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Friday, January 14, 2022

I have too much crap.

This I realize as I'm fully engaged in a slow unpacking process.

"What the hell is this?

"Oh, this other thing is cool.

"Now where do I put it?"

The forced minimalism of the past couple years has affected me. I never wanted to be a "stuff" kind of person, holding on to only those items I valued. Well, that turns out to have been too much.

Especially books. When I was in eighth grade, I started a library in my bedroom. I asked for a book case for Christmas and a gift certificate to Waldenbooks. Remember that store? Yes, I am that many years old.

The eighth-grade library of six books was underwhelming but eventually grew to full rooms at several of the homes I owned or apartments I rented. At one house, it was the entire second floor, which housed not just the books but my antique typewriter collection. My wife was quite gracious about my peculiarities. 

In addition to any writing-related addictions, I have a problem with cooking gadgets, plates and anything that produces or holds a consumable. For instance, I never purchased one of the electric devices that makes spiral veggies -- I sniff at such a thing -- but I do have a manual spiralizer. Never used.

I have two, not one, but two potato ricers. One is a standard size while the other has different ricing plates. Used once between the two because I've come to enjoy mashed potatoes with some chunks and then broiled. 

So the process of unpacking is culling what I don't need or want, all of which will be given to the free store on the reservation next to me. 

And it's become a nice little jaunt through the history of my consumerism.

I'm always reminded of the story of the Buddha who suggested to a group of students all they needed was a tea cup and a rice pot as property. "What if you have visitors?" a student asked. "Well, they will bring their tea cup and rice pot," he answered.

Well I ain't no Buddha, even if I'm shaped like him. I enjoy some creature comforts, gadgets and the occasional pen. Or 500 pens. Hi, my name is Rich. I have a pen problem.

Peace and less stuff unto you my brothers and sisters.

Monday, January 10, 2022

 A colleague asked me this morning how was my weekend.

I said, "Well -- I lived."

You see, I reunited with high school friends Saturday and they are reprobates all.

Imagine men in their 50s acting like teenagers mixed with examples of what medication we on. Oh, and beer. And alcohol. No little belligerence. And trash talking that would make a professional wrestler blush a Catholic grade school boy at a dance. (Note: We're all Catholic school graduates, something the church won't acknowledge.)

My plan had been to visit them at my friend's cabin outside of Solon Springs. Directions to the cabin were: Drive to the middle of nowhere and turn west for four hours. When you hear the cries of a rabbit being killed by a bear, stop. You have arrived. Even Google maps asked, "Where the hell are we?" And advised, "Proceed to the route outta here."

It was a nice cabin, rebuilt after a 10,000-acre forest fire blew through a couple years ago.

And the first beers tasted good, mostly because of company and even though it was Busch Light, which isn't really beer. It's like one of those hard seltzers that taste vaguely of a flavor and has less alcohol content than my spit.

Yes, we did compare medications. I did not win the competition for most.

We quoted virtually every line from "Blazing Saddles," able to do so because my friend's brother in-law had a VCR copy (kids -- you'll have to Google that) of the movie and let us watch it along with buying us a pizza. Cheapest and worst babysitters in history. But the kids survived to adulthood -- which is now the next goal for me and my friends.

I still had a goal to get home by 5 p.m. but they wanted to show me area bars. Now Solon Springs has as many bars as Madison, Wisconsin, they're just more spread out. Say, every quarter mile. I have not run the official numbers on this. It's all anecdotal.

Soon enough I determined I was in no shape to drive home to Hayward. Or interact with others. Or talk.

I asked our designated driver for a ride back to the cabin and was the first one to hit the hay. Real hay, by the way. None of this fake hay. This was a class joint.

First I was awakened by the story of how the designated driver who slid into a ditch. I thought I dreamt that. Then brought out of slumber by two friends arguing over apparent urination in a non-peeing room. But such hysteria is hard to keep up for 56-year-old men who treated Jack Daniels like a mother's nipple.

The next morning centered around trying to get the vehicle out of the ditch, which wasn't really so much a ditch as it was the woods. The intersection of Highway A and Highway AA was like walking on an ice drinking. There was no stopping, particularly when temperatures dipped to 15 degrees below zero.

By morning, temperatures retreated to 0 degrees -- how often can you say you had no degrees. Thankfully, that was augmented by a wind of 15 miles and hour. When I tell you the wind cut through us, that doesn't suffice. It's more like the wind minced us into small pieces which would then be added to a crockpot of homemade chili that would taste strangely of Busch Light. And sorrow.

After one of the man-children tried to dig out his car -- that would have been like giving a piggyback ride to the whale in "Free Willy" -- professional services were required.

We spent the next couple of hours in the Lakeview Bar & Grille, where they had coffee, breakfast and, oh, some beer.

I have to write I love those guys, some of whom I haven't seen in decades. Our friendship is like an old shoe, stinky but easy to slip into after some time away.

And we've all turned out OK, even with life constantly shooting hockey pucks at our genitals. That is an appropriate metaphor given our proximity to Canada. 

I can't wait until we do it again -- in 25 years.

Peace and lifelong friendships unto all of you my brothers and sisters.

Friday, January 7, 2022

A Bloomington friend checked on me the other night, which was nice.

I realize I haven't appeared in a couple of weeks.

It just occurred to me the other night that the last year has caught up with me. I'm pretty worn out and can't get enough sleep. Every chore becomes monumental. As the philosopher Lilly von Schtupp said, "I'm tired. Tired of playing the game. Ain't it a crying shame. I'm so tired. God dammit I'm exhausted. Tired, tired of playing the game. Ain't it a crying shame. I'm so tired."

On New Year's Eve, I sipped on a glass of Ballatore, the cheapest sparkling wine one can buy that won't cause chemical burns if spilled, and I recalled a year earlier doing the same thing in my cheap hotel room. I felt guilt at the time when I drank the same stuff at about $10 a bottle dug and bit into an Arby's turkey Reuben. Spending money on anything was the guilt trip dejour.

I had been out of work for seven months and unemployment was to end in two months. Jobs seemed to be harder to find at the time and 2021 didn't look so good. So I blew $15 for a celebration that would end in bed a couple hours before midnight. Happy New Year.

One year later, I have a great job and a warm home -- even when it's 20 degrees below zero as it was last night. I've met innumerable folks and made some great friends in this short time.

Friends from high school visit, announced and unannounced, and tomorrow I'm meeting more old friends north of here in Solon Springs. (There aren't too many places north of here until it becomes a frozen Lake Superior.)

I'm unpacking, slowly, hoping the next box contains my winter coat. In the meantime, I have a lovely windbreaker that serves as protection between me and body part freezing and falling off.

And I'm working toward normalcy -- I'm not sure what that's going to be but when I get there I'll report back.

I can't apologize for a little break because my body is telling me I need recovery.

And a cheap-ass bottle of sparkling wine.

Plus another bedtime two hours before the celebration.

Peace and bubbles until all of you my brothers and sisters.

Sunday, December 26, 2021

I don't holiday well.

Nor do I often use a noun as a verb.

I just don't care for the puffery of any season, be it Christmas. Halloween or Groundhog Day. (I spent too many years waiting for the little rat's prognostication to get something in the day's newspaper.)

I'm but no means a humbug. I just prefer to celebrate each day the same.

Yet this year I come away from the Christmas reason with a heart reeling over all the graciousness of the last week.

Kid remains the center of the last week. She charmed wherever we went, something abetted by my naturally grizzled self. "This is your kid?" friends asked, some assuming there might be another father in a neighboring county.

But no. With enough time, people realized she was a product of mine. We played and improvised together, me setting a straight line, her picking up the punch line and then me taking the tag line. (Clearly, she's taught me the language comedy.) In the midst of otherwise less serious fare, we'd briefly argue over a historical point. I took the side of Alfred Kinsey, she prosecuted him.

She left, too soon, but we had two solid and glorious days together shopping for Northwoods products to feed the other side of her family. We ate well, we drank some as she's newly anointed at age 21.

Friday, I attended a private together at a local watering hole, where the buffet was as long as a bowling alley -- literally. Drinks flowed and I finally realized how many true friends I've made in this short time.

Saturday, friends I didn't have a year ago had me over for a mountains of food and a Packers victory. The Whos in Whoville never ate so well and when the Packers secured victory I thought briefly we should hold hands and sing "Dahoo Dores."

It didn't strike me until this morning, waking groggily, how beautiful it had all been.

My heart might even have grown three sizes so my cardiologist is worried.

And I hope to hold on to that grace through the next year as we come up on the anniversary of COVID.

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

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Kid is here.

Despite flights, sickness and snowfall, she made it to Hayward.

My Christmas is made.

I can't tell you what we've talked about in these few hours since her arrival because we approach 100 subjects, with humorous interjections in between.

Much laughter.

We speak the same language of history, philosophy, theology and of course humor.

She is thankfully used to me crying as she speaks so intelligently because I can't believe this person is part of my life, that I had something to do with her.

I'm stealing a couple minutes to report this. Now I return to her.

Peace, more peace and love unto all of you my brothers and sisters.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

 The gods conspire against us.

The kid, who is getting better, planned to be on the road this morning. Bur failing to look out the windows while I went through my morning beauty ritual -- that only last 15 seconds -- I opened the garage to see a minimum of 2 inches of snow on the driveway.

As a son of the Wisconsin northwoods, I knew how to read the storm. It was a heavy and hard snow and would last for sometime.

I am a father and thus required to worry about my daughter driving anywhere. Driving in and through snow is an acquired ability that takes years of practice. I even slid through the stop sign on my street despite my high speed of 15 mph.

Sitting in my office on County Highway B, I could tell even locals were wary of being on the road.

I contacted my daughter's mother and said we both needed to encourage Kid to stay off the roads. When I talked to Kid, she agreed quickly. She's recovering from her illness but that would not have been helped by being in a ditch -- or worse until Friday morning. We'll get two full days with each other and she can spend Christmas with the rest of her family, all of whom are much more holiday oriented. (I'm not anti-Christmas but as a journalist I have some serious questions for Mr. Claus.)

Regardless of the amount of time we have with each other, it will be quality.

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

Monday, December 20, 2021

 Kid is not in town.

Poor thing is sick as a dog and I don't want her to get worse by traipsing through the northwoods. 

I told her to stay home Sunday and get some rest, which turned out to be two naps of three hours each. Then she took off for the drive this morning only to pull over for a power nap trying to ward off her sinus headache. We mutually agreed she should turn around and return to the BNB where she's staying.

We'll update tonight on what happens next. 

Kid was upset but I told her not to worry. Nothing that is happening is her fault, nor is intentional on anyone's part.

The Buddha said suffering comes from want and if we want everything to go as we please, we're bound to suffer. (He was not invited to many dinner parties. But that's fine. He didn't want to go.)

Kid was stressed. I reminded her she's stuck with me for a long time so we'll have no shortage of time together, now or in the future. She's been warned that when she starts to make money, I'm coming to live with her. I'm not sure she wants that but I'll pull out the old Buddha line.

I'm not big into holidays so no extra work has gone into decorating or baking or even normal personal hygiene. The house in the midst of unpacking is in such disarray, I like to come home and pretend the house has been trashed by a squatter. Then I realize no squatter would live in that clutter and would attempt to make some sense of it all.

Despite Buddha's admonition, I do want my kid to get better. Not so I can monopolize her time but because I don't want her to be miserable

You see, I love her so much.

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