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Monday, February 28, 2022

I've decided for the next two weeks, when I'm not working at work, I will not be working at home even if home is a king-size bed.

I shall lounge about in my hotel room, likely in my drawers while reading, writing and sipping.

That's a homeless man's vacation. On occasion I'll wander over to the steakhouse where I'll sup with friends sharing my bon mots like a seasonal snowstorm.

That sounds better than an old man living in a hotel room in his underwear, right?

Part of living is perspective. We all see the world through different shades but what we fail to understand is we can choose the shades. My shade will be positive. Another shade will be forgiveness. Certainly a shade will be smart-assery.

Shit. I'm starting to sound like a lyric from the rock band Rush. (Paraphrasing Linda Richman on SNL, the band was neither a rock band nor in a rush. Discuss.)

I plan on finishing two books I'm working on, "Extra Life," about how society has doubled life expectancy in 100 years, and "The Dawn of Everything," which takes a look at how early societies formed and operated.

If those don't sound fun, they are not but I'm learning.

I might read an old book of Calvin and Hobbes as a sorbet afterward, which were fun to read and I still learned something.

And, oh, some sipping.

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

Sunday, February 27, 2022

I am back at a hotel.

Technically homeless again.

But other than the aching knees and back, the $500 moving bill, and the general inconvenience, it's not so bad.

You see, the Steakhouse Lodge is family for me. I stayed there for a month while finding a place to live and then stayed there for a week while my furnace was being fixed. I go there every Friday night for fish fry -- the equivalent of church to children of the Northwoods.

I've been invited to the houses of friends who work there. I get to attend staff parties. We're so friendly that when I arrived tonight to pick up my room key, I received nothing but insults. You know that's love in the Nort'woods.

Staff had just finished a late lunch serving volunteers from the American Birkebeiner, so my friends -- no, my family -- plated me leftovers and bought me a drink as they knew the transition I am making once again.

The two young men who moved me today worked their butts off, nearly running between boxes and the useless items I've accrued in my 56 years. The younger of the two, Tyson, picked up a box and said, "Oh, this one is books." I knew immediately it was the Catholic Encyclopedia that is a family heirloom. Every time I move, those two or three boxes bring moans. The set was a gift from the parish to my great uncle Father Robert Agnew, the first priest at St. Olaf in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. My dad had them in his law office when he died and no one wanted them. I did and still use them when they're not in a box in storage.

I promised the other young man, Dan, when I found some of writing books I'd call him as he's an aspiring writer. The moving business slows in the winters here -- it was a balmy 20 degrees for the move from my house into a friend's garage -- and he thought he could use the time writing. Of course, I encouraged him as I think everyone should write.

Right now my knees ache and so hot I'm pretty sure I could poach an egg an each. But I'm also sitting at The Ranch, a classic Wisconsin supper club that will serve me a relish tray. What's that? Some munchies that will feed me and potentially encourage a couple drinks before dinner.

Somehow this weekend, the stress, pressure and unpleasantness of being uprooted once again melded into a sense of belonging.

Being homeless -- for two or three weeks -- doesn't mean I'm not home.

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

Friday, February 25, 2022

Box by box.

That's been my week.

One of my favorite stories is is "Bird by Bird," Annie Lamott's great book about writing. In it, she tells a childhood story about how she put off a grade-school assignment where she had to write a report on dozens of birds. She put off the work until the night before. Her dad sat down with her and helped her with the first bird story. She asked, "How are we going to get to 30? Her dad said, "Bird by bird."

I'm down to one open box in each room. Saturday morning, I'll place the box next to a table and sweep anything on a flat surface into the box and tape it up. Even if it's glass. Even if it's as delicate as Tony Romo.



Then a friend is coming over to help clean. 

Sunday, the professional movers arrive. I had friends lined up -- I can't afford professionals -- but I have to move during what is "Birkie weekend," the one weekend of the year where 10,000 skiers and 10,000 fans show up for the biggest cross country ski event in the United States.

That night, I'll check back into the restaurant where I stayed for a month when moving here. And when my furnace was fixed. The rooms are nice and clean and the folks are like family.

I damn well might have a steak that night.

Starting Monday, it's back to work and a more relaxing time for the next two to three weeks. Then I'll move into my second residence in a year.

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

Monday, February 21, 2022

Long-time reader "Dad" is right. I'll celebrate the good and there's been much of it.

I have a friend who is letting me use her garage for storage over a couple of weeks. So that's checked off the list I've been using as a coping mechanism.

Another friend gave me the name of movers who have been a pleasure to deal with. Check.

I'm booked at the Steakhouse Lodge starting Sunday night, the end of my moving day, for a couple weeks until I get into my new place. Check.

And a new place. Check.

A couple drinks each night. Check.

Friendship, support and the occasional sarcastic joke at my expense. Check, check, check.

I've often told my reporters that when covering long-term stories, sometimes you advance the story a mile and sometimes you advance it an inch. But you still advance.

In life, I keep moving forward -- like a shark. Keep moving and often I'll move forward an inch and in other cases it's more like a broad jump. And I mean a broad jump from when I was young and lithe. Not now. (There's an old joke from Louie Anderson. He was talking about his competition in the Olympics. "Pole Vault? Drove that sucker into the ground. Broad jump? Killed her.")

There's also the old Chinese proverb: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

Peace and elephant sandwiches unto all of you my brothers and sisters.

Friday, February 18, 2022

 Leaving work tonight, I paraphrased the Buddha for a colleague: Suffering comes from want. We want only good things, happiness. If we can let go of want, then we can let go of suffering.

"But," I added, "I want a Jack Daniels Manhattan so I'm leaving and Buddha can go (expletive) himself."

Ah, the joys of sophisticated newsroom banter.

I experienced some suffering this week but a long-time reader of this blog, Dad, noted I have a job and friends and life. Dad's wisdom is true.

As I stumbled from obstacle to obstacle this week, I overcame mostly with the help from dear friends, virtually all of whom have known me less than a year.

My one-year anniversary was Wednesday and I treated colleagues with doughnuts. (At one point, I brought fruit and salads for celebrations -- they were not eaten. Pizza and doughnuts? I'm a workplace god.)

I had grown too accustomed to being the guy who didn't need help and as I think about this last week, I realized folks have helped me my entire life and I should have done a better job of acknowledgement. 

Friends have helped me this last week with moving issues, living issues -- hell, emotional support as far as emotions go in the Wisconsin Northwoods.

Here's a one-act play about it:

Bartender: How's it goin', fella.

Patron: Oh, pretty low, huh.

Bartender: Here's your drink.

Patron: Cripes.

(End scene.)

So my help this week has been in the form of dealing with the minutia of another, unwanted move and that's included drinks.

I'm reminded of a lesson from the Buddhist teacher Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, who said problems in life are like waves, inevitable and unstoppable. But if you can learn to ride the waves rather than drowning under them, you'll live.

Especially waves of Jack Daniels Manhattans.

Peace and riding the waves unto all of you my brothers and sisters.

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Ladies and gentlemen, I have a place to live.

Not just yet, though.

A friend of mine who owns a duplex has an opening and he lives next door. The likelihood that he'll sell out from underneath me is low. Once the current tenant leaves, he's going to have a crew come in, clean and fix whatever needs to be fixed.

The duplex is near one of my watering holes and that's not because I have many watering holes but because Wisconsin law requires a bar every 600 feet. But, full transparency, I do have a number of watering holes. That number? Don't ask journalists to do math.

The logistics are funky but I've made a shocking number of friends willing to help load, move and store my useless crap. Then I'll get a room at the Steakhouse Lodge, one of my little families in town where I stayed for a month when I moved here. (Try the steak. It's among the best I've ever had and I've eaten me some steak.)

And then those same friends will help me again to settle in. When the warm weather sets in, I'll have a grillout to celebrate them. I'm told the weather warms up about July 4.

Finally, I will settle. 

Peace and settlement and love to all of you my brothers and sisters.

Monday, February 14, 2022

 I sat on my butt this week, doing nothing.

Even though I had much to do.

I'm tired and when going through depression I have an extraordinarily difficult time accomplishing anything worthwhile.

So I've adopted a coping mechanism, one of which I have used on and off for years. It's simple: Make a list of duties. Then once I'm done with one duty, I cross it off the list and move on to the next one. I once read the mere act of putting a line through a finished task releases dopamine in the brain and God knows I need that.

I'll get two boxes repacked each night this week and then five or more each weekend day. 

I'll make progress I swear.

And I'll alert you, dear reader, when progress occurs.

Peace and progress to all of you my brothers and sisters.

Friday, February 11, 2022

On this, my 300th blog post, I want to thank all the readers who joined me on this trip.

I thank you for all the sweet notes and cards and support and sympathy.

When the journey began, I merely wanted to have something to do each day. My previous blog had 55 pageviews -- 45 of which were mine. 

Frankly, I don't know why you've continued with me, particularly in the "sad sack, woe is me" times but thank you, thank you, thank you.

I had been thinking about how to wind this all down at some point. Perhaps when my rental was furnished, I would take a video of home and share it and say goodbye.

Or when I could purchase a grill, something that always makes me feel at home.

Maybe my daughter -- who reports she's doing great in Hollywood -- would interview me for a final post.

But then the trip has added this latest blip, where in three weeks I'm putting my stuff into storage and moving back into a hotel. (This one will not have prostitutes or drug dealers next to me. It is, as the Three Stooges used to say, a classy joint.)

One pony is I continue to work and love my job.

Nearly two years ago, other journalists interviewed me about my predicament and the most common question was "What do you want people to know?"

I always said understand the brittle nature of our economy. You can be a hard-working, job-loving employee and still end up in difficult circumstances. Sadly, I moved too much over the years, which is expensive, failing to understand the importance of stability. I have dear friends in all of the 12 cities I've lived in and hundreds of other friends in other places. I truly love so many people I couldn't count -- largely because I have the math skills of a word guy.

Thanks folks and I'll keep telling the story of the Homeless Editor.

Peace and stability unto all of you my friends and brothers and sisters.

Monday, February 7, 2022

Here's my pony for the day: I have great colleagues.

These people, who truly care about the mission of small-town journalism, are good.

We all came to our jobs from different backgrounds. Some Navy, some legal assistance work, certainly some bartending, a couple of guys who've been at this for more than 40 years.

They work their butts off virtually every day, including weekends and holidays, and at the oddest hours. Grumbling? Hell yes. If someone works in a newsroom and doesn't complain, I'm going to assume they're dead.

(And if they have croaked, I offer 10 percent off obits. I'm that kind of boss.)

Their hard work and concerns sooth the bad days and frost the good ones. Also, any cake reference is positive.

I spent half days at each of the two newspapers today where I'm general manager and enjoyed both morning and afternoon.

The folks have offered tremendous support during my difficulties and, using the massive networks they've built in their respective communities, put out the word on my behalf.

Even on the worst days, it's easy to get up because I get to work with these folks.

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

Friday, February 4, 2022

An old joke my mom told me when I was a kid:

A mother has twins, one of whom is a complete optimist and the other a complete pessimist. She takes the kids to a therapist who separates them. The pessimist was put into a room filled with toys. The optimist led into a room with horse shit. A half hour later, the therapist looks into the room with toys and the pessimist. He hadn't touched a one. "I'll break something," he said. Then the therapist looks in on the optimist, who's virtually swimming in the shit. "What are you doing?" the therapist asked. The kid says, "With all this poop, there must be a pony in here somewhere."

I spent part of the morning looking for my pony.


-- Because I had only started unpacking, I have much less packing to do.

-- My Hayward friends are all beautiful people, as were friends in my previous 11 cities.

-- It's warming up to 20 degrees above from 20 below. With wind, it's worse. You can't imagine how good 20 degrees feels especially with the sun peeking out.

-- I get to meet more people, bankers, Realtors, debt collectors. It adds to the cornucopia of humans in my life.

-- Like Gloria Gaynor, I will survive.

But it's tiring. My exhaustion level is through the roof. As long as I have one over my head.

I plan to sleep in Saturday morning, get a late breakfast and work for a while at the newspaper. Then I'll return home to pack until I'm exhausted. Thankfully, I have some Jack's pizza in my freezer. (I have a thing for that cheap stuff. When I was in college, a grocery store in Eau Claire regularly held sales where 10 Jack's pizzas cost $10. It's the taste of my youth.)

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

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

The house sold.

I now have 28 days to find a new place to live.

In five days, I've gone from unpacking and settled to not knowing what's next -- but I am used to that.

One thousand and seven days ago, I wrote the first blog post here about checking into a Motel 8, standing in line behind a woman who had two convenience store bags as luggage. The manager of the joint listed strict rules who could be in the room and what would happen if the guidelines were violated. When he started his speech to me, I said I'd heard them and assured that I was a professional, an executive editor just minutes ago. He said it didn't matter and repeated his speech.

As I've written, finding a new place to live in Hayward, buying or renting, is virtually impossible. Consider the house I rented was never on the market and I found out it was up for sale five days ago. The house last sold in August 2020 for $140,000 and it's being sold for $194,500 just 18 months later.

So I'll pack what I had unpacked and move into a room at the Steakhouse Lodge, where I stayed during my first month in town. The staff are no longer staff but my Hayward family. I was invited to Thanksgiving and Christmas parties with them. Some of them have had me over for dinner.

At the same time, while working at the two newspapers where I'm general manager, I'll pursue two paths. The first is finding another rental but that's like looking for Sasquatch. You hear about an opening, you might spot a sign but it's fleeting and untrue.

I'll also seek to buy a home so I'm no longer a victim to the whims of the market. Someone is willing to co-sign for me as I have bad credit given what's happened over the last couple of years. I'll have to buy something small and imperfect and actually saw a Realtor today about a house. 

The house is so small, it could move into me.

Thank you, ladies and germs.

The intent of this blog has never been to be a pity party. Just a journalistic timeline of what's happened to me. I'm no Debbie Downer -- although we have something in common -- neither of us can have children.

I'll find a way, with help from my Hayward family, to move forward. I've been through worse. And while I remain the luckiest man in the world, I'll be honest, I'm tired.

But now back to repacking.

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