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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.



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.


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.


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.


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.