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Monday, August 31, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I'll keeping trying.

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

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

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

Friday, August 28, 2020

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

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

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

I've become a familiar face at Community Kitchen.

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

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

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

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

I appreciate the humanity offered to me at these times.

I love the sincerity in it.

And the food is pretty damn good, too.

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

Thursday, August 27, 2020

 Violence begets violence.

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

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

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

It also takes leadership. 

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

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

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

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

My heart grieves for my country.

Peace and more peace unto you my brothers and sisters.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God, I miss it so.

Someone, give me a damn newsroom.

Peace and insights unto you my brothers and sisters.

Monday, August 24, 2020

 I had beer today with a fellow unemployed friend.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peace and little moments unto you my brothers and sisters.

Friday, August 21, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And you're on vacation.

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

Thursday, August 20, 2020


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sadly, I knew he was right.

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

They know knowledge is power.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

 Support your local newspaper.


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

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

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

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

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

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

So she wasn't just uninformed.

She was cheap, too.

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

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

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

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

Friday, August 14, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They just lost one of a few remaining lifelines.

Have a wonderful weekend.

Peace and respect to you my brothers and sisters.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

 The Census found me today.

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

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

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

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

I'm unemployed.

There are no family members in the state.

Despite my girth, I am not eating for two.

I am not a member of any protected class.

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

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

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

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

My two favorite pies are hot pie and cold pie.

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

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

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

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

But hey, at least I count now.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

What's next?

Friday, August 7, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I've been better for this advice.

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

Have a great weekend, my friends.

Peace and wave rides unto you my brothers and sisters.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Another week, another job interview.

That makes two in three months

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tomorrow I shall rest.

Peace and local news unto you my brothers and sisters.