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Thursday, December 31, 2020

Almost one year ago, while I meditating on what I needed to do for 2020, the message was clear: Do a better job asking for help.

I had spent the previous two years working much, taking a total of maybe two weeks off and I needed to change that.

A short while later, COVID-19 hit and it was 12-14 hour days during the week and eight hours on a day on the weekends. I didn't mind it. I have a strong work ethic and what we do as journalists is so important. I told the staff before we were dispersed that our role was to help the public through the pandemic.

Then I was laid off and asked to leave my apartment at the newspaper.

I've documented the struggles and successes since then, with some humor thrown in as that's my coping mechanism. (Friends' response reading this: Duh!)

This has been a great year for learning opportunities and much of the knowledge I took in, I knew intellectually. But experiencing the learning opportunities has made it all more real.

Here are some of my lessons:

-- Ask for help.

-- Accept it gladly and humbly.

-- Oftentimes, giving is as much about the feelings of the donor as the recipient.

-- Daytime TV sucks.

-- It is better to be warm than cold.

-- Know thyself. (That's the epigram over the Temple of Apollo at Delphi -- so I stole that one.) No one else can define you so long as you're being true to yourself.

-- Tell jokes. Even stupid ones. It releases endorphins in the brain, making it cheaper than beer -- even Natural Light.

-- People are more important than stuff. Find the good in everyone and enjoy that.

-- Stuff is utterly useless. I've lived for nearly two years with my stuff in storage and the only thing I missed was my copy of "Trout Fishing in America," by Richard Brautigan. So I bought another copy.

-- Feed yourself with great writing, poetry, art, beauty and decent pot roast. (Uptown Cafe, I'm writing about you.)

-- Move inexorably forward. You're life might be a shit show today but keep moving folks -- there's nothing to see here.

-- It's OK to have down days, even down weeks. That allows for recovery time. But set an alarm and get up when it's time.

-- Enjoy sleep and showers when you don't have to rush off somewhere -- like work.

-- Wear a mask, not because the government told you but because it's respectful of others. It's not like you ignore stop signs because the government told you. It's because if you did, someone might die.

-- Work on your empathy. However bad you might have it, assuredly someone has it worse.

-- Stop. Smell flowers. Watch butterflies play. Listen to street musicians.

-- Watch the Green Bay Packers this Sunday against the Chicago Bears.

-- Don't get caught up in the BS of the day. Remember that our average of 80 years on this planet pales in comparison to how long it's been around. Around Bloomington, the limestone for which we're famous took about 450 million years to form what we now know.

-- You know what? Turn off that TV and take a walk. There will always be another episode of "Forensic Files" when you return home.

-- And, oh yes, read, if for no other reason to feed my fragile ego.

Happy New Year and have a precious long weekend.

Peace and a new beginning unto all of you my brothers and sisters.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

The dream recurs most every night now.

I'm in a messy house, often my mother's or sometimes one of the homes from my marriage.

Not just, messy. Complete disasters as though a tropical storm had moved through. Every square inch of the floors and any surfaces covered with multiple layers of stuff and dirt and grime. Dishes stacked so high they're tilting and ready to fall. Think of the leaning tower of frozen Pisa. Potted plants overturned and the dirt tracked through the place. Enough dirty laundry that no industrious person could wash it in multiple lifetimes.

I've decided that something must be done each time.

And then I begin cooking for those who might help me to clean.

"We can't live like this," I say, as I dirty a dozen pans to make my famous zucchini-goat cheese frittata. (Note: It really is the bomb.) "But we have to eat before we clean." And I stack the pots on top of cookware that fed someone else six months ago.

I never make any progress before the dream ends. It's only worse.

I understand the message: I need to clean up a mess.

Have you ever read, Sigmund Freud's "The Interpretation of Dreams?" It's hysterically bad 121 years later. Let me sum it up by combining his underlying thesis and the pigeon German of John F. Kennedy: "Ich bin ein nipple."

Better is the is Carl Jung's "Dreams," significantly less sexual, Oedipal and oral fixation-y (a new word),

I get it: I've made a mess of things and I need to clean up beginning with the smallest of problems until I can face the entire mess.

I get it. Thank you dreams.

Peace and Carl Jung unto all of you my brothers and sisters.

Monday, December 28, 2020

A friend asked me Sunday about Dear Leader's unwillingness to sign the COVID relief bill.

I let lose a string of cuss words that, were I back in my home state, would have raised me to Poet Laureate of the Wisconsin Nort'woods. (In truth, there's no such title. It's just "Real Good Talkin' Fella.") Thankfully, later in the evening, the bill was signed.

You see, it's become personal.

As I near the end of unemployment benefits in Indiana, I need to figure out what's next. But that's hard to do when millionaire congressmen and the billionaire president are merely jockeying for position.

I've written before that one of the most stressful things about being down and out is a lack of certainty. Just what the hell is next?

Consider that for all my server friends in Bloomington, a one-time payment of $600 won't cover a month's rent.

Those fighting against such payments cite the budget.

Oh yeah, these are the same people who supported and voted for the 2017 tax cuts estimated to increase U.S. debt by $1 trillion a year through 2027. Before the pandemic, we already saw yearly deficits of $1 trillion -- and that was in a healthy economy.

People are hurting out here and desperate. 

I likely will be OK as I have friends willing to take me in, most of them under the conditions that I do nominal house work and stop eating sauerkraut.

Millionaires and a billionaire fighting over what they would consider crumbs and food pantries struggle to survive because the need has become so overwhelming.

Yeah, it's become personal and I'll continue to work on my Nort'woods poetry.

Peace and prosperity unto all of my my brothers and sisters.

(All apologies to the true Poet Laureate of the Wisconsin Nort'woods -- Bruce Taylor.)

Thursday, December 24, 2020

‘Twas the night before Christmas

And all through Best Value Inn

Not a creature was stirring

Except the Homeless Editor’s gin.


All were snuggled safe in their beds

Blankets wrapped ‘round their neck

Thinking of might be around the corner

Dreaming of that $600 stimulus check.


Until that peace was broken into pieces

By a shattering of the night in noise.

Thankfully it was not a nearby uprising

Of the Bugaloos or the Proud Boys


Now Dasher, now Prancer!

Where are you Tiny Dancer?


On Donner, on Blitzen!

On President Richard Nixon!


Oh, I needed little this quiet Christmas

Maybe just a $5,000 Peleton

Where I could pedal mindlessly

Until I appeared as a skeleton.


I didn’t see mommy kissing Santa.

But I did see her face him standing tall.

“Why didn’t you tell me,” she said.

“Your bonus check would be so small?”


Oh, I wish you the most merry of days

And hope your present is more the norm

For 2021 is a new beginning, a new year

It sure as hell can’t be the same 2020 shit storm.


Wednesday, December 23, 2020

 I like how time slows around Christmas.

We, most of us, take a little more with those we love and ensure they know as much.

The littlest things mean so much.

Even in times like these where there is little left, even nothing, of cost to give, we can offer up gifts that are completely free: smiles, compliments, an elbow bump or a hug for those who are closest to us.

I might be moderately disenfranchised right now but that's meant this season means all the more. Certainly I've had the time to watch others as well and it's a beautiful things to see.

And as lucky as I've been in my life, the overwhelming response from friends, colleagues and complete strangers all over the county -- even the world -- has been most remarkable gift of my lifetime since my daughter was born.

But I must go as I've started to blubber out loud and I fear someone in a nearby room will alert the front desk that there seems to be a walrus in physical distress.

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

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

 Today I thought about a mistake I made as a stupid young man (yes, that's redundant).

One year, as first assistant manager of the McDonald's in my hometown of Chippewa Falls, I awaited my Christmas bonus. It's mid-eighties or so.

I was given a check for $50 -- nothing to be ashamed of at the time.

But I had thought it would be more and so was disappointed. I asked my boss what I should do and he  suggested I call the regional manager. I did and explained my position and felt better for at least stating my case.

The next day, my boss told me the regional guy had talked to the owner -- an old retired Marine who owned six McDonald's passed on this message: If I give a guy a tie as a present and he doesn't like the tie, I'm unlikely to give him another tie.

Lesson learned.

For 35 years now, I've been grateful for everything anyone who's offered me a gift.

There's my Hallmark Channel message for Christmas.

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

Monday, December 21, 2020

 Each day, I wait for the knock.

It's not the traditional knuckles on wood that but that sharp-sounding rap of a room card on my hotel door.

Tap, tap, tap. "Housekeeping." (Wait 30 seconds.) Tap, tap, tap. "Housekeeping."

When I get to the door, the greeting comes from a warm and friendly couple who then to proceed to make my room spotless. Yes, it's an older hotel and at a daily rate of $50, I understand what I'm paying for. But this husband and wife ensure that every surface is wiped, I get new plastic cups and towels, hard floors are mopped and the carpets are vacuumed. 

Early on, they made my bed each day. I asked them to stop because after they left, I would promptly jump back in.

It feels like they're taking care of me, even if it's only a job for them. 

On Sunday, I tipped the gentleman $20 after six days of cleaning.

He tilted his head aside, pocketed the money and said, "God bless you."

Twenty bucks is much money to me now -- hell, it always had been. But I refuse because of my circumstances to treat anyone lesser because of where I am.

In my darkest days, I remember the lesson's of Plato's "The Apology," his account of the trial of mentor Socrates. In it, Socrates said bad men cannot harm good men -- because a good man is made of components that cannot be taken away: integrity, honesty, empathy, truth. No one can take away those elements of a good man.

In his life, the tribunal of Athens took away Socrates' life but it did not change his life as a good man.

So, the homeless editor will tip as long as he can -- but don't expect me to hand out twenties to everyone. 

I'm not drunk.

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

Thursday, December 17, 2020

 These are quiet times.

I'm used to the tumult of a newsroom, which tends not to peak in busy new times but when little is happening. Editors want to have a complete news report even if little is going on.

But right now folks are busying themselves in getting ready for their first COVID Christmas.

Politicians and officials generally take off the month of December because they won't get anything done.

Few if any businesses hire this time of year so that's reduced my hustle.

Winter has set in, such as it is in southern Indiana, and people are hunkering down.

And given the live shit show that has been 2020, we all need a couple weeks off.

I'm going to do another three-day weekend and tell stories of Christmas next week.

May the peace of the season be unto all of you my brothers and sisters.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Are you there, jobs? It's me Rich.

I know it's been a while since we were together but I'm still looking for you.

But it's the middle of December and jobs have dried up more quickly than my pinky toe.

Company hiring ends in the last month of the year as managers and bean counters try to make their numbers for the year. I've seen the corporate memos: "Hiring is dark until turn of the year when we shall return to glorious profits"; "Jobs will remain as dark as the soul of the current CEO"; and "All hiring is closed unless it's an emergency, such as, but not limited to, death of an essential employee by a fire-breathing dragon. Hiring manager must provide burnt corpse."

As such, I'll hunker down in my hotel room for the next couple of weeks, continue looking for jobs and become reacquainted with the vast wasteland that is American television. I remember as a kid, we would fight over the competing 12 channels and now there are hundreds and it's largely dreck.

Sadly, my first night with a working TV in half a decade, I ended up watching a documentary about JonBenet Ramsey -- something I probably saw 20 years ago.

Clearly, I am part of the problem.

Thanks for listening, jobs.

Signed, Rich.

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

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

For seven months I rarely set an alarm, instead waking to the sounds of nature.

Bird calls, the patter of squirrels, rustling leaves or a gentle rain on the tin roof.

Later in the summer, as black walnuts dropped on to the slanted roof -- resulting in four knocks similar to someone at the front door -- I answered the front door a couple dozen times.

I'm clearly not that sharp.

Today in my new hotel environs, I awoke to another sound of nature: a yak trying to cough up a hairball.

As my head cleared, I realized it was unlikely a yak despite the diversity of Bloomington.

It turned out to be one of my new neighbors doing his morning expectoration outside my hotel door. He was trying to get rid of whatever he'd taken into his lungs over the preceding years.

I now have a phlegm alarm clock.

Ah, people.

Now that I'm back in civilization, it will take some time to acclimate. I'm staying on a busy street, where early morning commuters have an inordinate amount of thrush exhaust pipes, meant only to be loud and obnoxious. 

Yet, I'm pretty cool. I'm warm and welcomed. I'm safe and still quite fat for a homeless person.

I'll be OK.

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

Monday, December 14, 2020

 I write to you this evening from the warmth of a local Bloomington hotel room that costs $355 for a week.

Given my weekly unemployment is $335 after taxes, it's a pretty good deal to take a mere twenty bucks out of my pocket for a week's stay.

That means I'll be eating again at Community Kitchen on a more regular basis so that I can hang on to my meager savings.

And I write this on momentous news days in, um, a week or two?

-- The Electoral College voted to affirm the Nov. 3 election, despite threats of violence in some states. (Oh, my Wisconsin, what has God wrought?)

-- The death toll for COVID passed 300,000 -- coming up on the number of American soldiers lost in World War II.

-- And yet the first American received a vaccine for the virus today.

-- Finally, the sitting attorney general is out.

So my personal news is like that of the gnat protesting the elephant it sits on for some olfactory violations.

Nearly seven months to the day of moving into The Hermitage on Lake Lemon, I moved out. It was getting pretty cold and when a fat guy from the Wisconsin Nort'woods complains of cold, you have to give the opinion some measure.

I will forever miss the daily alterations of nature there and shall remain blessed for my life for my benefactor there.

I would be remiss if I did not, again, mention the luck of my life, particularly following Bloomington's ham-handed removal of the homeless from Seminary Park in the city. Even with weak bromides about law and order, the city took poor citizens' only possessions and dumped them in a parking lot -- and they did so under the cloak of night at 10 p.m. There were dozens of humane solutions to what's a real problem.

Bloomington. Liberal? Progressive? Caring?

Not Mayor John Hamilton. He choose to issue his fiat when he thought no one would be around.

Now the whole world is watching.

Hey, peace and warmth unto all of you my brothers and sisters.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

A friend told me today he was glad I'm able to stay positive.

How can I not remain positive?

The Packers are 9-3.

I'm still able to afford a couple beers a day.

Hell, the McRib is back -- for a short time only!

Oh, yeah, there are family, friends, the sun, kittens on YouTube, Netflix, oxygen. I'm a big fan of oxygen.

Given a pandemic, a recession and my own cratering industry, I'm still here. I resemble the cock roach (although I think have better epicurean standards and I am more well read.)

I feel like the coelacanth, a fish thought to have gone extinct 65 million years ago but it has shown up as recently as  23 years ago. For the record "coelacanth" is pronounced "CeeLo Green."

I'm taking a long weekend so have a beautiful one.

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

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

 The blog just passed 125,000 page views, slightly better than the 55 views of my last blog a decade ago.

Readership and attention remains mind-boggling to me, one whose mind is easily boggled. For instance I can't complete a Rubik's to save my life. Nor can I understand the popularity of reality TV.

Yet readership has slowed and I understand why.

The blog has become tiresome.

It's never been tiresome for me to write for I love writing. Since childhood, if I saw a blank piece of paper, I wanted to fill it. The first time I saw a blank computer screen -- complete with blinking green cursor -- I wanted to fill it. To this day, I keep notebooks and documents where I get stuff out of my head. The soul goal being to create more room for new ideas. Or stuff.

What's become tiresome, I suspect, is my life.

Day after day, I struggle to apply for jobs, read whatever I can get my hands on and then write.

Because of the pandemic and my natural tendency toward solitude, I have little room for new characters or contretemps.

I have yet to get a job at the chocolate candy factory with my best friend Viv.

Nor will I hook up with my friend Rachel while she lives in an apartment that would cost $10,000 a month in New York.

Here's the thing, though: I set out to document my journey and I will continue to do so.

Keep reading and I'll try to keep offering commentary that educates, edifies and entertains as we move to a new and better year in 2021.

Peace and thanks unto all of you my dear readers.

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

I accidentally spilled a can of beans on myself today.

Normally, I would be more embarrassed that the stains look as though I soiled myself.

Yet I was more concerned how cliche it is for a homeless person to be eating a can of beans.

But I like beans, damnit.

In journalism school we were taught to avoid writing in cliches. Famously, William Safire in "Fumblerules," wrote "avoid cliches like the plague."

One of my favorite books is "The War Against Cliche" by Martin Amis, 2001. In it, he writes the war isn't in just writing but in manner of thought and the way life is lived. It's a great book and comes highly recommended.

In fact, it is the book that led me to one of my few great parenting moments. I asked my kid, when she turned 18, what was my best advice. She said, without hesitation, "Don't be a cliche."

I hope this moment makes it into a Hallmark movie at some point. It will be called "Sad Dad Christmas" and star Paul Giamatti as me.

Before getting into my current predicament, I regularly ate beans. It's not as though I've adopted the hobo lifestyle. (Although, on a couple of occasions, I have wrapped my laptop in a red kerchief, attached it to a stick and hopped the rails.)

Nor do I eat beans because I work for Mr. Taggert.

I wasn't eating some beans because I am transitionally homeless but because I like beans -- and not just the saccharine sweet baked beans in cans but all beans. Bean diversity. Fifteen bean soup is a celebration -- I add some kielbasa to it.

So if you are to judge, then make the judgment on my slovenliness. Not on a free choice of nutrition.

Peace and beans unto all of you my brothers and sister.

Monday, December 7, 2020

Keep on giving.

That struck me today as I woke up to Facebook message from mentors about a potential job opening in another state.

I made contacts throughout the day, as I chase job openings like a lion chases a wounded gazelle.

Later in the day I learned an intern and stringer here in Bloomington was graduating and looking for a job.

I immediately posted something on Facebook because I still have m any friends in the business who could help her out. I sent her some job postings that would be perfect for her. And I offered up myself as a reference.

Always give back.

Where did I learn that?

From the two guys earlier in the day who were still trying to help me nearly 30 years after first meeting them.

I realized the cyclical nature only later in the day.

I don't have to tell most of my friends to keep giving as they continue to support me through this strange year. Every time I turn around, a friend or stranger does something heart-breakingly nice to me.

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

Friday, December 4, 2020

 "You're a hard man to get ahold of."

Two longtime friends told me that today.

Well, yeah. I'm the Homeless Editor. It's like trying catch a greased pig. (No need to carry that metaphor much further, thank you very much.)

Making it worse, I'm pretty quick for a man my size and age -- unless I'm engaging stairs.

When I was not being recruited for big-time football, one scout said "he's big for a man his size." And "he's unable to use his girth to his advantage -- unless his advantage is having another bratwurst."

That wasn't actually a scout.

It was my mom.

There's been a little movement on the job front. Kind of like a wincing flicker. Or a flicking wincer. There was once contact plus one sign of an opening. It's better than nothing.

Have a beautiful weekend.

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

Thursday, December 3, 2020

 "To sleep, perchance to dream."

-- Shakespeare

I woke up early today but with little on my plate and me as warm as a Cinnebon in the 50-degree Hermitage, I went back to sleep.

That allowed me this dream:

Snoop Dogg picks me up in his ride, a dark blue lowrider so shiny you could find it in the dark on the moon.

We traded small talk but soon enough it turned serious. He wanted to develop a buddy movie with me if I wrote it for him. I told him we could call it "Salt n Peppa" and that old rap trio would be prominent in the soundtrack, as would he. For the record, I would be Salt.

What kind of buddies would we be? I suggested cops. (I dream in cliches apparently.) No. No, Snoop said. He ain't playing no cop. Drug dealers? No. Even though Snoop is currently a drug dealer -- a legal one -- as a cannabis entrepreneur. 

We drove for some time.

Then he dropped me off at a community center I'd never been to while he was off on some errands. I tried to shoot buckets but all the balls were flat. I tried to switch to throwing footballs into the basketball baskets at court length -- a peculiar talent of mine in high school -- but again all the footballs were flat.

Some kids came in to play basketball with a fully inflated ball but they left me out of the game. When I protested, they said I was too old, too fat. And seriously lacking in cool.

I told them I was working with Snoop Dogg on a movie deal. No way, they laughed.

I waited a long time on the sidelines and then I heard Snoop honking outside. I told the youngsters Snoop was outside to pick me up. They followed me out.

They cheered as I got into the lowrider.

I was suddenly cool.

"Any more ideas, writer man?" Snoop asked.

"Yeah. Salt and Pepper are two community center coaches who teach inclusiveness. And maybe smoke a little weed."

Long pause.

"Yeah, man. Get to work," he said, adding a sobriquet of 12 letters that suggests I've had relations with my mother.

Here the dream ends.

Yeah, nothing about homelessness, current events or breaking news about my job search. But it's a story I had to get out of my head.

Peace and sweet dreams unto you my brothers and sisters.

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

I know the majority of Congress cares little for people.

Given that it's been more than a half a year since any legislation to help citizens, you don't have to be a soothsayer to know that.

Now there appears to be some movement before this group of mostly millionaires flies home to enjoy a month off.

So given that politics, party and power matter more than people, I want them to consider the economy. Yes, that amorphous word overused to the point where it has little meaning.

In the second quarter of 2020, consumer spending dropped in the rage of 30 percent. That's remarkably perilous given consumer spending makes up 70 percent of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product. (Thanks to for the numbers.)

Then in the third quarter, consumer spending increased 40 percent. Why? Stimulus packages put money into pockets of the Americans who needed it the most -- people making less than $75,000. Folks bought groceries and gasoline and household items. They paid their rent, so that landlords could do the same. People could get their cars fixed so that mechanics could also continue on with a semblance or a normal lifestyle.

But within weeks, that stimulus money disappears and with no end in sight for the pandemic, the precipice is going will be send many Americans into the Gorge of Eternal Peril. We're talking Great Depression proportions.

Congress -- particularly the Senate -- must act.

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has long balked at any meaningful action, saying "we're not talking about play money."

Well, we're not talking about play people either.

Forgive me for mentioning people.

It's about the economy, stupid.

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

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

 I know it's Giving Tuesday but I'm watching my last few shekels.

Still it's a wonderful time to talk about how I personally have benefited from the giving of others on this day, the seven-month anniversary of being laid off from my job and losing my apartment at the newspaper.

From the very first day, friends and family -- and then complete strangers -- have reached out to me to offer support. Even single women my age from across the country offered up free rooms. Um.

I have received six packs of great beer, hotel stays, the Hermitage, cash, gift cards, gifts. The response has been incredible -- and truthfully needed. I have been in dire straits before (not the band obviously) and my savings were meager, even at my age.

But the best of the giving? The emotional support.

Not only have family and friends reached out, just to ask "How are you doing?", utter strangers have stopped me in public to introduce themselves and ask the same. 

Keep in mind I have lived in Bloomington less than two years.

There's that self-loathing part of me that questions how I deserve this well-wishing but one of the few items of maturation I've learned to adopt is just saying "thank you" and wallowing in the warmth.  ("Wallowing in the Warmth" would be a great autobiography title. Better than my current choice, "What's that Smell?")

Despite the difficulties and the pain of being the Homeless Editor, I've been introduced to the incredible generosity of fellow human beings.

Just tonight, I met my benefactor of the Hermitage in the driveway and thanked him again. "I'll remember this forever," I said. "Just remember, pay it forward, man" he said. "That's what we do.


Peace and generosity to you my brothers and sisters.

Monday, November 30, 2020

It's all so exhausting.

Working, 10-, 12-, 14-hour days as a journalist was similarly so. But at least I accomplished something in my time. I felt fulfilled, accomplished.

But the lack of knowing what's next is stressful and tiring to a degree from which it's hard to recover.

I was unaware of this effect until one of my newspapers took a year-long dive into the effects of poverty on our area. One of the major issues was health and it was then I learned about the stress of the disenfranchised and how that affects blood pressure, heart issues and depression among a myriad of issues. And none of that included a lack of access to decent health care.

As I transition from one home to another, I can sleep 12 hours and remain so exhausted that sometimes the idea of taking another step is too much. Cook? Screw that. Take care of myself? Maybe later. Exercise? Yeah, when I can.

I know those who have don't understand the lives who don't have. Read "A Framework of Understanding Poverty" by Ruby Payne. She writes about how a different mindset comes on under the stress of difficulty. It can alter rationality and logic and reality.

I read it 20 years ago and now I've come to live it.

So tired.

I think it was the German philosopher Lilly von Schtupp who once said, "Let's face it -- I'm fwickin' exhausted."

Peace and rest unto you my brothers and sisters.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

I am thankful for so much.

So it turns out that there is a coming day for giving thanks and I shall avail myself of such a chance.

The other night my daughter texted me "love you so much."

I am thankful for her and her peculiar kind of genius.

I am thankful for my mother and my family.

I am thankful for all of my friends, from my various beer-drinking buddies (scattered across half a dozen states now) to my former colleagues, to all the people who have befriended me in my 55 years.

And during this odd little trip I've been taking this year, I am incredibly thankful for all the new people who have reached out to me during my difficulties.

I cannot thank enough the complete stranger who offered me his guest cottage on Lake Lemon. He's not just given me a place to live but has become a trusted friend.

I thank another stranger who loaned me his Caddy SUV to travel to a job interview in another state.

I'm thankful to all the social service agencies, particularly the smiling volunteers at Community Kitchen.

I am thankful for all the small gestures of support and friendliness on what could have been a lonely road.

I am thankful to beautiful nature, which I didn't always appreciate when I was a busy and slightly bombastic editor.

I am thankful, not in order, for the servers who've befriend me, Netflix, A-A Ron Rodgers and his Packers, "The Queen's Gambit," fellow journalists in what might have been the most difficult year for reporting since 1968, beer, mountain gorillas, John Couger Mellenball, this dumpy little laptop that keeps me connected to the world. Hell, I'm thankful for a great glass of water here in Bloomington, which has delicious tap water by the way.

And, dear readers, I am thankful for you so much. My first blog had a total of 55 page views, of which 45 were mine and 10 from my executive editor. Had I known how much attention this endeavor would attract, it would have been much more sophisticated.

I'll return Monday unless I have breaking news.

Peace and thanks unto you my brothers and sisters.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

I wrote Monday's post because it's the truth.

I sought neither sympathy nor sorrow, both of which can be addictive.

Sometimes life sucks.

How's that for a former philosophy major?

One of the things I dislike about social media is the false narratives. Life is always great, meals are the best, children are perfect. (Note: Actually, my kid is perfect -- so shut up.)

The reality of course is that life includes successes and difficulties, quiet moments of peace and histrionic moments of despair. And I had grown concerned I was not always being truthful. I don't care if this blog has no readers -- I do care that I remain pinned to truth.

Buddha understood this 2,500 years ago when he determined that suffering lies not with tragedy thrust upon us but our own reaction -- want. We want a perfect life and it hurts when reality intrudes, time and again. There will be death, there will be tragedy. Worse, the Green Bay Packers will lose.

So part of healing is understanding that bad happens and accepting that, staying mindful through the painful times and staying mindful through the positives.

I can't really consider myself as a Buddhist, as I don't believe in karma and reincarnation.  But the rationalist in me likes the idea of an inward change versus expecting that everything will be awesome.

Thank you, friends, for reaching out.

I'll be OK.

But I'll also be truthful.

And hopefully, there will come a day soon dedicated to one giving thanks.

Peace and truth unto you my brothers and sisters.

Monday, November 23, 2020

BREAKING -- I have another week at The Hermitage, a cottage on Lake Lemon.

For this I thank my benefactor, a person whom I believe has one of the biggest hearts in Monroe County. His patience, calmness and kindness are incredible. And I thank him publicly.


I don't like complaining. I think it is among the most useless of tasks, although I understand the psychological benefits of letting off steam.

Today, at lunch I tried to choke my way through a small bowl of spaghetti. But my appetite has gone to hell and I'm largely subsisting on cheese and crackers. I don't pick up meal at Community Kitchen anymore because I couldn't eat all the food. And I hate to waste.

I've now started waking up to dizzy spells, something disconcerting as a I sleep in a loft.

I watched as people in a newspaper interview a couple weeks ago looked at the tremors in my left hand, something that started in the last month.

My body aches from head to toe, all day long.

I'm not a doctor nor have I ever played one on TV but I ascribe it to being a big, fat ball of anxiety.

Nearly seven months of not knowing what's next have taken a toll. I can't imagine what it's like for those who have less than me. I saw three guys on a bench at Seminary Park taking slugs from a handle of rotgut vodka last week. I thought, "Do what you have to do man -- do what you have to do."

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

Thursday, November 19, 2020

 I'm going to go deep, deep undercover for three days.

I'll write Monday.

Peace and prudence to all of you my brothers and sisters.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

 No one should feel sorry for me.

That idea strikes me after some reactions to my post yesterday. Some folks sent emojis with what I take to be tears.

After all, it's not as though I suddenly became a fan of the Chicago Bears. Imagine this -- they are struggling at quarterback, something they've been doing since Sid Luckman retired in 1950.

I'm merely changing shelter again and extraordinarily appreciative of what I've had for the past six months. I wanted to describe the beauty of the changing seasons.

In the time since I was laid off, I have found an extraordinary number of friends who have impacted my life. That calls for celebration, not sorrow.

And I keep taking the next step forward, inexorably, understanding how precious are the gifts in life, friends, family, life, nature, science and a couple of beers at the end of the day.

No, don't cry for me Argentina -- or any other country for that matter. OK, Albania, you can cry for me -- but no one else.

I'm pretty blessed even in tough times.

Peace and blessings unto you my brothers and sisters.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

I will miss The Hermitage, my temporary home of six months.

Changing seasons have not diminished the beauty of place, only changing it.

Now the leaves that swayed in the breeze carpet the forest floor, allowing a beautiful view of Lake Lemon that I could only glimpse before.

The squirrels have grown fat as they ready for the winter -- and they haven't touched the keto diet books I've scattered about the place.

I haven't seen a snake in some time -- fine by me. But I do miss my early friend, Severus, a black rat snake, that used to wind himself around the posts on the deck. 

As well, I haven't seen the two skinks that played on the deck. They were Tessio and Clemenza, named after the capos in the first "Godfather." At least they weren't skanky skinks or stinky skinks.

And the unnamed squirrel who, each day at about noon, would find a black walnut and use the deck to get access to the tree canopy without using the trunk. I think he's too engorged for that kind of activity now. I know how it feels.

I shall miss my home, just as I miss Motel 6 and even the apartment at the Herald-Times, decorated by the set designer for "Mad Men."

Peace and shelter unto you my brothers and sisters.

Monday, November 16, 2020

 My heart skipped a beat over the weekend as I filed my weekly voucher for unemployment.

The Indiana website where I filed said, I thought, the end was nigh for payments, even though I thought I had about six weeks left. On closer read, those on extended benefits couldn't receive payments past Nov. 14. I'm not on extended benefits, just regular.

But my consternation followed shortly after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that if -- if -- there's another COVID relief bill, it be meager as compared to previous legislation.


McConnell likes to pretend he's fiscally conservative but he lead the Senate passage of the 2017 tax cut bill that will produce trillion-dollar deficits through 2027. (Hidden in the bill was an increase in taxes, starting next year, for those making $75,000 or less:

There's another reason. Remember that McConnell is the man who told his GOP caucus in 2008 that they would not support anything President Obama proposed even if it was good for America.

Another stimulus bill, needed as current benefits are running out, would be good for America but it also might be good for Joe Biden's administration, anathema to McConnell.

It's not just party over country. It's party over people.

I have met the people hurting out here -- people like me. I've searched for and applied for jobs everyday for coming up on seven months. Even though I've applied for beginner-level jobs like server, I'm a 55-year-old and that's not attractive to anyone hiring employees. (For the record, I'm not physically attractive, either.)

People are still hurting. We're still struggling. But I know better than to hold my breath that will ever matter to some.

Peace unto you my brothers and sisters.

Friday, November 13, 2020

Old, fat, stupid and tired.

Were someone to ask me today how I feel, that's my go-to answer.

Really, though, I'm just exhausted after a great week. I had two strong interviews in the newspaper business -- yes, the industry that has treated me gruffly.

But I still have work to do. I have something to say. There are more windmills at which to tilt.

I'm having a couple of beers at The Tap and then home to sleep deeply, satisfied I gave my best. So that Saturday, when I wake, I will only be old, fat and stupid.

Have a great weekend.

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

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

 DATELINE CONFIDENTIAL -- Fellow Hoosiers, please don't complain about government oppression with the COVID virus until you can't find a place to pee.

I have learned this driving to another state that is treating the pandemic seriously and working on mitigating the contagion. 

When on the road and I need to go, I prefer to stop at a McDonald's. As a former manager at one, I know the importance of bathroom cleanliness. And as someone who started out as a maintenance worker at a McDonald's, I have just triggered my own PTSD as to what I had to clean up.

In Indiana, you can go into a place to relieve yourself.

You cannot in a nearby state. You'll be treated as one of the walking dead. "I'm sorry sir, we don't allow humans to use the restroom. However, if you have a raccoon, an opossum or a muskrat, they can relieve themselves."

That and restaurants. 

In Indiana, there remain some restrictions but you can go eat with friends.

Here, in the state that shall not be named, you cannot.

In this other state, it's largely closed to on-site dining so get take out, cook for yourself or here's a feeding tube.

I can overcome the latter. But as a 55-year old man who needs to go when he needs to go, the former is the problem.

I suggest, though, that if you're reading this, you have survived thus far in what is truly a pandemic. When we ignore that nearly a quarter of a million people have died, we are less humane. 

Please stay safe and make wise choices, my friends. Use masks, social distancing, washing your hands and use hand sanitizer. Keep your bubble of human friends small and we can mitigate the worst of this.

I wish peace and life unto you, my brothers and sisters.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

 DATELINE CONFIDENTIAL -- Safely ensconced in a Holiday Inn Express, I ready myself for a live newspaper interview Wednesday.

I've been keeping newspapers I interview with out of the blog because I think the process of interviewing is proprietary. 

I had taken my car to a mechanic last week who advised me not to make long drives with it. "It's leaking," he said. From where? "Everywhere."

You don't want to hear that from your mechanic or your doctor.

So a brand new friend loaned me a vehicle to make the trip to another state and it turned out to be a Cadillac SUV -- state of the art compared to my 2008 Subaru. I get messages like, "object behind you." As someone who practices mindfulness, I'm more concerned about what's in front of me than the Caddy is. Tonight, I received a message "rain sensors on." Yeah, it was raining. On the drive, there were 40 mph gusts of wind and I was told "high wind advisory."

And later, "high wind has tousled your hair -- both of them."

This vehicle cares more about me than my mom.

I took an Uber to an Italian place that turned out to be closed. The driver, sweet Melissa, had taken off quickly so I couldn't wave her down. Note there was a driving rain and a cold front and I'm standing outside of Italian goodness.

My phone had a 12 percent charge but before it pooped out, I was able to get another Uber to take me safely and soundly -- if not wet and shivering -- back to my hotel.

I went next door to a joint that served American, Greek, Italian and Mexican dishes where the owner, who called himself Eric the Mexican guy, sympathized and fed me some wine and tostadas. 

It's been a day.

But I keep taking that next step, inevitably moving forward for what's next.

I wish peace and forward action unto you, my brothers and sisters.

Friday, November 6, 2020

 Talking with a friend today, I spread my arms to their limit and said, "Worry about what you can touch."

Given that I have the short wing span of an unladen European swallow, that means I have little to worry about.

It's easy to have anxiety about the nature of the country and the world but there's little we can do about it other than, say, vote.

What I can control over the coming days, things are good. I've interviewed with two newspapers in different states and will visit one of them next week.

I know plenty of people -- perhaps hundreds -- who have successfully transitioned from journalism into what I call the civilian world. For me, I feel as though I have more to do, more to say, more to write. As folks jump from what they see as the sinking ship of an industry, I scramble to get back on.

I have hope. I am heartened six months after the layoff and reminded of a story from Pema Chodron. She had meditated until she felt great anxiety. She asked her teacher, Chogyam Trungpa, about this and he said it was the Dakini Bliss -- when one reaches a certain level of peace and enlightenment it becomes uncomfortable because it's unknown.

Never will I be enlightened. I'm a son of the Wisconsin Nort'woods.

But hope and heartening cause a certain level of anxiety to which I am unaccustomed.

Still, it's better than poke in the eye with a sharp stick. That's what we say in the Nort'woods.

Have a beautiful weekend.

Peace and hope unto you my brothers and sisters -- with maybe a little Dakini Bliss thrown in.

Thursday, November 5, 2020

There is bad news, good news and no news.

The bad news is I've spent the last six days with crippling gout in my left elbow. For years, gout has attacked my feet and knees but the elbow was a special treat, essentially turning me into a one-armed man. I took my gout medicine last Friday and it's only today I can raise my arm to type.

The good news is I'm traveling to Illinois next week for a job interview. I don't care to name the city nor the newspaper but the visit follows two good phone interviews. Ideally, the visit is the kiss before the prom, sealing a new adventure. 

I promise to neither cuss nor spit.

Finally, no news in the presidential election. We all wait. Thankfully, there hasn't been the violence I expected. 

Let us remain calm in the following days and remember: We Americans are not each others' enemies.

Peace and calm unto you my brothers and sisters.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Busy, busy.

I've been applying for jobs, had a second interview for one job, looking for a place to stay and am helping out on two side projects.

That makes me thankful in that it fills my day. I remain blessed with people who reach out and ask for help or offer projects.

Just the other day, I received an extraordinarily kind note from someone at the Community Kitchen, thanking me for showing their customers as normal human beings going through a hard time.

I noted that in a brittle economy, the social safety net needs to be more robust and ready to accept the challenges of the cracks in our system.

All of this is a precursor to say I'm going to be off this blog until after the day of the elections.

At some point during these last few months, I told my daughter I was tuckered out. She told me to take care of myself -- that I've been busting my ass for 30 years. 

As always, she is right.

Have beautiful days until Wednesday, friends.

Peace and more peace unto you.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

“Mr. Dorsey, who the hell elected you and put you in charge of what the media are allowed to report and what the American people are allowed to hear?” Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.

That's what Cruz asked of Jack Dorsey, co-founder and CEO of Twitter at a Senate hearing today.

I think the question is best turn around to ask Cruz this: Who the hell elected you to tell a company what it can or can't do? After all, Cruz is anti-regulation.

The Twitter CEO is obviously not in charge of what media are allowed to report. Nor does he determine what the American people can hear. However, he does run the company and as such he is required to make the best fiduciary decisions he can to increase shareholder value.

Cruz is one of many millions of people who think the First Amendment allows them to saw whatever they want, whenever they want, however they want.

That's simply not true and has never been.

Twitter is a de facto publisher of all content on its platform and can control as it wishes. Just as anyone with a Twitter, Facebook, or other social media account is a publisher of their own sites. They are not required to allow anything other than what they want.

I'm the publisher of this blog. If someone writes a comment I dislike, I can remove it without having censored anyone. The word "censorship" itself derives from the Roman Empire when the government could and did censor its people.

Remember the First Amendment's first five words, "Congress shall make no law ..." Even our originalist jurists would note the very first amendment in the Bill of Rights makes no mention of Twitter.

And if Cruz's little boo boo feelings are hurt, he can post in numerous places curses against social media -- no one is going to stop him.

Peace and First Amendment freedoms unto all of my brothers and sisters.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

I feel like a big, old, fat, stupid dog at the shelter.

There are a some newspapers looking at me and that makes my tail wag.

Perhaps I'm not all that but like the old dog, it's a nice feeling when someone is paying attention. And then, when someone feeds me, I will sleep well.

One of the questions I've been asked is when can I start. I go to Google Maps, estimate the drive time, and respond with that number. Three hours. Two hours. Seven hours. Perhaps I should change the title of the blog to "Unencumbered Editor," which comes from the Latin, "Editor who has no cucumber." I think.

I'm trying, though, to not get my hopes up. That's happened a number of times through this process.

Now I've packed my hopes away with my other stuff in a friend's garage. Side note: Someone broke into the garage recently and didn't even open a box of my stuff. True story. Had they, image their horror. Who the hell reads Martin Buber anymore? "Ich und Du" was hardly a laugh riot. I am so pathetic that no one will steal my useless crap.

Nonetheless, if some newspaper adopts me despite my age all the accompanying smells, I will be the happiest old dog in the land.

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

Thursday, October 22, 2020

I attended the birth of the Craisin.

It's one of my few claims to fame.

I was a young reporter for the Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune and as part of the business beat, I covered the cranberry industry, which circled the city like, oh, I don't know -- a cranberry bed. (Cranberry trivia No. 1: In Wisconsin, cranberries grow in beds. In Massachusetts, they grow in bogs.)

A story in the Milwaukee newspaper reminded me of this exciting time following how a TikTok video of a dude drinking Ocean Spray while skateboarding and listening to Fleetwood Mac has helped sales for the cocktail. (Cranberry trivia No. 2: A fruit drink cannot call itself a juice unless at least 51 percent is the actually the juice itself. It's common in the juice industry to sweeten tart juices with a concentrated and naturally sweet apple juice.)

Here's the story:

So there I was, sitting in a meeting of the Wisconsin Cranberry Growers Association when the director gave updates on the Craisin.

"Still too tart," said Tom Lochner. Test audiences wanted the taste of the cranberry but not the natural tartness. They had grown accustomed to the sweetness of cranberry sauce. Me? I can eat a handful of raw cranberries like Beer Nuts.

The newspaper reported on it, just as we reported that a study showed cranberry juice can be helpful in fighting off urinary track infections. (Cranberry trivia No. 3: The cranberry juice needs to be at least 27 pure cranberry juice before it's effective with UTIs.)

As part of coverage, I visited the Ocean Spray processing center in Babcock, Wisconsin, where the berries are processed in the millions of pounds. (Babcock trivia No. 1: One time, a dude who lived in a trailer home across the street from the cranberry plant smelled a gas leak. So he opened the small door to his gas heater and lighted a match to see what was going on. Dude survived because a trailer home doesn't hold in the explosion. But he was the biggest thing EMTs found when they arrived.)

I visited a number of cranberry farms in my time and found out how good they are for the environment. I saw beavers slip from one flooded bed to another. (Cranberry trivia No. 4: Cranberries are hollow so when harvest time comes, the beds are flooded and a paddle wheel-like device smacks them off the plant and they can be collected more easily as they float on the water.)

Oh, I was a fine cranberry reporter.

Now that I've assured you of that, I'm going to take a three-day weekend.

And I wish you peace and cranberries my sisters and brothers.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

 As I work to climb out of the hole I dug myself, my fear is life will get worse before it gets better.

The experts I've talked to in the last six months say the transition is the most difficult. No job. No permanent address. How do I tell a prospective landlord I can't provide a most recent reference?

I have several prospective jobs that are heartening but the window is tightening. I recently posted on Facebook that my new toothpaste was giving me the drive heaves -- numerous friends suggested anxiety as the cause. Of course, that would make more sense.

So I'm thinking of adding dry heaves to my resume.

I specialize in investigative journalism, AP style, management, leadership, smart aleck yocks and dry heaves.

Who wouldn't hire that piece of work?

We shall see.

But I'll remain taking the next step. As my kid reminds me when I do something stupid -- like taking photos of the armed men during a summertime rally in Bloomington -- "think of me," she says.

I do and I will be fine even if the trip takes me through unpleasant territory, say, Mosinee, Wisconsin.

Peace and safe travels unto all of you my brothers and sisters.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

 I need a newsroom.

I said that twice during my interview Monday.

That's not meant out of narcissism, hubris or pride. I just need to be back in a newsroom where I can bring helpful information to the community.

When COVID first hit, I remember gathering my colleagues saying that our challenge would be to offer ways to navigate the greatest pandemic in 100 years. We brainstormed ways to let people know where they could get food, personal protection equipment, testing. We offered stories of survival and death. We also offered stories of diversion in the sports department because people needed something besides all COVID, all the time.

I have been doing this for 30 years now and one of the first things I understand is there will always be people who will hate you. Often, they come from mutually opposing groups. I once served as a newspaper liaison to Lansing, Michigan, Muslims and the Lansing Jewish community. Both of them read the same newspaper and both of them thought we biased against them in favor of the other. No manner of me telling them it couldn't be both worked.

I need a newsroom in the same way Patton needed to be in the fight -- not for glorification but because we each knew what we do. 

Initially I went into journalism because Ernest Hemingway said his best training as a writer was working as a reporter for the Kansas City. He said he had to write 5,000 words a day no matter how hungover he was.

Writers write, right?

It turned out my novels were horrible but my journalism was pretty good and it allowed me to get better every day. That's the beauty of the daily newspaper. When you stumble and fall, you have to get up and brush yourself off and do it again the next day.

And in the newsiest of years, it's been difficult to sit on the sidelines. Difficult is a nice word. It's really been the worst part of the year.

I just need a newsroom.

Monday, October 19, 2020

"That's the best birthday present you could have," my kid said today.

I had what I thought was a great phone interview for a newspaper job. I will talk with the editor again later this week.

Actually, I had many great birthday presents on this day I turn 55. (I just started getting unsolicited emails for burial insurance. Does that happen at this age? Or does someone know something I don't?)

First, any time I talk with the kid it's a present for me. She's brilliant, funny and her stories show she doesn't shy from a fight with someone who's fill of shit. One time, when I went to her high school in Pennsylvania to see her in a play, we were leaving when a school staff member stopped to praise her performance. As we continued down the hall and I pressed the door handle to leave, I asked who it was. She said the principal who wouldn't let her print some articles in her high school newspaper. I stopped dead and her little hands -- which are perpetually those of a 6-year-old in my head -- grasped my arm. "Father," she said, which she always calls me when being serious, "this is not your fight." She was 16 at the time. And she was right of course and I opened the door without a word.

I also had a bunch of friends shout out happy birthday wishes on Facebook. I'm not a huge fan of social media and what it's done to discourse in our country but has advantages as well. I am warmed by the response.

And also I'm having some beer right now -- that also warms me.

Yes, I've had my troubles but they pale in contrast to my blessings.

Peace and blessings to all of you my brothers and sisters.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Fall reminds me of change.

We ready ourselves to transition from the warmth and color of summer to the stodgy gray of winter. You think of winter as white? You've never lived in the snow belt. After the snowfall, everything turns to slush.

But there's always the beauty of nature in it. I watch this one squirrel who daily takes a black walnut from my stoop, rushes to the back deck and jumps into the tree. Lazy little bastard. But he's fattening for winter.

As the leaves drop, and where I live, they rain down, I can get a better glimpse of Lake Lemon where I have been lucky enough to live these last five months. At the same time, you get to see the real shape of the trees.

Today was 55 degrees -- my favorite temperature as a warm-blooded son of the Wisconsin Nort'woods and the offspring of a Canadian immigrant. I remember complaining to my naturalized mother about it being cold in Chippewa Falls. She'd say, "Oh stop it. You don't know cold." In Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, where she grew up, school was never cancelled even when it was 60 below with winds howling off the prairie. The teachers and kids wore their coats in the classroom and the teacher would read from a book because there was frost on the chalkboards. I'd like Neil Young to write a song called "Frost on the Chalkboards." Then I want k.d. lang to cover it.

I like to wake up buried under blankets with a cold nose. Should someone adopt me as a puppy? A really big, old puppy?

So change is coming, certainly a new place to live and maybe an actual newspaper job.

Change is good because inevitably there comes the rebirth of spring and then the warming sun of summer.

Have a beautiful weekend.

Peace and change unto you my brothers and sisters.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

BREAKING: Some dear people have reached out inviting me to apply for a position at a newspaper.

I applied today.

Suddenly, I'm transported back to the ugly, milk-fed high schooler with a slight stink that was me when I heard an attractive woman was interested in going to the prom with me.

It's nice to be wanted.

The slight stink was probably from all that milk.

The forest of jobs remains remains low on sustenance in these pandemic days. adds half a dozen ads a day, the vast majority of which remain out of my reach for many reasons. On, I find many openings for food delivery. Editor & Publisher classifieds are, to paraphrase the philosopher H.I. McDunnough, "a rocky and barren place where my seed can find no purchase."

I don't want to name the newspaper nor the people at this point because we're just ankle deep in the process.

But it's greatly warming to have people afar concerned about my well-being.

Peace and concern unto you my brothers and sisters.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Someone called a bar to reach out to me this week.

For most that would be odd.

But as the son of the Wisconsin Northwoods -- it's not all that surprising.

The person who called The Tap enjoys reading this blog and wants collaboration, one of my favorite words. I can't fathom how this person could describe me. "Well, he's older and larger and probably looks desperate." Somehow I stood out.  I quickly said "yes" to collaboration and we're already exchanging messages. Such a thing helps fill these long days.

I certainly had phone calls from people when working at Jackie's Bar, which is now the West Hill Bar in my hometown of Chippewa Falls.

One of my favorite bar calls was when I was sharing drinks with reporters from my hometown newspaper at the Fill-Inn Station. I had interned there and was still in college. The bartender called me to the phone and I found myself talking to my department chairman, Dr. James Fields.

"Is this line secure?" he asked. 

Looking at the telephone cord, I said, "Um, yeah."

The Akron Beacon-Journal was looking for the best investigative reporter at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. Fields tabbed me and tracked me down by calling my mom. Akron wanted information on the ex-boyfriend of Jeffrey Dahmer's mother, particularly his next address in Madison, Wisconsin. This was during that whole thing and Dahmer's mother had lived in Chippewa Falls while attending nursing school in Eau Claire. The newspaper was going to pay $300.

$300! To a college student? In 1991?

I could buy much more beer -- and maybe some food.

Calling the contact number, the city editor gave me three requests. One was a forwarding address, the next a Social Security number and the third a phone number. The city editor said my deadline was in three days and then I could get paid.

The next morning, I went to Chippewa Falls City Hall, I place I knew well as I used to walk the halls with my dad when he was city attorney. I went to the election division back in an era when highly personal information was public record.

Asking for the information on the guy's name, which I forget, one of the employees who knew my parents asked why I sought it out. I didn't need to answer according to state law but it's a small town where we're honest and nice with each other. "I'm working as a correspondent for the Akron Beacon-Journal," I said. I might as well have spoke Russian but they complied and I had finished my investigation.

I drove to the offices of my university newspaper, The Spectator, and called the Akron city editor with the information. She said, "Already?" I said, "Yes."

So I don't mind people calling me at my watering holes.

It always leads to something.

Peace and tavern phone calls unto all of you my brothers and sisters.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

I listened to Amy Coney Barrett's confirmation hearing on the radio -- what a nothing waffle.

(I just had a nothing burger yesterday and I'm trying to vary my diet. Tonight, I will have a nothing chicken salad sandwich.)

I'm reminded of the story told by River City Mayor George Shinn in describing a wrestling match where two entangled men move not an inch for over an hour in the ring. "Music Man" reference.

Barrett can't comment on much although we already know she's going to be a punch card for Antonin Scalia's judicial philosophy.

And the Democrats can't ask hard questions because they don't want the hearing to turn into a Brett Kavanaugh debacle just three weeks before a presidential election.

It was like watching two high school kids dancing -- 12 inches apart -- because their friends told them to dance with someone.

Honestly, do I have any more metaphors in me to describe nothing?

Go ahead and vote already. Everyone knows what's going to happen. And after that, when Barrett takes her gavel to the Supreme Court, get ready to relitigate every major decision of the past 60 years.

It was like watching "My Dinner with Andre."

Last metaphor -- I promise,

Peace and metaphors unto you my brothers and sisters.

Monday, October 12, 2020

 I do not have a job.

I need a new place to lay my head.

It's the middle of a pandemic.

Just weeks from cataclysmic election.

But the Packers are 4-0. So not much else really matters. As the philosopher notes, "When you're chewing on life's gristle/ Don't grumble, give a whistle."

It's funny when you stop looking at the gristle and decide to a have a glass of joy (which tastes suspiciously like the Bionic Dragon IPA at The Tap here in Bloomington).

The drive into town Sunday morning was like driving through a Jackson Pollock fall-themed splatter. I had my windows down and my hair -- both of them -- flowing in the wind. That rotting leaf smell permeated the air as did the smell of wood furnaces on the drive home.

As a son of the Wisconsin Nort'woods, raised on the Green Bay Packers, I take great solace in the team's successful start. And as we fans -- full transparency: My daughter and I own one share of the Packers -- often live and die on the Packer's success, this takes away at least one more stress from our lives. 

My drive in reminded me of Pema Chodron's story about Jarvis Jay Master, on death row in California for decades for a crime he didn't commit. During that time, he studied Buddhism and learned to be open in the moment. One day he's suddenly taken into the nearby city for an eye exam. During that ride he's silently awake to all that's changed around him during his incarceration.

That's hard to do everyday.

But try it on the good days.

And please, cheer on the Packers.

Peace and a winning streak unto all of you my brothers and sisters.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Somehow it's not shocking that Congress and the administration cannot work on a stimulus package that could help the American people.

The federal government has only grown more dysfunctional as time passes -- even though we're in an election year.

But people are hurting. And business is hurting. The country is hurting.

I talk with enough regular  folks who are struggling -- and often failing -- to keep up with the pandemic economy. I know I'm one. I've exchanged emails with former employees and interns who hurt. I have to point out it's the worst job market since the Great Depression and it's the biggest pandemic since the Spanish Flu.

These are extraordinary times.

While our government does not a damn thing.

Now the president has cut off talks about another stimulus package for unknown reasons. Then he suggests Band Aids for a gaping head wound.

I meet people at Community Kitchen who just need to eat. And I see more people like me, not disheveled but clearly in need of help because they -- we -- are there.

For some in power, ideology trumps empathy. Power beats out help. Politics becomes more important than wisdom.

As an amateur student of American history, this might be the most shocking time in more than 200 years. During multiple national emergencies happening at once, we have failed to come together as a nation.

Instead, we fight and kill over the wearing of a mask.

I need to take a little time off to spend on finding a job and a new place to live so I won't post again until Monday.

In the meantime, I wish peace and some goddamn common sense unto you my brothers and sisters.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Genetics kill me.

As I was working on finding a job and a place to stay today, I tweeted with my 20-year-old about Vladimir Nabokov.

It turns out, never having discussed him, we both have a love of his writing, particularly "Lolita."

Where genetics comes into this is this has happened dozens of times during her life. We've both come to the same conclusions independently on a myriad of subjects and I trace it directly to genetics. Studies of twins separated at birth show they tend to have the same favorite color, dress similarly, marry the same  and even share hobbies.

When my kid was 15 years old, she asked if I knew Gore Vidal. I told her I was obsessed with him -- when I was 15.

We both need to needed -- NEEDED -- to see "Straight Outta Compton" and "The Disaster Artist."

Somehow, despite being born in 2000, she loved Dolemite the character before Eddie Murphy's movie.

She loves pens and stationery. (I have a slight addiction.)

My kid is a critical thinker. I remember watching "Who wants to be a Millionaire?" when she was about 6 years old and there was a question about board games. She said she didn't know the answer but knew that three of the four choices were false. I suggested this is where reasoning came in. If she knew three of four were wrong, then she could reason the fourth answer was correct.

I swear I could see a light bulb in her head explode.

She continues to be a bright light in my darkness. All with a handful of texts.

Peace and love unto you my brothers and sisters.

Monday, October 5, 2020

Sadly, my time at the Hermitage is coming to a close.

The cabin is not heated and my benefactor usually winterizes it on Thanksgiving weekend.

A few quick words about my benefactor: he has the biggest heart in Monroe County. I've kept his identity a secret all these months because he deserves his privacy.  But what he has done for me is nothing less than a godsend, a blessing. He also gives to others in a similar way, privately, person-to-person. He's the mensch of mensches.

So in addition to looking for a job, I'm looking for a place to say, ideally at little to no cost.

I've written before that I had an epiphany early in 2020, when I was fully employed and ensconced in an apartment at the newspaper, that I needed to do a better job of asking for help.

Well, being laid off in the worst job economy in 90 years has helped my improvement in that endeavor.

My fear is that my struggle, minimal in comparison to many others, is about to get worse before it gets better.

That will be OK given what I've learned over these last months,

Humility is one of the most misused words in the English language. When people win awards they say they are humbled. They are not. Being humbled is being brought down to Earth from a high position. The etymology comes from the Latin, "humus," from the ground, dirt, Earth.

I am humbled.

And that's actually a great feeling as I spend time with it. I can't wait to use it on my next job, whether that's newspaper editor or waiter or fast food manager.

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

Friday, October 2, 2020

As I sat at a local watering hole a couple weeks ago -- no, it's true, I drink beer -- I sat next to a group of local businessman as they talked important stuff.

They talked about win-win scenarios and maximizing profit and monetizing non-economic entities. (Do they teach this language in business schools?)

On their way out, most took advantage of the free hand sanitizer as they left.

But one said, "No, that's for liberals."

I had to laugh at the politicization of hand sanitizer. What's next? I wondered. Chapstick?

But it's not funny that some leaders eschew common-sense protection against a potentially lethal virus. The failure to listen to science likely has led to additional deaths. It also sets a bad example for followers.

And now the lead anti-science politician has COVID-19.

I hope the president and his wife and any others get over the virus quickly and survive. Anyone who takes joy in the tragedy of another is a piece of crap. I also hope the White House begins to listen to common-sense measures much of the country adheres to.

My friends, I want all of you to survive. Those who don't like me? I want you to survive as well.

But part of that is listening to health experts and making smart decisions based on expertise and not politics. I've been in journalism long enough to know the intellectual IQ in politics is much lower than other fields.

Science is smarter than politics.

Have a beautiful weekend and be safe.

Peace and health unto you my brothers and sisters.

Thursday, October 1, 2020

One of the advantages of being laid off on the first of the month -- it makes remembering anniversaries easier.

Today marks five months.

And I remain the luckiest man on the face of the Earth. Blessings have rained down on me like, oh, I don't know. Rain?

I've made so many new friends in this time and reconnected with old friends. Strangers have taken me in and fed me and offered me money, all of which has helped, emotionally and literally.

The only news I can share at this point is I continue to search for any job that can keep me plump. 

But I would like to say to Congress there remains real pain out in this land. Your fighting over ideology doesn't do a damn bit of good.

Peace and employment to all of you my brothers and sister -- unless you're happily retired.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

 Count your blessings.

One of many I have at the Hermitage is I don't have television.

So I didn't have to watch the disgusting show that pretended to be a presidential debate.

I would never get that time back -- an important measurement as I get older.

But I need to say, or write, that a failure to to condemn white supremacy is the grossest thing I've ever seen a U.S. president do.

I've ready plenty of U.S. history and there are many grotesque moments, from the Federalists to the Democrat Republicans to the Whigs to the No-Nothings to Republicans to Democrats.

But giving support to the nascent Proud Boys makes me want to vomit all over America.

Like all racists, they hide. I've written before about how the KKK hid behind white masks and modern racists hide behind fake names on social media. In the case of the Proud Boys, they hide behind dog whistle language, winks and nods.

Were they truly proud, they would come out and say what they are: white supremacists.

And the president has shown his colors once again.

Peace and equality unto all of my brothers and sisters.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Push through, said one of my friends.

He's an early blogger and wrote code for some of the early audio sharing.

It's been good advice for this blog -- particularly today on the 100th post -- and in life in general.

One must move forward, despite it all. I've exchanged messages with former interns who struggle to find jobs in today's market. Don't take it personally, I say. This is the worst job market in 90 years. Every opening can have dozens or hundreds of applicants. I know in my case, I've competed for editor jobs with friends of decades. In many of the cases, when I've not earned the job, I can say objectively that the publisher had made a wise decision on the other person.

That's part of what another friend has said and that is staying humble.

So as I search for waiter jobs or fast-food manager jobs to help get me through the winter, I stay humble. I told one publisher -- who told me I was over experienced for the job at hand -- one my my favorite stories of the Buddha. He was washing his rice pot before teaching some students but he had burned some rice in the pot and it was taking a while to clean it. His assistant said, let me wash the pot for you so you can go teach them. "What can I possibly teach if I don't know how to wash a rice pot?" the Buddha responded.

My biggest lesson in 100 posts is the graciousness of so many people out there -- many complete strangers.

Whether I become a newspaper editor again, another kind of journalist, a waiter or a second-shift manager at Burger King, I promise to return the kindness offered me in these last months.

Peace and graciousness unto you my brothers and sisters.

Monday, September 28, 2020

 I woke up Sunday morning to get ready for what's become a regular Sunday meeting with my beer-drinking buddies.

But before doing my daily cleaning, I decided to take some time and be mindful.

I had a chaos dream just that morning, where I had control over nothing and every time I said that to people, I was given more tasks. That's similar to being a newspaper editor but in conscious life, I have more control than in subconscious dreams.

My heart was pounding.

Fall was in the air as the green of summer begins to die and decompose.

On the front deck of the Hermitage, I watched the yellow leaves from the canopy that surrounds the property fall like rain. My colleague Laura Lane once planted some herbs in a window box at the place but they never grew because of the tree coverage.

Now that the humidity has broken, the breeze off the lake can be felt through the trees -- the air carrying the scent of the leaves and the critters among them.

I've been watching this lazy squirrel over the last couple of weeks. He grabs nuts that fall on to the front deck with a "WHACK" sound and then uses the back deck to get into his tree without crawling up the trunk. Lazy bastard.

Last week I saw a new snake, a baby with yellow circles around him down his body. Baby snake implies mama snake so I increased my pace as much as I could.

When I drove down the remote, gravel rode to go see my friends, I felt as though I were driving into an ancient chapel but instead of a ceiling of murals, the canopy was was of intense oranges and reds, yellows, greens and browns.

I love fall when the cornfields turn to a golden rod color and when the soybean tops turn yellow. That's going to be some good eating for someone soon.

Then I walked into my Sunday watering hole, friends with smiles on their faces, genuinely happy to see me.

Oh, and the beer was pretty good.

Homeless editor?


Lucky man?

Goddamn straight.

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

Friday, September 25, 2020

Dear kid,

Happy 20th birthday.

As I noted in our phone call today, it amazes me that you made it this far because, frankly, I'm a putz. I never left you on top of the car and took off. I never threw you off a pier and walked away. I never encouraged you to climb a tree and then had to take an important call -- or grab a cold one.

That you're alive says everything my fathering.

What you've become, though, says everything about you.

And what you've become is simply the best person I know.

You are utterly brilliant, incredibly on top of current events but vested in history. Your empathy is high, although I understand how that causes pain. You have a deep moral compass that sends you in the right direction always. And, of course, you're funny as hell. Actually, you're funnier than hell. Hell pretty much sucks. I've heard from friends.

Here's a secret: I study current events before I call you. Even as a newspaper editor, I can't keep up with your knowledge. I love that your knowledge extends beyond our borders, a rarity in these United States today. I remember when you at age 15 won the contest that took you to the mock UN at The Hague and you planned to represent Recep Erdogan. "Why did you pick the biggest douchebag in Europe?" I asked. "The challenge, dad," you said. "The challenge."

We've talked about how empathy in difficult times can be horrifying. This year has seen has been the worst in my lifetime -- pandemic, recession, racial strife, RBG's death. And, oh yeah, your dear old dad is laid off and technically homeless. But imagine the world without empathy. Your empathy. The Earth would be worse without it.

I love that your morality leads to outrage. It ought to. In fraught times, living in the gray, we need more people like you who see right for what it is and wrong for what it is. When I turned 50 -- and you were 15 -- I talked to you about how I might switch to a communications career that pays more than being an editor. You said, Father (you always call me that when  you're serious) you always taught me to fight the good fight and you're the best fighter I know.

Damnit, I have to live up to my own words?

On this birthday where I'm supposed to give you something, thank you for giving me everything.



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

Thursday, September 24, 2020

I showered and shaved today and put on a shirt -- with a collar. 

I haven't looked this clean since my First Communion ceremony in 1973.

Today was meant to hump for server jobs around Bloomington.

Arriving early at what I thought was an open call for server jobs I found on Craigslist, I straightened my shirt and approached the restaurant.

I then promptly tripped and did a fast plant on the sidewalk.

Construction workers across the street laughed. I dig, I thought. Fatty Arbuckle made that a classic move 100 years ago.

Quickly, I righted myself, checked for long-term injury and then knocked on the door.

"Hi," I said. "I'm here a little early for the open interviews."

I'm sorry, the nice lady said. That was last Thursday.

The story is a perfect metaphor for my struggles to find a job.

In the meantime, I'm sure she told staff that Massive Head Wound Harry applied for a server job.

At other places I stopped, I was told to apply online. But how will people notice my wonderful goddamn personality? And how will the dumb bastards get to know my excellent people skills?

An old friend sent me a note this morning, telling me to stay humble and flexible.

The latter is a little harder at my age. The former? It's easy to be humble when you're lying on the sidewalk with a chorus of laughter.

Peace and safety unto you my brothers and sisters.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

 Here's a report from the front lines of a job search for an aging man in the middle of a pandemic and the worst job market in 90 years:

Phew, it stinks.

I mean a literal stink. 

Have you ever accidentally spill limburger cheese on your car manifold and then driven 600 miles?

That's the stench.

(As an aside, you'd be surprised how often this happens in Wisconsin.)

I continue to apply to jobs that would suit my skill set but I've also turned to looking for food service jobs. I can bartend. I can wait tables. But it turns out those are a young person's game, I'm told. Plus my bartending service 30 years ago was in joints where the name of the drink was in the order: Whiskey coke, Seagram's and Seven, gin and tonic, tap beer, a shot of whatever cures what ails you.

I've thought about turning to a sales job but the old advice is that a salesman is essentially selling himself. Ain't know one buying that.

Hell, I wouldn't buy me.

I will keep you updated my friends. If any of you know of a business that needs an older, larger man, who specializes in being a smart aleck, please alert me.

Peace and dad jokes unto you my brothers and sisters.

Monday, September 21, 2020

I haven't  read any of the coverage directly related to the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

I don't have the energy to break down crying in public.

So these thoughts are fully mine without input from others.

The loss of RBG is the loss of someone who fought on behalf of individual people and their rights. She wasn't fulfilling an ideological role -- as much as equality is an ideology.

She didn't take on battles about political differences and political platforms. What RBG wanted was for individuals in U.S. society to be treated the same and have the same rights as others.

For most of her career, that concentration focused on women's rights in the work place and society. She stood on the shoulders of women in the United States going back to the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848. But for all those giants and the following Suffragettes, I would argue RBG was the most successful because she fought in the trenches of the men -- the U.S. judicial system.

And she won.

She continued her fights all the way up to the most male of bastions -- the U.S. Supreme Court.

I love she was physically diminutive because it belied her massive intellect, her unwillingness to back down. Ruth Bader Ginsburg took on all comers and didn't brook bullshit.

I remember reading a story about a new Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch pompously announcing from the bench during a case about how perhaps the justice had forgotten about the Constitution and began a rant about the case in front of them. A frail and seemingly disengaged Ginsburg said directly into her microphone, "Where did one person, one vote from?"

Gorsuch shut up.

What I fear the most is we shall not see her like again.


Friday, September 18, 2020

 When out in public, I keep my head down.

I don't make eye contact.

I mind my own business.

For no other reason, I assume I won't run into people I know in a city where I have lived for just a year.

That's despite meeting at least a thousand people since I arrived in Bloomington. The Herald-Times gifted me 1,000 cards when I arrived in June 2019 and when I was laid off May 1, 2020, I had about 30 cards left.

I met many people.

Yet it comes as a perpetual surprise that complete strangers stop me in public and ask me how I'm doing. They ask about job prospects, if I'm OK, if I need anything.

For anyone who assumes the darkness of the human soul, they don't see what I see.

A complete stranger approached me Thursday to ask about my state of life. 

This simple act is of such graciousness and I find it astounding. I suspect she recognized me from column mugshots. Regardless of how she knew me, her questions of well-being filled my heart and reminded me of the good in this city, this county, this state, this country and this world.

Imagine if we all could treat strangers as friends and what that would mean for our society.

To use an old Oprah phrase: Random Acts of Kindness.

Enjoy your weekend, my dearest friends, far and near.

Peace and kindness unto you my brothers and sisters.

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:

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 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.