I could try like hell to remember who
I talked to or what they said, but in the
End it’s if they were green or blue,
Yellow or orange.
We all give off a wisdom that’s older
Than the rocks that make up the
Pavement of 119th Street. It’s a tossup –
Immerse yourself in the love that can’t
in one quaint downtown area.
Here it is, the morning after the
Pierogi Fest parade.
And I choose the former. For some
Reason, radio and Pierogi Fest bring
Out the sentimentality of an aging
Talk show host.
There are only so many radio shows,
So many sunsets, so many Pierogi Fests.
I hope I’m around next year to yell
At the microphone and to shoo people
Out of our booth. There is, if you allow it,
A sense that each sunset is a gift. My favorite
Pierogi is saur kraut. In the end it’s all
About the cabbage.
The one thing about local radio, for WJOB at least, is that there are so many people involved. It’s been that way since 1924.
It was the beginning of Pierogi Fest yesterday. If you’re a radio person in the future or someone from Paducah, Kentucky, then you’re not gonna comprehend Pierogi Fest.
Sure, a hundred thousand people came out for the parade last night. And our WJOB booth is right in the middle of the whole thing. Rick Kubic and Kat Marlow did a great job announcing the parade for the radio and also for a Facebook Live video, but even that quirkiest of quirky couples can’t give the full sense of what Pierogi Fest is all about.
It’s inexplicable. Tom Dabertin, one of the co-chairs, says that a native New Orleans newswoman once told him – “I’m from New Orleans. It can’t be as quirky as Mardi Gras.” And after her first parade, she said – “You know what, I’m from New Orleans. And the Pierogi Fest parade is every bit as quirky as Mardi Gras.”
It’s quirky, but it’s also a lot of work. I started yesterday, the Friday of Pierogi Fest, at 3:30 in the morning. Woke up, gathered a bunch of equipment, and drove down to Whiting. All of the booths were already set up on Thursday, so Jimmy Mullaney and Rob Ellis and I decided to walk the length of an empty 119th Street – at 5:30 in the morning.
Rick Massoels drove a golf cart, Mullaney hung off the back with the phone/camera, and I walked behind talking into a microphone connected via XLR.
It worked. We mnade it onto Facebook Live and on to AM and FM radio. And, since after doing enough Facebook Live videos you become a light snob, it worked because I was walking through the 90 booths and 60 Arts and Crafts booths into the sunrise. No kidding. It’s all about the lights and the colors and the feeling that you’re left with when you wake up exhausted still. You wake to a yellow gray glow on the horizon that reminds you that despite all of the technical challenges and the gruff personalities, there is still yellow in the morning. And sometimes, that’s all you need.
I walked the length of 119th Street as the sun rose over the BP refinery and Lake Michigan. We walked for a couple of blocks before seeing another person. But there were plenty of booths waiting to serve up Polish sausage, cheese Pierogis, Veggie Leczo (whatever that is) and Alligator spuds. There are, at Pierogi Fest, about 20 booths where you can buy fried Snickers and Dippin Dots. If you want a Pierogi filled with plum or pork, you can find that too.
What you can’t find at Pierogi Fest is any semblance of solitude. That will have to come later or before. If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed by the mass of humanity that from time to time runs your life, don’t go to 119th Street on the last Friday of July.
So after walking 119th Street and interviewing the mayor and a guy named Gabriel who was setting up three separate dessert booths for “Lynette’s,” I took the crew for breakfast. Rob Ellis and Mullaney and I went to the Purple Steer at what’s called “Five Points.” It’s where Indianapolis Boulevard (US 41), Calumet Avenue and one other road come together in front of the Lever Brothers plant. A block in one direction is Chicago. A block in another way is the Horseshoe Casino. A block the other way is Pierogi Fest itself.
In other words, the Purple Steer is in a perfect location to be crowded on the Friday morning of Pierogi Fest. But it wasn’t crowded at all. In fact, we were the only table. I didn’t get it. When I used to drive to Chicago for the Board of Trade, sometimes I’d stop at The Purple Steer and get some eggs on the way home. Once in a while, I’d make a bunch of money before 9am and I’d just say – “F--- it. I’m going home.” And I’d take the long way driving down Lake Shore Drive past the museum and then I’d take the Skyway and get off at Indianapolis Boulevard on the East Side and then stop at the Purple Steer. It was always crowded and there was this verve to the whole place. And they make good eggs.
But yesterday, it was just Rob and Jimmy and me in the whole restaurant.
“The built a new Ihop down the road by WalMart,” Jimmy said.
“That explains it.”
After the morning show and all that goes with it, I drove to Schererville and did a yoga class. Now I know what the three or four of you are thinking – what the heck are you going to a yoga class for?
My toes, that’s why. I realized one day that I can’t touch my toes. My belly’s in the way and my hamstring creaks when you even talk about it. Besides, my buddy Ray Candelaria survived throat cancer and turned from weightlifting to yoga and he’s been bugging me for years to take a class. I took one of his classes and I like the way it treats my hamstrings, so every once in a while I put on my spanks and say “Namaste.” What the hell. You only get to see so many sunsets.
After yoga, I had to take a midterm. I’m not kidding. As the three or four of you know, after 30 years or so, I went back to school. I’m taking the first class on what I hope will eventually be my MBA. It’s not that I necessarily need an MBA. I’m fully capable of f---ing up my business without any education at all. But if you learn about Accounting and Finance, Marketing and Distribution, then at least if you’re gonna f--- your business up, you can do it in a big way.
I sat at my dining room and took, for two and a half hours, my first midterm in 32 years. It felt kind of good to be irritated at the length of a test once again. I forget how uncomfortable you can feel when you have to sit still for hours.
During my test, the texts flowed in. They were broadcasting all day live from Pierogi Fest, and they blew the speakers. It’s always something. We’re supposed to blare Polka music all weekend from the booth, but without speakers you can’t even wipe your ass correctly. And on top of that, we needed someone to help out at the studio for the afternoon show.
So Ryan Walsh and I hosted the afternoon show while Harlow, Tony Panek and Shamari Walker tried to the best they could without speakers or the proper equipment to mix the microphones together. It could become a clustertruck in radio, if you let it.
But if you just let radio be radio, then the mistakes and the errors and the frustrationisms don’t really get to you. The real challenge is that Christina Cortez, who has been our technical geek for remote broadcasts for years now – even though she’s only 20 – just got a job at Disney World. She’s down in Orlando trying to find a place to live, so there’s no one really who knows all of the tech stuff besides me, and that’s even a stretch. Somehow we pulled of another whole day of broadcasting from Pierogi Fest and I suppose that’s all that matters.
This morning, I’ve got to wait until Guitar Center opens up and I gotta go buy a cheap PA system. It’s just better that way than trying to fix our blown system. So I will ask you once again.
Try to see it my way
Only time will tell if I am right or I am wrong.
Saturday mornings are great for Beatles. There is no time for fussing and fighting, if you know what I mean.
After I get the speakers, I’ll drive across the Region to set them up. Then I’ll return to 119th Street in the afternoon for a “Polkaneira.” It’s a celebration of both the Polish and the Hispanic culture. As the three or four of you know, there’s a lot of Polish people in the Region and a lot of Mexicans. If you put them in the same high school, they start having sex with each other at an early age and often wind up marrying each other. That makes for a lot of streets that you can walk down and smell both Ka-poosta and enchiladas in the same whiff. It’s an amazing experience.
What’s also amazing is the beauty of these two disparate cultures coming together to share Polkas on a Saturday afternoon that promises to be sunny and reasonably cool for this time of year. WJOB is one of the sponsors for the “Polkaneira,” so my Mexican wife and I (a half Polish guy) gotta show our faces.
Speaking of showing our faces… on the way home from Pierogi Fest last night, sometime around 11pm, Alexis and I stopped at The Cavalier Inn. Wallk Kaspricki, the owner, told me that every week he sells out of “charnina,” or duck’s blood soup.
How do you make duck’s blood soup?
You cut off the head of a duck, turn it upside down, and put a bucket under it. Some of my relatives would do that. I remember as a kid walking into a garage or two to a bunch up dead, upside-down ducks dripping blood. I will never, as long as I live, eat duck’s blood soup. It’s the grossest thing on the planet.
As you can guess, local radio is good in all respects. It can consume your life, though, and I guess when you think about it, that’s part of the good. Until the next time I don’t have anything to do but squeeze out 1800 words, see the three or four of you later.