Yesterday I went a few doors down from the Purdue Commercialization Center where our WJOB studios are located and met a guy who was supposed to look like me and talk like me. His name’s Epo (pronounced Eppo). He’s a Puerto Rican guy from the Calumet section of East Chicago who used to work at US Gypsum. That’s where Epo met Ramon.
It wasn’t just Epo and Ramon whom I met yesterday at House of Pizza. There was a white guy named Peterson, a couple of Mexican guys with heavy accents, and a guy they call “the Reverend.” He runs a mission in downtown Gary for addicts. I know of this guy. I got his number and I’m gonna bring him on the show.
I’m also gonna bring Epo and Ramon on some day, too. These guys all used to work at a place called US Gypsum in East Chicago. They were getting together as retirees from the plant to josh about the old days. You run into these gatherings a lot in the Calumet Region. Inland retirees get together to do it. BP Amoco Standard Oil retirees do it. NIPSCO retirees, railroad guys, chemical workers, you name it. Every once in a while you’re in a restaurant and you look over and there’s guys of all sorts of races and denominations laughing and making fun of each other and you know that they once worked together.
Yesterday, these eight or nine former workers at US Gypsum kept calling Ramon, “Bernie Mac.” And you know what? Ramon does kind of look and act like the late Bernie Mac. And you know what else? This Puerto Rican guy named Eppo does kind of look and act like me. I’m not kidding.
As the three of four you who read this blog might know, if you also listen to my morning show, Ramon has been calling for some time about this guy he used to work with who looks and acts like me. I and other callers have had some fun with it in that I’m a Polish/German/Dutch guy and the guy that Ramon is referring to is a Puerto Rican guy. This doesn’t make any sense in the real world, but then again the Calumet Region is not a normal place.
It turns out that this Puerto Rican guy named Epo and I do look fairly similar. And as I was listening to him make fun of the other former US Gypsum workers, I realized that he does also speak in the same Region twang as I do. I talk as if I could be a retired crane operator from US Gypsum. I of course grew up around here and worked as a union Laborer 41 guy for a while, so I know the game and I know the lingo. But in the end the biggest way that this Puerto Rican guy and I resemble each other is in our mannerisms. That’s what Ramon the regular caller who looks like Bernie Mac picked up on. As Epo related to me that he works at the Carmelite Home in East Chicago, he told the story partly with his hands, partly with a few almost imperceptible raises of the eyebrows, and partly with a “Region pause.” It’s a phenomena I can’t really explain right now to the three or four of you because I do have to get up and take a shower and ride my bike to do a radio show. But a Region pause is when you’re talking and you take a longer than what would be considered normal breath before you continue to speak. Eppo does it. I do it. And if you are a Region Rat then you probably do it too.
I’m guessing that the Region pause started on the floor of a steel mill somewhere. When two mill rats are talking to each other, they often have to stop for a second for a noise to pass. The noises at a steel mill can’t be explained. They’re like blankets that cover your whole body for a moment, and then they pass. You can’t talk or even yell during them, so hence the germination of the “Region pause.”
That should do it about Epo and Ramon and the rest of the guys from US Gypsum. I felt honored, really, to be invited into their sanctum. They joked about being a “crane operator” who had to walk along with dangling ropes.
“I thought you’d be sitting in a cab. But no. You gotta walk along and operate that crane by pulling on the ropes.” All eight or nine of the US Gypsum guys shook their heads, sharing the understanding what a hard job that was.
“In the old days, they used to work with that asbestos. And the joke was that as soon as you retired, you were gonna die. So no one wanted to retire. It ain’t like that now, but back then all sorts of guys had 40 years in.”
I could have sat there all day listening to their old factory stories. This Italian guy, a German guy, a few Mexicans, a Puerto Rican and a minister of indefinable heritage. This is what the Calumet Region is all about and what makes my morning show that I’m gonna ride my bike to in a few minutes so interesting to do and, hopefully, to listen to. We are nothing if not interesting.
… Last night I ran in an American Cancer Society 5K run at Wicker Park. And, as my brother-in-law John Mark from Long Island would say, it was em-BARR-issing. I ran a 38 minute 5K. I’m pretty sure in my prime as a superior athlete I could walk a 5K in 38 minutes. But never fear, it was a starting point. In the next 5K I’ll run it in 37 minutes. And by the time I do the mini-triathlon, it’ll be 30 minutes. That’s all I can hope for at this stage in my life.
The mini-triathlon came up from Frank Mrvan, the township trustee of North Township. He came in yesterday to be on the radio with me and after the show he nonchalantly said – “Oh, by the way, let’s do the mini-triathlon in Chicago on August 2nd, just to finish it. You in?”
That’s a familiar refrain my life, whenever someone asks, “you in?” for some reason my natural inclination is say “yes,” no matter how outrageous the proposition might be.
When I was a freshman at Occidental College in Los Angeles and it was two in the morning and I was wasted beyond comprehension, if Joe Litwak or Ed Baldini suggested to drive into Hollywood for a Tommy’s burger, all they really had to say was, “you in?” and I’d be running to the car to get the front passenger seat. It wouldn’t really matter at that point that there was a slight chance that three or four college boys going down into gang territory at two in the morning might result in all of us getting our asses beat, or worse. As long as someone put in a “you in?” I was gonna be there slopping down a burger with a ton of greasy chili dripping from it.
… The mini-triathlon is one development in My Radio Life. The other is that I start college again after 32 years. That’s right. After 32 years, I’m going back for my MBA. I start on Monday at Purdue Northwest.
Yesterday, after meeting with Eppo my doppleganger and Ramon the guy who looks like Bernie Mac, I rode my bike a block over to Purdue and picked up my first book. It cost 319 dollars. It’s called “Business Law for Dummies” or something like that. I brought it home and laid on the bed and started reading about tort law and intellectual property law…
And then fell promptly asleep. We’re gonna have to work on that. I mean, after just a couple of sentences, I was in a deep afternoon nap. That’s not gonna work if I want to get my MBA.
It’s not as if I haven’t gone back to school a few times in the past 32 years. Once, I started taking writing courses at the University of Chicago, and I started on my Linguistics grad degree before also. So if the past is any indication, I probably won’t make it very far into an MBA.
There’s also a good chance that I won’t do the mini-triathlon, either. Part of it is that when I was running in the 5K yesterday on the banks of the Little Cal River, the sun was coming out of the west and in the shadow I could see my own outline. There I was, this form that somehow looks exactly like a Puerto Rican guy from the Harbor, in perfect silhouette against the foliage of a once-polluted river. And there it was, this perfect round ball above my waistline. I looked like a pear with legs trying to put one foot in front of another so as not to be em-BARR-assed at the finish line.
It didn’t matter. As I crossed the finish line, Bobby Lendi and John Hasse and a guy named Andy who owns a construction company in Griffith were there encouraging me on.
“Let’s go, Dedelow.”
They had been done for 10 or 15 minutes. I was still panting and heaving my way to the finish line, right behind a Viet Nam vet who ran the whole thing with a cane. I’m not making this up.
I’m not making up either that I haven’t blogged to the three or four of you in a couple of days, so to make up for that I went a little longer. It’s also to cover myself for the next couple of days. I’m busy as shit. As a matter fact, as part of living this industrial radio life, Alexis and I have six things to go to on Saturday.
The day starts with another 5K at Wicker Park. This one’s in memory of Lauren Calvillo, who got shot on her porch trying to protect a bunch of little kids. They were all enjoying the evening and then when shots rang out, Lauren herded her cousins and other little ones into the house and got shot three times and killed. There’s still no leads as to who did it.
As part of a radio life, you have to cover stories like these. And you get to meet some of the people involved. Lauren’s mom, Ollie Hubbard, has come into the studio a few times now. I have cajoled her through interviews during which she has been on the verge of tears the entire time. I have hugged her at the end… just because. And when it comes to the June of when Lauren would have graduated from Hammond High and they’re gonna have a run to remember Lauren… I’ll be there.
I won’t be there for long, though. Registration starts at 10am and Alexis and I plan to stop by to say hello… and then we’re off to Guaranteed Rate Field for a get-together of a bunch of Purdue Northwest people. We do this a lot, get together with Purdue Northwest people. On Monday of this week, I played in the Purdue Northwest outing. Yesterday, I walked around campus buying my books and trying to find a place to get a student ID. On Saturday, chancellor Keon and his wife Kimberly and Tim Sanders and Regina Biddings Muro and us will watch the Sox probably lose together. It’s cool thing to have your radio located on a college campus. It really is.
After the Sox game, we have three grad parties and a work party. Efficiency is the key. In, talk to as many people as you can, drop off your envelope, and move on. Why the last Saturday in June always has so many parties and events on it, I don’t know. But it’s pretty much this way every year in My Radio Life.
Nowhere in this schedule tomorrow is there an allotted time to blog to the three or four of you. That’s why I just crapped out 2200 words. That oughta keep the three or four of you for a while. If not, just go find Epps and talk to him for while. It’ the same thing, really.