Alexis and I just watched Saturday Night Live. Host Sam Rockwell said “f---ing” and in a video they sang “dick” and “bitch.” During the funny news segment with Colin Yost and Michael Che, they said “shithole” several times. What gives?
All week long, after president Trump made his notorious “shithole countries” comment, all over cable and the internet they’ve been saying “shithole.” It’s a powerful and funny word. I want very much one morning to be able to walk out onto Indianapolis Boulevard and say the word “shithole.” The word makes me smile, like “weasel” and “shoehorn.”
At some level, since it’s been going on for so long, I even accept that due to antiquated regulation, I can’t say “shithole” but anyone on cable or the internet can.
But Saturday Night Live? They can say “fucking” and “dick” and “bitch” and I can’t?
“How come they can say ‘fucking’ on Saturday Night Live and I can’t say it on WJOB in the morning?”
“Because they’re NBC. They’ve got tons of lawyers. They can pay to defend themselves. We can’t,”
If you read this blog long enough, then you know who said that. My lawyer wife is sleeping in the bedroom next to the little office we have set up. I took a four-hour nap this evening. We went to see “The Post” with Streep and Hanks then we went to Doc’s Barbecue for a glass of wine and some baked beans.
The baked beans didn’t set too well with my stomach. It smells like a shithole right now in this bedroom turned into an office. I’m sorry about that. I’m actually sorry about a lot of things.
I’m sorry that I couldn’t do more when my mom had cancer. And I’m sorry that I couldn’t do the same for my uncled Ed. It would have been his 75th birthday today. My cousin Beverley posted a picture today on Facebook of Ed and Carol and the eight kids. They’re all Mormon, except for Ed of course. To his dying day he drank whiskey and swore. I miss my uncle Ed and I wish he were here to argue with me about decency on the radio.
To sum this up, even NBC is rubbing it into my face. All of the men and women driving by me at 5:30 in the morning on their way to the
- steel mill
- oil refinery
- chemical factory
- or teach cooking at East Chicago Central High School
can’t hear me say the words that they say every day. They say stuff like –
“I was drving to work and this fucking asshole cut me off at the corner of Indianapolis Boulevard and 173rd. Fuck that asshole.”
Or, “that cocksucker doesn’t know his ass from a hole in the ground.”
Or the simple, “This fucking Starbucks coffee is still too hot to drink. Fuck goddamn mutherfucking Starbucks.”
That’s how people driving by me in the morning talk. Some beep at me as they drive by. Maybe, like cable and the internet and NBC, they’re just beeping to rub it in my wrinkled fucking face that I can’t talk like they do.
It’s driving me crazy. My wife can tell. “Don’t you go saying those words. We’re not goddamn NBC. They can fucking pay for lawyers. We can’t.”
That’s the difference in this world? NBC and Donald Trump and Mark Zuckerberg can say whatever the fuck they want…. and me, this little fucking radio host standing on the street in Hammond, Indiana – I can’t say those things?
See previous comments in days gone by. Radio is doomed under these circumstances. I can’t talk like the people around me. I have to pay for an emergency broadcast system. Mark Zuckerberg does not. I have to pay a licensing fee to the FCC. Mark Zuckerberg does not. And I can’t say “fuck.”
“Don’t say fuck, daddy.”
I had a little swearing problem for a while, by the way. I grew up working on construction sites since I was 14. That might have something to do with it. Then I traded in the pits of the Chicago Board of Trade for a couple of decades. I’m not sure where there was more swearing. It’s about a tie.
But when the kids were little I swore all of the time. So one time Alexis and I and little Jeanie went up to the hospital at Rush Presbyterian St. Luke’s in Chicago. For whatever reason, Alexis had been in the hospital and, pursuant to regulations, after a stay there she had to be carted out of the hospital in a wheelchair.
It turns out that the guy wheeling her out also worked on the floor of the Board of Trade. As he pushed my wife in the wheelchair, I walked alongside and so did my young daughter, Jeanie, who listened intently to the conversation between me and the guy from the floor. I think that it was part of his public service for getting a DUI, but I didn’t ask.
After a long walk down a hallway, Jeanie started tugging at my shorts.
“Daddy, don’t say fuck, daddy. Mommy says don’t say fuck.”
I didn’t hear little Jeanie at first. That’s because in my fervor to talk Board of Trade stuff, I let Jeanie drift several feet behind us. And several feet behind her a group of nurses were walking… and laughing.
“Daddy,” Jeanie finally piped up. And for some reason we had come to an intersection of hallways, where everything echoed.
“Daddy,” Jeanie yelled so that a good 20 or so people walking by could hear. “Don’t say fuck. Mommy says don’t say fuck.”
Alexis, chained to a wheelchair, gave me, in Mexican vernacular, “El ojo.” That’s when you tilt your head and point your eye at your husband to remind him that he is the biggest dick in the world.
Oh, by the way. Alexis only had one eye with which to do “El ojo,” which means “the eye” in white people talk. I just remembered why she was in the hospital in the first place. One of the girls had scratched her eye while playing. They somehow split her cornea. She wore a patch on one eye.
Now I don’t know what the rules are regarding “El ojo.” I don’t know if it still qualifies as “El ojo” if there’s only one eye available to give it. Does “El ojo” require two eyes? Or, since it is in the singular anyhows, can you get away with just one ojo. Let me know when you figure this out.
And let me know also when you figure out how Sam Rockwell on NBC, Don Lemon on CNN and anyone remotely associated with Mark Zuckerberg can say “shithole”…. and I can’t. It bugs the fuck out of me. It’s not just that I like the word “shithole.” It’s that, as mentioned before, it puts me at a competitive disadvantage to cable, the internet and, now, to NBC. They can say things that I can’t. Radio is doomed until this situation changes.
And what if it does change?
What if the FCC comes out with a dictum on Tuesday (Monday is Martin Luther Kind Day) and says that there are no more so-called decency rules?
Aha. You got me. You’ve painted me into a corner. I have a fucking plan for this. Put it this way, if the powers that be remove the shackles on local radio, we will respond accordingly. This is an appropriate moment to tell a Leo Chruby story.
Who the fuck is Leo Chruby?
Growing up, we lived next door to the Chrubys. We didn’t just live next door to them. We shared a driveway and a basketball hoop and parking spaces. Through a quirk in suburban design, we didn’t have any privacy from the Chrubys, nor them from us.
There was Mr. Chruby, who on hot days sat in both of our driveways and drank Miller beer and spat tobacco juice into a clear jar. There was Mrs. Chruby. She once started crying in the kitchen as a very important Catholic event was about to happen in the early 1970s.
“The Russians are gonna bomb us, Joey. The Russians are gonna bomb us. The pope is coming to America. The Russians are gonna bomb us.”
Joey, of course, was my best friend growing up. We were the same age and we were both decent athletes. I veered off to reading books in the basement. And Joey veered off to drinking in fifth grade and to stealing his dad’s Playboys. But we met in the garage to look at Raquel Welch’s naked tits and smoke cigarettes. I miss Joey Chruby, by the way, and it was good to see that he sent me a happy birthday message on Facebook.
Joey was the youngest. Lori was the oldest. Leo was the next oldest And then Tommy was a few years older than Joey. I could make a shit ton of money just writing Chruby stories. Mrs. Charlotte Chruby, as my dad often says, deserves to be a saint. I believe this. Not only did she have to deal with some of the most unruly children ever to wear black socks and white tennis shoes, she also volunteered as a nurse at St. Catherine Hospital in East Chicago for, like, 30 years.
Once Mrs. Chruby took Joey and me to the hospital for her shift. We ran around Washington Park and met some young black kids and played hide and seek and then threw dirt balls at passing train cars. It was fun. After the fun, we came and sat in the waiting room at the emergency room. And since I can’t sit still unless there’s words around, I’ll be damned if I didn’t see Mrs. Charlotte Chruby’s name on the wall.
“30 years of service.” And underneath there were several women’s names.
“30 years of service as volunteers in the service of our Lord, the Almighty.”
And there was Mrs. Chruby’s name engraved into this plaque.
“Joey. You mean to tell me that your mom comes here every day to care for sick people and she doesn’t even get paid?”
“I guess so. Let’s go stick our hands up the candy machine and steal a Snickers bar.”
That was Joey. I miss his sadistic laugh. He lives in Florida now. We talk every couple of years, but when there’s so many people between you who died too young, it’s just not that easy to talk.
Anyways, one of his dead brothers, Leo, talked with a lisp. And one time I was taking the train to Chicago and Leo was on it. There was a general rather confusing conversation – that was really the only kind you could get with Leo – but he kept saying something to me that has stuck. He grabbed my arm and kept saying it, as if he were some sort of messenger from the land beyond.
“You gotta have a thucking pwan, Jimmy. You gotta have a thucking pwan.”
Leo’s plan involved art… and old-time radio. I dropped by his house one time and walked into what used to be Joey’s bedroom.
“What the fuck are all of these tapes, Leo?” I asked.
“Thothe are thucking oldtime radio tapeth, Jimmy. I lithen to ‘em at night.” And he played a couple for me. I didn’t recognize the voice at the time, but now that I think about it, one of them was a tape of an old Jean Shepherd show from when he did late-night radio at WOR in New York City.
Leo played the tapes then sat in his listening chair. Now, just to be clear, Leo was a troubled soul. As a matter of fact, he’s still a legend around here for how much he could drink. He used to walk to Johnny’s Tap and then stumble home the half a block. One time, the police picked him up off of the sidewalk. They took him to the hospital for a blood test. And there it is – you can check it out if you want to – Leo recorded a record-breaking 0.52 in blood alcohol content. He was a great artist, but he was a great drinker, too. The two go hand in hand way too much for my liking.
Leo and I hung out in Joey’s old bedroom. All four walls were covered floor-to-celing with cassettes of old radio shows categorized into genre – drama, comedy, mysteries, sports. On each tape there was a short description of the contents, written neatly. Whoever wrote it, and I’m assuming it was Leo, took great care.
Leo sat in the chair and played excerpts from tape after tape. And during one of the tapes, he did something that I rarely saw him do in his life. He smiled. During a funny bit between a male and a female, he nodded his head and smiled.
“Now that’th radio, Jimmy. That’th fucking radio.”
Leo died a long time ago. I don’t know where the tapes are. But I do know that what Leo said on the train to Chicago that one time has stuck with me. “You gotta have thucking pwan, Jimmy. You gotta have a thucking pwan.”
I have not heeded Leo’s advice very often in my life. I really haven’t had a pwan at all. My Radio Life, as has been mentioned before to the three or four of you, is a series of moments toppling on top of each other. It’s disorganized at best. Chaos often.
But get this straight, if there’s anybody out there listening other than the three or four of you, release the shackles on local radio – all of the shackles – and you will be amazed what can happen in our local communities. Radio will return with a vengeance.
And, for once in my life, I will follow Leo’s advice. I have a thucking pwan for that.