In the Wendy’s drive-thru, I asked for a Sassafras frosty and what would happen if I walked into the women’s bathroom.
I don’t get drunk very often. I can drink beer until the cows come home. But throw a couple bottles of red wine in the mix and I’m toast.
On Sunday, Alexis and I walked around the Griffith Blues fest. A law enforcement official game me a wrist band for complimentary refreshments. I didn’t feel like it much. I really just wanted a greasy pizza and to barf in a bag and then.
Instead, I did the right thing. I drank a couple beers with the Budweiser distributor and talked to the lead guitarist from a blues band. She’s a woman. There’s not a lot of bands that have women as their lead guitarist. The rhythm guitar guy grew up in Beverley. We talked about going to Chicagofest back in the day. He was at the same concerts I was at.
I made that last one up. Ralph Ellison wrote “The Invisible Man,” which I haven’t read in a long time. I haven’t really read too many books lately. I’ve got shelves full of what you might call “classics” down in the basement. In years gone by, every couple weeks I would go downstairs and pick up “Lord Jim” or “Winesburg, Ohio” or “Sister Carrie” and read them.
“Don’t you ever read anything new?” my wife of almost three decades would ask me.
“Why should I? This is good enough.”
I’ve probably read Winesburg a dozen times. I just can’t figure it out. That must be what it is. I mean – what happens to the young kid? Does he really wind up leaving Ohio and writing a masterpiece, poor and broken, in a boarding house on the south side of Chicago? We’ll never know.
Now I’m reading Vonnegut. It doesn’t matter which Vonnegut it is. It’s all the same. It’s all just a semi-alcoholic making wisecracks at a cocktail party before the company Christmas party. He’s the wiry-haired guy smoking also. That’s all his books are. A guy wisecracking near an endtable.
I’d like to tell you more about what I’m doing with My Radio Life. But to do that, I would have to have an idea of where I’m going and where I’m headed. And for both of these things, I do not. What I do know is that life is a mystery and the whole world values success and not greatness. I didn’t think of that. I just saw it in a movie. It’s called “Elizabethtown.” It stars Orlando Bloom and Kirsten Dunst. By the way, where the hell has Orlando Bloom been lately.
It’s the middle of the summer and I’m supposed to:
- start a TV station
- finish my app
- start up a marketing department
Instead, I went golfing with my buddies on Friday and wound up sitting at a bar. It was Billy Baker, Jeff Von Almen and Dennis Wood. We golfed together because Von Almen was in town for a couple days from Steamboat Springs, Colorado. As I mentioned before, it was hotter than Dante’s underpants on this course in Chesterton, Indiana.
Afterwards, Von Almen started needling me about something. I don’t remember what it was, but he kept ripping on me. This is what my high school friends and I do to each other. We rip on each other. It can get kind of brutal.
Jeff Von Almen and I have a rather long past together. Von Almen, you see, got me interested in the Chicago Board of Trade. I was working, quite uncontentedly, at a public relations firm on Wacker called, uncreatively, Public Communications Inc. Every once in a while, I’d run into Von Almen on the streets of Chicago.
“You gotta come down to the Board of Trade. It’s crazy. Jimmy. You’d love it.”
Truer words were never spoken. I loved every f---ing minute of the 18 years that I spent trading at the Chicago Board of Trade. I loved the drinking and the gambling and the carousing and the trading. Mostly I loved the trading. I loved it so much that it became like heroin to me. It didn’t matter after a while if I made or lost money. Just as long I had action I was happy.
This non-traditional approach to investing leads, every time, losing all your money. I did this twice. After one of these, my wife had to load the kids up on a wagon and walk to the local Laundromat. I can’t remember if we had to sell our washer and dryer or if we never had one. Either way, my poor financial decisions led to my kids having a lot of fun riding on top of dirty clothes in Griffith, Indiana.
So my buddy Billy Baker came to my defense as Jeff Von Almen ripped on me about something or another.
“Geez, Jeff. You never see him. Why you gotta f--- with him so much.”
Von Almen ran his fingers through his hair. No, that’s not accurate. He tried to run his fingers through his hair. But it doesn’t work. His hair is similar to the hair that you find on mannequins. It’s plastered in place. If you’re a blog reader of a certain age, then you’ll remember a guy named George Hamilton. He was a comic in the 1970s who sometimes hosted for Johnny Carson on “The Tonight Show.” George Hamilton had a perpetual deep, dark tan and mannequin hair. So does Jeff Von Almen.
“Are you kidding me, Baker. Nobody. I mean NOBODY f---s with people more than him.” Jeff said. He pointed at me. I sat there on the barstool sipping my Corona Lite. Innocent. Almost coquettish.
“I would be down a ton of money – hundreds of thousands of dollars in a day – and Dedelow would keep walking up to me ‘Hey, Jeff. How’s it going? How you doin’ today?’ And he wouldn’t stop.”
This is true. But, to be clear, so would Von Almen do the same to me when I was down big… although perhaps not to the extent that I might do it to him. Still, it was a two-way street. Don’t ever walk into a trading pit if you are weak or tired or hurting or dumb. You won’t last.
“And, to top it off, he had half the Board of Trade calling me ‘George Hamilton.’”
This part is also true. In a rather heated pit exchange with Mr. Von Almen, instead of just telling him to “f--- off,” I threw up my hands and said.
“OK, you win, George Hamilton.”
This drew laughter from the pit neer-do-wells. They looked at Jeff. They looked at me. And, yes, Jeff Von Almen looks like George Hamilton. Tanned, stiff hair, bushy eyebrows, and a smirk.
“Half the god---ed Board of Trade called me ‘George Hamilton,’” Von Almen said.
All in all, it was good to see my high school buddies, if for no other reason than I really do enjoy making fun of people with complete abandon.
…. At the Cubs game, the beer vendor sells vinyl on the side and the two women in front of us from Michigan sell cutlery.
“So ladies, are you happy with your cutlery?” the one asked. It was such a random question. I don’t know what to say to that other than that it’s been going pretty well lately cutting up pineapples and opening bacon packages.
At a Cubs game when it’s that hot, anything can happen. One of the things that happened was that the Cubs had 18 hits by the fifth inning. Almost all of them were singles. At one point, five hitters in a row got singles. That’s kind of exciting and it’s also kind of like sitting in the back of church with your whining kid waiting for mass to end.
It was, however, as most trips to Wrigley Field are, quite memorable. There’s an energy at a Cubs game when it’s 110 on the field. And it’s a good energy. It makes you drink copious Bud Lights and it makes you want to eat peanuts until you can’t whistle.
Ultimately, I have doubts these days. You know how I told the three or four of you that I’m starting up a TV station and that you have to keep your mouths shut about it?
Well, I am starting up a TV station. I haven’t really talked to one person who thinks that it’ll work. A few people have said politely – “Wow. That sounds like a good idea.” But they don’t really mean it. At least my wife has been quite direct in her reaction.
“Just don’t lose all our money like you did twice at the Board of Trade and almost when we bought that newspaper.”
Okay, honey. You’re sleeping soundly just a few feet from where I’m propped up against the wall in the spare bedroom. You play me like a fiddle that wants to be played like a fiddle. You understand me. But I want to wake up so that I can say something to you.
And I have completely forgotten what that is.
Today, the three marketeers and I –along with Will Haczle and Jimmy Mullaney – worked on putting together a TV station. I gotta be straight with the three or four of you. These young people are working their asses off with me on this TV station thing, but I still don’t know whether they believe or not. It’s not an easy idea to understand.
What? You’re creating a TV station that is going to stream to a website that you create? Who the hell’s gonna watch that?
We have been presenting to a few people in the community, We presented to a bank, an executive with the local chamber of commerce, a marketing professor, a fireworks legend and a few other people. It’s my own validation of the idea. That’s what the venture capital books say you’re supposed to do.
Validate your idea. Talk to potential customers. See what they have to say.
All I’m getting out of it, however, is doubt. I rarely have doubt, just like I rarely get headaches. This brings me to the realization that I should really only do so much market validation. At some point, I’ve gotta put my big boy pants on and just build the thing, whether Alexis winds up wheeling our clothes to the Laundromat or not.
Speaking of which, we just got a new dryer. The old one just up and died in the same month that the refrigerator bugged out. And the microwave. We bought all of the appliances at about the same time ten years ago.
“That’s actually pretty good that they lasted that long,” Dave Rumas of Rainbow Appliance told me on the phone. I called him to ask – “what the hell? How can all of these appliances die at the same time?”
“Seven to 10 years. That’s all they’re supposed to last,” Dave said. “And these days it’s closer to seven.”
What a drag. Doesn’t anything last anymore?
I’ll tell you what does last. The spirit of WJOB lasts. It is good and pure and beautiful and it’s been around from 94 years. I believe with all my heart that I can extend that spirit from radio to TV and that I can do it in a big way. Just watch, mutherf----er. Just watch.