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Thursday, October 29, 2020

Busy, busy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

As always, she is right.

Have beautiful days until Wednesday, friends.

Peace and more peace unto you.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

That's simply not true and has never been.

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 22, 2020

I attended the birth of the Craisin.

It's one of my few claims to fame.

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

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

Here's the story:

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, I was a fine cranberry reporter.

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

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

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

Who wouldn't hire that piece of work?

We shall see.

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

 I need a newsroom.

I said that twice during my interview Monday.

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

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

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

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

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

Writers write, right?

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

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

I just need a newsroom.

Monday, October 19, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 16, 2020

Fall reminds me of change.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a beautiful weekend.

Peace and change unto you my brothers and sisters.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

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

I applied today.

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

It's nice to be wanted.

The slight stink was probably from all that milk.

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

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

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

Peace and concern unto you my brothers and sisters.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

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

For most that would be odd.

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

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

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

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

"Is this line secure?" he asked. 

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

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

$300! To a college student? In 1991?

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

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

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

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

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

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

It always leads to something.

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

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was like watching "My Dinner with Andre."

Last metaphor -- I promise,

Peace and metaphors unto you my brothers and sisters.

Monday, October 12, 2020

 I do not have a job.

I need a new place to lay my head.

It's the middle of a pandemic.

Just weeks from cataclysmic election.

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

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

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

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

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

That's hard to do everyday.

But try it on the good days.

And please, cheer on the Packers.

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

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

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

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

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

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

These are extraordinary times.

While our government does not a damn thing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Genetics kill me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peace and love unto you my brothers and sisters.

Monday, October 5, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am humbled.

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

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

Friday, October 2, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Science is smarter than politics.

Have a beautiful weekend and be safe.

Peace and health unto you my brothers and sisters.

Thursday, October 1, 2020

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

Today marks five months.

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

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

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

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

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