we’d be left with a two-day-old
can of tuna on the
sunshine. It wears off through
the day. Eventually, you
succumb to dreams.
The disharmonies of my youth
have worn off and I feel
better about things.
Nope. That’s not
Good light on the nightstand is
key. So is clean water and a
laptop. You have this, and
you have the beginnings
On nights you can feel the
loneliness of a clock, it’s
better to lay still and
let it pass than fight
If you get too still, the in and out
of a senseless moon can make
you pick your toenails for
lack of anything
better to do.
The loneliness of a squirrel
running across the lawn
can only be matched by
the sadness of a
Watch your wallet, look at
the score. By the time it’s
over, you’ll be tired
I haven’t sat down with the three or four of you in a while. I’m living a life of local radio and sometimes that gets in the way of me telling you about my life of local radio.
One of the things going on is that I’m in school, both as a teacher and student. I teach Sport Broadcasting 390 and I’m taking Marketing 620. It’s way more work than I would have imagined. It’s part of the reason that I’m up at 5:30 on a Saturday morning listening to The Grateful Dead. Wake up to find out that you are the eyes of the world.
Also, Shamari Walker the 16-year-old software wonder and I have developed this “HeyJED” app and we entered it into the Burton D. Morgan business model competition. There’s not a snowball’s chance in hell that we win the thing or even finish in the top four for prize money… but they teach you how to build a presentation for investors and who doesn’t want to know how to do that?
I do. And I want Shamari to know how to do it also. So on Wednesday evening we drove the couple of hours in bad I-65 traffic down to West Lafayette to attend a workshop. It’s our third time doing that. I think we’re ready to put together a 10-minute presentation along with a one-minute video. Once again, life is a learning process. If you wake up in the morning with an open mind, just about anything can happen short of cats sleeping with dogs and Democrats getting along with Republicans.
I think sometimes about Democrats and Republicans, but perhaps not the way that you might surmise. I talk enough in the morning about Democrats and Republicans. As a matter of fact, I have recently interviewed a number of both of them. I interviewed Democrats:
- Hammond Mayor Tom McDermott, Jr.
- US Senator Joe Donnelly
- Lake County Democratic party chairman Jim Wieser
- Indiana governor Eric Holcomb
- Indiana attorney general Curtis Hill
- Indiana chamber of commerce head Kevin Brinegar
These are all important people to talk to for it is my job to bring forth at least some semblance of information that effects local people’s lives. But the thing I want to bring to your attention is that every time I’m bringing in Democrats or Republicans, I don’t think of them as Democrats or Republicans. I think of them as:
Starcomed and Snacilbuper.
If you start saying this in your head, you can’t stop. You’re sitting there talking to a governor or a senator, and all that you are thinking is this. I’ll do it phonetically:
Stark-oh-med and Snack-ill-booper. Go ahead. Try it. Stark-oh-med and Snack-ill-booper. Starck-oh-med and Snack-ill-booper. It sticks in your head and next thing your know the interview’s over and you can’t remember what it was about.
Tuesday was the day if there ever was one to do a reality show about My Radio Life.
I walked into the studio at 5:20 in the morning and started bitching at Ryan and Sam for not fixing my lavaolier microphone. Then I went outside into the 2 degree cold and did a half hour of radio with “Big truck” after “Big truck” rolling by. Or was that Wednesday? I can’t remember. After a while all radio is good, just some is better than others. And sometimes the days run together like wild horses trampling on the front lawn of a highly-paid landscaper.
Anyways, Verlie Sugges and I talked about the upcoming sentencing of Lake County Sheriff John Buncich. Our former sheriff, as you know, was convicted of a bribery scheme involving towing operators. I covered the crap out of this trial in the middle of the summer. I sweated through several Izod shirts and one Eddie Bauer to get the information out to the public. It was not a fun process. I have covered several of these federal trials and court appearances and every time I say it’s gonna be my last one. But it’s not. I lie. I go again.
Anyways, right after the morning radio show, I rushed home to take a quick shower and head over to the federal courthouse on Hohman Avenue in Hammond. While we were wating for the honorable Judge Moody to appear, I started talking with the guy from WBBM 780 and 105.9 in Chicago. His name is Mike Krauser. He lives in Michigan City, Indiana. You might have heard him before. It seems like WBBM sends him everywhere.
It was the way he introduced himself that I found interesting.
“Mike Krauser, Newsradio.” And we gave each other a “damn glad to meet you” handshake.
“Newsradio?” I said. “You drop the WBBM now?”
And then we talked, or more like whispered, in the federal courtroom. Eventually the honorable Judge Moody came out in his robe and sat on his perch. He is a bald white man who carries a perpetual scowl in court. In real life, where I have never met the man, he may be quite jovial. But it’s hard to imagine.
For five hours, US prosecutor Phil Benson, whom I have affectionately deemed “Bulldog,” stormed around the courtroom dissing on Buncich to get him more years in prison. It was a sentencing hearing, so basically both sides just presented evidence to show why Buncich should spend more or less years in prison. At the end of the day, none of it mattered, though, as you probably know by now.
It was a packed courtroom. If you got up to go to the bathroom, there’s a chance someone would slip into the courtroom and take your seat. So you had to, as my high school basketball coach would say, “hold your pisser.” Near the end of Benson’s presentation, he did a curious thing.
“I’m going to finish, your honor, with a video and audio presentation.” Benson pressed a button.
And there I was on the screen in federal court. The dweebs in the federal IT department had combed our archives on the internet and taken cuts of multiple interviews I had done with former Lake Country Sheriff John Buncich. In many of the interviews, Buncich talked about running a clean department.
“When I leave this department, I’m gonna leave a clean ship.” That, or something like it, was the repeated message that prosecutor Bulldog Benson presented. There were a few other video and audio clips from The Times and from Buncich’s own campaign material. But the bulk of it was me interviewing Buncich. The Chicago media were looking at me.
“Is that him?” I saw one woman from ABC or CBS mouth to her cohort.
I don’t know how I feel about this. Yes, it’s my duty to interview local and regional leaders. And I fulfill this duty a lot. Too much for my liking sometimes.
But there’s a part of me that feels like – “Hey, feds, do your own work.” Everybody has a role to play. Mine is as independent local radio operator. I shook a hundred hands this week and talked with several hundred more, either on the air or at events. I am beaten and tired. I’m typing to you on a Saturday morning because there isn’t a moment during the week to do so. I feel as if I give everything that I have to radio and to the Calumet Region. I want to know it’s the right thing.
As always to the three or four of you who read my blog… thanks for letting me ramble. Thanks for letting me listen to Grateful Dead and write to you.
Halfway through Buncich’s sentencing hearing, I jetted across Hammond to watch Judge Gonzalo Curiel talk to Purdue Northwest students. He was in town from San Diego to celebrate Martin Luther King day. On Monday, Alexis and I a few others had had lunch with Judge Curiel. He’s the federal judge who grew up in East Chicago. Trump has repeatedly blasted Curiel:
"I have a judge who is a hater of Donald Trump, a hater," Trump said last May. "His name is Gonzalo Curiel and he is not doing the right thing."
You wouldn’t believe how many students showed up to hear Judge Curiel speak. Alumni Hall was packed. Tim Sanders and I had to stand. That’s never happened before.
Since Curiel was brought in by the university to celebrate Martin Luther King, the judge several times invoked the words of that fine leader of the past. At the end of the speech, Curiel took questions. Students asked some really good stuff and Curiel answered it. The last question came from my Tuesday morning co-host, Verlie Suggs.
“Would you accept a nomination to the Supreme Court?”
“That’s not gonna happen,” Curiel said in his best Regionese. And then he went on to say what a good Supreme Court nominee would be like. It got me thinking – “Shit, yesterday I may have been poking fun at a future supreme court justice. What was I thinking?”
After Curiel, I rushed back to the federal courtroom to listen to the rest of the testimony at Buncich’s sentencing hearing. I did a few Facebook Live videos to keep people updated on the proceedings. This is a development to take notice of.
In the past, I would call Debbie at the station and tell her – “Connect me live to the air.” And then I would go live on the radio and update people about whatever it was that was happening. This isn’t how we do it now. We simply pull out our cellphones and do a Facebook Live video. A lot of times the breaking news doesn’t even make it to the radio.
By the way, with all of the stuff happening on Tuesday, we had 70,000 Facebook Live video views.
One of the things I forgot to mention was that Tuesday was the funeral of Munster police officer Joe Pachecho, who died at 42 of brain cancer. Verlie and I talked about it on the Tuesday show. It turns out that Pachecho went to grade school with Verlie’s son at Holy Trinity in East Chicago.
Near the end of the Tuesday show, Munster police chief Steve Scheckel and Officer James Ghrist came in the studio on their way to Pachecho’s funeral. That was a tough moment for Scheckel. He held it together with a minimum of tears, but I know the man and he was all broke up inside. It really is an amazing thing to encounter strong men faced with extreme sorrow and then watch them pull through it. If any of the three or four of you haven’t seen the interview, go watch it on Facebook Live. It’s quite powerful and a fitting sendoff to a police officer who set the standard for what it means to be a Region man. RIP officer Pachecho.
While I was bouncing back and forth between the federal courthouse and Alumni Hall at Purdue, another of our crews was out at the funeral of Pachecho. Chief Sheckle and some others had set it up so that the procession of cars would go out of the St. Thomas More parking lot and stop in front of the police station for the final call for officer Joe Pachecho. Scheckel agreed to tape the final call so that I could play it, which I have several times, on the air at WJOB. You should go listen to that.
Anyways, our crew couldn’t be at two places at one time, so we decided to put Sam Michel, Jimmy Mullaney and Debbie Wargo in front of Munster High School, where Pachecho was the school resource officer. Sam Michel basically announced as the kids came out and lined the street in the freezing temperature and said goodbye to officer Pachecho. A lot of people watched this on Facebook Live video. There’s nothing left to say about this.
In the afternoon, I sat through hours of testimony and video about John Buncich. And then it got to be 3:15 in the afternoon. That’s when I was faced with a tough decision. My dad was waiting for me to drive to West Lafayette and watch the Boilermakers take on Wisconsin in men’s basketball. This was a big moment. My dad and I and my brothers and sisters and even, back in the day, my mom have been going to Purdue basketball games since I was born. It’s a ritual, and I haven’t participated in it with my dad for a few years.
For days, my dad had been blowing up my phone with texts and voicemails – “Jimmy, what time are we leaving for the Wisconsin game? You’re going, right?”
“Yes, dad. I’m going.”
Do you see my dilemma? I could either fulfill my duty and provide coverage of the sentencing of our former sheriff… or I could get in the car and go with my dad to West Lafayette.
The game was against Wisconsin, where my daughter went. We have two press passes and two tickets. My dad goes all the time – without me.
During a break in the Buncich proceedings, I stood in the entryway to the federal courthouse trying to decide.
“Walk back in the courtroom or walk out of the building to the Purdue game.” I stood there for several minutes trying to decide. And then it hit me.
“My dad’s 78 years old. How many more chances do we have?”
So I walked the long trek out the back of the monstrous federal courthouse and a couple hours later my dad and I were in a raucous Mackey Arena.
We have press passes, so for a portion of the game I sat under the basket with my Sony mirrorless camera and took some pictures. From that close, you get a pretty good view oand you show up on ESPN sometimes, but after a while your back hurts from sitting on the ground. In the second half, my dad and I sat on press row. That’s where an amazing moment came my way.
I went underneath the stands to take a piss and I noticed 30 white men standing in line for something. Most of these white men looked astonishingly like me – disheveled, balding, a little overweight – but they had a look on their faces that I did not have. They had a look of anticipation.
So I had to walk to the front of their line to see what they were all waiting for. And there it was. A five barrel tapper. Beer. After 56 years of going to basketball games, Purdue finally got beer.
I waited in line with the 30 other white guys, got my Bud Light, and started walking back to press row. And then I remembered – “Shit. No alcohol on press row.” So I went over to the concession stand.
“Hey, do you mind giving me one of those plastic cups over there.”
“Sure.” Since it’s central Indiana and not the Calumet Region of Indiana, they always say yes. People are nicer in Wisconsin and central Indiana than they are in the Calumet Region and the rest of the Chicago area. It’s just how it is.
I walked up the steps to where my dad was sitting on press row, and a magical thing happened. Purdue went on a 14-2 run. Mackey Arena went wild. I was sitting with my dad and I was drinking a beer. It was a moment in which this weird thing known as happiness made an appearance. Maybe you can tell from the picture above.
There’s tons of stuff that’s at least mildly interesting that happened in My Radio Life this week. But you and I have already gutted through 2800 words. Let’s take a break. I’ll try to tell you more later.