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Sunday, December 26, 2021

I don't holiday well.

Nor do I often use a noun as a verb.

I just don't care for the puffery of any season, be it Christmas. Halloween or Groundhog Day. (I spent too many years waiting for the little rat's prognostication to get something in the day's newspaper.)

I'm but no means a humbug. I just prefer to celebrate each day the same.

Yet this year I come away from the Christmas reason with a heart reeling over all the graciousness of the last week.

Kid remains the center of the last week. She charmed wherever we went, something abetted by my naturally grizzled self. "This is your kid?" friends asked, some assuming there might be another father in a neighboring county.

But no. With enough time, people realized she was a product of mine. We played and improvised together, me setting a straight line, her picking up the punch line and then me taking the tag line. (Clearly, she's taught me the language comedy.) In the midst of otherwise less serious fare, we'd briefly argue over a historical point. I took the side of Alfred Kinsey, she prosecuted him.

She left, too soon, but we had two solid and glorious days together shopping for Northwoods products to feed the other side of her family. We ate well, we drank some as she's newly anointed at age 21.

Friday, I attended a private together at a local watering hole, where the buffet was as long as a bowling alley -- literally. Drinks flowed and I finally realized how many true friends I've made in this short time.

Saturday, friends I didn't have a year ago had me over for a mountains of food and a Packers victory. The Whos in Whoville never ate so well and when the Packers secured victory I thought briefly we should hold hands and sing "Dahoo Dores."

It didn't strike me until this morning, waking groggily, how beautiful it had all been.

My heart might even have grown three sizes so my cardiologist is worried.

And I hope to hold on to that grace through the next year as we come up on the anniversary of COVID.

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

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Kid is here.

Despite flights, sickness and snowfall, she made it to Hayward.

My Christmas is made.

I can't tell you what we've talked about in these few hours since her arrival because we approach 100 subjects, with humorous interjections in between.

Much laughter.

We speak the same language of history, philosophy, theology and of course humor.

She is thankfully used to me crying as she speaks so intelligently because I can't believe this person is part of my life, that I had something to do with her.

I'm stealing a couple minutes to report this. Now I return to her.

Peace, more peace and love unto all of you my brothers and sisters.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

 The gods conspire against us.

The kid, who is getting better, planned to be on the road this morning. Bur failing to look out the windows while I went through my morning beauty ritual -- that only last 15 seconds -- I opened the garage to see a minimum of 2 inches of snow on the driveway.

As a son of the Wisconsin northwoods, I knew how to read the storm. It was a heavy and hard snow and would last for sometime.

I am a father and thus required to worry about my daughter driving anywhere. Driving in and through snow is an acquired ability that takes years of practice. I even slid through the stop sign on my street despite my high speed of 15 mph.

Sitting in my office on County Highway B, I could tell even locals were wary of being on the road.

I contacted my daughter's mother and said we both needed to encourage Kid to stay off the roads. When I talked to Kid, she agreed quickly. She's recovering from her illness but that would not have been helped by being in a ditch -- or worse until Friday morning. We'll get two full days with each other and she can spend Christmas with the rest of her family, all of whom are much more holiday oriented. (I'm not anti-Christmas but as a journalist I have some serious questions for Mr. Claus.)

Regardless of the amount of time we have with each other, it will be quality.

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

Monday, December 20, 2021

 Kid is not in town.

Poor thing is sick as a dog and I don't want her to get worse by traipsing through the northwoods. 

I told her to stay home Sunday and get some rest, which turned out to be two naps of three hours each. Then she took off for the drive this morning only to pull over for a power nap trying to ward off her sinus headache. We mutually agreed she should turn around and return to the BNB where she's staying.

We'll update tonight on what happens next. 

Kid was upset but I told her not to worry. Nothing that is happening is her fault, nor is intentional on anyone's part.

The Buddha said suffering comes from want and if we want everything to go as we please, we're bound to suffer. (He was not invited to many dinner parties. But that's fine. He didn't want to go.)

Kid was stressed. I reminded her she's stuck with me for a long time so we'll have no shortage of time together, now or in the future. She's been warned that when she starts to make money, I'm coming to live with her. I'm not sure she wants that but I'll pull out the old Buddha line.

I'm not big into holidays so no extra work has gone into decorating or baking or even normal personal hygiene. The house in the midst of unpacking is in such disarray, I like to come home and pretend the house has been trashed by a squatter. Then I realize no squatter would live in that clutter and would attempt to make some sense of it all.

Despite Buddha's admonition, I do want my kid to get better. Not so I can monopolize her time but because I don't want her to be miserable

You see, I love her so much.

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

Friday, December 17, 2021

Kid is coming Sunday.

We had played phone tag for a week or 10 days. But she had to finish her senior paper, attend to finals and give her final performances for Emerson College skit troupe Jimmy's Traveling All-Stars.

So I found out Thursday she's arriving soon.

I dig.

Late today, I started to stock up on snacks and drinks for her visit only to realize halfway through I was shopping for 6-year-old kid and not sophisticated 21-year-old daughter. I had some juice boxes and gummy worms and chips galore -- an orgy of sugar and sodium.

Then I imagined a conversation.

"But fathuh, wherefore art thou escargot?"

She doesn't talk like that. I'm taking dramatic license, which also allows me to respond in my best Nort'woods idiom. "You want to eat bugs? Check out the hood of my car."

So I modified, putting away childish things. (Yeah, I've read the Bible. 1 Corinthians 13:11.)

Now we have the makings of our redneck chip dip -- mix Heinz Ketchup with cottage cheese and dip Ruffles potato chips -- to precut veg and fruit. There's Chippewa Springs water -- her favorite. Some hot chocolate mixes. Mixed nuts, also the title of our family history.

Mostly we'll do stuff, get out and see friends, eat well. We're going to make memories rather than a Christmas where we bought gifts never to be seen again.

My kid is the smartest, kindest, funniest person I know. I understand that is what a parent is supposed to say. But I am trained professionally and philosophically to be truthful. Were my kid less than that, I wouldn't say so. Yet she is all of these things to me.

Ideally, I'll report through the trip.

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

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

 Christmas might be the sweetest season.

I returned home late yesterday and checked out my mailbox.

Christmas cards.

I don't recall the last time I received Christmas cards. It might have been close to the original Christmas.

One was from a dear college friend who, when I posted my address in March, took a screenshot. That's thinking ahead. I'd expect nothing less of a fellow UW-Eau Claire Blugold. In the card were photos of her beautiful family.

Another one was from a blog reader -- I'm not naming anyone as I think they deserve their privacy. But how sweet is that, when a complete stranger would track me down and wish me well. The writer also wished well for kid, who's coming to visit soon.

I'd like to say that might heart grew three sizes that night -- but it's already pretty big because of decades consuming the processed and tubed meats.

Needless to say it's weird to feel normal.

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

Monday, December 13, 2021

I received my medical insurance card in the mail today.

In the mail at my home.

There had been some miscommunication with the new job because my last legal residential address was in North Carolina. (Somewhere in the Tarheel state, someone is getting my excellent health care.)

A home. My stuff. Medical care.

As the philosopher Col. "Hannibal" Smith used to say, "I love it when a plan comes together."

Now with medical care I feel like making poor decisions in order to use it. I'm thinking about calling medical centers (outside my coverage area) asking to make out with COVID patients.

Or perhaps I'll grease my shoe bottoms with bear fat and venture out on to the  lake ice for the first time since my return.

Maybe, must maybe, I will run with scissors.

As I continue making progress in rebuilding a life, I feel a little adult-y.

That used to be a bad thing when I was young and stupid. (For the record, I am now old and stupid.)

But it wasn't too long ago where I would drive past nice homes and wonder what I had done wrong. 

Perhaps it wasn't what I did wrong, instead the circumstances that befell me and how I dealt with it.

I'm going to be practically middle class. I'll have to buy a button-up sweater because I assure you, I do not have one in the many boxes I'm unpacking.

Peace and COVID kisses unto all of you my brothers and sisters.

Friday, December 10, 2021

 My heart is full.

My bank account is empty.

But my heart is full and not just with chunks of poorly chewed bratwurst. I  had the help of plenty of folks over the last couple of weeks. I met with wonderful people on the road. And I saw many old friends.

Another thing that's full is my garage, filled with boxes of stuff I haven't seen in a couple of years. Last night, I attacked five boxes in haste, just to begin the process. I plan on a minimum of five boxes a day with more on the weekends, although working weekends will hamper that some.

After unpacking last night, I had two epiphanies -- they were in one of the smaller boxes: 1.) I have far too many pans. I have a pan problem. Just as I have a pen problem. Thankfully, no pun problems. None whatsoever. 2.) I unpacked two of my five typewriters and thought -- for a second (really an hour) -- now that I'm settling I could really use more typewriters. At one point I had 35-40 antique typewriters but sold them because they stink to move and they collect dust well.

Really, now that I'm settling, I could have more typewriters. But then I was reminded of the story of the Buddha, who told his students all they needed was a rice pot and a teacup. When a student asked, "What if you have visitors?" he replied, "Well course they will bring their own rice pot and teacup."

So, if you're going to visit my house -- I mean home -- please bring your own typewriter. And if you forget it when you leave, I promise I will take care of it. I will pet it and hug it and name it George.

Even though my home is uncontrolled chaos, somehow I'm going to bed feeling home and waking up feeling home.

And I know this is my last move because it took me two decades to get home.

Well, not the last.

At some point someone is going to move me to the graveyard. But I don't have to worry about that.

Peace and boxes and boxes of stuff unto all of you my brothers and sisters.

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

 I could not blog last night because I could do nothing.

That included getting out of my stuffed chair. Thankfully, a colleague had brought Leinenkugel's and it was near me.

I woke up Tuesday at a cheap motel in Madison, where thankfully I was neither sex-trafficked nor bludgeon to death  in my bed.

The drive was going swimmingly until I hit light snow near Necedah which grew to heavy snow by the time I reached Eau Claire. I drove slowly, remembering what my dad told me when I started driving in the snow: It's better to be late than not get there. Half a dozen cars that passed me were in the ditches when I passed them.

By the time I hit Hayward, it was well passed arrival time and 14 degrees. We had snow while I was gone, which I had to overcome while I backed the beast into the driveway and near the garage without hitting the house.

Thankfully, I only had to try that maneuver 30 to 40 times before some measure of success.

Soon, a little more than half a dozen good, great, beautiful people showed up to help me unload. I don't know if was the 14-degree temperature or I had little furniture and mostly boxes but we unpacked a 26-feet box truck in 45 minutes.

A couple of folks came in for beer in the once-empty now cluttered home.

After they left, I planned on going someplace with Wi-Fi to blog. But I couldn't get out of the damned chair -- which, by the way, had been marked by some critter in one of the previous storage places.

I have sat in worse seats.

I finally built up the courage to withstand the pain in my knees, went out to get my suitcase and computers and then doddered back into the house.

I mean the home.

After a microwaved meal, I finished the beer and hit hard my mattress on the floor.

I dreamed of lions.

This trip reminded me once again the power and beauty of my fellow people. Sure, there are assholes, but I feel surrounded by friendship and love.

Peace and love and friendship unto all of you my brothers and sisters.

Monday, December 6, 2021

 I'm utterly exhausted this evening.

I will never move, ever again.

The morning greeted me at my favorite Marathon gas station in Bloomington telling my my card was declined, not once, not twice but three times despite calls to the card company and my bank.

I had needed $250 in gas to make it back to Hayward and thought, for a brief second, I'd have to stay and making a living in Bloomington. Doing, you know, stuff.

My financial folks finally worked it out for me and I hit the road with 22 ounces of Pepsi in my gut and a hunger to return to below zero temperatures.

But when I turned west out of Indianapolis, I hit straight winds of about 35 miles an hour. The now ladden truck moved like a brontosaurus who'd eaten at a Golden Waffle -- filled with food boiled in fake margarine and now the chutes were greased.

I had to pull over every two hours because it was exhausting.

Then it became worse. 

I turned north at Champaign-Urbana where wind came from the west at 35 miles at hour and my 34-foot behemoth acting like a huge wind sale.

Each time a gust hit the truck, I twisted my body along with the wheel to keep from crashing, either into semis going 85 mph or small cars going the same speed but sounding like angry bees.

It might have helped to stop every now and then for a piece of pie or some ice cream but my bank was now down to nothing, even with the debit card issues fixed.

I had budgeted $350 for the entire strip for gas. The trip down was $250. With the now-filled truck and wind issues, I'll spend $500 return home.

Of course, I can't wait the return to Hayward, my new and last home.

The troubles of the trip show what I'm willing to do for my final settlement.

Peace and home sweet home unto all of you by brothers and sisters.

Sunday, December 5, 2021

 My vast beast of a truck was full by 11 a.m. Saturday.

I could have hit the road to be in Madison by 6 p.m. Sunday, home on Monday. It would have saved money, of which there is little left.

But I had to stay to see my beer-drinking buddies in Bloomington -- and it was worth it.

This is an odd little family who gather round beer but who come from every angle of life, education, religion, career. It's not about the beer.

They know each other and care for one another.

And, let's be honest, it is a little bit about the beer. This is no sober Hallmark movie of the ewek.

When I first started at the Herald-Times I wrote in my column I would start writing pieces at Upland Brewing Company at 3 p.m. on Sunday. It was a way to interact with readers. I was shocked and pleased to see a group of people, one of whom greeted me with a copy of my column.

"They're here for me," I thought, filled with no little ego.

Well, they gathered there every Sunday for at least a decade and I had crashed their party.

I wrote there for a while until my publisher asked me to stop being so beer-centric. Imagine that. A boy from the Wisconsin Northwoods being a lover of brews.

I kept writing my columns but from home yet these folks had become friends so I continued joining them.

They were all locals and all brilliant in their own way. I came to think I was accepted only because I'm a high-end smartass.

We parted for a while at the beginning of the shutdown and then I was laid off and bouncing around. I had started using The Tap on the square in Bloomington for its Wi-Fi access where I could milk a beer for a long time while applying for jobs across the nation.

One Sunday, sitting at The Tap, Dennis walked in. He's a burley old man, a brilliant carpenter by trade and one of the best-read people I've ever met. He asked to join me.

Person by person, the group became reborn over the coming weeks and months until I left to take my awesome job in Hayward.

In town this weekend to collect my stuff, I could have saved money by leaving Saturday but I had to see my little beer-drinking family.

I staved off full on bawling but certainly, as folks left one by one, I had some misty eyes as we hugged.

Not goodbye but I'll see you in the spring after Wisconsin thaws.

Peace and beer-drinking buddies unto all of you my brothers and sisters.

Saturday, December 4, 2021

 It feels odd to fit your life into 26 feet of a truck.

I hadn't seen any of it for about two years as it was in various places of storage.

But there it was. Professional mover Jamal and my friend Josh loaded the vast beast in less than an hour. In my mind, I had built a story that loading my stuff would be akin to supplying East Germany after the Wall was built.

Naw. Fifty five minutes.

I aided little because my problem with gout and my knees and legs has left me with little mobility. I looked more than a little like Fred Sanford.

And yet there it was. This moment I thought would be monumentally problematic became much less than that.

Now I had a bouncy truck, half filled, to return 700 miles.

I thought about taking off for Wisconsin, then and there, at five minutes to 11 a.m. But I did want to see my Bloomington beer-drinking buddies Sunday and so it will be.

While I had made the moving of stuff to be a monumental challenge in my mind, it turned out to be just a job, particularly when taken in small bites. Like the old Hindu phrase: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

I still have half the challenge remaining, returning to Hayward, Wisconsin, Monday and Tuesday.

And I will have virtually no money to my name after the final leg of the trip but that won't be the first time. 

I will have a home and be home.

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

Friday, December 3, 2021

I'm here back in Bloomington but oh it was a bumpy day.

I've lived in three cities in Indiana and am aware that fixing roads is not on the top 100 hit list for public projects. But driving a 34-foot beast at highway speeds when the truck has two-by-fours for shock absorbers was an experience. 

I might as well have been driving down railroad tracks.

I'm reminded of the advice of the philosopher Michael Jackson: "Shake it, shake it baby."

On the return trip, I'm going to fill containers with ice cream and chocolate syrup and sell them to passersby.

When I finally finished the violent circle of hell that is I-465 around Indianapolis, I stopped for gas. This Mobinante drank gasoline like I drink gin. At this point I topped $200 on the drive down -- empty.

But my debit card -- where I have all my money -- was denied. Two minutes later, I received a recorded message that my card was temporarily denied because of suspicious activity.

Yes, $200 gallons of gas in three states is suspicious. 

Now I faced the thought of getting my stuff back to Wisconsin -- without money.

It's been years since I tried to sell myself for money. That never worked. Given my age and weight, I thought Nueske's could put out a special bacon of aged and smoked pork belly. But not from afar.

I had 33 miles left to Bloomington and made it. I called the emergency number on the card and a helpful attendant in Bali helped me fixed a problem that damned near made me cry. Do you have any idea how hard it is for me to cry? I watched "Old Yeller," and I was like, yeah, screw him.

I'm pretty calm but money problems are the switch to my 200-watt anxiety.

I had to check into one of the hotels that had been my home for months during my troubles. The owner knew me right away. "You were in 109 -- I remember you." I asked on his uncle and his daughter and they were all fine. He have me a special rate on a king-sized bed for $72 a night. Sometimes a special is more special.

I had to call my friend who let me store my junk in his garage for what seemed like years. We met out with his girlfriend. Another friend at a local restaurant put us outside on the Kirkwood in a geodesic plastic dome called "the igloo" for dinner. The bar manager bought me a drink and promised to meet later this week to catch up.

Certainly there have been struggles during the troubles yet I remain the luckiest man on the face of the earth.

Lou Gehrig can kiss my ass.

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

Thursday, December 2, 2021

 Neither man nor beast is she but massive U-Haul truck in which I'll travel 1,400 miles.

I'll call her Mobinante, a portmanteau of the other worldly whale Moby Dick and Rocinante, the steed of Don Quixote. She is both my nemesis and my vehicle.

And she is big. Mobinante goes 34 feet long with a 26 foot box to fit all my useless stuff. She is 12-feet high.

Consider my current vehicle is a Subaru the same size as a 50-cent piece. Imagine me, at my size, trying to fit into that.

Plus she shakes.

Think about being behind me while I twerk. That's the mind picture of the week. I'm sorry about the induced gagging.

But I'm in Madison, about halfway on the trip to get my stuff and I'm happy with my progress, despite being a big baby about it. I'm think about the trip in pieces because otherwise I'd spit up often. Half a trip to Madison. The remainder to Bloomington, Indiana. Some professionals packing the truck on Saturday morning. The afternoon to wander the wonders of the home to Indiana University and a chance to see old friends. Maybe some of best pot roast in the history of the world at Michael's Uptown Cafe. A couple nights at the cheap motel where I befriended the owner and his family. When I gave a $20 weekly tip to the owner's uncle, who oversaw the cleanliness of my room, he tilted his head to his right side and said, each time, "God bless you, sir."

Sunday I will sip with my Bloomington beer-drinking buddies, the most brilliant group of beer drinkers I've ever known.

On Monday, I return half way to Madison and Tuesday, I make it home where a huge group of friends will meet me to unload my belongings.

There's the old Hindu saying that the best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.

That becomes the mantra of this trip.

A trip not nearly so iconic as "On the Road" by Jack Kerouac. Perhaps I need more dexedrine.

Peace and bite-size pieces unto all of you my brothers and sisters.

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Tomorrow morning I'll get in my box truck and start the two-day trek to Bloomington, Indiana, to fetch my stuff.

It's nearly two years since I've seen most of it and I imagine the coming weeks will be like Christmas, with reactions ranging from "cool" to "what the hell is this?"

I don't look forward to the drive but I have to do it. I have professional packers (not from Green Bay) to load me up and then I'll spend some time with dear friends. Finally I'll drive back for two days and friends up north will help me unload.

Then I'll get to work making the "house" a "home," just in time for kid to visit for Christmas.

I'll blog as I go.

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

Friday, November 26, 2021

The warmth of Thanksgiving still surrounds me.

That's good because the wind chill here in the Nort'woods flirts with me as I flirt with hot bartenders. There's the old cliche a cold wind blows right through you. It doesn't. It slows down, even pauses, saps you of strength, soul and sympathy and then moves on voiding itself of those essentials until it hits the next victim.

My friends at the Steakhouse & Lodge invited me for Thanksgiving dinner, I think imagining me sitting in my plastic chair at home with a reheated Hungry Man special.

But I started off the day going in to work for a while, where I received sweet emails from complete strangers either welcoming me to the area or responding to some of my personal writing online.

There's something about unsolicited humanity that outweighs the more rare hateful emails from complete strangers. The jerks in the world have no problem sitting at the computers and sending out poison and they tend to think the more often they do it, the better. But when someone takes valuable time out of their day to send out love, it's far more meaningful.

I went to the Steakhouse, which moved hundreds of folks through a beautiful buffet.

I had a couple pre-dinner drinks and then dinner with my little family, a server and her family, the bar manager and his daughter and one of the owners.

One of my adopted family members brought me a sampler plate of three desserts, which initially to me screamed, "GOUT, GOUT, GOUT."

But wouldn't it be impolite to turn down such an offer? I think I recall that from the Bible: "Thou shall eat of the presented desserts and thou shall be happy."

It's cold outside here in the Northwoods but warmest it could be inside.

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

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

 On this cusp of thanks:

What one year can do, along with help from friends, some hard job searching and more than a hint of luck, I am thankful.

First, for my kid, who amazes me everyday.

For family and friends, new and old.

For a job in the business that became more than a job but a calling.

For a warm house with a furnace that now doesn't leak exhaust into my house.

For coming home to my people in northern Wisconsin.

For colleagues who give a shit.

For the most glorious Wisconsin fall I haven't experienced in 20 years.

For people who have sensed I sometimes struggle and then taken me in, either as a lost soul or an odd "uncle."

For my local families, including those at the Steakhouse who invited me to their private staff dinner.

For a place where bratwurst are more common than Tic Tacs.

For God's country, where a sunset over one of our 300 lakes becomes a piece of art.

For common human decency with my fellow citizens.

For laughs over a drink or burger or salad. The latter of which is occasional 

For the strangers who stop me in public who welcome me to the community.

For the strangers who challenge me to be better.

For the lakes where I've spent time, Big Round, Little Round, Grindstone, Moose, Spider, Hayward and so many other spots on water.

For people, many strangers, who continue to read my ramblings over these odd two years.

For continued health.

For life in general.

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

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

I'm back in a house.

Fast work from my landlord and an HVAC business out of Rice Like hooked me up with a new furnace where I can stay warm and not die.

Now I return to a spartan existence in my house but it's still my own and not anyone else's.

Tonight I will lay my vast head on my huge albeit unclean pillow and sleep soundly after a dinner of Jack's pizza and box wine.

I am, as always, appreciative for those who reached out during this additional weird time in my life.

And I'm reminded of the guiding principle of the Buddha, who said we cannot stop bad things happening in our lives but we can change our reaction.

I knew when my landlord called me and said I couldn't return to the house that somehow everything would work out. Twenty years ago, that call would have devastated me. Today, well today, I deal.

Some folks were either shocked or put off by my jokes on the situation. How I worked on a headline for my obit or how appreciative I was that I could get 10 percent off my obit. (By the way, the latter is a joke. It's full obit price.)

Humor has always been my coping mechanism, good or bad. That's how I make it through. Once in couples therapy, I joked for the first 15 minutes and then the counselor asked me how I dealt with difficulties. I said I use humor as a coping mechanism. "Nooooooooo," he said sarcastically.

Yeah, he was a dick.

So sometimes, even more often than not, life will suck. And I've learned to deal -- a long way from where I've come.

Peace and a big-ass pillow for you and your massive heads unto you my brothers and sisters -- so long as big-hearted brethren. 

Monday, November 22, 2021

The kinda-sorta-maybe quasi homeless editor will return home Tuesday.

My landlord tracked down a furnace -- one that won't leak carbon monoxide into my home -- and it is to be installed Tuesday morning.

That will be nice, even though home isn't so much home yet. My kid and I have mattresses on the floor and two plastic lawn chair, the latter of which we sit in while she teaches me about hegemony. (P.S.: It has nothing to with hedgehogs.)

Before I get my stuff, the place is more house than home.

And then kid visits -- that will be home.

Without stuff, a house is still better than even a nice hotel room. The few things I have are mine and I have things my way all the time. Particularly the cheap frozen pizza overcooked at the right temperature. Although I grew up on Tombstones -- created in nearby New Auburn -- I came to love Jack's frozen pizza because in college, a grocery story on Water Street would once a month sell 10 pizzas for $10. That would be a college student special.

I appreciate what my landlord has done for me, perhaps saving my life and reimbursing me for hotel costs.

All of my wonderful friends in town have listened calmly while I shared my story and then, after I left, pulled out a can of air freshener -- I am used to that.

Peace and home and family and friends unto all of you my brothers and sisters.

Saturday, November 20, 2021

 Flexibility is important.

As I moved to another hotel room this last week, it occurred to me I've slept -- by my account -- at least 15 different beds in the last two years. That's not normal for me. I like consistency and patterns in my life.

I guess I'm lucky in that I can  sleep wherever I lay my huge head.

And it's a big head. The main reason I don't wear baseball hats like every American man covering hair loss is I can't find one that fits. Every single hat looks strained to the point of exploding from my head. 

I once went to a mall in Dayton, Ohio, which had five different hat stores and was ultimately told I should seek out special hat needs online.

But it's the sleep.

If you give me a mattress or a futon, I'm down and out.

When my daughter came to visit me in June, all I had for her was a mattress on her floor and I slept on a mattress on my floor. I told her we were going to play "Guantanamo" for some nights.

Well that's partly because I've slept in beds in the Bloomington newspaper, some cheap motels, other places where I interviewed, a cabin, more cheap motels, temporary stays before my house, two different mattresses on the floor at the house and yet another short-term hotel stay.

And I'm OK.

More so, I'm appreciative.

Difficult circumstances have help me appreciate blessings even more.

Tomorrow will always be better.

Peace and huge pillow for your massive head unto you my brothers and sisters.

Thursday, November 18, 2021

The potential danger of my circumstances is not lost on me, particularly as I tried write a headline about it.

I was sleeping in a house where the furnace slowly leaked carbon monoxide. I don't know how much nor do I know why I didn't sense anything wrong. Finally, I'm not sure what happened with the detector, which I didn't even know it was there.

One of (the few things) I know is the old adage for newspaper editors: Don't be a headline in your own newspaper.

Granted that's for arrests.

But this would have been nominally worse.

The working headline is "Bloated body of fat editor found dead."

Or is it "Fat body of bloated editor found dead"?

As I like to tell colleagues, words matter.

Maybe it would be, "Crane used to extract body of large, dead editor."

"Body of large, deceased editor used as bear bait." Subhed: "Brian Urlacher seen in area."

In a more complex story, someone just throws my carcass into the Chippewa Flowage. The the headline could be "Louis Spray catches world-record largest dead editor." (That's an insider's joke in the area. Louis Spray famously -- or infamously -- caught three record muskies over a 20-year period. Then never again.)

Inevitably, the story would do into gross detail, the worst of which would be, "the fat editor was found in the nude." On the upside, Elton John would write a nice song about me called, "Fart in the Wind." 

"And it seems to me you lived your life/
Like a fart in the wind/
Not turning down sauerkraut/
'Til the gas set in."

The report would note my two plastic yard chairs in an otherwise empty living room, one mattress in one bedroom and one in another.

"Whether miser, monk or mook, the big fella had a sad end to a sadder life." 

The report also will include the deceased only had foods with a funk, sauerkraut, blue cheese and durian -- suggesting I aided in my own demise. For the uninitiated, durian is a tropical fruit that tastes like rotting flesh.

Damned media.

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

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Well, I'm back in a hotel.

And lucky to be so.

My landlord called today to tell me during an annual furnace check, two exhaust pipes were found leaking into the closet where the mechanicals are stored.

We don't know how long it's been leaking but it's possible the leaks were small if the furnace was burning efficiently.

It's also possible the discovery saved me from something bad happening.

Now I'm back at the Steakhouse Lodge, home to me for a month before getting in my house, when I had my first official address in some time.

Thankfully, these folks are family to me. I made lifelong friends so it's a perfect refuge until I can, once again, get home. In fact, before having to move back into the motel, the owner asked me to join them on Thanksgiving, after they close, for the staff dinner.

Oh, there have been gas smells in my home before -- particularly after I ate a sausage and sauerkraut pizza from either Angler's or Coop's. (This is a thing in Wisconsin that everyone elsewhere should try.)

But that's a natural smell that has followed me in my travels.

Over the years, I have become nothing if not flexible about my surroundings.

And I'm in room 15, just 14 rooms from a warm bar, good food and my local family.

I'll likely be at the hotel through the weekend and my long, strange trip has been significantly worse. So there's that.

Peace and safety unto you my brothers and sisters.

Friday, November 12, 2021

 My nurse was pissed.

I went in this morning to receive my booster shot and the nurse must have recognized me as the guy from the newspaper, kind of my nom de plume.

She said she had called one of my reporters last week and gave him an earful.

Envisioning her give me the the shot like Anthony Perkins gave numerous shots to Janet Leigh in "Psycho," I asked in a calming voice, "What's wrong?"

She was angry at all those failing to get shots at all, let alone a booster.

"We could have been done with this long ago," she said.

I thanked her for her work and we kept talking while she went over my paperwork and prepped me for my shot.

She's going to be unable to see relatives during Thanksgiving and Christmas because of their unwillingness to get the the vaccination. She hears stories about fellow nurses in hospital working 80 hours a week.

I told her a story shared by a friend whose wife is a COVID nurse. She listens to families talk about the "hoax" of the virus while their loved one is intubated.

We have hundreds of thousands dead in the United States, millions. Those are the facts.

Yet we live in the post-factual world.

I told her about some of the columns I've written and how I support the work of her and her colleagues and will continue to do so.

There have been plenty of stories from anti-vaxxers who caught the virus, barely lived and urged others to get the shot.

I get the entire personal liberty thing. I've always had a little libertarian thing in me -- note the small L.

But there's also responsibility. I have a daughter whose going to win major Hollywood awards and I have dibs as her first date. I work with people who have health issues. 

There is something called the common good. In terms of choice, I choose to be part of that.

My nurse's anger abated as we talked and before she jabbed me.

I waited my 15 minutes and started to take off when one of the two check-in people asked if I was feeling OK. "Emotionally, no," I said. "Otherwise yes."

The vaccinated people and my nurse laughed.

At least I could offer them that.

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

Thursday, November 11, 2021

I upset Bertha from Bloomington by disparaging myself in a recent post.

And so I apologize to her.

Self flagellation is a common because we make fun of ourselves before others can. Especially for humorous folks because the funny folks are getting ready to make fun of everyone else.

"You are beautiful in God's eyes," Bertha wrote.

Thank you, Bertha.

Part of the entry was about the first paragraph of my obit -- how I'll be remembered.

Thinking about this since writing the post, I of course realized my obit will start, "Rich Jackson, father of Clare Jackson, passed away Thursday doing something stupid" -- the cause to be determined.

(Bertha, that's not negative -- that's just my pattern of doing things I ought not.)

I remain thankful for the support of Bertha, who started as a complete stranger but now is a dear friend, during my long and winding road.

Peace and a Bertha unto each of you my brothers and sisters.

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

 So I saw a man about a truck.

A local U-Haul dealer gave me the low down on renting a vehicle for a round-trip from Hayward to Bloomington, Indiana, and back to Hayward

At a good price, too. He also gave me advice on how to save money and how many days I should rent it for (start low and add days if needed).

He was good at appeasing my anxiety, although I suspect that's not in his job description.

My target date for leaving Hayward right now is Dec. 1. It will be a two-day drive -- I can't do 12-hour stints anymore and certainly not in a 26-feet long tuck. I'll overnight in Madison and then get back on the road headed to Bloomington, spend a night at my favorite cheap hotel and get help to pack up the next day.

That evening, I hope to have the pot roast and mash potatoes at Michael's if anyone cares to join me and then I'm headed back north with another stay in Madison.

The next day, with all my stuff, I will be home.

What a long, strange trip it's been.

Peace and a domicile unto all of you my brothers and sisters.

Monday, November 8, 2021

I've been mourning for several weeks now.

I lost a Facebook friend, one of the more important people in my life over the last 20 years.

She's not dead but gone for reasons controlled by neither her nor me but a controlling boyfriend.

In addition, I'm embarrassed at my mourning because I really don't take Facebook too seriously. It reminds me of Plato's Allegory of the Cave, where what we see isn't reality just shadows of reality. I don't care who friends me or unfriends me although I am thankful for so many friends who are positive and not so political.

My friend is wildly brilliant with some of the best and most esoteric knowledge of music of anyone I know. She laughed at my stupid jokes and supported me in times of need. And she's crazy as hell. Chemtrails? Baby, put down the doobie.

It seems crazy to say about a person I haven't seen face to face in 15 years, but I can't imagine my life without her.

I'm also embarrassed to write this, to acknowledge my feelings.

But it's the truth, my truth and the goal of this blog all this while was to be truthful even when I hated the naked feeling of it all.

I will mourn my friend for some time and I had write it.

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

Friday, November 5, 2021

 Bertha in Bloomington is still reading (Hi Bertha!).

And she's still concerned about me.

After whining for about the 500th time regarding a trip to get my stuff, she sent me another nice letter giving me emotional support and, as she often does, $27 in cash.

She's such a sweetheart.

Bertha once again expressed concern that I don't have a women in my life and noted the recent visit of a colleague and friend from the Bloomington Herald-Times -- Laura Lane.

"I can understand why Laura is after you," Bertha wrote. "It is time for for you to seek female companionship but she is too old for you. Don't waste your time on elderly prospects."

Well, Laura is a friend and I believe visited me to return the family tea set -- and to do reconnaissance for others in Bloomington who might doubt the beauty of my landing spot and my enjoyment of present life and work conditions.

Her recon, I have already reported, found me well. And if Laura Lane says it is so, it is so.

In defense of my friend Laura, she is neither old nor elderly. Because I know Laura, I sent her a copy of the letter. She replied, "This just-turned-61 desperate old hag cannot stop laughing/crying. And I am happy to have generated you some gas money. So use it."

I want Bertha to know my life is perfectly fine as a single man. I enjoy my colleagues at the newspaper, the dozens of friends in the community but I love the solitude of the evening where I can concentrate on reading and writing.

"Have a safe and pleasant voyage for your belongings," Bertha wrote.

And she finished with "Keep the Faith and Pray for my Arthritis."

By the way, Laura Lane promised she will pray for Bertha's arthritis.

So dear readers, please keep Bertha in your thoughts and prayers.

What beautiful connections this stupid little blog has wrought.

Peace and long-distance friendships unto all of you my brothers and sisters.

Friday, October 29, 2021

 I'm cleaning tomorrow and not because I'm a clean freak.

As an older male who lives alone, I've become more concerned about what would happen should I have a medical incident. That's why I returned to wearing my nagging smart watch. I saw a police report while helping out with the Price County Review where a smart phone contacted 911 reporting the wearer had suffered a heavy fall and was not responding to prompts. I now have something to check on me.

So the clean-up comes from the same problem. 

What happens if I don't show up for work or a Packer game at Angler's Bar and Grill and friends ask for a police check on me? (P.S.: Great game Thursday, huh?)

Not only are they going to find me slumped over in one of my two plastic chairs, they will see stacks of magazines and newspapers, backed-up laundry, a curious pattern in the bath tub that was not there when I moved in and maggots.

OK, not actual maggots.

I spilled some rice two nights ago on the kitchen tile and dried to pick it up but it was like trying to pick up actual living maggots -- I imagine.

My brilliant solution, one that comes only to older divorcees? Let the rice dry and sweep it up.

Imagine the police doing the check and find me lying in a bed of what appear to be maggots. "How long has he been gone?" one officer will ask. "And what's that smell?" another will ponder. In regard to the latter, I smell that way anyway.

No, I can't leave that legacy.

I don't want an obit that reads, "Rich Jackson, 56, Hayward, died Thursday in consort with a thousand maggots ... "

Right now, the obit will read, "Rich Jackson, 56, who once was a homeless piece of crap ... "

At least I have that going for me.

Peace and a no-maggot death unto all of you my brothers and sisters.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

 What's it called when you laugh and blubber at the same time?

This is not a joke. I need to find a new word that describes what I do when I watch my daughter perform.


That's always my reaction, even if she's performing wonderful comedy as part of her comedy troupe at Emerson College.

The stuff is genuinely funny but I lubber because I'm amazed at what his human being has become. She was this tiny pink ball at birth who couldn't do anything. For the longest time, all she could do is eat and poop. I mean months on end.

And now she this consummate performer, and brilliant young woman, who will graduate into the entertainment world next year. She's confident in her performances and fully vested in character.

Here's where you can see her: Welcome to Heaven - YouTube.

I don't expect you to lubber.

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

Friday, October 22, 2021

I promise.

I'm going to go get my stuff within weeks. (Everyone rolls eyes.)

And I realize I've been saying this for a long time but I want to have stuff in place for when my kid visits for Christmas. Among the stuff I do not have to retrieve are Christmas decorations because I have none. 

Here's the thing: it's expensive. I have some moving money from the company but that was taxed at 40 percent. Plus my month-long stay in a hotel was taxed as a direct benefit. Both cut heavily into the moving money. And my car -- well, don't get me going on my car.  My mechanic told me "You're leaking from everywhere." You don't want to hear that from your mechanic or your doctor.

So I believe when the second November paycheck hits, I can hit the road and get my junk here.

I suspect it will be something like Christmas, opening hundreds of presents of stuff I haven't seen in two years.

Then the cull will begin.

Yes, I'm going to drive for four days -- two to Bloomington and two back -- so I can get rid of said stuff.

Living for two years without access to my accumulated useless goods has been a wonderful lesson in minimalism.

In North Carolina, the last time my stuff was out of boxes, Clare looked at my library and insisted I didn't need two copies of "Thou and I" by Martin Buber. One, yes I did. Two, what an awful last name for a kid in middle school.

It reminds me of one of the stories of the Buddha. He culled down to a tea cup and a rice pot because he didn't need more. A student asked about having guests. The Buddha calmly replied they would bring their own rice pots and tea cups.

I won't need anything else.

Although, I'll be like Steve Martin in "The Jerk," who didn't need anything else.

So I'll end up with a rice pot, a tea cup, an ashtray, a remote, a paddle board, some matches, the lamp and a chair.

And nothing else.

Except for half a dozen typewriters -- down from 35. Five hundreds pens. Hundreds of books. Two potato ricers. And just one copy of "Thou and I."

Peace and less stuff unto all of you my brothers and sisters.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

I stopped celebrating birthdays some time ago. 

After dozens of them, it gets a little tiresome becoming a year older. As if getting older every second isn't enough. There are 31,536,000 seconds in a year. Tell me that doesn't exhaust you.

Facebook has changed that.

Now, each year, I look forward to hearing from friends in my (too) many stops who take time out of their day to wish me a happy birthday. When Facebook is used well, it can be gratifying.

Each year I make sure I thank everyone of them, sometimes with a Facebook button, occasionally a personal message and certainly a sarcastic comment -- that's usually why they're my friends.

Much has changed in the year since I celebrated my birthday in a cabin on the shores of Lake Lemon in Indiana, a couple weeks away from moving back into a cheap motel.

I'm working. I have a permanent address. I am home in Wisconsin.

One year ago, I couldn't  have imagined that. After applying to hundreds, perhaps a thousand jobs, I couldn't have imagined how well this worked. Serendipity is a thing.

Back then, virtually no one returned a call or email. Sometimes, when returned, the email was clearly generated by some computer program. When that happened, the email came back within minutes after the software scanned my application and determined I didn't quality. Human eyes never saw it. I applied for a content manager job in Indianapolis and was told with minutes via email I didn't have the requisite skills -- even though I've been a  manager content for 30 years.

I also applied for jobs as a fast-food manager, a hard liquor salesman, countless communications positions. I think I even applied for a bear trainer but at my new advanced age of 56, I could be wrong. (That was a joke. I would never apply to train Brian Urlacher.)

In addition to serendipity, I could use the word blessings. I could write about Karma. I might suggest hard work in that nine months of job searching, I only took off three days: Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter.

But let's be real -- there's always a ton of luck involved. Right time, right place.

And a ton of friends who bathed me in birthday greetings Tuesday.

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

Friday, October 15, 2021


I want to tell you a story about a tea set.

In 1921, my mom's mother -- Grams as we called her -- was getting married in tiny Gravelbourg, Saskatchewan. The town was a stop on the Canadian National Railway, a settlement named after a priest who had asked his fellow Canadians to settle the plains of the province, make their homes there and build settlements of French culture.

A tradition in the budding town was, when a young was engaged, everyone would throw in 50 cents or a dollar so the bride-to-be would have a proper tea set. After all, Canada remained a part of the United Kingdom for the most part -- except for Quebec.

A proper tea set was fundamental to a marriage, more so than a crock pot in the 1970s or an Instantpot today.

Most brides, I imagine, bought cheap but full tea sets with the entire cadre of parts -- and I don't know what that entails but certainly includes a tea pot, a sugar bowl and creamer,  tea cups and tea cup saucers, et al. Also some small plates for sweets and sandwiches that ought to accompany the tea along with a decent marmalade. I remember my mom stocking up on tea and marmalade for Grams' visits, foreign items for a Wisconsin kid in the 1970s.

But Grams apparently had taste.

She ordered a smaller set of Crown Royal Derby (pronounced "darby") -- the tea set of the English Royals.

It's exquisite china, hand-painted, fired and finished off with 24 carat gold leaf, also hand painted.

The tea pot and it's stand were knockoffs and beyond the cups and saucers, there was no additional accoutrement. 

My mom brought the tea set home when Grams died in the 1980s -- I am not the family genealogist -- and it sat in our china cabinet for a couple of decades.

Later, as I traveled, I took an interest in loose leaf tea and started breaking out the set when I would return home, taking extra care when washing. I couldn't imagine my mother's horror should I break something.

I raised my budding and brilliant kid on drinking tea, at first herbal and then caffeinated when she became a teenager. My mom loved having intergenerational tea. Her mother's tea set, herself, her son and her granddaughter. And, oh, we always brought some Pim's Biscuit Cookies, crisp shortbreads covered with a thin layer of either chocolate or jam.

So the deal was I would get the Canadian family tea set, so it can continue on to a fourth generation, my kid.

When I was laid off from the Bloomington Herald-Times, all of my stuff was in storage but I insisted on having two boxes containing the tea set with me and asked colleague Laura Lane to hold on to it for me. She brought the boxes in her visit a couple weeks ago.

One hundred years later, the set remains as beautiful as it ever was.

When I make drink tea in the cups -- they might be historic but all of the history comes not from the worth but from the history -- I think of generations.

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

Monday, October 11, 2021

 Oh, the shared despair and ecstasy of a bar filled with Packer fans during a game.

I had missed it so.

The game Sunday was, in the best cliche, one for the ages. Leads moved during quarters, the Packers would make a play and then give one away and finally five missed field goals by both teams in the remaining moments.

Watching a Packer game in a Wisconsin bar was close to the top of a list for reasons to return to my beloved home state.

I like how knowledgeable are the Packer fans, able to city statistics from memory. Packer fans generally know their history, too, although someone next to me at one point pointed at Aaron Rodgers on the screen and said, "There's the third Green Bay quarterback who will be in the Hall of Fame." I responded, "Fourth. Arnie Herber from the 1930s is there, too." He appreciated this little gem.

I particularly enjoy how complete strangers become the best of friends and in moments of success, high five each other. Who cares about politics during a Packer game?

Certainly not during a closely contested game that went into overtime.

The next day, a colleague asked if I tore my hair out during the game.

"No," I said. "I can't reach that spot on my back."

Peace and Packers brotherhood unto all of you my brothers and sisters.

Friday, October 8, 2021

Friend and former colleague Laura Lane visited Hayward this week.

Her first phone call to me was, "This city is tiny."

Yes, small but world class.

Readers must understand Laura Lane -- I always refer to her by her full name -- is the rare mixture of toughness, incisiveness, empathy and writing talent that makes a world-class reporter for the Bloomington Herald-Times.

She found out the food scene was spectacular because of the number of tourists and part-time residents who dump money into our county. In fact, we just wrote a story about how the county took in more than $1 million in sales tax over the summer months. That at a half cent tax on the dollar.

Laura toured the shops along Main Street and side streets, gathering presents for friends. I took her into the Hayward Mercantile, which is a high-end cooking that beats Goods for Cooks in Bloomington every day of the week. There she found a device that grabs jars out of hot water for pickling -- she had suffered burns weeks earlier using a wooden spoon with no common sense. Sadly, we weren't able to enjoy the vinegar and oil tasting bar because Max wasn't there.

We drove past my house and she extolled its virtues. To be clear, she did not extoll mine and reminded me of my failings. I expect nothing less from a hardcore journalist and concerned friend.

Laura worked at sustaining me during my struggles, bringing pot roast and other goodies to the cabin out in the woods. She also brought sweets and a book during my Christmas at the cheap hotel.

We went out to The Landing, where she learned from the manager not just the history of musky fishing but the story of the flooding and creation of the flowage -- which drowned out Native American homes, wild rice beds and hundreds of sacred graves.

She left after only a couple days of visiting with a promise to return and happy that I had settled well.

So an investigative journalist with nearly 40 years experience confirmed my own estimation.

I'm well.

Happiness and wellness unto all of you my brothers and sisters.

Friday, October 1, 2021

 Talking to my kid always buoys me.

We talked twice last weekend, as she celebrated her 21st birthday on Saturday. Just hearing her voice is a balm for me.

On Saturday, I called and sang the happy birthday -- as is our tradition -- song but she was celebrating at Fenway Park so she promised to call the next day.

And I finally made her laugh. Ever since she went to school for comedic arts, making her laugh has become all but impossible. She can see my dad jokes coming from a mile away. I can't repeat what made her laugh because it was foul and crazy at the same time.

She recounted her day, which included humor and pathos. As always, she asked what I was working on. Just working, I said.

Then she shared a funny story -- she doesn't joke with me -- that I can't  share with you, dear reader, because blogger doesn't support audio.

But if you could, you'd say, "Yeah, that is Rich's kid."

Peace and laughter unto you my brothers and sisters.

Wednesday, September 29, 2021


I've got mail.

Unused to getting personal mail for nearly two years, I rarely check my mailbox. Then I received a call from the post office. A postal worker said the carrier could fit any more mail into the box so I had to empty it. It's a small town where we have personal relationships at the Post Office.

It's part of the complicated of my last two years.

When I arrived at Bloomington, with little money to my name, I was allowed to stay in an apartment at the newspaper. Rather than get a PO Box, I filled out one of those yellow change of address cards at the Post Office with the address of the newspaper. 

Nine months later, I was laid off due to the Gannett-GateHouse merger and told I had to vacate the apartment. (In the previous time, I had worked seven days a week with little time to look for an apartment. Oddly, two weeks before during a week-long furlough, I started looking for a place.)

When I went to the Post Office and tried to get a PO Box, the worker said I needed a street address in order to get a box. I explained my problem and the worker said the Post Office does not allow change of address forms to go from business to a personal address.

Somewhere in America, someone has a bunch of my mail -- mostly bills.

So I unloaded this armload of mail from my box, which was indeed packed. Not even another bill could fit.

The list:





New Yorker.



Bill from a guy named Bill.

New York Review of Books.



Bon Appetit.



Threatening bill.

Wine Spectator.

Threatening bill from a guy named Bill.

Peace and a return to society for all of you my brothers and sisters.

Friday, September 24, 2021

I've been extolling the virtues of my home state Wisconsin since my return as the prodigal son after 20 years astray.

Beautiful scenery, kind people, world-class cheese, abundant sausages.

But I'd forgotten the fatal mixture here.

No, not gin and vermouth.

Car vs. deer.

I hit a deer last night on my way home for an interview.

And I had just driven home from my office in Spooner along Highway 63, where there are more deer than people on the road. I scanned the ditches along the roadway where deer portray their own version of "Jackass."

"Watch this."

There were no deer in the frightening 26 miles. One of my colleagues has hit two deer along the route in the last two weeks.

So I paid no attention when I turned into my little neighborhood.

I didn't see the deer until I hit it.

On the upside, I was driving the speed limit -- 25 miles an hour. And the deer? Just a fawn.

I got out of the car to see how the deer was doing and look at the damage.

But the little guy stood up, shook its head and made its way toward mother, waiting on a nearby lawn. The only damage appeared to be IQ points so undoubtedly it will become a fan of the Chicago Bears.

And then, more importantly, no damage. It had been a tender fawn with little muscle mass. Shit. Now I'm getting hungry.

Someone passing by stopped to tell me a nearby homeowner feeds deer so in the future I need to be on the lookout. The driver pulled away and I saw doe and fawn in the yard, discussing the incident.

"It's not my fault, mom," the fawn said. "Dude was speeding and I could smell liquor and I got an owie, mom, please kiss it."

Mom licked the gimpy knee.

Then she pointed a hoof at me and said, "Morte."

Italian for death.

Great. Of all the deer I have to hit, it's mafia deer.

So in Wisconsin we have beautiful landscapes, great food, abundant sausage -- and mafia deer.

Peace and no morte unto all of you my brothers and sisters.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021


I'm working some hours right now.

Seven days a week where the short day, Sunday, is only about six hours.

But I remember the nine months out of work and out of a home where I searched desperately for stuff to do during the long days. I can work. That's never been a problem. When COVID hit, my 10-12 hours days turned into 12-14 hours a day.

Sometimes, checking pages late in the evening, I'd fall asleep in the cushy chair in my newspaper apartment only to be awakened by the feeling of my laptop sliding sliding down my legs, on to my feet.

Then I would stagger to bed.

So I don't mind the work and I'm not complaining. Instead, I'm thankful to do something I love.

Right now, in addition to my two newspapers and one magazine, I'm helping out at two other newspapers where we're down staff. That work hit me this week all at the same time.

I only have one more magazine to put out for the rest of the year now all the regional visitors have returned home.

I have a friend coming from my last newspaper who's coming to visit in early October and then I'm off to get my stuff, which will allow me to turn my rental house into a home.

After that, kid visits for Christmas.

Life is good.

Peace unto all of you my brothers and sisters.

Friday, September 17, 2021

 The card reader said, "Insufficient funds."

I nearly hyperventilated.

There I stood again -- with nothing.

Wednesday was payday, so I stopped at the grocery store Thursday to pick up some items for my famous zucchini-goat cheese frittata. Recipe will follow at the end. At the Monday farmers market, I picked up some nice zucchini and fresh basil -- all I needed were an onion, roasted red pepper and eggs to make the frittata.

How did I not have enough money for a handful of items?

There was no way I blew my paycheck in a day. 

I went to the ATM at my bank, which said I had $10 in checking. It wouldn't let me check savings. And my e-banking program wouldn't let me in.

I must have been hacked. All the money was gone as I've tried to rebuild my life. That's been more than a little difficult has I've had $3,000 in car expenses since moving here.

All those feelings from the last 18 months returned. Desperation. Embarrassment. Wondering what the hell am I going to do.

I couldn't eat last night but I certainly had a couple drinks so I could get some sleep.

This morning I went to the bank as soon as it opened. There had to be a logical reason for what happened to the money, even if it was simply hacking.

It took some time and it turned out to be a bank error. I have money. They explained to me what happened with e-banking -- stupid passwords changing every six months and being kicked out of the system -- and hooked me up again.

I returned to the store to pick up the items I had to leave the embarrassing night before.

Those bad feelings dissipated.

I can breathe.

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

Zucchini and goat cheese frittata.

1/4 of one yellow onion diced.

1 medium zucchini, cut lengthwise and then sliced into half moons

1 fire-roasted red pepper (I used jarred) diced.

4 or so leaves of fresh basil julienned.

6 eggs beaten.

4 ounces of plain goat cheese crumbled.

Salt and pepper for the eggs.

I prepare all the ingredients beforehand. And set oven to broil for finish. This needs a 10- to 12-inch fry pan with a metal handle for broiling.

Soften the onions for four or five minutes on the stove top at medium heat. Add the zucchini until soft. Add the roast red peppers and basil until the latter is fragrant. Add a pinch of salt for each egg and a grind of fresh pepper for each egg. Pour eggs into the mixture and let them set. As the eggs start to cook around the edges, sprinkle the crumbled goat cheese evenly across the top. Cook for a couple minutes longer and then set under the broiler to cook the top of the frittata. Two to three minutes.

Enjoy with decent toast.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

I haven't always counted on the kindness of strangers.

Also, unlike Blanche DuBois, I'm not dainty, patrician, crazy or a floozy. (My autobiography is tentatively titled "Too Ugly to be Loose." Danny DeVito is the likely person to play me in the subsequent film. Disney's Quasimodo dropped out of the project due to another commitment.)

I spent far too much of my life trying to be fully self-sufficient, proud of what I did on my own. My peripatetic life made it easy as I moved around too much and was often alone.

Then while meditating at the beginning of 2020, when clearing my mind and just breathing, it occurred to me I needed to ask for help. I worked too much at the time, usually seven days a week. In three years, I had taken only one week off to see my kid graduate.

Of course 2020 became my annus horribilis, being laid off and losing a permanent address for a while.

I needed help.

People I've never met offered me letters of support, kind emails and pick-me-ups. Strangers contributed money. People brought me food -- and beer -- to my Motel 6 room. The kind folks at the front desk made almost a daily trip to my room to drop off something.

Then some dude I never met let me stay in his guest cabin for six months -- on a hilltop overlooking Lake Lemon outside of Bloomington, Indiana.

I write this today because a new friend in my life texted me if I wanted some lasagna she was making today. We met at her work where she presented me with two pounds of  lasagna and some bread sticks.

Too often I think I don't deserve these things. Coincidentally, this morning's quote on my Buddha app -- yes, there's such a thing -- was: “Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can't help them, at least don't hurt them.” That's not Buddha but the Dalai Lama. So I have that going for me.

Somehow, I suspect tonight's lasagna will be the best-tasting I've ever had, solely because of the kindness.

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

Friday, September 10, 2021

 It won't be too long until I return to Indiana with a moving truck to pick up my stuff.

And I want to vomit.

Sure, I miss my stuff. And I miss having a "home" to live in -- many steps above the two lawn chairs sitting in my living room. Or the mattresses on the floor. (If you want to make some money on YouTube, get a video of me getting my fat ass out bed in the morning.)

I look forward to cooking for friends, having a dinner party or something 1950s like that. Grilling out -- in the middle of winter when your drink stays extra cold -- while friends peruse my library. And oh, that library. One of my favorite pastimes is picking up an old favorite book, opening to any page and be re-engaged. "Trout Fishing in America" -- I'm talking to you.

My pots and pans and knives -- they are the mistresses I miss most. I used to be a big fan of kitchen gadgets until a trip to the Smithsonian in the mid-1990s. They had taken apart and reassembled Julie Child's kitchen, which was not filled with pasta machines or Keurigs. Just good pots and pans and hefty sharp knives. OK, I will admit to one luxury -- a risotto maker I bought from Williams Sonoma. (Please don't tell Julia.)

I miss the Catholic Encyclopedia I took from my dad's law office after his sudden death. He had the 1911 edition from his uncle, Father Robert Agnew, who was given the rare books by his congregation at St. Olaf's in Eau Claire, where he was the founding priest. Catholic or agnostic, readers would be shocked by the erudition.

Yet I'm filled with dread.

As I grow older, I find tasks that break from my everyday routine frighten and confuse me -- not unlike Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer.

Ancient, doddering me, will drive a moving truck two days down to Bloomington, Indiana. Me will hire help to load up said truck and return the same two-day trek and hire locals to unload me. 

Now that I write about some of my beloved stuff and layout simply what confronts me, perhaps it won't be so bad -- along with a great reward. Often, my the kid and I confronted difficult circumstances, I would announce to her it was another Jackson family adventure.

When this happens in about a month, I shall report from the road.

Thanks readers for helping me work this out.

Peace and clarity unto all of you my dear brothers and sisters.

Tuesday, September 7, 2021


When I wake up in the morning, I'm amazed at what little I know, planning to learn at least one thing during the day.

I've written this many times, almost becoming my mantra.

Well, Saturday morning I woke up dumb as a bowling ball. After finishing my beauty work -- this magic doesn't happen on its own -- I sat down to read The New York Times online.

Perusing the light stuff, I came across an article on the retrospective on the painter Joan Mitchell.

Her paintings blew me away.

And I had never heard of her.

Actually, I had mis-read the headline as referring to the singer Joni Mitchell. She paints? I thought to myself.

I read the article with embarrassment at my lack of knowledge and no little amount of sexism. Most of the abstract expressionists I know and admire. I have a Mark Rothko print as well as my own crappy attempts at painting. (I made those mostly to fill wall space without spending money.)

Why do I read?

To fill that empty noggin of mine.

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

Friday, September 3, 2021

I apologize for being incommunicado for the past week.

I've been working hard.

And I've been a little down.

No one ever said the road ahead would always be straight and downhill. I also have a life-long tendency toward clinical depression. I take great meds for it. Studies of Buddhism have helped.

But I still get visits from my old friend depression.

And I know I'll be fine. I've been here before and made it through worse.

I talked with a colleague today about facing challenges and we agreed. In difficult times, keep breathing, keep moving forward -- even if it's an inch at a time.

All week long, I debated about what I should write and how much I should share. But I promised on this blog from the beginning I would be truthful. (That was an easier promise when I thought no one would read it.)

When in times like this, I deflate my world to the point I only worry about what I can touch, the things I can affect. I concentrate on self-care and attempt to eschew the maelstrom of world news.

Also, I apparently pick up a thesaurus -- my favorite of the verbal dinosaurs.

Forever I remain thankful for the Buddhist nun, Pema Chodron, who famously says, "Love others, start with yourselves."

And then my blessings.

I have a job. There's a paycheck every two weeks. I have have a house - still devoid of my stuff. Even then, last night I had a dinner of sweet corn and tomato sandwiches (sorry, southern friends, we have no Duke's Mayo).

My mom is doing well and my kid is doing standup at open mic nights in Boston.

Even in down times, my life rewards.

Peace and rewards unto you my brothers and sisters.

Friday, August 27, 2021

 I realized today that my homeless struggle was as much about lack of a newsroom as well as an address.

That's because I'm on to a story.

I wrote earlier on in this blog I felt like General Patton, who bemoaned losing his Army during the greatest battle in history.

I am no George Patton but this battle against COVID is our greatest public health battle since the Spanish flu in 1918 which killed in the range of 25-50 million. The pandemic was driven by a lack of good medical information, bad hygiene, close quarter near the end of World War I.

What I missed was that story I always worked on, regardless of newspaper, where I could dig deeply and uncover something hitherto kept quiet. And I allow myself only one use per year of "hitherto" so enjoy, dear reader.

I've written a news story and a column about the story.

After hundreds of unmarked graves were found on the grounds of assimilation schools for the indigenous people in Canada, my mind wandered to the Hayward Indian School in my new -- and last -- city.

The Hayward Indiana School operated from 1901 to 1934 and according to records from the Office of Indian Affairs -- later the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The school generally rated as one of the worst in the vast system of assimilation schools. Children were taught how to grow healthy vegetables and raise dairy cattle as job training but the results were sold to the community. Children were fed moldy bread. Most of the runaways from the school were simply out of hunger.

Worse, if an Indian boy attempted to speak his language or honor his elders with a dance, he would be sent to a jail cell in the basement of the boys dormitory.  After once incident, young girls had to wear a sign that read, "I will not squaw dance."

The term "squaw" has been considered for generations to be racist and misogynistic -- well known at the time of the boarding school.

Thus far, my search has been difficult, even with help from folks on the Lac Courte Oreilles reservation just miles from my house and office.

I suspect that if there is an unmarked cemetery on the grounds of the old school -- a 640-acre plot now inhabited by Hayward Memorial Hospital -- there are no records to document it.

I have found reams of documentation about the failure of Northern States Power Co, when it flooded the old Indian cemetery, to move graves. In my research, I've found graves -- open to the elements now -- remain on an island on the Chippewa Flowage.

Today I received an email from the National Archives office in Chicago. An archival technician digitized a bunch of letters and records for me.

For friends who know me, this is like Christmas.

And if you know me, you'll know how I intend to spend my weekend.

Yep, I'm home -- in a newsroom.

Peace and a mission unto all of you my brothers and sisters.

Monday, August 23, 2021

 You cant go home again.

I write the cliché because I returned to my hometown last weekend to take one of my brothers out for his birthday.

We had a great lunch, hot beefs at the place where I used to bartend. The recipe hasnt changed in 70 years. As we sat there waiting for lunch, I told the bartender that about 30 years ago on a slow afternoon, an older guy walked in and bought a beer. He asked if we still served hot beefs, like the kind we did in the 1950s. I served him a sandwich – on me – and asked what he thought. Same hot beef, he said, with a mouthful of tender meat. I responded, Yeah, probably the same cow.

Now I was that older guy.

We drove around a little bit – its the first time, though, in recent visits where I didnt get lost on the new highways around town.

My brother asked if I wanted to drive by the old family home.

I couldnt do that.

But we drove down the main street, which has changed and stayed the same. I looked up to see the windows of my dads old law office.

We stopped at the Leinie Lodge where I dont get points off even though Im an inaugural member.

We drove through Irvine Park, our beautiful little reminder of the Northwoods before it was timbered (thats a word up here).

The visit was beautiful and Ill see my brother again soon. Thankfully, hes patient with my humor.

For some reason, though, nostalgia makes me sad – and it shouldnt.

I had a great life in my hometown and so many friends I cant count. In fact we ran into an old friend at the bar. That only makes sense in that city.

I cant be sad for what was once.

Only rejoice in those memories.

Because I returned home to Hayward, my newest and last city of residence, happy to be home.

Which is where I am.

Friday, August 20, 2021

 Thank you all.

In the last 24 hours, passed 200,000 pageviews -- something unthinkable when I started this trip May 1, 2020.

I knew when I received a call that I would get a visit from the regional editor the next day at noon, I would be laid off as part of the GateHouse-Gannett merger. News articles said the new company would find $300 million in synergies and for the first time in my life, I became a synergy.

I surmised I would lose my apartment at the newspaper and the likelihood of a jobless man finding an apartment with little savings would be impossible in a major university town.

So that night, I poured a stiff drink and purchased url for all of $10.

I needed something to do after a job in which I worked everyday and figured I ought to keep my writing skills sharp. (Said skills remain as sharp as one of those second-grader scissors that couldn't cut the cheese -- I'm not allowed to skip that joe now I'm back in Wisconsin.)

I had no grand dreams. My last blog garnered all of 55 pageviews -- 45 of them were mine I'm pretty sure. So I didn't set up online ads or accompanying social media.

My friends, who were more adept online, shared the first few posts via Twitter and within four days, I had 20,000 pageviews -- and The New York Times calling for an interview.

During the nearly 250 posts, I've attempted to be as honest as possible even if I appear a horse's ass on occasion.

And there were times -- particularly when I moved into a rental house in Hayward, Wisconsin, my new home -- I contemplated ending the blog. But then invariably, I see something, experience joy or have to rid my mind of stupid jokes, I realize I have something to write.

The process has been exhilarating and exhausting, freeing and embarrassing.

Rather like life.

And now I now I can't give it up, at least for now. You'll get to follow me as I return to Indiana to get my stuff, any trouble I might get into and a Christmas visit from my kid. 

Thank you, dear readers, for taking this trip with me.

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