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Wednesday, September 29, 2021


I've got mail.

Unused to getting personal mail for nearly two years, I rarely check my mailbox. Then I received a call from the post office. A postal worker said the carrier could fit any more mail into the box so I had to empty it. It's a small town where we have personal relationships at the Post Office.

It's part of the complicated of my last two years.

When I arrived at Bloomington, with little money to my name, I was allowed to stay in an apartment at the newspaper. Rather than get a PO Box, I filled out one of those yellow change of address cards at the Post Office with the address of the newspaper. 

Nine months later, I was laid off due to the Gannett-GateHouse merger and told I had to vacate the apartment. (In the previous time, I had worked seven days a week with little time to look for an apartment. Oddly, two weeks before during a week-long furlough, I started looking for a place.)

When I went to the Post Office and tried to get a PO Box, the worker said I needed a street address in order to get a box. I explained my problem and the worker said the Post Office does not allow change of address forms to go from business to a personal address.

Somewhere in America, someone has a bunch of my mail -- mostly bills.

So I unloaded this armload of mail from my box, which was indeed packed. Not even another bill could fit.

The list:





New Yorker.



Bill from a guy named Bill.

New York Review of Books.



Bon Appetit.



Threatening bill.

Wine Spectator.

Threatening bill from a guy named Bill.

Peace and a return to society for all of you my brothers and sisters.

Friday, September 24, 2021

I've been extolling the virtues of my home state Wisconsin since my return as the prodigal son after 20 years astray.

Beautiful scenery, kind people, world-class cheese, abundant sausages.

But I'd forgotten the fatal mixture here.

No, not gin and vermouth.

Car vs. deer.

I hit a deer last night on my way home for an interview.

And I had just driven home from my office in Spooner along Highway 63, where there are more deer than people on the road. I scanned the ditches along the roadway where deer portray their own version of "Jackass."

"Watch this."

There were no deer in the frightening 26 miles. One of my colleagues has hit two deer along the route in the last two weeks.

So I paid no attention when I turned into my little neighborhood.

I didn't see the deer until I hit it.

On the upside, I was driving the speed limit -- 25 miles an hour. And the deer? Just a fawn.

I got out of the car to see how the deer was doing and look at the damage.

But the little guy stood up, shook its head and made its way toward mother, waiting on a nearby lawn. The only damage appeared to be IQ points so undoubtedly it will become a fan of the Chicago Bears.

And then, more importantly, no damage. It had been a tender fawn with little muscle mass. Shit. Now I'm getting hungry.

Someone passing by stopped to tell me a nearby homeowner feeds deer so in the future I need to be on the lookout. The driver pulled away and I saw doe and fawn in the yard, discussing the incident.

"It's not my fault, mom," the fawn said. "Dude was speeding and I could smell liquor and I got an owie, mom, please kiss it."

Mom licked the gimpy knee.

Then she pointed a hoof at me and said, "Morte."

Italian for death.

Great. Of all the deer I have to hit, it's mafia deer.

So in Wisconsin we have beautiful landscapes, great food, abundant sausage -- and mafia deer.

Peace and no morte unto all of you my brothers and sisters.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021


I'm working some hours right now.

Seven days a week where the short day, Sunday, is only about six hours.

But I remember the nine months out of work and out of a home where I searched desperately for stuff to do during the long days. I can work. That's never been a problem. When COVID hit, my 10-12 hours days turned into 12-14 hours a day.

Sometimes, checking pages late in the evening, I'd fall asleep in the cushy chair in my newspaper apartment only to be awakened by the feeling of my laptop sliding sliding down my legs, on to my feet.

Then I would stagger to bed.

So I don't mind the work and I'm not complaining. Instead, I'm thankful to do something I love.

Right now, in addition to my two newspapers and one magazine, I'm helping out at two other newspapers where we're down staff. That work hit me this week all at the same time.

I only have one more magazine to put out for the rest of the year now all the regional visitors have returned home.

I have a friend coming from my last newspaper who's coming to visit in early October and then I'm off to get my stuff, which will allow me to turn my rental house into a home.

After that, kid visits for Christmas.

Life is good.

Peace unto all of you my brothers and sisters.

Friday, September 17, 2021

 The card reader said, "Insufficient funds."

I nearly hyperventilated.

There I stood again -- with nothing.

Wednesday was payday, so I stopped at the grocery store Thursday to pick up some items for my famous zucchini-goat cheese frittata. Recipe will follow at the end. At the Monday farmers market, I picked up some nice zucchini and fresh basil -- all I needed were an onion, roasted red pepper and eggs to make the frittata.

How did I not have enough money for a handful of items?

There was no way I blew my paycheck in a day. 

I went to the ATM at my bank, which said I had $10 in checking. It wouldn't let me check savings. And my e-banking program wouldn't let me in.

I must have been hacked. All the money was gone as I've tried to rebuild my life. That's been more than a little difficult has I've had $3,000 in car expenses since moving here.

All those feelings from the last 18 months returned. Desperation. Embarrassment. Wondering what the hell am I going to do.

I couldn't eat last night but I certainly had a couple drinks so I could get some sleep.

This morning I went to the bank as soon as it opened. There had to be a logical reason for what happened to the money, even if it was simply hacking.

It took some time and it turned out to be a bank error. I have money. They explained to me what happened with e-banking -- stupid passwords changing every six months and being kicked out of the system -- and hooked me up again.

I returned to the store to pick up the items I had to leave the embarrassing night before.

Those bad feelings dissipated.

I can breathe.

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

Zucchini and goat cheese frittata.

1/4 of one yellow onion diced.

1 medium zucchini, cut lengthwise and then sliced into half moons

1 fire-roasted red pepper (I used jarred) diced.

4 or so leaves of fresh basil julienned.

6 eggs beaten.

4 ounces of plain goat cheese crumbled.

Salt and pepper for the eggs.

I prepare all the ingredients beforehand. And set oven to broil for finish. This needs a 10- to 12-inch fry pan with a metal handle for broiling.

Soften the onions for four or five minutes on the stove top at medium heat. Add the zucchini until soft. Add the roast red peppers and basil until the latter is fragrant. Add a pinch of salt for each egg and a grind of fresh pepper for each egg. Pour eggs into the mixture and let them set. As the eggs start to cook around the edges, sprinkle the crumbled goat cheese evenly across the top. Cook for a couple minutes longer and then set under the broiler to cook the top of the frittata. Two to three minutes.

Enjoy with decent toast.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

I haven't always counted on the kindness of strangers.

Also, unlike Blanche DuBois, I'm not dainty, patrician, crazy or a floozy. (My autobiography is tentatively titled "Too Ugly to be Loose." Danny DeVito is the likely person to play me in the subsequent film. Disney's Quasimodo dropped out of the project due to another commitment.)

I spent far too much of my life trying to be fully self-sufficient, proud of what I did on my own. My peripatetic life made it easy as I moved around too much and was often alone.

Then while meditating at the beginning of 2020, when clearing my mind and just breathing, it occurred to me I needed to ask for help. I worked too much at the time, usually seven days a week. In three years, I had taken only one week off to see my kid graduate.

Of course 2020 became my annus horribilis, being laid off and losing a permanent address for a while.

I needed help.

People I've never met offered me letters of support, kind emails and pick-me-ups. Strangers contributed money. People brought me food -- and beer -- to my Motel 6 room. The kind folks at the front desk made almost a daily trip to my room to drop off something.

Then some dude I never met let me stay in his guest cabin for six months -- on a hilltop overlooking Lake Lemon outside of Bloomington, Indiana.

I write this today because a new friend in my life texted me if I wanted some lasagna she was making today. We met at her work where she presented me with two pounds of  lasagna and some bread sticks.

Too often I think I don't deserve these things. Coincidentally, this morning's quote on my Buddha app -- yes, there's such a thing -- was: “Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can't help them, at least don't hurt them.” That's not Buddha but the Dalai Lama. So I have that going for me.

Somehow, I suspect tonight's lasagna will be the best-tasting I've ever had, solely because of the kindness.

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

Friday, September 10, 2021

 It won't be too long until I return to Indiana with a moving truck to pick up my stuff.

And I want to vomit.

Sure, I miss my stuff. And I miss having a "home" to live in -- many steps above the two lawn chairs sitting in my living room. Or the mattresses on the floor. (If you want to make some money on YouTube, get a video of me getting my fat ass out bed in the morning.)

I look forward to cooking for friends, having a dinner party or something 1950s like that. Grilling out -- in the middle of winter when your drink stays extra cold -- while friends peruse my library. And oh, that library. One of my favorite pastimes is picking up an old favorite book, opening to any page and be re-engaged. "Trout Fishing in America" -- I'm talking to you.

My pots and pans and knives -- they are the mistresses I miss most. I used to be a big fan of kitchen gadgets until a trip to the Smithsonian in the mid-1990s. They had taken apart and reassembled Julie Child's kitchen, which was not filled with pasta machines or Keurigs. Just good pots and pans and hefty sharp knives. OK, I will admit to one luxury -- a risotto maker I bought from Williams Sonoma. (Please don't tell Julia.)

I miss the Catholic Encyclopedia I took from my dad's law office after his sudden death. He had the 1911 edition from his uncle, Father Robert Agnew, who was given the rare books by his congregation at St. Olaf's in Eau Claire, where he was the founding priest. Catholic or agnostic, readers would be shocked by the erudition.

Yet I'm filled with dread.

As I grow older, I find tasks that break from my everyday routine frighten and confuse me -- not unlike Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer.

Ancient, doddering me, will drive a moving truck two days down to Bloomington, Indiana. Me will hire help to load up said truck and return the same two-day trek and hire locals to unload me. 

Now that I write about some of my beloved stuff and layout simply what confronts me, perhaps it won't be so bad -- along with a great reward. Often, my the kid and I confronted difficult circumstances, I would announce to her it was another Jackson family adventure.

When this happens in about a month, I shall report from the road.

Thanks readers for helping me work this out.

Peace and clarity unto all of you my dear brothers and sisters.

Tuesday, September 7, 2021


When I wake up in the morning, I'm amazed at what little I know, planning to learn at least one thing during the day.

I've written this many times, almost becoming my mantra.

Well, Saturday morning I woke up dumb as a bowling ball. After finishing my beauty work -- this magic doesn't happen on its own -- I sat down to read The New York Times online.

Perusing the light stuff, I came across an article on the retrospective on the painter Joan Mitchell.

Her paintings blew me away.

And I had never heard of her.

Actually, I had mis-read the headline as referring to the singer Joni Mitchell. She paints? I thought to myself.

I read the article with embarrassment at my lack of knowledge and no little amount of sexism. Most of the abstract expressionists I know and admire. I have a Mark Rothko print as well as my own crappy attempts at painting. (I made those mostly to fill wall space without spending money.)

Why do I read?

To fill that empty noggin of mine.

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

Friday, September 3, 2021

I apologize for being incommunicado for the past week.

I've been working hard.

And I've been a little down.

No one ever said the road ahead would always be straight and downhill. I also have a life-long tendency toward clinical depression. I take great meds for it. Studies of Buddhism have helped.

But I still get visits from my old friend depression.

And I know I'll be fine. I've been here before and made it through worse.

I talked with a colleague today about facing challenges and we agreed. In difficult times, keep breathing, keep moving forward -- even if it's an inch at a time.

All week long, I debated about what I should write and how much I should share. But I promised on this blog from the beginning I would be truthful. (That was an easier promise when I thought no one would read it.)

When in times like this, I deflate my world to the point I only worry about what I can touch, the things I can affect. I concentrate on self-care and attempt to eschew the maelstrom of world news.

Also, I apparently pick up a thesaurus -- my favorite of the verbal dinosaurs.

Forever I remain thankful for the Buddhist nun, Pema Chodron, who famously says, "Love others, start with yourselves."

And then my blessings.

I have a job. There's a paycheck every two weeks. I have have a house - still devoid of my stuff. Even then, last night I had a dinner of sweet corn and tomato sandwiches (sorry, southern friends, we have no Duke's Mayo).

My mom is doing well and my kid is doing standup at open mic nights in Boston.

Even in down times, my life rewards.

Peace and rewards unto you my brothers and sisters.