So what are the three or four of you doing on a Friday night? Are you sitting on your bed reading a book about Jean Shepherd because you're too exhausted to do much of anything else?
Me too. I went somewhere every night this week, including a night of bowling and a night of going to Chicago to take the daughter back to DePaul and last night, an opening for the 18th Street Brewery in downtown Hammond. They make a really good IPA called "Sex and Candy."
Alexis accompanied me on all of these excursions, except of course to bowling. Few women tread on the world of bowling. If you ever watched The Big Lebowski and thought how fake it was for grown men to take bowling so seriously... then you never bowled at Stardust Lanes on a Tuesday night in the middle of winter. Literally, none of us has anything else we could do for fun. It's nasty out. You almost slip on the pane of ice in front of the north door. It's dark out the whole time you're not at work. You go stir crazy. So at least you can bowl. Thank goodness.
Yesterday, I drove Alexis to Our Lady of Guadulupe school on the south side of Chicago so she could talk to the kids about her own "narrative," as principal Carl Ploense called it. We got to know Carl through the show. He calls a lot as "Carl from Hessville" and little by little he'd let things slip about being in the military and now a principal at a small Catholic school on the south side of Chicago. The whole school is Hispanic and is in a really poor area where a lotta the houses look like you wanna run a Cat D-8 over them and every other storefront should be knocked down too. Carl is a white guy with a crewcut. He wears a suit every day to run the school.
Alexis stood at the lectern on the altar and told her story of growing up in Gary, Indiana. Of speaking only Spanish until her first day of kindergarten. Of not having anyone in the home to help her with her homework. Of being "afraid" to go away to college so she got married and pregnant. She also told of somehow stumbling on to becoming a lawyer and owning a radio station.
"I walked up to the lectern and turned around, and it was all brown faces. All of them. They all looked like they could be my nieces and nephews," Alexis said on the show this morning. She comes in most Fridays. We promised the 100 or so third through eighth graders that principal Mr. Ploense would be on the air today at 7:15, and he was.
"The best way I could describe it was what an eighth grader said to me after school. She's a really good student and she's tested so well that she'll be getting a scholarship to de La Salle. Anyways, the young woman said to me - 'I felt connected.'
"It was so important for these children, especially the young girls, to hear Alexis's story. It made a huge impression on them."
So there. The trip also made a huge impression on our stomachs. After the speech, Alexis and I drove around the blighted neighborhood and wound up at Cocula's Mexican restaurant on Commercial Avenue and 87th or so. Amazing enchiladas, which is the best thing Mexicans make. Alexis had some sort of steak tacos.
During the question and answer session after Alexis told her story, several of the kids asked about her radio station. They were actually much more interested in that than her law career. Then one boy, an eighth grader, stood up and bellowed:
"Were you ever bullied?"
"Yes I was."
That's a story for later. In the end, someone has to tell little Mexican kids growing up in the gang-infested fields of south Chicago underneath the Skyway Bridge that it's okay to dream, and it might as well be Alexis.
Also this week I helped again in teaching Sports Broadcasting, a Purdue Calumet class. The class comes in - 14 or 15 students - with instructor Joe Wilosinski and they go on-air in groups of three for about eight minutes apiece. This time their assignment was about high school basketball. One group nailed it, a real high point for live broadcasting education. They even got calls.
Here's something I noticed, though. This time around in bringing the class in, I asked Geno who hosts the noontime show to come in an hour early to produce the students' show. He tells them little things like smile and loosen up, and he tells them corny jokes and blows on his kazoo. They're nervous as they sit down at the microphones, and somehow Geno's zany brand of Region Romper Room does loosen them up. By the time the music bumper stops and it's time for them to speak live on the radio, they're not as nervous.
They're still nervous, just not as. What this all boils down to is he's making a better connection with them than I am. So I'll take a backseat, let Geno produce and Joe teach... and me probably not do much of anything. As much as I love sports, I wind up lecturing to them and who wants that? Geno makes them feel comfortable so he gets to work with them and I'll eat my sandwich during that time.
I ate lunch with sponsor Pete Korellis of Korellis Roofing at Nick and George's near downtown Hammond on Hohman Avenue on Wednesday. That's not such a spectacular thing in that Korellis lives across the street from me and actually just dropped by a few minutes ago. But what did happen was that the owner - Nick or George, I don't remember which - came out and said Mrs. Paparanes was in the restaurant last week. She's 98, and she's the wife of a guy who had a show on WJOB for a lotta years. Nick or George is gonna let me know the next time she comes in. I'll accost her for tape.
That's what I want. Tape. You remember that when Alexis and I bought the station out of bankruptcy in 2004, the first thing we did when we walked in the station, besides mop up all the water that had overflowed from the toilets, was look for old recordings. There were none. That's a shame. I love old recordings. I'd play them all the time.
Which brings me to why Korellis just dropped by. It seems a guy he works with and with whom he and I have drank copious gallons of happy juice with - Peter Yantzen... his wife's cousin--in-law's grandma or something like that used to work at WJOB in the 1950s and had this WJOB ashtray. It's a beautiful yellow and black ashtray - The Brite Spot on your radio dial. I've seen one before but I don't think we have one.
"Can I put it on my law desk?" Alexis asked.
"Of course, you own the station."
"Oh yeah, I forgot." That's how it is. Sometimes you forget stuff. Like getting chased down in Gary, Indiana, as a fourth grader and punched in the face and left lying in a field. Or getting surrounded and pummeled as an eighth grader in East Chicago. Good thing Alexis remembered though, just in time, to tell a hunnerd or so young Mexican students that it can happen to anyone.
"You know how painful it can be. Just don't be the bully. Don't be the bully."