My wife's a lawyer and it was her associate's birthday (Get Gladish) and he wanted everyone to go to San Antonio for a couple of days to celebrate so I went along and of course partied like a rock star.
Which was pretty easy in that we went to San Antonio by accident during Fiesta Week. It's the south Texas version of Mardi Gras without all the prostitutes hanging around and gay guys kissing in the streets. But just as much alcohol and even more color to the costumes and a way bigger parade.
A family-friendly version of Mardi Gras, one you could take your kids to, especially if they speak Spanish. We took a late flight back from San Antonio on Sunday night (using miles, of course) and by Tuesday afternoon I'm finally getting my sea legs back. The coolest thing about San Antonio is by far the Riverwalk. I can't really explain how founding fathers could think of this underground labyrinth of shops and bars along a tiny river amidst really tall buildings and big trees. You've got to visit it to understand it... or you could click on the link above and look at the pictures I took and you'll gain an understanding that way.
... So yesterday was Monday and I thought I had allergies again. No energy, a little achy. It's that time of year. But truth be told I must have had a bit of a hangover still growling around and that always makes you want to eat greasy pizza and watch Adam Sandler movies. I stumbled through a four-hour show yesterday and remember very little of it. Today I did a four-hour radio show that included:
(That is, of course, a rhetorical question. Many of us remember the feelings of complete confusion and loneliness and shame for some reason or another and we would never want to go back to 10th grade. We made it through high school and that's good enough. Not everybody does.)
A cold and sunny Thursday in late April with enough local radio action to last a week.
The morning started innocuously enough with below freezing temperatures. You could hear the shriek of the already-blooming daffodils at 455am on your way to warm up the car in the driveway. To open the show it was talk of the death of local visionary Don Powers at the age of 95 and of the funeral of Cardinal George in Chicago (at age 78). Those were really the two biggest local stories of the day.
Firefighter Mike Hull, the pride of Hammond Gavit, stopped by with donuts and coffee and we talked on-air about him boxing in the 911 Slugfest on Saturday in the match ups between police and fire. Expecting 4000 people to the cathedral on Sohl Street.
Cal Bellamy, Region icon and former head of Bank Calumet, stopped in to talk ethics. Cal now does law for Krieg Devault and he and some others have set up this Shared Ethics Advisory Commission. The ethics officers go around to any municipality or agency that will have them and they educate them on ethics. Sounds solid enough, especially in an area like ours that is known for corruption.
But I've been critical of Cal's organization in that they do not go far enough. The Commission will go around preaching ethics in government, serving the public and doing it the right way, but when someone steps out of the ethical way they go silent. They leave it to the media and to federal prosecutor Dave Capp. There's a hole there, something missing, some sort of watchdog group like exists in Chicago.
To my surprise, Cal agreed. He said he's tried to put together a watchdog group but doesn't have the money. Hmmm... seems like it's only a matter of time.
Lake County Sheriff John Buncich followed with his show as part of the Community Programming Initiative. Callers jumped on him, especially about the recent death and escape at the jail. Caller Dennis even suggested that Buncich doesn't have organizational control, that the problem starts at the top. Got a little testy on the air and you know what testy turns into - good radio. Lisn to it on the podcast.
Then I worked out. I joined the new Planet Fitness down the street and that's progressing just like every other time I start to work out - I gain a quick 5-7 pounds. I lift weights, do sit-ups, walk the treadmill and then gain six pounds. Whoopee.
It is time to get in shape, I suppose, in that when we move to our final new studios we'll start doing the video show that we've been after all along. Lots of side views of how thick I've gotten, and silhouettes of the jowls beneath my chin. I'm thinking that a few tours around the leg press and the stomach cruncher (and a few gazes at sweaty, tight spandex) will do me good.
Then it was back to the studio - the old studio - to work on the STL (studio-transmitter link). We've built two systems that send audio from our new location on the campus of the Purdue Calumet Commercialization Center to our old studios where the transmitter and tower are. The main system is based on Comcast. That one's not working, really. It goes out a lot. I tell Comcast that it boils down to that our main, old WJOB building behind Smith Chevrolet is, as I'm told, the first commercial building in Hammond to have cable infrastructure to it. That's because Julian Colby owned both the first cable company and WJOB radio station.
So in my estimation the reason that the Comcast audio drops is that the infrastructure at the old studio in the industrial section of central Hammond is old and breaking down. The Comcast connection has been dropping on us since we got to the new studios, so I just spent thousands and upgraded to the Tieline STL system. But that drops too, especially when it rains or the snow melts. My theory is that there is an old switch or wires that short out when they get wet.
This isn't the first time this has happened. I've had AT&T out to the old studios a ton of times to fix our phone lines. Ultimately we (me and a series of techs) figured out that a switching box held water so when it rained our on-air phone lines would go out. You can only imagine what that did to the quality of our programming and the reputation of our business. I squawked and researched and eventually they replaced the very old switches and now our phone lines work at our very old studio site.
In the end, I couldn't locate the Comcast problem today, partly because I don't have the time to lay the project on the table and scratch my head. And Comcast isn't helping much, other than to say "call us when it goes out." I suspect that it'll be just as with AT&T. They'll realize that we have the oldest lines in Hammond and they'll eventually replace what needs to be replaced.
Next up - a visit to Ameristar Casino. They're opening a huge new Sports bar - "Stadium" - with old memorabilia and photos and a bunch of craft brews. And somehow they're asking me to do endorsements. Sure. But I'd like to see the place first and then do it. Great looking place and now they've got me saying so on the air and everybody wins.
Next up - Debbie, Kelly and I scramble back to the new studios where I help instruct "Sports Broadcasting," a class at Purdue Cal, with instructor Joe Wielosinski. For months, Joe and I have taken students live on the radio and they talk about a pre-arranged topic, even take calls sometimes. Today it was the NFL draft, the NBA playoffs, weird sports, etc. This is the sixth time or so this semester that students have done this live and all of the sudden something magical has happened - they have all improved. There is rhythm to the discussion, and knowledge of the topic. It's not ESPN quality, but it's certainly better than the first class in January.
"I'm proud of each and every one of you. See you next week."
"Ah, this is the last class."
"Oh, I forgot." And the 16 students leave.
But wait. I'm fiddling on the computer with Kelly when three of the students walk back in.
"Did you forget something?"
"Ah, no," says Tyla. "Can we talk to you?"
And to my surprise, three of the students ask about observing or interning over the summer. Two are graduating and, you guessed it, they don't have jobs. I couldn't tell until near the end of this class if Joe and I were getting through to these students (I won't say "kids" because some are non-traditionals)... but today the quality of their programs and the return of three students gave me the answer. Something really cool happened in Sports Broadcasting 101 this semester.
Combine the bluster of local radio with the thrill of meaningful education about media and you get a pretty freaking good day in local radio. Take 'em, acknowledge 'em when they come. Because, you know...