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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.

Friday, February 12, 2021


Sure, I’m near friends and family after 20 years astray.

I’m home in Wisconsin.

But, let’s face it, the real reason for returning was Friday night fish fry.

That’s what I enjoyed tonight, kind of a communion for Wisconsinites.

Yes, other places have their fish and chips, or fried fish or something fancy such as Filet-O-Fish.

The special nature of the Friday night fish is as much about the tradition as it is the food.

First you sit down and order a brandy old-fashioned and when the server brings the drinks, she brings the beloved relish tray. It’s been a long week so don’t slug the drink. Relax. Take your time. Maybe have a second drink.

When it comes time to order, you’ll get the choice of fish – I did the haddock tonight – which can include walleye here in the Northwoods. And a myriad choice of potatoes, which will include fries, baked potato, twice baked, hash browns, potatoes au gratin, potatoes au gratin with cheese (not a typo) and lyonnaise potatoes.

I’ve probably forgotten some choices because just writing that list has given me carbo-induced dementia.

Have a glass of wine or beer with dinner. Or, what the yell, another old-fashioned.

I failed to mention that in many restaurants it’s all you can eat – which ends up being like a contest.

Finally, as you're stuffed, happy, a little sleepy, have a Golden Cadillac or Grasshopper. Those are drinks with ice cream and liquor. Because we do that in Wisconsin.

That’s Friday night mass in Wisconsin.

Have a beautiful, safe and warm weekend.

Peace and tartar sauce unto all of you my brothers and sisters.


Thursday, February 11, 2021

 This morning greeted me with a temperature of minus-27 degrees.

That's the kind of cold that smacks you in the face and calls you a name. Challenges you to stand up again to be belted one more time.

It's cold enough that when you sit in your car seat, the butt doesn't settle because it's frozen. Then my car wouldn't start. As I turned the key, all I could hear was an odd noise. "Scru u u u u u u you u u u u u u."

So I called work on my second day to get a ride in, all of 1.1 miles from my hotel to the newspaper office and worked on getting someone to give me a jump. (To others outside of northern climates, that's not an obscenity. It's where one person hooks up cables from one vehicle to another to give the disabled car a little electrical goose, as it were.)

Jumper cables are the umbilical cord of the Nort'woods. They sustain fragile life.

On the ride in, I saw some construction workers driving nails with frozen bananas, like that winter battery commercial of 30 years ago.

Talk at work concerned who had the lowest reading on outdoor thermometers. The winner came at minus-30 degrees.

My car wouldn't start, I said.

My eyeball cracked, said someone else.

Two fingers froze solid and fell off, said another.

Of course no one said anything like that -- except for me.

These are a hearty people and I need to return to their ethos. One does not complain, even if an eyeball is cracked or fingers fall off. You see someone with such conditions, you say, "How you doing?" They say, "Good -- and you?"

It's 30-below-zero and life goes on. You go to work. Attend to your duties. Maybe go out for a beer -- when having a 35-degree bottle of beer is akin to having a hot-buttered rum. It's 60 degrees warmer than the temperature outside.

I put gasoline in my car after work -- along with an ISO-HEET to keep the gas from freezing, and yes gas freezes -- and it took 30 minutes and one Manhattan for me to stop shaking.

Yet I'm blessed. I'm working in a business I love in a place I love.

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

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

 Seeking: One person of any age to teach older editor how to have a life.

Applicant must be patient and ability to repeat the same phrase over and over again: Go home.

Also, some minor hygiene advice appreciated. (Mr, Jackson, sauerkraut is not an aftershave.)

Apply within.

I left work at 5:10 p.m. today and sure it was my first day so it's hard to have an extensive to-do list. Yet I had a mild panic attack. What am I going to do tonight? How will I fill my time?

Sure, I could blog a little bit. That's about six minutes, apparent in the many typos I leave. I could eat but even with chewing everything thoroughly, that's about a half hour. I could read or write, my two passions, which is probably what I'm going to do.

But I think this leaving work is going to become a pattern and I must do something about it. First, it will be exercising and becoming more healthy. I'll have to find a gym for winters because ain't nothin' healthy about taking a walk at minus 20-degrees. (Side note to new life coach: Encourage me to buy gloves. I haven't had to have them in five years.) In the summer, though, opportunities abound in this beautiful area. Walking, hiking, running from bears. (Damn you, Brian Urlacher -- why must you pursue me?)

I'm going to immerse myself in local history. I'll volunteer. Certainly I will become an advocate homeless issues.

Then sometimes, when the sun is setting, I'm going to drink a decent Wisconsin beer (as though any could be indecent), watch the sun set over the pinery and do not a damn thing at all.

I still can't announce the job or the place yet and now I'm searching for something I haven't had in a while -- a permanent address.

I will continue to alert you, dear readers, as I finish these final steps.

Peace and thanks unto you my brothers and sisters.

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

 I now sit in my new home where the temperature is 0 degrees.

That is to say, there are no degrees. We are bereft of degrees. There are no degrees to be had.

Yet I feel safe and warm because it's home to me. I'm back in the Wisconsin Northwoods. I can't publicly announce it until the newspaper does Thursday but no need to hold your breath. Because you'll freeze to death.

The two-day trip was fraught as driving for twelve hours and three states during February invites fraughtness -- if I can make that a word.

I spent much time driving through snow in central Illinois. It was like driving through the whiteness of Miracle Whip.

When there weren't trees or farms on the horizon, the white fields met the white sky seamlessly. When I glanced down at my speed and temperature, I couldn't see them -- blinded by the whiteness of the drive.

I overnighted in Madison, where I enjoyed a couple of Spotted Cow beers, a joy you cannot share outside Wisconsin.

And then I woke up to temperatures of 2 degrees. I looked out the window of my hotel and could actually see the little degrees, running around, blind as they are, often smashing into each other and falling down into the snow giggling. Low degrees aren't so sharp.

I made it all the way to Eau Claire when my car started to shake like a paint mixer. I stopped at Birch Street Auto, where I begged help that I was on the road to my first job in nine months. The owner took me in immediately and found I had busted a couple of lugnuts off my right front tire. They fixed it immediately, with the owner saying it was the easiest job of the day, and I made it to my new home in less than two hours.

Tomorrow, Wednesday, I will work for money I've earned.

That's a big deal to me. Bless unemployment pay but I like to earn my keep. Unemployment kept me well for these last nine months but I will be happy and proud to work again.

I will alert you as I go.

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

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Despite having lived in 11 cities, I've become worse at saying goodbye -- not better.

I've been blessed in every stay. Somehow I find folks who are willing to put up with my sense of humor, my lack of sartorial astuteness and my general personality.

As I've intimated the end is nigh in Bloomington, friends approach me and say goodbye. There are fewer hugs because of COVID yet the departure is more sincere. Much sobbing, though, on my end.

I think my inability at saying goodbye is rooted in aging and some (a little bit) emotional maturity.

Most of us, maybe just some of us, had plans to be great, which inevitably included a good-paying job, nice car, a beautiful house.

Then when you get older, particularly as that dream evades us, we understand it's family and friends who are the great gifts.

So now I get to move closer to family and friends and stay a journalist, a position I believe predestined for me. I'm pretty sure at age five, I told my mother her comments were on the record.

The official announcement of my move won't be until next Thursdays but I will tell you, faithful readers, I am happy and at peace.

I get on the road Monday to make my transition and will report from the road that night. Have a beautiful weekend.

So I wish unto you my brothers and sisters peace and joy.

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

I made a mistake yesterday.

I input my information into an online page looking for movers to get me to Wisconsin.

Now I've been inundated for 30 hours with some of the most questionable callers I've dealt with since being a newspaper editor.

Just how many people named "Spider" can be a customer service representative?

"Hello, Richard, dis here is Spider. I wanna talk to youse about moving your stuff -- I mean your stuff for now."

"Well," I said, "I don't have anything worth value. I mean unless you want a torn copy of 'Thou and I' by Martin Buber."

(Off the phone: "Marty, bubalah -- I got this guy here who is talking smack about 'Me and Youse.'")

(Buber takes the phone.) Buber: "Schweinehund!" (Literally from the German "pig dog.")

I've been called worse.

The calls during the day didn't get any better. One of the tactics was for some companies to transfer me to one customer service representative to another, a strategy I know well. I've seen some 15,000 police reports and civil lawsuits. The scam is to confuse the mark (me, the caller) and when it comes time to pay the bill, which has doubled or tripled, is for the company to say, "Well, who offered you that?" The customer says, "I don't know -- some guy named Timmy." The response, "Well, there's no Timmy here and if you failed to get something in writing, we can't stand by it."

Another guy -- it was all guys I talked to today -- said because of the opening of the country and the burgeoning of the economy, many people were waiting seven months to move.

In the con game, grifting, this is what is called "the squeeze." The grifter makes up a story and then the mark, me, asks if I can pay extra to move.

What most of these folks don't know is that I have little to lose.

I've spent two years living out of a suit case and realize I need so very little. In my last move, the company failed to take my storage unit and so I lost the only things valuable to me: mementos of my father, drawings from my kid until she was 10 years old and my own juvenilia. 

And whether I have my stuff or not, I'll soon be back in the Wisconsin Nort'woods, sipping a Leinenkugel's.

Peace and a Summer Shandy upon all of you my brothers and sisters.

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

So much to do today I actually had to create a to-do list.

I finished about 40 percent of it working steadily through the day. (By the way does anyone have any suggestions about hiring a moving company that won't 1. Charge by the pounds of flesh and 2. Not hold my stuff hostage when I get there?)

It's much more than my daily schedule for the last nine months.

Sure I spent time in the morning applying for jobs and then mope for a while. I'd have a couple of chicken McNuggets for lunch, not because I was poor but I had no appetite and food gagged me. Yes, food gagged the fat man. (Great HBO movie title.) Have I ever asked the question here about the Burger King deal that offers 10 nuggets for $1 without ever noting what animal produces said nuggets? I think it's pigeon.

Then I would spend some time moping. And sure I moped in the morning some days. And then later in the afternoon, I moped. Sometimes I moped in the late night after blogging. But I never moped at dusk -- never at dusk. That's a variant of a class Steve Martin routine for those asking.

Busy feels good. Certainly I spent much time these nine months writing -- sheer junk that no one will ever see except I did send the first act of "Rasputina" to my kid.

But this busy accomplishes something. I'm taking steps to move forward whereas much of this time has been me with my blinkers on, stuck in the snow somewhere because Indiana apparently only has enough money for two snowplows during a winter storm.

I'm tired tonight and not for excessive non-dusk moping.

Not all the day was great. Seriously, moving companies, do something about yourselves.

Remember, though, that the Buddha said life is nothing but a series of unhappy stories mixed with real misery. We can't change that. We can change how we react. The Buddha, he ain't never moped.

I might occasionally mope just for old times sake. I might miss that scent of desperation that smells vaguely like Drakkar Noir.

But right now, I have life to live. I'm moving forward for the first time in a long time.

Peace and identifiable nuggets on to you, my brothers and sisters.

Monday, February 1, 2021

 So the moving transition begins -- all unpleasantness until I can get into my new nest.

I only cried five or so times today, not tears of pain but tears of goodbye. Yet again, I say goodbye to some of the best people I've ever met.

Pass me a beer.

And I work on finding movers and mechanics and new places to stay, tasks that make me look forward to dental work from Steve Martin in "Little Shop of Horrors."

There's the old cliche that nothing worth doing is easy.

Well that doesn't mean I have to enjoy it.

I can't tell you my destination yet until I arrive at my new work place next week, then it will become official publicly.

I also have some storylines to wrap up. An early expert I interviewed for this blog talked about the difficulties of those who transition from homelessness. Again, I'll note that while I have dug myself a hole, it's not nearly as deep as others.

It's a hole nonetheless. (An aside: I typed "a hole" without giggling -- I continue to mature.)

There's no saying goodbye to The Homeless Editor quite yet. I'll let readers know about some of these challenges.

And I'll continue to fight for disenfranchised folks until my dying days.

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