Of course, many of the things that you or I used to do – like go for a beer – are off limits now. More than 300,000 people in America have coronavirus. And that’s just the ones we’ve tested.
“Fifty times. It’s 50 times the number that’s being reported.” That’s what a doctor told me on a walk yesterday. Fifty times.
So if, say, 1.2 million people are reported to have coronavirus at this moment according to the Johns Hopkins map, then the real number is 60 million. You do the math. You do the projections. Yours are as good as anybody else’s.
As the radio guy - and now the video guy - it’ my job to stay on the air as much as possible.
On Friday, if any of the three or four of you were watching, you saw me come on the air on Amazon, Apple TV, Roku, the WJOB app on your phone or on Facebook Live at 6:04. And I was laughing.
That’s because I had just done an outstanding hour of radio from 5:05 to 6:00. I was prepared. I had stats about the coronavirus. I sang a little, played some LL Cool J and some Steve Winwood along with The Lumineers and Cage the Elephant.
The challenge is, you see, that when we broadcast video on Facebook Live, you can’t play music or Facebook will take your video down for copyright infringement. The more followers you have, the more stringent they seem to be.
We once broadcasted an entire two hours of wrestling semi-states from East Chicago and, when we got to the end and posted the file for future viewing, Facebook sent us a nastygram that there was copyrighted music in the broadcast.
“We are removing the broadcast from your feed. If the problem persists, you will be suspended from Facebook for a month.”
You know what the copyrighted music was?
It was at the very beginning of the matches. All of the wrestlers lined up on the edges of the mats and put their hands over the hearts and looked with purpose at our America flag. Then the national anthem came on. Some of us even sang. I like to broadcast the national anthem as part of any sports broadcast. It reminds us that we are Americans and it makes you feel good.
“Copyrighted music – Whitney Huston – The Star Spangled Banner.”
That’s right. The powers that be at East Chicago had played the Whitney Huston version of the The Star Spangled Banner. And if Whitney wasn’t gonna get her money for singing our national song, you weren’t gonna get to see your nephew wrestle to go to the state championships.
Anyways, on Friday, I got there early and did an hour of just radio. No video. Part of the reason I did that was so I could play music and sing along in ishka-maloofka language while I got ready. There are about 50 tasks that you gotta do to get the Strack & Van Til studios at Purdue ready to broadcast on radio and TV. There used to be three people there at 5am to do all of it. I would stroll in at 5:59, strap a wireless mic on my belt, and start talking.
Those were the days.
Currently, I wake like now before 4am and go to Purdue to start getting ready. Because of the “stay at home” across America, the Purdue building where dozens would go each day is closed. It’s a ghost entrepreneurial center. Except for me. I could run around naked through the main hall and into all of the robotics labs and offices and no one would know. The other day I took a shower and stood in the middle of the huge bathroom naked drying my….
Er… you get the picture. So on Friday, I started early– 5am – and I gave the number of all of the dead and I talked about the governor’s latest turn of events. Every day, we broadcast live on the radio and on TV the governor’s press conference from Indianapolis. A lot of people sit around waiting for this. We, the Region, are in the extreme northwest corner of Indiana. We get all of our news and most of our self-deprecation from Chicago. If you want to know in real time what our state’s governor says and not what the governor from the Land of Lincold says, then you’re “shit out of luck,” to quote my mom who’s been dead for 30-plus years.
In a word – for one hour on a Friday morning in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, I was brilliant on the radio. I hadn’t turned on the cameras yet, so there was that freedom that comes with voice only. I could stand with my foot on the ledge of the windowsill and watch the oil tankers whiz by on Indianapolis Boulevard. I could tell Leo Chruby stories, which are always good. I could tell about my walk on the bike path behind Cabelas. When you come to a walker going the other way, both of you step off of the path to maintain the six feet of social distancing.
These were great stories. I was on a roll. I was doing radio, raw radio. No calls. No HeyJEDs. No emails. No cameras. No video. No texts. My phone was going crazy in my pocket for the whole hour. I didn’t even look down at it. Radio is good and pure and beautiful if you let it.
At 5:57, I decided to listen to a HeyJED. If you don’t know what this is, don’t worry. You will someday. It’s when you click an app on your phone and send me up to 22 seconds of whatever it is you want to say.
“Hey JED, this is Tim from Gary. I get up in the morning and I’m driving in my truck and I turn on good ole trusty WJOB and there’s nothin’. Just dead air. Are you okay?”
Dead air. Nothin’. Truck. Tim from Gary. It took a moment for it to register. I ran to the audio producers seat and looked at this little amplifier that Sam Michel recently installed. And, yes, there it was. Yes, I had turned on the mute button.
Another HeyJED. It was from Mad Mac. “Hey Jimmy. Did you forget to pay the light bill? What the hell…”
Then I looked at my phone – “You have 19 text messages.” I put my head down. Cursed. But it didn’t matter if I cursed because anything I had to say wouldn’t make it onto the radio until I unmuted to the preamp. I had done nearly a full hour of the greatest radio the Region has ever known…
And nobody heard it.
… The rest of Friday was a blur, just like today no doubt will become. We are entering what our president last night on a rare Sunday night press conference said could be our “the peak” of the coronavirus curve. I don’t know how that could be. Scientists are projecting between 100,000 and 240,000 dead by the time this is all over. We’re around 5,000 right now. That’s a lot of death on the horizon, a lot of “peaks.”
On Friday, I regrouped and did my morning show. Diane, Dave, Marsha, Tim, Debbie, Walt, Dave, MX, Debbie and others called in and left HeyJEDs. It’s not like the old days when Ryan was sitting there in the producer’s booth. He would answer the call, ask who it was and what they wanted talk about, and then he’d type it into a program. His list would appear on a screen right in front of me. I knew who I was going to on the next call.
Now, it’s just me in the studio. I answer the phone live on the air.
At 7:45, I somehow rigged up all of the rocket machines to bring in Hammond mayor Tom McDermott and attorney Kevin Smith for a Zoom appearance for their show. Then at 8:30, it was Tom Dabertin and three others from the Whiting-Robertsdale Chamber of Commerce. All of their faces were on the screen. I orchestrated it all, switching from camera to camera, adjusting each of their volumes in mid sentence.
At 9:05, Steve Bramer and Pat O’Donnell of the Veterans Views radio program popped up on the screen. They talked about PTSD during a time of coronavirus lockdown. You can only imagine the horror some of these men and women are going through.
At 10:00, we went live to the Gary airport emergency operations center for the update with Lori Postma and Frank Mrvan.
1:30 – Governor Holcomb from Indianapolis.
2:20 – JED and the Cow Guy. He talks on the screen from Scottsdale, Arizona. I talk from, as the three or four of you know, Hammond, Indiana.
That’s just some of the stuff from Friday. Today is even busier. I don’t have anything else to tell you other than to reiterate that the first hour of radio I did on Friday was nothing short of outstanding. See ya. Stay safe.