The holidays are particularly demanding for the man in charge of local radio. Pick a day. How about Thursday?
But for some reason, politics in Washington doesn’t fit well with standing out on Indianapolis Boulevard in the cold doing stream of consciousness. It’s not altogether unlike what I do with the three or four of you on a regular basis. If you think I make an outline to write this blog, then you are sadly mistaken.
Potatoes and bacon
What you makin’?
After the JED in America segment, I came into the studios and did a standard radio show. I interviewed Dan Dakich of ESPN and Big Ten Network about the death of Eric Anderson. After the show, Eric’s cousin called me. Normally, the people around the station know to not let a phone call through to me after the show. I’m unpredictable. Sometimes I’m gracious. Sometimes I’m an asshole, mainly because I have a deep-seated mistrust of politicians and I have to deal with them all the time.
A few other people came into the studios, so I had a brilliant idea – why not take my marketing team to Starbucks, where we can get some peace and quiet?
So I did. Darya Maroz, Christina Figueroa and Mark Perez and I drank lattes at the Starbucks just off 80-94 at US 41. We got a lot done. At the core of what we’re trying to figure out is how to proceed in the ongoing process of making TV out of radio. We’re part of the way there. We have 6,000,000 views on Facebook Live. We broadcast hundreds of high school games in association with the IHSAA. We have 38 different TV shows in a month.
We are at least part of the way there in delivering on my dream of making a commercial TV station for northwest Indiana. We’ve never had one. We have always let Chicago have TV. We could have our own newspapers (I actually owned one of them at one time) and our own radio.
But we let Chicago have TV. I think that’s wrong. By the time they put me in a wooden box, I hope to have made a TV network for the Calumet Region. That is my overriding goal. I think about it all the time. I’ve become obsessed with it. I should probably back off a little and let it happen rather than make it happen.
Darya, Christina, Mark and I came up with this plan to remake our streaming video. We’re going to buy Roku, Apple and Amazon channels. And it’s gonna take a ton of work and money to make that happen.
So I assigned Darya and Christina to fill out all of the applications for the channels. It’s a ton of details, right down to submitting the correct pixelization. I assigned Mark to redo the website, WJOBNetwork.com. The problem is this – we are pioneers in turning local radio into local streaming TV. There just aren’t a lot of models to look to. So we do a website one way, and it doesn’t work. Then we do it another way, and that doesn’t work either. All we can do is keep trying until we accomplish what I set us out to do, which is to make a local TV network for this and future generations.
We were finishing up our meeting – and out lattes – when my phone rings. It’s Munster police chief Steve Scheckel.
“Jim, where are you?”
“Are you coming to the meeting?”
“I thought it was a luncheon party.”
“Yes, but it’s a meeting beforehand. You coming?”
Now this is a quandary. I’m at Starbucks just off the Borman Expressway. I could get on the Borman, drive to Cline Avenue, get off on Airport Road, and be at the Gary Airport relatively quickly. But I had driven Darya, Christina and Mark to Starbucks. How would they get back?
“Jim,” the chief says. “You’re scheduled to give everyone an update on where we are with the MACC.”
“How many people are there?”
"Over a hundred.”
“I’ll be there in 20 minutes. Stall.”
I called Debbie Wargo and had her pick up the crew. I sped down the Borman, which was wide open, thank god, and made it to Gary airport in 12 minutes. As I arrived, chief Scheckel was welcoming the group. In short order, Frank Mrvan and I were giving details about the progress on the $5,000,000 facility.
I’m sure at this point that you’re wondering how the local radio guy could get involved in helping to develop a facility to bring together the feds, state, county, cities, towns, steel companies, refineries, railroads, ports, waste haulers and everyday politicians. Don't ask.
After the meeting, we had a little party. All sorts of important people from the Region attended. This project is getting closer to fruition. I won’t go into it other than to tell you the marketing slogan –
“We're in the business of keeping people in business.”
The party was in the hangar of Nick Popovich’s airplane repossession business. It’s a beautiful space, and Nick tells good stories. That’s why they gave him his own reality show. Look it up. It’s cool to watch, or so I hear.
By the way, an article about me came out last week in Northwest Indiana Life. You could go look that up too if you weren’t so lazy.
Anyways, I was driving in the pouring rain about 4:30 pm eastbound on the Borman at Grant Street when my phone went off.
This time it was from Matt Maloney. He’s a guy I used to know at the Chicago Board of Trade. We are both part of an exclusive community of former traders and brokers who have been able to make the transition from traderdom to normal life. He’s a real estate broker in Munster now. I’m the local radio guy. We do business together.
“You f---ing idiot. To the Gary Genesis Center. We’re handing out toys to 500 kids from the Boys and Girls Clubs. You donated and said you would come do a Facebook Live video.”
Every once in a while, you catch a break. And then sometimes you don’t. The good part was that I was already driving eastbound on the Borman to a Christmas party for the members of NIPSCO’s CAP panel, which I’ve been on for the better part of a decade. The bad part was severalfold –
- I was pissed as hell at Debbie for my calendar being messed up (although it’s probably as much my fault as hers)
- It was raining like hell
- The Borman was a parking lot.
I got off at Grant Street and weaseled my way through Gary. This isn’t necessarily something that an elderly couple from Topeka should do, but I’ve been around these streets all my life. I arrived at the Genesis Center to a slew of busses in the parking lot and hundreds of kids running in and out of the huge building.
Rarely, in the life of local radio, do you get surprised. If you add it all up, I’ve been doing radio off an on for 34 years. That’s a lot of deaths, murders, molestations, celebrations, hall of fame inductions and general everyday indictments. I’ve interviewed thousands of people. Not a lot surprises me. I’ve seen enough dead bodies not to throw up at them and I’ve interviewed and covered the trials of several people who are still in jail.
I was, however, surprised at my own emotions when I realized what was happening. A group of Region business people, led by Randy Hall of Luxor Homes, had gotten together to fulfill Christmas lists of 500 of the poorest kids of northwest Indiana.
And I don’t mean just a single gift. Here it is, kid, like it or leave it. No. They asked 500 kids to fill out their Christmas lists and then they tried to fulfill them. It was, for most kids, a bag of gifts. There was a section on the floor of the Genesis Center where the kids opened their gifts. Some were crying or on the verge, as was I.
I did the Facebook Live video with some of the organizers of “A Christmas to Remember” – Hall, Maloney, Brian Specht and John Brezac of Hobart. Then I left.
The problem was that the Borman was still at a standstill and I needed to make it Gamba Ristorante in south Merrillville in a flash for the NIPSCO dinner. There was a huge accident on I-65 near Ridge Road that was backing traffic up all over the Region. So I took the long way, which is Broadway. 152 stoplights later, I arrived at Gamba’s.
I was late. I picked up a plate and put some salmon, chicken and salad on it and then looked for a place to sit. There was only one seat in the whole room, and it was right next to NIPSCO CEO Violet Sistavaros. She frowned as I sat.
“I thought your wife was coming,” Violet said. And then she stood up to give her speech.
After the NIPSCO thing, I sat late with Rick Calinski, Bob Schaefer and Pete Novak. We sat around a table trying to solve the ills facing the Region. It was late when I finally took my place in bed next to my wife. “So,” she said. “How was your day?”
I want to pluck the prickly people
from my life
one by one
thumb by thumb
an old woman stopped me in Kohl’s
and asked me if I was who I think I
am and I said “yes.”
“I used to work with your mother
at NIPSCO,” she said. “Fine woman.”
On the way to pick up some milk at
Oberweis, I listened on the radio to a
woman tell about how she was raped
as a child and how difficult it was to
talk about it and heal.
That’s a lot to carry down Indianapolis
Boulevard on a rainy day. There’s pain
everywhere you look sometimes,
especially around the holidays.
Merry Christmas, everyone. You’ll need
it in March when you haven’t
seen the sun in I don’t know
how long. The trick is to endure,
knowing that at the end there is rest
and that a bunch of people
will cry in wooden pews at
Like I said, I’d like to pluck the prickly
people from my life
one by one
thumb by thumb
flashes of guilt and humiliation come
center stage in my mind if I get too
the mistakes of the past aren’t real
if they’re in your medulla oblongata
It’s been 60 days since I slept
in and now I remember why it is that
It is the flood of forever wrong,
the playground between having to
prove yourself and acceptance
that you never will.
There’s a lot you can control
in life, but when the waffle’s ready in
the toaster isn’t one of them.
I remember how many times I have
shown my true self to people. It’s
never pretty. I want to maul the memories,
pluck the prickly people,
destroy the dereliction
halt the humiliation.
at some point, slinkies of the mind
contort methodically down the steps of
iniquity to the bottom of despairs.
Through it all, there is music.
Without that, we’d really feel like shit
during the holidays.