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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, 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.


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.


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.


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 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.