It’s 9:20pm on the Monday before Christmas Monday. Radio rolls on even though you may have mailed it in already. In my mind, I’m already sitting in the corner on Christmas morning opening presents with my wife and daughters. It’s one of the only mornings of the year that we all get together.
You’d think that this would give me peace and thankfulness, but instead it just makes me remember that it rarely happens. One day your kids are running down the stairs in their pajamas to open their presents, and the next they’re living in big cities and only a couple mornings a year you wake up in the same house.
On the show this morning, I walked outside onto Indianapolis Boulevard with nothing to say. Really, I didn’t have anything to say. This is where experience comes in. You take a deep breath and you just start talking. You have the confidence to know that with every breath, ten words will come out.
It’s the same with writing this blog to the three or four of you. I’m sitting down on the bed with nothing to say. The wife and daughter went shopping at Old Navy and I’m listening to the Grateful Dead on the Bose. It’s cold outside. This all adds up to a perfect moment to write something electrifying, but instead I just want to eat chocolate chip ice cream and bop my head to Jerry Garcia.
My dad just stopped over. He does that sometimes, always with something in his hands. This time, he had cards for the daughters.
“We didn’t get you or Alexis anything, but you’re used to that. John Pigati just said on your radio station that Purdue is a top ten team.”
This requires just a little explanation. On Monday nights, South Suburban College basketball coach does a show with WJOB’s Ryan Walsh. They talk about college hoops. My dad never misses it.
“But I just don’t think Purdue has the bench to compete at the highest levels. (Coach) Painter’s like that. He gets a good nucleus of players, but he doesn’t back it up with a bench.”
This is how my dad and I communicate. We talk about Purdue basketball. We could, if we wanted, do a radio show just on the history of Purdue basketball. We could dissect the games of Jim Rowinski, Drake Morris, Joe Barry Carroll, Bruce Parkinson, Troy Lewis, Melvin McCants, Etwaun Moore, Carson Cunnigham, Isaac Haas and about 100 other players. We could tell you the strengths and weaknesses of coach Keady and Matt Painter. We could remember big games, like the one we went to together at Northwestern in 1993 or so and Glenn Robinson missed a short shot at the buzze. The Boilers lost. I can remember it like it was yesterday.
For 43 years, of course, my dad held the tickets directly behind the visitors bench in Mackey Arena. Then one day athletic director Morgan Burke took them away. He came up with a different formula for doling out the tickets. It didn’t matter that my dad and my uncle gave a bunch of dough a long time ago and a decent amount ever since. The new formula catered to the newly rich, the farmers with 10,000 acres who were gonna give money over TODAY. This lack of loyalty to my father may one day contribute to me not carrying the Boilers on the radio on AM and FM. Every year, I say I’m not gonna do it any more out of spite…. but then again what would my dad and I talk about?
It’s coming up on Christmas so I imagine that if I’m gonna write in this blog every day just for kicks then I’ll probably start talking about my mom. She’s been dead nearly 30 years, imagine that. I’m not really sad about it anymore. It’s more like I didn’t like the end of the movie. You know how that is. You go to a movie and watch it for two hours and you really like it. And then the directors put in a crappy ending and you wind up leaving the theater all pissed off.
And it’s sleeting out and your car door is frozen shut. You have to ram your shoulder against the side of the car to break the seal. When you finally get inside, it’s cold as hell.
“The ending to that movie really sucked,” you tell your wife.
“I thought so too.”
You drive home in silence. You don’t even go out to eat. The ending of the movie was that bad. That’s how I feel when I think about my mom.
What was so bad about the ending to her movie?
She died. That’s the punch line to a joke that isn’t funny at all. After she finally passed, my four brothers and sisters and I and my dad and a couple others gathered up the balloons and flowers and walked down the hallway. The nurses were going about their business at their stations. The elevator dinged loudly. I couldn’t understand how that could happen.
Didn’t the world just come to a stop? Why is everyone going on about their business? How do the elevators work as before? It’s really never been the same, I’ll give you that. And sometimes around Christmas I remember why.
But in terms of radio, I had on my childhood chump Billy Baker on the show this morning. His visits kill two birds with one stone. First, he’s kind of funny for such a dork, so it’s not a bad segment. And two, as life has gotten in the way, we don’t get to see each other that much. We just agreed to meet up on the radio once a week. I’m in it for the laughs, and so is he.
Baker’s an only child. So after a couple hours with his mom and dad on Christmas mornings as kids, he’d come down the street to our house. There was confusion, electric toys, me beating on my little brothers, my little sisters playing dolls, and my mom trying to keep it all together with food and a reasonably clean house.
“Hi Billy. Take off your shoes.”
That’s one of the things that I will not do, by the way. When Alexis and I bought our first house around 1990, we stood arm in arm in the doorway.
“It’s so beautiful,” she said. “I just love our house.”
“I do too, honey. But I gotta tell you something.”
“Don’t ever ask me to take my shoes off.”
My wife of 26 years agreed to this stipulation then, when she was only my wife of a couple years. I had explained to her my dislike of going to any relative’s house and having to take off my shoes. I even had to do it in my own house.
“Take off your shoes, goddamit.” That would be my mom’s greeting each and every time I walked through the door. So to this day, I have not once taken off my shoes at the front door. I might mow the lawn in the rain and take off my work boots in the garage. But rest assured, I do not take my shoes off when I enter a house. Never. Doesn’t matter whose house it is.
… “This ain’t Kentucky. It’s Berkeley.” That’s just something that one of the guys on the Grateful Dead CD that I’m listening to just said. That’s a little secret, by the way. When you don’t have anything to say, just put on a Grateful Dead CD. It’s high time that you tried something new in your life.
… A business agent for Carpenters Local 599 – Jim Slagle – also came in this morning. We talked Carpenters stuff. And then the Cline Avenue bridge collapse of 1982 came up. That’s when they were building it and a section fell, killing construction workers. My uncle Danny was there. It’s one of the most compelling stories you can listen to, and one of the most horrifying. I don’t think my uncle Danny ever told the story once without tearing up. MX called in –
“I was working at Inland Steel then. As soon as we heard the crash, we dropped our tools and came running. It was a horrible scene. That’s all I have to say.”
…. I’ve been thinking about the regulation of radio a lot these days. That’s the key to reviving radio. Get rid of all of the rules. All of them. There’s no other way. Otherwise, we’ll always be at a disadvantage to modes of communication that are not regulated as much as we are. Roger that.
That should be enough for tonight. You see, I really didn’t have anything to say. I’ve included a photo of me and my niece Megan at the top of this. She runs the clock at biddy ball at Munster High on Sundays. My nephew Al played on one court and Meg ran the clock and scoreboard on one of the other courts.
I walked around biddy ball yesterday talking to people. Two of them were the high school referees Ziggy Waisnora and Larry Samano. They ref some of the biggest games around along with Crown Point mayor Dave Uran. We talked about two other refs – Mike Waisnora and John Goss. Those were my buddies. Goss died last year and Mike Waisnora moved away to Florida, where he still refs games, by the way.
It’s because of Waisnora and Goss that I don’t really announce high school games anymore. I used to announce games for the past decade and a half so that afterwards I could go out for beers, many times with Goss and Waisnora. Now that one’s dead and the other’s out to pasture, I took it as a sign that it was time to hang it up. So I enrolled in MBA school and I’m sitting here waiting for my grade in Accounting. I just hope I got a B. Please, pretty please.
“Why don’t Ziggy and I meet you for a beer after the Munster-Andrean game? We’ll go to Johnny’s?” Samano asked me.
“Won’t be the same. I’ll think about it.”
I didn’t mean to be rude, but in the end that’s how men in the Region talk to each other. It’s gruff and without thought of how the other person might feel. It’s part of being tough and durable, able to generate energy to wake up at 4am to brave a Lake wind. This should be enough for one night. I fulfilled my pledge to attempt to write every day for a year. I started a few days ago. Let’s see if it can happen.
I remember reading a story once about a woman who decided to give her husband a present of having sex with him in one form or another every day for a year. The last few months was pure drudgery. I won’t make it to the drudgery. No way. Good night.
Married and children,
a house with a garbage disposal
instead of a drain.
When you wash the dishes,
it’s always good to know
where your refuse goes.
There is a town on the border
of Indiana and Illinois
where there’s nothing
but lillie pads and bootleggers.
I want to go there and sit
outside like a frog and make
my own whiskey.
I ain’t gonna be treated like
I’m an animal when I’m really not.
I want to reach into the sky
and take a cloud to bed with me.
I want to feel safe with sunshine
and a single cloud and no one to
tell a story that’s false and
no one’s gonna believe anyhows.
There is another town on the border
of Illinois and Wisconsin where
there’s no Culver’s and you can’t
buy a whore no matter how much
money you have. If you were the president,
you’d just want to have a cheeseburger
and a Diet Coke once in a while.
Chilly winds invade your core sometimes
when you least expect it. One day it’s
warm and sunny and the next there’s
a wind blowing straight off the Lake
into your soul. I wonder where it comes
from. Cheerios, fireplaces, baseball mitts
and stories about sugar plum fairies
won’t make it go away. No matter how
hard you try, it’s still gonna be fear that
there’s a man under your bed who
will grab you and pull you under. What
he’ll do under there is nobody’s
On the way to the trailer park, there’s
a drug store where you can buy
cotton candy and a Mounds bar. In case
your forgot what that is, take a ball of
chopped coconut, sabotage it with chocolate
and you’ll get the worst candy this side of
Reese’s peanut butter cups.