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Friday, July 30, 2021

 I glanced at a to-do list on my desk and saw the phrase "porn star name change."

Time to go home.

The actual note read "pastor name change" for our church directory. But when an editor can't read anymore, we must seek rest.

I won't complain about working much lately. It's a great sign. We're putting out good newspapers and our regional magazine, Visitor, is popular and getting better.

Despite always working daily newspapers, I always knew weekly editors worked harder because the few folks in the building had to do everything. That's fine because I've spent my career helping colleagues in other departments. We only succeed if we all work together.

We take turns dealing with complaints, stacking papers and magazines as they come in, shoveling, salting the parking lot, one of our folks mows the lawn. We recently worked with a local program to print 4,000 event programs and even with my old bones, I helped moved boxes.

And at the end of the week -- kind of -- I enjoy the exhaustion. Tired from work is far more fulfilling than the desperate sleep of not working.

That remains fresh in my mind.

We're in the busy tourist season and so putting out a Visitor magazine every two weeks. The publication has been around nearly 60 years and is looked upon as an old friend. No better magazine feeling than that. But I assure you, it's real work.

So at the beginning of this weekend, where I will get the chance to sleep in Saturday and Sunday, and then work the rest of the day, I wish you all beautiful weekends.

And I wish peace and porn star name changes to all my brothers and sisters.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

I did something that made me feel normal last week.

I ate dinner with others at a friend's house.

We sat at a table outside and sipped on drinks while the host cooked an awesome dinner and talked. The sun setting, the dog drooling, the smell of burgers and chicken.

I distinctly recall driving past nice, middle-class homes during the deepest of my struggles wondering what in the hell I had done wrong.

Plenty, certainly.

But there I was with friends enjoying off time and getting to know some new folks better.

Feeling normal, the next day I had my hair cut and then shaved my beard. These small gestures, all small and normal, continue to be steps on climbing out of my hole.

I know I have failed in reaching out and that's part of my plan to re-engage life.

(I just realized this sounds morose and it should not. I'm happy about these instances and more so the revelations about normalcy.)

I mean as normal as I can get -- for me.

Peace and dog drool unto all of you my brothers and sisters.

Friday, July 23, 2021

Garrison Keillor once said every man needs someone to nag him.

It turns out you just need to buy an Apple Watch.

When I received a new phone a couple of weeks ago I got a deal on an Apple Watch and was told it would be like having a secretary strapped to my wrist. I think that's inappropriate nowadays.

The salesman also said I would be able to count my daily steps. Which I could already on two hands. 

And it would help me with creating and improving a daily health routine.

After charging it, I enjoyed the first admonishment "stand."

Well, I can do that. I stood up and the watch congratulated me. "You're on your way to achieving your goals." That felt nice, although I didn't correct the phone that my goal is to win Powerball.

A couple of hours later, the phone said, "Breathe." Well, hell. I do that all day long. I can breathe, cough, expectorate -- you name it.

Then in another two hours, I was asked to stand once again. I did and magically completed one ring of daily health -- even though I was exhausted by the end of the day.

The next day I was busier but complied, even though I wondered whatever happened to recovery time.

The same pattern continued until I received a new order: walk. But I'm the king of standing. Were standing in the Olympics, I would be there. Fine -- but I don't enjoy a task master.

"What's for lunch?" the phone asked. I typed in "hot dog." The phone asked about vegetables and I answered "sauerkraut and onions."

"Does not compute."

We were starting to fight.

My caloric intake number went up one day like the national debt clock.

"Unhealthy level," the phone said. I, for the record, felt fine. And no one at West's Dairy complained.

"Passersby can hear your heart beating," the phone told me one day. Maybe I was in love. How does she know?

"Ever hear of broccoli?" the phone asked.

Yes, Albert Broccoli produced most of the James Bond movies.

"You ordered another drink?"

Yes, that's how one gets another drink.

"When you floss, do you find entire, unchewed Li'l Smokies?"

Doesn't everyone?

"You can't have sausage links for breakfast, a hot dog for lunch and kielbasa for dinner."


"Let's go back to the beginning. Stand."

I am. I am standing here waiting for my Bomb Dog.

"You have really let yourself go."

Are we married?

As the phone started to say, "Listen, we need to have a serious talk ..." I gently removed it from my wrist.

Now I plan on getting a tattoo on my wrist with the hands permanently at 5 p.m.

It's always five o'clock somewhere.

Peace and more peace unto you my brothers and sisters.

Monday, July 19, 2021

 Working headline: Small-town newspaper editor has friends

 My friend Suzie visited Saturday and that was the response from my friends at the restaurant where we met.

My friends Mark and Marcia from Munster, Indiana, stopped today on their way through to Bayfield and colleagues in the office feigned surprise I had friends.

It reminded me of my kid's recent visit, when she noted, "Dad, all your friends are bartenders."

Actually, I'm lucky to have friends strewn all over the land -- although perhaps "strewn" is not the best word. When I lost my housing, I had offers from across the country for any soft spot folks had so I might  lounge about.

I enjoyed them all, particularly catching up in person after prolonged absences because of COVID and my struggles.

Mark noted he and his wife enjoyed seeing me happy and thriving. Do I need to aspire to thrive? That strikes me as a higher bar than I'm willing to work for. Although "Aspire to Thrive" would be a great self-help book title.

Can't I just "get along"?

My friends continue to warm my heart in all of they've done for me. And in a business where we often see the worst of people, my friends and many strangers remind me there are more good people than jerks.

I apologize for brevity here but I've been working much.

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

Friday, July 16, 2021

 "What is the learning curve?" a job applicant asked this week.

I'd been thinking about this earlier in the day, particularly in the newspaper industry where learning is the career itself. If I stop learning, then I'm dying.

I've always said the learning curve is at least a year and for some jobs it's up to five years. But in my varied experiences, it wasn't so much about what I knew.

While driving to get lunch -- a healthy serving of pineapple as suggested by a reader -- I thought the learning curve is when one feels comfortable on the job.

So we discussed the language difference and the applicant agreed "comfort" is a better goal.

I'd been thinking about it because I'm finally starting to feel comfortable in a new job, a new community and pretty much new everything else.

Comfort comes from an awareness that I'm not confronted by a new computer program each day, where I know the names of colleagues spread across a couple of states, when I can answer simple questions from readers. Imagine when someone calls and asks what a subscription costs and my answer is, "I have no idea." That does not inspire consumer confidence.

Not only can I answer simple questions, I can help fix problems facing my colleagues. Any good newspaper editor knows not just writing and editing but how to fix a copier issue, order office supplies or -- this week -- find a damn pair of scissors.

I don't feel as overwhelmed as before and I'm not exhausted at the end of every day -- just most days.

I can't imagine how good it will feel to get my stuff here when I have comfort at both home and work.

Have a beautiful weekend.

Peace and comfort unto you my brothers and sisters.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

I sneaked into West's Hayward Dairy, cloaked like a dope fiend in an opium den.

After excruciating gout last week, my Hayward friends more than promised to shame me about eating foods that give me the dreaded condition.

But I can't go stone cold. 

My secret entry undisclosed, I looked at the 40 flavors, overwhelmed by choice. Is this what it's like to buy pot in a legal state?

I finally spied something more tantalizing than pot or opium: blueberry cheesecake ice cream. I quickly ordered a bowl -- small -- before the gout cops were on me.

And oh, the treat was worth it. Imagine high-end ice cream liberally spiked with cheesecake, in turn notched with blueberries. Add to it the occasional delightful crunch of the Graham Cracker crust.

I gorged so that should a gout cop wander past, I would be undercover again, happily sated, an innocent empty cup in front of me.

I ate so fast.

"How is the ice cream?" a server asked.

"Goo," I said.

"I'm sorry," she said in the form of a question.

"I crea goo," I said

She approached me with the face of concern.

"Sir, are you OK?"

I grasped what was happening.

"Torry," I said. "Mah tong num."

She smelled for alcohol on my breath and finding none she became more concerned.

"Your face seems contorted, sir."

"Dat i crea in my chee," I said, as slowly and clearly as I could. I had stored the remaining blueberry cheesecake in my cheek, using my tongue to flick bits of the cold dessert into my throat trying to hit my uvula -- sorry for the language. Consider it the world's tiniest and coldest game of jai alai. 

"Sir, I think you're having a stroke," she said. 

"No, no troke," I pleaded. "Goo goo i crea tong num."

"Sir, I'm calling medical services."

Oh you know they're going to be gout cops. Even though my tongue would eventually thaw, I needed to get out out of there.

"No," I said. "I goo goo. I goo goo go ni ni now."

And I bolted. Except -- except -- the gout had already curled my toes and started gnawing on my leg joints. I stood and made a noise reminiscent of any manner of the ungulate -- hooved animals.

Instead I fled like the Elephant Man from his tormentors, heaving and lurching and still trying to explain my condition.

"I goo goo go ni ni now," I said at the doorway, and then tried to paraphrase the Elephant Man with my numb tongue.

"I not an Emema."

And off I was into the night.

Peace and blueberry cheesecake ice cream unto all of you my brothers and sisters.

Monday, July 12, 2021

Yeah, I whined in Friday's post.

What are you gonna do about it?

I'm not really pugnacious about it and  put in long thought before writing.

But I promised myself when I started this blog I would be truthful even when it was unpleasant.

So I whine when I have blessings, such as a job, a house, friends, family and a more-than-full stomach. I don't like complaining because I see little practical use in the gesture. Except I understand the need to blow off team.

So I whined -- in writing.

I thought over the weekend about a dishonest week I had a year ago that I didn't address at the time. I failed to get one of my dream jobs -- and then I went to bed for a week. That's when I was living in The Hermitage on the high banks of Lake Lemon.

I believe it was at that time I lost my appetite.

How do I describe despair? It's when you breathe only because it's automatic. And you do nothing else.

I slept 20 hours a day and only when I could bring myself to climb out of bed, I'd drink until I could sleep again.

It served as the worst seek of my struggles -- perhaps my life.

But I found my way out because I had to. I have family and friends to whom I answer. I'm not done writing yet -- I have more things to say. Hell, I haven't been to France.

So a little whining, I'm fine showing that.

It's truthful.

Peace and truth unto you my brothers and sisters.

Friday, July 9, 2021

 I lie in bed at 4 a.m. Wednesday morning after catching a mere two hours of sleep.

My right knee stabbed with pain from gout.

My mattress on the floor.

Nothing in the house.

"This is no way to live," I said out loud to the ceiling fan. Like the chair in "I am I said" it did not hear.

God, I hate whining -- but I must be truthful, both to myself and you, dear reader.

So I will work on making changes and making better decisions. One is, getting my stuff here.  My friend Mark and his wife Marcia are coming through to visit and while we discussed where to stay, he offered to help with the move. Good friends will make any offer of help, regardless of unpleasantries. My boxes are filled with books and kitchen equipment, I said. Aw, we can do that, he said. I noted there were about 50 boxes of books. Well, let's pay a couple football players to help, he said. Sadly, most high school and college football players are doing better than me financially. 

The second is -- related to gout -- making better life choices.

What set off the gout was discovering West's Hayward Dairy. I stopped in one night and found it had 40 flavors of excellent ice cream and then stopped there the next three nights.

Heavy, rich ice cream equals gout in my knee apparently.

The pain was bad enough I couldn't find a comfortable position and that comes from a older man who has aches and pains everyday.

I did slip away into sleep at about 2 a.m. and my nightmare consisted of me returning to management at McDonald's, and then rode my bike home. But some gentlemen decided they wanted my bike more than me and in the ensuing struggled I, using a book, crushed the esophagus of one of the perpetrators, the rest of whom chased me as I rode away. I awoke in a full sweat despite the air conditioning and the ceiling fan.

Yes, I am blessed with a house, and a living, wonderful friends and family. I love having my windows open in July for 65-degree temps. Being a journalist again, in my home state, is what I've angled for nigh 20 years.

Life is always a mixture.

I am working on my hurdles and have set a timeline of getting my stuff here by sometime in August.

I will enjoy West's Dairy once every two or three weeks.

I will continue to be extraordinarily thankful for all those who have helped me, reached out and supported me as I continue to climb out of my self-dug hole.

Peace and moving forward unto all of you my brothers and sisters.

Monday, July 5, 2021


I put up 12 half-pint jars of strawberry freezer jam this last weekend, the most home ec activity I've undertaken in at least two years.

That follows staying in an apartment at work, a cabin high atop Lake Lemon in Indiana and a series of cheap hotels in multiple states.

The first time I put up freezer jam was 20 years ago, when I lived in Lansing, Michigan with my wife and baby kid. Not a goat but an actual human being in miniaturized form. We picked out in the filled, where baby kid at little berries, leaves and all. We hulled and mashed until the kitchen was filled with strawberries and then made a low-sugar jam. (Have you ever seen the amount of sugar in jam recipes? It makes soda pop seem healthy.)

As the year passed after that batch, we were always amazed at how fresh the jam tasted on thawing. You could almost taste the summer sun on them.

I promised I'd do that every year.

But the next summer was busy as we had moved to a new town and a couple years later we moved into a new house. Then after the divorce, I continued my peripatetic ways. I was tired, money was tight.

Every year I'd tell myself, "I'll do jam next year."

Twenty years slipped by.

That almost happened again this year and strawberry season was slipping away, even though I rationalized again. I didn't have my cooking equipment. I worked everyday.

Until late last week when I said to myself, "No more next year, damnit."

I made a mad dash to some hardware stores for jars and equipment and then called a Mennonite farmer who advertises in our newspaper.

"Any strawberries left?" I asked.

"Yep," he said.

"Can you save me a bucket?"


"See you in 15 minutes."


In those 15 minutes, Andy -- the Mennonite farmer -- and his wife raced out into the 90-degree weather and picked a fresh bucket for me from vines where strawberries seemed scant.

For his work, I promised I'd buy all my fresh veg from his family this summer.

And now I have 12 half-pints at one jar a month for the next year, strawberries that taste like summer.

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

Friday, July 2, 2021


Many folks call this place God's country.

I'm pressed to argue with them or God.

This is a photo I took last weekend while writing at the end of a busy Sunday, first a newspaper column and then a column I'm sending to a Jesuit magazine about the Biden-Communion controversy.  The photo is taken at Powell's on the Lake, that being Big Round Lake, and in a building that housed the first Famous Dave's

Folks pull up in the boats to grab a bite and a drink and then head off to another spot or maybe home.

I've not travelled much so it's hard for me to compare but it's strikes me as being like a Cape Cod or Key West, the kind of atmosphere that is relaxed and all its own.

There's nothing better than writing when someone else brings the drinks to you, when you need inspiration you look at the clear water or into the blue sky pocked with perfectly white clouds.

I've decided that I'll spend part of at least one day a week on or near the water.

I'll cook at home Saturday nights with enough to eat for half the week.

I'll use local produce, find a source for eggs, buy a local quarter beef once a year, make my own bread and reduce my carbon foot print to the point of a petite ballerina.

Busy plans as a settle into my home, ideally my last plans.

Assuredly I will add frozen pizza and takeout and other less-natural sundries to my life.

I ain't a monk after all. 

Peace and the occasional frozen pizza to you my brothers and sisters.