A Chicago Christmas

Although I only spent 5 years in the city of my birth…I remember it well!  There was a snow on the ground and more in the air, as mom announced that she had retrieved Laughing Santa…and that I must come to see him!

Before me was the little, stuffed, Chief Elf…with his brightly painted face and the crank on his back.  The more that mom turned the crank…the more heartily Old St. Nick laughed.  I watched his antics and reveled in his laughter and wondered how he was able to be so human and yet…seemed not to be so?

There were many, uniquely wrapped, gifts under the 8 foot aluminum Christmas Tree.   Pointing at the shiny artificial  Tannenbaum was a rotating light with a cover of multi-colors that diffused the spectrum of color of the subsequent glow of the beam.

We had returned from our excursion into the city where we saw the new release of Walt Disney’s movie, Lady and the Tramp.  And, the information overload for me, at 3 years old, was tremendous…and ‘visions of sugarplums danced in my head!’

Soon dad and me and mom sat under the Tree as a, mysterious visitor, took our photo…’and that is the rest of the story.’

It was after dark and our outside Christmas lights were lit…and we heard a terrible commotion on the roof of our house in Sauk Village.  It sounded like someone had been on the roof and fell off.  As dad answered the door, I heard him proclaim…’Why come right in!’  There before us…was Santa Claus in all of his red suited, and white bearded, and pipe smoking glory!

Santa laughed, a lesser laugh, than what I had expected…and he wondered if he could use our phone to call Mrs. Claus?  He went on to say that he and the Missus had been involved in a spat when he left and he needed to ensure that there was a home for him to return to…when the Christmas Eve work was completed.  Dad showed him our one phone in the hall…and he began to dial.  We gave him his privacy…he looked like that he needed it.  We heard him say, ‘but…but…but,’ on several occasions, and then he joined us in the living room.  Santa said that he had patched things up and inquired was there anything that he could do for us…before he resumed his journey.  Mom responded that she would like for him to snap a family photo of us under the Christmas Tree.  Santa took her camera and took two pictures…in case the first one did not come out right.

Dad poured the, ‘spritely old elf,’ some eggnog and asked if he wanted something stronger in it…and he smiled with the rosiest of cheeks and said, ‘absolutely!’

As Santa left, on our carport were the reindeer and a bright red glow…from Rudolph’s nose.  Donner and Vixen called out to Santa and asked, ‘where’s ours?’ referring to the spiked eggnog.

So, that is how the Brooks Family Photo…was taken.

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‘Waiting For Godot’

‘Waiting for Godot is a play by Samuel Beckett.’    Wikipedia

”The play is a typical example of the Theatre of the Absurd, and people use the phrase ‘waiting for Godot’ to describe a situation where they are waiting for something to happen, but it probably never will…’    Wikipedia

So, I often say that I am, ‘waiting for Godot!’

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Aren’t we all waiting for many things in our lives…that have not exhibited themselves ever…or at least not on a semi-regular basis We wait for Godot when we seek justice and fair treatment for all peoples…not just the majority or those who are favored by the political class.  We wait patiently for our elected leaders to care more about their constituents than their own interests.  What a treat it would be to witness a concerted focus to address global warming!

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

We live in a country that, by all available measurable criteria, live in multiple realities.  There was a famous book, many years ago, that was entitled, Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus.  This book demonstrated the difficulty in men and women communicating with each other and understanding and empathizing with each others point of view.  Today points of view are dictated by the television news network that you receive your news from.

When I was a teenager, men simply understood that they were going to be drafted and be sent to Vietnam.  My cousin, Billy, was drafted.  The only reason that I was not drafted was due to President Carter abolishing the draft before I became of age to go!

We all watched Walter Cronkite on CBS or Huntley and Brinkley on NBC and we basically received the same news.

We wept when President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963 at 12:30 pm, central standard time.  Somehow, we understood that we would never be the same…and we have not!

We are told by our parents and our elders to work hard and ‘pay-our-dues’ and seek to excel in our careers!  We are assured that if we will apply ourselves…we will climb the ladder of success…and we will be another example of the American Dream!  We are told that anyone can be President of the United States and anyone can be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company…the Horatio Alger story of rags to riches…is ours for the taking….

But, what if the person who is doing the hiring…does not play by the rules?  What if it is not…what you know…but who you know….?

Institutions agonize regarding their low morale.  They engage is studies….and consultants….and large committees…too investigate and conduct in depth research into the quandary of ebbing excitement about the work-place!

The answer is simple….we all wait….much as our Jewish friends wait for the Messiah…or justice and equity and fairness…and recognition of consistent hard work and a passion for the job….and someone who has placed their heart and soul into their career….being recognized for their efforts…rather than being passed over for a friend of the boss!

We are still, ‘Waiting for Godot!’

 

 

Concern Is Comfort

Tara, MJ, and my niece texted me this morning to inquire how we are doing with Omicron. Her kind gesture…made my day! So often when you are ill and feeling as if ‘warmed-over death’ was your default setting…you feel a bit alone and watch life pass you by as you suffer in silence. When I told MJ of Tara’s text…she smiled broadly and rose to play a few hands of our card game…Golf. As she won almost every hand…her smile broadened and she proclaimed that we must play another once the Automatic Card Shuffler from Amazon…arrives later today.

Concern makes a difference in so many trials and tribulations of our lives. Once we understand that someone cares about us and our health and welfare…we take courage and often gain strength. We are not alone…we are members of a loving community that cares for us and that will help us when we need assistance. We are a bit like the young man that I observed in New York City many years ago. Someone felt that he had pulled his automobile too close to theirs in the midst of the nightmarish traffic of Manhattan. They screamed epitaphs at him and he returned the colorful rhetoric. Then someone that he knew called out a friendly greeting to him…and it was as if another man suddenly appeared. He smiled happily greeting his friend and went about his affairs with a joyful heart.

January is moving on in a rapid fashion. It will soon be a month since Christmas. Although some of our four seasons may seem a bit longer than others…they are all three months in length…and are all made to be appreciated and enjoyed. Service to others is a wonderful vocation or hobby and a way of life. Indeed there are few activities that are more satisfying. The more that we lighten another’s backpack…the freer we feel. When we make others happy…we in turn are happy. The human dynamic of peace and contentment is to look outward to assist our neighbor’s friends and family. I often said of Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale…that I could not outgive what the University had done for me. Rather it was additional hours worked or numerous committees that I volunteered for…or to daily endeavor to help people inside the house…and those who would be thrilled with the opportunity to come in…I could not repay SIUC…

My dear departed mother was always looking for someone that need help. If she had a dollar and you needed money…she would give you some. She neither sought recognition or praise for her charitable deeds…rather she relished anonymity. If you were a marginalized person or a person who people shunned…mom was your friend. Mom saw the good in people…because she took time to look…

Ice On The Pond…Our New Year Is Underway

Nineteen degrees that feels like seven with a thirteen-mile-per-hour wind. Our pond is freezing over. Winter brings both a sense of calm and quiet serenity and a pervasive feeling of unease and distress. Snow and ice are lovely to look at and treacherous for we senior citizens to walk upon. I am reminded of a little over five years ago when I fell in December and broke four ribs. I laugh when I see actors portray characters in movies who fight and receive horrible physical abuse and later comment that they are fine…they then comment with a smile, ‘I only cracked some ribs.’ Cracked ribs are no picnic!

Boris Johnson, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, has told an untruth to his constituents…or as I used to hear…lied to their faces… regarding his being present at a ‘Drinks Party’ that was in violation of his own governments’ lockdown rules surrounding our Pandemic. ‘Nobody told me that what we were doing was against the rules, that the event in question was something that wasn’t a work event,’ the prime minister told Sky News on Tuesday.’ Now, this is nothing new to we Americans…as we are accustomed to lies from our political leaders. However, it raises the question that I have often asked myself as to if our leaders really believe that we are so mediocre that we do not realize when they are telling us a bald-faced lie…without impunity?

Living in the moment has been on my mind more of late. We tend to look to the future for our reward…or to wish the ‘good old days’ would revisit us. We are firmly planted in the midst of a kaleidoscope of the panorama of possibilities…at this moment. We had Boston Terrier dogs for over 30 years. I marveled at their innate ability to live in the moment. They were happy with their existence in time…and each joy was brand new… Whenever I returned home from work or an errand…they greeted me like they had not seen me in a week. We humans are blessed and cursed with a big brain that is always on… Often when we are counting sheep to aid in our falling to sleep…we wonder if the sheep have done the grocery shopping… or what they are going to purchase for their new house…that they have yet to build…

Centering is vital to our happiness. Focus is the key to accomplishing anything worthwhile. A sense of place provides us with purpose. ‘Centering is a technique whose aim is to focus attention and energy, to provide relief from stress and anxiety, or both. In other instances, at the point of concentration, negative thoughts and emotions are released and positive thoughts and emotions are encouraged…’ APA Dictionary of Psychology

Omicron

The great Heavy Weight Boxer Joe Lewis said of an opponent, ‘He can run but he can not hide.’ A similar refrain can be uttered for the Omicron variant of Covid. We have been running from our Pandemic for over two years…successfully. First masks and social distancing and then both vaccinations and a booster. We literally did not go anywhere in 2020…and rarely eat out or travel to this day. When we do we are often the only people in the group that are wearing masks and are subject to our share of dirty looks and political/religious condemnation. Yet…Omicron has found us…

Now you may think that we feel misused by having followed the best health advice from our Health Experts…I do not…I am relieved that we have done everything that we could to avoid this plague. It is neither a political/religious/conspiracy hatched by the behind-the-scenes rulers of the world…nor is it the overblown flu that many claims. It did not end after the Presidental Election…and it appears that it will be here to stay for the foreseeable future and that we will have to learn to live with it. Someone said that they did not like to be told what to do with their body… I could care less what you do with your body…until your carelessness affects the health of my loved ones…

Having the sniffles and a bit of a cough is a lot better than being placed on a ventilator… I think that all of us need to pause and think about our heated rhetoric and research that comes from a box of Cracker Jacks. Also, we mask wearers need not think that we are superior because we do what science tells us is prudent…we are all mere children before this Virus. We need each other and we must love each other and endeavor to understand each other…rather than paint our living rooms…while our kitchens are on fire…

Cards

During our lovely stay at Miramar Beach, Florida…I witnessed many hours of enjoyable card playing by MJ and Ira Kaye and Ron. I am one of those poor deprived souls that never learned an adult card game. At one time I played Old Maid…and enjoyed it very much… MJ…on the other hand…loves card games. Upon our return to Little Egypt…I determined that I would learn her favorite card game…Golf. I was a bit amazed at how simple it was to learn and have subsequently played it with her and Aaron and Jonathon for several marathon sessions. Indeed we have played so many hands…that we have ordered an automatic card shuffler from Amazon. I have even succeeded in being the winner…once or twice.

My childhood was filled with swimming at Pounds Hollow Lake and daily bicycle riding and movies at the Orpheum Theatre and Pool Playing. I also very much enjoyed playing and role-playing… with my Action Figure collection….when I was a child. I think that there are card-playing families. Mine was not but MJ and Ron’s was. I found the idea fascinating that couples would visit each other’s homes…especially in the 1950s and the 1960s to play Bridge or Pinochle. Poker continues to be an interesting card game to me. I see that there are televised programs where people play in tournaments for a lot of money. I have a professor friend who appears to do quite well in card-playing tournaments.

Challenges and Opportunities could best describe our lives. Or as many of my friends said in my formative years, ‘One day chicken and the next day feathers.’ Each day of peace and good health and happiness…is a gift. So much of success in life is learning to take it a day at a time. Yesterday had passed and tomorrow is not promised. The beautiful photo of today…is where we live…

I have both watched the HBO/Max movie, Station Eleven, and read the book by Emily St. John Mandel. It is an apocalyptic story about a Pandemic. Yes, this is something that you might think is not appropriate for our times…but it is strangely comforting. So many of the petty and trivial and mundane things that we obsess about in our lives…melt away in the face of life-changing events. I was having a bit of political discussion the other day with friends. I noted that I do not get too enraptured by human beings in leadership positions. In a life-changing event…we might ponder why we are Christians…because of fealty to a man or woman…or to follow the mystical teachings of Christ.

Look for the New in 2022

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A new year is two weeks underway! Did you make any new goals for 2022? A new goal of mine is to write more fiction stories this year. I find great joy and satisfaction in completing a new short story. Another goal of mine is to read more books this year than last year. In 2021 I read 43. A third goal is to lose around 15 pounds. Let’s cheer each other on in our goals.

Resolutions are too all or nothing for me. When I think of a resolution I think of the idea of giving up something for the religious season of Lent. I’ve never tried to give up anything for the Lent season for 40 days because I’ve always known I would fail within the first week. I resolve to make no more resolutions in the month of January.

What shall the new year bring us? Certainly…

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Snow Watching

The Great Florida Holiday…has ended. We had a lovely visit with our family…Ira Kaye and Ron. They are such wonderful hosts. We have been visiting Miramar Beach for 12 years and the time has flown by. I thought that I was old…12 years ago…now I know that I am. Destin and the surrounding communities are wonderful and serene places to spend time in. Of course, the Ocean is a constant reminder of the unparalleled beauty of our Home. I never tire of observing the marking of time on earth’s clock…by the neverending waves coming to shore.

MJ and I have been to Sams to re-supply the pantries. Snow is on our horizon… It is not much colder…at the moment…than it was in Florida…but it certainly feels like it is. I am gazing at our pond and imagining that it is the Ocean.

It is a bit difficult to keep up with the changing instructions that are rapidly being issued by the CDC and our health professionals. I heard today that our face masks need to be upgraded to either the M95 or the KM 95…and that the cloth masks that we have been wearing for the past 2 years…are little more than decoration against the Omicron Variant. Our church has closed its doors for in person worship for the next 2 weeks. Worship will be by Zoom. This is cautious…and it is correct. Covid 19 is going to be a part of our New Normal…for the foreseeable future.

A significant amount of people still believe that our Pandemic is a Goverment Scam and that the Virus is little more than a common flu. They also believe that many of those who have lost their lives to Covid have been misreported as to the cause of death and that in reality their friends or loved ones passed from this world due to…heart disease…or diabetes or cancer or other debilitating diseases. The truth is that our Pandemic exacerbated the already weakened immune system of people with life threatening illnesses…and they died…and some played a bit of Russian Roulette with the greatest Plauge of any of our lifetimes…

Snow Watch is proceeding at the Brooks Ranch. We do not receive many large snows and icy winter storms…but when we do…they are not to be trifled with…

A Good And Pleasant Land

The Ocean Club has wonderful fresh seafood. MJ and I had a lovely Seafood Platter last evening…and as Ron would say…’It was to die for!’ We ordered and consumed the Bounty during the two for one special…which is something that we Snowbirds enjoy. Speaking of snow…the forecast for Carbondale, Illinois is snow this weekend. We are getting home just in time for some wintertime fun…

As I am confronted with the beauty of the Ocean I wonder if we appreciate what a lovely planet we live on. Human history is short…the history of one human life…is like a Weaver’s Shuttle. We are little more than a puff of wind that is forgotten soon after it passes. Each of us is under the mistaken illusion that we are old and have lived a long life and have seen or experienced all that life has to offer. In reality, our understanding and comprehension are that of a common Housefly that has a life span of 24 hours. Entire civilizations have been birthed and grown and died…and yet the Ocean Waves…keep coming to shore.

Now…we are one planet in the midst of billions of galaxies and trillions of planets…of which our scientists are discovering new ones each day that could support life… Other planets, Mars perhaps, could have experienced the rise and fall of civilizations…millions of years ago. We could be in the midst of a life-changing event on Earth…and not possess the frame of reference to understand what is happening to us…

The Bite-Size Mission that we humans have been given…to be kind and compassionate to each other…seems to be more than we are capable of. We still have a chance to get it right. As I ponder the vastness of the emerald green Gulf Coast waters…I wonder where we fit in…in the vastness of space and time and purpose of the miracle of life… Are we a bit like Narcissus…constantly admiring our own reflection? If we have some resources…do we feel special and blessed…while our perception is that our poor neighbor is…cursed? Do we…really…want to reach beyond the front door of our gated community…to learn of others?

Are you exhausted but can not sleep…hungry but never satisfied…a recluse and insular and an introvert…because people scare you? I am watching an elderly couple walk slowly out to the Ocean. The old man is carrying the beach chairs for both him and his wife. Their steps are a bit arthritic…but their determination is the same as when they were first married. They understand that life is to be lived and the juice of the fruit to be savored and it may drip down your chin…onto your white beard…but you know that you are a member of God’s Marvelous Creation…and you were born with a purpose…

Santas Miramar Beach…Conundrum

Santa stared at his doppelganger who was before him…with his Santa Hat on his head…and a lit cigar in the 1957 California Pottery Ashtray that was balanced on the arm of the beach chair that he was sitting in…dead… Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall…Santas 2 primary personal assistants…were apoplectic regarding the condition of their beloved boss. ‘How did this happen…he was fine and in good spirits when we left him to go to Sundog Books to purchase for him the book…Nightmare Alley’ said Lauren B. ‘He was going to read it before the three of us went to the Destin Commons AMC Theatre to view the new Nightmare Alley flick…with his 2 favorite actresses, Toni Colette and Cate Blanchette,’ replied Humphrey B. For you must understand that the only Santa that Humphrey and Lauren saw was the dead Santa…they did not see the other live one…

Santa pondered how he could have such a perfectly identical twin. When they were boys they had regularly fooled the grade school teacher at Hillcrest School. Then it dawned on him that his twin brother, Dave Kringle, had passed away 30 years ago… He was looking at the mirror image of himself…quite dead… Suddenly up walked Dave. Santa said, ‘Is that you brother…or are there now three of us?’ Dave answered, ‘Kris…your old heart just ceased to beat…and we are in the waiting room between life and death…how do you like it?’ ‘Well, I wanted to finish my Peanut Butter Old Smoky Whiskey and my Cohiba Cigar…and to read Nightmare Alley,’ replied Santa. ‘Also, I have committed to another 5-year contract as the active Santa Claus…hoping to see the children through the world through the Pandemic…before I retire, Said Kris Kringle.

‘He opened his eyes,’ said Lauren B. ‘Oh…I must have fallen asleep again…I just can not seem to stay awake…were you able to find…Nightmare Alley?’ said Santa.

Santa awakened to the sound of his own snoring. The darkened theatre was conducive to a nap. There was Toni Colette helping Bradley Cooper’s character take a bath…Santa thought…what a strange dream…and I must try to remain awake…to tell his chief elves…Aaron and Jonathon…about the movie…

Nightmare Alley @ Destin

Last evening we visited the Cinema. We have been there on several occasions through the last 12 years. A number of those sojourns were to the IMax Theatre. Yesterday was not…but it was still a big and empty movie emporium. I am accustomed to an extremely large crowd when I visit the Destin Commons…with kids and harried parents and excitement all around. I was alone in the stadium seating theatre until just before the start of the show…when 5 people came in.

Theatres have suffered financially during our 3 calendar year Pandemic. I am dismayed that many of them have been able to remain open. One of my primary retirement goals at the outset of the adventure was to attend the movies at least twice a week. This goal I kept for the first years of the adventure. Since our Pandemic I did not visit our local Theatre for over a year…and after that…2 or 3 times.

Nightmare Alley was a wonderful study in human nature and peoples subseptibillity to Con Men and Grifters. The story illustrated that there are individuals who work diligently at protecting themselves from real work as their study is how to separate their unsuspecting clients from the money that they have earned through their labor. Often what appears as miraculous or magnificent…is no more than a practiced and elaborate scam.

It is another chilly day at Miramar Beach…yet several degrees warmer than Carbondale, Illinois. I have succeded or exceeded my goal of 10 thousand steps per day…for the last 4 days. For me this is a fitness goal that I have worked on for over a year and 7 days a week. Retirement has been a pleasant experience and has thus far gone by rapidly. I was talking with Ira kaye and Ron regarding the key to my retirement contentment…having hobbie goals that I work on daily…

Cigar for the Old Man And The Sea…may be in order for today. I spied a Cigar Store yesterday evening on the way to the Theatre.

Miramar Beach’s New Year Suprise

Billy B. and Chet and Jane and Mr. Ronald and Ms. Ira Kaye…were taking an after Christmas Holiday @ Miramar Beach, Florida. Billy B. and Chet and Jane had just left Santa at the North Pole and he was a bit depressed. He told them that it was somewhat common for him to suffer a little seasonal depression after the Big Christmas Push… 2021 had been an especially difficult Holiday Season with the Omicron Variant appearing in the midst of the Christmas Celebration. Humphrey, his primary assistant, and manager of the Toy Factory, had told Santa that he needed a visit to Miramar Beach to soak up some sun…but Santa was chilly. He had cheerfully put on his red shorts and his tee-shirt with a photo of Rudolph emblazoned on the front of it. He had his plastic Birkenstock Sandals for walking on the beach…and he had purchased some Cuban Cohiba Cigars to enjoy as he watched the emerald green waters of the Gulf. Santa usually switched from his customary Meerschaum Pipe in January…for his beloved Cuban Cigars…

Lauren Bacall, Humphrey’s wife, had accompanied the Jolly Old Elf and Humphrey to Miramar…she loved the annual Florida visits. She had purchased for Santa a couple of large novels at Sundog Books in Seaside. Lauren was Santa’s other personal assistant and she had thought that the Cigars and the new Mystery Novels would do the trick for her boss…but he was still a bit down… She went to Winn Dixie Liquor Store and purchased him some…Old Smoky Peanut Butter Whiskey… When he drank a sip or two…he began to smile from ear to ear… Santa ruminated on what method the Whiskey Distillers used to give the wonderful drink its peanut butter flavor.

As Santa walked the boardwalk out to the sugar-white sand beach at Miramar…he noticed a red Santa Cap that looked suspiciously like one of his on the head of an old man sitting in a beach chair…and apparently asleep in front of the Ocean. When he walked up to the old man and said, ‘Nice Hat,’ he noticed that the old gentleman did not move…and that he looked just like him… Santa shook the doppelganger and he was non-responsive… Suddenly there was Lauren beside him and she said, ‘I told you to not drink so much of the Peanut Butter Old Smoky…Whiskey.’

Santa awakened with a shiver…he was cold…and he looked about for the Peanut Butter Whiskey…and he wondered if it had all been a dream… He then returned to the Murder Mystery that Lauren bought for him as Sundog Books…’Death On The Beach…’