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Sunday, December 26, 2021

I don't holiday well.

Nor do I often use a noun as a verb.

I just don't care for the puffery of any season, be it Christmas. Halloween or Groundhog Day. (I spent too many years waiting for the little rat's prognostication to get something in the day's newspaper.)

I'm but no means a humbug. I just prefer to celebrate each day the same.

Yet this year I come away from the Christmas reason with a heart reeling over all the graciousness of the last week.

Kid remains the center of the last week. She charmed wherever we went, something abetted by my naturally grizzled self. "This is your kid?" friends asked, some assuming there might be another father in a neighboring county.

But no. With enough time, people realized she was a product of mine. We played and improvised together, me setting a straight line, her picking up the punch line and then me taking the tag line. (Clearly, she's taught me the language comedy.) In the midst of otherwise less serious fare, we'd briefly argue over a historical point. I took the side of Alfred Kinsey, she prosecuted him.

She left, too soon, but we had two solid and glorious days together shopping for Northwoods products to feed the other side of her family. We ate well, we drank some as she's newly anointed at age 21.

Friday, I attended a private together at a local watering hole, where the buffet was as long as a bowling alley -- literally. Drinks flowed and I finally realized how many true friends I've made in this short time.

Saturday, friends I didn't have a year ago had me over for a mountains of food and a Packers victory. The Whos in Whoville never ate so well and when the Packers secured victory I thought briefly we should hold hands and sing "Dahoo Dores."

It didn't strike me until this morning, waking groggily, how beautiful it had all been.

My heart might even have grown three sizes so my cardiologist is worried.

And I hope to hold on to that grace through the next year as we come up on the anniversary of COVID.

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

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Kid is here.

Despite flights, sickness and snowfall, she made it to Hayward.

My Christmas is made.

I can't tell you what we've talked about in these few hours since her arrival because we approach 100 subjects, with humorous interjections in between.

Much laughter.

We speak the same language of history, philosophy, theology and of course humor.

She is thankfully used to me crying as she speaks so intelligently because I can't believe this person is part of my life, that I had something to do with her.

I'm stealing a couple minutes to report this. Now I return to her.

Peace, more peace and love unto all of you my brothers and sisters.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

 The gods conspire against us.

The kid, who is getting better, planned to be on the road this morning. Bur failing to look out the windows while I went through my morning beauty ritual -- that only last 15 seconds -- I opened the garage to see a minimum of 2 inches of snow on the driveway.

As a son of the Wisconsin northwoods, I knew how to read the storm. It was a heavy and hard snow and would last for sometime.

I am a father and thus required to worry about my daughter driving anywhere. Driving in and through snow is an acquired ability that takes years of practice. I even slid through the stop sign on my street despite my high speed of 15 mph.

Sitting in my office on County Highway B, I could tell even locals were wary of being on the road.

I contacted my daughter's mother and said we both needed to encourage Kid to stay off the roads. When I talked to Kid, she agreed quickly. She's recovering from her illness but that would not have been helped by being in a ditch -- or worse until Friday morning. We'll get two full days with each other and she can spend Christmas with the rest of her family, all of whom are much more holiday oriented. (I'm not anti-Christmas but as a journalist I have some serious questions for Mr. Claus.)

Regardless of the amount of time we have with each other, it will be quality.

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

Monday, December 20, 2021

 Kid is not in town.

Poor thing is sick as a dog and I don't want her to get worse by traipsing through the northwoods. 

I told her to stay home Sunday and get some rest, which turned out to be two naps of three hours each. Then she took off for the drive this morning only to pull over for a power nap trying to ward off her sinus headache. We mutually agreed she should turn around and return to the BNB where she's staying.

We'll update tonight on what happens next. 

Kid was upset but I told her not to worry. Nothing that is happening is her fault, nor is intentional on anyone's part.

The Buddha said suffering comes from want and if we want everything to go as we please, we're bound to suffer. (He was not invited to many dinner parties. But that's fine. He didn't want to go.)

Kid was stressed. I reminded her she's stuck with me for a long time so we'll have no shortage of time together, now or in the future. She's been warned that when she starts to make money, I'm coming to live with her. I'm not sure she wants that but I'll pull out the old Buddha line.

I'm not big into holidays so no extra work has gone into decorating or baking or even normal personal hygiene. The house in the midst of unpacking is in such disarray, I like to come home and pretend the house has been trashed by a squatter. Then I realize no squatter would live in that clutter and would attempt to make some sense of it all.

Despite Buddha's admonition, I do want my kid to get better. Not so I can monopolize her time but because I don't want her to be miserable

You see, I love her so much.

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

Friday, December 17, 2021

Kid is coming Sunday.

We had played phone tag for a week or 10 days. But she had to finish her senior paper, attend to finals and give her final performances for Emerson College skit troupe Jimmy's Traveling All-Stars.

So I found out Thursday she's arriving soon.

I dig.

Late today, I started to stock up on snacks and drinks for her visit only to realize halfway through I was shopping for 6-year-old kid and not sophisticated 21-year-old daughter. I had some juice boxes and gummy worms and chips galore -- an orgy of sugar and sodium.

Then I imagined a conversation.

"But fathuh, wherefore art thou escargot?"

She doesn't talk like that. I'm taking dramatic license, which also allows me to respond in my best Nort'woods idiom. "You want to eat bugs? Check out the hood of my car."

So I modified, putting away childish things. (Yeah, I've read the Bible. 1 Corinthians 13:11.)

Now we have the makings of our redneck chip dip -- mix Heinz Ketchup with cottage cheese and dip Ruffles potato chips -- to precut veg and fruit. There's Chippewa Springs water -- her favorite. Some hot chocolate mixes. Mixed nuts, also the title of our family history.

Mostly we'll do stuff, get out and see friends, eat well. We're going to make memories rather than a Christmas where we bought gifts never to be seen again.

My kid is the smartest, kindest, funniest person I know. I understand that is what a parent is supposed to say. But I am trained professionally and philosophically to be truthful. Were my kid less than that, I wouldn't say so. Yet she is all of these things to me.

Ideally, I'll report through the trip.

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

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

 Christmas might be the sweetest season.

I returned home late yesterday and checked out my mailbox.

Christmas cards.

I don't recall the last time I received Christmas cards. It might have been close to the original Christmas.

One was from a dear college friend who, when I posted my address in March, took a screenshot. That's thinking ahead. I'd expect nothing less of a fellow UW-Eau Claire Blugold. In the card were photos of her beautiful family.

Another one was from a blog reader -- I'm not naming anyone as I think they deserve their privacy. But how sweet is that, when a complete stranger would track me down and wish me well. The writer also wished well for kid, who's coming to visit soon.

I'd like to say that might heart grew three sizes that night -- but it's already pretty big because of decades consuming the processed and tubed meats.

Needless to say it's weird to feel normal.

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

Monday, December 13, 2021

I received my medical insurance card in the mail today.

In the mail at my home.

There had been some miscommunication with the new job because my last legal residential address was in North Carolina. (Somewhere in the Tarheel state, someone is getting my excellent health care.)

A home. My stuff. Medical care.

As the philosopher Col. "Hannibal" Smith used to say, "I love it when a plan comes together."

Now with medical care I feel like making poor decisions in order to use it. I'm thinking about calling medical centers (outside my coverage area) asking to make out with COVID patients.

Or perhaps I'll grease my shoe bottoms with bear fat and venture out on to the  lake ice for the first time since my return.

Maybe, must maybe, I will run with scissors.

As I continue making progress in rebuilding a life, I feel a little adult-y.

That used to be a bad thing when I was young and stupid. (For the record, I am now old and stupid.)

But it wasn't too long ago where I would drive past nice homes and wonder what I had done wrong. 

Perhaps it wasn't what I did wrong, instead the circumstances that befell me and how I dealt with it.

I'm going to be practically middle class. I'll have to buy a button-up sweater because I assure you, I do not have one in the many boxes I'm unpacking.

Peace and COVID kisses unto all of you my brothers and sisters.

Friday, December 10, 2021

 My heart is full.

My bank account is empty.

But my heart is full and not just with chunks of poorly chewed bratwurst. I  had the help of plenty of folks over the last couple of weeks. I met with wonderful people on the road. And I saw many old friends.

Another thing that's full is my garage, filled with boxes of stuff I haven't seen in a couple of years. Last night, I attacked five boxes in haste, just to begin the process. I plan on a minimum of five boxes a day with more on the weekends, although working weekends will hamper that some.

After unpacking last night, I had two epiphanies -- they were in one of the smaller boxes: 1.) I have far too many pans. I have a pan problem. Just as I have a pen problem. Thankfully, no pun problems. None whatsoever. 2.) I unpacked two of my five typewriters and thought -- for a second (really an hour) -- now that I'm settling I could really use more typewriters. At one point I had 35-40 antique typewriters but sold them because they stink to move and they collect dust well.

Really, now that I'm settling, I could have more typewriters. But then I was reminded of the story of the Buddha, who told his students all they needed was a rice pot and a teacup. When a student asked, "What if you have visitors?" he replied, "Well course they will bring their own rice pot and teacup."

So, if you're going to visit my house -- I mean home -- please bring your own typewriter. And if you forget it when you leave, I promise I will take care of it. I will pet it and hug it and name it George.

Even though my home is uncontrolled chaos, somehow I'm going to bed feeling home and waking up feeling home.

And I know this is my last move because it took me two decades to get home.

Well, not the last.

At some point someone is going to move me to the graveyard. But I don't have to worry about that.

Peace and boxes and boxes of stuff unto all of you my brothers and sisters.

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

 I could not blog last night because I could do nothing.

That included getting out of my stuffed chair. Thankfully, a colleague had brought Leinenkugel's and it was near me.

I woke up Tuesday at a cheap motel in Madison, where thankfully I was neither sex-trafficked nor bludgeon to death  in my bed.

The drive was going swimmingly until I hit light snow near Necedah which grew to heavy snow by the time I reached Eau Claire. I drove slowly, remembering what my dad told me when I started driving in the snow: It's better to be late than not get there. Half a dozen cars that passed me were in the ditches when I passed them.

By the time I hit Hayward, it was well passed arrival time and 14 degrees. We had snow while I was gone, which I had to overcome while I backed the beast into the driveway and near the garage without hitting the house.

Thankfully, I only had to try that maneuver 30 to 40 times before some measure of success.

Soon, a little more than half a dozen good, great, beautiful people showed up to help me unload. I don't know if was the 14-degree temperature or I had little furniture and mostly boxes but we unpacked a 26-feet box truck in 45 minutes.

A couple of folks came in for beer in the once-empty now cluttered home.

After they left, I planned on going someplace with Wi-Fi to blog. But I couldn't get out of the damned chair -- which, by the way, had been marked by some critter in one of the previous storage places.

I have sat in worse seats.

I finally built up the courage to withstand the pain in my knees, went out to get my suitcase and computers and then doddered back into the house.

I mean the home.

After a microwaved meal, I finished the beer and hit hard my mattress on the floor.

I dreamed of lions.

This trip reminded me once again the power and beauty of my fellow people. Sure, there are assholes, but I feel surrounded by friendship and love.

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

Monday, December 6, 2021

 I'm utterly exhausted this evening.

I will never move, ever again.

The morning greeted me at my favorite Marathon gas station in Bloomington telling my my card was declined, not once, not twice but three times despite calls to the card company and my bank.

I had needed $250 in gas to make it back to Hayward and thought, for a brief second, I'd have to stay and making a living in Bloomington. Doing, you know, stuff.

My financial folks finally worked it out for me and I hit the road with 22 ounces of Pepsi in my gut and a hunger to return to below zero temperatures.

But when I turned west out of Indianapolis, I hit straight winds of about 35 miles an hour. The now ladden truck moved like a brontosaurus who'd eaten at a Golden Waffle -- filled with food boiled in fake margarine and now the chutes were greased.

I had to pull over every two hours because it was exhausting.

Then it became worse. 

I turned north at Champaign-Urbana where wind came from the west at 35 miles at hour and my 34-foot behemoth acting like a huge wind sale.

Each time a gust hit the truck, I twisted my body along with the wheel to keep from crashing, either into semis going 85 mph or small cars going the same speed but sounding like angry bees.

It might have helped to stop every now and then for a piece of pie or some ice cream but my bank was now down to nothing, even with the debit card issues fixed.

I had budgeted $350 for the entire strip for gas. The trip down was $250. With the now-filled truck and wind issues, I'll spend $500 return home.

Of course, I can't wait the return to Hayward, my new and last home.

The troubles of the trip show what I'm willing to do for my final settlement.

Peace and home sweet home unto all of you by brothers and sisters.

Sunday, December 5, 2021

 My vast beast of a truck was full by 11 a.m. Saturday.

I could have hit the road to be in Madison by 6 p.m. Sunday, home on Monday. It would have saved money, of which there is little left.

But I had to stay to see my beer-drinking buddies in Bloomington -- and it was worth it.

This is an odd little family who gather round beer but who come from every angle of life, education, religion, career. It's not about the beer.

They know each other and care for one another.

And, let's be honest, it is a little bit about the beer. This is no sober Hallmark movie of the ewek.

When I first started at the Herald-Times I wrote in my column I would start writing pieces at Upland Brewing Company at 3 p.m. on Sunday. It was a way to interact with readers. I was shocked and pleased to see a group of people, one of whom greeted me with a copy of my column.

"They're here for me," I thought, filled with no little ego.

Well, they gathered there every Sunday for at least a decade and I had crashed their party.

I wrote there for a while until my publisher asked me to stop being so beer-centric. Imagine that. A boy from the Wisconsin Northwoods being a lover of brews.

I kept writing my columns but from home yet these folks had become friends so I continued joining them.

They were all locals and all brilliant in their own way. I came to think I was accepted only because I'm a high-end smartass.

We parted for a while at the beginning of the shutdown and then I was laid off and bouncing around. I had started using The Tap on the square in Bloomington for its Wi-Fi access where I could milk a beer for a long time while applying for jobs across the nation.

One Sunday, sitting at The Tap, Dennis walked in. He's a burley old man, a brilliant carpenter by trade and one of the best-read people I've ever met. He asked to join me.

Person by person, the group became reborn over the coming weeks and months until I left to take my awesome job in Hayward.

In town this weekend to collect my stuff, I could have saved money by leaving Saturday but I had to see my little beer-drinking family.

I staved off full on bawling but certainly, as folks left one by one, I had some misty eyes as we hugged.

Not goodbye but I'll see you in the spring after Wisconsin thaws.

Peace and beer-drinking buddies unto all of you my brothers and sisters.

Saturday, December 4, 2021

 It feels odd to fit your life into 26 feet of a truck.

I hadn't seen any of it for about two years as it was in various places of storage.

But there it was. Professional mover Jamal and my friend Josh loaded the vast beast in less than an hour. In my mind, I had built a story that loading my stuff would be akin to supplying East Germany after the Wall was built.

Naw. Fifty five minutes.

I aided little because my problem with gout and my knees and legs has left me with little mobility. I looked more than a little like Fred Sanford.

And yet there it was. This moment I thought would be monumentally problematic became much less than that.

Now I had a bouncy truck, half filled, to return 700 miles.

I thought about taking off for Wisconsin, then and there, at five minutes to 11 a.m. But I did want to see my Bloomington beer-drinking buddies Sunday and so it will be.

While I had made the moving of stuff to be a monumental challenge in my mind, it turned out to be just a job, particularly when taken in small bites. Like the old Hindu phrase: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

I still have half the challenge remaining, returning to Hayward, Wisconsin, Monday and Tuesday.

And I will have virtually no money to my name after the final leg of the trip but that won't be the first time. 

I will have a home and be home.

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

Friday, December 3, 2021

I'm here back in Bloomington but oh it was a bumpy day.

I've lived in three cities in Indiana and am aware that fixing roads is not on the top 100 hit list for public projects. But driving a 34-foot beast at highway speeds when the truck has two-by-fours for shock absorbers was an experience. 

I might as well have been driving down railroad tracks.

I'm reminded of the advice of the philosopher Michael Jackson: "Shake it, shake it baby."

On the return trip, I'm going to fill containers with ice cream and chocolate syrup and sell them to passersby.

When I finally finished the violent circle of hell that is I-465 around Indianapolis, I stopped for gas. This Mobinante drank gasoline like I drink gin. At this point I topped $200 on the drive down -- empty.

But my debit card -- where I have all my money -- was denied. Two minutes later, I received a recorded message that my card was temporarily denied because of suspicious activity.

Yes, $200 gallons of gas in three states is suspicious. 

Now I faced the thought of getting my stuff back to Wisconsin -- without money.

It's been years since I tried to sell myself for money. That never worked. Given my age and weight, I thought Nueske's could put out a special bacon of aged and smoked pork belly. But not from afar.

I had 33 miles left to Bloomington and made it. I called the emergency number on the card and a helpful attendant in Bali helped me fixed a problem that damned near made me cry. Do you have any idea how hard it is for me to cry? I watched "Old Yeller," and I was like, yeah, screw him.

I'm pretty calm but money problems are the switch to my 200-watt anxiety.

I had to check into one of the hotels that had been my home for months during my troubles. The owner knew me right away. "You were in 109 -- I remember you." I asked on his uncle and his daughter and they were all fine. He have me a special rate on a king-sized bed for $72 a night. Sometimes a special is more special.

I had to call my friend who let me store my junk in his garage for what seemed like years. We met out with his girlfriend. Another friend at a local restaurant put us outside on the Kirkwood in a geodesic plastic dome called "the igloo" for dinner. The bar manager bought me a drink and promised to meet later this week to catch up.

Certainly there have been struggles during the troubles yet I remain the luckiest man on the face of the earth.

Lou Gehrig can kiss my ass.

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

Thursday, December 2, 2021

 Neither man nor beast is she but massive U-Haul truck in which I'll travel 1,400 miles.

I'll call her Mobinante, a portmanteau of the other worldly whale Moby Dick and Rocinante, the steed of Don Quixote. She is both my nemesis and my vehicle.

And she is big. Mobinante goes 34 feet long with a 26 foot box to fit all my useless stuff. She is 12-feet high.

Consider my current vehicle is a Subaru the same size as a 50-cent piece. Imagine me, at my size, trying to fit into that.

Plus she shakes.

Think about being behind me while I twerk. That's the mind picture of the week. I'm sorry about the induced gagging.

But I'm in Madison, about halfway on the trip to get my stuff and I'm happy with my progress, despite being a big baby about it. I'm think about the trip in pieces because otherwise I'd spit up often. Half a trip to Madison. The remainder to Bloomington, Indiana. Some professionals packing the truck on Saturday morning. The afternoon to wander the wonders of the home to Indiana University and a chance to see old friends. Maybe some of best pot roast in the history of the world at Michael's Uptown Cafe. A couple nights at the cheap motel where I befriended the owner and his family. When I gave a $20 weekly tip to the owner's uncle, who oversaw the cleanliness of my room, he tilted his head to his right side and said, each time, "God bless you, sir."

Sunday I will sip with my Bloomington beer-drinking buddies, the most brilliant group of beer drinkers I've ever known.

On Monday, I return half way to Madison and Tuesday, I make it home where a huge group of friends will meet me to unload my belongings.

There's the old Hindu saying that the best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.

That becomes the mantra of this trip.

A trip not nearly so iconic as "On the Road" by Jack Kerouac. Perhaps I need more dexedrine.

Peace and bite-size pieces unto all of you my brothers and sisters.

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Tomorrow morning I'll get in my box truck and start the two-day trek to Bloomington, Indiana, to fetch my stuff.

It's nearly two years since I've seen most of it and I imagine the coming weeks will be like Christmas, with reactions ranging from "cool" to "what the hell is this?"

I don't look forward to the drive but I have to do it. I have professional packers (not from Green Bay) to load me up and then I'll spend some time with dear friends. Finally I'll drive back for two days and friends up north will help me unload.

Then I'll get to work making the "house" a "home," just in time for kid to visit for Christmas.

I'll blog as I go.

Peace and safe travels unto all of us my brothers and sisters.