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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.


Friday, June 12, 2020

Today I had a great interview with a national expert on homelessness.

I applied for a regional editor position.

I drank a little beer in the middle of the day.

Today was a good day.

I'm going to write about my interview next week as I have to go through my notes, scribbled in the Orange Lot at IU's Memorial Stadium where I can access free wi-fi.

Now I'm going to take the weekend off because, as I've noted, not much happens on the job front and little happens in the blogosphere. I also found that after taking last weekend off, my energy and clarity improved immensely this last week.

Imagine that.

Stay well and go well my friends.

And peace until you.

Thursday, June 11, 2020





Tonight's dinner is spaghetti with meat sauce, balsamic glazed carrots, a green salad and pears in cherry sauce.

All of that with a side of dignity and respect.

Courtesy of Community Kitchen of Monroe County, which makes about 1,000 meals a day for people in the community, no questions asked.

On Thursday, I talked to Vicki Pierce, executive director of the Kitchen and its operations which in 2019 prepared  314,911 meal for various program throughout the community, including at its main serving spot at 1515 S. Rogers St. in Bloomington.

She said the Kitchen started humbly during a particularly harsh winter of 1983, with a committee literally called, "Get Through the Winter Committee."

And what started as two meals a day is now six meals a week in addition to other programs where Community Kitchen partners with other non-profit agencies.

The kitchen staff prepares all of the dinners from scratch given what they have on hand. Because it's now a big operation, the staff can plan throughout the week and further. The planning includes ensuring a range of menus so no one, cooks or clients, gets bored.

A more significant factor is calories, Pierce said. Given so many of the clients live on the streets, they need as much energy as they can get. In addition to a traditional meat-based entre -- although vegetarian options are available -- the cooks make sure to have pasta, beans, rice and potatoes. Finally, there's typically a green salad, a vegetable side and some kind of fruit to balance out a meal. The client can also get a cold meal that can be eater later or the next day. Often, clients are offered water or some other drink and maybe some candy or chips.

The Kitchen runs on donations of food, money and volunteers to do the work with some paid staff as oversight.

Pierce said the Kitchen usually gets a good amount of meat from the county fair, a couple of steers and eight or nine hogs -- but that's not going to happen this year with no fair.

She said those who want to give ought to use whatever mechanism is best for them, whether that is money or good. A new trend she's noticed is people ordering from Amazon and having it shipped. Just Thursday, the Kitchen received granulated garlic, Italian season and Chef Boyardee in the mail,

As yet, kitchen staff has not noticed an uptick in need because of COVID-19 and the ensuing economic crisis. She said in 2008, the need dragged the crisis by about six months until unemployment and other short-term solutions ran out but then extended years beyond, just decreasing in the last few years.

What I personally have found amazing -- the food is utterly delicious. This is not some glop like you might see in movies or "The Simpsons." The menu is as good as a restaurant and the cooking involves actual flavors -- take the balsamic-glazed carrots in Thursday's menu. That's Bloomington's Community Kitchen.

Best of all are the friendly faces serving clients. I've never been greeted by anything less than a smile with plenty of dignity and respect, despite the real stress of having to serve 1,000 people a day.

Pierce said the clients are part of that. Despite their distressed circumstances, they know the blessing of the kitchen and appreciate it. She said they only have to call police one or twice a year and that's only after someone has created a commotion and refused to leave. Patrons often are the first people to calm any tense situation.

The Kitchen has been helping with the Hotel for Homeless program as well as kid's programs, where she is pleased they can offer food the children might not have been introduced to, brussel sprouts and fresh mango for instance. It's not just sustenance in those cases but education.

Please check out its website https://www.bloomingtonvolunteernetwork.org/agency/detail/?agency_id=59868 for ways to give.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

A recent study by a Columbia University researcher estimates the homeless population will increase 40-45 percent over the January 2019 benchmark -- meaning there will likely be 800,000 homeless people by end of the year.

In my studies, there seems to be little being done about that.

Homelessness has been down over the last decade, likely to do a healthier economy and better programs locally.

Then came COVID-19 and the resulting economic crash at the same time.

The researcher, Dr. Brendan O'Flaherty, an economics professor, says the effect of increased unemployment is unknown in our time. A 10 percent increase in unemployment in one month is something no one has lived through.

The increase will largely be seen as states lift restrictions on evections, particularly as so many American live from paycheck-to-paycheck.

I should note my own circumstances are quite different, even unique. Not too many folks get laid off while living at work. Plus, there had been my failure to look for my own housing in a timely fashion.

The most likely first step for those who lose their homes is they'll be like me -- transitional. They'll move in with family or friends for the time being until they get on their feet. If they're lucky, they'll have a little money or a place to store their belongings.

As some places hire, I'll tell you from my experience it's a buyer's market. With so many people out of work, businesses can offer much lower wages than before the virus moved in. That will make it hard for anyone who is transitional who gets a new job to save up a first month's rent and deposit on $10-$13 an hour jobs with which I've been inundated.

Also, when did I become a potential nursing candidate? I've been asked a dozen time to apply for nursing positions. Trust me -- no one wants me as a nurse. As a son of the Wisconsin Northwoods, my typical cures include these three things: suck it up; rub some dirt on it; take a hit of this.

I fear the road out of all of this is going to be much longer than our elected leaders are letting on.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

I figured out a time line this morning as I contemplated the coming weeks and months.

I will not worry until July.

I won't obsess until August.

Then, in September, unfiltered and unadulterated bawling will begin along with gnashing of teeth and some manner of wailing -- baritone wailing but wailing nonetheless.

How's that sound?

It strikes me as good time management and setting of priorities. I might need someone to help me set up an MBO program -- management by objective. This person will judge my performance. For instance, "That's not wailing. You sound more like Lurch after drinking milk gone bad." That's just good management talk.

Jobs are still dry as the desert as all businesses are holding on by their fingernails. And apparently I'm running out of original allusions. I might have to get a box of refurbished metaphors at Big Lots.

I have interviews set up for later in the week for two homeless experts and look forward to exercising my journalistic chops.

And I'll probably take off again next weekend. How does a jobless man take time off? Well, nothing happens for me to write about and virtually no jobs are released so all of that allows me time to read and ponder, work on personal writing projects and this coming weekend -- should the gout go away -- I will walk with no other purpose than to exercise.

Peace unto you, brothers and sisters.

Monday, June 8, 2020

I talked with a newspaper publisher today.

The job wasn't going to work out, all for reasons on my end.

But it was fun that someone was paying attention, nonetheless.

Even if I don't get to go to prom, it's sweet someone was thinking of me.

I'm happy I took the weekend off because it game me much time to work on some personal projects, a screenplay I've had in my head for a couple of years and a book of anti-nature poetry. My 19-year-old kid is coaching me on the screenplay, as that is one of her specialty areas.

As Laura Lane told me, standing in the middle of my hermitage, "When will you have this chance again?"

I sent out two notes to people for interviews about homeless issues, one expert local to Bloomington and a national expert.

Now I'm sitting down to blog.

It's been a good Monday.

Thanks for those who read over the weekend and please keep reading as we move throughout the week.

If you have specific questions about homelessness, please shoot me a note at richjackson1@gmail.com.

Love all of you.

And peace unto you.

Friday, June 5, 2020

I might be out of work and I might be transitionally homeless but I'm still a journalist. Here are photos from the Enough is Enough rally today in Bloomington.






I'm going to take the weekend off,

Peace unto you, my brothers and sisters.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

On Monday, Feb. 24, 1933, the Reichstag -- building of the German legislature -- burned.

Within days, Chancellor Adolf Hitler convinced President Paul von Hindenburg the fire had been started by communists and a putsch was afoot.

Hindenburg signed into a law a minor clause in the Weimer Constitution that allowed for the suspension of all civil liberties, which in turn allowed Hitler to take full control of what until then had been a democracy.

A country's leader had turned the government and its military against its people.

Although the Nazis almost immediately arrested a Dutch Communist, it was clear the first night the fire had been far to big for one man to have started by lighting fire to window curtains. The Berlin Fire Chief oversaw operations and said the next day the fire department had been alerted too late and then not allowed to use all efforts to quell the fire. An investigation the next morning showed at least 20 bundles of firestarters that had not alighted throughout the building. Hermann Goring had recently built a mansion across the street and connected the two buildings with a tunnel.

The fire chief was fired and later put on trial. He was strangled to death in his cell a few years later.

William L. Shirer wrote in "The Rise and the Fall of the Third Reich," that while the Dutch Communist might have been in the building, clearly Nazis were involved in the massiveness of the fire. He also wrote that Goring joked during a birthday party for Hitler in 1943 that he knew the Reichstag building the best because he was the one who burned it down.

Years later, testimony would be unearthed by a member of an elite Nazi officer who admitted to driving the Dutch Communist to the Reichstag from a local sanitarium and while on the way, he and other soldiers could smell the fire.

Beware of our failure to learn from history.

Tomorrow, back to homeless issues and then probably a weekend off.

I love all of you.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020


 A protestor does not equal a looter.

A looter is not the same as an instigator/fire starter.

An instigator does not equate a hanger-on.

There are many parts to the body of people that we’ll call a riot or a mob or a protest.

That we like to tie them all together as one is the main reason that we’re in the position we’re in as a society. Those who wish to tie all members of the protests and insurrection and damage are just wrong.

And your own failure to think critically and discern is solely on you.

The peaceful protestors have a First Amendment right to assemble and protest not just police brutality but the officer killing of a black man merely under suspicion – and not even something serious but the suspected attempt to pass a fake $20 bill. A video shows George Floyd telling the officer he can’t breathe and this continues on until you see Floyd’s head some to rest on the asphalt as he’s passed out.

And then dead.

The looter has no right to do what they’re going but they tend to show up as opportunists, regardless of whether is a racial protest or white folks protesting a Final Four loss. They are not protestors and should not be regarded as such.

The instigators must be broken up into even smaller subsets. Some are just pretend anarchists who have little grasp of history or morality or the body politic. They are going to burn out of a sociopathic need to damage under the pretense of political action.

As we know from the FBI, one of the subsets are white supremacists who will do damage in order to bring heat on black protestors.

Finally, the instigators include those who are righteously pissed and who believe decades of deaths of innocent black men and women have done unanswered and the only thing that will wake up a complacent society is damage. Someone must pay before people care.

Those who suggest they were on the side of black folks before the looting and damage began are utterly full of shit.

Because the death of innocent black people has merely moved from lynching to so-called accidents by police and vigilantes. And the courts have agreed.

I talked to my genius kid last night, the one with the big brain and the bigger heart. We both call ourselves writers but we didn’t know what to say.

This is what I decided to say, what to write.

For tomorrow, I down into the rabbit hole of the Reichstag Fire and violate my longstanding fight against Godwin’s law.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

It's hard for me to write about homelessness or myself when my beloved country is burning.

And when the president of the United States has threatened to unleash the U.S. military on its own people.

Please look up the aftermath of the Reichstag Fire in 1933.

That is all.

Monday, June 1, 2020

One month ago today, I sat down in a Motel 6 to start a blog because I didn't know what else to do but write.

I had no idea all this would happen.

By all this, I mostly mean the generosity of friends and family and complete, absolute strangers.

I had blogged over the years and no one paid attention -- including myself in some instances. About five or so blogs led to a total of about 200 page views. So I didn't spend anytime setting up a good-looking page or including social media this time -- who could care?

Well here we are creeping up o 70,000 pageviews after one month and I remain overwhelmed while at the same ready to begin reporting on some harder issues regarding homelessness.

One month ago, I was still the tough little editor who could and would take on the world, unwilling to consider the changes I was seeing, the unsettled nature, the questions and how they would affect me.

I've written before how it's exhausting and I've noted already that I'm a lucky man.

I'm safely ensconced in a cottage on a lake. I'm warm on cold nights and dry on rainy days. I clearly have had enough to eat and friends keep coming forward with more food and gift cards.

I certainly had no idea that a little, old blog would attract media attention and after 30 years on the other end of an interview, I'm not sure I will ever get used to being asked questions. How many times have I hung up the phone and said, "D'oh! I should have said this or that."

It's only been a month and finding a job is hard in these times, difficult at my age and my somewhat problematic resume that makes me like a job hopper. Worst-case scenario as I move into the coming months, I'll take any kind of work -- anyone who has worked with me has seen my work ethic.

Assuredly, I will come out this happier, more grateful and settled.

Happy anniversary, readers, I love all of you.


Sunday, May 31, 2020

The worst thing about being The Homeless Editor is not being an editor at this time in our history.

There's a scene in "Patton" where the general screams he, of all warriors, should not be sitting on the sidelines during the biggest war of all time.

That's how I feel.

I'm certainly not a Patton and this might not be World War II but I didn't go into this business to watch coverage.

There are some incredible stories being told out there and I'm proud of all of my colleagues across the country. Many are risking their lives to do so.

I guess I just feel the need to be part of that.

This week, I have some interviews set up with experts to talk a little bit more about the issues of homelessness locally and nationally.

Stay strong and true, my friends.

I love all of you.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

I realized Friday night I'm no longer on the time clock of The Man.

That's right -- The Man.

I can do what I want as The Homeless Editor

(I should note that when I once ranted about The Man, my daughter, the genuis, stopped me. "Father," she always calls me "father" when serious, "you're a middle-aged white man who is editor of the local newspaper -- you ARE The Man."

Fair point, kid. Fair point.

So I stayed up until 5 a.m. today pounding out 20 pages of a screenplay I've had in my head for three years now. (Note to self: "Pounding out" seems to be an inelegrant phrase describing writing.)

Then I slept until 4 p.m.

As I near the work week again -- the so-called work week -- when I return the the world of searching for jobs, I will re-jigger my sleep schedule to show The Man I can capitulate when need be.

Until then, my time as The Homeless Editor is my own.

Friday, May 29, 2020

I was kicked out of McDonald's today -- then told I could stay.

Almost everyday for two weeks, I've been going to the north side McDonald's for wi fi. I generally get a little nosh -- a cheeseburger, fries and a medium Coke costs about $3.50.

Then today, one of the managers saw me unpacking my laptop and said they weren't open inside and said I couldn't stay. I think she saw the pathetic look on my face when I muttered that I thought it was OK because no one had kicked me out in two weeks. She said, with a smile, OK, go ahead and stay. She was quite sweet.

I've been invited to attend a Zoom meeting Monday with a group of retired IU professors to talk about the perils of local newspapers. But I warned them I'm connection poor so they're going to try and help me find a place.

I'm working on getting my medication before the month ends in a couple of days.

Each day, I'm in need of IT solutions after having an IT department for nigh 30 years now.

I miss my friends from The Office and The Shoe and Upland and Uptown and the newspaper.

I swear to Christ, I will never take anything for granted again.

I love all or you.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

I look forward to having my feet underneath me again -- at least that feeling.

Again, I'm lucky. A place to stay, food, some savings. Last night colleague Laura Lane stopped to see me and brought me a hunk of meat to cook. She used the word "adorable" far too many times to describe my living circumstances at the cottage. But, in fact, it is quite adorable.

She chastised me for keeping my shelf-stable food in the middle of the kitchen in a laundry basket. And the inside of my fridge looked like that of her 21-year-old son.

Then she found Ring Ding packages -- empty. OK, I have made some poor life choices.

Laura also said I need to step up my game on the blog. I agree.

But I'm also just trying to breath right now, just trying to keep doggy paddling my fat head above water.

I imagine, then, for those who have it much worse. How they're drowning and can't catch a breath. They can see the sun, a blurry orange ball through the water, but they can't feel its warmth.

I suspect that feeling of feet underneath me will come.

In time.

Love all of you.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Suffering from severe gout -- the medication for which causes an embarrassing side effect -- I painfully made my way to the car to drive into town seeking out free WiFi when I saw -- A SNAKE! A FRICKIN' SNAKE! I HATE SNAKES!

Hobbled as I was I couldn't jump or run only scrape my feet along the pavement block where the snake lie. The sound or vibration clearly startled him -- I think it had been napping in the warm sun -- and it made its way into the weeds, saying in Parseltongue, "A homeless editor! I hate homeless editors!"

That's all I have today.

No job openings. Nothing particularly homeless-ey.

But at least I got a story out of my incident.

I love all of you.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Hello doubt, I didn't see you standing there.

Applying for a bunch of jobs today, from local to places on both coasts to some remote work, doubt crept in.

For those of you charting references on this blog, the lede sentence is a paraphrase of a Sheb Wooley parody, "Hello Walls No. 2," of the famous Faron Young/Willie Nelson hit "Hello Walls" of 1965. (And for non newspaper folks, "lede" is correct spelling for the first paragraph of a story.)

I wrote half a dozen cover letters, filled out a dozen forms -- all of which called for an address -- and for each one of them thought, "why would they hire me?"

Having seen thousands of resumes, I know what's problematic with mine. I've worked too many places. I have had some short tenures. And I can hear the hiring manager yell, "Next..." sending mine into the garbage.

But jobs seem to be opening up. On the websites I check, there were dozens of new openings rather than a handful. Some even said, "Urgently hiring." Cool.

Signed,
Urgently searching


Monday, May 25, 2020

On this Memorial Day, my mind goes to those who served our country and to those who do not have shelter.

According to www.policyadvice.net, about 40,000 veterans are homeless on any given night. Veterans make up 11 percent of all homeless. Among the reasons are high divorce rates, social isolation, substance abuse issues and mental health problems.

That should serve as a great shame to this country.

Thankfully, the number of homeless veterans is down by about 40 percent since 2011 as the Veterans Administration has done a significantly better job at identifying problems and focusing programs.

Still, 40,000 a night is too many and helping them should remain a focus of the VA. The administration should use each Memorial Day to update the country on the progress it is making in improving the situation.

Thank you, veterans, for fighting on our behalf.

(Editor's note: I am in no way suggesting I am the same as a homeless veteran. I did not serve. I have a roof over my head. I have a little money and food. My problem is entirely of my making.)

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Not much to hustle on a Sunday during Memorial Day weekend.

I've been calling the job search and the blog, interviews and making connections, as my "hustle."

No new jobs available and every other intelligent person in the country taking a little time off. So I'm having a couple of beers in the middle of the day.

I leave you this sweet message from an international reader: "Hello there! You've been giving a lot, thanks for sharing. I'm a reader from Brazil. I'm sending you good vibes from the tropics, wishing you well. Stay safe! Gregorio."

I love you all.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Friday night, I bought a pizza and with it came a side of guilty dipping sauce.

See, it's not that I have no money. I have a little put aside but in order to stretch it -- I expect the job search to take months -- I asked friends for help with housing and a offers came from across the country.

But as a journalist, who's has answered the phones for 30 year listening to reader complaints, I've heard every complaint there is when a story shows the lives of those on the lower rungs of the socioeconomic ladder.

They shouldn't have TV.

They shouldn't have cable.

They shouldn't have a pet if they can't pay for their own food.

The shouldn't eat fast food.

They shouldn't have cell phones.

They shouldn't have children if they can't afford them.

It's always "they."

So I felt guilty about buying a pizza to go when friends asked me to visit The Office Lounge and Liquor Store late Friday.

I was living for free and buying a pizza.

I've never understood the judgment of those who have against those who haven't. And yet I hear their stupid voices in my head.

A 2016 article in Psychology Today talks about the brain as a dual processor, one with a reflexive reaction, the other with a  more, thoughtful logical reaction. And we need both. When driving, a red light needs a reflexive reaction. No need to analyze because you've already done it. And society teaches us some bad reflexive actions. The article addresses a test given to people with black and white faces. When black faces were shown, the part of the brain that deal with fear -- the amygdala -- was more reactive when a black fact is shown. That's due in large part to how we're acculturated by media: black people are to be feared.

That's where judgment comes in and logic ought to kick in. OK, my immediate judgment is X but let's think rationally about X.

For some people, that's goo much work.

On the upside, the guilty dipping sauce tastes pretty good.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Get better at asking for help.

I occasionally clear my mind enough during morning meditation so my mind is able to receive something I've buried deeply in my psyche.

Get better at asking for help, I heard at the turn of the year.

I've never been good at that, something my genius kid shares with me. Her first full sentence was, "I do it myself." She was maybe a year old when she said that.

So the first time I walked into Community Kitchen -- where you get a free hot meal, a cold meal, all without question -- I found it extra hard. But it's getting better each time. Just as someone reaches out with a dinner or a six pack or some money.

Sometimes receiving help is as difficult for me as asking for help, particularly money. I shudder writing that.

Another message that occurred to me on furlough -- give more. That's not mostly about stuff, of which I have little. It was about compliments, smiles, jokes, stories. So I've been working on that, even in the smallest of moments.

I do know I'm going to walk out of this with a bigger heart, open to the gratitude of my many communities and ready to give more.


Thursday, May 21, 2020

I've not accomplished anything near what I wanted to accomplish with this blog.

I wanted to delve into the issue of the brittle economy, the different forms of homelessness, the confusing nature of the support system. I intended to interview experts, local caregivers, the homeless themselves.

Truth is, I remain overwhelmed, shocked and depressed about what's happened in the last three weeks.

Like Lili von Schtupp, "Let's face it. I'm tired."

I'm also getting used to the new rhythms of the day. I was only recently getting used to that at the newspaper. Before I arrived last June, the managing editor, the city editor and the digital editor left for various reasons. That left the executive editor, glorious title and all, to fill those roles and I started to get that rhythm down by turn of the year. With the pandemic, another new rhythm.

Then I had the challenges of getting a new rhythm at Motel 6 and now at the cottage.

No whining -- just the truth.

Because it occurred to me driving into town today I had not been fully truthful. One classic deceit is not telling the full truth with all context. Aquinas wrote the truth informs and falsehood deforms.

Thus you are informed.

Love you all.


Wednesday, May 20, 2020

It occurred to me in the wee hours of the morning, when I couldn't sleep, that I have more to say.

I have columns to write and I have stories I believe readers need.

I say this because today I applied for another newspaper job and many friends would ask, "Why?"

There's more work to be done.

The week I was notified about the pending layoff, I was working on a structure for a potential enterprise package on what the pandemic has done to hospitals. Despite the popular narrative of hospitals falsely increasing COVID numbers to make more money, all hospitals have been damaged financially and about 200 are expected to close within the next  year -- mostly rural.

That's according to my health care expert friend Mark Taylor. I had called him and asked the question: What are we missing? Mark noted that hospitals across the country had stopped elective procedures, which on average are about 48 percent of total revenue. Add to that the average COVID patient is going to be a Medicare patient, with controlled payments that can't be adjusted for the level of insurance, treating the pandemic fits with a hospital's mission but not its budget. All hospitals are on pace to lose money this year. The only question is how much?

I envisioned this package working well both small and big newspapers, accompanied by a database, graphics and personal stories of patients, great photography and podcasts.

Sadly that's stories not going to get told -- unless someone hires me to do it of course. (Or unless someone -- wisely -- steals the idea after reading this blog.)

And I cannot get out of the habit of forming at least one column idea a week in my head. I think I might have to add a column to the blog every Sunday because getting the ideas onto a screen helps make more room in my noggin for the next ideas.

There's so much more work to be done.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

To do list:

-- Apply for the few jobs out there.

-- Post on the blog

-- Scroll social media.

-- Try to get a P.O. box to receive mail.

-- Get doctor to update med before health insurance runs out.

-- Apply for unemployment.

-- Think -- briefly -- about shaving this hideous beard.

-- A couple of gin and tonics.

-- Dinner.

-- Rest

-- Repeat tomorrow.

Monday, May 18, 2020



In between Motel 6 and the cottage I felt in control -- and then I lost it.

I was listening to an NPR interview with Janelle Monae as she talked about identity.

Luckily, although I loved my job, I don't identify myself as anything less than me without it. I thought about how we tend to label ourselves in order to define ourselves -- a lifelong tendency. I've worked for years to shed identity, with the except of forever referring to myself as a son of the Wisconsin Northwoods. People use religion, region, statehood, education, sports team, gender identity, politics, sports fandom, the list goes on and on, in order to tell themselves and others who they are. My goal ultimately is to be nothing -- and that's how I'll become everything.

Then I learned my hometown newspaper was reprinting the story about my being a homeless editor

Shit.

I hadn't told my mom yet.

I had lost control of my story, my narrative.

She's hard to reach at the Rutledge Home in Chippewa Falls and I had not yet formulated the language I would use to explain my odd story. But I knew she would pick up the newspaper and see I've become homeless, even though it's much more complicated than that.

In order to reach her, I have to call the main number, ask for the second floor. If someone's staffing the desk, I ask to speak to her and if the attendant has time, they'll bring her to the phone.

I practiced as a drove to the cottage -- no easy feat, mind you. This place is as hidden as can be on a lakeshore teaming with homes.

Mom, I've been laid off. Mom, you're going to see a story that says I'm homeless. Mom, it's not that bad. As I've written before, there are nuances to this whole homeless thing. Mom, it's going to be OK. Mom, I always land on my feet.

Phone conversations never go quite so smoothly as the planning, mostly because mom and I cuss a bit. When she swears, it is with great erudition. The last time I misquoted Aristotle to her, she corrected me -- in Latin.

It also had occurred to me that she'd be inundated by old biddies wallowing in my troubles. Everyone likes a slice of tragedy pie.

"Oh, this is so terrible for you," they'll say. They will try to rouse her to tears.

I said this to mom, "When someone tries to upset you about this temporary issues, please repeat the following phrase:

"Calm the F down."

It except neither of us used just the letter of the word.

She said it into the phone and we repeated three times, surely the attendant listening to this classy old lady sounding like a sailor

We laughed and she said, "I'm going to pray like hell for you."

Thanks, mom. I could use it.

And I love you all.


Sunday, May 17, 2020

"I love your beautifully twisted brain."

My daughter gave me this present of a compliment today as we talked about comedy and writing.

I had just told her a bit in an (anti) kids book I tried to write years ago, a parody of "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie," that I called "If You Give an Eel an Enema." At some point, we find the eel smoking a joint with Bob Dylan, who finishes by Bogarting the roach. The angry and high eel shocks Dylan in response. The next night, Dylan goes electric at the Newport Folk Festival.

That's when she said that most beautiful thing.

She did her most spot-on John Mulaney impression and I fed her my own stupid dad jokes for the impression. I think we're going to do a podcast. "Not John Mulaney Does Dad Jokes." At least we talked about it.

That helped take off the edge of me moving Monday. My run at Motel 6 has ended, thank you to the kindness of the family who owns the place and Don the manager and his wife.

I move into a cottage of a new friend on Lake Lemon, north of Bloomington. The cottage with no cable and no online access will feed my hermetic tastes. I'll find a way to blog, either setting up my phone as a hotspot or driving into town for access.

For nearly three weeks now, I've written about how lucky I am in these trying times. I technically qualify as homeless because of my transitional status. More on that later this week in this blog as I intend to do some interviews with experts on how tackling "homelessness" isn't as easy as giving everyone a hotel room or mini house.

The cottage has a little kitchenette and I look forward to cooking, as well as writing and thinking.

I'll show photos Monday, friends.

Love all of you.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

This is dinner tonight.

And probably Sunday night.

And Monday as you can't fully see the rack of ribs wrapped in foil on the left.

All of this courtesy of Mark Richardson, a friend I didn't have in April but who has not only brought this feast but also helped me move my goods out of storage at the newspaper. During a break in the move, we talked about barbecue -- 'cue for my Tar Heel friends -- and he formed the idea of getting his favorite place in Clay City: Joe's Garage BBQ.

I'll offer a food review later on.

On Monday, I move to a guest cottage-- on Lake Lemon of all places -- owned by someone who befriended me on Facebook and I have yet to meet. (Don't worry, friends, as I had Laura Lane check him out -- he's stand-up, she reported.)

I move there after two free weeks at the Motel 6, one week on behalf of the local family that owns the place and one by manager Don and his wife.

An IU education professor -- whom I've met exactly once -- sent me restaurant gift cards.

My Herald-Times colleague Carol Kugler slipped me a gift card on behalf the staff for a local sandwich shop.

I likely will vie for the title "Fattest Homeless Editor" if I don't get a job soon.

It's not about the food, though. This blog entry is about the incredible giving and selflessness of others. The only reason these folks get some recognition is because of this blog. Imagine the thousands of Random Acts of Kindness taking place in our communities daily. There's this great entry in Thomas Aquinas's "Summa Contra," where he describes all the reasons not to take a good action -- 90 percent of which is stolen almost directly from Aristotle's "Nichomachean Ethics." Basically, you don't make kind actions for the purposes of wealth or notoriety of friends or other facile reasons. The two disagreed on the final reason, for Aristotle it was logic. For Aquinas it was for God. I marry the two and suggest you make what Buddhists call "right action" only for this reason: It's the right thing to do.

Funny, because during my unpaid furlough the week before being informed of my layoff, I spent the week contemplating my own personal actions and what's next.

After nine days of thought, this is what I realized: Give more.

Love all of you.

Friday, May 15, 2020

I get letters at Motel 6.

I feel like Sister in Eudora Welty's famous short story "Why I Live at the P.O."

At some point, I will write a short story about getting letters at the Motel 6. And that damned Stella Rondo, the cause of all of Sister's problems in "Why I Live at the P.O." because eventually Sister moves to the Post Office because of Stella Rondo's lies.

In one column that never made the page, I made reference to Welty about "Why I Live at the H-T," but the column stank to high heaven and my staff suggested I spike it -- newsroom jargon for killing the piece.

But I no longer live at the H-T. For a short time, I have lived at Motel 6 and received tidings of great joy. No gold, frankincense and myrrh. The letter I received was from Louisiana, a former journalist, supporting the idea of the blog and telling a story. A reporter sent me cheeseburgers from 5 Guys. I get six packs of beer. A local author dropped off books. I feel badly for the front desk, already hard-working folks who have to serve as my delivery people. That's in addition to them being hotel employees, caseworkers, social workers, problem solvers.

The thing is there's a fine line between someone with a fancy title like senior executive editor and getting mail at the Motel 6. I take all responsibility for that and no one should feel sorry for me. I have some money saved, I just need to stretch it.

I'm doing that with the help of friends and strangers.

Stella Ronda was a liar and made Sister's family believe her lies.

In my life, I am surrounded by angels.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

"Today was a good day."
-- Ice Cube

When I felt good at the end of the day today, it came to me quickly: I felt useful.

I applied for some decent jobs I think I can do well.

I fixed my computer probably that temporarily removed my ability to be part of the world -- yes, that's a First World problem for a First World Homeless Editor. The lack of connection to the world briefly freaked me out.

And I took a writing assignment.

Let me lay out the day for you.

The first part is I applied for a job as national editor for a non-profit website that works to strengthen state reporting, perhaps the most damaged aspect of journalism since the Great Recession. It's been well documented that statehouse reporting has virtually disappeared in the last decade or more. The most worrisome part of that is state legislation affects you far more than the U.S. Congress. It's not just ideological nonsense but affects the way you live your life every single day. Given I've worked in 10 percent of the states, I'd like to think I can add to their efforts.

On the downside of that, I realized as I sent off my most recent resume, I might have erred. I typically update my resumes by the month and year when I re-create them. So in April, I named my resume "richjacksonresume 0420."

Um.

So I don't smoke pot but I'm not against legalization.

But I fear what will become known in the industry as the "pot resume" will hurt me. "There's a guy out there so brazen he's applying for jobs under the 4/20 symbol. We simply cannot have someone in charge of editing who is a dope fiend." (Note: Again, I don't smoke pot but it certainly wouldn't hurt the industry to let lose the idea of "Reefer Madness.")

I talked to Andrew Fraieli, editor of the "Homeless Voice" newspapers in Florida. He's asked me to write a column about my experiences. Gladly. Ask a writer to write and stand back.

A reporter with whom I interviewed for "The New York Times of Orthodox Judaism" was so kind to send me dinner via Ubereats. I chose 5 Guys because I hadn't a decent burger in a month so he sent two burgers, fries and two Cokes. He followed up with a couple of messages on WhatsApp. In the first, he wrote that was the first non-kosher food he ever ordered. In the second, he wrote he was going to report to his mother that they were bacon cheeseburgers -- just so she would freak out.

God love this world.


Wednesday, May 13, 2020

I kind of took today off.

Sure, I looked for jobs even though no one is hiring. Yes, I write this blog more for sanity than anything else.

Otherwise, I took the day off. I'm tired. It's an odd thing to write but I've been working hard since losing my job. There's the hustle of applying and look and making contacts. I've responded to everyone who wants contact because of the blog plus a thousand more who seek me out via social media, text and email asking what they can do. My days are as busy as they were when I had the fancy title of senior executive editor. And make no mistake, those days were busier than you can image.

Friends helped me move Tuesday, many of them strangers. I'm not in the best shape and the activity nearly killed me. I wanted to give as much as they gave so I tried to touch as many boxes as they did. I tried to take a nap in the afternoon but my brain and few remaining muscles were too wound up to allow sleep.

I woke up early today for an interview with Eric Lindquist -- a mentor and friend from my internship at the Eau Claire Leader Telegram in 1989. Holy crap, that makes me sound old. He said it was strange to talk to me as a source. I didn't say it, but I thought it odd that this guy who taught me so much three decades ago was interviewing me. He gave me advice but also modeled a basic, truthful humanity that has infused my career.

After the interview, which ended at about noon, I went back to bed. Without guilt.


I do love working and have always suffered from a work ethic like that of the horse in "Animal Farm." I think of myself as Boxer, the horse. Loyal and so hard-working, he dies -- a metaphor for the Russian people. That's not a great goal to which to aspire, nonetheless, here I am.

I feel better, less tired and relaxed for the first time in a while.

Thank you for reading, my dear friends and supporters.

I love you.



Tuesday, May 12, 2020

I went to Community Kitchen in Bloomington for a free meal this evening and it was among the hardest things I've ever done.

I have gone two-to-two with governors, senators, representatives -- you name it. Then-U.S. Representative Mike Pence once said in an editorial meeting, "The worst thing I could hear at my front door was, 'Hi, my name is Rich Jackson and I have some questions for you.'"

I drove into the parking lot on Rogers Street -- I had a car and was the only one -- to see about a dozen people waiting for dinners. It seemed at least to me I was lesser than them because I had a hotel room, I had some meager savings -- hell, I had a car.

But I'm attempting to stretch my savings because I don't know how long this thing -- unemployment, shifting from place to place -- is going to last. I had called someone from United Way early on and the caring person said, "Don't pay for food in Bloomington. You can get healthy, nutritious meals and save your money."

I had stockpiled some shelf-stable food at the beginning of the pandemic, including too much pudding. That began to run low this week. Plus, I had to move some packed boxes from an unused garage at the newspaper or be forced to lose them so I spent a good chunk of the day loading and moving my belongings to the garage of a local friend. God bless friends. A half dozen folks showed up, including some people I've never met in person.

But I was exhausted. As I like to say, I was old, fat, stupid and tired -- a refrain when someone asks how I'm doing. I needed some help, such as prepared food.

Following protocol, I called a phone number and the woman said I could choose between having someone bringing me the meal or coming inside as only volunteers were inside. I think I felt as small as I ever had. I went inside, never having been and the volunteer was as gracious as anyone I've ever met. I mumbled something about how this was the first time I'd ever been so she walked me through the offerings. A hot meal along with a packed cold meal I could eat later. No questions about who was I or what was my need.

They gave me a hot meatball sandwich, green beans with bacon and a fresh salad. I don't think I had a salad in a couple months. I ate a real meal, like an adult.

What killed me, made me teary were the toppings on my two boxes. A fistful of candies and a bag of chips.

This wasn't just some food distribution line where mass-produced slop is ladled out without concern. It was more like a couple of friends gave me some food after a celebration.

Good lord, the blessings kill me.



Monday, May 11, 2020

The biggest thing the regular population doesn't understand is the stress of homelessness.

And this comes from a lucky man only in transitional homelessness. I'll find a job. I'll find a place.

But the goddamn anxiety is exhausting.

What's next?

I've been applying for jobs across the country as well as locally. The national jobs largely include editor jobs. That's what I do. My two job skills are reading and writing. I have the skill set of a kid graduating third grade.

The local jobs, given there's really only one newspaper from which I was laid off, include things like technical writer and human resources generals. In regard to the first, I can write about almost anything. The only exception would be "How the Chicago Bears are awesome."

But I have also managed newsrooms since at least 1994 and I have four years of assistant managing a McDonald's restaurant. I know how to deal with people that allows for dignity and respect in all circumstances.

Frankly, if need be, I'll go back to managing a fast-food restaurant. I like work. I get to accomplish things and face challenges I can fix.

But does that mean a diminishment of my skills?

I have challenged governors and senators and local politicians. I like to brag that  three governors have yelled at me. Never because I was a jerk but because I asked tough questions. When working at small newspapers, I always had this chip on my shoulder that big-time politicians expected softball questions. So I always prepared and shot them hard balls like Nolan Ryan. When now Vice President was our local U.S. congressman in Richmond, Indiana, he once told me his fear was I'd knock on his door and say, "Hi, my name is Rich Jackson and I have some questions."

These experiences don't mean I'm a jerk.

I intend to do well at my job.

Please hire me.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Between the pandemic shutdown in early March, to my departure May 1, I took calls complaining about the homeless in Seminary Park here in Bloomington.

"They're not practicing social distancing," was the most common.

"Why doesn't the city give them masks?"

"They're almost of top of each other."

And this on the first beautiful spring day: "It's almost like they're celebrating."

How what kind of person begrudges the smallest thing to someone chronically homeless?

Most of those in Seminary Park have so little in life they can fit in the ever-present backpacks. They shuttle from shelter to park to Shalom Center or Community Kitchen.

What those folks seek with each other is simple bonding over shared situation. Something every human wants and needs.

The most public of the homeless are the people in the park and fall into the most difficult of the four categories -- chronically homeless, usually of a year or more. I've taken calls and emails who say that's an easy life, free meals, passing of the bottle and the ability to sleep all day. Here's a secret, though, Laura Lane's stories have shown through years of coverage. The chronically homeless sleep during the day because after dark is when the boogie man comes around. Where what few belongings they have might be stolen. Laura Lane talked to one guy who decamped from the park to a tent behind the Herald-Times because all of his important personal items -- Social Security car, birth certificate -- had been stolen and he could longer prove his identity.

The next category is episodic, a person who is homeless more than once, whether because of occasional job loss, substance abuse or being kicked out of the home.

I'm in the third category -- transitional. Because of my failure to look for permanent housing for 10 months and then getting laid off, I'm transitioning from place to another. It's probably the easiest of the circumstances, at least for me as I have the blessings of a little savings and many wonderful friends.

The final category is the hidden homeless. That is for folks who couch surf between family members and friends. They don't have a permanent place to lay their heads at night. It's among the hardest of help of groups because they are truly hidden.

We recently followed the case of one of the first COVID-19 patients in the region. He went by the nickname Uncle Dirt and was couch surfing with a number of friends and family in Owen County. When he became sick, he was taken to IU health here in Bloomington. Thankfully, Uncle Dirt survived but when it came time for him to check out, he refused. He and doctors disagreed on whether he was well. Plus, I suspect that was good living for Uncle Dirt. Pretty nurses cleaning him up and having good food delivered. So hospital security hoisted him up and set him down on the sidewalk out front. His friends didn't want a COVID patient back in their homes so he had to find shelter in Bloomington.

His is a brittle life.

Remember, for each homeless person -- and Bloomington has averaged about 335 homeless people over the last several years -- there is a singular story as to what led them to where they are.

While they are homeless, they are first and foremost people.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

I've had a hard time keeping off weight since my daughter was born.

That's a decent joke. It's not the only similarity I have with the character Ginni Sacrimoni from "The Sopranos" but I'll leave it at that for now.

Why a fat joke about myself?

As I've added weight over the years my weight has become a target point for trolls. That's always been relatively fine with me because -- hey -- I'm fat. It's the truth. I used to be a skinny kid and young adult but that's changed.

What hasn't changed is how I use humor to deal with the stresses of life. On a recent day when the Pulitzers were announced and the same day The New York Times published a profile of me and this blog, I complained, "Laid off and skunked at the Pulitzers." 

Longtime friends laughed but noted it was inspiring to see me joking at such a difficult time.

Truth is for those who know me, I've always joked -- and virtually all the time as a coping mechanism.

Humor cools my brain with dopamine. Mmmmmm, dopamine.

Jokes also help to make a point -- if well done without too sharp a point.

A decent laugh is a common experience, even if they're as stupid as my jokes -- referred to as "dad jokes."

I believe it's the reason my brilliant kid is majoring in comedic arts at Emerson College. She's watched for 19 years as I've used humor to deal with life and its inherent problems. One strange aside, usually she's judged for that choice of study. "What is she going to do with that?" people ask, as though college were merely training for a job. The one time she was not judged by anyone in a group was at an Eid-al-fitr celebration at the Burlington mosque run by my brother Shaher Sayed. The men and women were at different tables so I asked for another table so she and I could sit together. The table was set up on the stage in the basement meeting room and we were soon joined by men who saw this as a table of honor. When Clare said she studied comedic arts, she was greeted only by beaming faces.

Clare asked me a long time ago why I joked with complete strangers, servers, attendants, passersby. I said I had just given them the best gift I can possibly give: a story. And it's a free gift. Stories are currency in every community. There's a woman working at a Sheet's in Virginia who is probably still telling the story about the dad who said he picked up his daughter from juvie on Christmas Day. "And the girl says, 'Yeah, I'm a fire starter.'" Of course she knew we were joking. "Oh you two are so full of poop," she said to us. 

So, yes, I continue to joke. Friends on Facebook got to read this one a couple of days ago: I'm think of doing my own hair dye like everyone else during the pandemic but I can't reach my back.

I saw my high school friend Katie celebrate a recent birthday so I wrote, "You look pretty hot for being such an old broad." She responded, "You're not so bad for a homeless guy."

She gave me the best laugh of the day.