- the reality is that radio is dying and I want to chronicle the death of it. The mental picture we use is that a bunch of communications students 50 years from now are up late working on their senior project. One of them says – “hey, look at this blog from 50 ago. Maybe we can write about this.” Then they smoke some more weed and read this blog and write a paper.
And what a journey it is right now. Coronavirus has changed the way we live. Yesterday, it was a cool and sunny afternoon. I came home from work, put on some sweats, and went for a run. Several people were out walking their dogs. A family of four on Madison Street where I grew up sat at the end of their driveway on folding chairs. The dad and two kids waved wildly at anyone who strolled or drove by. At the stoplight at Ridge and Calumet, I pushed the “Walk” sign and waited for cars and trucks to pass.
When I got back and was taking my sweatshirt off in the kitchen, my daughter Jackie asked – “Hey dad, wanna walk the dog down to the river.”
“Sure, Jackie. What a great idea.”
This is a relatively regular charade. Until my daughter was in fifth grade, I traded in the pits of the Chicago Board of Trade. And, here it comes – I was a trading addict. I would yell and scream all day in the pits, drink and do a little other stuff, and then I’d sometimes trade in the night pits or, when the computers came, I would trade all evening and all night in the foreign markets.
It went so far that I put a bunch of computers in our house in Griffith and I hired guys to sit in the basement by the pool table to watch my positions overnight.
“Ah, JED, there is, ah, a little problem.”
That would be the tap, tap, tap that Alexis and I would hear in the middle of the night. I’d roll out of bed and go down to the pool table and look at the screens.
Oh well, lost a bunch of money. At least I was in the game. At least I was always in the game.
One day, in a kind of trance, I walked to the basement of the Board of Trade building and sold my seat. Then I got on the train and went home. That was the end of it.
The moral of this story, if there is one, is that from that day forward, I pledged to say “yes” when my daughters or stepson or nieces or nephews asked me to do something. I had indulged my “disease” for a long time. It nearly ate me up and it certainly cost quality time with my wife and kids and the rest of my family. It all boils down to that when my kid asks me to walk the dog to the river, I say “yes.”
When I’m writing this blog and my wife taps me on the shoulder – “hey, wanna play Scrabble?” …
I play Scrabble.
This rhythm is exactly the opposite of how I lived my life up until Alexis and I bought WJOB in 2004. Trading was king. Trading was everything.
On our walk to the river with the dog, Jackie and I ran into an old man – a really old man. We were headed north and he south. As is customary these days, as we approached each other, we each hugged an opposite side of the street.
He waved – “how are you all doing tonight. Great evening, huh?”
“Sure is beautiful.”
That wasn’t exactly true. Sure, it was a sunny evening, but it was also 42 degrees and windy. We didn’t care. We’re Midwesterners. We’ve been cooped up all winter in forced heat and sweaters, grey sleety days and chicken soup.
Jackie and I turned around a little before the river and headed back. There was the old man again.
“Found your turnaround point, heh?”
“And you too.”
This is unremarkable conversation under any circumstances. But that’s the point. It’s just something that people who live in the same neighborhood say to each other on a walk on a sunny day on the first of April. It is unremarkable conversation in the middle of one of the most remarkable times in modern human history. And it is the unremarkable that you long for these days – a simple nod and wave and friendly greeting on a sunny evening walking the dog in early Spring.
Then the conversation took an ominous turn.
“Look at them. They’re putting my life at risk,” the old man said.
And he pointed to a group of six young people playing basketball. They were laughing and guarding each other and shooting and chasing the ball across the parking lot. This kind of activity, as the three or four of you know but you stoners 50 years from now may not , is strictly forbidden.
We are living under new rules – Stay home and stay at least six feet away from each other at all times.
“This is so contagious. Nobody's ever seen anything like this, where large groups of people all of a sudden, just by being in the presence of somebody, have it.”
That’s what our president said yesterday in his daily press conference. He was wrong at the outset of corona about its severity. He’s right about that. You could wave at your neighbor on a walk. She could sneeze. And you could die.
“What do you call that?” I asked the old man.
“You call that ‘stupid. stupid, stupid.’”
The man’s face tightened. His eyes crossed, He gritted his teeth.
“I’m calling the cops.”
On a normal April 1st and there were six people playing basketball, you’d walk by and say to yourself – “wow, that’s kind of cool.” The kids were laughing, smacking the ball out of each others’ hands, pushing each other, talking smack. This is what teenagers do in the Spring after a long winter. It is what many of us have done hundreds of times.
But now, what once was beautiful has turned deadly. Those kids getting within six feet of each other put that old man’s life at risk. If they pass corona from one to the other, they’re statistically probably not gonna die. They may not even get that sick.
But if the disease propagates and it lands at the doorstep of that old man, he very well might die. He knows it and Jackie and I know it and the three or four of you who read my blog know it.
And it goes further than that. If corona comes knocking at your door and you start having trouble breathing, your loved ones take you to the hospital. People in masks and protective gear greet you, put you in a wheelchair, and they make your family go away. If you make it, your family will be there in a couple weeks to take you home.
If you don’t, you will, quite possibly, die alone. That is why an old man called the cops today on a group of teenagers playing basketball. That is why I write this blog for you stoners 50 years from now.