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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.


Friday, May 14, 2021


 

I received a special shot today: a Johnson & Johnson & Fireball.

Now I'll continue taking precautions for two weeks and won't have to brush my teeth over the weekend as my breath is Cinnamon fresh.

Actually, I brought a 10-pack of Fireball minis to the Sawyer County Health Department. They've been giving out shots so they deserve some, too, I said.

When my kid was 7 years old, she asked why I did and said weird things to complete strangers.

"I don't have much money but I can give smiles, compliments and hugs and they're all free," I said. "And I can give them stories for free, too."

In our society, stories are like barter and people carry stories with them like precious stones. When they need to impress, or share a laugh, they pull out the stories as if to say,"Well, check this out."

My kid as adopted the philosophy and now plays it better than me. A couple years ago in Virginia, a day after Christmas when we filled up on gas at a Sheetz, the nice check-out lady said, "Did ya'll have a good Christmas?"

"She just got out of juvie," I said, pointing to my kid.

"I'm a firestarter," the kid said.

For just a second, the nice lady's eyes were as big as Virginia hams. Then she said, "Oh, you two are so full of poop."

Ten bucks says she tells that story.

Now there are 10 nurses in the Wisconsin northwoods who are going to tell the story of the man who came for a virus shot and handed out Fireball shots.

Happy weekend to those near and far.

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


Wednesday, May 12, 2021

I dream, I dream.

Last night I spent most of eight hours dreaming I was being laid off again.

Somehow I landed a job at a pretty big newspaper housed in a building about two football fields long, where I was assistant managing editor.

My colleagues were all good people but the executive editor came to me and said the publisher told him he needed four positions for impending layoffs. That's what happens. It's not people. Not salary. It's positions.

Anyone in a leadership position in newspapers has been through this over the past 20 years. 

As I followed him and others through the building, I lost my way numerous times. Instead of steps to the next floor, you had to grab a blue pole and climb up. Anyone who knows my girth knows that's not happening. Inevitably I was left to find my own way and when I made my way out of the building, I had no idea where I was.

That's not unusual for me.

But in the dream, I worked out at least three positions -- all of them labeled "non-content producers." But I couldn't find the fourth.

Until.

Then I realized I was the fourth. I wrote a column but that hardly constituted content these days.

I woke up at the end of the dream.

And then I'd have it again. It would go the same each time, about 10 times through the night.

Oddly, the night wasn't as bad as the night before where I had at least 12 repeated dreams, all of a performance of the old British singer Anthony Newley. It wasn't even really him so much as it was Rich Little doing an Anthony Newley impression. At least 12 times.

(Shudders.)

Later today, I talked with my boss on my phone and being I journalist, I bluntly told him about the dreams -- not the Anthony Newley/Rich Little dream. I don't want him to think I'm crazy.

"No one's getting laid off," he said. 

If I have dreams tonight, I shall report them tomorrow.

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

Monday, May 10, 2021

Two weird things happened Sunday.

I hobbled into a  restaurant when I realized my knees didn't hurt for the first time since about October. So I stopped limping.

Then I realized I was hungry in the morning -- something that's not happened since about last July, at a time when choking down a couple of McNuggets was the best I could for nutrition for an entire day.

What the hell was happening?

I continue to return to some sense of normalcy. Someone said I was coming out of hibernation.

It's not just me, though.

This last year has been a terrible year for so many, lives lost, businesses closed, virtually every facet of life upended. My terrible year was relatively quiet as it gave me time to write, contemplate and work at finding a new job. I had plenty of laughs with friends and no shortage of tap beer.

My readings in Buddhism helped me, noting that life is suffering but I can choose my reaction. If I can respond with an open mind and open heart, letting go of want, I can ride the waves coming at me rather than be drowned by them.

Just recently, a local business owner in his radio ad quoted Victor Frankl and his most-famous book "Man's Search for Meaning." I read the book in high school, on bus trips to away football games where I didn't play. Frankl survived stays in numerous concentration camps where, as a trained psychologist, he noted that those who survived were people who had found meaning in life -- even if it was to survive and revenge their Nazi captors. 

I thought about this Sunday while I inhaled a Denver omelette, some home fries and fresh fruit and I as read the Sunday New York Times Review of Books. In a negative review of a memoir where the writer lists her grievances and takes potshots at the dead, the reviewer notes a memoirist should draw and share lessons from difficulties.

I've shared lessons before but the review crystalized two ideas: Keep moving forward, even if the progress is an inch with each step; keep breathing, with eyes wide open at what's happening around you.

Heavy stuff for a Monday, huh?

Yep. I think my clarity is improving as well as I climb from my hole and see the larger world around me.

Or maybe that second Jack Daniels Manhattan is kicking in right now.

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


Friday, May 7, 2021

Stress, pressure, problems.

To quote Gen. George Patton, "God help me but I do love it so."

That I get to be a journalist again, in the Wisconsin Nort'woods, with great colleagues and wonderful support, I remain the luckiest man on the face of the Earth.

I've always told co-workers even if you love your job, the reason it's a job and someone has to pay you to do it is because no one would take on said tasks for free.

But after a slightly difficult week I am blessed to have a job at a newspaper in God's Country. If you don't believe the latter description, come visit. I have a second bedroom where you can flop. I'll show you natural beauty only seen in magazines -- or antique post cards. (Note to self: Work to revive post card industry.)

And now I sit here on a Friday night -- with a little work to do over the weekend -- enjoying a few drinks before I dig into Friday Night Fish Fry and a long night's sleep.

Pretty damn lucky.

Have a sunny weekend.

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


Monday, May 3, 2021

 On Saturday I celebrated another significant change in my life: After 11 months, I have health care insurance again.

I don't have the little card yet, promising hospital systems I am now one with them. All the paperwork has been sent to various old address.

But theoretically, if something bad happens, I'll only pay a high deductible -- and pain. Probably much pain. Fair amount of pain. And the accompanying cussing.

So I've been working on a list of all the things I have let go in the last 11 months:

-- I'm fat. I'm so fat the big fish at the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame asked what it was like to have Jonah in my stomach. So fat I treat a bucket of KFC like drinking a shot of Fireball. I'm am so fat, local boaters have told me they're glad I'm no longer blocking the Suez Canal.

Some friends have suggested I stuff a sock in my mouth and it would have the added side effect of shutting down my stupid jokes. But with some sauerkraut and hot mustard, I could eat me a sock.

I know I need to cut down on calories and increase (actually start) exercise. 

-- My knees hurt so bad I walk around town like a orangutan with rheumatoid arthritis. People in produce sections have offered to retrieve the bananas for me. Clinton Eastwood called me for a sequel to "Any Which Way You Can."

My left knee has been swollen since October and I suspect a torn meniscus. And let's be honest -- that's just a fun word to say. Last weekend, I ordered a meniscus and gravy for breakfast.

The right knee is just plain sore after several round of gout. I've sworn off most gout-inducing foods but there are remaining issues.

-- My back hurts more than watching "Look Who's Talking Now 2" -- Joe Biden's favorite movie. I sprained my back a couple of times in football and when I was 17, the doctor said, "Rich, your back is never going to be the same." I laughed. Nearly 40 years later he remains correct and it gets worse as I age and gain weight.

-- My, um, hose has, um, changed over the years in terms of water pressure and such. 

-- As a 55-year-old man I realize that I need to have doctors to explore my back door entrance. I know there's good anesthesia but I wonder how that mixes with Jack Daniels.

-- I have stopped growing hair where it's supposed to grow and started growing hair where it ain't supposed to. For instance, my pillow. And some SOB broke into my locked car and dropped short, white hairs all over the seats and then, without disturbing anything else, left and locked the car again. I've called Liam Neeson for help.

-- I traditionally have a build up of ear wax and need my yearly cleaning. I can't hear certain things, like Joe Buck calling a Packers game -- so there's a blessing. I've had this problem since I was a kid but now think I can turn it into a profit with ear wax candles on Etsy.

-- And don't ask about my sacroiliac.

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



Friday, April 30, 2021

Tomorrow marks one year since I finished my last day at the Bloomington Herald-Times and had to move out of the apartment where I stayed since moving there nine months earlier.

That's the day I became the homeless editor.

It didn't occur to me until late today because I'm busy -- I have a job and a place to stay once more.

I've been through some shit in my life, more than some, less than others, but this last year was my oddest -- and best.

Through my troubles -- a phrase I use to describe the year -- I've been more blessed than anytime in my life and, trust me, I have been blessed.

Working hard to be mindful, I've stored every memory of acts of decency and kindness and then tonight I read some of the early blog entries. I had forgotten two beers from my friend Greg. I failed to remember some extraordinarily good barbecue brought to my Motel 6 room by a stranger. I couldn't recall all the many times someone slipped me a gift card or a $20 or bought me a couple beers.

Some dude let me live in his cabin for five months for free. Thank you, dude.

I ate often from the chefs at the free Community Kitchen who offered restaurant meals free without a question but many smiles -- and sometimes candy treats.

As much as these acts helped me financially, they more positively buoyed my spirits in difficult times.

I was a 54- and then 55-year-old man looking for a job in the midst of a pandemic coupled with a recession.

And yet here I sit in Hayward, not farm from home, with wonderful colleagues, copious amounts of beer and bratwurst and -- get this -- a permanent address.

I learned so many lessons on how to conduct myself based on the kindness showered on me. I envision a book out of it, tentatively tilted "Lessons from my life when I was a piece of shit."

I'll tell you I dealt with trolls and skepticism and accusations I was simply trying to make people sorry for me.

Early on, I wrote that my daughter -- on reading the trolls from around the country after The New York Times wrote about me -- wanted to respond. I told her the first negative letter to the editor against me was printed almost 40 years ago in my high school newspaper.

One needs a thick hide.

But one also needs the mindfulness to be aware of the kindness, friendship and beauty around us.

The other day I watched as a bald eagle sat in a tree high above Lake Hayward and then dived down to catch an unsuspecting fish.

I'm in a good place, not just zip code, but mentally, spiritually and consciously.

Peace and thanks unto all of you my brothers and sisters for joining me on this long, strange mystery tour.


Wednesday, April 28, 2021

 


I take great pleasure in sharing space on our opinion page with two Wisconsin journalism icons.

For the record, I shall never achieve icon status. "I can't" status, yes. Icon status, no.

I first started seeing cartoonist Joe Heller's work in 1990 when I interned with the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram. In the pre-internet era, newspapers mailed copies to each other and I was amazed at a newspaper as small as the Green Bay Press-Gazette having such a great editorial cartoonist.

Since then, as I've moved around (just a bit) and I would hire Joe as a syndicated cartoonist and thus foisted his Wisconsin opinions in four other states. For the record, I've been looking at his cartoons for 30 years and I couldn't tell you his political leanings. That's a great cartoonist.

I didn't meet Dave Zweifel until about 1995 when I joined the state board of Associated Press Managing Editors and he became a mentor. Dave has fought tirelessly for decades for access to public records and meetings but along the way he became a friend.

At an APME meeting in 1999 in New Glarus, his birthplace, I made mention of the Wisconsin old-timer editors. "I think you're one of them now, Rich," he said. One of the greatest compliments of my lifetime.

I moved to Lansing, Michigan, the next year.

There has been good and bad to my travels as I look back.

But I'm so happy to be home and see that the old dogs have not given up on the good fight.

Peace and great journalism unto all of you my brothers and sisters.


Monday, April 26, 2021

 Winter in the Northwoods does not leave quietly.

She fights.

We've had snow four days in the last week, temperatures below zero and many frozen tears. And May is a week away.

In addition to the snow, we've had ice-cold rain and I'm pretty sure some frozen boogers from the sky. The other morning my driveway looked like a huge sheet of apple crisp.

Yeah, gross joke. We've had an outpouring of those as well and when I write "we" I should change it to "me."

You see winter in northern Wisconsin is the bully of the seasons. Spring is the happy, naive kid promising all is well with the world. Summer is the salesman, saying "this is what I told you about." Fall, is the wise elderly couple, basking in warm days and cools nights.

Then comes winter.

"Are you looking at me? I heard you was talkin' smack about me. You got somethin' to say? How about this? Ten inches a snow -- tomorrow. With wind. It's gonna start with some ice so you ain't going anywhere. Call me in two days and then tell me what you got on me." (Winter sounds like Al De Niro.)

Then when you're looking forward to May 1, May Day, the Wisconsin governor's fishing opener here in Hayward, winter is like, "What, did you call me? Did you talk to me? Do you think you can't involve me? Oh, we got a little problem here."

Right now the temperature for the fishing opening is expected to be in the 60s but my knees disagree. You see, I can once again forecast the weather with my most-aching joints and they are telling me, "There's a guy in the weather alley who says he knows you and he wants to talk to you."

Peace and warmth -- sometime soon -- unto you my brothers and sisters.


Friday, April 23, 2021

"What's wrong with my car?" I asked my new mechanic.

Everything, was his response in short.

As he listed the problems with my vehicle, a Subaru Impreza with 181,000 miles on it, I could see the movie-style montage in the background with the hour hand on a clock running in circles until it turned into dates and months being ripped from a calendar.

And I had no idea what he was talking about because my knowledge of automobile is strictly limited to "if car go, good; if car not go, bad." 

A bad water pump, leaking coolant from a coolant thing, the sway car (or bars) were bad, my lower ball joints needed replacement and then there were some rusty caterpillars. The latter turned out to be rusty calipers, which I found out when I repeated my list to a colleague. "Do you mean calipers?" he asked. "Well, yes, of course," I said. "That makes more sense," after which I retreated to my office to hide my ignorance.

At least until the next time I open my mouth.

I left the auto shop with a road-worthy vehicle that's half new minus $1,400 that was well worth it.

The car's movement is tight and responsive. And it no longer feels like my front end is going to fall off. I mean the car's front end. My front end fell off years ago.

Now I can visit the office of my other newspaper in Spooner. I can travel to Cable, starting point of the historic Birkebeiner cross country ski race. I'll spend some time out at Herman's Landing, the bar at a resort that has seen monster muskies for decades.

Of no little significance is friends and family in Chippewa Falls and Eau Claire. Plus the hot beef at the West Hill Bar, where I bartended 30 years ago.

It will be nice to get around. Even without a front end.

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

Monday, April 19, 2021



Just a day after finding out the kid was coming for a June visit, I had to check out local history.

The kid long ago became accustomed to stopping at every museum or historical marker on our drives around the eastern and northern states.

So Saturday, I went to the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame a few blocks from my house to scope it out and serve as docent in a couple of weeks.

Full transparency here: I am not a fisherman. I've tried dozens of times but never took to it. (Please note I did not say I didn't get hooked. Just please note.)

But I found it fascinating, with some commercial Lake Superior reels dating back 150 years. I loved the history of the Rapala lures, the ancient first motors made for trolling and the myriad of trophy fish adorning the walls.

I also saw the the Corona portable on which Cal Johnson wrote so many musky and other fishing stories. (I won't get into the Johnson-Spray-Lawson controversy over the biggest musky -- this time.) For those who don't know me, I used to collect antique typewriters and will stop on a dime to peak at them. Sadly, I even dream about them.

And yes, I walked up the steps inside the biggest fiberglass musky in the world, all 146 feet of it. Even though my knees winced at every step.

It served as quite a view of Hayward and as a reminder of what Jonah went through. This fish did not spit me out, although it clearly disliked the taste of Bengay I brought with me. I'm sure the fish sought out the world's biggest shot of Jaegermeister to get the taste out of its mouth and if Jaeger tastes better than me, well that's saying something.

If you visit Hayward, make sure to stop. The fishing world -- particularly muskies here -- is a world unto its own and worth learning about.

Peace and trophy fish unto all of you my brothers and sisters.


Friday, April 16, 2021

BREAKING: Kid is coming to visit in June.

As much as possible for and older man in Northern Wisconsin, I'm excited.

I love my kid more than bratwurst itself. Honestly, I never knew that feeling of love until I held that tiny human in my arms -- in one hand even. 

Over the past 20 years, she's grown into the best human being I know. For all of you who know me, I'm not given to hyperbole. When I worked at a newspaper in the south, my colleagues shared they were surprised by direct nature.

No, she's the shit.

I love my mother as well as the Green Bay Packers. If I must choose between the Lord and bratwurst, it depends on whether he's buying the bratwurst with appropriate amounts of sauerkraut and Silver Spring Beer and Brat Mustard.

See, there is a hierarchy.

Now as I begin to prepare for the kid's visit, I must temper myself and not overdo it. I will create a nice, safe nest for her, with the softest leaves for bedding. I will pre-chew food for her and freeze so it can be microwaved.

No -- wait -- that's a momma bird. At least one with a freezer and a microwave.

I used to over plan for visits earlier but I know now I don't have to. All we have to do is spend time with each other and it will be a celebration.

But I will have to make her my secret chili recipe -- she won't eat other chilis -- and copious mounts of my egg salad sandwich recipe. Once, we had the latter for lunch and she asked me for a tutorial on how to make it, which required making more sandwiches. She took her version to her bedroom on the Pennsylvania hillside apartment where we lived and watched television. In retrospect, she once confessed, "I thought I was going to puke."

We've never had a bad visit and I can't wait to show off the Wisconsin Northwoods to her and introduce her to all its people.

I love her so much.

Have a beautiful weekend, friends, and be happy for southern climes because it's going to snow Monday, April 19, when it will be 22 degrees here.

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


Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Today I tried to get credit for a couch and chair and was denied.

Later, I received my paycheck where I noticed the address was from North Carolina.

I remembered an expert early on in my reporting on homeless issues telling me re-entry into society is more difficult then becoming homeless.

And I'm one of the lucky ones.

My credit, already mediocre, took a battering while I was out of work for the better part of the last year. So when I went to a furniture store with a nice deal on a couch and matching chair, I warned the saleswoman that my credit was poor. It turned out so bad that each of the two credit agencies she tried turn me down in seconds.

I tried not to slink out of the store but I'm pretty sure I did slink. Or past-tense slunk. (I've always tried to hold my head high but it's pretty big -- lotta work. My head is so big that every time I lay down, I hear a radio announcer shout out, "Oh, the humanity." Too soon for a Hindenburg joke?)

Later, I received a copy of my check and noticed the old address. I recalled when I filled out my paperwork that I hadn't really had an address in a couple of years, other than that of the Bloomington Herald-Times. I suppose I failed to note the problem because I was so happy to have a steady paycheck.

Here I am with an education, a knowledge of systems and a 30-year career and yet I struggle.

Imagine what it's like for those who've battled homelessness for years, or the homeless who have struggled with substance abuse. (I have not -- unless you count tubed and processed meats. Then I have an issue.)

I remain a lucky man re-establishing myself into what some consider respectable society.

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


Monday, April 12, 2021

 "What's it feel like to get thrown in over your head?" someone asked me a couple weeks ago.

"Normal," I said.

This is my 12th newspaper and 12th city, making me a critter of change over 30 years.

So much so I often feel uncomfortable with comfort and anxious about a lack of anxiety.

Yet normalcy creeps in.

I've long said the average learning curve in a newsroom is at least one year. I've sometimes extended that to five years in top jobs in bigger operations.

After just two months, though, I find myself offering advice to seasoned professionals. I can help figure out the copy machine. Today, I tracked down our fax number. (Note: Who the hell faxes anything anymore?)

I know where to go for the least expensive gas, the best fresh produce, the most inclusive relish tray.

The streets and their turns are more familiar. Folks stop me in parking lots and thank me for taking the job and keeping the newspaper joint open and thriving.

I've spent the better part of a decade occasionally waking up and wondering where the hell I was. I still do that but given this will be my retirement city, I hope it happens less.

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


Wednesday, April 7, 2021

I know I'm starting to settle because I went shopping today for seeds.

It's been years since I've been able to have a garden, something that's always reminded me of permanency.

Certainly I'll put in tomato plants as my dad did yearly until he died in 1984.

I've had to ask when planting can begin because I've been gone so long from the Wisconsin Northwoods. Friends in the south -- get this: Memorial Day is the start of veggie planting here. When I lived in North Carolina, I used to say that strawberry season there last three weeks. Here, it's about an hour and a half.

I looked at seeds tonight for a variety of radishes. Yes, I have a radish problem. If anyone wants to make something of it, you know where I live.

I bought some traditional radish seeds, the little red, peppery variety that adorns relish trays in the area. But I also bought seeds for French breakfast radishes, which are neither French nor for breakfast. They are oblong and a little more mild than the regular radish but make me feel like a fancy pants. I also bought seeds for white icicle radishes, which I've never had.

One the radish crop comes to fruition, I plan to deal them out of area hotel rooms.

That's how I live.

I also plan to plant some herbs in pots that were left at the house, mostly basil, rosemary and chive -- a song I wrote for Simon and Garfunkel who then changed the lyrics.

If anyone else has ideas for easy growing veg in the beds around my house, please let me know.

Peace and seeds unto you my brothers and sisters.

Monday, April 5, 2021



 My new home city and I share something: We've both had to make a transition.

Hayward started in about 1878 when Eau Claire businessman Anthony Hayward made his way through snow and ice to look for a place to start a new lumber mill.

He found this area, with the Namekagon River and numerous lakes which could transport the lumber he wanted to cut.

For 40 years, hundreds of thousands of feet of lumber were cut from the region but then the mill he built burned down. And there was no reason to rebuild -- all the trees had been cut down.

So the region struggled for decades as there was little industry.

But an effort of local leaders saw a trickle of visitors coming from Chicago, Milwaukee, the Twin Cities to fish in the pristine water, especially for the largest prize -- the muskie. As a side note, among the most prominent visitors were mob guys from Chicago. Not only could they could escape the stench of Chicago summer before air-conditioning, they could unwind while fishing without cops looking for them and then have a decent steak at night.

It worked.

Hayward is now a destination spot for those who enjoy nature. Now it's not just big fish but hunting in the fall, cross country skiing, hiking, snowmobiles and ATVs. If you want to be outside, this is the place to be.

It is home to the  National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame and the famous six-story tall fiber glass muskie, which you can walk into and pretend you're Jonah.

Be careful, though, on whose side you take on the world's largest muskie. It's been known to cause bar fights. Louie Spray, Cal Johnson, Art Lawton. (Me? I'm a Spray guy with a 1949 catch that came in at 69 pounds, 11 ounces.)

Hayward is also home to the Lumberjack World Championship. I remember watching one of the early iterations on "Wide, Wide World of Sports" decades ago, proud my home state garnered the attention.

About 53 percent of the housing is second homes so in the summer, the local population will triple.

COVID even helped because city folks could work virtually and there's no better place to do that in a quiet city where social distancing is natural. In 2021, Sawyer County set a record for sales tax revenue -- exceeding the previous record by 10 percent.

The people are sincere, the food is wonderful and today -- with temperatures past 70 degrees -- I opened the windows in my office to catch the breeze.

Life is good.

Peace and a northwoods breeze unto all of you my brothers and sisters.


Friday, April 2, 2021

 I am making friends 

Don't laugh. It's true.

I'm developing regular haunts, places to eat, a few place places to drink. (Let's be honest, it's the Wisconsin Northwoods -- there are more than a few places to drink.)

At one restaurant, the server knows when I walk in at noon Wednesday that I'm having a bowl of the homemade chicken dumpling soup. It's the kind of dumpling soup where the dumplings are flat, my preference. One bowl, with a fistful of crackers, along with a drink, comes to $4.85. (Oh, the dollar goes a long way here, my friends.)

At one place, the bartender can see me coming through a window so she has a Jack Daniels Manhattan with extra bitters sitting at my favorite spot.

Clerks at a nearby grocery store recognize me as the sandwich, lemonade guy. That's my lunch right now before I get my cooking stuff here.

And some folks are comfortable enough with me to talk smack. At another bar, my Sunday afternoon stop, a regular noted my mask and said, "I see you're wearing a diaper on your face." Without hesitation, I said, "That's because I was talking shit about you."

Laughs all around as well as a customary -- and sometimes competitive -- round of drinks.

Let's face it. Home isn't just about an address.

It's about a friends and familiarity, help and support, listening and reacting. A litany of why humans need other humans.

Peace and friendship and a beautiful weekend unto you my brothers and sisters.


Thursday, April 1, 2021


 

The Hogwarts of aging has tracked me down.

AARP somehow found me after nearly a year of not having a real address.

In addition to the technical homelessness and not having an address, I've struggled with re-entry because of the United States Post Office. Not knowing it was a mistake, I had my mail redirected to my work address. Then I was laid off and asked to leave.

I tired to get a PO box but was told that I had to have an address to sign up for a PO box, which didn't sense to me. (A friend later noted I applied for a PO Box at the post office next to a homeless encampment in Bloomington. Maybe that was it.)

The upside? And I always look for one.

I didn't get a bill for nine months.

The downside?

 It turns out the USPS won't redirect mail from a business to a private home. It would cause too many problems, I was told. The nice post office lady told me that I needed to contact those who send me mail to alert them to the change. 

"Who?" I asked.

"Everybody," she said.

I've started to contact some of the magazine companies after re-subscribing and the Dollar Shave Club.

But I sure as hell didn't contact AARP, which has used an entire forest of paper products to recruit me since I turned 50 years old.

Perhaps I need to finally give in, much like Uncle Vernon in "Harry Potter."

Sitting in a pile AARP mails, sobbing, I'll scream out, "Aaaaaaarrrrrrrrrppppp!"

Monday, March 29, 2021

I must change my pacing.

Living in a city of about 2,500 at a weekly newspaper is significantly different than what I'm used to.

For instance, I have time to do personal things. But what?

I'll spend more time writing and when my stuff arrives from Indiana, I'll certainly cook more -- hell, a lot. I can't wait to have a grill again for the first time in years and have started a list of the critters I shall offer up to the flames.

Also, I will walk. There's a trail that nearly surrounds lake Hayward and in warmer weather -- which will hit in July -- in should be a lovely evening constitutional. Then maybe I'll do other than lifting items heavier than bratwurst. ("Heavier Than Bratwurst" is the new title of my autobiography.)

I will read, as I've started to get my beloved The New Yorker at my house now. I have books to finish and other books to begin.

I promise I will make strawberry freezer jam this year. I've missed that for years. That means I will make homemade bread, not in a machine but with my own gnarled fingers. 

Huh. Sounds like this thing called "a life."

I might have to subscribe to Martha Stewart Living to find out how it's done.

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


Friday, March 26, 2021

 After the layoff and as I struggled to find a place to stay, I drove through mid-level neighborhoods in Bloomington wondering where I had gone wrong.

That's a pathetic and embarrassing thing to admit.

The houses were modest, but there were two cars and nice lawns. Sometimes a peak into backyards would should a nice deck, outside furniture, grills. All of them a very, very nice house, with two cats in the yard. Life used to be so hard. Brought to you by the law firm Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.

I've never necessarily wanted a middle-class life but I sure as hell didn't want what I had.

All of this occurred to me this morning as I backed out of my two-car garage, in my two-bedroom home, on my way to work. I could see my new neighbors doing the same.

And it all seemed surreal.

Am I now normal? Now do I have to fight the respectability of normalcy, as I am wont to do?

What seems more likely is I'll buy a crock pot this weekend to start cooking for myself until I can move my stuff here. In the Nort'woods, crock pots -- called slow cookers now -- are like having a grandma cooking for you. Chop up stuff in the morning and when you get home at night, the house smells of schmaltz -- a Yiddish word that means both "rendered chicken fat" and "love."

Have a beautiful, normal weekend my friends.

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




Wednesday, March 24, 2021

I'm genuinely tired tonight.

I'm the Lily von Schtupp of newspaper editors. I'm pooped.

That's a good feeling.

We put out our newspaper Tuesday and that's a full, intense day. Today, I put out my first special section, one on impaired driving (we came out as against) and helped edit copy for a sister newspaper in Ashland. I dealt with newspaper delivery issues, helped a correspondent fill out an invoice and worked on a dozen other office issues.

But I like work.

The worst part of going to a new newspaper for me is feeling I've not contributed enough. I actually have anxiety about it. (I also have anxiety about not being anxious enough.)

I missed working for nine months and I'm going to wallow in my fatigue.

Tonight, as I write, I'll have a couple gin and tonics, some takeout food as I don't have my cooking equipment, and sleep fully and hard.

Life is good and oddly normal as I reacquaint myself with the working life.

Peace and deep sleep unto all of you my brothers and sisters.


Monday, March 22, 2021

I shared my relish tray with her.

That reminds me of one of my favorite lines from "Orange is the New Black," where one character shows her love for another by losing her favorite treat on behalf of another during a good fight. My daughter had to explain the T-shirt I saw the message on because I'd never seen the show.

So last week, I was having a Jack Daniels Manhattan at The Ranch in Hayward -- not to be confused with the old Ranch near Cornell -- when I noticed the elderly woman next to me.

She was at least a generation holder than her social group and on her second drink, looking at her watch as the others dawdled with their brandy old-fashions. I began to think the older lady was concerned about getting some food to go with her drinks, a Rob Roy -- a scotch Manhattan.

So I asked her to share my relish tray.

You have to understand I've missed the iconic Wisconsin appetizer for decades. At some places, the relish tray is a little fancy with pickled fish, meatballs, some sausage and cheese maybe. At The Ranch it's freshly cut carrots, celery and radishes, pickles, some pickled herring, cheese spread and an array of crunchy crackers and bread sticks.

At first she declined but I insisted, introducing myself. "Please," I said, spreading a wheat cracker with cheese, handing it to her.

She accepted demurely and introduced herself as Audrey. We clinked glasses and she dug in, her dinner companions talking about politics. I asked Audrey about her family and kids. Her husband had passed and kids spread around the world. I suggested she scoop a sesame seed bread stick into the semi-soft cheese spread.

Then I screwed up.

I ate a slice of radish.

"You must salt them," he said, taking a shaker and showing me how.

Of course. That was how I was raised. My dad used to prepare a bowl of ice water, salt it heavily and then cut washed radishes into them. Years later, I introduced my kid to the habit and it turned out the leftover water was a special treat for her Dachshund named Tosh.

Honestly. I should have known better. I took a slice of radish, salted it and the combination of salt and radish pepperiness tasted sublime.

When we parted ways as her group made their way into restaurant and I stayed at the bar, she held my arm and said, "You saved my life."

I asked for a hug and received a nice one.

That's the least I should get for sharing my relish tray.

Peace and salted radishes unto all of you my brothers and sisters.


Thursday, March 18, 2021


Bertha strikes again.

Regular readers of this blog might remember that Bertha sent me $27 a while ago along with a heart-warming letter filled with advice -- including getting a girlfriend.

Wednesday, I received a call from Laura Berlage who writes a wonderful column for The Sawyer County Record about life on the their family farm.

Laura and I hadn't talked yet so there some introductory salutations and then Laura told me a story.

She and her husband had received a letter from Bertha in Bloomington that included a letter -- and $27.

"Praise the Lord for your column in the Sawyer Record," she wrote to Laura. "A delightful chap from Bloomington - IN - is the new editor of the Record."

Bertha goes on to write some things about me. Then she gets to the money.

"Mr. Jackson is a wonderful gentleman. He does like to eat. The enclosed token is a gift toward a meal at your establishment."

Then today, Laura's parents delivered two different kinds of lettuce, some cheese, homemade bread and homemade applesauce.

I can't wait to dig in.

In a separate letter to me -- which included another $27 -- she wrote further: "Please know I am proud of you and have high expectations for your future. This position has potential you cannot now realize.

"You are wrong on one count. I am absolutely serious about your acquiring appropriate female companionship! Don't think about it and it will happen."

I told the story to everyone in the office today and one correspondent was almost brought to tears.

"It restores your faith in humanity," she said. 

Indeed.

For any struggles during this nearly year-long journey, the blessings have outweighed them by multiple scores.

Bertha isn't just one of the blessings. She is one of the greatest. A complete stranger in an assisted living facility taking the time to do what she's done is a sign of the beauty of human beings.

If only we could all emulate her.

Peace and more Berthas unto you my brothers and sisters.


Monday, March 15, 2021

Today I received a small piece of paper with a number on it and my name and the phrase "Payable to."

A paycheck.

I'm obviously used to it, being old and all. I remember my first day working at McDonald's in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. I looked up at the clock after three hours of work and thought, "Wow. I've already made $10." My wage there in 1984 was $3.40 and hour and then during my first internship at the Chippewa Falls Herald-Telegram in 1989 I made $3.35 an hour." 

I don't complain because so many newspapers no longer have paid internships.

But more important to me is that I'm back in the game. I'm working. Hard. I face challenges I've missed in the last year and there's nothing better than fixing a problem.

Oh, one thing better: turning an angry person into a happy person.

For the long layoff period, I ended the day exhausted just from being exhausted.

Last Friday, I was tired because of a busy and productive week. That feels good. I like work.

Peace and fulfilling labor unto all of you my brothers and sisters.


Saturday, March 13, 2021







 Somewhere during life, I read something to the effect the Dalai Lama said, "A place is what you make it."

I can't find that exact quote 20 years later and so even if it's not historically accurate, it's true.

Thus, here are photos of my new rented home, my permanent address for what I hope is a long time.

It's spartan. Not MSU Spartan but bare. 

That's OK with me as over the last couple of years I've learned what little I need to live.

The mattress on the floor with a pillow and thin comforter might not look like high living.

But here's the thing: It's mine.

Peace and ownership unto you my brothers and sisters.


Friday, March 12, 2021

 Saturday, tomorrow, is the big move.

That's where I pack up my tired-out suitcase and move into my rented house.

Then I'll go to Walmart where I'll buy a cheap mattress, a pillow and a comforter and that will have to suffice as a bed until I can move my stuff here. As Fat Clemenza noted, sometimes you gotta go to the mattresses. I'll also buy a cheap lawn chair so I have a place to sit.

Slowly I turn, step by step.

That's two awesome movie references in a row for those counting.

I'll take photos through the weekend and post them to show you my cute little abode and my mattress on the floor.

I don't have my cooking equipment yet so my food preparation will remain limited. Thankfully, I'm a damn-near chef when it comes to frozen pizza. I do have a little saute pan and a two-quart pot so I see a fair amount of pasta and omelettes as well.

As someone who has moved too much, I already know the shopping list of a new place. First and foremost is a shower curtain and rings to hold it. Then a towel. Soap and shampoo (the latter of which will now last me a millennia). A garbage pail and bags. Plastic silverware and paper plates. Plastic cups. Gin. Tonic. A bag of ice. Those little tiny bottles of wine, enough for one glass. Pizza cutter. Eggs. Salt and Pepper, not the rap group but the spices, not the girls but the real spices.

I'm sorry for the lapse in blogging but the post I wrote earlier in the week disappeared from my computer and blah, blah, blah excuses. Life is intervening more now as I have one. There were times in the past year where the one blog post each day was all I had.

That's changed.

And while I'll be home alone now at least there's a home.

Peace and a third movie reference unto all of you my brothers and sisters.


Monday, March 8, 2021

Personal snail mail at my new home warmed my heart this last weekend.

(As a quick side note, when my heart is warmed, people nearby can smell bacon cooking.)

I stopped at the house, still empty of stuff, to pick up mail and drop off some boxes that have been in my back seat for a year and I found an envelope addressed to "Rich Jackson -- editor."

Uh, oh, I thought. Someone has already tracked me down.

But when I opened the letter, money fell out.

Bertha (I'm withholding her last name to protect her privacy) said she tried to send a gift certificate from Lynn's Custom Meats & Catering here in Hayward after I linked to it on this blog. But because of a kerfuffle with the U.S. Post Office, it was sent back.

So she sent me some money to buy tubular and processed meats. 

She also offered some ideas for the upcoming move that I find so painful and stressful.

The best was yet to come: " ... Looming ahead, it might be well to find female companionship to do your mowing and snow shoveling," she wrote. 

Tongue firmly in cheek, I imagine, Bertha writing with a grin.

Then I counted the money which came in the form of a $20 bill, a $5 bill and the-rare-but-still-in-circulation $2 bill.

I don't understand the significance of such an amount but I assure you: I'm going to frame and hang the $2 bill in my home office as a reminder of the kindness of strangers.

Thank you, Bertha. You made my week.

Peace and $27 unto all of you my brothers and sisters.

(P.S.: Bertha wrote, "Keep the Faith and Pray for my arthritis. Please join me, friends.")

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Transitions remain.

Buddha's most significant story is that suffering in life is constant and we cannot change that. What we can act on is our reaction to suffering. That comes from want and if we can let go of want, we can lose suffering.

My response is one of the son of the Wisconsin Nort'woods: What if I just want a beer?

Several of my transitions include changing banks and other businesses who, inevitably, request a previous address. I don't like the word "homeless" at this point because the blog likely did me more harm than good. One interviewer more or less asked, "How could you let this happen to you?"

I've tried responding, "Well, I'm in between addresses."

That brings a blank stare.

I have been trying to buy a mattress and bed -- that's another long story -- and the salesperson always asks, "What kind of mattress are you using?"

Um, not mine.

Some friends. some motels, wherever I can lay my huge misshapen head so the mattress doesn't matter so much.

An expert warned me early on that the toughest part of being homeless, even my homeless light, is working out of it because people don't like the stigma.

I will work my way out of this.

Then I will settle in and read and write about big muskies and lumberjacks.

And be forever grateful for this chance so late in my career.

Have a beautiful long weekend, as temperatures here in the Nort'woods are shooting to 50 degrees.

Peace and fortitude unto you my brothers and sisters.


Wednesday, March 3, 2021

 I don't have anything to write about tonight.

Which reminds me of a joke.

The parents of a baby aren't terribly concerned when he hasn't spoken by his first birthday. But by the time he's 2 years old, they're worried and take him to an array of doctors. All assure the worried parents he has the capability to speak physically and mentally. Just wait, they said. No speaking by age three. They buy him nice toys and books. Still, no speaking by age 4. The parents return to the doctor. He's fine they say. They've done all the tests. Same at age five. It repeats at age six. Over this time they give him the best toys and food. The parents begin to think that's just the boy's life. Finally at age seven, he looks at his parents during lunch and says, "The soup is cold." They are stunned. "You've been able to talk this entire time? And you didn't?" The boy says, "Up until now everything was fine."

Everything was fine today.

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


Tuesday, March 2, 2021

 I dream. I dream.

Three nights ago I dreamt I was hiking on a narrow path around the rim of Irvine Park in my hometown. It doesn't exist in real life. I had to have a walking stick because I had trouble moving my legs, stumbling often, maintaining balance only because of my makeshift cane.

The walkway became higher and higher but I told myself the need to keep on my journey. At some point, a dog, a very cute little dog, rushed out of a cave and nearly knocked me over the precipice. I fell backward, back on to the path and grabbed the doggy so he would be safe. Then I stood up and continued on until I could see my goal: the exit of the path.

There the dream ends.

That's an easy read. My trip has been long and filled with trials that scared me to death. And oh, I have stumbled. But I kept going.

The next night, I dreamt I had a new job as communications at a huge university. The chancellor met with me and said my job was to distill his intellectual messages into something simple, that provided the university with talking points and a marketing strategy. I nodded "yes" and he patted me on my leg.

He introduced me to his team, which included a graphic artist I worked with 15 years ago. They asked questions, I answered them. The artist walked me to the door of the building where we met and I asked, "What have you told them about me?" He said, "That you're really smart." Oh crap, I thought.

I didn't know where I was. I couldn't remember anyone's name. I didn't know the name of the university. And I couldn't find my car.

I had no idea what I was doing or where I was.

On my search for my car, a brick wall impeded me as I tried to climb over it. Someone reached out and grabbed my arm to help but I continued to slip off. "Pull harder," I asked.

Here the second dream ended.

Another easy read. I don't know what I'm doing -- yet. I'll figure it out. I just need some help.

My readings could be wrong. Freud would say I miss my mother's nipple. But that dude had an oral obsession of epics proportions.

I understand where I've been and where I'm going. The dreams serve to remind me.

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


Monday, March 1, 2021


 15589 Winter Drive, Hayward, Wisconsin, 54843

This spacious, two-bedroom home with a deck and two-car garage is my new home.

The Homeless Editor is no more, at least technically. I'm working on arranging a drive down to Bloomington in a U-Haul truck, packing up my stuff -- in storage for nearly two years -- and moving into my rental home.

I turned the key in the front lock this evening, the smells of new carpet and fresh paint greeting me. I might get a car odor refresher with that smell.

I could see where I'm going to put my kitchen table, the bookshelves, the TV -- even though I don't watch it much any more -- the beds. I'll need to get a second bed for the guest room and make that welcoming for the many visitors I expect -- no demand. Family, friends, random passersby -- all are welcome.

Soon the kitchen shall smell of sauerkraut and the backyard of the many bratwursts made locally.

I see myself, settled deep in a plush chair (or settled plush in a deep chair), buried in a book with Alexa playing Eric Satie -- great reading music, by the way.

The idea of driving 1,300 miles in a U-Haul stresses me but I understand that sometimes at the end of a long trip comes the hardest work.

I'll alert you as I finish these couple of weeks until I can lay my huge, misshapen head into a pillow of my own.

And I'm looking for suggestions for a new blog title. My current favorite is "The Northwoods Editor."

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

Thursday, February 25, 2021

 I saw the saddest GIF today: Kevin, a character on "The Office," spilled a vat of his world-famous chili.

Kevin is already a sad-sack character and the writers and actor played off that characterization for surprises. But Kevin is treated by fellow characters as lesser-than. That always kind of broke my heart.

So when he spilled his chili, a recipe he spent his life on, and ends up wallowing in the mess, it made me so sad.

Because all of the difficulties over the last year have not produced such a moment for me. I've had difficult times yet I've not been personally debased.

Part of that has been holding my head high, making the best decisions offered to me and -- the first rule of being a doctor -- not doing harm.

I have not been debased as was Kevin.

Is that too much empathy? Yes, absolutely. But as I've discussed with my kid, I'd rather have more empathy than less.

On Monday, I will have an address although I have to travel to Indiana to get my stuff -- mostly books and cooking equipment. I won't stay in the house until I have a bed there as I'm too old and fat to sleep in a sleeping bag on the floor. Watching me trying to stand up out of that would make a money-making YouTube video.

Once I'm set up in the new place, which includes a guest room, I expect visitors. Godamnit. Come see the beauty of the Wisconsin Nort'woods and have some beer with me, all of you beautiful people.

Or have a beer this weekend and wave it northwards.

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


Wednesday, February 24, 2021

So I signed a lease today.

I'll share the address Monday when it becomes legal.

But now I wonder about mowing the lawn, shoveling the driveway, where to put the grill -- oh yeah, I have to have a grill for a series of sausages (my new autobiography title).

Such are the anxieties of an address.

The stress I've lived through in the past 10 months, ameliorated by the blessings of friends and strangers, is I just didn't know that the hell was going to happen next.

I've long called it the anxiety of the unknown. 

Worse, I've had this problem over the last 10 months of massive self-judgment.

I drove by nice homes, well-kept, two cars in the driveway, two cats in the yard, life used to be so hard, and wonder -- how did I fail?

This despite my favorite advice from the Buddhist nun Pema Chodron, "Love others, start with yourself."

And, oh, how I have failed. You don't have time to read that blog entry. It likely goes back to my toddler days, according to my mom, when I would stick my finger in a socket. Mom would say I should learn my lesson. I would say, "It's OK mom. That thing won't do that to me again."

There's a fine line between optimism and stupidity.

I promise I won't blow this new start. Or stick my finger in a socket.

And I promise I'll alert all of you, my dear readers, to the new start and the changes.

Peace and no electrical outlets unto you my brothers and sisters.


Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Tomorrow I sign a lease.

In eight days I have an address.

Within a month, I'll move my junk here and it's mostly junk. Too many books. Cooking equipment. Three manual typewriters (that's down from 35 -- when I had a problem). One electric typewriter. A couple hundred pens that are likely dried out by now.

I'll have a home.

This is not to suggest pity. I understand how lucky I've been with friends who have helped out in many ways, from places to stay, to money, to gift cards, to Indiana unemployment to buying me spare beers. I've been blessed.

In the following days, I'll ideally share the stories of Hayward, Wisconsin, and detail plans of the move. 

Part of the transition will include me traveling back to Bloomington, Indiana, to pick up my stuff -- the books and typewriters and cooking stuff and all.

I hope I can meet up with folks for some beer and stories and -- certainly for me -- some tears.

One of the blessings is I've found a house with a guest room so I can open up my place for all my reprobate friends. We'll share some beer and some food and, undoubtedly, funny stories.

By the way, given my recent luck, I did buy some lottery tickets. I'm not superstitious but what the hell.

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


Monday, February 22, 2021

Ten months, 180 blog posts, 150,000 pages views.

Songs came to my head today.

What a long strange trip it's been.

Magical misery tour (which is a parody song by National Lampoon of The Beatles -- as well as the alternative title one of my journalism professors gave to a feature story about my friend Pete and I hitting all the dive bars in Eau Claire).

Don't get me wrong, I'm not leaving you, dear and faithful readers. These moments allow for retrospection.

And it's not done yet. I have much learning to do on my job. The community must be studied. Negotiations for an address -- an actual address -- must be finished. Then I have to find a way to get my stuff here under the cheapest possible circumstances.

I cannot, however, use a negative song for this 10-month trip. I have learned so much.

Just when you think your job is good and the money will continue, it won't. We live in a brittle economy and one bump can make you fall off your horse.

And when you don't know what the hell you're going to do next, friends and absolute strangers will reach out to you. Before this trip, I struggled with asking for help. Since then I've learned how to do that but I've also found friends, strangers and even folks across the country will reach out.

There have been struggles I have not written about -- because I was embarrassed. Sleepless nights married to sleeping a week. A loss of appetite that still struggles. My hairline. And I'm still embarrassed. Give me some time to explain later on.

But the biggest lessons I've learned are 1.) keep breathing, although the breath might be shallow; and 2.) keep moving forward, even if the steps are small.

I've often written I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth, stealing that from Lou Gehrig. 

Saturday, after going into work for a while, I had little to do so I drove to the Lac Courte Oreilles casino, even though I don't like gambling and stuck 20 bucks into a poker machine, the kind Jim Herman taught me how to use.

Within five minutes, I hit four aces and won $250 bucks.

The philosopher Prince once said, "'Cause my momma didn't raise no fools." Rather than continue playing, I cashed out and drove to my current hotel room.

Given recent luck, I think I should get some lottery tickets. Please advise.

Peace and prosperity unto you my brother and sisters -- particularly when the road is long.


Thursday, February 18, 2021

"Slowly I turned, step by step, inch by inch ..."

These are not the words of some great philosopher outlining a transition but part of an old vaudeville sketch performed by damned near every comedic troupe in the early parts of last century. My favorite version being the "Susquehanna Hat Company." See: Slowly I Turned - Wikipedia

But it's my life right now as I transition from troubles to stability.

I have found I need to keep the word "homeless" out of many conversations -- as I was warned by homeless experts early on -- because the word carries with it heavy judgment.

I never spent time on the streets. I didn't have a cardboard sign on street corners. I don't have addiction issues, unless beer at The Tap is a problem. (OK, I have a slight problem with bratwurst.)

In these times, though, we live in a brittle economy where many people could be without an address in a day -- as was and is my condition.

I'm nearly out of it with the help of family and friends, meager government support and just goddamned luck.

And I certainly made it through this magical misery tour with the help support of you, dear readers.

I work Friday but I'm going to have a three-day weekend from the blog.

Peace and warmer temperatures unto you my brothers and sisters.


Wednesday, February 17, 2021

It's official today.

My new job is editor and general manager of the Sawyer County Record in Hayward, Wisconsin, and general manager of the Spooner Advocate.

I'm being paid almost as much as I made in Bloomington, Indiana, where I had a fancy title and oversight of editorial operations at 10 newspapers.

Better yet, I'm home.

Every bar I walk into, Leinenkugel's is served. People know Packers trivia. The residents are kind and helpful and welcoming.

I've had some car troubles and housing issues and newbie problems and everywhere I turn, there's someone to help. And not just aid but with a basic common humanity and decency with which I grew up. It's not as though I've not seen this in other cities but here that kind of behavior is to be expected rather than a pleasant surprise.

Do I have a bias to the Nort'woods? Yes. Absolutely.

I am home.

And I am staying.

Peace unto all of you my brothers and sisters.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

I'm on the cusp of something I haven't had in a while.

Now my caustic friends would suggest that would be the ability to see my toes while standing straight up. To them, I respond "go to hell."

What awaits me is a permanent address.

By sheer luck, I stumbled into viewing a two-bedroom house in a quiet neighborhood about two blocks from my newspaper. It's clean, it has more amenities than I'm used to. And it has a little deck and big back yard which would allow me, in more amenable temperatures to grill a slew of entubed meats. 

There will be enough available as I bought lunch for staffers at Lynn's Custom Meats and Catering today, where I found the emporium of sausage (my new autobiography title). Lynn's Custom Meats & Catering | Hayward, WI

Readers must understand the market for renting here is virtually impossible. Acquiring, I've been told, "nothing's open," "rentals spend three minutes on the market," and "you're shit out of luck."

I won't go into the details of how this happened, only to say that when daylight appears, one must rush toward it.

Some paperwork awaits me, some check signing, some moving -- but I'm close to having an address and a home again.

I'll alert you as the process continues and then when the weather turns, probably around July, I'll invite any and all to a party of the entubed (OK, now that's my new autobiography title).

Peace and a home unto you my brothers and sisters.


Monday, February 15, 2021

Forty below this morning.

Below what you ask? It doesn't matter at this point.

My driver-side front tire was as flat as Iowa. (Have you ever been? Despite the lack of hills, you can tell you're coming up on a pig farm miles before by the smell.)

But it was, to again paraphrase the philosopher Ice Cube, an appropriate quote at this time, a good day.

I made significant inroads in learning my new job. I proofed a fantastic special section my new colleagues put together as a preview of the American Birkebeiner -- the largest cross-country ski race in North America. They did a spectacular job and it felt good to help. I reached out to regional state senators to fend off their efforts to pull legal notices from newspapers -- what seems a now national effort.

And, here's the kicker, I have a shot at getting something I haven't had in some time: an address.

I get to look at the property Tuesday, in a region that is growing and where people have told me rental properties last on the market "three minutes."

A colleague helped me blow up the tire although we waited until it warmed up to 4 degrees. He also bought me a sandwich because I was immobile at work that was turkey cranberry on cranberry bread. 

You know me and cranberries.

Forty below. Flat tire. Joints making noises like the breakfast cereal "Snap, Crackle, Pop."

Ending the day writing a column and another missive on this blog.

Enjoying a Jack Daniels Manhattan with just enough bitters.

Yeah, I'll sleep well this evening and look forward to Tuesday when the temperature is going to hit 12 degrees ABOVE zero. I might even lay out in the sun for a while.

Peace and sunshine unto you my brothers and sisters.