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Wednesday, September 16, 2020

 Stanley Crouch has died.

He was a teacher to me, through his books and columns. And like all teachers, he taught me great ideas in his thoughts and he taught bad examples through his actions.

Here's his New York Times obituary: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/16/obituaries/stanley-crouch-dead.html?action=click&module=News&pgtype=Homepage

I read his first book, "Notes of a Hanging Judge" in 1990 after seeing him on some obscure PBS show in northern Wisconsin. Please understand the Nort'woods are rural and homogeneous and attempting to be woke as a 25-year-old would take some time.

Also, there was no such thing as "woke" at the time.

But I'd seen this incredibly erudite guy on the TV interview and bought the book. In it, I found he thought for himself. He did not accept narratives and ideology as I had done.

Crouch sought truth from his own internal intellect -- sometimes he was wrong.

He was almost always right about jazz and how the freedom and advancement of the music was a perfect example of democracy. Those making the music paid little attention to criticism and attacks. They played the music in them. And if that was Louis Armstrong helping create jazz and later scat singing as a verbal personification of free jazz or moving to Be-Bop or Thelonious Monk or Chick Corea. Hell, "Bitches Brew," which is a hard listen for me, is the existential freedom of jazz.

Crouch wrote against the predetermination of black skin and poverty, which I don't think holds up as well. Statistics and history are pretty clear. But this was his narrative and not the accepted one.

And then he'd be in a fistfight with a fellow reporter.

Worse, he was homophobic to a gross degree. It's only my hope that he lost this later in life. Imagine someone who understands racism and how it degrades an entire people but fails to see the same for people born LGTBQ.

Crouch taught me. Whether I wanted to be or not.

Think for yourselves, my friends.

Peace and reason unto all of you my brothers and sisters.



Tuesday, September 15, 2020

 Play some Ice Cube -- today was a good day.

I found enticing and interesting jobs to which I applied, all of them outside my preferred field of journalism. But all of would allow me to continue being a storyteller.

A nice couple stopped me at Culver's and told me they missed my columns. I asked them to follow me here and they expressed mild shock at the title but promised they would

I spent time on a Zoom conference call with old friends and colleagues who seek to start an all-local website in a former city. One friend said I had great wisdom. (That's not a phrase I hear often given my proclivity for dad jokes.)

I continue to revel in the Green Bay Packers win Sunday where they seemed -- for at least one game -- ready to make another run at a Super Bowl. Remember I grew up in the 1970s and '80s, when there was a question if the only non-profit professional sports team in the country could survive.

Small victories.

Huge blessings.

Peace and blessings unto you my brothers and sisters.


Monday, September 14, 2020

 My friends and I gather at a watering hole every Sunday, something that's become the highlight of my week since bars re-opened.

The pandemic has proven to me the basic human need of conviviality. 

The crew, a not-hard-drinking lot, gathers not so much to discuss issues of the day but to share time with each other. We ask Dennis about his truck. Pete about his cats. Brian about the house he's building in Ohio. Mike and his wife Nancy about their gardening adventures. I'm asked about my job search.

There are other passersby, remnants from the Horseshoe group at Upland. A weird mix of working folks and people with doctorates, all of them brilliant in their own way. For some reason, they accepted me as a newbie when I came to Bloomington. I'm told by Doctor Dan that my sense of humor is messed up --just enough.

Now the diminished group drinks at another spot for various reasons. But the need to gather with familiar faces is not diminished.

I've always considered myself monastic to a sense, perhaps the reason for just a seven-year marriage. I need my reading and writing time. Hell, I need time to sit in a chair and do nothing but think. My time at the Hermitage on Lake Lemon has thus been a blessing and a boon.

It turns out I need people as well.

And some beer helps.

Peace and friendship and beer unto all of you my brothers and sisters.

Friday, September 11, 2020

One of my Bloomington beer-drinking buddies (I have similar friends in another 10 cities) wrote early codes for blogs and podcasts 20 years ago.

And he was one of the early bloggers although I cannot use the name here. It's a family blog.

So he told me Sunday while we enjoyed some beers together to press on as the initial excitement over thehomelesseditor.com seems to have abated.

Rebrand, morph, change, he said. That's life. If the blog is to reflect reality, it needs to remain honest.

I understand that as I applied for a job this week and wrote to describe the blog that has grown into a personal diary of  a layoff, transitional homelessness, the pandemic, recession and racial strife.

Another piece of advice from my friend: push through.

But of course, that's what writers do. You write when happy or sad, sober or drunk, satisfied or scared to death of what's to come. You just write.

So here I am and will be.

Peace and thoughts unto you my brothers and sisters.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Now don't get me wrong from yesterday's post. I loved my first car: a 1978 Pontiac Ventura.

I bought it with 145,000 miles on it, which today is nothing but back in 1984 that was something. They were highway miles, I was told. Turns out all miles are the same.

Yet it was mine and came with a couple of amenities I had never seen in my parents' cars, like a cruise control and -- this is more significant -- an AM/FM cassette deck.

My dad helped me buy the car so I could get back and forth to work at McDonald's on the other side of town. That was Chippewa Falls, meaning my commute would go from a 15-minute bike ride to a five-minute drive. 

Within a couple of months, my dad died of a massive heart attack. I even used the car to drive from McDonald's to the schools of my brothers to pick them up at the behest of the hospital chaplain.

Wandering around the world in shock for the next couple of years, the only constants were my job at McDonald's, my car and copious amounts of Leinenkugel's beer. "Copious" is the wrong word. I drank a Gitche Gummi amount of beer.

I didn't trick out the car as I am either an ascetic or just plain lazy. Then some bastard stole the radio, which ended my career as a car-singing diva. I piled on the miles and broke down on occasion. And I went on dates, a big step for someone who only recently had considered the monastery. (That's another post entirely.)

Here I will write something controversial: Whoever invented the bucket seat killed more budding romances than any Baptist preacher.

The bench seat was beautiful for getting to know someone in a closer sense. Sure, on occasion you'd have to turn the car on and heat it up again, sometimes interrupting well-laid plans. But I think the bench seat is attributable to more marriages than anything else.

Speaking of cold, one day during a minus-40 degree cold spell, I sat down in the car at 4:45 a.m. -- I worked breakfast shifts -- and the left rear coil snapped in the cold. Suddenly, I was sitting about 6 inches lower than normal.

But the car still moved even though every meagre pothole would rattle my kidneys.

Sure enough during the next deadly cold snap, the other rear coil snapped -- and I looked like I was driving around town in a permanent lower rider.

The upside? I once had to work a McDonald's shift where we received 24 inches of snow. And because the entire rear weight of the car was ride on the axle, I made home -- up on the West Hill -- safely.

That car went on to have two more owners, the last of whom took a buzz saw to the roof because he always wanted a convertible. Cool idea, until he realized he delivered pizza in the ice and snow of Northern Wisconsin. No matter how tightly he jury-rigged the blue tarpaulin, it collapsed on him.

Please share your first car story in the comments section.

Peace and great car stories on to you my brothers and sisters.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

 An old foe visited me last week: car anxiety.

I suffered from it as a young man when I bought older cars with a ton of miles, most of my money going to make the monthly payments. There wasn't much money left for savings just in case something bad should happen to the car.

And it always did.

Mind you this was in the era of no cell phones so it wasn't unusual for a break down to happen in the middle of no where -- a.k.a. the entire Wisconsin Nort'woods. Once my car just shut down on Highway 53 as I travelled nort' to see my friend Tim who was then the Rice Lake correspondent for the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram. I walked for a couple miles along the godforsaken highway until a nice elderly couple picked me up and brought into the bustling town of Cameron where I could make some calls.

I slowly lost the anxiety as I was able to buy better cars, my salary continued to improve and I bought cell phones. If the car broke down, I had money to fix it. I could call for a tow. Everything would be OK. I lost car anxiety.

Now it's back.

The "check engine" light came on last week as did the break system light and a flashing cruise control light. A mechanic told me a couple years ago that car companies make the cruise control light flash because no one pays attention to the check engine light.

Now I don't have the money to fix anything but I still need a car. Forget the cell phone. The lack of money is the cause for the anxiety.

Experts in poverty and homelessness will tell you the biggest health factor affecting those groups is the stress. What can you accomplish when you don't know what the hell is coming next?

I eased into a Jiffy Lube, hoping an oil change was the simple answer. And yes, I was overdue and the oil reading read "no measurement" and for a short time the light was off.

Today, it's back on.

For those who like to believe that the life of the distressed is easy, I beg you to try it.

On second thought, don't.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

 Looting is not defensible.

Lighting fires to buildings and ruining another person's livelihood is not peaceable assembly.

Shooting people who disagree with you is not patriotic.

My fellow Americans, we are not each other's enemies unto death.

Anyone who says otherwise merely seeks more power and control over you -- so long as you believe them.

None of you will gain a damn thing from these shit shows. Nothing.

Consider peace and forgiveness and dialogue over violence. The latter only begets more of itself.

Seek peace and understanding.

Stop all violence. 

You'll actually gain strength in the process.

I'm going to take an extended weekend off from blogging as I concentrate on some specific job searches.

Peace and more peace unto you my brothers and sisters.