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Friday, December 30, 2022

When my mom's blood oxygen level dropped precipitously Thursday, I packed up my two laptops and hopped into my geriatric car.

"Make it so I can get this thing to Chippewa Falls," I told my mechanic.

And just as I started to drive, I started to cry.

I thought about mom dying and how I would have to announce it to Kid, and friends, family, colleagues, you, my dear readers.

Wait, I thought, don't kill her before she's dead. I calmed and listened to crappy car radio. I do not like Hall and Oates in good times let alone in stress.

Mom has had COVID since the beginning of the week and received some anti-virals but before they could kick in, the oxygen level plunged. Two years ago, few civilians knew nothing about the importance of oxygen levels in the blood. Now we cite them like speed limits in the city. I'm at 95. The other guy says he's 100.

My mom was 82.

I stopped crying and stopped some place -- I couldn't tell you -- to get a bottle of Chippewa Springs water to hydrate.

I passed so many of the old familiar sites driving into Chippewa Falls, Bloomer, Tilden, turning off on County Highway S where the sign directed me toward the hospital. I didn't recall S being near the hospital but I trusted the sign. And then got lost. Thanks to some Google app, I pulled into the emergency room at St. Joseph's Hospital in my old hometown.

My dad died in the St. Joe's ER 38 years ago. I expected a pasting of PTSD but the new ER is built as an addition to the hospital so I didn't have triggering moments.

Immediately, the receptionist said my brother was in the ER room and only one was allowed.

I understood.

I texted my brother to alert him I was there. He was waiting to talk to a doctor or nurse before he could update me on mom's condition.

Sadly, I thought about how much work I missed during the day because it's pretty overwhelming right now. I could see the emails rolling up on me like a ticker tape stock machine, tic tic tic tic tic tic tic.

Everything stabilized by mid-day so my brother and I bugged out for some beer and hot beef sandwiches. Bonding. It's been some time.

On return, a doctor talked with my brother, appeasing both of us to allow us home returns. 

A tiring day called for a couple Manhattans before going home, where I ate leftover ham from my friend's Christmas party. Liquor and smoked meats served as my communion for the day.

I hate writing this but I promised long ago to be painfully truthful.

Mom returns to her dementia care facility Saturday.

I return to work.

Kid arrives this coming Thursday.

Such is life.

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

Friday, December 23, 2022

 I'm sorry I've been gone.

These have been some strange times for a few weeks.

I wrote about how one of our dearest colleagues was in a terrible crash and since then I've largely worked most available hours.

That's affected the holidays. Kid and I talked about the blizzard, which hasn't hit our area as much as others. But it's still cold. I woke up to minus-15 degrees this morning. My car grudgingly groaned to a start. Not unlike me.

Kid switched her trip to later. In part because she would have spent significant time in my office during her trip. Sadly, she spent many days like that during her youth as work called and I had to respond.

In the meantime, I work as my colleague was like the horse in "Animal Farm," willing to work regardless of circumstances.

I'm invited to a bar party Saturday night where I'll see so many friends. And I've been invited to my friend Kellee's family Christmas Sunday where I bring my own liquor -- in a big box. Kellee has adopted me as her odd uncle and I appreciate her friendship.

I'll have a wonderful Christmas and I hope all of you do as well.

And I promise to write more regardless of distractions.

Peace unto Ukraine and peace unto and season's greetings unto all of you my brothers and sisters.

Friday, December 16, 2022

My friends, wear your seatbelts.

Last Saturday, one of our colleagues was in a horrible car accident where someone in the other car died. Our colleague wore a seatbelt and it saved his life.

He suffered some broken ribs and a cracked sternum. But he's alive.

His absence has been a massive challenge in an office where we count folks on one hand. More so, our colleague has worked in Hayward for 40 years as of 2023. He carries with him the history of the area and most families.

Then the region was hit by 18 inches of snow over a two-day period. Power at our newspaper office was knocked out for at least a day. Tree branches, heavy with snow, bent and broke on to power lines affecting tens of thousands of customers.

I went out chasing photos but wifi connection as well. Many public places with free wifi were closed. At one point, my colleague and I holed up in a closed bar so we could post stories about the weather, power outages and warming shelters. We finalized coverage from the wifi at the county courthouse.

We did good work -- one person down.

 I often think about the important work journalists do but that's immediately exacerbated by being down staff in a huge story.

But the most important lesson of this last week? Wear a goddamn seatbelt.

Peace unto the Ukraine and peace and seatbelts unto all of you my brothers and sisters.

Saturday, December 3, 2022

 I can't figure out how friends happen -- but they inevitably do.

Last Sunday, two friends invited me to church because there were concerned eternal hell fires will render out my fat ass. (I've read multiple stories about fires started at crematoria where the fat of an obese person undergoing cremation have burned places down. That's why I'm eating more salads. I don't want to be that story in my own newspaper.)

During the church service, I had a true revelation: Wow, there are many hot chicks in church.

I'm not sure the singular service will solve my problem but that two people cared enough about me to invite me to the service is heartwarming. One of my ideals is to be gracious to offers to me, even if it is from people who wish to change my character and person.

Even though I remain new to the community, they were taking care of me as a friend, a new friend.

On Tuesday evening, I sat at a bar that is a mere 300 feet from my home when the bartender took a phone call and then screamed -- her house was on fire.

I couldn't fathom my friend driving to the scene so I immediately offered to drive. As we cleaned the snow and ice from her vehicle, she insisted on driving but asked me to ride along.

I tried to calm and coach her as she drove on roads with 5 inches of newly accumulated snow. I told her when to slow down and managed some phone calls during the drive to her rural home. "It's better to get there than not," I repeated. "You're doing a great job," I repeated.

She's my friend.

Initial information suggested it was a chimney fire but when we turned into the driveway, we could see flames 30 feet into the air. Her family home was fully engulfed, rare for home fires.

I stayed for a couple hours, hugging family members and trying to serve as an interpreter between firefighter language and family language. I've been to more than enough fires I care to think about.

After a couple hours, I texted a friend to come pick me up. I hadn't brought a coat or gloves or appropriate shoes. In choosing to offer assistance, I jumped into the breech. That's decades of response on breaking news stories.

It's also about immediately responding to friends' needs. My friend needed someone with her, just as my friends in church are trying to save me.

I need friends, too.

I texted a friend asking for a ride home from the fire, which had continued for almost two hours.

She and her boyfriend arrived and found a way to hoist my fat ass into one of those trucks where the access is three feet off the ground.

I didn't talk much during their rescue and decided I didn't want to sit in the bar where the drama first occurred. Instead, I drove to a nearby watering hole where I could order a decent -- and stiff -- Jack Daniels Manhattan. But on the drive over, I thought I had a flat tire -- it was a cold night in the Northwoods. The car was shaking uncontrollably. On arrival, all the tires were full.

When I walked into the bar, I realized the shaking was me. I had hypothermia. With little knowledge of medical nomenclature, I believe that meant my "thermia" was "hypo."

The story of my week is that friends give. Friends don't hesitate to give.

And I remain the luckiest bastard in the history of the world.

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

Friday, November 25, 2022

 I am thankful for all kinds of crap.

The humorous phrase I use in real life is much more foul than that, you can imagine.

But it's truthful.

My kid, my mom, my family, colleagues, friends -- bar or otherwise -- I am thankful. Particularly for readers of my newspaper and readers of this blog.

The list of thankful crap: relish trays, Christian Watson, a nice cup of tea, my mom's spaghetti recipe, a Jack Daniels Manhattan, fish fry (my order is in as I write this), a beautiful sunset on a frigid northern Wisconsin night, cold days where I can shop for meat during the lunch break and not have to unload it until I get home because nature serves as my refrigerator, when anyone laughs, a text from a good friend, bacon frying.

Damnit, I'm starting to sound like a Tom T. Hall song.

I celebrated Thanksgiving by going to the Steakhouse where there was enough food to feed a football stadium. I was surrounded by friends who work there, friends from the community and met some new folks. I might have appeared to some as the old guy by himself but nothing could be further from the truth.

Early bed and a late sleep, a stop at work and then burger and a beer for lunch.

I'm a pretty lucky cat.

Peace unto Ukraine and peace and a burger and a beer unto all of you my brothers and sisters.

Monday, November 21, 2022

 "Hey, dad, it's (Kid) and I'm coming to visit for Christmas," she said as soon as I picked up the phone.

"Get the (expletive) out of here," I responded, again ensuring no nominations for father of the year for 22 years in a row.

Now I can't wait to see Kid. But I generally haven't celebrated Christmas in a long time. At my previous newspapers, which were all dailies, I often covered the cops shift and wrote a Christmas feature so other folks could be with their families because Kid visited at some other point.

Someone must remind me of the pageantry of the holiday, which I'll inevitably skip and go with a couple bottles Ballatore, a cheap sparkling that manages to satisfy.

We immediately started planning the menu -- I have to make her favorite chili and egg salad sandwiches. I suggested we cook together a dish I taught her when she was 10 years old that I dubbed "Chicken ala (Kid)." Basically it's chicken scallopini. But named for Kid.

The two of us will play much pool. About 10 years ago, I taught her how to be a pool hustler. There was a free pool table in a hotel during our trips from out east to home in Chippewa Falls. "Free" is my second favorite phrase and we played and played.

On Kid's last visit, we played some pool at the Moccasin Bar, where she beat a number of burly dudes who thought they'd teach that little girl something. When I finally had a chance to play her, I won. She's so used to winning, she said, "I can't believe you beat me." Remember, I said, "I'm the one who taught you."

If you have time, check out one of her newest performances from her sketch comedy group, Bounce Haus Comedy: Jane Sullivan, Sleuth - YouTube

Can't wait.

Peace unto Ukraine and chili, egg salad and billiards unto you my brothers and sisters.

Friday, November 18, 2022

 A friend asked me months ago to write a chapter for a book he was working on that views Jesus through a Taoist perspective.

He just emailed all the 80 some folks who each were asked to write about 250 words to tell us where the book stands. There's interest and a decent shot for publication.

So that's cool.

I also finally saw the list of other contributors and feel good -- proud even -- to be included. It's an impressive list of folks who have degrees and books and pedigrees. I am a chubby editor of a weekly newspaper who will always laugh at a fart joke. 

The editor allowed me to pick my own assignment out of the 80 selections and I took "Jesus was a radical." 

Note that I'm no longer religious -- mostly because my knees are shot and kneeling is hard. But I have 15 years of Bible study and I've read Lao Tzu's "Tao Te Ching" (Steven Mitchell's 1988 translation) multiple times.

Please note I'm not sure what more I can write about the book nor do I feel it appropriate to quote from my submission.

Why chose that topic?

When Jesus was asked, according to three of the four gospels, what is the greatest Commandment, he offered two. 1.) Love God with your heart and soul. 2.) Love others as you would be loved. He said if people do these two things, they will gain entrance into heaven.

Consider what Christianity is now as well as other religions, there are thousands of admonitions, right down to the food you eat and the clothing you wear. Oh -- and no sex hardly ever. (I think that's because many humans will choose sex over salvation.) (Note to self: "Sex Over Salvation" would also make a great novel title.)

A radical suggests simplicity that is hard to do.

And I wrote about how Confucius offered so many rules they included farting: "The man who farts in church will sit in his own pew."

Yeah, me and the fart joke -- always.

Our so-called leaders of political factions right now misuse the term "radical." No, it's not someone who is an idealogue.

A radical is someone who breaks from normalcy and creates a new and better way.

Peace unto Ukraine and radicalism unto all of you my brothers and sisters.

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

My daughter is now officially a Hollywood producer.

No, she will not give you cocaine. Or come on to you. Make you disrobe. Start wearing a bunch of chains and sunglasses, even past sundown.

That certainly is the producer cliche but I know Kid better than that.

This last weekend she worked as producer and script supervisor for a movie short called "Shpilkis." The movie, written by her friend from college is autobiographical about an observant Jewish queer person returning for a wild Rosh Hashana family celebration. 

For my Gentile friends, "shpilkis" is a Yiddish word that is traditionally defined as "pins and needles" but generally describes uneasiness. (I'm aided in my own Gentile life by a book my mother bought me for Christmas in eighth grade: "The Joys of Yiddish" by Leo Rosten.)

On, the logline for the movie says: "A closeted college freshman returns home for a chaotic Rosh Hashannah with her high-school ex-girlfriend and over-bearing Jewish family."

I don't know what a logline is, other than industry jargon.

And production states: "This project is a proof of concept, meaning it will be shot to acquire funding for a feature-length film of the same name. Actors must be comfortable with comedy and improvisation!"

I find it unbelievable describing my 22-year-old Kid working as a producer on a movie short in Hollywood. Parents will understand that when we think about our kids, they are perpetually 6-years-old. 

Yet here's my 6-year-old spending a weekend doing important work while holding down another full-time job within the entertainment industry. I'm not allowed to write about that.

I'm obviously a proud dad but not surprised.

When Clare was in the Kindergarten production of "Billy Goats Gruff", she abhorred the violent ending so the play was re-written in which the goats and the troll become friends and they all go to Dairy Queen. (Side note: Kid and I have spent much time at DQs.)

She'll go great places.

And I'll follow as she has promised to support me in my dotage, which is currently schedule for 2024.

Peace unto Ukraine and Hollywood magic unto you my brothers and sisters.

Sunday, November 13, 2022

 I approach the few final hours of my most recent vacation in peace.

First, or last, the Packers won. That always puts the cherry in my Manhattan. 

Three days off plus I didn't work the weekend. (I did go in for one hour Wednesday night to do time cards, though. One does what one must.)

Unlike last time, I did not ruminate. I either did or did not do. (Yoda would be proud.)

I did what I wanted to do when I wanted and it was pretty nice. If I felt like cleaning, I cleaned. When I wanted to cook, I cooked. And when I needed to talk with fellow human beings, I went out and enjoyed a couple drinks with them.

My successes? I made a so-so bean soup that's pretty thick. I've decided to mold them into bricks and sell them as kilos of some kind of substance sold in kilos.

Overnight, I made my old recipe of nearly vegetarian minestroni (I cheat with 32 ounces of low-sodium chicken brother). It's killer. I packaged some for friends.

The kitchen is nearly finished, which allowed me to cook like the old days and to eat and to clean. It's been years since I made my own coffee along with some eggs and toast. This morning, I made my dad's version of soft-boiled eggs with toast. It tasted good but I'm not sure it's worth the third degree burns suffered by handling the cooked eggs.

I did laundry. It's this thing where you wash you own clothes at home. (Note to self: Perhaps washing 10-year-old T-shirts means I need to buy new clothing.)

Failures? Doesn't matter.

I'll note there were multiple times when I thought to myself that five days off in a row was too much. That only means I have to do better at treating myself well. 

I approach the work week Monday happily, expecting to be fully engaged and with less exhaustion than in past weeks and months.

Peace unto Ukraine and self-care unto all of you my brothers and sisters.

Friday, November 11, 2022

During my off day Thursday, I made 15-bean soup that ended up being pretty similar to spackle.

I threw in a half pound of smoked chicken but when you need to boil the beans for 400 hours, according to instructions, it tends to suck the flavor out of anything in the soup. For the record, I did not smoke the chicken myself because I can't keep the chicken lit.

As a child of Great Depression parents, I'll eat all 200 pounds of the spackle. It has no taste but it's high in fiber and protein. However, if any of you are putting up a brick wall or need new paving bricks, please contact me.

Charleton Heston, portraying Moses, called. He said they could use the bean soup to make bricks.

Today I slept in, made a simple breakfast of toast, scrambled eggs, coffee and juice. The coffee was a thing this weekend. I can't remember when I last used my fancy coffee make, which grinds the beans freshly and then brews the liquid. But I cleaned the thing up earlier in my time off, ran some vinegar through it, cleaned with water and now I make coffee at home for the first time in -- maybe -- four years.

I cleaned and unpacked during the morning and then went for lunch at Red Schoolhouse Wines in Stone Lake. A couple glasses of red and a cheese tray made a beautiful lunch. So much so I extended the lunch with a split of Proseco.

As I write this, I'm having a Manhattan before enjoying Northern Wisconsin sushi -- Friday night fish fry.

Such is my time off.

Peace unto Ukraine and time off for you my brothers and sisters.

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

I greet you on a day off during the middle of the week.

On Thursday, I shall have another.

And Friday? "Please sir, may I have another?" (Kevin Bacon during his peak acting.)

You see, I'm doing this thing where I take for myself. I shall clean, I shall unpack, I shall cook a meal a day that I can eat and freeze the rest for some of those long work days that will resume next week. (I'm contemplating watching the Green Bay Packers. Instead, I will eat Limburger cheese on a saltine as that will stink less than the team's performance against the Detroit Lions.)

Unlike my last three-day vacation, I have no expectations for what will happen.

And I may be excited by a wild hair and do something different, unexpected. Hopefully, it's not a wild hare exhibiting symptoms of rabies.

Today I had breakfast out and then went grocery shopping. A wild hair hit me to drive to Rice Lake, a city an hour to the south of Hayward.

Since coming to this rural outpost -- with many amenities because it's a tourist destination -- I've missed what I ignored in other cities.

For instance, Domino's Pizza. I've lived in cities where every single restaurant pizza was better than Domino's. I've prided myself on spending years not ordering Domino's. Now that I don't have it, well, damnit.

I had Chinese buffet for lunch today only to realize I should not miss it ever again. Good food fills not just the stomach but the soul. Steam trays filled with sodium and sugar, that tastes the same as every Chinese buffet I've ever tasted, fills nothing.

Except my lower colon. Quickly.

I checked out some bamboo window shades at Menards, bought some decent smoked chicken at a restaurant for my bean soup tomorrow.

Then I returned to my beloved new and last home of Hayward, Wisconsin. I unloaded groceries, went into work to do time cards and am now sitting at the Steakhouse and having a drinky-poo. I'll go home for dinner after two martinis.

And then sleep soundly as though I had vacationed in some exciting city.

According to the philosopher Ice Cube, it was a good day.

Peace unto Ukraine and a good day unto all of you my brothers and sisters.

Friday, November 4, 2022

 I like how we humans form our own little families.

On Thursday night, I watched as my friends from Louie's Bar & Bites won an award from the Sawyer County Chamber of Commerce as best new business at the annual dinner.

Louie's is within a couple hundred feet of where I live and quickly became one of my new watering holes after moving a second time here in Hayward. It helped that my friend Kellie already bartended there -- and they have excellent bar food. (Try the Mexican burger on Monday nights.)

The bar won the award at the Steakhouse and Lodge, where I've stayed during several of my homeless -- no address -- periods. And it's the place where I enjoy my Wisconsin Friday night fish fries every single Friday for 18 months. The place serves haddock, which I think tastes better than cod. I eat the fish fry just for the halibut.

What, you want me to shut up over that joke? 

You shut up.

So my little family from Louie's won an award and I joined that group back at their bar to celebrate.

Then my little family from the Steakhouse joined us for some more drinks and celebration, stupid commentary and the contest to play the most obnoxious music on the jukebox (I won).

Two of my local families -- I have more -- drank and laughed and enjoyed each other.

I've always been pretty lucky in terms of finding made families in my many locations. A "made" family is one not from physical connections but circumstance. We have more choices in the latter.

But as I've grown older, the celebrations of made families becomes even more sweet. 

I'm a pretty lucky cat.

Peace unto Ukraine and peace and family unto you my brothers and sisters.

Friday, October 28, 2022

Recently I promised to write more because in one month I had just four entries.

And here I am at the end of October with nary a handful of posts.

I'm working on overcoming my typical self-flagellation -- geez, that sounds like something gross. 

But October has been a busy time and at my advanced age I'm starting to understand I can only do so much. 

Just this last week I had three 13-hour days. When young, that would be as nothing. (I'm. stealing that line from S.J. Perelman, one of my writing heroes, who once wrote about Karl Jung spending a year in his 80s to play on the beach. Perelman's response was that would be as nothing for his fictional self.)

So this Friday, when I have failed to post enough, I am butt tired.

And happy, Work is good, personal life is full, kid is succeeding. I've enjoyed a couple martinis as I await fish fry -- a.k.a. Wisconsin sushi.

I will do better reporting in November, I promise.

In the meantime, I'm going to Halloween as a smalltown weekly editor. 

I'll send photos.

Peace unto Ukraine and peace unto smalltown weekly editors. (Please note it's "weekly" and not "weakly" although that can be debated.)

Friday, October 21, 2022

 As much as I hate it, birthdays bring about rumination.

It's a cliche.

But when you turn 57 -- the same age of your father when he died -- rumination comes with the birthday drinks.

I started thinking about it all Sunday night, the same day the Packers lost, and my thoughts led me to self-flagellation -- a thought system at which I excel. I went to bed considering myself a failure, a bad father, poor editor, crappy friend. Plus the Packers sucked.

I had formed a plan to improve in all areas, an impossible plan I realized the next morning when sleep cleared my mind from most of my funk. Most of it. I can still do better in many areas, including write more, cooking for myself more.

And I can take better care of myself so that I can live longer for Kid. I have dibs on her first Emmy or Oscar nomination because I called it. Sorry, ex-wife.

Tuesday morning, I checked my Buddhism Quotes app, which told me, "If a problem is fixable, if a situation is such that you can do something about it, then there is no need to worry. If it's not fixable, then there is no help in worrying. There is no benefit in worrying whatsoever."

From the Dalai Lama.

And this: "Eighty percent of the people in the world are fools and the rest of us are in danger of contamination."

From "Hello, Dolly."

For years I thought those were the same person.

The birthday was nice, although I didn't announce it. Some people knew and were so sweet to me. One of the few positives of Facebook is getting beautiful message from all my travels. Sometimes I worry, given my profession and my age, that I might have lost sincerity and empathy. Facebook birthdays quell that feeling.

Rumination has turned to reflection in these few days and I will be better for it.

Peace unto Ukraine and peace unto yourselves my brothers and sisters.

Friday, October 7, 2022

 Gannett paid me this week.

I wrote a while ago about a notification from my former company that it had determined it owed me $1,900.

And I mentioned the program for paying former employees what's owed them would begin starting Nov. 1 but that it would take eight to 10 weeks for me to receive the check. So I noted on this blog the largest newspaper company in the country would pay me promptly -- in 2023.

Well, I received the check this week.

Natural narcissism tells me that I made a public stink so I was paid.

Normal life isn't like that, though. The mechanisms of the world let alone Gannett don't recognize me the individual.

What matters is I was paid and the $1,900 the company owed me is in my account, earning interest, and not in Gannett's account earning said interest.

Now it's in my checking account plus I bought a $38 bottle of 2018 Hess Collection Cabernet Sauvignon. I shall enjoy it with a steak grilled on my deck. That's a steal for a top-notch Napa Valley cabernet.

Simple pleasures.

And a nice way to finalize the relationship with Gannett.

Peace unto Ukraine and a decent wine unto all of you my brothers and sisters.

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

One of the many things I looked forward to on my return to Wisconsin was watching a Packer game in a bar where all the patrons were on my side.


Somewhere along the line of 30 years, with few exceptions, of winning seasons Packers fans became insane.

I now regularly sit beside fellow Packer fans who live and die by each play.

The team general manager and coach should be fired. The four-time MVP should be let go. Burn all of Lambeau down and restart the oldest NFL team because three consecutive 13-win seasons aren't enough.

It's no longer like the 1980s Wisconsin bars where fans were just happy to be there. The Packers didn't win but they existed. And we continued on the fumes of the Lombardi era 20 years earlier. The team had a good year when they broke even and there remained conjecture the team might fold or, God forbid, be sold and moved to a city that was larger and more lucrative. 

Like Appleton.

I moved away from Wisconsin in 2000 and spent the better part of two decades to return home.

Now the fans I sit next to want to fire every Packer employee if a pass is dropped, the other team makes a first down or Aaron Rodgers changes his haircut.

Really, dude. He's the Jennifer Aniston of the NFL.

The dudes and dudettes on the bar stools next to me are often ready to climb to the top of the bar and throw themselves off.

Full disclosure: I was there once. I clearly remember a game the Packers lost in in the playoffs against Atlanta some years ago, while I was living on a bucolic Pennsylvania and my head was about to explode. I considered I might have a stroke and no one would find me for weeks -- and I still would have looked fat.

It's just a game, I told myself, gorged on Leinenkugel's and Wisconsin brats I had exported to Pennsylvania. Had I died, the level of decomposition would be overcome by the smell of Silver Springs Beer and Brat mustard as it would waft through the scene.

It's just a game.

And thus a celebration where I enjoy the drama of highs and lows of the most gloried teams in the National Football League.

Even if I have to take aways the means of self harm from the cat sitting next to me, guns, knives, rope or an application to the Brian Urlacher fan club.

Peace unto Ukraine. Peace and more peace unto my fellow Packers fans.

Oh, and go Pack.

Saturday, September 24, 2022


Dateline: Hayward, Wisconsin, Sept. 24, 2022.

News: Kids try to eat donuts on a string without using their hands during the Fall Fest.

I need to get out more and see some of these minor joys of life and photograph them. 

I went to the Fest last year in my orange T-shirt and won biggest pumpkin contest. When I wear the same T-shirt through the year, I still wear the medal. Some people were pissed. But I was like, rules are rules: Big and orange.

Fun day, tiring and bad for an old man's knees and hips, pounding up and down the hard surface of Main Street for three hours.

But I got this photo out of it.

So worth it.

Peace unto Ukraine and peace and donuts on a string to all of you my brothers and sisters.

Friday, September 23, 2022


As the season turns, the grill stays hot.

The leaves outside my bedroom have started turning red and the air no longer smells green, the kind of scent of freshly mown grass.

I left open the window as I slept the other night when temperature descended into the 40s, sinking the thermostat to 62. I don't care. I have blankets. Additional T-shirts. And maybe some shots of Dr. McGillicuddy's Mentholmint Schnapps. 

But I must grill. 

Tuesday night, after I left abruptly from a local watering hole because the asshole next to me used the N-word as adjective, adverb and noun, I decided to grill out during the week -- a rarity for me.

It was worth any darkness, cold temperature and grogginess in the morning.

With the help of a local Bavarian-trained chef, I modified a Thomas Keller recipe for roast chicken. The latter had me squeeze fresh lemons over the chicken carcass and then shove the lemon husks into the cavity along with rosemary sprigs. I used the last of rosemary growing on my deck. But Max, a retired chef who somehow found his way from Bavaria to northern Wisconsin, suggested I add fresh parsley and some onion. He told me this while I polished off red cabbage, fresh sauerkraut and spatzel he made for Oktoberfest here.

It was beautiful. The vibrant mixture of lemon and rosemary -- I'd eat a shoe stuffed thusly -- were balanced by the earthiness I love of onions and parsley.

A lovely little evening, along with half a bottle of Wente Chardonnay, soothed the stress of Tuesday's deadline and the asshole at the bar. (Note to self: "Asshole at the Bar" is a great autobiography title.)

After I called him a bigot and a racist, and then left, he has not returned to my watering hole.

Peace unto Ukraine and peace and a whole roast of chicken on the grill unto you my brothers and sisters.

Sunday, September 18, 2022

 One of the greatest things about being a journalist is you get to be in places others have never imagined.

That's how I found myself Saturday morning where 3,000 bicyclists whooshed past me while I took photos to document the start of the 39th annual Chequamegon Mountain Bike Festival, a 19-mile race through hills of the Wisconsin Northwoods.

Colleagues told me about the "whoosh" and for about five minutes the bikers created a stiff breeze as they raced past while I clicked away.

The riders don't look like they're racing here but at the beginning, in downtown Hayward, they're waiting for the turns of the downtown to give way to the open road and later the off-road trails used for the Birkebeiner cross country ski tournament.

But they were moving fast enough to make the wind blow through my hair -- both of them.

Peace unto Ukraine and may the breeze of a thousand cyclists tousle your hair and offer you peace.

Friday, September 16, 2022

 Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son.

-- Dean Vernon Wormer

Living out of boxes is no way to go through life, either.

Summers are busy here in the Wisconsin Northwoods. We have the weekly newspaper and I also manage another weekly south of here. Starting with Memorial Day, we put out a magazine every two weeks to welcome visitors to God's Country. We have our own special sections and we have regional editions.

It is a busy time.

Sadly, that's meant my efforts at unpacking have slowed. Which is a nice way of saying I haven't been unpacking -- either my boxes or my burdens. Since at least May.

That will change Saturday, even though I'll spend my morning taking photos of a race that includes 2,000 bicycle riders though the gently rolling hills of the Northwoods.

Then I'll visit one of the local history museums to get an armful of historical photos to publish with our Time Machine column, a favorite feature of most newspapers where we recap stories from the past.

After that, I'll probably take some photos at our local Oktoberfest, where the feast is cooked by a retired, Bavarian-trained chef named Maximillion. (He has referred to a competitor as having Scheiße wienerschnitzel. Shit.)

Then, then I'll return home to restart the unboxing process. 

The truth is I love my job and any chance I have to cover my community I'll not just take but enjoy.

But I will also reconcentrate efforts to unbox.

Home needs to be a refuge rather than an afterthought. I need my cooking equipment so I can have over hungry friends. I also need to feel comfortable in my confines.

Here's to serious unpacking as the summer season cools.

Peace unto Ukraine and peace and an unboxed life unto you my brothers and sisters.

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

 The state of Wisconsin has conferred unto me doggie license plates.


My lack of Wisconsin-issued license plates had become something of a local discussion point particularly given it's been 18 months since my arrival. Among the most notable are a couple of retired cops who can't give up on their mission of keeping the peace, although vehicle registration is more about the state finding ways to make money than protecting citizens from criminals.

Arf. arf.

So $260 bucks later, I'm legally registered, sadly not with the American Kennel Club.

Arf, arf, arf.

And I have plates that send secret signals to others on the road, this guy is OK, he's from Wisconsin. He drinks, eats tubed meats and cheers on the Green Bay Packers even when they tear his heart out as they did last Sunday. He's not a Goodfella, as in the movie. But he's a fella. I'll tell ya that much.

Arf, arf, arf, arf.

Perhaps the new plate will earn me points with my dog-owning friends or dog-loving strangers. They will assume I'm dog friendly. However, I do not have a dog. I can barely take care of myself let alone another living being that deserves a life better than existing on Twizzlers and gin martinis (seriously, try it, they make great companions).

Arf, arf, arf, arf, arf.

The woman at the BMV, which stands for Bowl Movement Vehicle like my own, told me I needed to become a Wisconsin citizen by getting a state driver's license. That not as easily done. I need a birth certificate or a passport, two bills sent to my house, a urine sample, a swab stuck up my nose until it tickled my brain, a QI test -- I mean an IQ test -- an entire toe, some spit on a glazed donut, a recording of me singing "Kumbaya" in falsetto and one rabbit bunny.

Arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf. arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf.

Who the hell brought the chihuahua?

Peace unto Ukraine and peace and "arf" unto you my brothers and sisters.

Friday, September 9, 2022


My parsley is dying.

It could be treated as a metaphor to go along with summer.

"As the season of summer passes, so do the greens of summer."

Nah, too easy.

For most of college, I worked toward a second degree in philosophy with a specialty in logic. My logic mentor, Dr. Richard Behling, was a logical positivist but said he wasn't because the school was regularly derided as self-refuting. Logical positivists, or so said Karl Popper in 1933, would not discuss anything that couldn't be proven logically or scientifically -- an idea that couldn't be proven, you guessed it, logically or scientifically. 

But my professor once said the perfectly logical poem was from Gertrude Stein: "A rose is a rose is a rose" ad infinitum. 

What of parsley?

Growing outside on my deck, it shall pass. This, too, could be said of me, of all of us.

I would remiss, though, to fail writing about growing parsley this year in my newest home. Among my crop was rosemary, basil, thyme, oregano and parsley -- plus a basket of salad greens and a tomato plant. (The latter of which, in a pot, produced tomatoes with less flavor than the supermarket tomato in January. I fed them to the Byrds -- not birds but the seminal rock band of the 1960s.)

Parsley was a throwaway but it ended up being the star of the summer.

Fresh parsley was so wonderful, I couldn't pass it any time of day without pinching a sprig and chewing on it -- including at 8 a.m. on my way to work. I started plucking and chopping parsley finely for a simple breakfast of parsley scrambled eggs and toast.

And it is dying as it will and should.

I didn't use enough of my herbs this summer but it was a wonderful start to creating a home after several years of tumult.

Next summer will be better as I am at home.

Peace unto Ukraine and peace and parsley unto you my brothers and sisters.

Thursday, September 8, 2022

For those of you who know me, grilling is my preferred milieu.

To paraphrase the description of the Old Man in "A Christmas Story," where other artists work in oils and pastel, I work in grilling.

And I have added a grill to my home.

Yes, studies have suggested charred food might involve carcinogens but what doesn't? So does bacon, which supposedly has the same issue. But bacon has never harmed me, only loved me. Were someone to invent a bacon comforter, I would buy it. (Note to self: Invent bacon comforter.)

But if something is cooked over coals, I'll eat it. And I'll cook it.

The photo I'm running with this post is the mundane: burgers and brats.

That will be lunches and dinners for half a week with the occasional vegetable acknowledged in a friendly manner. Sauerkraut is a vegetable, obviously.

But I can and will grill a three-course meal.

We'd start out with a grilled salad. I cut a head of romaine length-wise, brush it with olive oil and then salt and pepper. Put on the grill cut-side down for three minutes and then turn. Put crumbled blue cheese and cooked bacon on and cook another two minutes. Pull and dress the grilled salad with homemade balsamic syrup (Take a cup of balsamic vinegar and three tablespoons of brown sugar, cooked down to a cup again).

The main will be a whole chicken, drizzled with lemon juice. Then throw the lemon husks into the cavity of the chicken along with fresh rosemary. Twenty minutes before the chicken is ready to go, throw rosemary sprigs on to the coals to give the chicken a smokey rosemary taste.

Finally, cut peaches in half and rub brown sugar on to the cut side. Grill that for two to three minutes and turn over for another two minutes. Serve with ice cream.

It's also insanely easy to grill a pizza at home.

Or just about anything.

So now I have a grill and that adds to making my place more of a home for me. 

Peace unto Ukraine and peace and charred foods unto you my brothers and sisters.

Sunday, September 4, 2022

 My mom turned 90 this weekend.

Saturday, I drove to Chippewa Falls -- with help from a friend who loaned me some money to make my car highway worthy -- to pick up my brother and celebrate with them this distinctive mark in my mom's life.

And ran into friends.

First things first, my brother and I had lunch at a bar that serves decent hot beefs. Sadly, the bar where I wanted to buy hot beefs -- including one for mom -- was closed. But any hot beef can be elevated with enough horseradish. And I'm not talking about horseradish sauce that's creamy and subtle. I mean a Silver Springs horseradish that's processed and hot and stings your tongue like an angry hornet. But then the sting goes away and you take another bite.

While eating at the Sand Bar on Lake Wissota, my brother and I ran into an old friend of mine from high school, Nancy. A nice hug and catching up from thirty to forty years was a nice dessert to our lunch.

We stopped and saw my friend Tom who lives a couple hundred feet away and then off to see a good hunk of the Arntz family across the road.

Then on to mom in the old folks home where we surprised her with her own hot beef as well as some Saskatoon berry tarts.

Um, what?

My mom was born in Regina, Saskatchewan, 90 years ago on Sept. 5, 1932. She grew up during the Great Depression not knowing the family was poor and during the war when a kid doesn't understand what is war.

Mom left Canada for a United States job sometime in the early 1950s -- it's fuzzy for her now -- and probably hasn't had a Saskatoon berry in 70 years.

According to, the "Saskatoon berry (Amelanchier alnifolia) is a deciduous native shrub that grows from western Ontario to British Columbia and the Yukon. The city of Saskatoon takes its name from a Cree word for the sweet, fleshy fruits, which were of prime importance to Aboriginal people and early settlers. On the prairies, saskatoons were a major ingredient in pemmican. Saskatoons are very hardy plants that can survive winter temperatures of -50 to -60º Celsius with a lifespan of 30 to 50 years. Plant size ranges from a small to large shrub or tree 4 to 6 m high."

She loved them, praising the baker who made them.

That baker, whom I've never met, is married to a trucker friend from Canada, Brian, an occasional drinking buddy at Angler's here in Hayward.  In one discussion, Brian found out my mom was from Saskatoon so his wife baked and he trucked in a personal order from my mom.

She took great joy in biting the tasty little cakes that reminded her of youth.

What struck me was a tour of friendship, from friends I've known for more than half a decade to a new friend I met in Hayward, the Canadian trucker.

And how they've all added to my life.

Peace unto Ukraine and peace unto old and new friends my brothers and sisters.

Friday, September 2, 2022

 I fear I have failed all of you, dear readers, during this month of August 2022.

I filed just four posts this last month.

In the beginning -- and I mean neither the Biblical beginning with Adam and Eve nor the scientific beginning of the Big Bang -- I filed a post every day. Mostly because I needed something to do. The hardest part of losing my job was that I love work. And as it was the beginning of the pandemic, I went from doing 12 to 14 hours a day to doing nothing but apply for jobs.

My mind doesn't do well without a goal.

I did apply for multiple jobs a day, I wrote a blog post each day, I worked on a screenplay -- which my script writer daughter said needs work -- as well as a stage play. The last uses the platform of "A Chorus Line" to describe the absolutely true story of how Rasputin's daughter was mauled by a bear in Peru, Indiana. As a side note, my kid likes that one.

But, frankly, life has been busy.

I love that I get paid to read and write for a living. Love it. When I was in fourth grade, when the nun was asking us children what we wanted to do for a living and everyone was saying fireman, astronaut, nurse, I said I wanted to write for a living. The nun said, "Mr. Jackson, no one will ever pay to read what you write."

I now say, these 50 years later, "Screw you, sister."

So I promise I'll do better to detail the minutia of my life.

One of my dreams was to have readers. Now that I have them, I need to do better.

Peace unto Ukraine and peace and words unto you my brothers and sisters.

Friday, August 26, 2022

God bless Bertha.

My longtime friend, reader and financial supporter from Bloomington sent a letter this week with sweet messages about my ascent out of the deep hole.

From the beginning, she sent me $27 in support each letter -- although I never figured out why the exact figure of $27.

This week, it was a $2 bill. Which is perfectly fine with me. I'm recovering financially and able to pay my bills, eat and have the occasional drink. By occasional, I mean nightly. My parents came of age in the 1950s, where the cocktail before dinner was de rigueur. I adopted their habits heartily.

She wrote that other entities need her help more -- and I agree. But I love she continued the $2 bill trend, only because I've saved everyone I've ever received. The other $25 has often been for healthy food and on a few occasions, some cocktails.

Bertha is happy for the transitions I've made and the stability that comes with it.

So she's taking that extra $25 and sending it to more needy causes.

I agree. 

There have always been more needy causes than me but her generosity and friendship have always buoyed me.

I'm grateful for so many virtual friends who continue to reach out.

As unpleasant as the truthful and now years-long struggle has been, I remain cognizant of Miranda in Shakespeare's "The Tempest." 

"How beauteous Mankind is. Oh brave new world/ that has such people in't."

Bertha is one of them.

Peace until Ukraine and peace and beauteous people unto all of you my brothers and sisters."

Friday, August 19, 2022

I must lift my head more.

Once, while working in Burlington, North Carolina, I developed a bad habit getting a 32-ounce Coke for breakfast at McDonald's every morning before work. Maybe one of the worst habits in my life. But it was too hot to get coffee so that became my caffeine to start the day. One morning I looked up and noticed the person working was a cute young woman. It wasn't a reaction of lust but one of aesthetics. Then I didn't lift my head for a while. One morning, I looked up to notice she was six or seven months pregnant.

At the time, I had been overwhelmed by work and no little depression. I was not being present, living in the world around me.

Again, I find myself working on that.

I lifted my head today to notice three weeks of August are gone in the year 2022. August in my 56th year. I will have fewer and few summers to say, "Next year." I don't plan on croaking soon but I realize I have fewer summers rather than endless seasons.

As noted previously, I've stuffed myself with tomatoes and sweet corn and melon. I go to the farmers market every Monday to enjoy the bounty.

Just this last week, I bought a grill because I find few greater joys than cooking out on a beautiful night. (Which can include 20 below nights in January when I pine for a charcoal fix.)

Not only will I grill full-on flesh from various critters, I do some tricks. Grilled salad, cauliflower steaks, cut peaches with brown sugar rubbed in -- a three-course dinner over coals.

And I will manage my time at work.

I recall going to journalism conferences where editors had a bidding war of who worked the most -- a dubious badge of honor. I once heard someone say they worked 100 hours a week. A quick bit of math indicated that was 17 hours a day, seven days a week -- check the math since I'm a journalist.

That's either someone with control issues or a bullshit claim. I support the latter judgment.

This occurred to me as I sat on the deck of Powell's on the Lake with my friend Tom and his young family Sunday. The sun warmed my face and my gin and tonic soothed my gizzard. "This is good," I noted to myself as the kids hurried about playing games.

In addition to the blog, I will start a journal at home, with pen and paper, noting my favorite parts of the day.

Then I will share it with you, my friends.

Peace unto Ukraine and peace and head lifting unto you my brothers and sisters.

Saturday, August 13, 2022

My former company -- which, like Lord Voldemort, shall not be named -- tracked me down last week.

Not for a job or anything. Or a muddled apology. Or just a talk about our feelings and where our relationship stands now. Maybe we'd share a six pack. And Dan Fogelberg would write a song about it.

But it turns out it owes me money.

See, at some point after the company laid me off -- in a couple days I went from "valued colleague" to "synergy" -- they sent me a check.

Here's the thing, though: Since I was kicked out of my apartment at the newspaper, I had no permanent address.

This check for $1.900 (no small amount for me) attempted to follow me around on my sojourn, missing me at my first address here in Hayward, Wisconsin. The company that shall not be named hired another company to track me down.

Here's the thing about tracking me down -- it's not really that hard. You can Google "Rich Jackson" or better yet "Editor Rich Jackson." I admit to Googling myself, I hope not out of narcissism.

I have lived pretty publicly for a long time to the point where I don't expect much privacy. I don't even have blinds on my windows at home. (Neighbors have plastered the exterior of the windows with black crepe. I don't know what I've done to offend them.)

For the months after the layoff, I rambled about in cheap hotel rooms and a friend's cabin. The folks at the Postal Office in Bloomington, Indiana, told me I had to have a home address in order to get a P.O. Box. That didn't make sense to me until a friend noted I had sought a P.O. Box at the office next to a homeless encampment.

I appreciate the ethic the company seeks to pay me what I'm owed to the extent they hired another company to track me down.

I assure you, I will sock away the $1,900 for something important -- like when I want to buy a new grill. And some shiny beads and trinkets. And gin.

Thankfully, the company is paying promptly: sometime in January 2023.

To paraphrase the philosopher Carl Spackler, "So I got that going for me."

Peace unto Ukraine and peace as well as delayed pay unto all of you my brothers and sisters.

Post Script:

A Dan Fogelberg take on my situation:

Met my old company in the grocery store
The snow was falling as on cue
I stole behind her in the frozen foods

And that's when I was sued.

It didn't recognize the corporate ID at first
But then its eyes opened and flew
It went to hug me and it spilled its purse
And we laughed until it sued.

The beer was empty and our tongues were tired
And running out of things to rue
It gave a subpoena to me as I got out
And I watched as it readied to sue.

"Same old Lang Sign on the dotted line"

Friday, August 5, 2022

 I had a beautiful dinner on the Chippewa Flowage with the Hartsough family Thursday night.

I ran into Katie Hartsough last Sunday at the Holiday gas station in Hayward. She didn't recognize me at first because I somehow went from being a six-foot-two dude with chiseled features to someone who now is mistaken for Danny DiVito. Or worse. Some people ask if I work as a troll under a bridge. "Answer me these questions three."

One of the weird things about living in Hayward, Wisconsin, is that I run into life-long friends haphazardly. Which is better than hazardly.

I noted on Facebook that Hayward for Wisconsinites is like a fallopian tube. Sooner or later, everyone passes through.

She invited me to have dinner with her family who yearly spend a week at the Tiger Musky resort on the Chippewa Flowage, which is similar to "Dirty Dancing" without Jennifer Grey, Patrick Swayze and abortion.

Life occurs at a slower pace and one has time to breathe, enjoy and drinking crapulous loads of cheap beer.

As I sipped on a can of Crapulent Lite, the sun sinking from hot to cool, we caught up after decades. I also talked to her mom, Maureen, and Katie's amazing sisters. Two of Katie's cool daughters showed up to eat the shadows of a hot day.

The vast dinner included grilled brats, salad, beans, guacamole, some bread nuggets and probably half dozen other thing I don't remember. They sent me away with enough food to feed a fat guy for days.

The evening is among the most relaxing I've had, given I worked every day for at least 40 days.

Maureen, the Hartsough mom, has done an amazing job raising beautiful human beings. Which made the evening even more beautiful.

In 1984, Katie was my prom date and we went as friends. Our entire group went as friends and we did the simple prom, making my mom's spaghetti recipe at Chris Melville's house and going to the dance. Katie noted it was a poor choice to make spaghetti when the women were wearing their best dresses. 

Proving that boys are, and always will be, stupid.

I think we might have danced, but in my mind I simply do not remember any I've ever taken part of. I kind of dance like the monster in "Young Frankenstein." I am stiff and mostly incomprehensible.

After the dance we went to Jon Lancour's house where nothing happened other than young people being with each other.

And then I drove Katie home. Because we went as friends, there was no kiss. But she did grasp my arm and smile.

That was good enough. I'd like to think it was a sensual grasp. 

There we were almost 40 years later catching up. It was really a beautiful evening with her and family.

Before we hugged on my departure, I apologized that the evening sun had made me moist.

We hugged and she whispered in my ear, "You're sticky too. It's like hugging a ball of uncooked bread dough."

She didn't say that. But it's funny so I include it in the story.

Peace unto Ukraine and peace and reconnections unto all of you.

Friday, July 29, 2022

 I get so much more from my tomato plant than tomatoes.

Solace, memories, vitamin C.

When I was a kid, one of my earliest memories was my dad's gardens. He grew up in Boyd, Wisconsin, during the Great Depression and gardens were vital, particularly for my grandparents who had five boys.

I was three when I can first remember a memory with an age. (Brain science tells us we can't have a memory of something unless we have language to go along with it. You can't remember a tree if you don't know the word "tree.")

There were two patches, one for an array of vegetables that failed season after season. Critters supped before we could get them. The second patch was solely for tomatoes, which we ate at every lunch and every dinner this time of year.

Both mom and dad usually preferred their tomatoes sliced as an accompaniment, with just a little salt and pepper. Every night so long as it lasted.

For lunch during this time of summer, it was often just tomato sandwiches. Mom toasted bread, layered tomato slices on the bread, sprinkled salt on them and then slathered the other slice of bread with mayo. (My mom used Miracle Whip -- which is not mayo. I use mayo, in fact I go online and order Duke's, something I found in my time in North Carolina. I also add freshly ground pepper to the tomatoes.) When I was in Burlington, NC, the newspaper had a yearly tomato sandwich day, with the tomatoes grown by the father of our features editor, Charity Apple. Best name ever.

In my teens, my dad asked me to be the one to water the tomato patch. He had been warming the water in old times because wisdom was cold water shocked the plants. As he aged, he became more relaxed about gardening efforts -- as we all do. But he asked me to water at dusk so the fluid would have less evaporation. And he told me to "soak the shit out of them." So at 6 p.m. every night, I'd take the hose out and water the entire patch for 45 minutes. Those were good tomatoes.

Some nights in the summer, we had tomato sandwiches and sweet corn.

Saturday, I plan on that for dinner and I'm adding locally grown cantaloupe for dessert.

Ah, the bounty of summer.

Peace unto Ukraine and peace and corn and tomatoes and cantaloupe unto you my brothers and sisters. Also radishes. And Daikon. And new potatoes. And ...

Friday, July 22, 2022

The technological challenges during the work professionally and privately have not passed.

But that's a first-world problem, a phrase my daughter taught me when she was about 15.

I'm happy, healthy. I have enough money to get Friday fish fry tonight. Better, Kid is killing it in Hollywood. The weather in northern Wisconsin in July is utterly beautiful. Hot but low humidity. I have a fan for sleeping. I write my weekly columns on a place -- Powell's on the Lake -- where huge windows look west as the sun sets. My colleagues work their butts off to make the best newspapers we can.

So I can't send out emails? I can't access photos when I need them? Mere trivialities.

Those are still stressful when readers expect their newspapers regardless of our problems and the resiliency of my staff confirms to me I'm in the right place at the right time.

Still, I'm allowed to be exhausted.

And that I am.

But I write from a decent restaurant where I know I'll get a righteous fish. I'm having a couple drinks before dinner and then bed awaits. It's more a mattress on the floor still.

Some might view it as nothing more than a dog bed. But it will be mine.

And I shall sleep full and well.

Peace unto Ukraine and peace and deep sleep unto you my brothers and sisters.

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

On my list of problems -- it's a long list folks -- is I'm too flexible

Not physically flexible. I'm 56 years old. Don't exercise. And the only time my muscles get stretched is when I'm being dragged out of some classy joint.

But my unpacking has slowed to a point of not happening at all. In part because I'm working too much. And because I can get along with just a couple of pots and pans, a wardrobe of five work shirts and a mixture of multi-colored undershirts from Walmart.

I once spilled something on a shirt and I noted to the waitress if I couldn't get the stain out, I'd be out a $5 investment.

I have learned all too well to get along with little of my stuff and that needs to change.

It makes we wonder what a normal life would be like. Correct that. Will be like.

One of the first steps to getting better is admitting to a problem.

Except I'm going to wait until it cools off. I have a fan in the apartment that's struggling to keep up with the combination of 92 degrees and a fat man.

Peace unto Ukraine and peace and central air unto you my brothers and sisters.

Friday, July 15, 2022

No job is easy -- otherwise we wouldn't get paid and instead call it a hobby.

When I was younger, I ran from job to job because I thought the places I worked were bad. I finally realized the places and jobs weren't bad but my own reaction.

Instead of changing jobs, I changed perspective.

Regardless, there will be bad days and good days, bad week and good weeks. I keep moving through them all understanding the long run will overall be good, great, wonderful.

Tough week this week.

And then two wonderful things happened today.

A coincidence even.

This morning Mrs. Stoppelkamp called and left a message. She's a reader from my time in Burlington, North Carolina and one of the sweetest people I've met in my travels. She called me regularly to talk about columns. She wrote and submitted her own. One day she stopped at the newspaper because during her morning prayers, Mrs. Stoppelkamp heard a message to hug me. It turned out to be my birthday. So I received a nice hug from Mrs. Stoppelkamp.

I called her back today. We caught up and both cried a little bit. We promised to do a better job of staying in touch and even talked about writing poetry together. She's a poet, I am not. My poems stink like someone spilling Limburger cheese on a car manifold and then driving 600 miles. Not uncommon in Wisconsin.

It was a pretty and delicate conversation after a number of brutal unpleasantries.

Within a couple of hours, I received an email from a local reader who has been buying a copy of my local newspaper for the last year on behalf of Mrs. Stoppelkamp. The email asked to continue her subscription so long as she was still with us.

Certainly people like to hate. For some it's their pasttime.

But today, at the end of a long, unpleasant week, I was reminded of the wonderful nature of my fellow humans.

Peace unto Ukraine and peace and dear distant friends unto all of you my brothers and sisters.

Friday, July 8, 2022


This is the easiest thing I've ever cooked.

I call it Orange Crush cake but it could be called anything.

Per instructions from the ever-wise internet, I took a box of vanilla cake mix and poured it into a bowl. Then I added one can of Orange Crush. No eggs, no oil, no water. I followed baking instructions and voila -- Orange Crush cake.

I didn't eat much myself as sugar kills my gout. But it was fun to make and I enjoyed cooking for others so friends received decent portions.

My mom was the kind of mother who cooked to please and given she had four boys, that wasn't difficult. It was like cooking for pigs at the trough. The dinner bell went out (literally a dinner bell) and we sloughed to the trough.

And it was wonderful. I spent decades trying to coerce recipes from her but there were none. A handful of this, a pound of that, a quick pour and then a touch of herbs. (In our house, because of dad's touchy stomach, herbs were sparse. Mom didn't even use salt or pepper. When I discovered such exotic spices, my world opened up.)

Cooking is homage to my mother, who fed four boys on little money and full guts. I didn't understand the phrase "Jewish mama," but that's who she was.

That's why I try to cook, not just for me but others. It's a warming feeling to feed other people who appreciate what I've wrought.

Peace unto Ukraine and peace and full stomachs unto my brothers and sisters.

Friday, July 1, 2022

I had a day off today where I tried to be a normal person.

One, I went into work three times on my day off. Note: In the future, when I take time off, I will leave the city. Even if I just go to The Prime in Trego, a small crossroads town where The Prime has great food.

Two, I'm not normal. I never will be. Doing what others do will never be.

This morning I woke up and went to a coffee shop where I ordered a regular coffee with a muffin. Backroads Coffee serves legit excellent coffee. They have all the flavors but I remain intimidated so I ordered a regular coffee. I don't know if they do their own baking but the glazed lemon poppy seed muffin was about the most tender breakfast pastry I've had.

I brought my computer to do some personal work, and fit in a little bit with others who suck off free WiFi as though it were mother's teet.

Great coffee, wonderful muffin -- although given the poppy seeds I can't pass a drug test -- but it turns out I'm not a hep cat. Which is what the kids are calling it nowadays.

I don't need to live what others live and of course I never have. 

Late in the day, in between one of my stops at work, I shopped at a grocery store as Thursday was payday.

Such naivete.

It's a Friday on the July Fourth weekend in a tourist area and a day when people get their Social Security checks.

Shopping was like the parade scene from "Animal House." I'm pretty sure Kevin Bacon was there, exhorting everyone to remain calm and I think I stepped on his face.

Entire sections were wiped out. Weird ones. I bought the last jar of queen-size Spanish olives. Someone took out the entire tonic section. Like mustard? You're out of luck.

One item that remained on the shelf: Cream of eel soup,

Today was a good day -- not Ice Cube kind of good day -- but a day where I could catch up on personal stuff. And now Saturday, I'll work a couple hours and clean what needs cleaning and then settle in to a homemade meal of chicken powdered with Penzey's lemon pepper season. Highly recommended. Some tomatoes and cukes from a local Mennonite farm and a glass of wine from a highly rated cardboard box.

Not such a bad life.

Peace unto Ukraine and peace and sustenance unto you my dear sisters and brothers.

Monday, June 27, 2022

Between covering the Musky Fest Saturday and brainstorming a TV series via text with Kid, I was tired on my way to bed.

But fulfilled.

Of the literally hundreds of festivals I've attended or edited stories about, I believe Musky Fest is the best. And I can't claim to be a local for at least a couple decades.

It's hyper-local, with local beer served alongside locally made bratwursts. Said sausage is ground at Lynn's Custom Meats in Hayward and is the best brat I've ever had. And brother, I've had me some brats. The local Lion's Club grilled them and served with sauteed sauerkraut. If anyone wants to visit me, I'll promise my own homemade sauerkraut and sausage pizza. (Note: The sauerkraut and Swiss cheese omelet did not work out.)

The tents in the streets were filled with regional art -- my favorite being the carved wall hangings that  had correct lake depths for the biggest of our regional bodies of water. I have to write "biggest" because there are 300 lakes within an hour drive of Hayward, Wisconsin, so we can't have some representative of every single lake.

While hydrating with some beer at a local watering hole, I exchanged texts with Kid about a limited TV series idea I had. She called the idea brilliant and shared her changes and I promised to create a narrative arc if we decide to move forward working together. I only share that she thought it was "brilliant" because Kid doesn't BS me. When I shared the script I wrote during my layoff, she said, "it needs work, dad."

I respect the truth.

I won't share the story idea, even though the likelihood of it ever being written, let alone being made, is less than a tenth of 1 percent.

Saturday was a joy.

Peace unto Ukraine and peace and joy unto you my brothers and sisters.

Friday, June 24, 2022

On this day, where major, historic news holds the headlines, I can't write about that.

I'm not in that position and I can't control a single damn bit of it.

What I can control is something so small, so meaningless but yet gives me joy. I have loved watching my stupid little garden of herbs and lettuce and the singular tomato plant grow, as though they are my kids.

Psychological studies show gardening is a true stress reliever. Even in difficult times, blood pressure goes down. Dopamine levels rise.

I enjoy the watering process in the morning, even with a couple spots of failure, and like to check on them when I get home in the evening.

When I recently made a frittata for a friend, the best part was fresh basil and parsley from my little railing garden.

I've down a poor job of unpacking lately. Actually no job of unpacking lately. Don't judge me.

But I've been handling the stress with a little cooking and raising some herbs. And, oh, the tomato plant has some baby maters that will grow into some nice home-grown snacks in a short time.

In times of great, stress, Buddha has always suggested to look at something small. I've written before the story of when Buddha was cleaning his rice pot while a class waited. Buddha had burned some rice so it took some time. His assistant suggested he take over the task of washing the rice pot so Buddha could teach the waiting students. "What can I possibly teach," Buddha said, "if I cannot wash a rice pot?"

Peace unto Ukraine and peace and small joys unto you my brothers and sisters.

Monday, June 20, 2022

Kid called Sunday for Father's Day, even though we agree it's a made-up celebration.

It's the kindness in her heart that comes naturally to her.

She's thriving out in Hollywood, living with a roommate over a Thai restaurant in Thai town. As an assistant, she's doing a great balancing work with exploring the city. She was able to do that during her internship in her last semester.

What impresses me is her honed focus on how to climb the ladder. Her college did a superior job in teaching how one traverses the entertainment industry. She knows what step she needs to take and where she might get ahead.

Kid's boss is getting married and I offered to do the ceremony as I am licensed preacher and performed one ceremony. At this point, Kid laughed at my ceremony pricing structure:

-- Basic ceremony is $19.95 and that includes two bar-rail drinks.

-- Next up is $24.95 which is the ceremony and two drink with brand names.

-- $29.95 is that plus a photo taken by me.

-- $34.95 will get you a crowd-size serving of mac and cheese.

-- Finally, $39.95 that provides all of the above plus I'll cut some hot dogs into the mac and cheese.

That there is an inflationary friendly wedding ceremony, my friends.

I love talking to Kid because I don't have to fill in history or background for a reference.

One time in North Carolina, I explained to her at age 14 how I reported a fight in the apartment next to me. I said I didn't want to be a bystander. "Oh," she said, "like the bystander effect around Kitty Genovese's murder." "Right," I said.

Then I realized what was happening.

"Wait," I stopped. "How in the hell does my 14-year-old Kid know about Kitty Genovese? A story from 1964?"

She thought. "I dunno. Maybe a documentary or something."

Love that kid. Forever proud to be her father, even on a made-up celebration.

Peace unto Ukraine and peace and familial love unto all of you my brothers and sisters.

Saturday, June 18, 2022


(A public letter to my friend Bertha in Bloomington, Indiana.)

Dear Bertha,

Thank you so much for your kind letter of June 13. It found me well. And, of course, thank you for the $27. (My friends want to know, "Why $27?")

I appreciate your nice note about the progress I've made in the last year. And indeed, I'm doing much better. I've lost about 25 pounds in that time and haven't had a gout attack in months. I had to give up beer in the process -- which is sad for a son of the Wisconsin Northwoods. Beer is as mother's milk to us.

As I've unpacked, I have been able to cook more and that's always a better way to eat. I sometimes joke that I recently found a building where one can go and buy uncooked foodstuffs which can then be taken home and made into lunches and dinners. It's called a grocery store. No one thinks that joke is funny.

So I was embarrassed to write the last time Bertha sent $27, I spent most of it on some drinks. 

Today, I took Bertha's gift to a roadside veggie stand run by a couple of nice Mennonites. I bought some great tomatoes and local asparagus. 

See, I am making better decisions as I improve after falling into that deep, deep hole.

It occurred to me today, while I meal-planned as I shopped, that I am no longer running. Running from pain. Running from difficulty. Hell, running from myself.

Thank you, dear Bertha, you're helping me during these last two years in the greatest travail of my life.

As you always ask, I will pray for your arthritis and I will ask readers to do the same.

Your friend,


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

Friday, June 17, 2022

 For some time I've been thinking about switching to Substack.

Now I have the song "Money" from "Cabaret" in my mind. (Although not "Money," I could watch this video every day for ever: Willkommen - Joel Grey & Alan Cumming - YouTube.)

But I can't do that. I set this standard more than two years ago and, thus, set the expectation.


This will remain a free blog.

Yet I'm likely to set up a Substack account for some writing. For those who don't know Substack, it is website where writers or artists charge small fees to access the material. There are some people who make hundreds of thousands a year on the platform.

I will not make that kind of money -- but given the difficulties of the last couple of years, I could use any additional money I can get as I approach my prospective retirement in 2037, when I will be 72.

The question is this: What would you pay $5 a month to read? From me?

I write about my life here, the difficulties, the blessings and my watering holes.

Certainly, I won't write about politics. There are far too many people who pull opinions from their nether regions. I also refuse to be accused of bias, even though people don't understand what "bias" means or is. ("Bias" means being slanted for or against something.) I've also noted for decades that bias is in the perception. I have been both "commie" and "white supremacist" in the same market.

I've thought about starting a running novel, based on my idea of "50 Shades of Flannel: An Erotic tale of the Wisconsin Northwoods." But there's an online book someplace called "50 Shades of Flannel" that is perhaps copyrighted.

I'll take recommendations, ideas and admonitions.

Peace unto Ukraine and peace and five bucks a month unto all of you my brothers and sisters.