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Friday, November 26, 2021

The warmth of Thanksgiving still surrounds me.

That's good because the wind chill here in the Nort'woods flirts with me as I flirt with hot bartenders. There's the old cliche a cold wind blows right through you. It doesn't. It slows down, even pauses, saps you of strength, soul and sympathy and then moves on voiding itself of those essentials until it hits the next victim.

My friends at the Steakhouse & Lodge invited me for Thanksgiving dinner, I think imagining me sitting in my plastic chair at home with a reheated Hungry Man special.

But I started off the day going in to work for a while, where I received sweet emails from complete strangers either welcoming me to the area or responding to some of my personal writing online.

There's something about unsolicited humanity that outweighs the more rare hateful emails from complete strangers. The jerks in the world have no problem sitting at the computers and sending out poison and they tend to think the more often they do it, the better. But when someone takes valuable time out of their day to send out love, it's far more meaningful.

I went to the Steakhouse, which moved hundreds of folks through a beautiful buffet.

I had a couple pre-dinner drinks and then dinner with my little family, a server and her family, the bar manager and his daughter and one of the owners.

One of my adopted family members brought me a sampler plate of three desserts, which initially to me screamed, "GOUT, GOUT, GOUT."

But wouldn't it be impolite to turn down such an offer? I think I recall that from the Bible: "Thou shall eat of the presented desserts and thou shall be happy."

It's cold outside here in the Northwoods but warmest it could be inside.

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

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

 On this cusp of thanks:

What one year can do, along with help from friends, some hard job searching and more than a hint of luck, I am thankful.

First, for my kid, who amazes me everyday.

For family and friends, new and old.

For a job in the business that became more than a job but a calling.

For a warm house with a furnace that now doesn't leak exhaust into my house.

For coming home to my people in northern Wisconsin.

For colleagues who give a shit.

For the most glorious Wisconsin fall I haven't experienced in 20 years.

For people who have sensed I sometimes struggle and then taken me in, either as a lost soul or an odd "uncle."

For my local families, including those at the Steakhouse who invited me to their private staff dinner.

For a place where bratwurst are more common than Tic Tacs.

For God's country, where a sunset over one of our 300 lakes becomes a piece of art.

For common human decency with my fellow citizens.

For laughs over a drink or burger or salad. The latter of which is occasional 

For the strangers who stop me in public who welcome me to the community.

For the strangers who challenge me to be better.

For the lakes where I've spent time, Big Round, Little Round, Grindstone, Moose, Spider, Hayward and so many other spots on water.

For people, many strangers, who continue to read my ramblings over these odd two years.

For continued health.

For life in general.

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

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

I'm back in a house.

Fast work from my landlord and an HVAC business out of Rice Like hooked me up with a new furnace where I can stay warm and not die.

Now I return to a spartan existence in my house but it's still my own and not anyone else's.

Tonight I will lay my vast head on my huge albeit unclean pillow and sleep soundly after a dinner of Jack's pizza and box wine.

I am, as always, appreciative for those who reached out during this additional weird time in my life.

And I'm reminded of the guiding principle of the Buddha, who said we cannot stop bad things happening in our lives but we can change our reaction.

I knew when my landlord called me and said I couldn't return to the house that somehow everything would work out. Twenty years ago, that call would have devastated me. Today, well today, I deal.

Some folks were either shocked or put off by my jokes on the situation. How I worked on a headline for my obit or how appreciative I was that I could get 10 percent off my obit. (By the way, the latter is a joke. It's full obit price.)

Humor has always been my coping mechanism, good or bad. That's how I make it through. Once in couples therapy, I joked for the first 15 minutes and then the counselor asked me how I dealt with difficulties. I said I use humor as a coping mechanism. "Nooooooooo," he said sarcastically.

Yeah, he was a dick.

So sometimes, even more often than not, life will suck. And I've learned to deal -- a long way from where I've come.

Peace and a big-ass pillow for you and your massive heads unto you my brothers and sisters -- so long as big-hearted brethren. 

Monday, November 22, 2021

The kinda-sorta-maybe quasi homeless editor will return home Tuesday.

My landlord tracked down a furnace -- one that won't leak carbon monoxide into my home -- and it is to be installed Tuesday morning.

That will be nice, even though home isn't so much home yet. My kid and I have mattresses on the floor and two plastic lawn chair, the latter of which we sit in while she teaches me about hegemony. (P.S.: It has nothing to with hedgehogs.)

Before I get my stuff, the place is more house than home.

And then kid visits -- that will be home.

Without stuff, a house is still better than even a nice hotel room. The few things I have are mine and I have things my way all the time. Particularly the cheap frozen pizza overcooked at the right temperature. Although I grew up on Tombstones -- created in nearby New Auburn -- I came to love Jack's frozen pizza because in college, a grocery story on Water Street would once a month sell 10 pizzas for $10. That would be a college student special.

I appreciate what my landlord has done for me, perhaps saving my life and reimbursing me for hotel costs.

All of my wonderful friends in town have listened calmly while I shared my story and then, after I left, pulled out a can of air freshener -- I am used to that.

Peace and home and family and friends unto all of you my brothers and sisters.

Saturday, November 20, 2021

 Flexibility is important.

As I moved to another hotel room this last week, it occurred to me I've slept -- by my account -- at least 15 different beds in the last two years. That's not normal for me. I like consistency and patterns in my life.

I guess I'm lucky in that I can  sleep wherever I lay my huge head.

And it's a big head. The main reason I don't wear baseball hats like every American man covering hair loss is I can't find one that fits. Every single hat looks strained to the point of exploding from my head. 

I once went to a mall in Dayton, Ohio, which had five different hat stores and was ultimately told I should seek out special hat needs online.

But it's the sleep.

If you give me a mattress or a futon, I'm down and out.

When my daughter came to visit me in June, all I had for her was a mattress on her floor and I slept on a mattress on my floor. I told her we were going to play "Guantanamo" for some nights.

Well that's partly because I've slept in beds in the Bloomington newspaper, some cheap motels, other places where I interviewed, a cabin, more cheap motels, temporary stays before my house, two different mattresses on the floor at the house and yet another short-term hotel stay.

And I'm OK.

More so, I'm appreciative.

Difficult circumstances have help me appreciate blessings even more.

Tomorrow will always be better.

Peace and huge pillow for your massive head unto you my brothers and sisters.

Thursday, November 18, 2021

The potential danger of my circumstances is not lost on me, particularly as I tried write a headline about it.

I was sleeping in a house where the furnace slowly leaked carbon monoxide. I don't know how much nor do I know why I didn't sense anything wrong. Finally, I'm not sure what happened with the detector, which I didn't even know it was there.

One of (the few things) I know is the old adage for newspaper editors: Don't be a headline in your own newspaper.

Granted that's for arrests.

But this would have been nominally worse.

The working headline is "Bloated body of fat editor found dead."

Or is it "Fat body of bloated editor found dead"?

As I like to tell colleagues, words matter.

Maybe it would be, "Crane used to extract body of large, dead editor."

"Body of large, deceased editor used as bear bait." Subhed: "Brian Urlacher seen in area."

In a more complex story, someone just throws my carcass into the Chippewa Flowage. The the headline could be "Louis Spray catches world-record largest dead editor." (That's an insider's joke in the area. Louis Spray famously -- or infamously -- caught three record muskies over a 20-year period. Then never again.)

Inevitably, the story would do into gross detail, the worst of which would be, "the fat editor was found in the nude." On the upside, Elton John would write a nice song about me called, "Fart in the Wind." 

"And it seems to me you lived your life/
Like a fart in the wind/
Not turning down sauerkraut/
'Til the gas set in."

The report would note my two plastic yard chairs in an otherwise empty living room, one mattress in one bedroom and one in another.

"Whether miser, monk or mook, the big fella had a sad end to a sadder life." 

The report also will include the deceased only had foods with a funk, sauerkraut, blue cheese and durian -- suggesting I aided in my own demise. For the uninitiated, durian is a tropical fruit that tastes like rotting flesh.

Damned media.

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

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Well, I'm back in a hotel.

And lucky to be so.

My landlord called today to tell me during an annual furnace check, two exhaust pipes were found leaking into the closet where the mechanicals are stored.

We don't know how long it's been leaking but it's possible the leaks were small if the furnace was burning efficiently.

It's also possible the discovery saved me from something bad happening.

Now I'm back at the Steakhouse Lodge, home to me for a month before getting in my house, when I had my first official address in some time.

Thankfully, these folks are family to me. I made lifelong friends so it's a perfect refuge until I can, once again, get home. In fact, before having to move back into the motel, the owner asked me to join them on Thanksgiving, after they close, for the staff dinner.

Oh, there have been gas smells in my home before -- particularly after I ate a sausage and sauerkraut pizza from either Angler's or Coop's. (This is a thing in Wisconsin that everyone elsewhere should try.)

But that's a natural smell that has followed me in my travels.

Over the years, I have become nothing if not flexible about my surroundings.

And I'm in room 15, just 14 rooms from a warm bar, good food and my local family.

I'll likely be at the hotel through the weekend and my long, strange trip has been significantly worse. So there's that.

Peace and safety unto you my brothers and sisters.

Friday, November 12, 2021

 My nurse was pissed.

I went in this morning to receive my booster shot and the nurse must have recognized me as the guy from the newspaper, kind of my nom de plume.

She said she had called one of my reporters last week and gave him an earful.

Envisioning her give me the the shot like Anthony Perkins gave numerous shots to Janet Leigh in "Psycho," I asked in a calming voice, "What's wrong?"

She was angry at all those failing to get shots at all, let alone a booster.

"We could have been done with this long ago," she said.

I thanked her for her work and we kept talking while she went over my paperwork and prepped me for my shot.

She's going to be unable to see relatives during Thanksgiving and Christmas because of their unwillingness to get the the vaccination. She hears stories about fellow nurses in hospital working 80 hours a week.

I told her a story shared by a friend whose wife is a COVID nurse. She listens to families talk about the "hoax" of the virus while their loved one is intubated.

We have hundreds of thousands dead in the United States, millions. Those are the facts.

Yet we live in the post-factual world.

I told her about some of the columns I've written and how I support the work of her and her colleagues and will continue to do so.

There have been plenty of stories from anti-vaxxers who caught the virus, barely lived and urged others to get the shot.

I get the entire personal liberty thing. I've always had a little libertarian thing in me -- note the small L.

But there's also responsibility. I have a daughter whose going to win major Hollywood awards and I have dibs as her first date. I work with people who have health issues. 

There is something called the common good. In terms of choice, I choose to be part of that.

My nurse's anger abated as we talked and before she jabbed me.

I waited my 15 minutes and started to take off when one of the two check-in people asked if I was feeling OK. "Emotionally, no," I said. "Otherwise yes."

The vaccinated people and my nurse laughed.

At least I could offer them that.

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

Thursday, November 11, 2021

I upset Bertha from Bloomington by disparaging myself in a recent post.

And so I apologize to her.

Self flagellation is a common because we make fun of ourselves before others can. Especially for humorous folks because the funny folks are getting ready to make fun of everyone else.

"You are beautiful in God's eyes," Bertha wrote.

Thank you, Bertha.

Part of the entry was about the first paragraph of my obit -- how I'll be remembered.

Thinking about this since writing the post, I of course realized my obit will start, "Rich Jackson, father of Clare Jackson, passed away Thursday doing something stupid" -- the cause to be determined.

(Bertha, that's not negative -- that's just my pattern of doing things I ought not.)

I remain thankful for the support of Bertha, who started as a complete stranger but now is a dear friend, during my long and winding road.

Peace and a Bertha unto each of you my brothers and sisters.

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

 So I saw a man about a truck.

A local U-Haul dealer gave me the low down on renting a vehicle for a round-trip from Hayward to Bloomington, Indiana, and back to Hayward

At a good price, too. He also gave me advice on how to save money and how many days I should rent it for (start low and add days if needed).

He was good at appeasing my anxiety, although I suspect that's not in his job description.

My target date for leaving Hayward right now is Dec. 1. It will be a two-day drive -- I can't do 12-hour stints anymore and certainly not in a 26-feet long tuck. I'll overnight in Madison and then get back on the road headed to Bloomington, spend a night at my favorite cheap hotel and get help to pack up the next day.

That evening, I hope to have the pot roast and mash potatoes at Michael's if anyone cares to join me and then I'm headed back north with another stay in Madison.

The next day, with all my stuff, I will be home.

What a long, strange trip it's been.

Peace and a domicile unto all of you my brothers and sisters.

Monday, November 8, 2021

I've been mourning for several weeks now.

I lost a Facebook friend, one of the more important people in my life over the last 20 years.

She's not dead but gone for reasons controlled by neither her nor me but a controlling boyfriend.

In addition, I'm embarrassed at my mourning because I really don't take Facebook too seriously. It reminds me of Plato's Allegory of the Cave, where what we see isn't reality just shadows of reality. I don't care who friends me or unfriends me although I am thankful for so many friends who are positive and not so political.

My friend is wildly brilliant with some of the best and most esoteric knowledge of music of anyone I know. She laughed at my stupid jokes and supported me in times of need. And she's crazy as hell. Chemtrails? Baby, put down the doobie.

It seems crazy to say about a person I haven't seen face to face in 15 years, but I can't imagine my life without her.

I'm also embarrassed to write this, to acknowledge my feelings.

But it's the truth, my truth and the goal of this blog all this while was to be truthful even when I hated the naked feeling of it all.

I will mourn my friend for some time and I had write it.

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

Friday, November 5, 2021

 Bertha in Bloomington is still reading (Hi Bertha!).

And she's still concerned about me.

After whining for about the 500th time regarding a trip to get my stuff, she sent me another nice letter giving me emotional support and, as she often does, $27 in cash.

She's such a sweetheart.

Bertha once again expressed concern that I don't have a women in my life and noted the recent visit of a colleague and friend from the Bloomington Herald-Times -- Laura Lane.

"I can understand why Laura is after you," Bertha wrote. "It is time for for you to seek female companionship but she is too old for you. Don't waste your time on elderly prospects."

Well, Laura is a friend and I believe visited me to return the family tea set -- and to do reconnaissance for others in Bloomington who might doubt the beauty of my landing spot and my enjoyment of present life and work conditions.

Her recon, I have already reported, found me well. And if Laura Lane says it is so, it is so.

In defense of my friend Laura, she is neither old nor elderly. Because I know Laura, I sent her a copy of the letter. She replied, "This just-turned-61 desperate old hag cannot stop laughing/crying. And I am happy to have generated you some gas money. So use it."

I want Bertha to know my life is perfectly fine as a single man. I enjoy my colleagues at the newspaper, the dozens of friends in the community but I love the solitude of the evening where I can concentrate on reading and writing.

"Have a safe and pleasant voyage for your belongings," Bertha wrote.

And she finished with "Keep the Faith and Pray for my Arthritis."

By the way, Laura Lane promised she will pray for Bertha's arthritis.

So dear readers, please keep Bertha in your thoughts and prayers.

What beautiful connections this stupid little blog has wrought.

Peace and long-distance friendships unto all of you my brothers and sisters.