You know what? I could write a thousand poems and I’m pretty sure that outside of the Calumet Region, no one’s gonna know my name. Let’s cough up a radio poem right now.
You guys laugh
when I say
on the air that
you rescued me.
But thanks anyway.
I have an issue
and sexy women.
So I got with a hot
Mexican chick who
won’t take my shit.
And neither should you.
I married a bartender
And I gave her
She can do whatever
she wants with it.
As long as she lets me
drink my beer and
There is a certain safety in the cloak of anonymity. Take this blog. You and I and a couple of others get together every so often and we talk about me with a slant toward what it’s like to live a life of local radio. There’s only three or four of us who participate, so we can operate relatively freely. I tell you radio secrets. You read my stuff on your phone or your computer in bed. You fall asleep. I stay up half the night worrying about radio.
It’s a beautiful relationship. Just like radio is good and pure and beautiful, especially under the cloak of anonymity.
Take my app. It’s called HeyJED. It took forever to develop it. I’ve been trying to find a way for the three or four of you and a few others to click, talk to me, and then listen to what you said. I want it seamless and easy and to be part of the social media equation. I got lucky last year at a Gavit football game when I met Shamari Walker, the software wunderkind from south Hammond. It took Shamari and I months to do it, but we came up with this simple app in which you can, as our marketing slogan says,
Think it, Say it, Hear it.
“It” being your everyday moments or a promotion for your charity event or a score from your kid’s game. Whatever it is, you can now, instead of going right to Facebook or Twitter to give away your content, give it to WJOB. Eventually, within a few minutes of you thinking it, saying it… you’ll be able to hear it any time of any day on WJOB. For now, if you think it and say it, you can hear it on my morning show. Less than a dozen people have sent us HeyJED messages. That allows me to exist under the cloak of anonymity.
Did I ever tell you about JEDgolf? I think I did a little bit. There’s all of these golf courses around the country, and many of them are in cold weather places like northwest Indiana. During the winter or even when it’s just below, say, 50 degrees, these golf courses are empty. How can we make use of the land without tearing up the golf courses?
The answer is, of course, JEDgolf. It’s when you combine running or hiking with golf or something like it. I’ve been doing it for well more than 20 years.
As a matter of fact, with JEDgolf, I’m not altogether unlike the early surfers at Half Moon Bay. What?
As a student at Berkeley and a boxer, I met a guy who lived in Woodside, California. You couldn’t tell by his clothes and his partying, but he was evidently quite rich. One day after a boxing meet he asked me to go with him down to his parents’ house. They were out of town and he had to do something with one of the horses.
We started the journey, as almost all journeys started back then, by drinking a few beers Kip’s, a bar on the second floor above Telegraph Avenue. After getting sufficiently lubricated, we stopped at Gerlach’s liquors on Dwight Way and bought a case of beer. Then we started driving across the bay heading south on 101 toward Woodside.
I know what the three or four of you are thinking – if it was in boxing season, then why were the two of you drinking beer? Didn’t you have to make weight?
No. The guy – I think his name was Dan Shernholz or something like that – and I both actually needed to gain weight. I weighed in at 133 and boxed at 139 and he was the same thing in his weight class. He weighed like 160 and boxed 165.
Why wouldn’t I just lose a pound and box at 132? Good question. But there’s a good answer. There was a guy named Garret something who was the reigning national champion at 132. So I was shit out of luck in more ways than one. Not only could I not box at my normal weight, I also got the shit kicked out of me regularly during sparring practice. I have quick feet and a strong right hand. That’s all that I have.
Garrett something or other had
If ever I walk into a room and can’t remember why, I think of boxing for Cal. Not high school football or trading in a pit. Not even in actual bouts. It was at sparring practice. There was Garret something or other, and a Chinese guy, and, yes, this Mexican chick. I mostly sparred with them. And all three regularly hit me in the face hard.
Anyways, on the drive down to Woodside, Dan something or other stopped the car suddently – “Wait. You gotta see Half Moon Bay. It’s awesome.”
He pulled over on a cliff above this beautiful, symmetrical bay. All around it are rocky cliffs and in the middle of the bay were these monstrous waves.
“Look. There he is – “ And Dan something pointed to the middle of this huge bay. The only thing that I could see was waves the size of buildings and huge whitecaps. And it felt cold at Half Moon Bay, way cooler than up in Berkeley.
“There who is?”
“Jeff Clark. He’s out there surfing. Right now. Look.”
It wasn’t that easy looking through a slight fog on the land and a slight fog in my head from a dozen beers or so, but there he was. Jeff Clark.
“How does he even stay alive out there?” I asked.
“He does, And he’s the only one who surfs Half Moon Bay. All of the other big wave surfers are too scared.”
That was my first exposure to the wonders of the cloak of anonymity. I could see Jeff Clark stand up on a surfboard, ride through a wave, lose sight of him for what seemed like forever, and then watch him emerge still standing on his board. It was beautiful. It was 1983. I’ll tell you more about it later. My sister Jennifer just called –
“Where are you?”
“I’m at home.”
“Can you go pick up Jack and his friend Evan and their friend Zach from school and take them for something to eat and then bring them home.”
“Sure,” I said.
“Oh forget it. I could probably get them and get home in time to take Annie for her driver’s permit.”
“Jenny, I said that I would do it.”
“Oh, don’t worry…”
This is a tango that my sister, who lives a few blocks away, and I do. She’ll ask me to do something and then she’ll say “forget it.” I know my role. I persist until she lets me pick up her kids and take them somewhere. I’ll talk to you in a bit.
….. So I picked them up and waited around my sister’s house until one of the daughters got home. Jack and his two buddies were on the roof shooting some sort of pellet gun. I didn’t say anything, but I didn’t stand outside, either.
“Oh my god,” my niece Maddy said as she pulled up. “They’re up there shooting that damn pellet gun.”
“Oh, I didn’t notice.”
What I did was sit in the garage reading my phone. I was reading Wikipedia about Jeff Clark. Here it is:
Clark paddled out at Maverick's at the age of 17, leaving behind his high school friend who declined the adventure and instead told Clark he would "call the Coast Guard and tell them where I last saw you." Clark surfed Maverick's alone for the next 15 years before he could get others to surf it with him (although several would paddle out, none would take on the massive waves)
The secret of the cloak of anonymity is in this paragraph –
Clark surfed Maverick’s alone for the next 15 years before he could get others to surf it with him.
Think about it. Jeff Clark paddled out to the middle of Half Moon Bay by himself. He endured blistering cold, massive waves, tons of rocks… but the biggest, most satisfying waves in America. He would surf in anonymity for 15 years.
I probably would have never thought about Jeff Clark for the rest of my life had it not been for a documentary I ran across one night when I couldn’t sleep. I can’t remember the name of it and I’m too lazy to look right now, but it was about Maverick’s and the daring of Jeff Clark. He surfed Maverick’s for 15 years before anybody knew his name, except for Dan from Woodside and a few other locals.
This is something that has stuck with me. I saw Jeff Clark surfing Half Moon Bay at about the halfway point of his time surfing in the cloak of anonymity. It wasn’t until 2002 or so that I saw the documentary about him. It was then, in 2002, that I realized that I had been presented by whatever spirits there are in this world with a gift, a lesson…
That you can surf in the cloak of anonymity. It doesn’t matter if people follow you or not.
I suspect that at this point that I’ve lost at least one of the three or four of you. I meander. I tell stories that go far afield from the topic at hand. Guilty as charged. If you’re still with me, congratulations to you.
So I’ve mentioned a few of the cloaks of anonymity that I wear these days.
Wanna hear some more? How about “reverse broadcasting?’
That’s what we do at WJOB now. We broadcast almost all of our stuff first to Facebook Live in video, and then we backchannel it to radio on WJOB AM 1230 and 104.7 FM. That’s the best way to do radio these days. It’s resulted in a burst of advertisers under PMS (the Passive Marketing System) and it’s resulted in nearly 3,000,000 views.
The issue is that although a lot more people know who I am from watching the videos (there really was a complete cloak of anonymity when I just did radio when no one knew what I looked like)… but, still, our reverse broadcasting hasn’t taken hold as a business. We’re not a competitor to Comcast or The Times. We’re a sideshow for a heritage local radio station. We haven’t hit it big around here yet. We haven’t established a local commercial TV network for northwest Indiana (there are none here. We get everything from Chicago). And we haven’t started to sell ads on our videos. We might have increased exposure for all of our hosts and interns and students and such, but in terms of business, we still operate under a cloak of anonymity.
There’s more. How about the type of radio that we do? We do old-time radio in a high-tech package.
I go on the air in the morning and I talk about the traffic on the Borman and the score from last night’s girls high school basketball games. Callers complain about the corruption in Lake County and guests come in to promote their charity events. Once in a while we hold a fundraiser for a charity, or at least attend them.
Today, I had on Purdue Northwest athletic director and Athletic Director Emeritus John Friend. They were on to promote “Kid’s Day” at the PNW men’s and women’s basketball games on Saturday. I’ll be there also to announce the men’s game. We also promoted the grade point average of all of the student-athletes at PNW. It’s really high. Never mind that the men’s basketball team is 0-4 on the season and that the women’s soccer team didn’t win a match.
Before that, Andy Qunell came on and we talked about prostate cancer. Andy, who is the head of the Munster Republicans, has a good friend who died of cancer. Every November, he grows a beard and raises money for prostate cancer research. I donate my 100 bucks and have him on the radio. I don’t grow a beard, though. I just let a doctor stick his finger up my ass every year. That should be enough.
Yesterday, Mark Mybeck came on and promoted his concert this weekend in downtown Hammond. It costs five bucks to get in, but you gotta also bring at least one non-perishable item.
“Five bucks and a can of corn,” Mybeck said. “That’s all it costs you to see some great music, eat some good Mexican faire, and raise money for the food bank of Northwest Indiana.”
Of course, in between promoting charities, we do stuff like talk about Matt Lauer getting fired from NBC. That prompted a ton of phone calls yesterday, when the news came out during my show, and today, when women and men both had something to say about sexual harassment in the workplace. I will say this. I am a little surprised at how many women called in and weren’t altogether supported of the many women coming forward to tell about the predators in their lives.
“They all want their 15 minutes of fame,” one woman said yesterday.
“They wear makeup, don’t they?” another said today. The more that you think we’re advancing in terms of allowing women to feel safe in the workplace, the more that you have to think twice about. Touching, showing, texting and groping. Those are the no-nos… under any circumstance.
On Friday night, we’ll broadcast a high school basketball game. During the week, 27 different groups from the school city of East Chicago to Vyto’s Pharmacy buy time on our station. We are the quintessential local radio station. I am quite proud of that and probably the three or four of you are, too.
But we don’t take sides, at least not most of the time. That might be what sets us apart from media in general. We do it the old-fashioned way. We let people talk. And they do talk, from both sides of the aisle, and because of this, we are a link to the past and a harbinger of what’s gonna happen in the future.
Eventually, in my mind, traditional radio like we do it will return to favor. It’s not now. Drive around America and turn on your radio. There’s agendas. And in some places, only agendas. One day, radio will return to radio… and that means not having an agenda.
That’s a lot of stuff to be doing without being noticed outside of the Calumet Region. And I’m okay with that because Jeff Clark was okay with that. He taught me something that day on the cliffs of Half Moon Bay… but I didn’t realize it for 20 years.
This brings me to a possible reason why I just wrote 2700 words for the three or four of you. I’m stalling. I'm wasting time because I have to ask myself – do I want to create under the cloak of anonymity, perhaps for the rest of my life? Or do I want to step out? This will all make sense someday, I promise.