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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, thehomelesseditor.com 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 thehomelesseditor.com 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.



Tuesday, August 17, 2021

 


My abundance overflows.

After years of being "too busy" to get to the Farmers Market or roadside stand, I'm working to get the bulk of my calories from fresh produce grown locally.

Oh, and gin. Lots of calories in a martini.

I've said to myself for years there's always next summer. Then next summer. Then I didn't have a job. Then I didn't have my cooking equipment. And so on. Until a decade had gone by before I had purchased fresh, local produce.

This, the summer marking the end of my struggles, I'm making changes.

Above you'll see some of my abundance: arugula and red lettuce; fresh oregano and basil; heirloom brown sugar tomatoes along with mixed cherry tomatoes; green onions -- not the ones from Booker T. and the MGs; and finally a giant $1 daikon, a mild white Japanese radish.

This haul will produce salads through the weekend.

It's not just the abundance of food but of friends, of life.

Some new friends took me to the Sawyer County Fair, where we inspected animals and 4-H entries. Drank a couple beers. Then watched grown men trying to ride angry bulls, upset their privates were knotted with ropes. Also, there were awesome women riders competing barrel racing and a clown (of sorts).

This is not my natural milieu and thus a beautiful experience.

Abundance indeed.

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


Monday, August 16, 2021

 Goodness overflows.

A reader of the Homeless Editor blog who lives in Bloomington, Indiana, has offered to buy Mrs. Stoppelkamp a subscription to my little newspaper so she call follow our progress.

A random act of kindness to a complete stranger.

This little trip of mine has produced so many blessings and they continue to unfold, just as the blog nears 200,000 pageviews.

So many random acts of kindness occur everyday, ending up as small details in someone's life. That the kindness is small, a drink, a meal, a newspaper subscription, does not make the effort any less important.

The acts, giving and receiving, form the foundation of a beautiful life so long as we're paying attention.

This entry will be short as this is a busy week and I have much to catch up the reader.

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


Friday, August 13, 2021

 Mrs. Stoppelkamp called me the other day.

There was a time, when working on a column, I would ask myself, "What would Mrs. Stoppelkamp think?" Then I would buff the rougher edges of my comment so as not to upset her.

When I worked at the Burlington Times-News, Mrs. Stoppelkamp would call to tell me what she thought of my columns. She was forever kind, funny and utterly Christian in her reaction, even in disagreement.

One day, she came in to work to give me a birthday hug.

She always found a way to make my day.

Well she did she called.

"Sawyer County Record, this is Rich," I answered.

"Rich Jackson?"

Pause.

"This is Nancy Stoppelkamp," she said.

Now this was on production day where we're putting out the newspaper. It's the day where all my elderly colleagues and I sit at our desks and sweat. One minute out of my time is one minute too long.

But for Mrs. Stoppelkamp, the day stopped. I would talk to her as long as she wanted.

We caught up on health, news about our kids and life in general. As always, we laugh much.

Mrs. Stoppelkamp read one of her most recent religious poems and it was quite beautiful.

I don't know how long we talked because people are more important than anything else and I reserve time for all in front of me.

Before hanging up, we promised each other to stay in touch because we hadn't talked in two or three years.

What a remarkable life I've been given to have made so many dear friends, here, near and away.

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

Monday, August 9, 2021

 


My VisionQuest as a amateur student of history was met Saturday during Jackpine Savage Days in Spooner when I found a bar that commemorated JFK urinating in the joint.

Oh, dear reader, I apologize for all the questions you might have right now.

So I don't bury the lede (journalism jargon for the first paragraph) while John F. Kennedy toured northwest Wisconsin in the 1960 primary, he stopped everywhere. My dad shook his hand twice while Kennedy walked up and down Bridge Street in Chippewa Falls. His driver was my dad's friend Pete Dugal of Cadott.

And when Kennedy made it to Spooner, he had to go.

I don't know when the sign went up on the men's room door but there should be a historical marker outside. JFK peed here. And it turns out I do a really killer impression of Kennedy saying, "I, um, uh, ur, rathuh have to go." Hearing it is worth the admission price.

Second: the jackpine savage.

If you look it up, the jackpine savage online is invariably a man, someone who can live for a long while in the woods, on his own and and without commiseration.

When I worked in Wisconsin Rapids, we found many jackpine savages who lived in Adams and Juneau counties but inevitably they were on the cusp of mental health issues. If you drove past a compound where someone lived in an old school bus, had a pillbox made of sandbags and flying an upside-down flag signifying distress, that was going to be a jackpine savage.

Also, do not turn around in their driveways. Because sure as hell, you're were going to be in the crosshairs of a 12-gauge.

But I love my home state where a bar marks the momentous pee of a political candidate.

Peace and pees unto you my brothers and sisters.


Friday, August 6, 2021

There I was, presenting this year's Academy Awards along with Tony Randall.

Mind you this is a dream of two nights ago.

So it doesn't matter that Tony has been dead since 2004. Or that I don't really see Tony, we just yell directions at each other. Or that I'm viewing myself in third person, like a little drone is following me. And that I have no role in the movie business.

What matters I've been thrown into the role with no experience, training or rehearsal.

The show is a cluster of epic proportions. No, not like the James Franko/Anne Hathaway debacle. That was a polite, well-staged production of "Our Town" in comparison.

This is like watching "Let's Make a Deal" where everyone in the building has done three lines of blow.

Audience members run everywhere, including on stage and behind the curtain. Instead of elegant envelopes, the nominees are listed on a board like "Family Feud" -- "and the winner is ..."

I don't recognize a star and haven't heard of any of the movies, all of which are sequels.

And all of the categories have been changed, replaced with acronyms that sound like IKEA products. (I  joke on the spot -- biggest laugh of the night.)

One category is moved back stage, where only two movies are nominated and one of the nominees has to walk down this half-mile long hallway and all the audience can hear is the click, click, click of heels for minutes.

Through it all, I can already hear the headlines of "Worst TV ever" and "New presenter the biggest bomb ever."

I started a flop sweat that had to be mopped up behind me.

The morning alarm saved me from the savages of the press.

The meaning of all this?

That's the feeling I suppress from my job and life right now.

Days earlier, I had a dream in which I moved to a community I know moderately but my vehicle was this large, white behemoth with round, rubber balls at tires. I couldn't see out the front window. When I tried to drive straight, it went sideways. If I attempted to park sideways, it lurched forward into bicyclists.

I finally managed to park it and walk the city, only to find I knew nothing about it. The fine-eating establishment I walked into was a seedy strip joint. The food trucks moved as I walked. And the university I sought had moved next door to itself without providing a means of getting from one to the other.

I understand my feelings and reality is much better. I'm used to being the answer guy and six months in, I'm still the question guy. I'm doing much better than my dreams.

And I wish I had a chance to meet the real Tony Randall.

Peace and sweeter dreams to you and my brothers and sisters.

Monday, August 2, 2021

 In a rare condition, my pool is dry -- I am spiking my weekly column for just one week.

I've rarely done this in nearly four decades in which I could write a column.

Sure, I have stuff I could write. I always have ideas shooting around my head like a pinball, trying to hit a neuron to light up and make a noise.

But I have nothing over the last couple of days and rather than noodle out some lame piece -- I see fellow columnists do it often -- I'm going to relieve readers from crap.

I won't bore you with the demands on my time but they are enough for me to fail in fomenting a column. I think "Failing Fomenting" is my new autobiography title.

I did make some blueberry bread for a friend's dinner this weekend and that was a better feeling than writing. I worked with my hands. I made something tangible. The bread was actually consumed.

It's a good reminder to return to the basics of life, friends, family, food.

Peace and blueberry bread unto all of you my brothers and sisters.


Friday, July 30, 2021

 I glanced at a to-do list on my desk and saw the phrase "porn star name change."

Time to go home.

The actual note read "pastor name change" for our church directory. But when an editor can't read anymore, we must seek rest.

I won't complain about working much lately. It's a great sign. We're putting out good newspapers and our regional magazine, Visitor, is popular and getting better.

Despite always working daily newspapers, I always knew weekly editors worked harder because the few folks in the building had to do everything. That's fine because I've spent my career helping colleagues in other departments. We only succeed if we all work together.

We take turns dealing with complaints, stacking papers and magazines as they come in, shoveling, salting the parking lot, one of our folks mows the lawn. We recently worked with a local program to print 4,000 event programs and even with my old bones, I helped moved boxes.

And at the end of the week -- kind of -- I enjoy the exhaustion. Tired from work is far more fulfilling than the desperate sleep of not working.

That remains fresh in my mind.

We're in the busy tourist season and so putting out a Visitor magazine every two weeks. The publication has been around nearly 60 years and is looked upon as an old friend. No better magazine feeling than that. But I assure you, it's real work.

So at the beginning of this weekend, where I will get the chance to sleep in Saturday and Sunday, and then work the rest of the day, I wish you all beautiful weekends.

And I wish peace and porn star name changes to all my brothers and sisters.



Tuesday, July 27, 2021

I did something that made me feel normal last week.

I ate dinner with others at a friend's house.

We sat at a table outside and sipped on drinks while the host cooked an awesome dinner and talked. The sun setting, the dog drooling, the smell of burgers and chicken.

I distinctly recall driving past nice, middle-class homes during the deepest of my struggles wondering what in the hell I had done wrong.

Plenty, certainly.

But there I was with friends enjoying off time and getting to know some new folks better.

Feeling normal, the next day I had my hair cut and then shaved my beard. These small gestures, all small and normal, continue to be steps on climbing out of my hole.

I know I have failed in reaching out and that's part of my plan to re-engage life.

(I just realized this sounds morose and it should not. I'm happy about these instances and more so the revelations about normalcy.)

I mean as normal as I can get -- for me.

Peace and dog drool unto all of you my brothers and sisters.

Friday, July 23, 2021

Garrison Keillor once said every man needs someone to nag him.

It turns out you just need to buy an Apple Watch.

When I received a new phone a couple of weeks ago I got a deal on an Apple Watch and was told it would be like having a secretary strapped to my wrist. I think that's inappropriate nowadays.

The salesman also said I would be able to count my daily steps. Which I could already on two hands. 

And it would help me with creating and improving a daily health routine.

After charging it, I enjoyed the first admonishment "stand."

Well, I can do that. I stood up and the watch congratulated me. "You're on your way to achieving your goals." That felt nice, although I didn't correct the phone that my goal is to win Powerball.

A couple of hours later, the phone said, "Breathe." Well, hell. I do that all day long. I can breathe, cough, expectorate -- you name it.

Then in another two hours, I was asked to stand once again. I did and magically completed one ring of daily health -- even though I was exhausted by the end of the day.

The next day I was busier but complied, even though I wondered whatever happened to recovery time.

The same pattern continued until I received a new order: walk. But I'm the king of standing. Were standing in the Olympics, I would be there. Fine -- but I don't enjoy a task master.

"What's for lunch?" the phone asked. I typed in "hot dog." The phone asked about vegetables and I answered "sauerkraut and onions."

"Does not compute."

We were starting to fight.

My caloric intake number went up one day like the national debt clock.

"Unhealthy level," the phone said. I, for the record, felt fine. And no one at West's Dairy complained.

"Passersby can hear your heart beating," the phone told me one day. Maybe I was in love. How does she know?

"Ever hear of broccoli?" the phone asked.

Yes, Albert Broccoli produced most of the James Bond movies.

"You ordered another drink?"

Yes, that's how one gets another drink.

"When you floss, do you find entire, unchewed Li'l Smokies?"

Doesn't everyone?

"You can't have sausage links for breakfast, a hot dog for lunch and kielbasa for dinner."

Watch.

"Let's go back to the beginning. Stand."

I am. I am standing here waiting for my Bomb Dog.

"You have really let yourself go."

Are we married?

As the phone started to say, "Listen, we need to have a serious talk ..." I gently removed it from my wrist.

Now I plan on getting a tattoo on my wrist with the hands permanently at 5 p.m.

It's always five o'clock somewhere.

Peace and more peace unto you my brothers and sisters.


Monday, July 19, 2021

 Working headline: Small-town newspaper editor has friends

 My friend Suzie visited Saturday and that was the response from my friends at the restaurant where we met.

My friends Mark and Marcia from Munster, Indiana, stopped today on their way through to Bayfield and colleagues in the office feigned surprise I had friends.

It reminded me of my kid's recent visit, when she noted, "Dad, all your friends are bartenders."

Actually, I'm lucky to have friends strewn all over the land -- although perhaps "strewn" is not the best word. When I lost my housing, I had offers from across the country for any soft spot folks had so I might  lounge about.

I enjoyed them all, particularly catching up in person after prolonged absences because of COVID and my struggles.

Mark noted he and his wife enjoyed seeing me happy and thriving. Do I need to aspire to thrive? That strikes me as a higher bar than I'm willing to work for. Although "Aspire to Thrive" would be a great self-help book title.

Can't I just "get along"?

My friends continue to warm my heart in all of they've done for me. And in a business where we often see the worst of people, my friends and many strangers remind me there are more good people than jerks.

I apologize for brevity here but I've been working much.

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

Friday, July 16, 2021

 "What is the learning curve?" a job applicant asked this week.

I'd been thinking about this earlier in the day, particularly in the newspaper industry where learning is the career itself. If I stop learning, then I'm dying.

I've always said the learning curve is at least a year and for some jobs it's up to five years. But in my varied experiences, it wasn't so much about what I knew.

While driving to get lunch -- a healthy serving of pineapple as suggested by a reader -- I thought the learning curve is when one feels comfortable on the job.

So we discussed the language difference and the applicant agreed "comfort" is a better goal.

I'd been thinking about it because I'm finally starting to feel comfortable in a new job, a new community and pretty much new everything else.

Comfort comes from an awareness that I'm not confronted by a new computer program each day, where I know the names of colleagues spread across a couple of states, when I can answer simple questions from readers. Imagine when someone calls and asks what a subscription costs and my answer is, "I have no idea." That does not inspire consumer confidence.

Not only can I answer simple questions, I can help fix problems facing my colleagues. Any good newspaper editor knows not just writing and editing but how to fix a copier issue, order office supplies or -- this week -- find a damn pair of scissors.

I don't feel as overwhelmed as before and I'm not exhausted at the end of every day -- just most days.

I can't imagine how good it will feel to get my stuff here when I have comfort at both home and work.

Have a beautiful weekend.

Peace and comfort unto you my brothers and sisters.


Thursday, July 15, 2021

I sneaked into West's Hayward Dairy, cloaked like a dope fiend in an opium den.

After excruciating gout last week, my Hayward friends more than promised to shame me about eating foods that give me the dreaded condition.

But I can't go stone cold. 

My secret entry undisclosed, I looked at the 40 flavors, overwhelmed by choice. Is this what it's like to buy pot in a legal state?

I finally spied something more tantalizing than pot or opium: blueberry cheesecake ice cream. I quickly ordered a bowl -- small -- before the gout cops were on me.

And oh, the treat was worth it. Imagine high-end ice cream liberally spiked with cheesecake, in turn notched with blueberries. Add to it the occasional delightful crunch of the Graham Cracker crust.

I gorged so that should a gout cop wander past, I would be undercover again, happily sated, an innocent empty cup in front of me.

I ate so fast.

"How is the ice cream?" a server asked.

"Goo," I said.

"I'm sorry," she said in the form of a question.

"I crea goo," I said

She approached me with the face of concern.

"Sir, are you OK?"

I grasped what was happening.

"Torry," I said. "Mah tong num."

She smelled for alcohol on my breath and finding none she became more concerned.

"Your face seems contorted, sir."

"Dat i crea in my chee," I said, as slowly and clearly as I could. I had stored the remaining blueberry cheesecake in my cheek, using my tongue to flick bits of the cold dessert into my throat trying to hit my uvula -- sorry for the language. Consider it the world's tiniest and coldest game of jai alai. 

"Sir, I think you're having a stroke," she said. 

"No, no troke," I pleaded. "Goo goo i crea tong num."

"Sir, I'm calling medical services."

Oh you know they're going to be gout cops. Even though my tongue would eventually thaw, I needed to get out out of there.

"No," I said. "I goo goo. I goo goo go ni ni now."

And I bolted. Except -- except -- the gout had already curled my toes and started gnawing on my leg joints. I stood and made a noise reminiscent of any manner of the ungulate -- hooved animals.

Instead I fled like the Elephant Man from his tormentors, heaving and lurching and still trying to explain my condition.

"I goo goo go ni ni now," I said at the doorway, and then tried to paraphrase the Elephant Man with my numb tongue.

"I not an Emema."

And off I was into the night.

Peace and blueberry cheesecake ice cream unto all of you my brothers and sisters.


Monday, July 12, 2021

Yeah, I whined in Friday's post.

What are you gonna do about it?

I'm not really pugnacious about it and  put in long thought before writing.

But I promised myself when I started this blog I would be truthful even when it was unpleasant.

So I whine when I have blessings, such as a job, a house, friends, family and a more-than-full stomach. I don't like complaining because I see little practical use in the gesture. Except I understand the need to blow off team.

So I whined -- in writing.

I thought over the weekend about a dishonest week I had a year ago that I didn't address at the time. I failed to get one of my dream jobs -- and then I went to bed for a week. That's when I was living in The Hermitage on the high banks of Lake Lemon.

I believe it was at that time I lost my appetite.

How do I describe despair? It's when you breathe only because it's automatic. And you do nothing else.

I slept 20 hours a day and only when I could bring myself to climb out of bed, I'd drink until I could sleep again.

It served as the worst seek of my struggles -- perhaps my life.

But I found my way out because I had to. I have family and friends to whom I answer. I'm not done writing yet -- I have more things to say. Hell, I haven't been to France.

So a little whining, I'm fine showing that.

It's truthful.

Peace and truth unto you my brothers and sisters.


Friday, July 9, 2021

 I lie in bed at 4 a.m. Wednesday morning after catching a mere two hours of sleep.

My right knee stabbed with pain from gout.

My mattress on the floor.

Nothing in the house.

"This is no way to live," I said out loud to the ceiling fan. Like the chair in "I am I said" it did not hear.

God, I hate whining -- but I must be truthful, both to myself and you, dear reader.

So I will work on making changes and making better decisions. One is, getting my stuff here.  My friend Mark and his wife Marcia are coming through to visit and while we discussed where to stay, he offered to help with the move. Good friends will make any offer of help, regardless of unpleasantries. My boxes are filled with books and kitchen equipment, I said. Aw, we can do that, he said. I noted there were about 50 boxes of books. Well, let's pay a couple football players to help, he said. Sadly, most high school and college football players are doing better than me financially. 

The second is -- related to gout -- making better life choices.

What set off the gout was discovering West's Hayward Dairy. I stopped in one night and found it had 40 flavors of excellent ice cream and then stopped there the next three nights.

Heavy, rich ice cream equals gout in my knee apparently.

The pain was bad enough I couldn't find a comfortable position and that comes from a older man who has aches and pains everyday.

I did slip away into sleep at about 2 a.m. and my nightmare consisted of me returning to management at McDonald's, and then rode my bike home. But some gentlemen decided they wanted my bike more than me and in the ensuing struggled I, using a book, crushed the esophagus of one of the perpetrators, the rest of whom chased me as I rode away. I awoke in a full sweat despite the air conditioning and the ceiling fan.

Yes, I am blessed with a house, and a living, wonderful friends and family. I love having my windows open in July for 65-degree temps. Being a journalist again, in my home state, is what I've angled for nigh 20 years.

Life is always a mixture.

I am working on my hurdles and have set a timeline of getting my stuff here by sometime in August.

I will enjoy West's Dairy once every two or three weeks.

I will continue to be extraordinarily thankful for all those who have helped me, reached out and supported me as I continue to climb out of my self-dug hole.

Peace and moving forward unto all of you my brothers and sisters.


Monday, July 5, 2021

 


I put up 12 half-pint jars of strawberry freezer jam this last weekend, the most home ec activity I've undertaken in at least two years.

That follows staying in an apartment at work, a cabin high atop Lake Lemon in Indiana and a series of cheap hotels in multiple states.

The first time I put up freezer jam was 20 years ago, when I lived in Lansing, Michigan with my wife and baby kid. Not a goat but an actual human being in miniaturized form. We picked out in the filled, where baby kid at little berries, leaves and all. We hulled and mashed until the kitchen was filled with strawberries and then made a low-sugar jam. (Have you ever seen the amount of sugar in jam recipes? It makes soda pop seem healthy.)

As the year passed after that batch, we were always amazed at how fresh the jam tasted on thawing. You could almost taste the summer sun on them.

I promised I'd do that every year.

But the next summer was busy as we had moved to a new town and a couple years later we moved into a new house. Then after the divorce, I continued my peripatetic ways. I was tired, money was tight.

Every year I'd tell myself, "I'll do jam next year."

Twenty years slipped by.

That almost happened again this year and strawberry season was slipping away, even though I rationalized again. I didn't have my cooking equipment. I worked everyday.

Until late last week when I said to myself, "No more next year, damnit."

I made a mad dash to some hardware stores for jars and equipment and then called a Mennonite farmer who advertises in our newspaper.

"Any strawberries left?" I asked.

"Yep," he said.

"Can you save me a bucket?"

"Yep."

"See you in 15 minutes."

"Yep."

In those 15 minutes, Andy -- the Mennonite farmer -- and his wife raced out into the 90-degree weather and picked a fresh bucket for me from vines where strawberries seemed scant.

For his work, I promised I'd buy all my fresh veg from his family this summer.

And now I have 12 half-pints at one jar a month for the next year, strawberries that taste like summer.

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


Friday, July 2, 2021

 


Many folks call this place God's country.

I'm pressed to argue with them or God.

This is a photo I took last weekend while writing at the end of a busy Sunday, first a newspaper column and then a column I'm sending to a Jesuit magazine about the Biden-Communion controversy.  The photo is taken at Powell's on the Lake, that being Big Round Lake, and in a building that housed the first Famous Dave's

Folks pull up in the boats to grab a bite and a drink and then head off to another spot or maybe home.

I've not travelled much so it's hard for me to compare but it's strikes me as being like a Cape Cod or Key West, the kind of atmosphere that is relaxed and all its own.

There's nothing better than writing when someone else brings the drinks to you, when you need inspiration you look at the clear water or into the blue sky pocked with perfectly white clouds.

I've decided that I'll spend part of at least one day a week on or near the water.

I'll cook at home Saturday nights with enough to eat for half the week.

I'll use local produce, find a source for eggs, buy a local quarter beef once a year, make my own bread and reduce my carbon foot print to the point of a petite ballerina.

Busy plans as a settle into my home, ideally my last plans.

Assuredly I will add frozen pizza and takeout and other less-natural sundries to my life.

I ain't a monk after all. 

Peace and the occasional frozen pizza to you my brothers and sisters.



Tuesday, June 29, 2021

 

The report is in.

My high school guidance counselor Mrs. Slauson sent me my report from freshman year her father, Marty Crowe, tucked away 40 years ago.

I can't read the first few words, Mrs. Slauson laughed about her father's handwriting, but he appears to write the paper would be a top-notch college paper.

Four decades later, that made me a little weepy.

The paper, of course, stinks to hi heaven. It's lightweight and immature -- so it's much like what I write today.

I found it hard to read the damn thing, not because of the aged paper but because I disliked it so. 

But here's the thing that buoyed me -- it's 40 years later and I'm still writing.

In grade school, high school and college, I was discouraged from seeking life as a writer. My fourth-grade teacher said "Mr. Jackson, no one will pay to read what you write."

Here I am still pecking away at a keyboard, trying to improve with the idea the more you practice your craft, the better you will get.

Perhaps, after two score, I write gooder and gooder.

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

Friday, June 25, 2021

 I received a weird note the other day while working at the Spooner Advocate.

Maureen Slauson called and had found a paper I'd written in high school for her father. Mrs. Slauson, as I knew her, was the guidance counselor at McDonell Central High School when I attended there -- I use the word "attended" loosely. She wondered if I wanted the copy.

Her father as the legendary Marty Crowe, who as coach won four state basketball championships in his long coaching career. 

Mrs. Slauson had told my colleague I would not remember her but of course I did. I hadn't sought her out for guidance in my four years in high school because that would have been like a vegan looking for the best steak in town.

I certainly remembered Marty as he was a character of epic proportions, as well as one of my coaches -- and my poetry teacher.

He may have been the only sports coach in high school sports history who taught poetry.

And here's the thing: He taught it well. He introduced a bunch of us morons -- I was the leader of the moron gang -- about poets we'd never otherwise hear.

I can still hear him reading from Randall Jarrell's "The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner." 

Imagine a growly voice reading:

"From my mother's sleep I fell into the State,
And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze.
Six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life,
I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters.
When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose."

He repeated the last line for dramatic purposes.

I remember the paper, which Mrs. .Slauson is sending me. At the time during freshman year, I was tone deaf for poetry and initially picked Walt Whitman. Although I'm now an acolyte, that was a poor choice. Whitman remains a tough read. We were supposed to take give poems from the same author and write about style.

So I asked Marty -- everyone called him Marty including the students -- if I could instead go with a novelist and he said yes.

Five novels are much more work than five poems. I've already told you I was a moron.

 I had read "The Grapes of Wrath" during the summer before high school and so chose Steinbeck. 

That's all I recall of the paper but Mrs. Slauson said Marty wrote a note on it so I look forward to reading that when I receive it.

She also talked about his other writings, including stories of his college teachers at St. Thomas in Minnesota. I offered help at finding a way to save his papers so we'll remain in touch.

Mrs. Slauson found me after reading about my homelessness in the Eau Claire newspaper and then tracking me down online.

As I have written, there have many blessings in a bad situation. We just must be mindful to acknowledge them.

Peace and good memories unto all of you my brothers and sisters.


Wednesday, June 23, 2021



 BREAKING: I am old.

I noticed today at one of my favorite restaurants in Hayward, where the sign outside advertises "Restaurant," that I qualify for a senior discount.

At first depressed, I realized this was a golden opportunity -- one of the benefits of aging.

So I ordered myself a open-faced roast beef and mashed potato special, all slathered in low-sodium gravy.

All I needed to complete my old person meal was a cup of Sanka and reruns of "Matlock" on a loop.

(Note: I was the only person at "Restaurant" salting his low-sodium gravy.)

And damn-it-all, it was awesome. Part of the deal is the senior meals are smaller -- perfect for me. I don't need two to three pounds of food at any meal.

My depression moved to appreciation -- as well as the afore-mentioned salt and a fair amount of pepper.

Then, an hour later, it moved to "old man needs nappy time." I might try the George Costanza resolution of getting nap time under my desk. Sadly I can't. When I sleep, I snore like the sound of a puma eating a shrimp cocktail with zesty cocktail sauce.

Now, you must forgive me, as I have to rail at neighborhood children, question Social Security (even though I don't collect until I'm 104 years old) and go to bed at 8 p.m.

Peace and sweet dreams unto all of you my brothers and sisters.


Monday, June 21, 2021

I am so embarrassed.

I can't pull the trigger on going back to Indiana to get my stuff.

It's so painful I go to bed thinking about it and wake up with it and have flashes through the day that remind me of my failure.

For so many people this would be as normal as ordering takeout at a restaurant.

For me, it has become my Rubicon. I cannot cross it.

Still, I will muster whatever motivation I can and complete this task, this hurdle.

I need my stuff.

I had tried to negotiate a decent moving compensation but the federal government and the Good Lord took that away from me. 

Now I'll have to drive a truck down to Indiana, load it, drive the damn truck back and unload it.

Ugh.

I apologize for the short entry but that's all I have today, friends.

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

Friday, June 18, 2021

While sitting at Angler's Bar and  Grill the other day, I happened to look at the entry and saw my lifetime friend Jon standing in the entry with his son.

Without a word, we walked to each other and hugged.

I can't remember not knowing Jon.

We caught up on each other's lives over drinks -- not uncommon in our 55 years of knowing each other -- and I enjoyed the chance to know his boy

At some point, he asked me about what my daughter recently called "your situation." That is, my strange trip through homelessness.

I stuttered.

Me, word guy, supposed writer, someone who has written thousands of words and more than 270 blog posts about what has happened. Yet I didn't know what to say.

When reporters come to me, trying to figure out a story, I've challenged them "Tell me the story in 10-12 words" the average length of a spoken sentence in English. When I feel particularly pugnacious, I ask them to tell me their story in one word.

Does it count for the first challenge if I say, "Oh, shit," five or six times in a row? And "oh shit" doesn't fit the second challenge.

I don't have an answer, despite having written so much about the countless challenges and successes of this last year-plus a month.

All I can say is I kept moving forward and I kept breathing -- that's 13 words. Can I add with the occasional drink?

And my magical misery tour came at the same time as the country, my colleagues, friends and complete strangers went their own hell.

I'm going to have to think about this as I face some upcoming hurdles.

I thought about it while having lunch today at Lynn's Custom meats, where the daily special was a bratwurst with potato salad and beans on the side. (Note to those worried about my health: That's only my third brat while back in Wisconsin. That's remarkable restraint for someone who considers bratwurst as close to holy communion. I've lost about 25 pounds, sadly most of it hair. And my gout is in remission as I choose more wisely.)

I ate outside the meat store at a picnic table in 75-degree temperatures and low humidity with just enough wind where I had to set my drink on my napkin.

How was the last year? 

I don't know but today was wonderful.

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


Monday, June 14, 2021

I would write that I continue to bask in the glow of my kid's visit last week.

But "bask in the glow" is a cliche, and I've been taught not to do that in print or in thought.

Plus, I don't really glow. I'm old. I'm fat. I pretty much just schvitz.

My return to a full week of work greeted me with a series of problems and crises that were neither, really. Just hurdles I have to over come.

And one of the more daunting hurdles I have left. Renting a truck to drive to Indiana to get my stuff and then jam my new place with all the old stuff I've stored for a couple years. I'm pretty sure George Carlin did a bit on this.

I have promised to myself to do it, not this weekend but next -- no matter what.

I need my cooking equipment and most of my books. As my kid has noted, I don't need -- NEED -- many of my books. For instance, anything by Martin Buber. Poor kid. Any of his thoughts were lost during a particularly harsh high school because of unfortunate nicknames. (For the record, I would have been the president of the Martin Buber Nickname Club. It's what I do.)

I'm going to do it, damnit.

One of the bigger hurdles I've had to jump, frankly.

But I trust my colleagues to get out the newspaper and the various magazines and, at a weekly, get the lawn mowed and the front door painted and so on. Last week, we found a partially eaten dead fawn behind the building. Through fastidious research, I can claim it was not anyone in the building who did this.

My jokes about fawn McNuggets were not appreciated. HR has been alerted.

I will alert friends along the route about potential meetings.

And I will seek out any emotional support you might offer.

As for what I can offer: Some Martin Buber books and a list of jokes.

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


Friday, June 11, 2021

Dad for a week exhausted me and enlightened me.

It's also a good name for a sitcom starring Kevin James, which Leah Remini will then join after some other attractive brunette character is killed off. 

Theme:

"Dad for a week, dad for a week;

No matter what he's not at his peak.

He stumbles, he bumbles, he fumbles about;

Through it all Leah Remini will hear him out."

My kid has surpassed me in intellect -- I don't set a high bar. Composure -- I don't know what that means. Kindness -- you go to hell.

All week long, I mispronounced "hegemony," asked her to define her terms and then sought links so I could study what she already knew.

It's a helluva relationship where I've tried to model good behavior for her nigh these 20 years of her life and now she inspires me to do the same. 

I also realize I must be better at taking care of myself as I want to be around for her successes and help if a can during her challenges. It's helped that I've lost about 20 pounds lately, despite being hobbled by knee issues. And that will get better.

We do have a deal that if and when I reach age 80, I can then do whatever I want.

That's good family -- agreeing to a point of planned obsolescence. I will increase drinking, take up smoking and pal around with reckless drivers. Good times.

But it says something of love, a phrase we sons of the Wisconsin Nort'woods only use for Packers quarterbacks.

She makes me want to be better.

Peace and incremental improvement and sunshine unto all of you my brothers and sisters.


Thursday, June 10, 2021

From the first relish tray -- with extra radishes -- to our last clinching hug -- each of us smelling between a mixture of sweat and gin -- my kid and I had a special visit.

It was two years in the making.

I knew at some point I would see her less and less and promised to make every minute with her special as I readied myself for that natural cleaving. We stayed close. And my DNA in her runs strong.

You'd never have known it had been so long.

We fell into conversation on the ride back from the airport in the Twin Cities to the Wisconsin Northwoods that was of our nature. One sentence might be music. The next philosophy. Then a cultural reference. A loved memory shared. And a heavy sprinkling of humor.

The folks at The Ranch seated us a little late -- 9:08 p.m. after my promise to be there by 9:03. We old editors believe every minute is a damned eternity. And they had fulfilled my request of a relish tray with extra radishes, which covered the other gems on the tray but were gone quickly enough as the kid and I are radish friends (note to self: great name for a vegan horror movie).

The next day we brought lunch into the newspaper so I could treat staff and let them meet this person they hear me reference everyday and, I think, were beginning to believe didn't exist.

I gave the kid a bit of a tour and we finished the day with a real Wisconsin fish fry at The Steakhouse. I lived at the lodge there for my first month in town and they're my local family.

On Sunday, we relaxed with Chippewa Springs water -- our family staple -- and talked about her senior thesis she's working on. It's a look at how corporate and cultural hegemony affects late-night TV shows, her chosen milieu.

That night, we had the best wienerschnitzel in the world at the Chippewa Inn on County B -- along with a relish tray that included an extra bowl of radishes. It occurred to me that in northern Wisconsin "radish" is singular and plural. The bowl of whole radish prompted nearby tables to exclaim the excellent service.

I worked the better part of Monday but she was ensconced in another office in the building, working on her senior thesis. 

When I kicked out of work at about 3:30 p.m., we had time to kill until more food so we played pool at TNT in downtown Hayward.

Oh, I had forgotten she's a shark.

Years ago, I taught her pool and then grasshopper surpassed the teacher. She's a shark in petite form, willing to play off on her intellectual and creative personality and then she'll pass that 8 ball by you like the a cold, black piece of coal to fire the pits of hell.

She will do well in Hollywood.

Tuesday: Deadlines? Pressure on two publications? More pool where she kicked my butt? I worked again as we had the Wednesday weekly coming out and our Magazine, The Visitor, due to the printer ASAP. 

I introduced her to the food and drink of Angler's Bar and Grill. She had the basic bacon cheeseburger -- in which you can taste the meat of two animals. 

I took all of Wednesday off as a sleeping-in day as well as time with no agenda.

We started off with a late lunch of the Big Chip Cobb Salad at Treelands resort -- split because one salad would be as big as our huge heads. We come from big-headed people. If you meet me, ask for the jokes.

And then (angelic music from the Gods) we saw another pool table. And played three games. She won the rubber match.

We had rest/nap time which is valuable mostly during vacations. No one should return to work more tired than they left.

A couple of cocktails at Powell's on the Lake (formerly the first Famous Dave's) and pizza, drinks and pool at Treelands.

Despite my advanced age, I am not tired.

Seeing my daughter and listening to intelligence has invigorated me once again.

When we hugged today at the Twin Cities airport, I said four times, "I love you."

I've never meant anything more in my life.

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


Tuesday, June 8, 2021

 I apologize for not blogging but I've been spending every waking/non-working moment with the kid.

I don't know, even though I'm a writer, how to explain the joy.

When I get her to laugh, it feeds me.

When she outsmarts me in a conversation, I am warmed.

When she smiles, it makes the day.

I'll follow up soon with some photos.

Thank you for your indulgence.

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

Monday, May 31, 2021

 (A note to my child before you arrive.)


Dear Kid,


Remember, before you see me again, I'm a 55-year-old divorced man.

This means, firstly, that good hygiene is merely a suggestion at this point. And "good" is a subjective term anyway.

Just because something smells doesn't mean a good schmear of Ben-Gay liniment can cover that up. Again. And again. And again.

I'm bearded right now which is not out of preening or prowling. It's just pure laziness. You see a man reaches an age where he attempts to determine the least he can possibly do to be considered socially acceptable. Even these will dissipate over time.

If young people can wear expensive pre-ripped jeans, I can wear cheap pants I've ripped myself. At my age, they're no longer called "rips." They're called ventilation.

I bought a goat to help control the lawn but one night I arrived home to find no food in the fridge. But I had Goat Helper in the pantry. Hence goat no longer.

My plumber found my cat in the shower drain. I said, "I don't have a cat." He said, "Dude, you've lost a lot of hair." 

That is not blood spatter on the wall. I was drinking gravy when I had to sneeze. Now I tell visitors it's modern art.

I've had no visitors.

And it's no secret in our family that I drink gravy. "Hi, my name is Rich. I drink gravy." (Your mother's attorneys had a heyday with this. My attorney refused thereafter to make eye contact with me.)

It might appear I have used underwear hanging from pegs on the bedroom wall.

I have no pegs.

It might appear I have some raised beds in the back yard. They are not -- are not -- shallow graves. You need plausible deniability at this point. Also, unless you have a recording of me saying it, I never said, "One man's torso is another man's friend."

Erase that recording.

"Road kill" can also mean "fresh," "tenderized" and "Wisconsin Waygu."

I have something stuck under my finger nails. It smells like pickled pig's feet. I'll let you judge.

If we walk into area establishments and the immediate response is, "You're not allowed in here anymore" -- that is my new legal name.

Above all, remember that I love you and can't wait to see you.

Yours,

Dad.

I wish peace and love unto all of you my brothers and sisters.



Thursday, May 27, 2021

 My kid arrives a week from tonight and will be greeted by her own mattress on the floor of the guest room and a plastic chair in the living room.

Thankfully, she's 20 years old now and child services can't be called.

I continue to live meagerly as I try to find time to get my stuff up here. Oh, there will be ice cream treats in the fridge, bottles of ice-cold Chippewa Spring water and some decent tea in my work office.

But she is among the most malleable people I've ever met, perhaps because of my wandering ways. Today I told someone that I don't travel, I just move.

Better, my kid understands that love isn't about stuff or comfort or more stuff.

Family is about spending time together and even if the circumstances are imperfect, to stay present in the moment. A couple of times as a small child, she had to accompany me to the ER as I suffered the maladies of aging. We've enjoyed our time to discuss more topics than the number of streptococcus molecules on the swab shoved into my head.

We call such times "Jackson family adventures" rather than bemoan our collective fate.

People ask, "What are you going to do?"

I can't answer truthfully (because it seems as though I don't care) but, it doesn't matter.

Oh, we're going to eat well through supper clubs and bars in the area.

We have to see anything historical, from the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame to the sign outside The Landing that notes how the Chippewa Flowage flooded out American Indians.

Mini-putt will be part of the itinerary, as our rivalry mirrors Woods vs. Mickelson.

Somehow she picked up from me how to be a tracker, so we're going to get to the bottom of the largest musky ever caught.

God, I haven't seen the kid in person in two years. 

It doesn't matter what we do.

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


Monday, May 24, 2021

 We open our doors at the Sawyer County Record tomorrow.

When we closed our doors at the Herald-Times in Bloomington in March 2020, I could not have imagine all the tumult, personally, professionally and culturally, that was about to happen.

I'll write in this week's column about how the opening is real and metaphorical. We're opening in the specific sense but the general sense as well.

But the uptake is this: I'm still here and we're still here.

There are those who wish to diminish the 600,000 dead Americans, the 2 million dead around the world. That's not how history is going to remember this. 

History will note the politicizing of a pandemic, a virus. of medicine, of science. But it will fail to cover how we as individuals survived together, regardless of politics.

It is my hope we come out of this, now with our doors open -- in reality and metaphorically -- with an understanding we our one country together.

I've never seen patriotism as castigating those with whom you disagree but working with fellow American on common-sense solutions.

Crap.

This sounds like I'm running for office. I am not

Peace and togetherness unto you my brothers and sisters.


Friday, May 21, 2021

Gout sent me to urgent care this morning and didn't even have the decency to drive.

 Have you ever watched an old fat man with gout trying to get out of his car in a pouring rain?

I haven't either but I suspect were someone to videotape such a thing, it would be quite popular on YouTube.

My colleagues have watched as I doddered and tottered my way around our tiny offices during the week and more or less shamed me into taking care of myself. Is that gout-shaming? Pain-shaming? Son-of-the-Wisconsin-Northwoods shaming?

The folks at Hayward urgent care were incredibly nice and helpful and in the check-in process, I met a neighbor and my licensed practical nurse turned out to be from DeMotte, an area in Northwest Indiana where I once oversaw coverage. She did her emergency room training in Hammond and was disappointed I had no bullet or stab wounds.

If you've never had it, describing the malady is difficult. I've had 10 broken bones in my life and gout is a worse pain that won't heal. It's like someone has taken a Phillips-head screwdriver, jammed it into my knee and started rooting around for something -- my pain tolerance.

I normally have a decent tolerance of pain. I do, after all, have one child.

Gout doesn't help when my other knee seems to have been injured in October 2020 but without health insurance, I've not had the pain addressed.

I had something nice to give the person checking me in -- an address. But I lacked a more important document -- an insurance card. That apparently was mailed to my address in Burlington, North Carolina, which I moved away from two years ago. I had no address when filling out forms upon new employment so my peripatetic lifestyle has added challenge upon challenge.

When I finally made it into work with the requisite Ibuprofen and gout meds, my colleagues asked why I hadn't just gone home.

I noted that with nothing to do there, no internet connection, no books, just a mattress and a chair, I merely would have laid down, occasionally letting out a bellow of pain until my new neighbors attempted to push me back in the water.

Have a beautiful weekend, my dear friends and readers.

Peace and decent meds upon you my brothers and sisters.



Monday, May 17, 2021

 Blogger pulled my Friday post because the "content violated our Malware and Viruses policy."

Apparently by using the word "virus" in my post in reference to COVID.

Virus. Virus. Virus.

I appealed  and by Saturday morning, the post was back up.

Virus. Virus. Virus.

Now I didn't get too upset, having spent most of my adult life in publishing. I knew I couldn't cry censorship because that's only an action government can take.

And Blogger, run by Google, as private entities can choose to run -- or disallow content -- as they see fit.

How so?

Virus. Virus. Virus.

Remember the first five words of the First Amendment are "Congress shall make no law..." Otherwise leaving businesses to operate as they wish.

I know that's controversial right now, with some companies cancelling accounts by politicians.

Virus. Virus. Virus.

But what would be worse is government forcing private companies to print something found objectionable. Imagine as the political pendulum sways how that eventually might affect both sides of our national debate.

Virus. Virus. Virus.

For some reason, I recall how my friend and I watched a "60 Minutes" episode in the early 1990s about how the National Security Administration was listening in on all phone calls in the U.S. with the capability to interfere on calls using words like "bomb," "attack" and "cottage cheese."

For many months thereafter, we would call each other on our office phones -- at desks 10 feet away from each other -- and just "bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb."

And then "cottage cheese."

Virus. Virus. Virus.

I don't know why I'm reminded of that story.

Anyway, common sense has returned to the world and all is fine within it.

Peace and no viruses, bombs or cottage cheese unto you my brothers and sisters.