I will no longer commune and connect with my people every day from 9 to 1. That sucks.
I love being a part of your day. The spontaneity and precariousness of live, interactive radio is unmatched, as is the genuine magic that occurs when a show gets rolling.
Our show was rolling. Spiegel and Parkins had come so far in terms of our chemistry, and you knew it. The quality of the conversation, the unpredictability of every segment, the musicality (or honest lack thereof) in our song parodies, the evolution of ideas, the inclusion of the whole crew with Jay and Rick; the momentum was palpable to everyone. Well, almost everyone.
Also, as you’ve probably read by now, the ratings numbers had steadily climbed and by now were very, very good. That was not the issue. My contract or salary was not the issue. As far as I know, societal conversations and other non-sports content was not the issue.
The issue is that each radio host is not beloved by everyone, and a new boss gets to do what he wants. This has played out in our industry, and others, for decades. Because I’m me, I’m reminded of so many rock bands who sign a record deal with a passionate A & R man, only to be hung out to dry when that record label goes through management changes. I feel a little (just a little) like Wilco when Reprise Records said they didn’t want to put out Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. The band found a way to get the music out, but it was awkward and tumultuous. It’s the content creator’s lot in life to carry on.
So It Goes, as Vonnegut wrote. In that sense it’s been pretty easy to not take the move personally.
But please know that I miss you. We had a hell of a 9 year run.
We is not me and Danny Mac, or me an Jason Goff, or me and Patrick Mannelly, or me and Danny Parkins. It is not me and the 30 or so different co-hosts that have joined from 9 to 1 at some point.
We is me and you. The connection we’ve had is the absolute goods, and I deeply appreciate it. I thank you for hearing me, for yelling to or at me, and most of all for furthering conversations with me. You’ve made my best thoughts funnier and more fleshed out. You’ve withstood my worst thoughts, and let me find good ones again. You’ve shared life experience that helped conversations synthesize and be enriched deeper than I could have imagined.
I’ve always thought of you as one big collective, theoretically comprised of every slice of Chicagoan imaginable. It took a couple years, frankly, to accept that amidst that collective were some that deeply loathed me. Local radio is unique in that way. We are often chosen by listeners with the direct expectation of supplying a target for derision and/or rage. As long as you listen, it counts. This can lead to some really bad programming choices by certain hosts, who go for the easy denominator of being provocative instead of genuine. If you’re not careful, you can lose yourself and become a contrarian by convenience, ready to inhabit a debate role that virtually anyone could play.
Thankfully, I realized this danger, and have worked to avoid it. I didn’t succeed all the time, but please know I tried to remove as much of the filter between my head, heart and microphone as possible. I’ve been me, for better or for worse. Sometimes my sensitivity would show through, but I lived with that because it sure felt better than being a fake tough guy. Anyway, if you feel like you know me, you do.
Onward! I’ll be on the station, filling in on various shows as needed. I’ll resume writing baseball columns for The Score. I’ll be launching the podcast idea of my dreams, through the station’s website. This idea has been percolating a long time…if I can pull it off, it will fuse my worlds together as they’ve been destined to be. And, I’ll obviously still be playing and singing around town with Tributosaurus.
I want to thank each and every one of you who have reached out to wish me well, or remind me of moments that meant something to you. It’s been amazing; kind of like a living wake. I’ve joked that both me and Jason Goff have had that “noble martyr” thing going, like when Conan O’Brien got displaced on The Tonight Show by an entitled, waffling dinosaur in Jay Leno.
But that imagined martyr role doesn’t last, or carry any real heft. I have to create content, and keep the connections with you active. I’m on it. Hell, Conan’s been pretty damn funny since then. Content is king.
You’ll hear or see or read me soon. Thank you for allowing me to be part of your life.
Good vibes babe, (staying on brand)
Merry Christmas, 2017, everyone. Engaged, here. Very happy. It helps me to write about big stuff, process it, and then I always end up figuring I might as well post it.
Love is best when shared.
Last Monday night, Rubin asked why I packed up and moved his monster truck and racetrack set.
“I didn’t Ru. Christine cleaned your room up…isn’t that nice?”
“Daddy, she isn’t allowed to touch my toys! You and mommy can touch my toys without asking, but only people from our houses are allowed to do it.”
“Rubin, what if Christine and I got married. Could she touch your toys then?”
“Mmmm…let me think about it.”
There were 10 seconds of thoughtful contemplating, with fingers on his chin, all of this while fully naked sitting on the potty.
“Daddy, yes…if you and Christine get married, she can touch my toys. But if you ever get unmarried like you did with mommy, then she can’t, okay?
“Okay Ru, that’s fair. I promise we won’t get unmarried.”
It’s not just about me anymore. Any life partner I might pick better be good as hell to that boy, and understand the priority list. His safety, happiness, health, and maturation atmosphere comes first. Before me. Before her. He is the cooperative King of this realm, learning how to live with supreme confidence while fitting into the world, hopefully learning utmost empathy for as many people as possible.
It’s going well so far, as he finishes up his 5th year. I genuinely like him. Passionate, he enjoys life. John Fournier, a musical and creative soul I admire, has watched as his daughter babysits Ru for a few different nights.
“That kid, man…he loves everything! Wanna build a puzzle? YES. Wanna watch a show? YES, LET’S DO IT.” John says that’s rare. Says that Ru is a little version of me in that way.
I know John meant it in the reverse, but the truth is that I am flattered by being compared to Rubin.
Christine is a jewel of a woman. Deeply kind, always striving to be the best version of herself, and working to remain as positive as possible each and every day. She believes in putting goodness into the world, and trusting that it comes back to you. She believes in God, she was raised a Catholic, and generally has faith in both a benevolent higher power, and the possibilities for humanity. We can be good. Love can triumph. It must. Her spirituality dovetails so perfectly with my hippie side. I didn’t see it coming.
Rubin is going to be blessed with an amazing stepmother. And we will both be blessed with Christine’s two college-age daughters in our lives. I will be an instant stepfather, with so much to learn. The relationships I could have with them are a huge opportunity; how good and strong a man can I be, while also respecting their individuality and growth?
I have thought and lived with her for 7 months. I have learned the value of her spirit in my life, how we genuinely make each other better. We have grown to communicate better than I thought imaginable; this is easily the best relationship I’ve ever been in. Not even close.
I was given a 6 month deadline when she moved in.
“At this age, we should know.”
I get it. But a man can’t truly own his destiny on deadline.
I successfully retook the power of the wedding proposal time frame at the 6 month mark. I needed this to feel like my choice, needed to make sure that by the moment I committed and did this, I was free of any possible regret, concern, or trepidation. Given my lifelong struggle with conflicted emotions, this was perhaps an unrealistic aspiration. But I got there.
I got there because I am in the best therapeutic health of my life. I am in touch with my aggression, and mobilize it whenever possible. I am careful to be quiet and look for my center, my own moral compass, and try to base decisions on what I truly want and need. I am conscious of a lifelong desire to appease others that has been beneficial in terms of getting along with people, but detrimental in terms of holding on to unspoken resentment. I let things out these days, more than ever before.
A wedding proposal is a rare opportunity for a man. It’s a chance to define his sense of romanticism, to express himself aesthetically, creatively, symbolically. I wanted our moment to be memorable, emotional, and unique.
Hanukkah, Christmas, New Years’ Eve, and her birthday all loomed as possible dates to work with. Also present, though, was her need for the clarity of our engagement as she lived through those holidays. The endless questions about her future and our timeline from friends and family have been stressful. I did want to alleviate those soon, and had visions of her enjoying said holidays with relief, pride, and a shiny ring.
So the plan was hatched, for a Wednesday night at 7 pm. I told her there was a show in a tent downtown in Grant Park, a seasonal show I’d heard great things about. We would have to be outside for about 10 minutes, so we needed to dress warmly. No googling! Was she game? Of course she was.
As she fell asleep on the couch at 6 pm, she looked at me hopefully and asked if we HAD to go out. Yes, baby we do. I promise it will be worth it. I made up some more bullshit about the show. This was a lot of lying, and I am NOT good at lying to this woman. That’s one of the best things about us.
Our ride came, we got in it and headed downtown.
“The city looks beautiful!,” she said. “I love that we’re here, I love that this is my home.”
“I know, baby. Remember when we rode bikes, on our 2nd date I think? We went to Buckingham Fountain, and you got emotional.”
“Yes…my dad used to take me there.”
She moved out of the city with husband and daughters for sensible suburban reasons, but now I offered her a life downtown; a surprising 2nd opportunity to live the way she’d always wanted to.
The driver dropped us off right in front of the fountain. It was 7:05 pm, about 35 degrees, clear and cold with absolutely no one in sight. We walked towards the patch of park where I pretended a seasonal tent circus show of some kind might be. I feigned confusion, and we turned around to walk back towards the fountain.
In the distance, a man walked towards us. As he got closer, Christine noticed he had an accordion on. “Oh great,” she says she thought, “he’s gonna want to play a song for us and ask for money. There’s no one out here…this guy isn’t making any cash tonight.”
It would indeed be a weird night to be the wandering accordion guy saying “can I play something for you and your beautiful companion?”
As he approached, he began to play the intro to “Knocks Me Off My Feet” by Stevie Wonder. Christine had never heard this song when we started dating, and she adores it. As he hit the groove, I started to sing.
“I see us in the park…strolling the summer days of imaginings in my head….”
I take out and open a ring box.
“Baby!!!!” She screams. She cries. She covers her face with one gloved hand. I keep singing.
The accordionist is my friend Scott Stevenson, a man I’ve known an intermittent band mate for 23 years. He has perfectly disguised and nailed his role in my romantic gesture, as I knew he would.
We do the whole tune, modulation and all, with Scott singing the backup “I love you, I love you, I l-o-o-ove you.” She cries the whole way through, even as I film the entire 2nd verse. We slightly botch the modulation, and Scott slightly butchers the bass riff mid-choruses, but the totality of it is perfect.
Side note; I am fortunate to have been a musician for so many reasons. But one of them is that the list of people I could have called to accompany this moment is vast. They include perhaps 4 or 5 musicians who I feel as if I know deeply, trust soulfully, and would be perfectly comfortable existing in this memory for ever and ever. We have been fortunate to connect with each other on earnest, delicate levels that allow for bonds like this. I love that Scott is part of this image for the rest of our lives.
She says yes, we are engaged. We have the following day off of work, by sneaky design, to bask in the glow of the moment. It is best to pause the chaos of daily life right here, to share the news with who and how we see fit, at our pace. To live in the happiest of moments, unencumbered for a day. Thursday was wonderful.
As I expect the rest of our lives to be.
He was my first son.
There was a Lhasa Apso named Chrissy, a bat mitzvah gift to sister Adrienne who ended up mostly under my care all through high school. And I loved that little furball thing.
Bu this isn’t about her.
This is about Maceo Floyd Bringle Spiegel, an Anti-Cruelty Foundation rescue who is going to sleep for good tomorrow at the age of 14.
He is now a very sweet, good hearted, deeply pained, elderly beast. He enjoys, by my watchful estimate, about 10-15% of his life. That’s not enough. I’m choosing to let him go with his dignity mostly intact. He looked pathetic in diapers, and doesn’t deserve years of continued incontinence. His back half has lost massive amounts of muscle and strength in the last 2 years. He can barely stand, and falls on himself in the act of all sorts of things. He is often seemingly confused, and experiencing some level of discomfort. He can’t hear well at all, and is losing his sight. He does not enjoy the toddler’s evolving full run of the place, and scares us with growing aggression towards him.
We’ve tried innumerable medications and vitamins.
He just ate most of the good meat off a bone-in rib eye mixed in with his dog food and pain pills. In an hour or so, I’m gonna give him the bone itself. It’s a hell of a last meal, and he isn’t complaining.
At Anti-Cruelty on LaSalle, there were lots of dogs. He was scrawny and thin, ribs showing, with “Buster” written on his cage. We scratched his head through the bars; he turned and offered us his side. We scratched that; he offered his butt. He knew what he wanted. I like clear communication. Home he came.
Maceo Parker’s badass name deserved some destination. Wasn’t going to foist it on a child, so on to the little brown dog it went. But there were lots of other names. Little Mellow Caramel Fellow. Franklin Delano Doggevelt.
He was a feisty, hungry, teeth-gnashing animal. “That dog needs a sammich,” said my co-producer Matt Fishman. He came to lots of radio shows. I hosted sports talk on The Score and on Sporting News Radio with him at my feet. I DJ’ed overnights on WXRT with him under the console. Maceo once took a nervous enormous crap in studio C while I worked in another room. He scared interns, producers, and others on the next shift. I always thought he was more tame than he was, and treated him as such; willful, wishful delusion. I wanted a mild companion dog.
He would grow into that.
He was emotionally complex. He would let you pet him, and growl as you did. He’d show his teeth as he wagged his tail. Eventually, he’d back down…but you had to earn it.
He had no idea how to play with other dogs, or other people, until he was 6 or 7. He needed California for that. Maybe it was the weed. Or the sun. Or the gorgeous terrain and trails to explore. That dog loved the west.
He started to wag, and not to growl. We hiked. Man, did we hike. Laurel Canyon, Griffith Park, Pasadena hills, waterfalls, Malibu Canyon, and more. He appreciated the chance to frolic so much that it made me like it more. That’s how it’s supposed to work, right?
He smiled a lot. That mouth spread wide, cheeks somehow pointed up, giant tongue hanging. I know a grin when I see it.
Maceo drove east to the homestead from Chicago.
He saw the house where all Spiegels grew up in New Jersey, and played in the back yard with brother Bobby’s dog Oakley. Maceo played too aggressively and drew blood. Bobby was kind as I was embarrassed.
Maceo flew on a plane west, and started a new life.
He lounged and ran in the majestic Laurel Canyon dog park, where dozens of hounds ran freely at a time. Dog walkers would bring batches of 7 or 8 and let them mix in, roaming the multiple levels and hillside ridges.
He got infested with biting red ants in Albuquerque, and took a pathetic but effective bath in a Motel 6.
He once got skunked in Gilson Park. Took him home and gave him a tomato soup bath, as the legend said to do. Just smelled like skunk parmigiana. Took weeks to wear off.
That dog saw a lot of good video games being played. He helped players commiserate after plenty of unfortunate Tecmo football twists.
He almost learned to swim. He almost learned to play catch perfectly. He liked to try.
He just fully devoured the rib eye bone. It’s gone. No shards, no remnants. Gone. He’s a wild animal, that mankind has vaguely trained and allowed to roam the same rooms as us. It’s kind of a crazy plan.
There’s more bones left from our dinner steak. He’ll get them.
I’ll miss him throwing his weight against me as he demands/asks to be petted.
I’ll miss his horrendous breath.
I’ll miss helping him celebrate his dinner by rubbing his face and neck with a blanket as he burrows into it.
I’ll miss seeing the “mood ridge” on his back become more pronounced when he gets his dander up.
I’ll miss seeing him wag happily at the sight and smell of another pooch up close, finally having mellowed into the sweet man I always knew was in there.
I’ll miss my buddy, my compatriot.
I think he’s had a very good life.
I’m glad it was with me.
It was a long, high maintenance night. My sweet, pained old dog rewarded steak bone kindness with the worst bout of incessant diarrhea you can conceive of. Endless kneel downs with paper towels and floor cleaner, as he went back to his place to pant and feel guilty.
Rinse, and repeat.
One last reminder of his frailty.
When we went to the vet to do the deed, Dr. Ojala was incredibly kind. She respects these beasts…knows them better than most, and feeds off of the pet owners she knows share her love for them. She had been wonderful for Maceo and for us…extending his life in as much comfort as possible, for 2 years or more.
But it was time.
He panted on the way in…knowing that this was a place where things were done to him. In his feisty youth, he had to be muzzled; held aggressively by 3 or 4 people so he could be cared for properly.
Now, he somewhat begrudgingly accepts the hands of Dr. O. There are things perhaps still worth fighting against in his mind…but vets aren’t really one of them.
She explains the process. There will be two shots; one to put him into a deep sleep, and one to stop his breathing. He will not, science thinks, feel pain. No one knows for sure of course, but I’ll take it.
I lie with him on the ground…he on his place, brought from home. Tonya stands in support, lovingly. What a good dog mommy she was in his dotage.
We speak of his truly long and interesting life. His travels…his notoriously obvious conflicted emotions, the life we’ve spent together.
The first shot hits. He slowly falls asleep. And then, the snoring.
It is the deepest, heaviest, most invested sleep I have seen him enjoy, ever? Maybe some evening after a huge hike.
But not in years.
And the snoring is downright awesome. Rest, good boy, rest.
We laugh at the depth of his rest. And we let him go like this for a while. I envy the fullness of it, truth be told. Dr. O says “I don’t usually share this with people, but this was Michael Jackson’s drug of choice.”
Well, that explains the envy. This stuff removes 100% of his anxiety, and unwanted brain activity. Jacko knew what he wanted.
Then, after a few minutes, the second shot hits. His breathing slows…progressively. I am hugging him, weeping, thanking him for how much he improved my life.
I needed him. His unbridled joy, his directness of communication, his unfiltered being. He was my crony; my compatriot. He made couches, beds, and the outdoors less lonely.
Thank you, Maceo.
And he is gone.
His ashes are here with us, for the annual Passover Los Angeles trip. Yes, ashes; I cremated a Jewish dog.
But why bury him somewhere I’d seldom visit and feel guilty about not doing so enough? Why force travel?
I trust that the dead feel no pain, and tell myself that his transition into an urn’s contents was not traumatic.
His family will take him to the Laurel Canyon dog park tomorrow, where he spent many a day in the best mood you can picture a dog being in. Tail wagging, tongue hanging, huge grin as 60, or 80 other dogs and their owners roam the canyon.
He will be accompanied by his daddy, and young Rubin, who I pray will remember him. Maybe memory will be triggered by pictures on the wall.
I’m so glad we made it back here together, my pup. One of your favorite spots in the known universe.
I find a crest of a hill, just below the steep embankment he used to swiftly climb. It’s in the shade of a young, sturdy tree; a dog could lie here comfortably for years. I pour him into the grass.
I’ll smile forever at the thought of him.
From August, 2014.
“Opportunity…..came to my door…when I was do-own on my luck….in the shape…of an old friend…with a planned guarantee.”
A Joan Armatrading lyric, sung best by Bobby McFerrin on Spontaneous Inventions. Find it.
I was down on my luck. It was early spring of 2009. I’d just been let go by Sporting News radio. I didn’t take it personally. That network was in an active downsizing decay from the moment I signed on in 2004, through to this very day in its incarnation as Yahoo Sports Radio.
Dan McNeil, my friend and former boss of sorts, heard about my exodus, reached out, and was supportive.
“Boss of sorts” is about right, because a host is to a producer as a boxer is to a trainer. The fighter makes more, gets the glory, and has to show up to do the heavy lifting. But the trainer enables him. And the trainer learns.
I learned so much from Mac. I learned what it is to be loose and joyful on the radio. How to share your passions; they matter so much more than what you hate. How to hit the post and never talk over a lyric if you can help it. How to play the best section of a sound byte or interview….not all of it, but the parts that truly matter. How to bond with the listener by being real whenever possible, warts and all. How to gleefully take abuse when you can, and keep yourself from feeling things too seriously. How to not carry one bad segment into the next one. Surface, scratched.
So there I was, down on my luck. Marriage crumbling, jobless, but I was blogging, podcasting, ready to return home and live in my brother’s basement. I was gonna make a suit out of White Sox fan’s skin, remember?
Then Mac got fired. I was supportive. I texted him that it was “the best thing for him, really. His therapy was going nowhere.”
We talked, I offered, he planned, we schemed. And there I was, attached to every show he pitched, to every station.
I’m forever grateful. He knows that. He told me a long time ago that I didn’t need to say it any more.
One more time doesn’t hurt.
I told him I was going to come on strong as hell…that I knew no other way, and that he could always tell me to back off, to shut up and let him talk. He never did.
I loved our five years together. I’ll never forget how lucky I was to be on the ice in Philly when the Hawks won in 2010. I spent a lot of time watching my friend Mac; a perfectly joyful fan.
The Danny Mac Show became Mac & Spiegs. And I know that we got damn good.
At our best, when we were as he would call it “Frazier and Monroe,” we felt a tie to the great Chicago talk shows of the 80’s and 90’s; guys with different perspectives giving each other shit, me peppering him when he deserved it, and he never batting an eye…continuing to fire away. Me getting too sensitive when it got real sometimes, learning to thicken the skin. Producer voices became integral parts of the gaggle. Music, sports, women, food, movies, sports, and dick jokes and sports. A show trying to tie the locker room of the station together, for better or for worse.
Sometimes a segment would end, and the self proclaimed heavyweight champ would head for the door and a smoke, beaming at how good a segment was. I’ll miss that.
His openness about addiction, depression, smoking, eating, and humanity is beautiful and rare. It’s so valuable. It’s what has bonded him to you for decades, and what sometimes got him in trouble too.
Mac was in a near constant battle to stay engaged. It manifested in lots of ways, all of which we’d discuss on the show. Gambling to keep himself interested. Masking or letting loose the disdain for sports he didn’t feel like working on.
I think this time, this leave of absence, has been about the real deal. Does he want to be the dancing monkey every day? Does he want to do this shift anymore? 5:30 in his driveway comes early. It makes for an odd life; a break in the afternoon, games to watch at night. If you do it right, it’s work. Unique, extremely fortunate work…but work.
I’m sad we’re done. But I’m glad for him that he doesn’t have to face something he doesn’t want to every morning. I hope he writes that book on Patrick, and the blessing autism can be.
I love that complicated man, and always will. I could write a book on his psychological profile. Would you read it?
It’s been an interesting summer. Making sibling relationships work as the youngest of five came in handy, as I worked with 10 co-hosts in 9 weeks. I can truly say that I enjoyed them all. I wish there had been a week with one more person, who we could not get into the building.
Thank you for being with us this summer. I’m sorry I could not share more along the way. It was not my decision to make.
We’ll have a new show announced very soon, with a new partner. And the fall will be amazing. Bears, Bulls, and Blackhawks fans can all claim legitimate, logical aspirations to be champions.
Jay Zawaski and Nick Nick Shepkowski are kings of men. I can’t wait to move forward with them.
We love being a part of your day, and we think you’ll really like what we’re going to do.