I am an exhausted individual. It takes all of me to keep the stations humming and to innovate for the future. There is little time and little of me for anything else but running on the hamster wheel.
That’s how I feel on a Thursday morning in which I didn’t do the show. The overworked and overloaded reality hasn’t been helped by my behavior in the past couple of days… and the fact that I’m enrolled in a graduate MBA program. My life choices and my pursuit of education only serve to further fill an already filled life.
Now don’t get me wrong. I really do appreciate what the three or four of you and God have given me the opportunity to do. I get to ride my bike or drive over to the radio stations every morning and talk to the camera out on Indianapolis Boulevard. And the Ironworkers Local 395 pay me to do this. Then I come into the studio and talk further and then some guests come in and we take phone calls and there’s usually some sort of controversy. Then all of the sudden it’s 8am and I get to go eat a greasy breakfast and then work out. You would think that you really shouldn’t eat before working out, but that would be if you’re a younger one of the three or four.
You see, there’s a more modern theory that you shouldn’t work out on an empty stomach. For a while, I worked out at a place called “Pro-fit” in Dyer, Indiana. The purveyors, Tony and Tina, or one of their instructors would ask every session – “Have you eaten? Have you eaten?”
After a dozen sessions or so, I asked one of the instructors.
“Why do you always ask if we’ve eaten? I thought you weren’t supposed to work out on an empty stomach.”
“That was the old thinking. Now researchers believe the exact opposite.”
Just goes to show the three or four of you, and God, that if you live long enough, most things circle back to the most sensible thing you would have thought in the first place. Sometimes, since I was such a drug abuser from an early age, I would smoke weed at about 4:30 on the afternoon before a high school football game. And then I’d get ready to go to the game, which started back then at 7:30pm. So I’d hop in the backseat of the car of whoever was driving to the fieldhouse, and I’d ask –
“Hey, man, think you can stop at McDonald’s on the way to the game?”
“McDonald’s? Are you crazy?”
“Nope. Just hungry.”
I’d get my way and I’d wind up eating two McDonald’s cheeseburgers right before a high school football game in which I was sure to sprint as fast as I could hundreds of times and to be tackled dozens. And not once did I puke up the McDonald’s cheeseburgers, or the large fries that went with it.
As a matter of fact, I played my best football after 1. smoking weed after school. 2. Developing munchies. 3. Eating two McDonald’s cheeseburgers before walking into the locker room.
This is a rhythm that, just now, sitting here in my underwear on the top of the bed, that comes to me – Researchers were right all along. Don’t work out or play sports on an empty stomach. This is in diametric opposition to what high school football coaches would tell you. They’d warn, between two a day practices, not to eat too much and not to eat right before practice. I kept up that method my whole life until recently. Now I eat when I’m hungry and sometimes I finish the radio show, eat a couple of scrambled eggs and potatoes (no toast) at a counter of one of the several greasy spoons that I frequent, then I go lift some weights or even roll around doing some yoga (don’t ask).
This is a great life. I wake up every day with the routine of happiness. There are certainly hiccups in the process, mostly to do with money. The general dilemma and strain is this. I could make more money for my family if I just made money and then put it in our pocket (and in the pocket of some people who have supported the stations). That would be one way to do things, the easier way.
But what I do instead is every time we make some money, I reinvest it into some sort of innovation to do with radio. That’s how Facebook Live video came about. That’s how the patent that I just applied for on Friday came about. That’s how we started doing podcasts and I started doing blogs. That’s how we came to buy the FM radio station.
These are a lot of innovations, but the dilemma remains – take money off the table or reinvest it back into radio, terrestrial or online, radio radio or video radio, podcasts or simple radio shows. It all merges together and doesn’t make any sense… unless you take a couple of things into account.
When it’s all said and done, I love radio. The three or four of you who suffer through my ramblings know this. You might even be someone who hates many of the things that I say on the radio, but you still listen to me. That’s because you also love radio. We share the love of radio, although we might not share particular policy likes and dislikes.
Here’s one I saw on Facebook this morning, a morning in which I didn’t do the radio show. I didn’t do the radio show because I need to 1. study for my accounting test. I’m probably gonna flunk. 2. I can’t take any more talk about pipe bomgs. 3. I behaved badly on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, and here I am on a Thursday morning studying inventory cost methods and nursing a body that is about as sore as you can be without curling up into the fetal position and sucking your thumb.
This is a Facebook comment from a guy named Kyle Bob Strbiak.
In the last year, I have rediscovered WJOB… I mainly listen to the morning show. It's fun... leans a bit differently than I, but that's OK. Dedelow does a good job in my opinion, especially for a station of that size. I really appreciate focus the local issues, political interviews and local events…. I do think he's a entertaining morning guy, especially for such a small market and is a good region composite character. And I appreciate the fact that he's sinking his own cash into the project, training interns, etc…. Was really surprised by how relatively good the talk was, as compared to Chicago and national markets... which have huge budgets in comparison.
Now this post by Kyle Bob was on a group – MX Cartoons - that sometimes rips me pretty good. That’s not the point I’m trying to make. The point is that I believe there are many people who don’t like me personally, either for my rather abrasive personality or for the things I say, but listen anyways because they either love radio or love the Region, or both.
Where I’m going with this is that instead of just taking money off the table, I keep putting money back into radio innovation. This Kyle Bob, although quite possibly a huge critic of mine, seems to be able to put the situation into words better than I can:
I wonder if the station is actually profitable, or just a pet project?
And that’s a good question to ask – am I out to make money, or am I doing the love of radio thing as a pet project? And now that I think about it, looking down at my own hairy white fishbelly, it’s probably a little bit of both.
Now here’s a point in the one-way dialogue that I’m glad that it’s just three or four of you who stop by this blog on a regular basis. We get our own little cocoon of anonymity that way. Because I want to admit something to you that I’ve probably not ever really articulated to anyone, not on the air, not in the comfort of our radio station with Debbie, Ryan and my sister, not even in my own bed at night when Alexis and I are alone. She plays Scrabble on an Ipad. I read accounting.
And here it is – I want to save radio.
There, I said it. It’s out there. You can make fun of it all you want and you can laugh. But I get the feeling that there are things that we radio people can do to put us in the center of people’s lives. We just haven’t done them yet.
Now, if you are a radio person who owns a group of stations and you happen on this blog, please don’t say to yourself –
“I too want to save radio. Maybe I should call JED and we can work together.”
Forget about it. I’m still way too much that guy walking around Berkeley smoking weed and reciting Dylan Thomas poetry in my head. I walk alone. It’s always been that way. I’m laying in bed writing to you three or four alone right now, this hairy body all around me, and I feel completely comfortable in this situation of solitude. I don’t want to work with you. Sorry. Not right now at least.
I guess, if you want to be more specific about it, what I really wanted first to do was save WJOB. As you may know, WJOB AM was in bankruptcy when we bought it. It was very much in danger of fading away into religious broadcasting oblivion. Alexis worked the station for the first couple of years, then I came in to run them. And we’ve been doing it that way for more than a decade.
WJOB, for all intents and purposes, has been saved. We broadcast every day and, as Kyle Bob says, he’s surprised at:
“how relatively good the talk (is), as compared to Chicago and national markets… especially for a station of that size”
You, if you’re one of the three or four who stop by this blog on a regular basis, share this love of radio and, quite possibly, a love of WJOB. You know that it’s been saved. We do have “relatively good talk” a lot of the day, local and national. What’s next?
I want to save radio. We have started on the journey to save radio by introducing Facebook Live video to the Region. It’s an addition to radio, not something, in my mind that could supplant it. We’ve had about 2.5 million views since Facebook started, and much of that is simply video of people doing radio. Facebook Live, as we use it, is a long-running commercial for local radio.
We’ve also bought the FM, expanded to Twitter Live video, and so forth. The mix of video and radio is, in my mind, a step toward saving radio.
What really has to happen with radio is that we have to somehow inject ourselves into the social media equation, which is this.
Content on social media –to- comment on social media –to- new content on social media –to- more comments on social media. This is pretty much Facebook and Twitter and nowhere in that mix is radio.
I want to change that. So instead of putting profits into my pocket, I put them into developing Facebook Live video of radio and into developing new products that could contribute to the general purpose of saving radio.
There, my secret’s out. The three or four of you have once again fulfilled your purpose of allowing me to ramble on until the disjointed thoughts shaking around inside my head crystallize in to a cohesive path to comprehension. I want to save radio. I realized that a while ago, but it seems so real when I finally write it down.
As for how I’ve behaved badly the past couple of nights. On Tuesday, a guy named Jerry Paucak dropped off tickets for the Cubs vs. Dodgers in the National League playoffs. So Alexis and I and my sister Jennifer and her husband Mark drove up the Skyway to Wrigley. It was, quite possibly, the most depressing baseball game that I’ve been to since Bill Howarth and I drove down from the Bay Area in 1984 to watch the Cubs lose a playoff series to the Padres.
Howarth and I drove down from Berkeley in a milkvan that I used to own. It was a huge box that some girls on an acid trip painted purple, so every time we came to a stoplight, you could read the lips of the mom in the car next to us – “Don’t look at them. DON”T LOOK AT THEM,” the mom would say. And of course the kids in the backseat, at the mere mention of “Don’t look at them” would stare a hole through us.
Anyways, Howarth and I partied for a couple of days harder than any rock star you ever heard about. We thought that the Cubs were going to the World Series, and we were the most obnoxious Cubs fans that ever went to an away game. We hit on guys’ girlfriends, shaked our fists in guys faces, drank dozens of beers, and hooted and hollered like we were on Green Acres every time the Cubs did something good.
If I remember it correctly – and there’s a lot of reasons to not remember anything – the Cubs won the first two games in Chicago and then had to win just one of three in San Diego. They didn’t win any of them. I still hate Steve Garvey. Howarth and I partied like there was no tomorrow, bringing women back to the milkvan and drinking more Schaefers than any man has a right to, and doing a whole bunch of other stuff I wouldn’t dare write about in a blog that my granddaughters might somehow stumble on.
What I do remember clearly is a moment in time that haunts me to this day. After three days of partying all around the milkvan, just waiting for the Cubs to win the game that would propel them to the World Series, it finally happened. The Cubs lost the deciding game. What I remember is Howarth and I – all 6-4 of him – slumped into seats in the upper deck as all of these people wearing brown filed by. They were laughing at us, waving fingers at us, and, the most damaging, smirking at us. The Cubs had lost three games in a row and they weren’t going to the World Series. Howarth and I had spent every last dime that we had on drugs and booze and not food. And we had to go back to our lives in Berkeley.
I went back to Statistics class and Howarth, who was once an All-American high school quarterback, quit his duties as a quarterback at a junior college in Oakland, and left California. It’s a story that I should probably tell at length in another venue… because a lot of people ask me – “what happened to Bill Howarth when he came out to Berkeley to live with you? Why did he bolt from that junior college?”
There are a lot of reasons why Bill Howarth did the things that he did. But I can say with a relative degree of clarity – if the Cubs had somehow pulled out that series against the San Diego Padres, there’s at least a decent chance that he would have wound up as the second string quarterback on an NFL roster. Howarth was that good of a quarterback. Anyone who ever saw him play would agree with that. I caught his passes in high school and even when he was hanging around Berkeley I’d run routes for him. He could run and he could throw but what he couldn’t handle was the Cubs breaking his heart in 1984 in San Diego.
Anyways, at the Cubs game this Tuesday night, I drank a bunch of Coronas because I wasn’t driving and almost got into a fight with a Los Angeles Dodgers fan who was obviously on drugs. Heavy drugs. Part of the situation was that I was sitting between my wife and my sister and that brings out the protective bear in any man. At one point, I whispered to my wife – “I’m gonna take a walk or I’m gonna hit this guy.” Alexis and I have been together for almost 30 years. I don’t think that I have ever said that to her. She let me walk. I stood in the standing room only section for a couple of innings and watched the Dodgers score even more runs. By the time I talked on the radio in the morning, I blew up at Mad Mac – “I’m not gonna let you talk to me or my guests disrespectfully this morning. I let you do it to me all the time and you do it to Verlie also, but not this morning. I’m hung over and I almost got into a fight at the Cubs game last night and I just don’t want to hear it.”
Later, of course, I got a bunch of texts congratulating me for giving it to Mad Mac, who really does belittle people on the air, especially me. But I can take it. And, in a weird way to further the purpose of radio, I want to take it. But not yesterday morning. I was hung over and had only slept a couple of hours – it was an 8:05 game start – and I just didn’t want to hear it.
Danny Diombala’s message to me is representative of the bunch – “You should come in hung over more often.”
As soon as I finished doing the show – Mayor McDermott was my last guest – I threw my headset down on the desk, and told producers Ryan Walsh and Sam Michel and Christina Cortez – “Get Kusiak to do the show tomorrow. I need a break.”
And I did need a break today. There’s been this thing called the pipe bomber. The feds say he mailed a pipe bomb to the family of a Hammond attorney and it blew up early at the post office in East Chicago, where it injured a woman in her last trimester of a pregnancy. The feds say this man – Eric Krieg – also sent a bullet in an envelope to an employee of the city of Hammond, with a note that says something like – “the next one’s in the back of your head.”
The whole thing has played out on the radio. I’ve been right in the middle of directing the traffic of the discussion, which has been ugly. There’s a lot of hate in the world these days and sometimes I just want to sit in my underwear on the bed and write to the three or four of you.
There’s another thing that I did that was of questionable judgment. Last night, I played basketball for the first time in several years, at least since the big accident I had when the truck tire totaled the minivan I was driving. I would tell you about it, but we’re already past 3000 words and how much can you take?
I played basketball with Charlie Faso, Jim Frankos, John Sannito, Mike Goldasich, John Hrubean and a couple others. We played four-on-four half-court basketball for an hour and a half.
And I can’t get out of bed. Literally. Early this morning, Alexis had a question about her car, so I had to lift myself out of bed and walk down the stairs to look at it. This was not an easy task. Every step, the bottoms of my feet hurt as if someone was poking them with sharp sticks. My legs feel as if I had laid flat and someone whacked them with a pipe wrench. It even hurt to breathe.
“Remember, Jim,” John Sannito said to me as I was leaving the Jean Shepherd Center. “Soreness is weakness leaving the body.”
Thanks, John. I had to call him up just now to get exactly how he had phrased it. Sannito sits at his desk doing accounting all day long and I could count on him to answer his phone.
“That’s all I wanted,” I told him. “I need it for my blog. Good bye.”
If the three or four of you don’t know this, I was once an all-area basketball player. I started for three years on a state-ranked high school basketball team. Basketball, for a good portion of my youth, was my identity.
That’s why it was particularly humbling to get schooled last night by Charlie Faso, who grew up across the street from me, and Jim Franko, who grew up around the corner. They’re my little brother’s ages, and they weren’t basketball players at all. They were wrestlers.
So to drown in my sorrows about getting schooled on the basketball court by two of my little brother’s friends, both wrestlers, I called my little brother. Jeff is a doctor on the staff of Ohio State University hospital. He does something with radiology, but I’m not really sure what it’s all about.
“I just had to call you. This is how low I’ve fallen as an athlete. I got schooled tonight on the basketball court by Jim Frankos and Charlie Faso.”
My brother, like me, likes a good belly laugh. After he gathered himself, he did give me a bit of encouragement.
“They have played a lot of basketball since you knew them as kids. When I was at IU, they played at the HPER all the time. They’ve both gotten pretty good.”
This did make me feel a little bit better. But it doesn’t help with the weakness leaving my body. I hurt everywhere, even in my fingers since I just banged out almost 4,000 words to you. I love radio. You love radio. Let’s leave it there for now.