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Thursday, December 31, 2020

Almost one year ago, while I meditating on what I needed to do for 2020, the message was clear: Do a better job asking for help.

I had spent the previous two years working much, taking a total of maybe two weeks off and I needed to change that.

A short while later, COVID-19 hit and it was 12-14 hour days during the week and eight hours on a day on the weekends. I didn't mind it. I have a strong work ethic and what we do as journalists is so important. I told the staff before we were dispersed that our role was to help the public through the pandemic.

Then I was laid off and asked to leave my apartment at the newspaper.

I've documented the struggles and successes since then, with some humor thrown in as that's my coping mechanism. (Friends' response reading this: Duh!)

This has been a great year for learning opportunities and much of the knowledge I took in, I knew intellectually. But experiencing the learning opportunities has made it all more real.

Here are some of my lessons:

-- Ask for help.

-- Accept it gladly and humbly.

-- Oftentimes, giving is as much about the feelings of the donor as the recipient.

-- Daytime TV sucks.

-- It is better to be warm than cold.

-- Know thyself. (That's the epigram over the Temple of Apollo at Delphi -- so I stole that one.) No one else can define you so long as you're being true to yourself.

-- Tell jokes. Even stupid ones. It releases endorphins in the brain, making it cheaper than beer -- even Natural Light.

-- People are more important than stuff. Find the good in everyone and enjoy that.

-- Stuff is utterly useless. I've lived for nearly two years with my stuff in storage and the only thing I missed was my copy of "Trout Fishing in America," by Richard Brautigan. So I bought another copy.

-- Feed yourself with great writing, poetry, art, beauty and decent pot roast. (Uptown Cafe, I'm writing about you.)

-- Move inexorably forward. You're life might be a shit show today but keep moving folks -- there's nothing to see here.

-- It's OK to have down days, even down weeks. That allows for recovery time. But set an alarm and get up when it's time.

-- Enjoy sleep and showers when you don't have to rush off somewhere -- like work.

-- Wear a mask, not because the government told you but because it's respectful of others. It's not like you ignore stop signs because the government told you. It's because if you did, someone might die.

-- Work on your empathy. However bad you might have it, assuredly someone has it worse.

-- Stop. Smell flowers. Watch butterflies play. Listen to street musicians.

-- Watch the Green Bay Packers this Sunday against the Chicago Bears.

-- Don't get caught up in the BS of the day. Remember that our average of 80 years on this planet pales in comparison to how long it's been around. Around Bloomington, the limestone for which we're famous took about 450 million years to form what we now know.

-- You know what? Turn off that TV and take a walk. There will always be another episode of "Forensic Files" when you return home.

-- And, oh yes, read, if for no other reason to feed my fragile ego.

Happy New Year and have a precious long weekend.

Peace and a new beginning unto all of you my brothers and sisters.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

The dream recurs most every night now.

I'm in a messy house, often my mother's or sometimes one of the homes from my marriage.

Not just, messy. Complete disasters as though a tropical storm had moved through. Every square inch of the floors and any surfaces covered with multiple layers of stuff and dirt and grime. Dishes stacked so high they're tilting and ready to fall. Think of the leaning tower of frozen Pisa. Potted plants overturned and the dirt tracked through the place. Enough dirty laundry that no industrious person could wash it in multiple lifetimes.

I've decided that something must be done each time.

And then I begin cooking for those who might help me to clean.

"We can't live like this," I say, as I dirty a dozen pans to make my famous zucchini-goat cheese frittata. (Note: It really is the bomb.) "But we have to eat before we clean." And I stack the pots on top of cookware that fed someone else six months ago.

I never make any progress before the dream ends. It's only worse.

I understand the message: I need to clean up a mess.

Have you ever read, Sigmund Freud's "The Interpretation of Dreams?" It's hysterically bad 121 years later. Let me sum it up by combining his underlying thesis and the pigeon German of John F. Kennedy: "Ich bin ein nipple."

Better is the is Carl Jung's "Dreams," significantly less sexual, Oedipal and oral fixation-y (a new word),

I get it: I've made a mess of things and I need to clean up beginning with the smallest of problems until I can face the entire mess.

I get it. Thank you dreams.

Peace and Carl Jung unto all of you my brothers and sisters.

Monday, December 28, 2020

A friend asked me Sunday about Dear Leader's unwillingness to sign the COVID relief bill.

I let lose a string of cuss words that, were I back in my home state, would have raised me to Poet Laureate of the Wisconsin Nort'woods. (In truth, there's no such title. It's just "Real Good Talkin' Fella.") Thankfully, later in the evening, the bill was signed.

You see, it's become personal.

As I near the end of unemployment benefits in Indiana, I need to figure out what's next. But that's hard to do when millionaire congressmen and the billionaire president are merely jockeying for position.

I've written before that one of the most stressful things about being down and out is a lack of certainty. Just what the hell is next?

Consider that for all my server friends in Bloomington, a one-time payment of $600 won't cover a month's rent.

Those fighting against such payments cite the budget.

Oh yeah, these are the same people who supported and voted for the 2017 tax cuts estimated to increase U.S. debt by $1 trillion a year through 2027. Before the pandemic, we already saw yearly deficits of $1 trillion -- and that was in a healthy economy.

People are hurting out here and desperate. 

I likely will be OK as I have friends willing to take me in, most of them under the conditions that I do nominal house work and stop eating sauerkraut.

Millionaires and a billionaire fighting over what they would consider crumbs and food pantries struggle to survive because the need has become so overwhelming.

Yeah, it's become personal and I'll continue to work on my Nort'woods poetry.

Peace and prosperity unto all of my my brothers and sisters.

(All apologies to the true Poet Laureate of the Wisconsin Nort'woods -- Bruce Taylor.)

Thursday, December 24, 2020

‘Twas the night before Christmas

And all through Best Value Inn

Not a creature was stirring

Except the Homeless Editor’s gin.


All were snuggled safe in their beds

Blankets wrapped ‘round their neck

Thinking of might be around the corner

Dreaming of that $600 stimulus check.


Until that peace was broken into pieces

By a shattering of the night in noise.

Thankfully it was not a nearby uprising

Of the Bugaloos or the Proud Boys


Now Dasher, now Prancer!

Where are you Tiny Dancer?


On Donner, on Blitzen!

On President Richard Nixon!


Oh, I needed little this quiet Christmas

Maybe just a $5,000 Peleton

Where I could pedal mindlessly

Until I appeared as a skeleton.


I didn’t see mommy kissing Santa.

But I did see her face him standing tall.

“Why didn’t you tell me,” she said.

“Your bonus check would be so small?”


Oh, I wish you the most merry of days

And hope your present is more the norm

For 2021 is a new beginning, a new year

It sure as hell can’t be the same 2020 shit storm.


Wednesday, December 23, 2020

 I like how time slows around Christmas.

We, most of us, take a little more with those we love and ensure they know as much.

The littlest things mean so much.

Even in times like these where there is little left, even nothing, of cost to give, we can offer up gifts that are completely free: smiles, compliments, an elbow bump or a hug for those who are closest to us.

I might be moderately disenfranchised right now but that's meant this season means all the more. Certainly I've had the time to watch others as well and it's a beautiful things to see.

And as lucky as I've been in my life, the overwhelming response from friends, colleagues and complete strangers all over the county -- even the world -- has been most remarkable gift of my lifetime since my daughter was born.

But I must go as I've started to blubber out loud and I fear someone in a nearby room will alert the front desk that there seems to be a walrus in physical distress.

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

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

 Today I thought about a mistake I made as a stupid young man (yes, that's redundant).

One year, as first assistant manager of the McDonald's in my hometown of Chippewa Falls, I awaited my Christmas bonus. It's mid-eighties or so.

I was given a check for $50 -- nothing to be ashamed of at the time.

But I had thought it would be more and so was disappointed. I asked my boss what I should do and he  suggested I call the regional manager. I did and explained my position and felt better for at least stating my case.

The next day, my boss told me the regional guy had talked to the owner -- an old retired Marine who owned six McDonald's passed on this message: If I give a guy a tie as a present and he doesn't like the tie, I'm unlikely to give him another tie.

Lesson learned.

For 35 years now, I've been grateful for everything anyone who's offered me a gift.

There's my Hallmark Channel message for Christmas.

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

Monday, December 21, 2020

 Each day, I wait for the knock.

It's not the traditional knuckles on wood that but that sharp-sounding rap of a room card on my hotel door.

Tap, tap, tap. "Housekeeping." (Wait 30 seconds.) Tap, tap, tap. "Housekeeping."

When I get to the door, the greeting comes from a warm and friendly couple who then to proceed to make my room spotless. Yes, it's an older hotel and at a daily rate of $50, I understand what I'm paying for. But this husband and wife ensure that every surface is wiped, I get new plastic cups and towels, hard floors are mopped and the carpets are vacuumed. 

Early on, they made my bed each day. I asked them to stop because after they left, I would promptly jump back in.

It feels like they're taking care of me, even if it's only a job for them. 

On Sunday, I tipped the gentleman $20 after six days of cleaning.

He tilted his head aside, pocketed the money and said, "God bless you."

Twenty bucks is much money to me now -- hell, it always had been. But I refuse because of my circumstances to treat anyone lesser because of where I am.

In my darkest days, I remember the lesson's of Plato's "The Apology," his account of the trial of mentor Socrates. In it, Socrates said bad men cannot harm good men -- because a good man is made of components that cannot be taken away: integrity, honesty, empathy, truth. No one can take away those elements of a good man.

In his life, the tribunal of Athens took away Socrates' life but it did not change his life as a good man.

So, the homeless editor will tip as long as he can -- but don't expect me to hand out twenties to everyone. 

I'm not drunk.

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

Thursday, December 17, 2020

 These are quiet times.

I'm used to the tumult of a newsroom, which tends not to peak in busy new times but when little is happening. Editors want to have a complete news report even if little is going on.

But right now folks are busying themselves in getting ready for their first COVID Christmas.

Politicians and officials generally take off the month of December because they won't get anything done.

Few if any businesses hire this time of year so that's reduced my hustle.

Winter has set in, such as it is in southern Indiana, and people are hunkering down.

And given the live shit show that has been 2020, we all need a couple weeks off.

I'm going to do another three-day weekend and tell stories of Christmas next week.

May the peace of the season be unto all of you my brothers and sisters.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Are you there, jobs? It's me Rich.

I know it's been a while since we were together but I'm still looking for you.

But it's the middle of December and jobs have dried up more quickly than my pinky toe.

Company hiring ends in the last month of the year as managers and bean counters try to make their numbers for the year. I've seen the corporate memos: "Hiring is dark until turn of the year when we shall return to glorious profits"; "Jobs will remain as dark as the soul of the current CEO"; and "All hiring is closed unless it's an emergency, such as, but not limited to, death of an essential employee by a fire-breathing dragon. Hiring manager must provide burnt corpse."

As such, I'll hunker down in my hotel room for the next couple of weeks, continue looking for jobs and become reacquainted with the vast wasteland that is American television. I remember as a kid, we would fight over the competing 12 channels and now there are hundreds and it's largely dreck.

Sadly, my first night with a working TV in half a decade, I ended up watching a documentary about JonBenet Ramsey -- something I probably saw 20 years ago.

Clearly, I am part of the problem.

Thanks for listening, jobs.

Signed, Rich.

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

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

For seven months I rarely set an alarm, instead waking to the sounds of nature.

Bird calls, the patter of squirrels, rustling leaves or a gentle rain on the tin roof.

Later in the summer, as black walnuts dropped on to the slanted roof -- resulting in four knocks similar to someone at the front door -- I answered the front door a couple dozen times.

I'm clearly not that sharp.

Today in my new hotel environs, I awoke to another sound of nature: a yak trying to cough up a hairball.

As my head cleared, I realized it was unlikely a yak despite the diversity of Bloomington.

It turned out to be one of my new neighbors doing his morning expectoration outside my hotel door. He was trying to get rid of whatever he'd taken into his lungs over the preceding years.

I now have a phlegm alarm clock.

Ah, people.

Now that I'm back in civilization, it will take some time to acclimate. I'm staying on a busy street, where early morning commuters have an inordinate amount of thrush exhaust pipes, meant only to be loud and obnoxious. 

Yet, I'm pretty cool. I'm warm and welcomed. I'm safe and still quite fat for a homeless person.

I'll be OK.

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

Monday, December 14, 2020

 I write to you this evening from the warmth of a local Bloomington hotel room that costs $355 for a week.

Given my weekly unemployment is $335 after taxes, it's a pretty good deal to take a mere twenty bucks out of my pocket for a week's stay.

That means I'll be eating again at Community Kitchen on a more regular basis so that I can hang on to my meager savings.

And I write this on momentous news days in, um, a week or two?

-- The Electoral College voted to affirm the Nov. 3 election, despite threats of violence in some states. (Oh, my Wisconsin, what has God wrought?)

-- The death toll for COVID passed 300,000 -- coming up on the number of American soldiers lost in World War II.

-- And yet the first American received a vaccine for the virus today.

-- Finally, the sitting attorney general is out.

So my personal news is like that of the gnat protesting the elephant it sits on for some olfactory violations.

Nearly seven months to the day of moving into The Hermitage on Lake Lemon, I moved out. It was getting pretty cold and when a fat guy from the Wisconsin Nort'woods complains of cold, you have to give the opinion some measure.

I will forever miss the daily alterations of nature there and shall remain blessed for my life for my benefactor there.

I would be remiss if I did not, again, mention the luck of my life, particularly following Bloomington's ham-handed removal of the homeless from Seminary Park in the city. Even with weak bromides about law and order, the city took poor citizens' only possessions and dumped them in a parking lot -- and they did so under the cloak of night at 10 p.m. There were dozens of humane solutions to what's a real problem.

Bloomington. Liberal? Progressive? Caring?

Not Mayor John Hamilton. He choose to issue his fiat when he thought no one would be around.

Now the whole world is watching.

Hey, peace and warmth unto all of you my brothers and sisters.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

A friend told me today he was glad I'm able to stay positive.

How can I not remain positive?

The Packers are 9-3.

I'm still able to afford a couple beers a day.

Hell, the McRib is back -- for a short time only!

Oh, yeah, there are family, friends, the sun, kittens on YouTube, Netflix, oxygen. I'm a big fan of oxygen.

Given a pandemic, a recession and my own cratering industry, I'm still here. I resemble the cock roach (although I think have better epicurean standards and I am more well read.)

I feel like the coelacanth, a fish thought to have gone extinct 65 million years ago but it has shown up as recently as  23 years ago. For the record "coelacanth" is pronounced "CeeLo Green."

I'm taking a long weekend so have a beautiful one.

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

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

 The blog just passed 125,000 page views, slightly better than the 55 views of my last blog a decade ago.

Readership and attention remains mind-boggling to me, one whose mind is easily boggled. For instance I can't complete a Rubik's to save my life. Nor can I understand the popularity of reality TV.

Yet readership has slowed and I understand why.

The blog has become tiresome.

It's never been tiresome for me to write for I love writing. Since childhood, if I saw a blank piece of paper, I wanted to fill it. The first time I saw a blank computer screen -- complete with blinking green cursor -- I wanted to fill it. To this day, I keep notebooks and documents where I get stuff out of my head. The soul goal being to create more room for new ideas. Or stuff.

What's become tiresome, I suspect, is my life.

Day after day, I struggle to apply for jobs, read whatever I can get my hands on and then write.

Because of the pandemic and my natural tendency toward solitude, I have little room for new characters or contretemps.

I have yet to get a job at the chocolate candy factory with my best friend Viv.

Nor will I hook up with my friend Rachel while she lives in an apartment that would cost $10,000 a month in New York.

Here's the thing, though: I set out to document my journey and I will continue to do so.

Keep reading and I'll try to keep offering commentary that educates, edifies and entertains as we move to a new and better year in 2021.

Peace and thanks unto all of you my dear readers.

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

I accidentally spilled a can of beans on myself today.

Normally, I would be more embarrassed that the stains look as though I soiled myself.

Yet I was more concerned how cliche it is for a homeless person to be eating a can of beans.

But I like beans, damnit.

In journalism school we were taught to avoid writing in cliches. Famously, William Safire in "Fumblerules," wrote "avoid cliches like the plague."

One of my favorite books is "The War Against Cliche" by Martin Amis, 2001. In it, he writes the war isn't in just writing but in manner of thought and the way life is lived. It's a great book and comes highly recommended.

In fact, it is the book that led me to one of my few great parenting moments. I asked my kid, when she turned 18, what was my best advice. She said, without hesitation, "Don't be a cliche."

I hope this moment makes it into a Hallmark movie at some point. It will be called "Sad Dad Christmas" and star Paul Giamatti as me.

Before getting into my current predicament, I regularly ate beans. It's not as though I've adopted the hobo lifestyle. (Although, on a couple of occasions, I have wrapped my laptop in a red kerchief, attached it to a stick and hopped the rails.)

Nor do I eat beans because I work for Mr. Taggert.

I wasn't eating some beans because I am transitionally homeless but because I like beans -- and not just the saccharine sweet baked beans in cans but all beans. Bean diversity. Fifteen bean soup is a celebration -- I add some kielbasa to it.

So if you are to judge, then make the judgment on my slovenliness. Not on a free choice of nutrition.

Peace and beans unto all of you my brothers and sister.

Monday, December 7, 2020

Keep on giving.

That struck me today as I woke up to Facebook message from mentors about a potential job opening in another state.

I made contacts throughout the day, as I chase job openings like a lion chases a wounded gazelle.

Later in the day I learned an intern and stringer here in Bloomington was graduating and looking for a job.

I immediately posted something on Facebook because I still have m any friends in the business who could help her out. I sent her some job postings that would be perfect for her. And I offered up myself as a reference.

Always give back.

Where did I learn that?

From the two guys earlier in the day who were still trying to help me nearly 30 years after first meeting them.

I realized the cyclical nature only later in the day.

I don't have to tell most of my friends to keep giving as they continue to support me through this strange year. Every time I turn around, a friend or stranger does something heart-breakingly nice to me.

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

Friday, December 4, 2020

 "You're a hard man to get ahold of."

Two longtime friends told me that today.

Well, yeah. I'm the Homeless Editor. It's like trying catch a greased pig. (No need to carry that metaphor much further, thank you very much.)

Making it worse, I'm pretty quick for a man my size and age -- unless I'm engaging stairs.

When I was not being recruited for big-time football, one scout said "he's big for a man his size." And "he's unable to use his girth to his advantage -- unless his advantage is having another bratwurst."

That wasn't actually a scout.

It was my mom.

There's been a little movement on the job front. Kind of like a wincing flicker. Or a flicking wincer. There was once contact plus one sign of an opening. It's better than nothing.

Have a beautiful weekend.

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

Thursday, December 3, 2020

 "To sleep, perchance to dream."

-- Shakespeare

I woke up early today but with little on my plate and me as warm as a Cinnebon in the 50-degree Hermitage, I went back to sleep.

That allowed me this dream:

Snoop Dogg picks me up in his ride, a dark blue lowrider so shiny you could find it in the dark on the moon.

We traded small talk but soon enough it turned serious. He wanted to develop a buddy movie with me if I wrote it for him. I told him we could call it "Salt n Peppa" and that old rap trio would be prominent in the soundtrack, as would he. For the record, I would be Salt.

What kind of buddies would we be? I suggested cops. (I dream in cliches apparently.) No. No, Snoop said. He ain't playing no cop. Drug dealers? No. Even though Snoop is currently a drug dealer -- a legal one -- as a cannabis entrepreneur. 

We drove for some time.

Then he dropped me off at a community center I'd never been to while he was off on some errands. I tried to shoot buckets but all the balls were flat. I tried to switch to throwing footballs into the basketball baskets at court length -- a peculiar talent of mine in high school -- but again all the footballs were flat.

Some kids came in to play basketball with a fully inflated ball but they left me out of the game. When I protested, they said I was too old, too fat. And seriously lacking in cool.

I told them I was working with Snoop Dogg on a movie deal. No way, they laughed.

I waited a long time on the sidelines and then I heard Snoop honking outside. I told the youngsters Snoop was outside to pick me up. They followed me out.

They cheered as I got into the lowrider.

I was suddenly cool.

"Any more ideas, writer man?" Snoop asked.

"Yeah. Salt and Pepper are two community center coaches who teach inclusiveness. And maybe smoke a little weed."

Long pause.

"Yeah, man. Get to work," he said, adding a sobriquet of 12 letters that suggests I've had relations with my mother.

Here the dream ends.

Yeah, nothing about homelessness, current events or breaking news about my job search. But it's a story I had to get out of my head.

Peace and sweet dreams unto you my brothers and sisters.

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

I know the majority of Congress cares little for people.

Given that it's been more than a half a year since any legislation to help citizens, you don't have to be a soothsayer to know that.

Now there appears to be some movement before this group of mostly millionaires flies home to enjoy a month off.

So given that politics, party and power matter more than people, I want them to consider the economy. Yes, that amorphous word overused to the point where it has little meaning.

In the second quarter of 2020, consumer spending dropped in the rage of 30 percent. That's remarkably perilous given consumer spending makes up 70 percent of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product. (Thanks to for the numbers.)

Then in the third quarter, consumer spending increased 40 percent. Why? Stimulus packages put money into pockets of the Americans who needed it the most -- people making less than $75,000. Folks bought groceries and gasoline and household items. They paid their rent, so that landlords could do the same. People could get their cars fixed so that mechanics could also continue on with a semblance or a normal lifestyle.

But within weeks, that stimulus money disappears and with no end in sight for the pandemic, the precipice is going will be send many Americans into the Gorge of Eternal Peril. We're talking Great Depression proportions.

Congress -- particularly the Senate -- must act.

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has long balked at any meaningful action, saying "we're not talking about play money."

Well, we're not talking about play people either.

Forgive me for mentioning people.

It's about the economy, stupid.

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

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

 I know it's Giving Tuesday but I'm watching my last few shekels.

Still it's a wonderful time to talk about how I personally have benefited from the giving of others on this day, the seven-month anniversary of being laid off from my job and losing my apartment at the newspaper.

From the very first day, friends and family -- and then complete strangers -- have reached out to me to offer support. Even single women my age from across the country offered up free rooms. Um.

I have received six packs of great beer, hotel stays, the Hermitage, cash, gift cards, gifts. The response has been incredible -- and truthfully needed. I have been in dire straits before (not the band obviously) and my savings were meager, even at my age.

But the best of the giving? The emotional support.

Not only have family and friends reached out, just to ask "How are you doing?", utter strangers have stopped me in public to introduce themselves and ask the same. 

Keep in mind I have lived in Bloomington less than two years.

There's that self-loathing part of me that questions how I deserve this well-wishing but one of the few items of maturation I've learned to adopt is just saying "thank you" and wallowing in the warmth.  ("Wallowing in the Warmth" would be a great autobiography title. Better than my current choice, "What's that Smell?")

Despite the difficulties and the pain of being the Homeless Editor, I've been introduced to the incredible generosity of fellow human beings.

Just tonight, I met my benefactor of the Hermitage in the driveway and thanked him again. "I'll remember this forever," I said. "Just remember, pay it forward, man" he said. "That's what we do.


Peace and generosity to you my brothers and sisters.