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Tuesday, June 29, 2021


The report is in.

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

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

Four decades later, that made me a little weepy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, June 25, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Imagine a growly voice reading:

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

He repeated the last line for dramatic purposes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

 BREAKING: I am old.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, June 21, 2021

I am so embarrassed.

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

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

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

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

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

I need my stuff.

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

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


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

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

Friday, June 18, 2021

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

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

I can't remember not knowing Jon.

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

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

I stuttered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How was the last year? 

I don't know but today was wonderful.

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

Monday, June 14, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I'm going to do it, damnit.

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

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

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

I will alert friends along the route about potential meetings.

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

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

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

Friday, June 11, 2021

Dad for a week exhausted me and enlightened me.

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


"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.