855pm. I didn't use my car all Sunday so when I went out this morning to drive to the station, I forgot that I had a flat tire. Oops.
Never mind. Make lemonade. I went back in the house, got all bundled up, and then rode my bike the 3.2 miles to work. Except that I didn't realize that it was 54 degrees out and no wind. Humid. Sweated my ass off. But as far as the lemonade goes, I called the studio at precisely 530 and went live. I gave the weather, some traffic, previewed who was coming on the show, commented on football over the weekend - all while riding my bike by Cabelas and 80-94.
It was great. I've always wanted to do the first ten or 15 minutes of the show while riding my bike in... but producer Ryan is against it, says it's unprofessional. But hey, Ryan took a day off so this is what you get. A panting 52-year-old guy doing live radio on his bicycle.
And I'm not even embarrassed by it. In fact, I'd like to do it again.
Dave Bochnowski of Peoples Bank came on the show today. His family started the 200-employee bank out of safe in East Chicago a hundred years ago or so. It is truly an interesting story. But it's even more compelling that Dave served in Viet Nam, eating and drinking the local stuff, and wound up contracting Myeloma. It's a cancer linked to Agent Orange in which your bones can break. He underwent a ton of treatments and he's on the verge of becoming cancer free... and he's got a lot to say about how we treat those who have served. Dave says we can send soldiers to war and then basically forget about them. Pretty good stuff. If you know how to find my podcasts, listen to it.
You might also take a listen to the interview with Megan Glaros. She's the channel 2 weather woman from Lake Central who got to interview Barack Obama recently. Her dad came in for the "Winner's Circle" segment and then Megan called in as today's guest. Lots of energy, Megan really is a role model. Proud papa smiled his way through the entire interview.
So there. I spent a good portion of the afternoon hanging out at Big George's car repair shop on Ridge Road in Lansing. Big George, remotely related to me, does a popular car show on Saturday mornings. I watched the Purdue game in Maui on his TV while they fixed the flat, changed the oil. They charged me the "Preacher Special" price, which somehow made me think of our afternoon host who died almost three years ago now. Yeah, I miss him. But tonight triggers fired at random airing spots at random during the broadcast of the IU game and producer Harlow couldn't figure it out, said he was spooked.
Didn't have the heart to insinuate that Preach is still causing havoc. It's what he did best.
Andrean won 17-15 over Fort Wayne Luers tonight, and we caught the whole thing on WJOB.
Not that it went off without a hitch. Around 4pm I woke up from a nap during the Wisconsin-Iowa game to the general anxiety and worry that you know all too well if you're in radio. There's a semi state football game coming on in an hour and I better go over to the station to make sure it gets on the air okay.
So I pulled myself off the couch and drove down Columbia Avenue listening to Geno - yowza yowza - play some bandstand music live on WJOB. Hmm, I thought, that's weird. We should be airing the pre game for the Andrean semi state vs. Fort Wayne Luers. So in my reverie and confusion, I hung a right a little too quickly onto 173rd and caught the curb and got a flat tire.
Not a bad enough flat that I couldn't drive. Just flat enough that it hurt to go over potholes and it felt like my head was tilting to the right.
I drove slowly and finally made it to the new studio, the one glowing beautifully along Indianapolis Boulevard, the one with the new studio furniture, hanging lights, bright blue background. It's really a peaceful and creative setting when it's dark out and you feel like you're the only person in the world doing radio.
I walked in to the new studio and there was afternoon host Ron and 40-year-old intern Noah standing at the board. Ron was showing Noah how to line up the football spots in the right order on the computer and in the background you could hear Ryan Walsh doing the pre game some 160 miles away.
"Sounds pretty good, huh?" Ron asked when he saw me.
"Sure does. But is it on the radio?"
All three of scrambled to turn on the little boom box in the studio that's tuned to AM1230 WJOB... and there was Geno playing some Everly Brothers - yowza yowza - and not Ryan Walsh doing pre game for the semi state football matchup.
"What the hell," Harlow said. He tried calling Geno at the old studio to tell him to stop with his music show and switch over to channel 7 on the board. That's where Ryan would be doing his pre game. But Geno didn't answer his phone.
So in a surreal radio moment, Ryan was broadcasting from the press box in Fort Wayne, thinking he was live on WJOB back in Hammond. Ron and Noah were sitting in the glow of the new studio listening to Ryan do his pre game on the studio monitor, thinking, like Ryan, that the pre game was beaming out from the tower.
And Geno was back in the old studio - yowza yowza - finishing up his bandstand music show, waiting for the cue to switch over to the football game.
"Stay here," I told Ron and Noah. "I'll drive to the old studio and tell Geno to stop and turn on the game."
I said this with complete confidence that I could drive the seven blocks to the old studio in a couple or minutes in time to broadcast the rest of Ryan's pre game.
But then I tried to pull out of the Purdue Commercialization Center where the new studio is on to Indianapolis Boulevard. No can do. Every Region Rat with a car must have been out tonight heading for a pizza or to visit grandma. For a good two minutes, I couldn't even leave the parking lot.
And when I finally could - thump, thump, thump. The semi- flat tire had turned into a real flat tire.
Luckily, there's a gas station just a couple blocks south of the new station, so I pulled in there - thump, thump, thump - to get some air for the tire. And parked in the one spot where there's an air station was a station wagon full of a mom and dad in the front seat and a baker's dozen of kids in the two back seats. What they were waiting for, I have no idea. A couple polite honks didn't get them to move, so I pulled up next to dad and after a brief staredown he slowly drifted out of the air station. I filled up the tire and then sped north on the Boulevard - no more thump, thump, thump - to the old station.
I whipped into the station, yelling - "Geno, answer your damn phone."
"I turn it off while I'm on the air."
"Well put it on freaking vibrate. They tried to call you a hundred times."
Geno looked at his phone. Yep, a hundred phone calls. But then again someone was supposed to show up at the old studio to tell him when to quit playing music and switch over to the game. I'm not sure who, but someone.
Geno flicks on channel 7. There's Ryan finishing with his introduction of the starting lineups, completely oblivious to the fact that the 20 minutes of engaging pre game that he has just concluded didn't make it on the air. Ryan goes on to announce a three-hour game from a tiny press box 160 miles away. Alexis and I do what Geno and Mary Olene and Ron and Noah and thousands of other Region Rats do with their Saturday night - we stare at a radio while Andrean drives down to the Luers 16 yard line in the last minute.
The drive stalls. Out runs the Andrean kicker to boot an improbable 33-yard-field goal in the last minute on a rain-soaked field. Alexis and I cheer at our kitchen table. Geno and Mary Olene do the same in their den. At the new studio Ron and the 40-year-old intern high-five each other. Guys in Hawks jerseys honk their horns outside bars. Andrean wins, radio wins.. and Ryan's none the wiser that the four hours of prep he did for his pre game show tonight didn't even make it on the air.
So don't tell him.
4:30am. I wake and think about radio, which I love. I also like to write and take pictures. I don’t have a natural affinity for video as much and that took a couple hunnerd grand and several years to figure out but in the end I do like to create and I like to do it mainly in
What that means going forward for the future of radio I have no idea. I just like to take pictures with my Nikon D3200 DSL. I really don’t like to take pictures with my phone and I certainly don’t like the quality of the Go Pro Hero or my original GoPro for stills. GoPros are good for filming a bike ride along the Little Cal… but they suck for those fishbowl photos.
So radio, writing and pictures. I did publish a newspaper for a few years and edited a zillion articles and wrote about that many too. After a while you just by accident develop a rhythm and it doesn’t mean you’re a great writer just that you can feel your own heartbeat long enough to not put the readers' feets to sleep. Reach through the computer and touch their wrists, feel their heartbeats too. Then take a breath and start typing and see what happens.
Rhythm. The same thing goes with radio. I did my first radio show in 1985 on WJOB and then for 20 years while I traded I listened to AM talk radio nonstop. Sports, business, traffic, political, sports. After a while of just listening the rhythm of radio seeps into you. Now after doing the same morning show for more than seven years I get an even deeper understanding of the rhythm of talk, talk, talk… commercial, commercial, commercial… traffic, weather, , news, a joke, some sports, callers, callers, callers, talk, talk, talk, a little music… commercial, commercial, commercial.
Don’t forget to give the time in that glorious rhythm of yours. A couple weeks ago at a greasy spoon in Hammond a woman came up to me and said that she listens all the time. And that she makes her kids listen too while they’re getting ready for school.
“Oh, and my dad listens, too. He’s blind.” And this former mill rat walks up in an American Legion jacket. He looks at the growing mole on my forehead while he speaks.
“Is this JED? You’re JED.” And he reaches out and touches my nose.
“You gotta give the time more. I’m visually impaired and I listen to you all morning and I gotta know what time it is. Think about the blind people, too, you know.”
So there. Writing rhythm, radio rhythm and giving the time. There’s even a rhythm to the photos that I take. Maybe you can feel it if you go through my smugmug.com collection of photos. Yesterday during a break Ryan took some photos of me and Dr.Mary Tilak in the studio.
“What do you do with all of these photos,” the doctor asked in her best Indian accent.
“Ryan and I put them on the internet. We’ll send you a link.”
We don’t promote the photos at all. In a way, I don’t want anyone to see the photos of radio. I post them so that one day when radio is over there will at least be some photos of a radio station before the end. John Henry radio.
I'm writing this day of radio from the safety of my bed and a laptop not entirely unlike Carey Bradshaw in "Sex and the City."
5:30-9am. I did a radio show. Alexis my wife came in to the studio and we talked about the Munster schools being eight million dollars in debt and then, of course, immigration. Some guy named Mike about 40 said he had never called a radio show but he had to get something off of his chest. He was upset about President Obama giving "amnesty" to five million illegals last night in a nationally-televised speech. He called it a Mexican "invasion."
I let Mike ramble on way past what would be acceptable by any network in America. Even my wife gave me the sign to cut him off but by the time he was done with his diatribe even she accepted the merits of a raw, well-reasoned rant.
Andrean coach Phil Mason called in to preview tomorrow's semi state football game. Defending state champ Andrean has won 28 in a row but their best player, Notre Dame-bound Josh Barajas, has a busted finger. No word if he'll play. I announced last week's drubbing of Jimtown but Fort Wayne Luers is three hours away. If it were tonight, a Friday, I would have driven it and announced the game myself, as I did last year when East Chicago Central lost to Fort Wayne Dwenger. But the IHSAA moved this year's semi state to Saturday and that would get in the way of 5:30pm mass at St. Thomas More. So sports director Ryan Walsh jumped at the opportunity to do a semi state.
8:30am - Dr. Mary Tilak came in and told the story of how she came to America from India. Normally, we talk about obesity and diabetes and the need for "portion control." But today instead of workout clothes on her way to the gym Dr. Tilak wore dress-up clothes and was in a mood to tell her story. When she was 21, her parents lined up 10 dudes to choose from. Young Tilak passed on the really rich one because her mom saw him ordering the servants around in a bad manner. She chose the guy with no money but big ambitions. He, too, had ten babes to choose from and he decided on her. It was a match made in India but it played out this morning in radio heaven. If you know how to find the podcast of this, do it.
9am - I left the new studio to work with a guy named Matt who's cleaning up our old studios. There's so much radio history there and I don't want to lose it as we slowly move to the amazing new studios on the campus of the Purdue Calumet Commercialization Center. In radio, as we've painfully learned, stuff just gets lost. I don't want that to happen any more. It's stuff going back to the 1920s. Old Jean Shepherd and Frank Reynolds and Jan Gabriel stuff. It's all so cool if you actually care about local radio and what it has meant to America. If you don't, then the stuff I'm trying to save is a bunch of junk.
9:45 - Back at the new studio to cut a couple of commercials. I'm not bad live but I've always stumbled while taping stuff. I can't trick myself enough into believing that I'm recording live what is not live and is really taped and then will be live. It's too confusing. Just as with college baseball and futures trading and local radio - I am decent at doing the real thing but bad at practice.
Just ask my college baseball coach. At the season-ending banquet my sophomore year at Occidental, coach Grant Dunlap handed me some award and then turned to the audience - In the 50 years that I've been coaching baseball, this shortstop from Indiana is the worst practice player I have ever seen.
I'm not sure what that means other than voiceovers as a vocation is out of the question.
10:15 - At the lawyers. If you're in local radio then you know that people are always putting you in the middle of their shit and even though you don't want to, you have to deal with them trying to put you in the middle of their shit.
11am - Back home on this bed answering emails. I was exhausted. By Friday morning I had given 60 hours to local radio and I just didn't have it anymore. Debbie at the office kept texting and calling that for whatever reason we didn't have a phone line for the semi state football game tomorrow at Fort Wayne. After half a dozen calls back and forth I texted her to just fix it and turned off my phone and fell into a coma.
3pm - I woke and turned on my Pandora to The Grateful Dead Channel. It's amazing how the software can give you just the right mix of Neil, Bob, Jerry and Bob, Pink Floyd, Tom, Eric. The masters. They calmed me enough to figure out what the name of this blog should be even though I don't really know why - The Final Days of Radio.
So there. Hope that's enough.