Rochester Magazine:Here’s four of your self-descriptors. Give me a sentence or two to describe each. So, one, "transplant recipient."
James Rabe:Yes. My sister gave me a kidney. She lives here in town. Saved my life.
RM:Two, "mental health advocate."
JR:I deal with anxiety and depression quite regularly. When I was finally diagnosed, I was more or less open with it. When I came back to Rochester from hither and yon [in 2015], I decided I wanted to focus on two things: organ donation and mental health awareness.
RM:Your third self-descriptor is "suicide preventioner."
JR:I’ve given many classes through NAMI, the National Alliance of Mental Illness in southeastern Minnesota, to help kids and adults understand how to intervene. It’s a really cool program they have that is very much like CPR, but it’s called QPR. Question, persuade, respond.
RM:Your fourth self descriptor, "irregular underpants model."
JR:For years, I had this thing where I liked pretending to be Superman. But I didn’t have any clothes that looked like him, so I just wore long underwear with white tighty-whities over them and a towel around my shoulder. I thought it was cool until I let my friend see it, and I learned very quickly it was not cool.
RM:Not sure what to do with that. I had made up "irregular underpants model." I’m not sure if you are telling the truth, but I think it’s better to not pursue it.
JR:That’s probably for the best.
RM:You were voted Best Dressed at Sault Ste. Marie Area High School in Michigan. Is that a fair assessment of your clothing style?
JR:In high school it absolutely was, and if you look closely, if you can see the yearbook, not only was I nominated for Best Dressed and won, but I also won Most Likely To Succeed, and I have different fancy clothes in each picture.
RM:Wow. Yes. We may or may not have been in the Sault at the same time. I was working there from late ‘92 to ‘95.
JR:I would have been gone. I picked up my bag and took all my cares away about ‘91.
RM:What was in that bag?
JR:Oh, my gosh. I had nothing, except really bad resumes. Three pages. My sister was here. I had no job. I came to Rochester and worked part-time at KROC, and full-time at JC Penney for about a year. Ended up working at KROC until 2007, then worked around the country and came back here in 2015,
RM:And now you’re on every single radio station in Rochester.
JR:Pretty much. I do the mornings on Y105-FM, and I am on KROC-AM, Monday, Wednesday, Friday. And I also have a syndicated show that goes out across the nation that is a classic hits afternoon show, and we tape that in Rochester on 104.3.
RM:Best on-air moment?
JR:Every time something works, every time I work with a partner and we have something fun. And any time something great happens, when someone feels something. When someone calls in and says, "I was feeling bad the other day and you told me about the numbers on your website. So I called up and I’m getting help. Thank you for that." These are moments that are pretty huge, and they’re all over the place. ... But it’s also when I say the weather right, I’m also very happy. It’s just a great job.
RM:Favorite guest of all time?
JR:Johnny Cash’s guitarist that used to travel with Six Mile Grove, Bob Wooton. Great stories.
RM:I’m going to #$*@! ask you this one more time. Favorite guest of all time?
JR:Oh. Steve Lange ... .
RM:Thanks for that. That’s sweet. How did you discover your kidneys were failing?
JR:Oh, the usual thing. You’re pulling skin out of your mouth and you’re not sleeping properly and you put a pair of pants on one leg at a time because you need a rest in the middle, that sort of stuff.
RM:Yes, all very common. Especially the mouth skin thing.
JR:Right? I finally went to the doctor because I was stumbling up stairs, and the doctor said, "Your hemoglobin is like three. You shouldn’t be alive." They checked my blood and that day I was in dialysis, but my blood had been dirty for probably eight, nine months, and not really been being cleaned properly.
RM:Tell me about when your sister found out she was a match to give you a kidney.
JR:I was driving when I got the call. I’d been on dialysis for a year and Joan was the first one to get tested. She called and said, "Hey, I’m a match." She didn’t balk at all.
RM:Did she get to pick which one to keep?
JR:I got the ugly one for sure. The one that was on her right side was just exactly like you see a kidney. And the other one was like, "Oh, I just got beat up on the playground." You remember Andy Capp cartoons, how he looked at the end of scrimmages? That’s the one I got.
RM:Does she lord it over you?
JR:Yes, she absolutely does. "Oh, I can’t reach the remote control, James. Oh, will you go get the mail, James? Remember when I gave you a kidney?" I tell her, "Yeah, but I helped you lose three ounces." So be an organ donor. Make sure your family knows. You can be a hero.