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Sunday, March 19, 2023

 I took some time off.

I haven't gone into work at the newspaper for four days. (Although I did go to a coffee shop Thursday and Friday to check emails and drink dainty cups of espresso, pinky in the air and I remain unsure about me being in a coffee shop doing anything. But I'm trying to grow.)

I have not blogged, as regular readers know, for at least a week.

Some decompression time was needed.

I don't think I've ever felt as tired as I did last weekend. Going from working virtually every day for months to covering the American Birkebeiner to being sick to mom dying, I was ready to sleep forever.

Well I didn't sleep forever and I achieved nothing at home other than some minor cleaning. 

I thought, I drove, I read, I ate (well) and I drank some (yeah, some).

Honestly, I wish I had a couple more days but my colleagues worked their butts off and I'm ready to fill my time again and help them with the honorable work of covering our community.

The night before my first day off, I covered a commemoration of the flooding of the body of water that is the Chippewa Flowage. I found the stories from 100 years ago emotional as residents of an American Indian village were flooded out because commerce and trade needed to flood the property for reasons the Natives did not understand nor benefit from. I'll share that story when I get a chance.

I'm also more committed to settling. It's just that I don't need to complete the settlement on anyone else's timeline but my own. If you look in the windows of my apartment, you will see unpacked boxes. Cool. Judge me.

I learned the Venmo account was valuable during mom's funeral as it covered a hotel room for Kid and me, some meals and, certainly, some drinks.

Unfortunately, I created a minor stink on a Chippewa Falls community page when I asked if there was a Uber in the city so I could go drinking with my Kid. Well, judgment is fun and easy online as people imagined me being driven around the city intoxicated with kid in tow. In fact, Kid is 22 years old, an intellectual who just completed a second comedy show Saturday night. (I'll post links when they're available.)

Thanks for allowing me some time off.

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

Friday, March 10, 2023

 I did not want to blog my mom's death.

But I promised nearly three years ago (and 399 posts) that I would write truth, even if painful.

Well, it was painful. Despite how busy the day might be, I found time to think and write and hit send. This meant I left family members to final meetings, I ignored my most awesome Kid a couple of nights and I wrote in public places, in the words of country singer Red Sovine, when "tears was streaming down my face."

The support from readers has warmed me.

It's natural for friends and family to do so and many times over the last weeks folks have taken me into their arms, ugly crying and on more than one occasion leaving some snot on a shoulder.

Readers, many are friends in the blogosphere only but you've been there for me, so thank you.

I'm exhausted at the end of this week, perhaps as tired as I've ever been. I worked straight for three months, more or less, I helped cover the American Birkebeiner at below zero. Then a chest cold for two weeks. The mom dies.

Man, I'm exhausted.

But I did want to mention one note on Venmo meaningful to me now and well into the future as I continue my blogging adventure.

An old friend, Sarah Mattot, with whom I worked at McDonald's in Chippewa Falls 35 years ago, wrote this: "Keep blogging Rich. Your stories always keep me reading to the last line. Sometimes triggering a memory or just imaging you living through the narrative. Thinking of you as you head back to Chippewa."

Thank you, Sarah. I'll keep blogging. And thank you for reading until the last line.

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

Thursday, March 9, 2023

 As we drove away from the graveside ceremony, mom's casket sat atop the gearing that lowers her into the final resting place.

It sat stark against the gray day that felt exceedingly colder than the thermostat's 33 degrees.

That's how it ends. 

I remember the same feeling from leaving my dad's gravesite 38 years ago.

We gathered there after the church ceremony, where the priest seemed to turn every screw to sorrow, more sorrow until hitting pain.

But that's not how it ends. It ended whn my dementia ate my mom's brain, when she ceased to be the mother I knew, the intellectual, the cook, the raconteur. 

Godamnit, my mom was awesome. She was hysterical and kind and smart enjoyed her martinis.

Yet the language of the funeral cannot celebrate that. It's always about the last this, the last that.

Thankfully, Kid was in town and we found our time to laugh -- just as mom would have. Our cousins took their turns at the morbid nature of it all regardless of how my mom lived life.

It's a good family. She lives on in us.

We shared drinks afterwards that included intimate friends who are as family, Tom, Scott, Mike Boone. Great people all.

But now it's over. I've never been one to revere the body as, even if you're religious, serves only as the vessel of the person. Once soul and spirit and intellect are gone, that vessel is worm food at best. Even in a $6,000 casket and a $4,000 vault, all paid for by burial insurance. Ten grand we buried in the ground never to see again. (If someone digs her up 10,000 years from now, they'll think she was a queen of some society.)

When my dad died in 1984, I returned to work. My boss, a brusque man, asked how I was doing. I said, OK. He said, no you're not. Your life has changed forever. Then I flipped 400 burgers for lunch. Understanding that life has changed forever.

Life changed again this last Friday.

And no fancy casket sitting above its final resting place is going to change that.

Peace unto Ukraine and thanks unto you my brothers and sisters.

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

 Little steps to keep us moving forward.


A couple drinks.


We're all doing the best we can, even if mom lived to the age of 90, it still sucks. Sucks hard.

It's life changing and after having lost dad nearly 40 years ago, we realize that. Nothing will ever be the same. 

My brothers and I met with the priest over readings and the machinations of the ceremony. We retreated to a bar for a couple drinks.

Then I checked into the cheap motel where Kid met me. She flew out from Hollywood. I laid out cheese and sausage and crackers -- as well as a decent bottle of Tawny Port from Penfolds, our new little treat in the late evening -- but we had to meet friends out for dinner.

At a time when I have a hard time dealing with reality, the added busy nature of funeral circumstances confuse me beyond.

Kid is in the shower after her flight and pizza dinner. We'll talk, drink a little wine and then awaken to a day where we plant mom, grandma in the ground.

So odd.

So odd.

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

Monday, March 6, 2023

I'm kind of digging being in shock over my mother's death.

It's like a constant buzz.

Nothing matters. I cannot affect or be affected. Shit is just happening and I'm a spectator.

I've been in shock in the past, particularly when dad died in 1984. That was shocking. I didn't know personal tragedy until that time. I figure I was in shock for at least a couple of years.

Since then, I've had shock in my jobs, my marriage, my role as a parent and at current events.

But I've become better at being present so I'm enjoying this shock almost like a second-hand buzz.

To quote the philosopher Jeff Spicoli: "Far out."

I'm reminded so much of the teachings of Pema Chodron. She undertook the study of Buddhism after a difficult life. Her teacher was Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, no nice guy himself. She said she was tired of being knocked over, wave after wave, often unable to catch her breath. Chodron wanted the waves to stop coming. Chogyam, a cokehead alcoholic who was a Buddhist master, told her the waves will still come. She will have to learn how to ride them.

I feel like I'm riding, baby.

That's not because I've become a Buddhism master but because my body chemistry is protecting me with the shock. The human body is an amazing survivor. It will shut down certain processes so that the rest of the body can deal, including all those chemicals in our brains.

I suspect there will be a crash. Hopefully, I will be fully ensconced in a place good for me. But I'm old. I've crashed before. And I'll crash again.

Doesn't matter.

I have to dig this little window of bliss. 

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

Sunday, March 5, 2023

The outpouring of sympathy has been overwhelming.

Friends from near and far have reached out to express sympathy and it warms me, as though a thousand arms wrap me.

People have sent some money and that's nice. I have to get a hotel room in Chippewa Falls for Kid and me. She's flying in, renting a car and there's no reason for her to drive north to Hayward. I was looking at a double for us at a $56 a night hotel but now I'm looking at the $60 a night joint. I refuse to pay much money if all I'm spending on is a place to lay my massive cranium on a pillow for eight hours. No coffee maker? No iron? No little bottles of shampoo? No Microwave? Don't care. As long as no bedbugs.

I'm blogging today and writing a column after sleeping in. (When I was young, sleeping in was well into the afternoon. Now, sleeping in is 9 a.m. -- otherwise, I pee the bed.)

Monday and Tuesday, we'll put out the weekly newspaper and it will be nice to have something to keep me busy, not feeling sorry for myself.

After 2 p.m. deadline Tuesday, I'll take off to meet Kid in Chippewa.

At some point, I'll write about all the beautiful things folks have said. It truly has buoyed me. 

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


Saturday, March 4, 2023

 Planning a funeral is a fun as, well, planning for a funeral.

Family did that today in Chippewa Falls, at the same funerial joint we used for my dad 38 years ago.

I arrived early enough to have my beloved hot beef at the West Hill Bar, where I bartended 30 years ago when it was Jackie's Bar. One of dozens of jobs that saw me through college. The bar, in all its iterations, has served the same hot beef recipe going back at least until the 1950s.

One slow afternoon, I was bartending when an older gentleman walked in and asked if we still served hot beefs like we did in 1955. Without a word, I made him a sandwich and poured a beer. "That's on me," I said. He took a hefty bite, half the huge sandwich. "Still the same hot beef," he said after a swig of Leinenkugels. "Probably still the same cow," I said in my best bartender repartee. 

Mine today was still the same. Beer was the same.

But mom was gone.

She used to love those hot beefs with a huge slice of onion and a pickle spear.

Mom hated the fake pageantry of American funerals. She was the one who led me to "The Loved One," an Evelyn Waugh book mocking the United States for its death worship. Great book. It was made into a 1965 movie that might be one of the more disturbing films I've seen. And I watched "Eraserhead."

The cost of buying the coffin and the vault came to nearly $10,000.

These are items that no one will ever see again.

Imagine a memorial Snickers bar, encrusted in gold and the buried where no one could see it.

That would sound stupid.

But in America, for a funeral, this is a perfectly normal thing.

We buy hundreds of dollars of flowers that we'll throw away in a couple days.  We pay for various print outs and messages, the vast majority of which will end up in garbages.

We do these things because it's expected.

Mom hated that kind of crap.

"You don't have obligations," she told me for decades. "You are obliged to do nothing."

Of course, mom was hardcore. As a native Canadian, she was not of the American tradition. As a student of philosophy (she called herself a Thomist -- a follower of St. Thomas Aquinas) and as a mother of four boys in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, she was a realist.

I remember when died dad in 1984. The funeral director was pitching a $12,000 coffin because dad had been a county judge and it "befitted" him. We had no money. Our family priest, Father Jablonski prompted my mom to ask for a coffin the next step up from cheap. $300. That's what we bought.

We are done with the planning.

Next is the doing.

I'll report.

Peace unto the Ukraine and peace and a wonderful life unto you my brothers and sisters.

Friday, March 3, 2023

Mom died today.

It was for the good.

Watching her go through the Catholic Ritual of Last Rites Thursday was painful. She was suffering, screaming, rolling around. The place taking care of her did the best job they could for her but in the end, there's nothing nice and neat about death. Only on TV.  I always though Pope John Paul II set the best example, declining publicly, painfully with as much dignity he could muster.

I've cried a good bit today and right now I'm at the neighborhood bar, rehydrating. Stupid decision? Yeah, well, that's me. I also had a full day at work, which is also me.

I did get my car ready to get to Chippewa. It's an old car and my mechanic said my car is leaking. I asked from where? He said everywhere. I don't want to hear that from my mechanic or my doctor.

I also had a haircut and beard trim, just to tamp down concerns at the funeral about how "that Jackson boy -- you know the one -- he looks like a real bum."

When my little blog went national and I gave an interview to my friend Eric Lindquist from the Eau Claire newspaper, the story was sent to my hometown newspaper. I realized I lost control of my narrative.  And my mom, in memory care but still pretty aware, was going to be inundated with false sympathy from those who wallow in misery.

Mom didn't have a private phone in her room, so I called the nurses' desk and told her a story saying I was homeless was about to appear in the hometown newspaper. I convinced her I was fine. I had a hotel to stay in, later a beautiful cabin, and then later another hotel.

I said, "mom, a bunch of old biddies are going to come to you and say, 'it's such a shame about your son.' But I'm fine. I'll survive this and see you as soon as I can. 

Then I advised her to tell the old biddies to calm the F down. Only, I didn't use the letter. (My mom taught me how to cuss.) 

"Repeat after me, mom: Calm the F down." We did that three times.

I envisioned everyone at the nurses' desk with huge eyes because, as mom told me, everyone there considered her the "nice, old Catholic lady."

A great memory.

Yes, mom cussed. Yes, she drank a couple martinis every night for 60 years. But she went to mass every day, said nine Rosaries a day (most of them for me -- let's be honest) and was an intellectual. At the beginning of her move into memory care, I made the mistake of quoting Aristotle's Golden Mean. She corrected me. In Latin.

I have many great memories.

I'll savor them.

I'm now going to wrap up this entry because I'm writing in a bar and I'm crying in a bar. That ain't the first time for the latter. That's just me.

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

(And honestly, if any of you can offer some appreciation after three years and nearly 400 posts, I'd appreciate it: Venmo)

Friday, February 24, 2023

 The American Birkebeiner is an international athletic event, welcoming competitors from dozens of states and dozens of countries.

It's also a helluva party -- Wisconsin style.

That's as long as you don't mind a beer and a bratwurst at 5 degrees. Or some shots. Shots help. Shots. Shots. Shots.

I woke up to minus-five degrees at 7 a.m., which was warmer than midnight when it was 12 below. By the time I hit Main Street in downtown Hayward, temperatures had warmed to about 10 degrees.

But if you know weather in the Wisconsin Nort'woods, there was no wind and the sun was out. With those conditions, 10 degrees is quite lovely-- especially with a brat and kraut, a beer and maybe a shot of Dr. Mcgillicuddy's. 

I've spent dozens of hours outside this week but because I was working, I couldn't really party. I have had a bratwurst for lunch for the last two days. My vegetable side? Sauerkraut. Which used to be cabbage, so that is a vegetable. I think. 

Saturday will be the test. That's the actual American Birkebeiner competition for professionals.

You should see these folks move -- faster than I drive (I'm old, though, and the speed limit in Hayward is 25 mph in city limits).

My first, full Birkie has been an amazing experience. I love the people watching, the community support, the empathy for an athlete struggling. And the beer. And brats. And shots.

Peace unto Ukraine. And peace and a Wisconsin communion -- beer and brats -- unto my brothers and sisters.

Thursday, February 23, 2023


Doggies and skiing. Skiing and doggies.

What could be better?

As part of four days of the American Birkebeiner this morning I took photos at the Barkie Birkie -- which is dogs and skiing.

There are two parts to the event, the first is a competitive event where skier and dog take a 5K route. The photo of the team of the guy in blue and the dog in brown won, moving at the speed of a VW bug going down hill.

The second is a three-block romp where, more often than not, the skier reaches the finish line before the dog. Imagine a happy, playful dog surrounded by other dogs and snow and cheering and a fair amount of people who've been drinking copious amounts of beer for several days. This stressed out some of the dogs, whose humans would pick them up and cart them off to calmer places.

I feel lucky to be part of it as a journalist, even if the windchill was below zero and I drove through 6 inches of fresh snow.


And I met some awesome dogs. (People, too.)

If you think of it, drop me some dog chow on Venmo at @Rich-Jackson-15.

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

Wednesday, February 22, 2023


This American Birkebeiner is a huge deal, if you've not heard of it.

By end of day Saturday, the little city of Hayward -- a hamlet of 2,500 -- will have seen 10,700 skiers pass through the downtown. And we'll see another 20,000 family and friends of skiers descend on to cheer them on, have beer and bratwurst and celebrate. (A few of us residents might join them.)

I took photos for nearly three hours today as the beginning of the open-course skiers crested a temporary bridge and skied three city blocks after traversing tens of kilos (it depends on where one starts during the open course).

This temporary bridge -- you can see in some of the photos -- is called the International Bridge and festooned with country flags representing the home countries of the athletes. That was put up Monday with the delicacy of a card house -- amazing to watch. The bridge and Main Street are then lathered with pristine snow that is scraped off the local graveyard and then groomed for the races. I'm sure those buried support the effort.

Complete strangers cheered on athletes along with the initial visitors who arrived early. It's tradition for people to bring cowbells to cheer on the skiers -- yes, the more cowbell the better.

The region was supposed to be covered in our first foot snow only to be greeted by a second, complimentary foot tonight and Thursday but the snowstorm split in two, nailing those north and south.

Jesus must like the American Birkebeiner.

The temperature hit a lovely high of 24 degrees -- luxurious this time of the year in the Wisconsin northwoods -- and the sun shined down. The occasional gust might force you to turn and face away but it's as nothing to us.

After a while, frozen, I turned into the warmth of Anglers Bar & Grill to have the special of the day: grilled cheese and a bowl of tomato soup for $10.75. Lunch served as the epitome of a warming sustenance.

On the downside? My right knee is angry about my choices and I'm walking around like Fred Sanford. The bottoms of my feet ache like angry pancakes.

These things, too, shall pass.

If you think of it, seek me out on Venmo to give daddy a little sugar at @Rich-Jackson-15.

Peace on to the Ukraine and peace and winter delights unto you my brothers and sisters.

Monday, February 20, 2023

So I hit 300,000 pageviews and then I don't write anything for a week?

That's bad blogging.

I've been working much lately, particularly on some special sections and a magazine we put out in conjunction with the upcoming American Birkebeiner.

The who what?

That's an annual ski event that brings in more than 10,000 cross-country skiers who then make their way through hill and dale for 50 kilometers. (My metrics translator tells me 50 kilometers is "too far." I don't even like to drive that much.) In addition to the number of skiers, it's estimated that each skier brings two people to view the race.

That's 30,000 people in our little hamlet of 2,500, thus creating extra work for our small newspaper staff.

I'm still also taking photos at local high school games as my co-worker recovers from a horrible car crash in December. 

The other night I photographed two hockey matches, the girls team first and then the boys team. Both killed their playoff opponents. We like our hockey here and have had long success with both genders.

Last weekend, though, I had two days off in a row as my colleagues recognized my burnout and I made them delightfully lazy, reading, writing and cooking. Nice downtime.

And as this is kind of a catch-up post, I'll add that I've set up a Venmo account so people can -- if they wish -- send me a little money for the time I've spent blogging over past couple of years. I never imagined I'd still be here or I would have done that early on. (I refuse to use the word "monetize" because it was a cliche in one of my old newspaper companies.)

But if you're interested in supporting the blog, connect with me on Venmo at @Rich-Jackson-15.

This work -- I'm filing my 390th post -- has taken time and it would be nice to receive compensation, even if meager, for it. Thanks in advance.

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

Wednesday, February 8, 2023

 Three hundred thousand.

That's an unfathomable number to me for just about any context.

This little blog just passed that number for pageviews, a few months short of celebrating three years of blogging.

I know I've written before that I started the effort just to keep busy. After being laid off in May 2020, I knew I needed that. In addition to applying for jobs most of the day, I needed fun writing, something more personal than endless job applications. 

At the beginning of the pandemic, I worked 14-hour days during the week and 10-hour days during the weekend. I've never minded a little bit of work. Then I was laid off after a newspaper merger and kicked out of my apartment at the newspaper. Within a couple days, for some reason I still don't understand, I had 20,000 pageviews, enough for The New York Times to report on the blog.

I wrote a post everyday except for a week of deep depression that January and then most days for some time thereafter. A new job intervened, as did access to the internet many days. I'm working on getting better than that.

My previous blogging effort had received 55 pageviews, I think 45 of them mine.

Here we are nearly three years later and almost 400 posts. I've tried to keep the promise I made to myself: Be brutally honest, even when it hurt. So I posted about ideal jobs lost, applications ignored by fast food restaurants, deep depression.

Some nights I winced while editing but what's the point of writing if it's not honest?

And now I'm no longer homeless and still an editor. One out of two. That's a .500 batting average that won't get me in the baseball hall of fame. If there's a blog hall of fame, I won't get in there, either. There are hundreds of blogs that get in the millions of pageviews.

But you know what? That 300,000 number makes me happy. Even on a day like today where I'm suffering from the effects of depression, my life partner.

I've contemplated in the past when the blog should wrap up.

Not as long as people take time out of their lives to read what I write.

I remember almost everyday what my fourth-grade teacher said to me. When I said in class I wanted to be a writer, she said, "Mr. Jackson, no one will pay to read what you write."

I get to do that for a living as a journalist while I've not made any money off this little passion project. But, yeah, I get paid to read and write for a living.

And I have you readers.

That's pretty cool.

Thanks for reading, friends.

Peace unto Ukraine and peace and more posts for you my brothers and sisters.

Saturday, February 4, 2023

Oh, I slept deeply after my long day Friday.

But I had to get up and photograph high school boys wrestling for three hours today.

That is the life of a smalltown journalist, from tragedy to victory within a day, usually with some small tasks thrown in. (Note to self: Take out the garbage tomorrow. And clean the men's room but take a valium beforehand.)

I've now attended two wrestling matches and they are a different world to me. Today, it was a sectional where there were three mats stuffed into the basketball gym. Teams would switch mats and to make it more difficult, I was shooting for the two newspapers where I work -- Hayward and Spooner -- as well as publications from Ashland and Rice Lake.

Mind you, these are the little cities of my youth. Without buses in grade school, we would create a train of cars up and down the brand new Highway 53, eat at greasy burgers in smalltown diner and head to the game. (Back then, before food giants like Cisco, the hamburgers tasted different in each diner. Now, they're all the same patties, same buns, same cheese.)

The goal this morning wasn't a Pulitzer worthy shot. It was get something in focus. And all-smalltown journalists shoot the still moments at a sporting event so they have at least one frame a newspaper can use. I shoot team meetings most of the time but also before the free throw at basketball games. For wrestling, there is a moment before the boys grapple -- that's  my specialty.

I took the rest of Saturday off, getting nothing done. I'm good at that. But I'm a little tired and my 57-year-old bones are still recovering from the chill of Friday morning.

Sunday, I'll sleep late and do administrative work at the paper before production days of Monday and Tuesday kick in. Also, we have a special section and a magazine this week.

Don't be jealous.

Peace unto Ukraine and peace and satisfying work unto you my brothers and sisters.

Friday, February 3, 2023

 It occurred to me this morning, standing outside a police stand-off in minus-14 degree weather that my first such event was in 1989.

Wow -- that makes me sound old.

But 33 years is a long time and I'm still chasing police cars. It's not a bad gig.

I received a phone call as soon as I arrived at work. I hadn't even sipped my Irish breakfast tea -- by Adagio, I swear by it.

I will tell you I didn't want to go. My plan had been to wipe up some leftover work from the week and take off the afternoon -- either lounging about or day drinking. Hmmmmm.

A man who failed to take his medication for schizophrenia had stabbed this landlord, who was able to escape to a resident next door to the bar where the stabbing occurred. They called police but the stabber would not leave and so a stand off ensued. 

That means waiting. And waiting. And waiting.

My car doesn't really warm up anymore so I could not seek refuge. It has 197,000 miles on it and -- I believe -- pretty significant chlamydia. It huffs and puffs and heaves and lurches. But warm-up? Not so much.

I finally trundled over to the Radisson, Wisconsin, village office where the woman there greeted me with an open door and a bottle of water. "Sorry," she said about the water. "It's cold." She did offer to make some coffee but I declined.

I called in the story and texted in some photos so we could break the story.

And waited.

Every time I thought there was action, I'd pop outside.

At one point a very elderly, very large man drove up in this tiny Toyota truck. "What the hell is going on?" he demanded.

"Police standoff," I reported. "Someone was stabbed." He stayed put until deputies pointed out he couldn't park on a public highway. "Where the yell am I supposed to go?" he demanded. "Anywhere but being parked on a highway."

He pulled off the street, directly blocking the sheriff's command vehicle. The large, old man was told to move again, so he pulled into a bank parking lot within the perimeter of the scene. I wasn't close to the discussion but I assume he was told to leave or be arrested.

"I see you met Anton," said the woman in the village hall. "He drove into a field last week and couldn't get out. He shouldn't be driving."

Later, outside taking photographs, another truck -- this is truck country -- pulled up and the couple politely asked what was going on. I explained to them and the man driving asked, "Where's your goddamned hat?" Sometimes I rush off to scenes. Not the first time, even this year. He handed me a knit hat from his console and said, "Here -- this is yours now."

I do so enjoy being back in my home state where a knit cap can be a lifesaving gift.

I ultimately left after about three hours because I was a day behind on another article. The weather had warmed to four below.

Two hours later, the sheriff called to say the standoff was done after deputies shot in some tear gas and sent in a robot.

The scene ended peacefully.

As I write this, I'm having my second Manhattan before dinner, still trying to warm up from a cold that can sink in deeply, bone deep. 

Then I'll have some fish fry and a deep sleep.

Peace unto the Ukraine and peace and warmth and sleep unto you my brothers and sisters.

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

 One of the disadvantages of having a colleague out -- much work.

One of the great advantages -- I'm wandering out more to places I wouldn't otherwise see.

Last weekend, I went to a sledding hilltop where the wind chill was about 20 degrees below zero. I met hearty Wisconsin folks, the kind of people who say "it doesn't get real cold until 30 below." There was enough hot chocolate to drink and more cookies than could be eaten inside a warming shelter. And a bonfire tended to by town of Hayward officials.

The day before, I attended a boys basketball game (the Hayward locals were slaughtered) but a high school basketball game is never just a sport. It's a dating ritual. It's a social event. It's local bonding. I could see boys sitting next to a red-faced girl or a rush by the junior varsity team to attack hot dogs in order to replace calories left on the gym floor. Teachers mixed in with students to make sure nothing bad was happening -- and to cheer on the boys.

One day last weekend, I attended a boys hockey game and a girls hockey game on the same day. (My nipples are still angry about these assignments.) Here in Hayward, it's like a conference game in most other cities. There's a laser light show and then a smoke machine through which both the boys and girls skate. The girls team is one of the best team in the state this year and I was happy to see nearly the same attendance for each of the games. Also, in the warming center next to the rink, a little group of boys gathered and often shot glimpses of girls who returned in kind. The place smelled of hot dogs and hot chocolate, which sounds disgusting to me but was a pretty good combination for a photographer with angry nipples.

Life is pretty cool so long as you're paying attention.

Peace unto Ukraine and peace and a life unto you my brothers and sisters.

Friday, January 27, 2023

 Every now and then, I lift up my head I realize I've missed years.

I see this on social media where a friend's baby is four years old. Or 10 years old. Or graduating from a master's program at Stanford. And I remember only the diapers and the toothless smile. (I have older friends for the latter as well.)

In this last week, I've been looking up recent movies only to find they were released 20 years ago.

I don't know if this is a sign of aging or of being unaware of the passage of time.

Part of being aware in the moment -- which I try to be -- is that I lose the ability to measure the passage of time.

These are nice, peaceful ruminations but what of them?

Shit. I'm 57 and I have stuff to do. There can be no more waiting until next month or next year or flipping tomorrow. I'm reminded of the late actor Leslie Jordan who sold T-shirts that stated, "Well, shit -- what are you waiting for?"

I have to write the great American novel. I will write short stories, one a month about the common man. I need at least one nomination for Best Screenplay and I wouldn't mind a Tony award for Best Original play.

I've buried my head for four years now -- decades more, really. I must lift my head, my awareness, and do what fulfills me.

Watch me, readers. I have work to do before I die.

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

Friday, January 20, 2023


Mom is stable and not so restless.

Kid has returned home -- with memories of a spectacular visit along with great food and a litany of drinks. (My new autobiography title.)

Colleague has returned to work after a horrific car accident five weeks ago.

I remain upright and breathing. (Maybe that's the better autobiography title.)

And it's 20 days into 2023 when I want to do better blogging on a more regular basis.

One thing right now is the weather. Friends encouraged me to move home almost two years ago and I remembered my upbringing fondly has just being a few times of difficulty during the winter in the Wisconsin Nort'woods.

This year has had one winter event after another. If it's not snowing 18 inches, then it's 30 degrees below zero. Looking forward to the warm-up? Then it will snow another 10 inches. Cool down? Well then be aware of your genitalia freezing to the naugahyde of the car's front seat. (Actually, best new title for an autobiography is "Nuts on Naugahyde.")

But nice things intervene.

I failed to mention a couple of weeks ago that regular blog reader Bertha, who occasionally sent money during my difficult times -- always $27 -- mailed me $31. Twenty seven was for my friends who lost their home to a fire. My friend, whom I accompanied to the tragedy, hugged me when I presented her $27. Then there was a $2 bill for me and one for Kid for good luck.

Another friend has started watching out for my driveway, plowing when needed during this winter that makes woman strong and men weep.

Still another pranked me with an obscene snowman on my deck -- looking straight through my picture window -- that has brought much laughter to friends and I imagine chagrin to my landlords. 

Life with struggles doesn't occur without bright spots of love and laughter and no little amount of liquor here in the Nort'woods.

In betwixt the storms, we must enjoy the sunshine

Sorry, that's too Hallmark. At least for me.

Endure the difficulties. Then have a couple drinks.

Peace unto Ukraine and peace and a couple drinks unto each of you my brothers and sisters.

Saturday, January 14, 2023

At this odd time in my life, a woman my age asked me to meet her at a bar where there was dancing.

For many years, I turned down such offers but from my studies of Buddhism, I decided turning down invitations showed a lack of grace. Short of having nothing else on my dance card, I accept as many offers as I can.

A beautiful woman suggested I meet her at a bar where live music was being played. About the closest I've come to this in real life was watching "Urban Cowboy" on cable television in the 1990s. (For the record, there were no mechanical bulls in this joint but there were a number of people whom I could attempt to ride until they threw me off.)

I went.

I attended.

After ordering a drink, this pretty person grabbed my corpse-cold hand and drew me to the tiny dance floor. From memory, I grasped one of her hands and put the other on her back. The music started and I shuffled my feet back and forth, as much as two inches at a time. Some wild ass music was played, something like Billy Joel slowed to a funereal pace. 

"I ... don't ... care ... what you say ... anymore ... this is my life."

I tried to dance, to sway to the music or respond to the movement of my dance partner.

I had visions of Lurch from "The Addams Family" laughing at me in his deep voice.

The pretty lady ended up holding my two hands, similar how parents dance with slow children.

I tried. 

Honest to God I tried.

But I haven't attempted to dance in at least a couple of decades. I'm not good at it, I don't feel the music as others do and finally I fear hurting myself given my advanced age. One misstep and I'm on workman's comp for six months.

She was quite gracious and finally asked, "Are you afraid?"

I said yes and she switched to a partner who appeared to be a strapping Mennonite buck.

I powdered and made my way home.

Peace unto Ukraine and peace and the powder to all of my brothers and sisters.

Friday, January 13, 2023

Life has been busy exemplified by few blog posts.

We've been filling in for a missing colleague on a small staff.

Kid visited for five days.

Mom is moving to hospice.

To say it's been busy is misleading. And that has caused some radio silence here on the blog.  I've found myself breathing deeply, meditation style and just accepting I'll make it through days which begin as a sprint and end with me, hands on knees, attempting to refill my lungs with air.

With it all, there have been great celebrations. Kid is a joy. She's intelligent and funny and I can say the worst jokes of all time and she responds with this new, guttural laughter that seems to come with adulthood. It's as though she's become a grownup. (She did about 10 years ago. I just might not have noticed as I see her perpetually as a 6-year-old.)

I must keep in mind that what does not kill me, lowers my immune system so that the next, smaller challenge will end me.

Kid is a hero in town because I only talk about her. She gets hugs and drinks and true friendship and all of it warms my heart, just as the tawny port we sipped on each evening.

Kid made an alla vodka sauce with fusilli that was restaurant level good. I provided the salad and garlic bread and we sipped on a decent bottle of Tempranillo. We talked to a nearby tavern for some Bailey's, which we refer to as the evening milkshake

We played as much pool as possible and for the first time since I taught her the game, I was skunked. I lost every game.

When I dropped her off at the airport, I said to her as she walked away, "I'm not crying -- you are." She responded, "I love you," I said, "Go to hell."

Thus it is with sons of the Wisconsin Northwoods.

Work, pathos and comedy.

Such is life.

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