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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. 


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.