It really has been a four-day whirlwind of radio. We did a rather forgettable radio show on Wednesday morning, and it’s not because the guests weren’t interesting. As a matter of fact, as Attorney General Greg Zoeller gets closer to running for a Congressional seat that he most likely will win, he gets a little more open with me on his bi-monthly call from Indianapolis. On Wednesday, we talked about as a Catholic what the Pope’s visit meant to him, and we joked a little about his teenage son wanting McDonald’s on the way to school. And Al Hamnik, who’s been a sportswriter for more than 46 years, brought a good expose on why it might not be such a great time for a college student to go into sports journalism.
And Matt Reardon, the economic development consultant, and I talked about economic development for an hour. This was especially timely in that at 11:30am I was scheduled to moderate a panel on, you guessed it, economic development in front of 360 people at the Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce luncheon. Truth be told, I prepared nada for the luncheon.
“So, Jimmy, what are you gonna talk about at the big Lakeshore shindig?”
“Beats the Sam Hill outta me.”
And then Matt proceeded to throw out a few suggestions on the air, like high taxes in Illinois and will that mean more business for Indiana? And state tax policy, and the inefficiency of overlapping municipal taxing jurisdictions.
I’m kidding about that last one. Reardon doesn’t say “overlapping taxing jurisdictions anymore.” He stopped that a long time ago. That was after I pulled him into my office.
“What’s that longass term you say about overmapping and taxing purist diction?”
“You mean, overlapping municipal taxing jurisdiction?”
“Yes. Don’t ever say that term on the air again. I can just feel half the Region changing the station every time you say it.”
So to be true to my dictums, I didn’t use that term during the 60-minute discussion of how economic development is on the verge of a Renaissance in the Calumet Region. Here’s the panel.
Moderator and general court clown – Me
Don Babcock – head of economic development for NIPSCO
Karen Lauermann – head of the Lake County Economic Alliance
Heather Ennis – head of the Northwest Indiana Forum
Milton Reed – head of economic development for East Chicago
Phil Taillon – head of economic development for Hammond
That’s a lotta people to work in to a single discussion, but if you sit in a box directing the conversation on the air for four hours a day, week after week, month after month, year after year… well, then, you better develop some skills or radio really will be a curse more than it is a blessing.
Anyways, I got off the show at 9am and hurried over to the old studio to meet the NIPSCO tree-trimming crew. This was a scheduled event in which they were set to trim away the vines that had grown up the power pole and were threatening to take over the fuses and transformers perched high above our old studio building. This was not a good thing. We lose our power enough times with all of the old wiring and poles and jump stations around us. We don’t vines to add to the probability of going off the air during dinner.
The plan was to meet NIPSCO at 9:30 or so, turn off all the power (and hence WJOB) for a few minutes at 10am, trim the poles, and then turn on WJOB at 10:30 or so. And then I would head over to host the panel discussion for 360 businesspeople.
Now, remember, this isn’t just any old 360-person mob looking for some good information and a little lunchtime entertainment. This is, for lack of a better term, my business peeps. My lifeline. A lotta people sitting in the audience write me checks… and a lot more will, if I have anything to say about it. Besides, this annual shindig sells out a couple weeks in advance and you always wind up with at least one irate businessman or woman standing at the entryway wondering why he or she can’t come in to the main hall.
Back at the old radio station, the problem was that I didn’t have the key to open the back gate, so I had to call Debbie Wargo at our new studios seven blocks away to bring me the key. That slowed things down a bit. And then of course I talked to the NIPSCO guys for a while. The daughter of one of the guys – Dan Semanick – worked for us up until a year and a half ago or so. Now the daughter – Britney – works for the Emmys and Oscars as a production assistant so it was good to catch up on what’s going on in her life.
From Highland, Indiana, to the red carpet. If you watch the awards shows… once in a while you’ll see Britney all dressed up like an adult in the background with a headset on. It’s kinda cool. But if I told you I watched an awards show this year, you would know that I was lying again. Other people at WJOB tell me they see Britney on the telly. I personally have never seen Britney on the telly.
So about 10:30 they start trimming the vines, and about 11:40 I walk into the Dynasty Banquet Center in north Hammond to a huge crowd and Dave Ryan, the executive director of the Chamber, waiting at the door.
“’Arrive early’ my ass,” Dave told me as he ushered me through the buffet line to the head table, where my wife and the five panelists sat. I spoke with each just long enough to get a cute joke to tell about them as I introduced them. And then off we went on an hour-long discussion of the economic development Renaissance in northwest Indiana. You tell me if it was any good. The link is somewhere in this blog post.
After the panel discussion, I bypassed the exhibition hall where WJOB and 59 other businesses showed their wares and went straight to a bar. Now I know what you’re thinking – that it wasn’t five o’clock anywhere near – but that’s not really the point. I do a four-hour radio show every day in the most industrial part of North America, and in this rough and tumble toenail of America, we get a lot of business discussion done over a cold one.
Jeff Biesen, of JBI (Jeff Biesen Insurance), Mirko Maric of Staffsource, and a union guy or two that I won’t name in that I’m not sure if they should be schmoozing with the media in a bar in the middle of the day or not.
This is the part of business that my wife finds challenging. Sometimes I’ll tell her that I got a good lead or a really juicy story on the golf course or at a bar with other business dudes, and that’s when she’ll interject.
“You see, that’s something I, as a woman – a married woman – just can’t do. I can’t go smoke cigars and drink on the golf course and I can’t sit all afternoon at a bar watching a game with a bunch of businessmen. It’s a disadvantage for women, especially around here, where there’s more than our fair share of hard-drinking meatheads running everything.”
She doesn’t say it exactly like that, but you get the picture. And she has a point. Not one that I’d like to address right now. But it’s still a good point.
After the bar visit, I headed back to the Lakeshore Chamber business expo, where WJOB broadcasts live from 4-6pm. In that time, every one of the businesses that wants to come on the air can do so. It usually comes out to about 45 different people shuffled in to say something about their business. It’s radio speed dating and I used to do it. Now afternoon host Ron Harlow does it. He’s gotten really good over the years at talking to someone for two minutes and then politely shooing them away.
That’s enough about my radio Wednesday. Radio Thursday and radio Friday were pretty much the same, minus the 360-person luncheon. On Friday, Alexis and her law associates had a big open house for their new building. And on Saturday morning at 7am I attended a mock disaster drill in downtown Gary. Check out the photos and video of this. It was kinda cool. They fake wrecked a train and some young actors put on a bunch of blood makeup and screamed for paramedics. Watch the video. The one woman standing next to the train is a pretty good actress. In the video, she stands there screaming about the lack of help and she’s pretty believable.
Anyways, after that morning radio duty, Alexis and I met Robin and John Salzeider at a Cubs game. We’re empty nesters. We’ve had kid duties for decades, in one way or another, and now that it’s just her and me in this big house, it’s a lot easier to just pick up and go. When Salzeider asked us on Friday night if we’d like to go see the Cubs….
Sure, why not? What the hell else we gonna do all afternoon. Check out the pictures. I love going to Wrigley on a sunny Saturday afternoon in September. There’s really no other place like it.