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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: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/16/obituaries/stanley-crouch-dead.html?action=click&module=News&pgtype=Homepage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Think for yourselves, my friends.

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



Tuesday, September 15, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

Small victories.

Huge blessings.

Peace and blessings unto you my brothers and sisters.


Monday, September 14, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

It turns out I need people as well.

And some beer helps.

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

Friday, September 11, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

Another piece of advice from my friend: push through.

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

So here I am and will be.

Peace and thoughts unto you my brothers and sisters.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please share your first car story in the comments section.

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

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

 An old foe visited me last week: car anxiety.

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

And it always did.

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

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

Now it's back.

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

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

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

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

Today, it's back on.

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

On second thought, don't.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

 Looting is not defensible.

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

Shooting people who disagree with you is not patriotic.

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

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

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

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

Seek peace and understanding.

Stop all violence. 

You'll actually gain strength in the process.

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

Peace and more peace unto you my brothers and sisters.


Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Four months to the day my job ended and I'm still looking hard.

I've had a couple of job interviews that ended with the newspapers hiring other candidates and there are a couple of new openings in newspapers and teaching journalism I'll pursue this week.

Also this week, I'll concentrate on looking at service jobs which are the few that seem to be hiring. That would keep me in Bloomington and goodness knows I love me some food.

Trying to serve as a mentor to unemployed friends, I've reminded them that they they are looking for jobs in about the worst time since the Great Depression. A bad economy and a pandemic lead to a buyer's market. And the number of available jobs has decreased online, I read in a recent news report.

No one should beat themselves up about their employability particularly in this strange time. (Yet of course I do that. It's only natural.)

I still consider myself the luckiest man on the face of Earth -- who is receiving unemployment.

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


Monday, August 31, 2020

 Thank you readers all for bringing my page views to more than 100,000.

I started writing the blog merely as something to aim for each day, a reason to get up and think and read and then at the end of the day write.

Of the five blogs I've written the most popular earned 55 hits over nine days.

In the nearly four months of writing, I've so appreciated the support and friendship from near and far. Sure, there have been the anonymous trolls but they end up being like gnats. If you succeed against odds of smacking one, assuredly there will be another coming along shortly.

My goal for each entry is simply to be truthful. That's how I try to live daily, truthful and until sleep meets me.

There have been great joys and lesser sorrows in the time of the keeping the blog. I've also written how it's changed. There's only so much I can do with reporting on homelessness -- and then virtually no one read it.

That's cool. One must pivot in this strange time.

I'm obviously still looking for a job and those seem be drying up faster than a creek bed in the Texas desert (I've been practicing my best Dan Rather this last week). I'm going to make rounds in Bloomington here, at the grocery stores and fast-food joints to see who needs a manager. I'll keep applying online even though that's earned two interviews out of 90 applications.

I'll keeping trying.

And I'll keep writing. As I've said all along, writers write.

Thank you all for reading. There's little more reward for a writer to know one is not merely writing into the void.

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


Friday, August 28, 2020

I walked into Community Kitchen last night for a free, hot dinner, no questions asked.

A server greeted me with the squinted eyes that now serve as a welcoming smile in the era of masks.

She said she wondered if I was going to make it that night.

I've become a familiar face at Community Kitchen.

That's entirely OK with me because it's a warm and friendly place that lives up to its ideals. Thursday's dinner was beef chili mac with green beans, a summer salad of fresh tomatoes and cucumbers in dressing with fresh cantaloupe for dessert. (One answer to my gout problem, I've found, is to eat fresh fruit daily.)

The night before is was beef, carrots and broccoli on rice.

I certainly didn't eat this well while employed because it was usually take-out while I worked on projects or edited pages or wrote columns.

What's better is the friendly albeit masked faces I greet. One night, when they served BBQ turkey on a bun, I was the last person to get arrive and so the scoop of meat was pretty light. The server said she'd give me extra mac and cheese as a side. "There's no such thing as too much mac and cheese," I said. "Sounds like a challenge to me," said another server.

I appreciate the humanity offered to me at these times.

I love the sincerity in it.

And the food is pretty damn good, too.

Peace and sustenance unto you my brothers and sisters. Have a beautiful weekend.


Thursday, August 27, 2020

 Violence begets violence.

We Americans will never succeed as a country if this artificially created idea of Blue vs. Red perpetuates itself into violence.

In order to end the cycle, someone has to have the strength to choose not to participate in the violence -- and to end the cycle. Someone on one of the supposed sides has to say "enough."

But that takes strength. When you get hit or attacked, it takes true bravery not to respond in kind. That's what we learned from Gandhi and Martin Luther King, two peaceful people who changed not just their countries but the world.

It also takes leadership. 

Where are leaders on the two supposed sides saying, "Stop"?

Stop looting and stop burning. Stop fighting and stopping shooting. For the love of God, stop killing each other.

None of this will resolve the real problems we have in this country, injustice and inequality.

And put down the guns. Most of you have no training in gun safety. I've seen you wander the streets with your fingers on triggers pretending the threat is eminent. For God sake, go home and play some more video games if you want to play soldier.

My heart grieves for my country.

Peace and more peace unto you my brothers and sisters.


Tuesday, August 25, 2020

I re-watched "Spotlight" last night and remembered what the movie got so right: investigative journalism ain't sexy.

It's almost never like "All the President's Men," where there are secret meetings in parking garages and danger lurks at every key click of the typewriter.

Investigative journalism is boring as the reporter pours over records and files and makes dozens of usually calls. It includes countless rebuffs when knocking on doors and tracking down thread for the story that turns up in a dead end.

I once poured through 1,300 emails from a public election committee, the vast majority of which were as stupid as most emails all of us exchange. Recipes and jokes and -- oh God -- the repeated memes that people think are so funny or meaningful.

One public records request resulted in a box of 600 pages of documents landing on my desk. "So there goes the weekend," I thought. I didn't share that thought with my then-wife or toddler but I suppose that could be one of the many reasons I use the phrase "then-wife."

On one staff, we collected every drunk driving arrest in our coverage area for an entire year into a database to study the realities and not the assumptions about operating while intoxicated. It was just 15 minutes a day day but multiply that by 365 days. And only after that did the reporting start.

In the first case, it changed the way public officials used their official emails.

In the second, the stories resulted in 10 felony charges of malfeasance.

In the last case, state law was changed to increase penalties based on higher blood alcohol percentages.

None of it involved talking to Hal Holbrook in the dark.

God, I miss it so.

Someone, give me a damn newsroom.

Peace and insights unto you my brothers and sisters.


Monday, August 24, 2020

 I had beer today with a fellow unemployed friend.

Yes, we can enjoy some remnants of employment life in our desperate states.

Yet it was like two friends drinking with minimal discussion of what's wrong in our lives. We talked about mutual friends, family, the state of America and much BS.

We had to remind each other that we're looking for jobs in the middle of a pandemic, in the midst of the worst job situation since the Great Depression.

He's young so for every five applications he submits, he's had one interview. I'm older so I've had two interviews for about 90 applications. 

For those of you lucky people who don't believe these are desperate times, consider my interview numbers.

And yet for a couple hours today, we each felt as though life was normal -- even though it's not. We laughed, gossiped, shared. It was life before the pandemic and then so much more appreciated than before. I think, at least.

On Saturday night, after picking up my free dinner at Community Kitchen, I joked with the server.

Look for the little moments. Even in tumult they are there.

Peace and little moments unto you my brothers and sisters.


Friday, August 21, 2020

 I have a message for Congress: There is much hurt out here.

There are few jobs and those available generally are 1.) low-wage and 2.) essential workers who inevitably will be in danger of COVID-19.

It's estimated that nearly 200 hospitals -- mostly rural -- will close because of the pandemic.

All states, all cities, all towns are under water financially.

Small businesses are closing at a rate not seen since the Great Depression.

And yet you, congress people, are largely on a break so you might run for re-election. 

As an amateur student of history, I've seen your likes before but never so en masse. Your collective lack of true concern and care for your citizens is beyond shocking. Sticking to your hidebound ideology is great for a voting base but utterly meaningless in a time of tumult.

Worse, it's a time of individual, personal tragedy.

And you're on vacation.

Peace unto you my brothers and sisters. We need it.


Thursday, August 20, 2020

 

As  follow to Wednesday's post, I want to show you a photo I took earlier this week: These are well-read Herald-Times newspapers outside the Community Kitchen. That's where people suffering difficult times go for hot food.

Every time I've stopped there, I have seen people who are homeless or distressed or poor or elderly reading the Herald-Times.

And yet we have supposed community leaders who express their pride in not reading the best source of local news. 

I've talked to plenty of well-to-do people who make six-figure salaries who refuse to take the newspaper and make it a point of pride. Deans and professors at Indiana University have said as much to me. One professor told me -- as he called to complain about a newspaper he doesn't read -- he was proud not to subscribe to the "little Hoosier shit-heel rag."

And yet the most distressed of us understand the import of local news, human connection, just plain-old knowing what's going on.

I recently talked with my dear friend Dennis over a beer about the destruction of Hotel 6. (Dennis is a contractor and carpenter and I'm always embarrassed to shake his hand, which is covered in the thick skin and callouses of a working man while my hand is as soft as a veal calf.)

"You're surprised?" he said. "The poor have never mattered and never will. Not to those who have something. Not to those in power."

Sadly, I knew he was right.

But the poor, in my experience, still read the newspaper when they get the chance.

They know knowledge is power.


Wednesday, August 19, 2020

 Support your local newspaper.

Please.

I've been talking with folks from cities where I've worked recently and they have continued to support me personally. That's truly a wonderful feeling.

But as a means of support, they've denigrated what's become of some of the newspapers from which I have departed. Worse, in some cases, they've said they've quit buying their local newspaper.

As someone who's taken reader complaints in high school, college and then 30 years of professional journalism, stopping your subscription is not a sign of integrity to me. So stop bragging about it.

If you want to show me integrity, tell me how you buy the newspaper even though it's changed. Explain what you have found of value in the newspaper. Tell me what you've learned.

When you tell me you read a publication and neither found value nor learned, that says much more about you than the publication.

Before my layoff and before COVID-19, I ran into some kind of IU dean at the Uptown Cafe. When I suggested she should buy the local newspaper to stay informed, she said when there was something she needed to read from the Herald-Times, she'd find it free on reddit. 

So she wasn't just uninformed.

She was cheap, too.

The local newspaper isn't just the best source of local news, the institution remains important. At least one study has shown that when a U.S. city loses its newspaper, municipal and school budgets tend to balloon. Why? Because the elected officials know no one is watching.

Sadly, I can't count the number of contacts I've had with people over three decades who say they support local news but they're dropping the paper because of (fill in the blank). No, you don't support local news.

Our founders thought newspapers so fundamental to this experiment of citizen-run government they enshrined it in the First Amendment and made it the only business named in the Constitution. And every single one of them had his own beef with journalists. George Washington was the first president to cite "the press" as a reason to retire after two terms.

If you support Democracy in America, then buy a damn paper.


Friday, August 14, 2020

One of my former homes -- for all of two weeks -- is being torn down and it breaks my heart.

The Motel 6, where I lived for two weeks in May, is being razed and replaced with expensive student housing.

The reason it breaks my heart is that a little community had formed at Motel 6 and I was fortunate enough to be part of it for a short time.

It was a home for the dispossessed, struggling and castoffs of society. Yet everyone I met their maintained dignity. Run well and tightly by manager Don and his staff, it was a kind of haven for those having a tough time but who sought safety and cleanliness.

I honestly don't know what I would have done without the Motel 6 in my transition from living at work to finding a friend with a guest house. My initial thoughts about living there included ideas about writing the stories of the outrageous characters I met. But they were regular folks, just as I was, trying to make the best of their lives.

Everyone I met, from visitors to staff, were absolutely respectful to those on the property. I cannot say the same of people who hold high office in some of our local institutions. 

And so Bloomington has erased one of its few remaining transitional housing opportunities. I don't blame the owners of Motel 6 as they likely received a great offer on the property. And city council members really can't turn down developers so long as they follow zoning rules, lest they face lawsuits.

But Bloomington leaders need a more solid plan for those on the edges of society.

They just lost one of a few remaining lifelines.

Have a wonderful weekend.

Peace and respect to you my brothers and sisters.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

 The Census found me today.

I heard a knock on my door late morning and had to scramble to answer. Not only is it unusual for a knock to occur at the Hermitage but (ugly secret here) when you're an old, divorced, unemployed man living by himself -- there are no pants. Pants are for society. Pants are for proper people.

In three months, I've had three knocks on the door. One from a dude who had to access a path to work on the damn that forms Lake Lemon. The second from my landlord handing out free, fresh tomatoes from his dad's garden. The third today from the long arm of the U.S. government.

The census employee seemed pleased by his diligence. Until he realized from my answers that I'm a nobody.

I'm in-between addresses, I told him.

I'm unemployed.

There are no family members in the state.

Despite my girth, I am not eating for two.

I am not a member of any protected class.

I am not a registered voter. (It's an objectivity thing -- you have to live your life, I have to live mine.)

Yes, I'm a Libra but I don't know what that means.

No, I don't get my news from TV.

I prefer strawberry to chocolate ice cream -- but free is best.

My two favorite pies are hot pie and cold pie.

I do not attend a church as I would be wary of any church that would have me.

I do have a child, a member of the Coastal Elite, but she's working on a memoir, "Damn You Daddy, Sir." (SCTV fans get that joke.)

Have I ever had an original thought? Um, what's my time limit on that question?

He seemed disappointed that finding a residence, hidden from a private road, down a series of precarious steps he found  -- me.

But hey, at least I count now.


Wednesday, August 12, 2020

 If these are the dog days of summer they are certainly the dog days of job searches.

There is little out there for a 54-year-old who has minor job skills. I can read and write, which means I have the job skills of someone who's graduated third grade.

The phrase "dog days" comes from the rise of the star Sirius in ancient skies. What followed was the heat of summer, which in the minds of the ancients caused adulterous women, weak men and mad dogs. The star Sirius was called the "Dog Star" because it was the the largest and brightest of "Canis Major" -- the "Greater Dog" constellation.

All I've ever noted in this time is dogs needing more water.

Now this dog needs a job and I'm awaiting two newspaper interviews and little else.

As I look at a pivot late in life for my final act -- what's next -- I seek the advice of readers.

What's next?

Friday, August 7, 2020

 I had some trouble eating this week -- odd for a fat guy.

Nothing tasted good and I didn't feel hungry after the first couple bites.

And so then I had trouble sleeping, a task at which I am a star. If there were a show "Sleeping Like a Star," I would win every single season. I have slept through hurricanes and blizzards, fire alarms and police busts of nearby neighbors. I'm convinced that I'll sleep through Armageddon and, when awaking, will wonder, "What the hell happened? Why is the Waffle House closed?"

I struggled with the state unemployment system which didn't pay me but where no one could answer my questions, which included "What the hell happened?" and "Why is the Waffle House closed?"

Because of my lack of hunger, any dreams I had during fitful sleep revolved around finding food. The recurring theme: I am hungry. But to eat I need money. How does one get money?

When I awoke this morning, I had not only lost a day this week -- What happened to Thursday? -- I was ready to fight for recompense. 

And then when in town to get WiFi, I found I had been paid.

All of it reminded me of the first meeting of Pema Chodron and her teacher, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. By the way, that dude was a peice of work. Look him up. He gave her little time and when he stood up to leave, she let loose on her troubles. She was at rock bottom and didn't know what to do.

Here I'll paraphrase from a "Lion's Roar" article she wrote about the advice:

“Well, it’s a lot like walking into the ocean, and a big wave comes and knocks you over. And you find yourself lying on the bottom with sand in your nose and in your mouth. And you are lying there, and you have a choice. You can either lie there, or you can stand up and start to keep walking out to sea.

“So the waves keep coming,” he said. “And you keep cultivating your courage and bravery and sense of humor to relate to this situation of the waves, and you keep getting up and going forward.”

Trungpa then said, “After a while, it will begin to seem to you that the waves are getting smaller and smaller. And they won’t knock you over anymore.”

I've been better for this advice.

I'm able to ride the waves -- at least most of them.

Have a great weekend, my friends.

Peace and wave rides unto you my brothers and sisters.


Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Another week, another job interview.

That makes two in three months

I think both interviews went well but my judgment matters not.

I just enjoy talking about journalism, newspapers, writing and helping people get better. I also enjoy the kind of interaction where colleagues and readers teach me about what I should know. More and more, I shut the hell up and listen. I'm not learning much when I'm blathering on about something.

The business of newspapers is still about local content and I can do that, regardless of all the background noise of what's happening in the industry and the difficulties of working through a pandemic and recession (when does it become a depression?).

More so than ever, people need a local newspaper to help them know what's happening locally. I hope the lesson extends beyond COVID-19. But I'm not so hopeful I will hold my breath.

I've also started talking to a couple of local places for a bartending job even though my experience is pretty much beer-and-a-shot joints. Maybe fellow staffers can specialize in the drinks that require five or more items and and I'll take on pouring beers and adding a bump and asking about your day.

After the job interview, I talked with some folks about a newsletter startup in a former city so, if nothing else, I felt important for the day.

Tomorrow I shall rest.

Peace and local news unto you my brothers and sisters.

Friday, July 31, 2020

Saturday will mark a anniversary and a pivot.

The day, which I'm taking off from blogging, celebrates the third month of my being laid off on May 1. Perhaps "celebrate" is the wrong word but alas.

In that time, I've been applying for editor jobs and management jobs as well as positions in creative industries, advertising and human resources. The latter of which I thought would be appropriate given three decades of managing folks. On whims and larks, I've applied at major media and at least one distillery.

After about 75 applications, I've had exactly two positive responses with interviews for jobs that pay money and benefits. (I've had more responses for jobs that pay no money or offer money with no benefits.)

Now the pivot will have to include apply for jobs on which I can pay bills, move out of The Hermitage and work for a living regardless of what my resume shows.

That means fast food management, perhaps bartending at higher-end joints where one can make some money with tips. Anything really. Hell, on Monday, I'm going to put in applications at Kroger and Target.

I've always liked work and made no judgment about what one does for a living.

There's this old story of the Buddha, which I've probably shared before: The Buddha is washing his rice pot while students wait for a lesson but he's burned some rice in the pot and so it was taking more time than usual. His assistant suggested he finish washing the vessel for the Buddha, so he could then go teach the students. "What can I possibly teach them if I don't know how to wash a rice pot?"

I pivot to the rice pot this weekend.

Peace and jasmine rice unto you my brothers and sisters.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

I have an interview with another newspaper next week, the second in about 10 days.
 
I feel like the pretty girl at the high school dance.

(Note: I am not pretty. I am not a girl. And as the philosopher Phil Collins wrote in his seminal essay, "I can't dance.")

I don't like to mention the newspapers I'm interviewing with because I think that's a private transaction. But both are good products with local ownership.

I've tried to remind myself as I have searched for jobs lo these three months that I'm doing so in a damaged industry, during a pandemic and in the worst economy in the last 80 years.

That does not always placate my subconscious, where rationalizations are not allowed.

Last night I had a dream that I had been placed in charge of a series of small farms. Immediately animals began to die. Then I came down with COVID-19. And early onset dementia. I could not figure out how to turn on the TV. I had no idea how to answer the door even through it was my mom knocking.

It became clear to everyone involved I didn't know what I was doing. That I had an intellectual deficit. That if allowed, there would be more deaths of innocent animals and no crops for years. Yet no one fired me and I didn't quit and this seemed to continue for hours. And hours. I finally forced myself to wake up when there was no end in sight.

I've read enough dream interpretation books to know this comes from feelings of poor self-worth and loss of control. The deaths of animals is about loss period.

Yet when I woke up, my 54-year-old fat self, I was talking with a second newspaper in the worst economy of my life.

OK. Somehow, I'll be fine.

Just don't leave me charge of critters. Because they all gonna die.

Peace and life unto you my brothers and sisters.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Before you claim First Amendment privileges, please read the damn thing.

It won't take long -- the First Amendment is a mere 45 words long:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

And as I've maintained for years, it's the most elegantly written law in history. The First Amendment offers up five freedoms in just those 45 words.

As important and tightly written  are those words, the first five are extremely incisive: "Congress shall make no law ,.."

See there? The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the first of the Bill of Rights is about government censorship.

So the First Amendment doesn't allow citizens to say anything they want without repercussions. If you call fellow employees by racist names, the business can fire you. If you say something stupid on social media, others can respond.

And when social media companies ban certain bad behavior -- racist language, threats of violence and, yes, false information damaging to the public conversation -- they can do that. Social media companies are not Congress. Even if they're publicly held, they are not the government.

The Supreme Court has been insistent for more than 200 years, the freedom of the press extends only to those who own and run the press. Now that term "press" has extended to websites. Imagine if someone insisted I print in this blog something to which I was diametrically opposed, say "the Chicago Bears are the greatest team ever." No one can force me to publish such nonsense under the guise of the First Amendment. Go Pack.

But some would suggest that companies like Facebook, Twitter and so on are required to allow false and now deadly information, particularly as we work through a pandemic that has killed 150,000 of our fellow citizens.

Because of the First Amendment.

No. Sorry.

If you're so inclined, please read and memorize the First Amendment. It's that big a deal.

Peace and free speech unto you my brothers and sisters.

Monday, July 27, 2020

An old friend helped me with a mock interview today, to aid me with a real newspaper interview Tuesday.

Again, friends are the best.

He's a smart guy -- former Editor of the Year for GateHouse -- but, better, a truly decent human being.

The exercise for me was excellent, particularly given my seclusion these last few months at the Hermitage on Lake Lemon and before that my apartment at the newspaper where, after COVID struck, I wandered the barren halls.

In the mock interview, I could hear myself rant and sputter, fail to focus and then bring up occasional wisdom or whimsy.

My friend praised the latter two and offered up other cogent advice:

-- Avoid negative words.
-- Don't say anything that's shocking, because that will be the memory.
-- Please, no eating a Slim Jim during the interview. (I'm 54 years old and never heard this advice. Good stuff.)

Ultimately, it was fun to talk journalism with an old friend, share stories and learn more even at my advanced age.

Peace and Slim Jims unto you my brothers and sisters.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Jobs, jobs, jobs.

That seems all the talk, from others as well as me.

I was notified today via automatic email that I did not have the qualifications to be a daily newspaper editor. And yet I await an interview in the coming week for a better job in another state.

As of this writing, journalismjobs.com had five job posting from across the country today. Five.

I received an email today that a local car wash was hiring a manager -- paid pretty well, too. At this point, it's an opportunity.

But also in the past day, as I study this upcoming opportunity, the outpouring of friendship reminded me what is more important than jobs, jobs, jobs.

Some of it was a deep dig as I checked with journalism friends about the newspaper with which I'll interview next week. Those friends buoyed me with their personal praise and offered any help.

And on Facebook, I asked for advice about my raging COVID beard -- shave or not shave. Most of the responses were smart-ass, prompting a new Bloomington friend to post I was lucky to have so many hysterical friends.

Indeed.

I am a lucky -- and for another day or so -- bearded man.

With friends spread across the country, I can't imagine anything better.

Jobs are cool.

Friends are better.

Have a beautiful weekend.

Peace and friends unto you my brothers and sisters.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Some in Congress are fighting the additional $600 payment for COVID layoffs because, as Sen. Mitch McConnell said, people need to get back to work.

As someone searching for a job, I have a message: It ain't that simple. There are no jobs to be had for many.

Full disclosure, I have yet to apply for unemployment because I've been pretty blessed. Even if I did, I would not be eligible for the extra money because I was not laid off because of COVID but due to the merger of two newspaper companies.

But if you think finding a job in this atmosphere is like plucking an apple from a tree, my GOP congressional friends, you've been sucking from the public teat for too long. McConnell for instance, has been taking from said teat since 1975.

Consider I have applied for a minimum of 75 jobs since being laid off May 1. The applications have rarely been for newspaper jobs because no one in my industry is hiring. So I've applied at creative agencies, universities, hospitals, municipalities and at least one distiller.

As of today, I have one request for an interview in all that time. The interview is next week.

I'm batting 1 for 75, which only allows me to be lead-off batter for the Chicago White Sox.

Deep cut. Sorry, Sox fans.

I imagine my age is a problem and my resume shows I've been in many places, although I would consider each stop as a success in its own way.

Turn Aug. 1, I will begin applying for server/bartender jobs, grocery bagger -- you name it. I have no problem working. Try being a newspaper editor 14 hours a day and I'll show you a work ethic. Even then, I'm 54 years old. Who would hire me over a youngster?

But return to the work force because it's just that easy?

I'm telling you, my friends, there are almost no jobs out there.

Peace and jobs unto you my brothers and sisters.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Forever I have argued against anyone comparing anything to the Nazis and Hitler.

The police are Nazis, modern teachers are Nazis, the Department of Natural Resources are Nazis.

I've read the history of the Nazis, particularly by William L. Shirer in multiple books.

"The only people who are Nazis are Nazis and the only person who was Hitler was Hitler," I've said in repeated arguments, most of which I started. In drinking establishments.

And now secret police are on the streets in the United States.

One of the things that's always been missing in the "they" being Nazis is street thugs and secret police. The Nazi had a slew, most notably the brown shirts (Sturmabteilung), the SS (Schutzstaffel) and the Gestapo (Geheime Staatspolizei) among the most prominent. They beat innocent people and ultimately took citizens off the streets without legal reasons or court proceedings.

Now we have federal agents without appropriate identification in the public square -- with more to come, promises the president -- who, in addition to bashing skulls, are detaining peaceful protestors in unmarked vehicles and buildings without charges.

This is in violation of most of the Bill or Rights and a number of Constitutional Amendments.

It's no small matter, my fellow citizens.

In Colonial America, taxpaying citizens of the United Kingdom could be taken into custody for no other reason they might have offended a person in power. They could be held without judicial hearings and maybe released -- or not.

Britain at the time was only 100 years or so removed from the Star Chamber, in which decisions could be made in private that a citizen or political opponent could disappear forever. Our Founding Fathers remembered this when they crafted the Constitution. That's why so much of the Bill of Rights is about judicial proceedings.

Secret police are so antithetical to the founding of this country that it's remarkable anyone could support them. Or argue for them.

And then they'll come for you, of course.

Peace and freedom unto you my brothers and sisters.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

As a modern editor, I have become habituated to looking at analytics.

Here's what I can report:

-- Most hit postings revolve around food. That's whether it's food provided by friends or from the Community Kitchen.

-- Those posts that are the next-best read include my commentaries on what's happening in the country. I told a friend that I missed having a stump from which to shout. She said, "You do. Your blog, stupid."

-- Coming in a rather distant third are where I describe my experiences as The Homeless Editor. I suspect that's because I have to involve emotional response and, as a son of the Wisconsin Nort'woods, I can really only offer up one emotion at a time. And then I'm spent. For days.

-- In absolute last place is my original reportage (please read that word with an outrageous French accent) of homeless issues, one of the initial goals of the blog. I'm a newspaper editor so this doesn't surprise me. Often what people need the most is what they like the least.

I personally have never been 100 percent driven by analytics. I've said in a dozen speeches I refuse to be a page-view slut. My digital editors from a series of newspapers have had that discussion. Page-view sluttery also creates a false image of an improving website. Newspapers need to improve inviting content instead of photos of scantily clad young people. (Odd aside, each Monday morning during NFL season, The Associated Press photo desk offers dozens of photos of NFL cheerleaders. In decades, I've never seen a cheerleader photo in a newspaper. But I've seen plenty of online slideshows to drive traffic. As the father of a young woman, it grosses me out entirely.)

I'll continue to watch analytics. More so, I'll continue to tell stories.

Thanks for following.

Peace and cheerleaders unto you my brothers and sisters.

Monday, July 20, 2020

I can't believe the government tells me as a vehicle driver to "Stop."

That takes away from my freedom as an American citizen.

There's nothing in the Constitution that says the government has any interest in my comings or goings or driving or stopping.

Notice all these "Stop" signs are in red -- the color of communism.

So even though the government is telling me to "Stop" -- I'm not going to go.

Sure, there might be some random deaths -- including me and friends and family. But you could die anytime you step outside, particularly if you just drank bleach to stay healthy.  (The best recipe is a tablespoon of bleach to a quart of rotgut vodka.)

But count me as pro-Go.

You pro-stoppers out there are just sheep, doing what you're told, whether it's by sheep dogs or a pig named Babe.

Not me. I'm a free American, allowed to do whatever the hell I want even if it's damaging to me and others. What does "common good" mean, anyway?

So I'll drive through any Stop sign I want on my way to dump raw sewage and carcinogens into public waterways.

It's my right as an American citizen -- where no one else matters but me.

Friday, July 17, 2020

The question of this weekend's meditation will be: What's next?

That's what many of my friends wonder about themselves and certainly something I ask after no viable job offers in 2.5 months.

I worry not as I enjoy work of any kind and take pride in whatever task is at hand.

What's next, friends?

Have a beautiful weekend.

Peace and vision unto you, my brothers and sisters.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

"Think of me."

My kid said to me. More than once. As I recounted a story about me taking photos of masked gunmen at a recent rally in Bloomington.

"Think of me."

She doesn't realize I always think of her, every single day, about what's she's doing, reading, thinking, writing.

But this was an admonishment of sorts, her kind way of reminding me she wants her dad around for a while -- at least until her first Academy Award nomination. (I called dibs as her date.)

I had been applying for jobs and writing blog posts while enjoying some beer at The Tap in downtown Burlington as I saw some dudes openly and legally carrying long guns to an anti-racism rally.

After finishing my last beer, I walked toward the rally with my iPhone. I hadn't anticipated seeing what I had so I left my fancy cameras at The Hermitage, where I'm staying. But I've been doing journalism for 30 years so, like a swimmer and a pool, I dove in.

The thing is, though, I didn't have an assignment in mind. What should be my focus? What was new about yet another rally in Bloomington? 

How about these dozen cats with long guns, there theoretically to protect the crowd from harm?

That became my motif.

If someone had a gun, I walked up and started taking photos of them, even as they turned away. Even as a couple of big guys without guns followed me. Even as someone ran up and took a photo of me, "Be careful of what you ask for, buddy," he said. I offered to take off my mask so he could get a full face photo. "Nice beard," he said. "No, it's not," I laughed.

"Think of me," my kid said at this point.

I understand. I need to make decisions that will allow me to see her career blossom after she graduates from college. 

I left the sweltering rally to rehydrate with another beer at a different tavern (Bionic Dragon -- great IPA) and then left to drive home with no plans to post anything about the gun dudes. It wasn't newsworthy.

Until:

I came across them again on Eighth Street as they blocked off intersections so the rallygoers could march. Now the gun guys were directing traffic -- and poorly. Half a dozen of the long-gun holders waved me through while the other half a dozen waved me through.

I wanted them to agree on a direction.

And not because they were all armed to the teeth but because only days before, two people were injured by a vehicle following another rally.

Holding my hands and shoulders in the international sign of "what the hell" I angered some of the gentleman, including what appeared to be the tacit head of the group dressed in camouflage. (I'm not a fashion diva but I can tell you camou in a city atmosphere doesn't camouflage you. It just shouts "toy soldier.") He angrily tugged at his camou mask and waved me through.

I did so riding the break, hoping no one would jump out in front of me.

As I passed the long-gun cats, one said, "You'll get yours, buddy."

I posted something on Facebook when I arrived home, shocked at the lack of coordination by anyone who knew what they were doing. Where were the police? Where is any moderate training on gun use? Or traffic control?

"Think of me."

I will, kid, I will always think of you.

Peace and Bionic Dragon unto all of you, my brothers and sisters.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

There's nothing I'd like more than to defend my colleagues at my last newspaper.

Or the newspaper before that.

Or the newspaper before that.

And so on.

But there's kind of an unwritten rule for "editors who have left" to disengage from the conversation. As someone who's replaced incredible editors, I've always appreciated that.

At the same time, it breaks my heart to see unfounded, even ignorant, criticism of people working hard jobs for low wages because they care about the role of the press in the United States.

Because I've worked at so many newspapers, I know people love to hate the local "rag." (And honestly, that trope is such a cliché, the supposed critics need to be much more original.) I get it. It's almost always a monopoly and long-established. There's always a cute little nickname associated with the paper.

Part of me thinks Americans have become accustomed to getting what they want, always, all the time, no questions asked. And social media has not been a friend, stealing 50 percent of newspaper revenue while allowing inaccurate criticism without challenge.

But I assure you, dear readers, a bunch of daily newspapers are going to die in the next 18 months and I ask what you're going to do for a local gathering of news that the local paper still offers?

My heart breaks as I try to stay in this business I love so.

Peace and local news unto you my brothers and sisters.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

If an algorithm were sitting across the table from me, I'd smack the snot out of it.

The job-search engines swarm my email like a cloud of gnats outside The Hermitage where I live.

I now receive dozens of emails a day about jobs surrounding me and at first the prospects excited me.

But then I realize I've made some mistakes. I clicked on some of the blind job offerings.

I clicked one job purportedly from IU Health that matched my job skills. Now I get several ads a day for nursing positions. Growing up the children of The Great Depressions, my only knowledge of health comes from parents whose singular solution was "you just need a good BM."

I get a dozen jobs for over-the-road trucker. No one wants me directing any horse power of any kind. But I suppose that job is better than over-the-creek-through-the-woods-into-Grandmother's-house trucker. I'd be good at that.

In reality, virtually no one is hiring and those who are have the cream of the crop from which to choose. I'm not the cream. Perhaps the frothy head on a beer. But not the cream.

There are many openings at Indiana University for a custodian, which I could do. But my dream of getting the job and then solving a huge math problem on a chalkboard and being recruited to a huge corporate job, is just that. A dream. Or perhaps a movie.

Peace and beer unto you my brothers and sisters.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Sometimes, it feels like living on an ice floe.

Chunks keep breaking off, some small but some big. And it's all melting, as floes go.

But you stay on the floe because -- well, what's the option?

I had a couple big chunks break off early last week and decided to rest from a number of activities, including this blog.

I am better because I must be. I have to be a distant father to my brilliant kid. I have to be friends with those strewn across the country. I need to find a job because I have things to say and do.

Press on despite the anger and pain and sheer exhaustion. Yes, one can be exhausted when one has no job. I'd rather wake up facing a 14-hour day than greet the morning with nothing real to do.

 So I didn't do anything for a week. Oh, I read and read and read and ate and had some beers with friends on Sunday. I talked to my kid a bunch of times. Many times I just stared at the swaying trees at The Hermitage, where I'm staying.

Please do not feel sorry for me. I am warm when it's cool and cold when it's hot. I certainly have enough food to keep me fat. I can buy some cheap gin, so bad it will take paint off your car. To paraphrase George Bernard Shaw, gin is as mother's milk to me.

None of my luck means these aren't tough times. And vice versa.

I'll see you tomorrow.

Peace and decent gin unto all of you, my brothers and sisters.

Saturday, July 4, 2020


Happy birthday America, on this strange and sad 244th celebration.


I start by saying to my fellow Americans are not my enemies. They are all my brothers and sisters in what is the longest experiment in self-governance in the history of the world.


I add that not everything is about politics – in fact virtually nothing is.


Please do this experiment: Extend your arms out to the left and right and turn in a little circle. Pay attention to what you feel and what you see and what you hear.


That’s about all you can control so that’s all you should really worry about.

Whomever holds the White House, the Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court or state legislatures, none of that changes what you connect with in your daily lives.


The president has no outcome on how much I love my daughter or mother. Congress has no say in the coldness of my beer. State legislators have no say in my ugly, misshapen beard. (Note: the beard has grown long and supple enough so that it occasionally catches beer that has somehow missed my mouth. No judgment. Just saying.)


Loving those close to me strikes me as the most important thing I can do.


Treating friends and colleagues with love lacking in judgment is something I can control and that matters.


Letting go of dislike and hatred and a closed mind, I can do those things.


I can greet others with smile – or in its place during these strange times when no one can see my smile – a wave, a thumbs-up sign, two fingers held aloft suggesting peace.


Assuredly, we have problems to tackle as a country in this experimentation. The narrative of this great country – and it is great – has never been straight or easy or even great. We’ve screwed up countless times and then failed again the same way.


But we shall fix nothing with hatred.


So might I mention something I never thought I’d address when I wrote my first column in high school in 1982?


Face masks.


Those are not political statements. They are a proven and easy way – along with social distancing – to fight this very real pandemic.


It’s not about “the government” or “the media” or “control.”


Wearing is about loving yourself and others.


America is not alone in the pandemic and so we can see from other countries that have substantially reduced COVID-19 outbreaks that ninety-nine cent masks can help.


No politics here. Do I care enough about myself and others to make the right decision? It’s about respect.


And that’s an American decision. Taking care of our fellow Americans.


Happy Fourth all.


Peace and love and face masks unto you my brothers and sisters.


Friday, July 3, 2020

I'm happy to say I had contact with a newspaper late Thursday.

But today is quiet on the job front as most people have off for the July Fourth weekend.

Hopefully, after the long weekend passes, there will be more progress to announce.

Tonight I'll write a July Fourth column and publish it Saturday.

Peace and freedom unto you my brothers and sisters.


Thursday, July 2, 2020

I cannot count how many jobs I applied for today -- and how many of them replied within minutes via email that my resume had been reviewed and I did not have the requisite skills for the position.

What?

I can't manage content? I can't edit? I can't drink eight beers during a Green Bay Packers game so long as it doesn't go into overtime? (That last thing is not on my resume -- but don't tell me it's not a skill.)

That's likely because the resume had been passed through some software program looking for key words.

The lack of human involvement in hiring distresses me and not just because I'm on the applicant end. As someone involved in hiring for decades, I always looked to hire the entire human, not just the job skill. Look past errors into experience, find someone who's lived a life and overcome obstacles. And look for diversity. I've hired copy editors with no journalism degree, reporters who had history majors and -- among my favorites -- someone who sent their resume to "Rick Johnson." That was supposed to be me. She was a great hire.

Sorry. Just ranting.

Peace and humanity unto you my brothers and sisters.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

I celebrate two months today, two months since being laid off.

Yes, I celebrate.

I've been a pretty lucky cat all my life but the concentration of grace that has surrounded me in these 60 days has overwhelmed me.

Not at a single point have I feared a loss of anything, housing, food, love, respect or much laughter.

Even today, an old friend texted to offer his name as a reference and a newer friend dropped off food at my hermitage -- and yes, I have a hermitage in order to stretch out my meager savings.

At the hermitage, I've written an entire screenplay about North Carolina's HB2, I've written more sixty poems for a planned chapbook and I have typed out more than 50 blog posts having crested 80,000 pageviews last weekend.

I started this blog as a means to keep writing, perhaps edify and, let's be frank here, to fill my time. Of the half dozen blogs I've started, the most pageviews I've had was 55. The shocking number of 80,000 has been aided by national coverage in The New York Times and Poynter.org as well as regional media.

In my objective view, the blog has succeeded even as only a personal diary for me and has failed as a means to educate about homeless issues. I'll be honest -- not everyday in the past two months has been a good day and tends to sap me of energy.

I also have applied for about six dozen jobs without a single call back. I understand the nature of the market, the pandemic and my damned resume, which has a list of more stops than the South Shore rail line from South Bend to Chicago.

I promised myself not to worry until July -- starting today -- and so they're going to be some minor changes to the blog so I can concentrate more on the job hunt. I'm only going to file an entry when I have something to say although I will return to writing a general interest column on Sundays as I've done at a number of newspapers.

Thank you for the new friendships over these two months and all the support you've offered. Please keep reading on those days I have something to say.

And peace unto all of you, my brothers and sisters.



Tuesday, June 30, 2020

I lost an entire day last week.

No, it's not like I had a 24-hour day in my backpack and set it on top of my car, forgetting it and taking off.

No, somehow I just missed a day.

I've been working assiduously not to do that for two months but as the days take the same shape, that's not as easily said as done.

And as a long-time daily journalist, I was often confused as to the day. That's because we're all working at least a week ahead if not more. So when you go to the bank or sign a check, you have to check on the date and the day. But that's because I would have been working on the editorial page three days ahead and reading Outdoors content a week out. Writing a column for the following Sunday and considering the arc of how that column plays out with others.

Still, I don't think I lost a day. I just jumbled them.

I wrote a blog piece saying something happened the previous day -- I thought Wednesday. Actually, the previous day was Thursday and I don't know what happened to it. But I can tell you it was the same day as the others that week and suspect it was lost in the sameness as the other days. Certainly, I have a computer and a phone -- access to all the information in the world -- yet hate to check for something so basic as a day.

I guess I have to now.

Would it be bad to take out a classified ad: LOST: Thursday. If found please contact www.thehomelesseditor.com. No questions asked.

Peace unto you my brothers and sisters.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Among the tenets of the Buddhist Eightfold Path to enlightenment is Right Speech, which includes a warning of speaking idle chatter.

I fear that's all I could offer today as I near my 60th day out of work and on the skids.

Peace unto you my brothers and sisters.

Friday, June 26, 2020

At a quarter to six last night, I stopped at the Community Kitchen for dinner.

Usually, there are plenty of customers in the parking lot, on the curb, sitting on the grass.

But this was 15 minutes before close and it was just me and an older gentleman eating dinner his car. I tried peak at what was for dinner. Something white and gloppy. One of my favorite food groups. As the famed gastronome, H. J. Simpson, would have it, "Mmmmmmm -- white and gloppy."

My heart sank a little bit when I noted the hot table had been torn down, cleaned and replaced.

"Can I still get dinner?"

"Yes, of course," said a young woman. I could tell she was smiling despite the mask because her eyes narrowed.

She turned to some storage containers which still had steam coming from them.

Roast turkey with mashed potatoes and gravy, a green salad and dessert of pears and peaches.

She piled my container fully and sent me off with another smile.

A little Thanksgiving in the middle of June was tasty made better by masked smiles and kindness.

As I've done over the these last few weeks, I'm taking off Saturday and Sunday.

Peace unto you my brothers and sisters.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

I've based my job search on concentric circles.

Consider me at the center of a series of concentric circles.

The first around me is my love, my muse: being a daily newspaper editor. I've done it at four newspapers now and I have more references than I can list. I've succeeded, one way or another, regardless of circumstances we've always found a way to have deep, meaningful content while at the same time having some fun. If you can't have fun in a newsroom, you simply cannot have fun.

The second circle is of any editorial job at a newspaper as long as I can pay the bills of a 54-year-old man. Somehow it's more expensive to be older and in the work force. Occasionally, I'll pine for the ad that seeks an "energetic, new grad with multimedia skills in the Rocky Mountains" but I don't want to have pull a third-shift barista job to make it work.

Third circle is any kind of editor/writer job. I can edit anything and I can write anything, so variously I've applied for position at a national cheese magazine and as a Catholic environmental editor. As a Wisconsinite, I can write me some cheese and if you think writing about environmental issues for Catholics would be tough -- I used to teach catechism to 10th-graders. I flinch not.

The fourth circle is non-journalism jobs where I can use my executive management skills, although those are tainted by newsroom behavior for 30 years. I'll take Xanax for the first six months.

The fifth circle is anything that can meet my bills or beyond. Well, almost anything. True story: today I was sent a list of jobs available in Louisville which included a job for "client entertainer" that paid $108,000 a year. I didn't click on it. There's nothing I can entertain anyone with that's worth $108,000 a year. I imagine pictures would have been sought.

Peace unto you, my brothers and sisters.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Jobs fly fast and furiously at me although none include working with Vin Diesel.

Virtually none of the jobs match my skills.

Although I did click on something but it turns out I misread it. The job was for "ware" house operator. "Ware" house operator.

Sadly, the wretched wreck that has become my body precludes me from jobs that require me to "lift up to 100 pounds over head and toss baggage on to airline runway."

I cannot "stand up to 12 hours on concrete flooring covered in college student's urine."

I am unable to "carry undernourished vegan hipsters to their fifth-floor walk-up."

Not that I'm being picky.

There's just stuff I can't do.

I don't have "soft and supple fingers to check larger men for woodland ticks."

No longer I am able to "dodge oncoming traffic while responding to the distress cries of a wounded raccoon."

And sadly, I cannot "dance for hours with elderly woman who have enormous bank accounts.

For those of my readers unaware, I've longed believed in the occasional humor piece to serve as a sorbet to serious issues.

Thanks for reading.

Please unto you, my brothers and sisters.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

I read today that GOP strategists are concerned about the party continuing to campaign against the Affordable Care Act in 2020.

Imagine that.

During a pandemic.

When millions have lost their jobs.

And their insurance.

I'm one of them.

In my case, I don't have any pre-existing conditions, only the need for some medication which my former company covered up until the end of May.

I checked out COBRA  but that would cost $700 a month for a single male my age -- at a time when I need to extend my meager savings. I choose not to, instead gambling I will stay healthy or avoid an accident until I'm once again re-employed.

But as I've noted time and again in the last seven weeks, I'm lucky. I have a little savings. I have the beneficence of friends and complete strangers. Despite being bad at taking care of myself, I remain healthy.

There are now millions of working people -- makers in GOP parlance -- in need of help for something as basic as health care, something all other developed countries have offered for decades. And the evidence is in: countries with universal health care plans have longer life spans, lower newborn mortality rates and all together healthier lives.

The problem is not messaging.

It's reality.

Monday, June 22, 2020

At one point in the last week, I almost asked a group of complete strangers if I might join them.

They were involved in an intelligent conversation that included a fair number of F-bombs.

And I've spent much time talking to myself -- and to some of the critters near the Heritage, including an 8-foot-long snake I've named Severus.

Humans need human contact.

Then on Sunday, as I started to milk the first of a fistful of beers at The Tap, Dennis walked in. He's part of the group from The 'Shoe at Upland Brewing, an odd compendium of people who gather and drink beer and joke. Oddest group of people I've ever met. World-class scientists and mechanics and a bison rancher and lawn-care professionals, health care providers and they let in their midst a fat little editor.

So Dennis walks in and joins me for a beer or two. He is a man of few words. Terse and taciturn he calls himself. He says something or asks a question every few minutes and I answer in my best of the Wisconsin Northwoods idiom: "Yeah." Thus the conversation goes. Thankfully as a journalist I'm comfortable in virtually every manner of discussion.

Then Emily and Josh walked in, one of my two Emily reporters at the H-T her significant other who is storing all my worldly goods.

Now we had a party.

We talked and laughed and cajoled. And we promised to do it again soon.

The interaction lifted my heart and the beginning of this week but it made me think back to all the calls I took in Bloomington, complaints of the homeless in seminary park.

The complaints involved a similar theme: the homeless had it too good. They weren't contributing to society, waiting only for money to guy liquor at the Big Red across the street. Or worse. Drugs. They weren't social distancing. In fact, they were laughing. Having a good time. Someone brought a fiddle once and you'd have thought it a weapon of mass destruction. It was like a party. Plus they get free food and a place to stay when cold or wet.

I've never understood the begrudging of the poor in our society. Never will.

Now when I pass by, I think, enjoy what graces you can, my friends.

Peace and grace and human contact unto you my brothers and sisters.

Friday, June 19, 2020


Don't look but my desperation showed Thursday.

Then I went to my Hermitage on Lake Lemon, had a couple of gin and tonics and listened to The New World Symphony on WFIU while I wrote.

All that tension bunched up let loose as I remembered myself as the luckiest man on the face of the Earth.

After finishing a screenplay last week -- and taking a week away before editing -- I've turned more attention to a loose collection of humor poems about nature under the heading, "Get Me the F*** Out of These Woods." My goal is to have 60 poems by the end of July. If not quality -- then quantity.

Then I walked out of the Hermitage this morning, greeted by this beauty.

One of the revelations of these last weeks is I have not done a good job of taking care of myself and slowing time to notice the small graces around me.

As I become accustomed -- at least temporarily -- to this current lifestyle, I will be taking the upcoming weekend off.

Thanks for reading.

Peace and beauty unto you, my brothers and sisters.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

I will not worry until July.

I will not worry until July.

I will not worry until July.

That's my mantra on June 18. The first of July will mark a two-month mark -- which is not a particularly long time in a job search. But I'm working the admonition to be kind to myself, patient as I try to be with others.

Yet, I need a damn job.

So when another day goes by and the cell phone lies on my desk top, dead as fish on a river bank, quiet and slightly as smelly, I feel the anxiety. It starts at the tip of my head and moves to my shoulders, which start to hunch up around my ears. Then to my heart -- an organ impeded by some poorly chewed bratwurst over the years -- and then to my stomach. Tight but not taut.

When I go more than a day without an applicable job to which I can apply, I continue my mantra.

I will not worry until July.

I will not worry until July

I will not worry until July.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Don't get too excited, friends and supporters.

But Aldi's is interested in me.

As is Pizza Hut.

I hate to brag in these difficult times but I think things are looking up.

Since beginning to look for work May 1, the number of unsolicited emails telling me about job openings has been in at least the hundreds if not more.

And I'm not above doing any work. One of my favorite tales of the Buddha is the story of him washing his rice pot while students waited for a lesson. He had burned some rice in the pot and had to work extra hard to clean it. His assistant said, "Let me finish that while you go teach the students." Buddha replied, "What can I possibly teach them if I do not know how to wash a rice pot?"

It's a story of humility in work and that's why at various newspapers, I have delivered missed copies, fixed the copy machine, shoveled snow (remember North Carolina friends, lift with the legs), stuffed circulars and anything else asked of me.

I do think the algorithms for employment jobs are missing my skill set, which include:

-- Yelling, "Damnit Johnson, get me re-write," into the phone every five minutes.
-- Telling local mobsters and politicians, "You'll get yours, not in the hereafter but in Sunday's editorial page!"
-- Spouting wise with a cigar in my mouth and a glass of whiskey on my desk.

No, wait, that was Humphrey Bogart in "Deadline USA."

Although I can stock produce with the best of them, I can sophisticated things like strategic thinking.

And I can deliver food -- get this -- without stealing any of it, my skill set suggests so much more.

Now Johnson, get me re-write and take this down.

Love all of you.

Peace unto my brothers and sisters.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

I only did one thing today.

But it was a big thing, at least for me and at this point in time of my life.

Sure -- I had other accomplishments. I woke up, conducted daily hygiene rituals, drove in my car-car, traded ripostes with others.

But I applied for what would be the job of a lifetime, editor of a newspaper that would bring me home.

As much as I've loved all my stops and made the most of it, with friends throughout 11 cities in five states, there's only one home for me -- the Wisconsin Northwoods.

So that one thing is big, even for someone accustomed to the helm of a daily newspaper where "big" decisions come as fast and furious as Vin Diesel, I'm emotionally drained.

This would be big for me, particularly as my life and career have seen what I now call "disruptions" -- those occurrences that shift the linear narrative.

One last disruption? Maybe?

Monday, June 15, 2020


Homelessness has answers but they’re big and structural.


Barbara Poppe of Barbara Poppe and Associates of Columbus, Ohio, has studied the issue for nearly 30 years and served as Executive Director of the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness 2009 to 2014 and addressed those answers with me during a recent phone call.


The big answers summed up

1.)    Increase the minimum wage.

2.)    Subsidize lower-cost rental housing.

3.)    Fund universal health care

4.)    Create better housing solutions for victims of domestic violence.


Poppe said the minimum wage has not kept up with its initial goal: what’s the minimum wage one needs on which to live.


“Many people don’t earn a wage to cover the cost of living,” she said. “Wages are just not adequate.


For those working on the lower rungs of the socio-economic ladder, it often takes multiple jobs to cover the basics of housing, transportation, food and other bills.


As those wages have been stagnant – if the minimum wage had kept up with the rate of inflation it would be just shy of $11 – housing costs have risen dramatically. That further decreases the buying power of low wages.


According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, housing costs have increased 777 percent since 1967, when the minimum wage was $1.40 an hour. The wage – which was last raised nationally in 2009 – is now $7.25 an hour.


Worse, Poppe noted, federal subsidies go to those who own the most expensive homes. The more expensive the home, the more mortgage write-offs the owner gets plus a homestead tax credit.

The federal government, she said, needs to subsidize housing for poorer people as a means to stabilize the population. Those making the  minimum wage and sometimes well above it are one paycheck away from eviction. Even landlords, she notes, have sought federal help because eviction is expensive for them.


Perhaps the biggest answer is universal health, she said. A lack of access to health care is one of the leading causes of homelessness. Anyone already in a tenuous situation can be on the streets within a month or two simply due to a minor injury or failure to get appropriate medication. Once homeless, they are certainly not going to get any health care whatsoever unless it’s courtesy of the emergency room – the most expensive health care possible.


States that accepted federal Medicare help saw a reduction of homelessness, Poppe said.


Finally, communities need to find fast and effective ways to house those fleeing domestic violence. There needs to be immediate shelters as well as a transition to housing that’s more stable.


The biggest problem is so many of the causes are intertwined. It’s not just a low wage but low wage combined with a health issue. Or access to decent child care that’s affordable. Or transportation to a low-wage job.


That’s what leads to the downward spiral, Poppe said.


“One you  become homeless,” she said. “Try to get a new job. Try to get a new apartment.”


The stigma of the word “homeless” becomes worse than the situation could have been.


There are answers to homelessness. But only when society wants to get serious about it.