4:52am on a Friday.
The last Friday of July - Pierogi Fest - is the longest radio day of the year.
1. Radio show
2. Pierogi Fest sponsors lunch
3. Daughters and wife
4. Pierogi Fest parade
That's a lotta stuff in one radio day. Time to ride the bike to work.
8:09am on the Saturday morning after Pierogi Fest.
In the spirit of sharing with the you happenings and sentiments of my radio life, I recount a bit of morning melancholy...
... I say it this way, with a haughty trunket of words that could very well have appeared in a Joseph Conrad story, in that I just finished reading, for the umpteenth time, Conrad’s “Secret Sharer.”
In case you’ve forgotten, it’s a story about a young English sailor who is on his first tour as captain of a ship. In the middle of the night he somehow picks up a guy out of sea who has just killed someone on another ship. The new captain – I’m not sure Conrad ever gives us his name – pulls the guy into his quarters and secretly harbors him until he can, without anyone ever the wiser, drop him off at a remote South Seas island. It’s a great story but the sheer force of Conrad’s rhythm and written diction pull you towards the use of “melancholy” and “trunket” and make you want to work in “poop” and “quarterdeck.”
I really don’t know why I’m drawn to read almost exclusively old stuff. The wife from time to time will walk into the bedroom and I’ll have fallen asleep on top of the comforter with Conrad’s “Lord Jim” or Salinger’s “Catcher in the Rye” or Anderson’s “Winesburg, Ohio” left open on my chest.
“How many times you gonna read that book?”
And I’ll stir back to reality, pick up the book and start reading where I left off. “Forgot how good this is.”
“You know, I’ve got a new Grisham you might try.”
And I might even take her up on the suggestion. I’ll stumble through a story of a poor, stoic heroine who has obviously been wrongly accused, and a gentlemanly southern lawyer who, in a generation gone by, could have been mistaken for Atticus Finch’s wayward younger brother. Through a series of jailhouse interviews, the lawyer comes to respect the single mother of three for her dedication to her children and her stern sense of right and wrong. There’s the rocky start for Atticus’s brother in the courtroom, although you sense that ultimately he will prevail. The single mother will be set free to return to her family and younger brother will saunter back to his second floor law office where the air conditioning doesn’t work all the time.
You and I can fill in the blanks on a Grisham novel, but really only for the first half. I rarely make it past the first courtroom blowup, instead putting the book under the nightstand where the flashlight is. I grab it, walk down the creeky wooden stairs, and look for a book by long dead white guy.
I don’t expect you to understand. But for me it is Dickens, Anderson, Fitzgerald, maybe a little Edith Wharton, Jean Sheperd, Conrad, Cheever and so forth. Did you ever read Cheever’s personal letters? You can’t put them down. Anyways, for some reason I ramble, unwilling to face the topic of the day.
Departure. Today my baby leaves for New York City. Yikes. She’s 22 years old and a recent graduate of the University of Wisconsin, and since nobody reads this blog anyhows I can share with you that I’m scared shitless about this prospect and, of course, more than a little sad. You wonder if you’ve been a good father, if you’ve prepared her fully for the meanness and hate and danger and bitterness that the world holds in its collective underbelly, especially in the biggest of all mean cities – New York. You worry about her health. She’s good now but she’s battled for years. Mayo was once our summer home. I have enough worry in me right now, and enough Saturday morning melancholy, to write a book as long as one of the baggy monsters by Dead White Guys in my basement.
That being said, let’s march on with the idea that one score and two years ago Alexis and I brought upon this continent, a new woman, conceived in a two-bedroom apartment, and dedicated to the proposition that all radio people are created equal.
You see, all local radio guys and gals are created equal – just some are given better opportunities than others. And I certainly put myself in the latter category. Take yesterday, Pierogi Fest Friday. I got to sit in a new building and do a radio show for a few hours then do stuff like hang out with my wife and two daughters and shoot some arrows in the backyard. And then go to the Goodwill store where a really helpful Polish lady helped me pick out a “housecoat” so I could march in a parade in front 100,000 people or so and then go to a quinciniera, where I got to salsa with this really hot Mexican chick who also happens to be my wife. Also in there somewhere I did seven – count ‘em, seven – shots of homemade liquor with a Hammond councilman who, like me, harbors a deep connection to the spirituality of the Grateful Dead. And I got to take a nap and eat a piece of John’s pizza and the whole thing ended with Alexis and I sitting in the parking lot of White Castles at midnight eating cheeseburgers with the windows open. Also in there I walked down 119th Street sticking my GoPro in the face of anyone I could find eating a pierogi.
I’m local radio guy. I can stick a GoPro or microphone in your face. Sometimes, if you’re a Region Rat, you recognize me and you say something like – “I thought you were younger.” If you’re an interloper from Chicago, you don’t have any idea who I am but you’re cordial all the same. You tell me as you chew what your favorite pierogis are and you laugh when I make some sort of corny joke, and you don’t say what an asshole I am until I’m long out of earshot.
It’s a great radio life, and we mustn’t forget that. Not just my radio life, but a lotta local radio lives across America. No shit. We musn’t forget what radio life is like.
You see, the world will little note, nor long remember what we say here in this blog, but it can never forget what radio men and women before us have done. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who worked so tirelessly have so nobly advanced. It is for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead and aging radio people we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave their devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have worked in vain to advance the cause of radio -- that this nation of listeners, under God, shall have a new birth of audio communication -- and that radio of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
I hope you are not offended by what could be seen as a rather flippant extrapolation of Abraham Lincoln’s most famous speech. It’s just that fragments of childhood pop into my head on this day of Departure. My head swims from fatherhood to radiohood and back again, so waxing poetic about missing my daughter before she’s even gone naturally flows to missing something else that hasn’t even left yet but very well may – and that is radio.
… This isn’t my first rodeo with getting attached to something that’s on its way out. You could say that it’s actually my third rodeo. I went to Berkeley in the early 1980s looking for something of the rebellious counter-culture. I found it in the form of Barrington Hall, but you could tell even then that you were surrounded by other people looking for something that was in the process of dying. I’ll write another blog that nobody reads one day about living amongst nakedness and pickle sandwiches and how that scene died not too long after I left. By the 90s, if you walked into Blondie’s late at night looking to pick up a hippie chick, you might find one but she’d probably turn out to be a lesbian.
Anyways, I went from Berkeley to the Board of Trade, which actually officially closed the pits earlier this month. I did trade there during the heyday of the late 1980s and through the 90s… but by the time the 2000s came around you could tell that the movie was just about over. By the time I left in 2004 to run the hometown radio station, everyone I knew just seemed to be going through the motions, not wholly unlike the stragglers at Barrington Hall a couple decades earlier.
What bothers me about Berkeley and Chicago is that I didn’t chronicle the end. Sure, I have chests full of journals in the basement next to the books by dead white guys, but I knew that the end was near in Berkeley and that the end was near in Chicago, and I made no concerted effort to write it down. That won’t happen with radio in Hammond, Indiana. I pledge to you that I will write it down. I don’t care if your feet fall asleep reading about coverage areas and faulty STLs (studio-transmitter links) and my sadness at my daughter leaving for New York City, I’m gonna write it down. Maybe just maybe through my radio life you can understand just a little about radio life in general and that’s all I ask.
… For now, my wife and daughter are scrambling around the kitchen. The wife shows her Mexican roots by throwing together some onions and tomatoes and jalapenos into some sort of ranchero sauce that will not doubt taste amazing on some scrambled eggs. And my daughter, plugging into her partly Dutch heritage, makes me a blueberry waffle. That’s my life – scrambled eggs with ranchero sauce and a blueberry waffle. Ask not - ‘how did I get here?’ Ask - ‘where do we go from here?’ It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.