George and I talked about his brother, who coached baseball in our hometown for 36 years. That's a long time to do anything. We laughed about "Sticker Stadium," which I have journaled about before. In all irony, Sticker Stadium, which was plowed over in favor of a regional arts center, sits a couple hundred yards from where I write to you in the middle of the night... waiting for the morning... waiting to string together even more words to try to make sense of the world.
That's what worries me. I can usually make sense of the world... or at least come up with the appearance of doing so. That's the job as morning host on WJOB. You give the appearance of making sense of the world. It makes people feel comfortable fighting the mortgage monster, shoveling coal, putting on long johns to erect bridges in the middle of winter. We are working people. There's a lot of economic struggle. Most of the people who listen to me or watch me are a couple paychecks away from knock, knock knocking on the door of the relief center. It's important that I bring it every day... full of George Shinkan coffee, full of stories like Sticker Stadium that make them feel good and whole and proud to be an American.
Like I am. I am also proud to be a Hoosier, although I'm not fond of that term. It is the nickname for a school that kicked me out and that I loathe more than any other in America... especially when they play Purdue. I am still a bit high from going to West Lafayette over the weekend to watch Purdue beat the "Hoosiers." I'm a Hoosier, too, and so are you probably. Indiana University highjacked a term that is good and pure and beautiful and attached it to a school that does dastardly deeds like kick me out of school.
"Mr. Dedelow, don't you think you would be more comfortable pursuing your studies in a location that is not Bloomington, Indiana?" That's what Dean Wormer said to me in 1981. I will never forget it. I will never forgive Indiana University for co-opting the term "Hoosier."
Who is the Hoosier you most look up to? I know mine. It's Kurt Vonnegut. Always has been since I first bought one of his books. I was in high school, and it was at Alexander's book store next to Montgomery Ward's in Munster across the street from Smitty's barbershop. There was an older woman behind the counter. She straightened folders and wiped the counter. I circled the stacks... waiting, lurking for the right moment to make my move.
I picked up a book - any book - off a shelf and walked to the counter.
"Will that be all?"
I panicked. I knew what I was there for. I had been planning the attack for days. I had picked a rainy night in the middle of the week. There would be less chance that there would be anyone else in the store.
"Ah, well, eeh, ah..."
"What is it?"
"Ah, can I have the April issue of Playboy magazine?"
That was, of course, back when they kept the girlie magazines behind the counter with brown paper wrapped around them. You could see a woman's face, but that was it. You'd have to make up the rest.
"And how old are you?" The woman pulled her glasses down her nose and looked at me with teacher eyes.
"Old enough, I think."
"No, you're not. How about I just ring you up for this book and you be on your way. Mr. Vonnegut will be better for you in the long run."
She rung up the book - No damn cat, and no damn cradle. I walked into a cold winter rain. I walked across the parking lot, crossed Calumet Avenue in front of Smitty's Barber Shop where I got my first haircut when I was five, past Johnny's Tap where Mr. Fun still hangs out, and to our house on Madison Avenue. I went to my bedroom in the basement, turned on the turntable loud to Black Sabbath, threw the book against a poster of a woman in a bikini on top of a motorcycle, and let out a scream.
Part of the problem was that it was the tail end of a long winter and I had not yet discovered the stack of Playboys behind the filing cabinet in my grandpa's study. He didn't keep very good track of them, so by the time I stayed there over Spring break as a freshman - while the parents and brothers and sisters went to Florida - I could sneak a Playboy from the pile. For most of my high school years, now that I think about it, I slept with one of grandpa's Playboys between the mattresses of my bed. Every time I would mow gramp's lawn or stay the night, I'd rotate out a different month. It was like having my own personal library..
Back to the book I threw against the poster of the woman who guided me through seventh and eighth grade. I can see her right now. It was back when pop artists drew their women with big butts and boobs and gave them slinky little bikinis. The woman had long, brown hair and really red lips. When you turned on the black light, all you could see were the bikini and her lips.
The book I threw against the wall? Here's a hint for you fans of the greatest Hoosier who ever lived - No damn cradle, and no damn cradle.
Fast forward to yesterday. I was reading the news on my radio/TV show and came across this story.
Indiana will soon have its first Literary Landmark: the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library in Indianapolis. The Vonnegut Museum, dedicated to preserving the legacy of the author of the modern classics “Slaughterhouse-Five” and “Breakfast of Champions,” will celebrate its Literary Landmark designation and the 100th anniversary of Vonnegut’s birth on April 10. The event runs from noon to 4:30 p.m. Attendees must register in advance through eventbrite.com.
Guess where I'll be on April 10 at noon Eastern. That's 11am our time. Even though we're in the same state we're not on the same time. This, of course, is a problem for anyone with mild dyslexia. I have flip-flopped time designation my whole life, showing up an hour early or hour late for everything from basketball games to my cousin's high school graduation from Yorktown High School in Yorktown, Indiana.
The other day I participated in a panel on Zoom from the University of California. I took a week-long VC boot camp from Jerry Engel there years ago. He was the presenter of the panel, which was gonna talk about the state of the venture capital industry. It was at 10am PST. I showed up on Zoom at 8am our time... waiting... waiting... waiting. After a while a woman came on the Zoom - "can I help you?"
"Yes. I'm here for the panel by Jerry Engel."
"That's at 10 am. Where are you Zooming from?"
"Then I believe the panel would be at noon your time. That's four hours from now."
I know what you're thinking - why would a woman from the MBA school at Berkeley be showing up on a Zoom at 6am her time? The only thing I can think of is that she got a notification on her phone.
Here's what I wanted to get to regarding Kurt Vonnegut, the greatest of all - here comes that term again - Hoosiers. I read this mofo all the time. When I wake up in the middle of the night, I read Kurt... or I listen to old Jean Shepherd shows from his days at WOR in New York City. Shep is mostly famous for "A Christmas Story," but his best work by far was his late-night radio show on WOR. Shep from 50 years ago helps me relax in the middle of the night in the middle of a pandemic in the middle of a war in Ukraine in the middle of a long, cold winter. I have a certain affinity for Shep, who, in the end, was a bit of a horse's ass. But he got his start at the radio station I now own. And he grew up around the corner from the Presbyterian church my grandma and grandpa used to go to.
In a strange coincidence, when I was staying at my grandparents' house, they would leave on Sunday morning to go to that church around the corner from Shep's boyhood home... and I would sneak into my grandpa's study and look at his Playboys.
Anyways, I've checked out a book from the Lake County Public Library. I didn't actually go to the library. I checked it out on my phone. It's essays by the greatest of all Hoosiers (no, it's not Shep. He's in the top five but he's no Vonnegut) called "A Man Without a Country." If Vonnegut were alive today and were to write essays like this, it wouldn't be a book at all. It would be a blog. Vonnegut wrote that we live in a world there are:
... nuclear submarines slumbering on the floors of fjords in Iceland and elsewhere, crews prepared at a moment's notice to turn industrial quantities of men, women, and children into radioactive soot and bone meal by means of rockets and H-bomb warheads.
Wow. This selection might give you pause on whether you would go out of your way to travel to Indianapolis on April 10th. Kurt is SOOOOO negative. He continues in his book that shoulda been a blog:
Anyone who has studied science and talks to scientists notices that we are in terrible shape now. Human beings, past and present, have trashed the joint.... The biggest truth to face now - what is probably making me unfunny now for the remainder of my life - is that I don't think people give a damn about whether the planet goes on or not. It seems to me as if everyone is living as members of Alcoholics Anonymous do, day by day. And a few more days will be enough. I know of very few people who are dreaming of a world for their grandchildren.
Aha. Grandchildren. Vonnegut, I imagine, at one point or another listened to my radio station, WJOB in Hammond, Indiana. Vonnegut grew up three hours away in Indianapolis during the Depression. And when he would travel this way, as all "Hoosiers" do, he would have listened to the radio. And there's only one "Voice of the Region." I own it.
And on the "Voice of the Region," Vonnegut would have heard, if he listened long enough, someone say "I worry about what we're leaving our grandchildren." It's a familiar theme. We talk about enough shit that we eventually come around to all of the threats that face civilization. Once we do that, it's only a matter of time before someone calls in and says - "And I worry about what kind of world we're gonna leave our grandchildren." It happened yesterday. Rick from Hammond who now lives in LaPorte said it. And you can bet your bippy that a whole bunch of people nodded their heads to the radio as he did.
That's all I have for now. I fight the urge to walk downstairs, fill up the coffeemaker with fresh water and make some of George Shinkan's 219 coffee. But I have enough time to fall asleep for one more hour. I sense that I'm gonna dream about nuclear submarines idling in fjords off Iceland.. waiting... just waiting... to turn us into radioactive soot and bone meal.