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Saturday, December 3, 2022

 I can't figure out how friends happen -- but they inevitably do.

Last Sunday, two friends invited me to church because there were concerned eternal hell fires will render out my fat ass. (I've read multiple stories about fires started at crematoria where the fat of an obese person undergoing cremation have burned places down. That's why I'm eating more salads. I don't want to be that story in my own newspaper.)

During the church service, I had a true revelation: Wow, there are many hot chicks in church.

I'm not sure the singular service will solve my problem but that two people cared enough about me to invite me to the service is heartwarming. One of my ideals is to be gracious to offers to me, even if it is from people who wish to change my character and person.

Even though I remain new to the community, they were taking care of me as a friend, a new friend.

On Tuesday evening, I sat at a bar that is a mere 300 feet from my home when the bartender took a phone call and then screamed -- her house was on fire.

I couldn't fathom her driving to the scene so I immediately offered to drive. As we cleaned the snow and ice from her vehicle, she insisted on driving but asked me to ride along.

I tried to calm and coach her as she drove on roads with 5 inches of newly accumulated snow. I told her when to slow down and managed some phone calls during the drive to her rural home. "It's better to get there than not," I repeated. "You're doing a great job," I repeated.

Initial information suggested it was a chimney fire but when we turned into the driveway, we could see flames 30 feet into the air. Her family home was fully engulfed, rare for home fires.

I stayed for a couple hours, hugging family members and trying to serve as an interpreter between firefighter language and family language. I've been to more than enough fires I care to think about.

After a couple hours, I texted a friend to come pick me up. I hadn't brought a coat or gloves or appropriate shoes. In choosing to offer assistance, I jumped into the breech. That's decades of response on breaking news stories.

It's also about immediately responding to friends' needs. My friend needed someone with her, just as my friends in church are trying to save me.

I need friends, too.

I texted a friend asking for a ride home from the fire, which had continued for almost two hours.

She and her boyfriend arrived and found a way to hoist my fat ass into one of those trucks where the access is three feet off the ground.

I didn't talk much during their rescue and decided I didn't want to sit in the bar where the drama first occurred. Instead, I drove to a nearby watering hole where I could order a decent -- and stiff -- Jack Daniels Manhattan. But on the drive over, I thought I had a flat tire -- it was a cold night in the Northwoods. The car was shaking uncontrollably. On arrival, all the tires were full.

When I walked into the bar, I realized the shaking was me. I had hypothermia. With little knowledge of medical nomenclature, I believe that meant my "thermia" was "hypo."

The story of my week is that friends give. Friends don't hesitate to give.

And I remain the luckiest bastard in the history of the world.

Peace unto Ukraine and peace and friendship unto all of you my brothers and sisters.


Friday, November 25, 2022

 I am thankful for all kinds of crap.

The humorous phrase I use in real life is much more foul than that, you can imagine.

But it's truthful.

My kid, my mom, my family, colleagues, friends -- bar or otherwise -- I am thankful. Particularly for readers of my newspaper and readers of this blog.

The list of thankful crap: relish trays, Christian Watson, a nice cup of tea, my mom's spaghetti recipe, a Jack Daniels Manhattan, fish fry (my order is in as I write this), a beautiful sunset on a frigid northern Wisconsin night, cold days where I can shop for meat during the lunch break and not have to unload it until I get home because nature serves as my refrigerator, when anyone laughs, a text from a good friend, bacon frying.

Damnit, I'm starting to sound like a Tom T. Hall song.

I celebrated Thanksgiving by going to the Steakhouse where there was enough food to feed a football stadium. I was surrounded by friends who work there, friends from the community and met some new folks. I might have appeared to some as the old guy by himself but nothing could be further from the truth.

Early bed and a late sleep, a stop at work and then burger and a beer for lunch.

I'm a pretty lucky cat.

Peace unto Ukraine and peace and a burger and a beer unto all of you my brothers and sisters.

Monday, November 21, 2022

 "Hey, dad, it's (Kid) and I'm coming to visit for Christmas," she said as soon as I picked up the phone.

"Get the (expletive) out of here," I responded, again ensuring no nominations for father of the year for 22 years in a row.

Now I can't wait to see Kid. But I generally haven't celebrated Christmas in a long time. At my previous newspapers, which were all dailies, I often covered the cops shift and wrote a Christmas feature so other folks could be with their families because Kid visited at some other point.

Someone must remind me of the pageantry of the holiday, which I'll inevitably skip and go with a couple bottles Ballatore, a cheap sparkling that manages to satisfy.

We immediately started planning the menu -- I have to make her favorite chili and egg salad sandwiches. I suggested we cook together a dish I taught her when she was 10 years old that I dubbed "Chicken ala (Kid)." Basically it's chicken scallopini. But named for Kid.

The two of us will play much pool. About 10 years ago, I taught her how to be a pool hustler. There was a free pool table in a hotel during our trips from out east to home in Chippewa Falls. "Free" is my second favorite phrase and we played and played.

On Kid's last visit, we played some pool at the Moccasin Bar, where she beat a number of burly dudes who thought they'd teach that little girl something. When I finally had a chance to play her, I won. She's so used to winning, she said, "I can't believe you beat me." Remember, I said, "I'm the one who taught you."

If you have time, check out one of her newest performances from her sketch comedy group, Bounce Haus Comedy: Jane Sullivan, Sleuth - YouTube

Can't wait.

Peace unto Ukraine and chili, egg salad and billiards unto you my brothers and sisters.

Friday, November 18, 2022

 A friend asked me months ago to write a chapter for a book he was working on that views Jesus through a Taoist perspective.

He just emailed all the 80 some folks who each were asked to write about 250 words to tell us where the book stands. There's interest and a decent shot for publication.

So that's cool.

I also finally saw the list of other contributors and feel good -- proud even -- to be included. It's an impressive list of folks who have degrees and books and pedigrees. I am a chubby editor of a weekly newspaper who will always laugh at a fart joke. 

The editor allowed me to pick my own assignment out of the 80 selections and I took "Jesus was a radical." 

Note that I'm no longer religious -- mostly because my knees are shot and kneeling is hard. But I have 15 years of Bible study and I've read Lao Tzu's "Tao Te Ching" (Steven Mitchell's 1988 translation) multiple times.

Please note I'm not sure what more I can write about the book nor do I feel it appropriate to quote from my submission.

Why chose that topic?

When Jesus was asked, according to three of the four gospels, what is the greatest Commandment, he offered two. 1.) Love God with your heart and soul. 2.) Love others as you would be loved. He said if people do these two things, they will gain entrance into heaven.

Consider what Christianity is now as well as other religions, there are thousands of admonitions, right down to the food you eat and the clothing you wear. Oh -- and no sex hardly ever. (I think that's because many humans will choose sex over salvation.) (Note to self: "Sex Over Salvation" would also make a great novel title.)

A radical suggests simplicity that is hard to do.

And I wrote about how Confucius offered so many rules they included farting: "The man who farts in church will sit in his own pew."

Yeah, me and the fart joke -- always.

Our so-called leaders of political factions right now misuse the term "radical." No, it's not someone who is an idealogue.

A radical is someone who breaks from normalcy and creates a new and better way.

Peace unto Ukraine and radicalism unto all of you my brothers and sisters.

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

My daughter is now officially a Hollywood producer.

No, she will not give you cocaine. Or come on to you. Make you disrobe. Start wearing a bunch of chains and sunglasses, even past sundown.

That certainly is the producer cliche but I know Kid better than that.

This last weekend she worked as producer and script supervisor for a movie short called "Shpilkis." The movie, written by her friend from college is autobiographical about an observant Jewish queer person returning for a wild Rosh Hashana family celebration. 

For my Gentile friends, "shpilkis" is a Yiddish word that is traditionally defined as "pins and needles" but generally describes uneasiness. (I'm aided in my own Gentile life by a book my mother bought me for Christmas in eighth grade: "The Joys of Yiddish" by Leo Rosten.)

On www.backstage.com, the logline for the movie says: "A closeted college freshman returns home for a chaotic Rosh Hashannah with her high-school ex-girlfriend and over-bearing Jewish family."

I don't know what a logline is, other than industry jargon.

And production states: "This project is a proof of concept, meaning it will be shot to acquire funding for a feature-length film of the same name. Actors must be comfortable with comedy and improvisation!"

I find it unbelievable describing my 22-year-old Kid working as a producer on a movie short in Hollywood. Parents will understand that when we think about our kids, they are perpetually 6-years-old. 

Yet here's my 6-year-old spending a weekend doing important work while holding down another full-time job within the entertainment industry. I'm not allowed to write about that.

I'm obviously a proud dad but not surprised.

When Clare was in the Kindergarten production of "Billy Goats Gruff", she abhorred the violent ending so the play was re-written in which the goats and the troll become friends and they all go to Dairy Queen. (Side note: Kid and I have spent much time at DQs.)

She'll go great places.

And I'll follow as she has promised to support me in my dotage, which is currently schedule for 2024.

Peace unto Ukraine and Hollywood magic unto you my brothers and sisters.



Sunday, November 13, 2022

 I approach the few final hours of my most recent vacation in peace.

First, or last, the Packers won. That always puts the cherry in my Manhattan. 

Three days off plus I didn't work the weekend. (I did go in for one hour Wednesday night to do time cards, though. One does what one must.)

Unlike last time, I did not ruminate. I either did or did not do. (Yoda would be proud.)

I did what I wanted to do when I wanted and it was pretty nice. If I felt like cleaning, I cleaned. When I wanted to cook, I cooked. And when I needed to talk with fellow human beings, I went out and enjoyed a couple drinks with them.

My successes? I made a so-so bean soup that's pretty thick. I've decided to mold them into bricks and sell them as kilos of some kind of substance sold in kilos.

Overnight, I made my old recipe of nearly vegetarian minestroni (I cheat with 32 ounces of low-sodium chicken brother). It's killer. I packaged some for friends.

The kitchen is nearly finished, which allowed me to cook like the old days and to eat and to clean. It's been years since I made my own coffee along with some eggs and toast. This morning, I made my dad's version of soft-boiled eggs with toast. It tasted good but I'm not sure it's worth the third degree burns suffered by handling the cooked eggs.

I did laundry. It's this thing where you wash you own clothes at home. (Note to self: Perhaps washing 10-year-old T-shirts means I need to buy new clothing.)

Failures? Doesn't matter.

I'll note there were multiple times when I thought to myself that five days off in a row was too much. That only means I have to do better at treating myself well. 

I approach the work week Monday happily, expecting to be fully engaged and with less exhaustion than in past weeks and months.

Peace unto Ukraine and self-care unto all of you my brothers and sisters.


Friday, November 11, 2022

During my off day Thursday, I made 15-bean soup that ended up being pretty similar to spackle.

I threw in a half pound of smoked chicken but when you need to boil the beans for 400 hours, according to instructions, it tends to suck the flavor out of anything in the soup. For the record, I did not smoke the chicken myself because I can't keep the chicken lit.

As a child of Great Depression parents, I'll eat all 200 pounds of the spackle. It has no taste but it's high in fiber and protein. However, if any of you are putting up a brick wall or need new paving bricks, please contact me.

Charleton Heston, portraying Moses, called. He said they could use the bean soup to make bricks.

Today I slept in, made a simple breakfast of toast, scrambled eggs, coffee and juice. The coffee was a thing this weekend. I can't remember when I last used my fancy coffee make, which grinds the beans freshly and then brews the liquid. But I cleaned the thing up earlier in my time off, ran some vinegar through it, cleaned with water and now I make coffee at home for the first time in -- maybe -- four years.

I cleaned and unpacked during the morning and then went for lunch at Red Schoolhouse Wines in Stone Lake. A couple glasses of red and a cheese tray made a beautiful lunch. So much so I extended the lunch with a split of Proseco.

As I write this, I'm having a Manhattan before enjoying Northern Wisconsin sushi -- Friday night fish fry.

Such is my time off.

Peace unto Ukraine and time off for you my brothers and sisters.