It’s 7:22pm on a cold Wednesday in December. I did my radio stuff and then came home and took a three-hour nap. It felt like someone rubbing warm oil on your thighs. I don’t have that general low level of anxiety.
Instead, I have you and a couple of others. We get together after dinner to discuss My Radio Life. I hope that it’s not too much of me all of the time. But we both made the commitment to understand what radio is now and to appreciate that one day it will not exist as it does now.
There’s a hotel along Truman Street in Key West
where they serve hot cider no matter how
sweltering it is.
You can walk back to your room drunk off
your ass and pop into a transvestite show
before watching Sportscenter. I don’t have
a clue why that matters, but I get the feeling
more than one guy on his way back to his
wife in the hotel room stopped by the
transvestite shop and discovered some
things about himself.
There’s also the gay bar disguised above
a real bar and if you go there on a hot
Tuesday afternoon, men walk around
with their junk hanging out. I try to
figure out the world, but I just can’t.
It’s a matter of pace. It flashes by on our
mental viewing screens way too fast. If you
take a deep, deliberate breath to slow down
the movie, all you do is realize is how afraid
and lost you are. You’re better off just
pushing it hard until you die. That way,
you can read the paper at the kitchen table
without letting go a guttural groan.
Slow down, world, I want to understand why
the pope sits in Rome and why unions are
declining. I want to understand the endless
beauty of an ice cream cone. Beauty has to be
a part of everything we do whether we want it or
not. Stop, clocks of the world, I want to know
what time it is for just one minute before
I walked down the aisle of a jewelry store the
other day. There was watches everywhere. Timex,
Bulova, Citizen, Shinola, Xexo. They were all ticking
and ticking behind glass counters. I was there to
film something, but I couldn’t concentrate. I just
kept looking at the minute hands creeping along
on all of those watches. Black ones, silver ones,
digital ones for mountain climbers, gold ones for
It was just too much time gathered in a single
location. You could take one of those deep,
deliberate breaths that they teach you in LaMaze
class and you would wind up with time in your
lungs and ants in your pants and a feeling that I
better do something quickly before
time runs out on me.
Time runs out on me. That’s what I’m afraid of.
By the time you read this, I may be a
dead fake poet instead of an after-dinner living
fake poet with a job and two cars in the garage. I
don’t’ know what all of this means – I rarely do.
I just want to warn each and every one of you
to stay out of the watch aisle unless you’re prepared
to review your life and accept the test results no
matter what. It’s time to stop now because
it’s getting late.
I want to tell you about three conversations today. 1. – Carolyn the waitress. 2. Isha the victim of child sexual abuse. 3. Gary Meier the famous radio disc jockey.
1. - After the show this morning, I drove down the Boulevard a few blocks for breakfast at the counter of Petros Restaurant. It was like a homecoming. Petros is across the street from the old WJOB station and where the tower still is. I used to go to Petros every day after the show and I got to know the owner and waitresses and even the bus staff.
“Where have you been?” asked more than one person as I walked in as I had hundreds of times before. I threw my Sports section on the counter and looked at my phone.
There’s a little secret about ordering breakfast at a Greek restaurant in the Calumet Region. Always order the Mexican omelette or the Mexican skillet. That’s because it’s always Mexicans short order cooking your food and they know how to spice up cheddar and eggs with jalapenos with tomato and onions.
Anyways, Carolyn the waitress used to date my cousin Donald. That was a long time ago. We joke about it sometimes, but mostly we talk about what’s going on in the world. Maria the waitress joins in and we have one of those conversations between casual acquaintances that allows for a certain amount of anonymous honesty.
Carolyn talked about North Korea – “you think with that crazy that we’re not gonna have a war?”
And she talked about Trump – “who knows what that guy’s gonna do. You think that if you put him and that crazy from North Korea in a room that we won’t come out with a nuclear war.”
We talked about Roy Moore the (alleged) closet pedophile and the county councilman in jail for (allegedly) chasing a woman around with a sledgehammer. We talked about murders on the streets of Hammond.
“God’s getting ready to take us out,” Carolyn said.
Maria joined in. “It’s gonna get worse before it gets better.”
That’s breakfast counter wisdom for you. Carolyn and Maria got me thinking about the heaviness of world and local events so deeply that I couldn’t even concentrate on reviewing the NHL standings and reading an article about why Devin Hester should be in the Hall of Fame.
Do you get in the Hall of Fame for returning punts and kickoffs? I don’t know the answer to this. And neither do the three or four of you. What I’d really like to know the answer to is this – Is Carolyn the waitress who used to date my cousin right? Is God getting ready to take us out?
it’s a chilling thought that I really didn’t expect over a Mexican skillet with American fries along with a hot, decaffeinated tea. On the way out of the restaurant at the register, the guy in front of me farted and it smelled like my grandma’s cabbage soup.
2 – You’d think that “God’s getting ready to take us out” would be the hardest-hitting words of my morning. But remember that I am in radio. And 10 minutes before I walked into Petros, I was finishing up an interview with Isha Haley. Her words had an equal amount of wisdom and warning in them.
Isha runs the “No More Secrets” campaign around here. She goes into schools and talks to assemblies of students about child sexual abuse. They use puppets and they describe what it means to be touched in places that you don’t want to be touched. At the end of the presentations, Isha tells the kids that if any of them has had any experiences like they described, they can come up after and talk. There’s counselors on site.
And guess what? Earlier this year when they did the No More Secrets tour around Hammond, 74 kids came forward with stories of child sexual abuse. I had it described to me by Isha and some of the teachers. Some of the kids couldn’t stop crying.
This morning, right after our interview, Isha and her team were off to Eads School in Munster, where I went to kindergarten. She said that afterwards they send a letter home with the child so that parents know what they discussed.
“Why don’t you send the letter home beforehand so that parents can prepare the kids for the discussion?”
And here’s the kicker. This is one of those realizations in which you realize that the world can be a really cruel place, especially for children.
“Because sometimes the abuser is at home. And they’ll keep the kid home that day.”
Yikes. Could you imagine that? A kid comes home with a letter – “Tomorrow, the school will assemble with Isha Haley to discuss child sexual abuse. This may be a difficult conversation, so we just wanted parents to be prepared to discuss child sexual abuse when your child returns home.”
And can you picture some creep reading that and turning to his niece or nephew – “Hey, want to go to the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago tomorrow? I think you deserve a day off from school.”
Life is cruel to children who have to pull their pants down
when they don’t want to. If you think it’s difficult to
make heads or tails of Scientific Calculus or
double-decling depreciation, consider how
perplexing it would be to pull your pants down
for your uncle and have him rip through your
I don’t have anymore with this little diatribe. An important thing to take out of the conversation with Isha Haley is her own story. She came into town from Westchester County in New York to run the “No More Secrets” campaign for North Township Trustee Frank Mrvan (another relative of mine). Isha found nine local people to tell their stories of being sexually abused as children. But a curious thing happened. Here it is.
“When the newspaper showed up at their doors to interview them, they all said that they just couldn’t do it. So I told my own story.”
I’ve heard Isha’s story before. It’s part of doing radio. Sometimes it’s a sportswriter talking about the local hall of fame, and sometimes it’s a grown woman recounting the details of getting sexually abused as a child.
“In a way, it’s a lot easier to tell my story in Indiana than it would be to tell it in Westchester County. I could destroy a lot of things. My mom… she’s been with him for a long time. It’s the only many she’s ever really known.”
I wanted to reach out and hug Isha as she told about what telling her story in Westchester County would do to her family. Instead, I looked at her with non-judgmental eyes and let her talk. You get the idea that Isha wants to tell her story now. I get the feeling that a lot of victims of child sexual abuse would like to tell their stories. Maybe we can send someone to Westchester County to tell their story. That sounds like an even trade.
So there’s two lines that caught me today.
“God’s getting ready to take us out.”
“It’s the only man she ever knew.”
If you listen openly, the world will tell you its pain. It’s real, raw and on the radio. A corollary issue is that if you listen openly for too long, a story gets written on the inside of your chest wall. And you can’t erase it. You can’t escape it. The pain becomes your pain and next thing you know you’re watching Sanford & Son reruns laughing your ass off.
I was gonna tell you about a third conversation, but nah. That’s enough for tonight. Alexis is circling for some attention.
“I just ordered us a duvet for 159-dollars from Macy’s. It’s Calvin Klein, which is expensive. It’s normally 400.”
At least we’re not talking about Roy Moore. We got that going on for us. The daughter from New York got into the duvet equation by finding a comforter from Nordstrom’s on sale for 50 bucks.
“Merry Christmas to me,” my wife of 26 years said. She’s circling around the bed, walking in and out telling me little things. I could write to the three or four of you or laugh with the Mexican Lucille Ball. I choose the latter.