You don’t get to make up radio. It just doesn’t work that way. Radio just happens day after day and if you don’t sit down to write today’s radio, then tomorrow’s radio will take its place… almost as if today’s radio never happened in the first place.
So what happened this morning is just another radio occurrence in a long line of radio occurences that don’t, individually, add up to that much or are even all that entertaining. But taken as a whole... well, you get the picture.
It started out as any other day in radio...
It started out as any other day in radio, except that I didn’t come in for my normal 5:30am start time. For some reason I just wanted to lay in bed and think about my thoughts for a while, so I texted Ryan requesting that he do the first half hour of the show by himself. Simple enough. I showed up at 6am, started talking… actually kind of struggling a little bit. It’s a Monday in the middle of summer and if you know anybody in radio ask ‘em what that’s all about. There’s just not that much shit to talk about and there’s just not that many people who want to call in to talk about the shit there’s isn’t to talk about.
So by 7am I was a bit relieved when my childhood chump Bill Baker arrived to chat on the air about Gary Kaplan and how he’d eat all my food out of the fridge when we lived together in Chicago… and economic development. Somehow those two seemingly unrelated and unequal topics come together in morning radio, especially when there’s black clouds thump thump thumping in from the west and you know that at some point during the show it’s gonna rain like hell.
It’s actually kind of cool when this happens, visually. After 60 years in a bomb shelter that smells like a damp basement, we’re in these temporary digs in the Purdue Commercialization Center with a huge picture window. We get to watch kids walking to Gavit for high school and hazardous waste trucks barreling down the Boulevard at 50 miles an hour… just feet from the kids walking to school, actually.
And sometimes we get to watch a storm roll in. No, that’s not entirely accurate. Most storms roll in from the west. That’s the jet stream, got it? And we face directly east. So when a storm rolls in and whacks us during the morning show, we know it’s coming but only from all of the instruments we have that agree – it’s gonna freaking rain. Hard.
And that’s what it did this morning at about 7:20am. Buckets of rain unleashed from the sky and wicked wind and a darkness like at 30 minutes past sunset. So in the middle of a discussion about Urshel Laboratories, where Baker works, I suggested:
Hey everybody, if you’re listening and all of the sudden your radio turns to static – it’s not your radio. There’s a pretty good chance that with this kind of wind and rain we’ll lose power at our transmitter and tower site. It’s just old infrastructure and that’s how it goes.
And it really is old infrastructure. Many times that there’s a really wicked black cloud storm, we lose power. It may only be for a moment, a kick, a spark, an instant… but if you’re in radio or know someone who is then you know that even if the power goes off for an instant there’s hell to pay.
Many of the computers will reboot automatically and you can remotely access your transmitter… but realistically the whole system doesn’t come back on line until someone goes over there and checks on things. That’s what happened this morning. We went off the air so I had to drive the seven blocks back to the old studio and start talking… and keep talking and talking.
That’s because the computer where the music is wouldn’t reboot right away and in all of the confusion Ryan didn’t forward the phones and I couldn’t get the switcher to recognize my cellphone and you get the picture. That left me old school only, which means start talking and don’t stop until, well, until there’s a reason to stop.
Now I’ve done this before… many times. And every time I realize how frightening it is to know that you have to keep talking and there’s no possibility in the short term of playing a spot or a bumper or taking a phone call… or even having the internet up and running to read some news or give the weather. For a good 30 minutes, until Ryan got the computer at the old studio rebooted and then forwarded the phones, I just sat there talking. And talking. I had rushed down from the new studio to the old standby so quickly that I didn’t even bring newspapers or my notes or anything but my headset.
Never, ever forget your headset.
Anyways, on these days when a storm rolls through during the morning show and kicks the power off and I gotta drive down the seven blocks in a hurry, I get a new appreciation for the radio gods of old… those guys who had to sit there for hours and just talk, no breaks, no satellite news, nothing. Just talk. It’s a bit daunting. You can go on a rant for 45 minutes… but you get in a situation in which you know that there is no rescue possible, then, well, you know it’s not so easy.
After my half hour soliloquy, Gary mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson came in, afresh with the glow of her very successful Gary Air Show. After the show I requested that she let us know next year what we can do to help, maybe broadcast live or something. I do that a lot. I suggest things in a passing manner and then people call me on them later and next thing you know I’m putting in an 8-hour day on a weekend and my wife’s all pissed that I didn’t make her mom’s birthday party. Or something like that.
It’s late and it’s raining. It’s the summer of rain. Before it started pouring tonight I weed-whacked the shit out of my yard and then laid some mulch and then went to the hardware store to buy some Liquid Plumr to clean out the drain by the washer. That was nasty, and if I didn’t have to go to bed to get up to do a radio show, I’d tell you about it.