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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.


3 comments:

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    " Thomas Jefferson sat at the Indian Queen Tavern in Philadelphia facing a blank sheet of parchment. Taking a long drink of his freshly poured ale, he touched his pen to paper and scratched, ‘When in the course of human events . . . . "

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