
This is the kind of thing that I did to my kids when they were young. I would be in Chicago at 6am trading and I’d still be there at 6pm. Every day. I traded through half their childhood, including recitals, games and even a few birthday parties. One day I walked downstairs in the Chicago Board of Trade building and in a kind of fog just sold my seats.
“I’m outta here.”
I pledged that I would never be that guy again. And here I was, working my ass off, forgetting entirely about a big family moment. My wife, daughter, sister, dad and all the nieces and nephews were there. And I wasn’t. My wife had been texting me all afternoon to remind me. But I was so engrossed in bringing off ”The Big Sell” that I didn't even look at my phone.
I am sitting on the bed at 3:54am on a Monday morning. I can’t tell you how pissed I am at myself. I broke my pledge, which is to put family first, no matter what.
Move your foot, please.
It's touching me.
Now move your elbow. Mom,
he's touching me. He smells
and I hate him.
Missing my nieces’ prom was not the only mistake I made Saturday. As mentioned, Shamari Walker, a student at Gavit High School, and I put together the HeyJED app. We have worked hundreds of hours on it. It started when I said to Shamari – “Hey Shamari, let’s save radio.” It took a while, but Shamari's a believer.
And I’m a believer in Shamari. I want him to do great things. And I test him, push him, move him into areas where he’s not comfortable.
And sometimes I push too far.
Since I was so busy producing the show, I figured that it would be a good time for Shamari to learn how to present in front of people by himself.
"What? You're not joining me?" he asked, trepidation in his voice.
"Nah. You do it. You'll do fine."
Right out of the chute, our powerpoint presentation jammed. Then, when it finally got going, slides were missing. One of the things Shamari did during the presentation was to record a HeyJED. It was my job to show it plays on the radio. But I wasn’t paying attention and I played it twice. It sounded like jibberish to the judges.
It was a complete technological disaster for the young entrepreneur. And it was my fault. Here he was a high school student competing against seasoned adult entrepreneurs. I left him out there alone. Afterwards, he felt horrible.
“I should have been there with you, Shamari. My fault."
Two huge mistakes on Saturday. I gotta take a shower and go do a morning show. Bye.