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Monday, November 30, 2020

It's all so exhausting.

Working, 10-, 12-, 14-hour days as a journalist was similarly so. But at least I accomplished something in my time. I felt fulfilled, accomplished.

But the lack of knowing what's next is stressful and tiring to a degree from which it's hard to recover.

I was unaware of this effect until one of my newspapers took a year-long dive into the effects of poverty on our area. One of the major issues was health and it was then I learned about the stress of the disenfranchised and how that affects blood pressure, heart issues and depression among a myriad of issues. And none of that included a lack of access to decent health care.

As I transition from one home to another, I can sleep 12 hours and remain so exhausted that sometimes the idea of taking another step is too much. Cook? Screw that. Take care of myself? Maybe later. Exercise? Yeah, when I can.

I know those who have don't understand the lives who don't have. Read "A Framework of Understanding Poverty" by Ruby Payne. She writes about how a different mindset comes on under the stress of difficulty. It can alter rationality and logic and reality.

I read it 20 years ago and now I've come to live it.

So tired.

I think it was the German philosopher Lilly von Schtupp who once said, "Let's face it -- I'm fwickin' exhausted."

Peace and rest unto you my brothers and sisters.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

I am thankful for so much.

So it turns out that there is a coming day for giving thanks and I shall avail myself of such a chance.

The other night my daughter texted me "love you so much."

I am thankful for her and her peculiar kind of genius.

I am thankful for my mother and my family.

I am thankful for all of my friends, from my various beer-drinking buddies (scattered across half a dozen states now) to my former colleagues, to all the people who have befriended me in my 55 years.

And during this odd little trip I've been taking this year, I am incredibly thankful for all the new people who have reached out to me during my difficulties.

I cannot thank enough the complete stranger who offered me his guest cottage on Lake Lemon. He's not just given me a place to live but has become a trusted friend.

I thank another stranger who loaned me his Caddy SUV to travel to a job interview in another state.

I'm thankful to all the social service agencies, particularly the smiling volunteers at Community Kitchen.

I am thankful for all the small gestures of support and friendliness on what could have been a lonely road.

I am thankful to beautiful nature, which I didn't always appreciate when I was a busy and slightly bombastic editor.

I am thankful, not in order, for the servers who've befriend me, Netflix, A-A Ron Rodgers and his Packers, "The Queen's Gambit," fellow journalists in what might have been the most difficult year for reporting since 1968, beer, mountain gorillas, John Couger Mellenball, this dumpy little laptop that keeps me connected to the world. Hell, I'm thankful for a great glass of water here in Bloomington, which has delicious tap water by the way.

And, dear readers, I am thankful for you so much. My first blog had a total of 55 page views, of which 45 were mine and 10 from my executive editor. Had I known how much attention this endeavor would attract, it would have been much more sophisticated.

I'll return Monday unless I have breaking news.

Peace and thanks unto you my brothers and sisters.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

I wrote Monday's post because it's the truth.

I sought neither sympathy nor sorrow, both of which can be addictive.

Sometimes life sucks.

How's that for a former philosophy major?

One of the things I dislike about social media is the false narratives. Life is always great, meals are the best, children are perfect. (Note: Actually, my kid is perfect -- so shut up.)

The reality of course is that life includes successes and difficulties, quiet moments of peace and histrionic moments of despair. And I had grown concerned I was not always being truthful. I don't care if this blog has no readers -- I do care that I remain pinned to truth.

Buddha understood this 2,500 years ago when he determined that suffering lies not with tragedy thrust upon us but our own reaction -- want. We want a perfect life and it hurts when reality intrudes, time and again. There will be death, there will be tragedy. Worse, the Green Bay Packers will lose.

So part of healing is understanding that bad happens and accepting that, staying mindful through the painful times and staying mindful through the positives.

I can't really consider myself as a Buddhist, as I don't believe in karma and reincarnation.  But the rationalist in me likes the idea of an inward change versus expecting that everything will be awesome.

Thank you, friends, for reaching out.

I'll be OK.

But I'll also be truthful.

And hopefully, there will come a day soon dedicated to one giving thanks.

Peace and truth unto you my brothers and sisters.

Monday, November 23, 2020

BREAKING -- I have another week at The Hermitage, a cottage on Lake Lemon.

For this I thank my benefactor, a person whom I believe has one of the biggest hearts in Monroe County. His patience, calmness and kindness are incredible. And I thank him publicly.


I don't like complaining. I think it is among the most useless of tasks, although I understand the psychological benefits of letting off steam.

Today, at lunch I tried to choke my way through a small bowl of spaghetti. But my appetite has gone to hell and I'm largely subsisting on cheese and crackers. I don't pick up meal at Community Kitchen anymore because I couldn't eat all the food. And I hate to waste.

I've now started waking up to dizzy spells, something disconcerting as a I sleep in a loft.

I watched as people in a newspaper interview a couple weeks ago looked at the tremors in my left hand, something that started in the last month.

My body aches from head to toe, all day long.

I'm not a doctor nor have I ever played one on TV but I ascribe it to being a big, fat ball of anxiety.

Nearly seven months of not knowing what's next have taken a toll. I can't imagine what it's like for those who have less than me. I saw three guys on a bench at Seminary Park taking slugs from a handle of rotgut vodka last week. I thought, "Do what you have to do man -- do what you have to do."

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

Thursday, November 19, 2020

 I'm going to go deep, deep undercover for three days.

I'll write Monday.

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

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

 No one should feel sorry for me.

That idea strikes me after some reactions to my post yesterday. Some folks sent emojis with what I take to be tears.

After all, it's not as though I suddenly became a fan of the Chicago Bears. Imagine this -- they are struggling at quarterback, something they've been doing since Sid Luckman retired in 1950.

I'm merely changing shelter again and extraordinarily appreciative of what I've had for the past six months. I wanted to describe the beauty of the changing seasons.

In the time since I was laid off, I have found an extraordinary number of friends who have impacted my life. That calls for celebration, not sorrow.

And I keep taking the next step forward, inexorably, understanding how precious are the gifts in life, friends, family, life, nature, science and a couple of beers at the end of the day.

No, don't cry for me Argentina -- or any other country for that matter. OK, Albania, you can cry for me -- but no one else.

I'm pretty blessed even in tough times.

Peace and blessings unto you my brothers and sisters.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

I will miss The Hermitage, my temporary home of six months.

Changing seasons have not diminished the beauty of place, only changing it.

Now the leaves that swayed in the breeze carpet the forest floor, allowing a beautiful view of Lake Lemon that I could only glimpse before.

The squirrels have grown fat as they ready for the winter -- and they haven't touched the keto diet books I've scattered about the place.

I haven't seen a snake in some time -- fine by me. But I do miss my early friend, Severus, a black rat snake, that used to wind himself around the posts on the deck. 

As well, I haven't seen the two skinks that played on the deck. They were Tessio and Clemenza, named after the capos in the first "Godfather." At least they weren't skanky skinks or stinky skinks.

And the unnamed squirrel who, each day at about noon, would find a black walnut and use the deck to get access to the tree canopy without using the trunk. I think he's too engorged for that kind of activity now. I know how it feels.

I shall miss my home, just as I miss Motel 6 and even the apartment at the Herald-Times, decorated by the set designer for "Mad Men."

Peace and shelter unto you my brothers and sisters.

Monday, November 16, 2020

 My heart skipped a beat over the weekend as I filed my weekly voucher for unemployment.

The Indiana website where I filed said, I thought, the end was nigh for payments, even though I thought I had about six weeks left. On closer read, those on extended benefits couldn't receive payments past Nov. 14. I'm not on extended benefits, just regular.

But my consternation followed shortly after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that if -- if -- there's another COVID relief bill, it be meager as compared to previous legislation.


McConnell likes to pretend he's fiscally conservative but he lead the Senate passage of the 2017 tax cut bill that will produce trillion-dollar deficits through 2027. (Hidden in the bill was an increase in taxes, starting next year, for those making $75,000 or less:

There's another reason. Remember that McConnell is the man who told his GOP caucus in 2008 that they would not support anything President Obama proposed even if it was good for America.

Another stimulus bill, needed as current benefits are running out, would be good for America but it also might be good for Joe Biden's administration, anathema to McConnell.

It's not just party over country. It's party over people.

I have met the people hurting out here -- people like me. I've searched for and applied for jobs everyday for coming up on seven months. Even though I've applied for beginner-level jobs like server, I'm a 55-year-old and that's not attractive to anyone hiring employees. (For the record, I'm not physically attractive, either.)

People are still hurting. We're still struggling. But I know better than to hold my breath that will ever matter to some.

Peace unto you my brothers and sisters.

Friday, November 13, 2020

Old, fat, stupid and tired.

Were someone to ask me today how I feel, that's my go-to answer.

Really, though, I'm just exhausted after a great week. I had two strong interviews in the newspaper business -- yes, the industry that has treated me gruffly.

But I still have work to do. I have something to say. There are more windmills at which to tilt.

I'm having a couple of beers at The Tap and then home to sleep deeply, satisfied I gave my best. So that Saturday, when I wake, I will only be old, fat and stupid.

Have a great weekend.

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

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

 DATELINE CONFIDENTIAL -- Fellow Hoosiers, please don't complain about government oppression with the COVID virus until you can't find a place to pee.

I have learned this driving to another state that is treating the pandemic seriously and working on mitigating the contagion. 

When on the road and I need to go, I prefer to stop at a McDonald's. As a former manager at one, I know the importance of bathroom cleanliness. And as someone who started out as a maintenance worker at a McDonald's, I have just triggered my own PTSD as to what I had to clean up.

In Indiana, you can go into a place to relieve yourself.

You cannot in a nearby state. You'll be treated as one of the walking dead. "I'm sorry sir, we don't allow humans to use the restroom. However, if you have a raccoon, an opossum or a muskrat, they can relieve themselves."

That and restaurants. 

In Indiana, there remain some restrictions but you can go eat with friends.

Here, in the state that shall not be named, you cannot.

In this other state, it's largely closed to on-site dining so get take out, cook for yourself or here's a feeding tube.

I can overcome the latter. But as a 55-year old man who needs to go when he needs to go, the former is the problem.

I suggest, though, that if you're reading this, you have survived thus far in what is truly a pandemic. When we ignore that nearly a quarter of a million people have died, we are less humane. 

Please stay safe and make wise choices, my friends. Use masks, social distancing, washing your hands and use hand sanitizer. Keep your bubble of human friends small and we can mitigate the worst of this.

I wish peace and life unto you, my brothers and sisters.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

 DATELINE CONFIDENTIAL -- Safely ensconced in a Holiday Inn Express, I ready myself for a live newspaper interview Wednesday.

I've been keeping newspapers I interview with out of the blog because I think the process of interviewing is proprietary. 

I had taken my car to a mechanic last week who advised me not to make long drives with it. "It's leaking," he said. From where? "Everywhere."

You don't want to hear that from your mechanic or your doctor.

So a brand new friend loaned me a vehicle to make the trip to another state and it turned out to be a Cadillac SUV -- state of the art compared to my 2008 Subaru. I get messages like, "object behind you." As someone who practices mindfulness, I'm more concerned about what's in front of me than the Caddy is. Tonight, I received a message "rain sensors on." Yeah, it was raining. On the drive, there were 40 mph gusts of wind and I was told "high wind advisory."

And later, "high wind has tousled your hair -- both of them."

This vehicle cares more about me than my mom.

I took an Uber to an Italian place that turned out to be closed. The driver, sweet Melissa, had taken off quickly so I couldn't wave her down. Note there was a driving rain and a cold front and I'm standing outside of Italian goodness.

My phone had a 12 percent charge but before it pooped out, I was able to get another Uber to take me safely and soundly -- if not wet and shivering -- back to my hotel.

I went next door to a joint that served American, Greek, Italian and Mexican dishes where the owner, who called himself Eric the Mexican guy, sympathized and fed me some wine and tostadas. 

It's been a day.

But I keep taking that next step, inevitably moving forward for what's next.

I wish peace and forward action unto you, my brothers and sisters.

Friday, November 6, 2020

 Talking with a friend today, I spread my arms to their limit and said, "Worry about what you can touch."

Given that I have the short wing span of an unladen European swallow, that means I have little to worry about.

It's easy to have anxiety about the nature of the country and the world but there's little we can do about it other than, say, vote.

What I can control over the coming days, things are good. I've interviewed with two newspapers in different states and will visit one of them next week.

I know plenty of people -- perhaps hundreds -- who have successfully transitioned from journalism into what I call the civilian world. For me, I feel as though I have more to do, more to say, more to write. As folks jump from what they see as the sinking ship of an industry, I scramble to get back on.

I have hope. I am heartened six months after the layoff and reminded of a story from Pema Chodron. She had meditated until she felt great anxiety. She asked her teacher, Chogyam Trungpa, about this and he said it was the Dakini Bliss -- when one reaches a certain level of peace and enlightenment it becomes uncomfortable because it's unknown.

Never will I be enlightened. I'm a son of the Wisconsin Nort'woods.

But hope and heartening cause a certain level of anxiety to which I am unaccustomed.

Still, it's better than poke in the eye with a sharp stick. That's what we say in the Nort'woods.

Have a beautiful weekend.

Peace and hope unto you my brothers and sisters -- with maybe a little Dakini Bliss thrown in.

Thursday, November 5, 2020

There is bad news, good news and no news.

The bad news is I've spent the last six days with crippling gout in my left elbow. For years, gout has attacked my feet and knees but the elbow was a special treat, essentially turning me into a one-armed man. I took my gout medicine last Friday and it's only today I can raise my arm to type.

The good news is I'm traveling to Illinois next week for a job interview. I don't care to name the city nor the newspaper but the visit follows two good phone interviews. Ideally, the visit is the kiss before the prom, sealing a new adventure. 

I promise to neither cuss nor spit.

Finally, no news in the presidential election. We all wait. Thankfully, there hasn't been the violence I expected. 

Let us remain calm in the following days and remember: We Americans are not each others' enemies.

Peace and calm unto you my brothers and sisters.