It’s been a while since the five of us have discussed the goings on of radio. Maybe we needed a break from each other.
When last we spoke, I was pretty down on radio and the pace of my life in general. Thanks you to those of you who sent along words of encouragement. I don’t why these words matter, but they do.
My cousin Phyllis, perhaps the most hardened person in all of the Calumet Region – outside of my sister Jennifer – joined in on the act. Here’s what cousin Phyllis texted me:
“Hi Cuz. I just read your summer blog and I want you to know that I am glad you are taking some down time. Day after day talking about negative and sad news has to get the best of you.
“Just keep thinking about your beautiful wife and two great daughters that look up to their dad. You have a great family and friends. Need a good laugh, call me. Love, Phyllis.”
To write the last blog post – “The Long, Sad Summer of 2017” - I sat down at the computer in my daughter’s apartment in the Queens section of New York City and started typing. I didn’t care what came out. I just typed it, posted it to the blog, and walked away. I don’t want to go back and read it.
Murder, rape, dogfighting, corruption, traffic fatalities, sexual abuse – you name it. It’s been the summer of all of these. And, yes, I’m still feeling the effects of these things. It’s my job. I understand that. But it’s also my job to put myself in a position as the morning host and owner to be ready to do radio the next day.
Plus, I’m working on a special project that I can’t really talk about. And I want some time to work on this project. I need time with a computer and my own creativeness, if there is such a word, so it is quite welcome the invitation that I got from an old friend who evidently is one of the five of us.
“I am one of the three or four people who read your blog. Sounds like you need to get out of town. Our cabin is open. I got a couple of boats. Come on up.”
As inviting as it sounds to just pack up the car and go to northern Wisconsin and hole up in a cabin for a week, I soldier on in radio, which I love and crave more than I could describe in this blog for the three or four of you.
I soldier on with a life of local radio because it is a beautiful life and it is me. Thanks, John, for the offer. As we discussed, I might take you up on the cabin in October. For now, there is work to do.
5:30am yesterday – I start my radio show. I stand outside the Strack & Van Til studio and talk - “Big Truck. Big Truck.”
6:30am – Hallie Peilet calls in from Sarasota, Florida, where she works for the NBC affiliate. Hallie went to Munster High and then a couple months ago graduated from IU. Hallie updated us about the evacuation of southern Florida.
“Anything you’d like to tell your parents?”
“Yes. Mom and dad, I think I’ll be okay.”
Later in the day, Hallie texts me and producer Ryan Walsh – “My area has been issued a voluntary evacuation so I’ll probably get out of here tomorrow morning. Eye of the storm is headed for Fort Myers, which is about an hour away from us.”
An hour later, Hallie texts me – “It’s a mandatory evacuation for me now.”
6:45am – Edo Sindiicich calls in from Fort Lauderdale.
“I’ve been charging batteries for a couple days now, and I’ve got five cases of water. My mom’s here. We took her out of the nursing home and I’ve got my sister Laura and her husband, Lon, and my niece. We’re going to gut it out together.”
Throughout the day, people in the Region text me about Edo. They’re worried about him. One of the texters is a guy named Eppo. He’s the Puerto Rican guy who is supposed to look and talk like me. Eppo went to gradeshool at Holy Trinity with Edo. Eppo and Edo. Can’t make that up.
Also, Eppo sends me a photo of he and Edo on the seventh grade basketball team. I’ll post it above.
7am – Dave Kusiak comes in and we talk about how the conviction of Lake County Sheriff John Buncich effects things.
“I’m looking for a new place to locate my business, so I’m meeting with a lot of realtors to look at sites. And it’s amazing how many tell me the same thing - that many businesses won’t come to Lake County, Indiana, because they are afraid of the corruption. It follows us everywhere.”
9am – I work out. This is mandatory. Otherwise I look like even more of a fatass on Facebook Live.
11am – WJOB station manager Debbie Wargo and I work on putting together my calendar. It’s a pretty busy calendar for September but, thankfully, not as full as all summer.
1pm – I go to the Munster homecoming parade. My niece, Katie Dedelow, is in the homecoming court. So I do a Facebook Live video, starting with the pom dancers in front, going through the DECA kids in the back of a pickup. I stop and talk to the coach of the girls lacrosse team, Ted Burzynski. My niece, Meghan Dedelow, is in the back of the truck with the other lacrosse players. I notice that she’s wearing a “Grateful Red” tie-dye tee-shirt. That’s a shirt that my daughter Jeanie bought at the University of Wisconsin. Life reinvents itself through hand-me-down tee-shirts.
2pm – I’m back at the studios. I hang on the line with the help desk of American DJ. We’re having trouble getting our COB Cannon Wash lights to work. What it boils down to is that each light has its own IP address and I’m having trouble finding those. The tech walks me through the hookup and next thing you know the Lost Marsh Lighting System is up and running how it should for the first time.
2:30pm – I’m in front of Gavit High School, which is just around the corner from the studio. I’m there to pick up Shamari Walker, who can write code like no one I’ve ever heard of. How ironic is it that to finish developing my app I have to go pick up a kid from high school and take him to Wendy’s?
Shamari and I had been texting throughout the school day about the app. Shamari texts that he can’t get to the studio until about 3:30 unless he notifies the bus that he won’t be taking it and that I come pick him up at 2:30. This will give us an extra hour to work on the code behind the secret.
We pull up at the Wendy’s on 165th and there’s eight cars in line at the drive-thru.
“Forget this. What do you want to eat?” I ask Shamari.
“I’ll text it to you.”
So in the pursuit of developing a new product that could potentially change the way that the three or four of you and everyone else communicates to me, I find myself standing in the line at Wendy’s ordering food for a 16-year-old kid who can make it happen.
Eve waits on me. I read what Shamari has texted me, but Eve has questions.
“Do you want to Jr. hamburger with bacon added. Or do you want the 4 for 4 with a Baconator? Or do you want the four for five with a double patty add bacon with chicken nuggets as a bonus.”
It’s a lot of decisions. So I have to call Shamari for clarification. I’m standing in line at Wendy’s looking a bit like a hurried businessman. I’m still wearing my button-down dress shirt and dress jeans. I of course wear some reasonably expensive shoes. I could, for all intents and purposes, be a BTCT, which I once fooled myself into thinking that I was.
“Shamari,” I bark into the phone. “Is that the four for four or the four for five, and do you want one patties or two. Or do you just want to Jr. cheeseburger without cheese and bacon added. I don’t understand.”
“That’s for Shamari?” Eve the counter woman says.
“Then he wants the four for four. I got it.”
Evidently, Shamari has been to Wendy’s before, although not too many times since he saves every dime that he makes at WJOB for computer stuff. On Thursday, he drove out to the Apple store in Orland Park and picked up a Mac laptop. That’s the one he bought with the money he earned at WJOB. It’s also the one that he asked me to pitch in for.
“Jim, you know that I want to buy an Apple, right?”
“Well, is there any way you could help me cover the last part of the cost? I’m a little short.”
So I reach into my pocket. I was headed to New York to see my daughter for a few days, so I had a few hundred on me. I start counting out fifties.
“No, no. I just need twenty dollars. I have 880 and it costs 900.”
We’re almost there with the app. Radio is dying and you have to try new things.
4:30pm – Shamari has to video produce for the afternoon show with Ron Harlow and Tony Panek, so we have to stop working on the app.
5:30pm – At home. Alexis and I are eating dinner. Shamari calls. He’s left his backpack in my car. He and his dad drive over to pick it up.
“You should be quite proud of Shamari. He really is the man when it comes to code and app development,” I tell his dad.
“We are. He works hard at it.”
7pm – Alexis and I walk to the Munster High football field to catch the halftime festivities in which homecoming queen will be announced. My niece Katie sits in the back of a convertible that Neil McShane had donated for the occasion and has agreed to drive. Katie doesn’t win, but a dozen of the relatives hang around the car and go out on the field and take pictures. It’s a typical Dedelow-Foreit hullaballooo.
8:30pm – Alexis and I start walking home and she gets a call. My daughter Jackie has had her car towed in the south Loop of Chicago. We flag down my brother-in-law Mark and he gives us a ride home. We drive to Chicago in record time, pick up my daughter who is standing at 8th and State Street with a laundry basket full of dirty clothes in her hands.
“Sorry about that,” my daughter says. “I kept paying it all day. I don’t know what happened.”
I know what happened. And it’s been happening for decades. It’s the same thing that happened with a couple of nieces from Indianapolis and South Bend a few weeks ago.
Nicole and Caroline are their names, and they came in from Indiana to go to Lollapallooza. They parked their car in Lincoln Park and stayed with my daughter. After the first night of the show, they walked to their car to get something and the car wasn’t there.
All of the other cars around it were there. None of them were towed. What was the difference between my niece’s car and the cars around it?
You guessed it. Hers had the Indiana license plate. Chicago cops won’t admit this, but they can’t wait to tow Indiana license plates. That’s what happened.
“How about the car in front of you on the street and the one behind?” I asked my daughter last night.
“That’s what’s weird about it, dad. Those cars are still there. Look.” And she pointed to the spot from which she got towed. You guessed it – two Illinois license plates still sitting there.
This isn’t a new phenomena, as I mentioned. I first figured it out 30 years ago. My mom, who was in the last stages of fighting cancer, was in the city for a treatment at Northwestern Hospital. Afterwards, my dad and I took her to the Half Shell restaurant on Diversey. It was below zero, so I parked the rather large four-door station wagon on the street. When we came out after lunch, it was gone. I looked at the house it was in front of and I saw a woman watching us. Then she jerked the curtains back so we couldn’t see her face.
It was, of course, a part of Chicago in which you had to have a sticker in to park in. I figured that since it was so cold that cops wouldn’t come by and tow right away. I was wrong. But my dad pointed something out – “Look, this car that was here before us doesn’t have a sticker and it’s still here. And look at this one – same thing.”
That’s when I figured it out – “It’s our license plate. They fucking hate Indiana people. I hear it in the pits all the time.”
“Jimmy, please don’t use that kind of language,” my mom said. It’s a voice that I haven’t heard in almost 30 years. She died a few months after the towing incident. We ate soft shell crab and fried shrimp at the Half Shell that day.
9:30pm – Alexis, my daughter and I find ourselves driving around the labyrinth known as Lower Wacker in Chicago. The three or four of you who have ever gone underground in this mysterious world might think that there’s only two levels to Wacker – upper and lower – but you would be mistaken. There’s actually a third level way down underneath Columbus Drive. And it’s hard to find.
Since I at one time was not only a Region Rat but also a Chicago rat, we find it. There’s no one else picking up their towed car, so the many clerks push me through in 15 minutes. I do notice one thing, however. You show your ID to a guy in a guard shack, then you fill out a bunch of paperwork with another guy at a window, and then he hands it to a woman at the cashier’s desk. There’s all these people and all of these old-fashined forms and I’m just thinking to myself that somewhere in this process perhaps the city could introduce a computer.
But then again, if they did that, there would be less need for people, less patronage jobs. I start my daughter’s Ford Fusion and drive it out of the lot.
“No problem, Jack. You’ve been up here for four years and haven’t gotten towed. That’s a miracle for an Indiana person.”
10pm – You would think that my radio day would be ending, but you would be wrong. I drive my daughter’s car down the Dan Ryan and the Skyway. I pick up the Toll Road going east and then drive through downtown Gary and onto I-65 south. I drive to south Crown Point and walk into Rosati’s Pizza.
10:47pm - It’s a farewell party for Mike Waisnora, perhaps the best referee ever in the state of Indiana. He’s leaving the refereeing fraternity and moving to a half hour south of Sarasota, which, by the way, is where meteorologists predict could be the center of landfall for Hurricane Irma tomorrow.
Waisnora is several years older than I am. I grew up a couple blocks from him. When I was a kid, I would ride my bike to his house and sit on the sidewalk to watch him and his brother Ron and their buddies play basketball in the driveway. They were gods to me.
WJOB’s own Sam Michel is there. Sam is also a ref. Crown Point mayor Dave Uran, also a ref, is there, as is ref Mike Pastrick, Larry Samano, Andy Simpson, Ziggie Waisnora and more refs. I promise to play golf with Simpson at Innsbrook soon. The Waisnoras are at the center of this big room telling stories. And they’re going around the room looking for comments from others. Mike Waisnora points me out as the WJOB guy and I, too, tell a story.
It’s about how Waisnora and I would talk during a game that he was reffing and I was announcing. I would sit at center court doing my talking, and Waisnora would run up and down the court doing his reffing … and the whole time we were both doing our jobs, we would be holding a conversation.
“Where we going after the game?”
“I don’t know. How about Quarterback Club?”
“Fine with me.”
The coaches from each team would just shrug their shoulders like – “what the hell’s going on?”
At halftime, Waisnora would walk over and say something like – “You see what that stupid mother-f---er Wilson did?” And the swear word might slip through the background fan noise and onto the air. It was great times. I will miss Mike Waisnora running up and down the basketball courts of Indiana.
Midnight – I arrive home. Alexis is sleeping and so is my daughter. I start watching the news coverage of Hurricane Irma.
4am today – I wake up on the couch. After a couple hours of hurricane coverage, I write another 3,000 words about my life in local radio. Let’s do it again soon.