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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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!’

 

 

Your Can’t Try It On…You Can’t Return It…Just Guess! — The Jazz Man

I visited our local JC Penny’s store in our ever shrinking mall today. The store is going out of business…just as our Macy’s department store did earlier this year. The retail world is changing faster than we can keep up with it! As I perused the Big and Tall selections I noticed a clearance rack. While the […]

via Your Can’t Try It On…You Can’t Return It…Just Guess! — The Jazz Man

The Miracle of Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale!

I began at SIUC 42 years ago.  Prior to my beginning I was intrigued with the notion of a major university in Southern Illinois.  Although I was born in Chicago my mother and father were Southern Illinois natives.  They had migrated to Chicago for employment.  They had decided to return to Eldorado, Illinois, where my mom’s family resided, in order to start anew after marital discord and soon after the move… divorce.  I vividly recall SIU theatre students coming to Hillcrest school to perform a play.  My imagination was captivated!  I dreamt  of someday being a part of such a magical place as Southern Illinois University!  

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I did not begin my relationship with my school as a student…I began as an employee for the Physical Plant Building Services department.  My job title was Building Service Worker I…and I was extremely proud of it!  I knew that I had obtained a secure job with the university that I had loved since my youth.  One of my first impressions of my new environment was the wealth of diversity.  I was placed on a custodial crew with students from several countries.  My foreman was African American and, as time went by he mentored me and set me on the road to success in the department.  When a colleague had given me a little trouble…Jim instructed the chap that, ‘Jay Brooks was his son…he just would not call him daddy!’  

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I said for many years that SIUC has a big sign over each of its entrances that says, Opportunity!’  Through the decades I became accustomed to being included by not only my colleagues but also by chancellors and a president.  My mom used to speak of the ‘little guy or the little gal’ and she was observant of those with resources and education who were not respecters of rank or social and economic standing.  Southern became a second home for me, up until and including today.  I felt comfortable there.  I knew that I was appreciated and that my efforts were noted and thought highly of.    I found that Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale is a home for all peoples!

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SIUC is an oasis in the desert.  It is a pristine example of members of the human family working together and listening to each other and seeing each other.  I often reflect on the fact that our housekeeping department had over 200 student staff.  These students were from 70 nations.  Our full time staff was from the local Southern Illinois region.  Our full time staff loved their international student colleagues!  There was no thought of walls or border restrictions or lack of respect of another’s ethnic origin…. Building Services had over 30 custodial crews.  These crews were composed of a working crew supervisor and some Building Service Worker I’s and several student staff.  When a student member of the crew was sad or homesick the full time staff encouraged them.  When a student member of the crew was hungry…their full time colleagues shared their lunch with them.  When a student member of the crew thought of dropping out of school…the surrogate mothers and fathers that worked alongside them…talked them out of it!  We had an annual Thanksgiving Dinner that was attended by all of our student and full time staff.  The event was a joy to participate in…and spoken of throughout the year!  The Building Sub-foreman and the Building Service Workers and the Foreman…made food for the event…and their student colleagues…loved them for it!  

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It is difficult to hate someone who you break bread with……

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Something Good Is Going To Happen! — The Jazz Man

I purchased the new Bob Dylan album Friday. It is terrific! The first song on the disc is, ‘I Contain Multitudes.’ Some of the lyrics are: ‘ I’m just like Anne Frank, like Indiana Jones And them British bad boys, The Rolling Stones I go right to the edge, I go right to the end […]

via Something Good Is Going To Happen! — The Jazz Man

As Flashy As A Fireworks Show

Please enjoy a great, Jonathon Brooks Blog!

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As fireworks explode outside my home I am reminded of how much I enjoy quiet things. I enjoy reading books in rooms with no television blaring. I like one on one conversations with people where there’s plenty of pauses to plot the next item of conversation. I like music turned down low so I can contemplate the messages of the lyrics. I enjoy being alone with my thoughts with no loud noises to distract me.

Although I have enjoyed fireworks shows before. The color parade of rainbows lighting up the night sky I find fascinating. But this year I am not into the fireworks scene. 2020 has been a different sort of year so far.

If this virus teaches us some new things I hope and I pray that one of the lessons learned is how to sit down and shut up and enjoy life more fully. Most of us…

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I Experienced Something Wonderful!

It is hot in Southern Illinois!  But then again it is July 4th eve.  Our 2020 pandemic continues to be a daily learning experience.  Forty states are experiencing extreme spikes in COVID-19 cases, with yesterday being over 50 thousand new cases within 24 hours.  When I think of planning for the future I am struck with the uncertainty and the black-hole that the Coronavirus has presented us with.  It is a time that we must follow the expert advice of our health care professionals and rely upon the gift of wisdom from God.  

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I have been a member of First Presbyterian Church in Carbondale for 22 years…and when I became a member I thought that I was old…  In those days our church had three boards; Session, Deacons, and Trustees.  I had not been a member a year when my friend, Barbara and our Interim Pastor, Karen, came to visit me in my office at the Physical Plant to ask me if I would consider becoming a member of the Trustees.  I was so moved by Barbara’s pleading with me…that I reluctantly accepted.  I remember being in a trustee meeting on the evening of 9/11.  I have always been a reluctant candidate for church leadership.  Even in the early days of serving on the trustees I had been involved in church leadership for 30 years.  I am convinced that there are others much more qualified than I for any leadership role…and that bedrock belief is a cloak that I wear proudly!  

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Recently I was asked if I would serve on the Session, which is the board of church members who are the elected representatives that  comprise the governance of the local Presbyterian Church.  I said that I would…and forgot to mention that I would do so for a year rather than the 3 years of a typical term.  You see, that I am very serious about my firm understanding that I have little to offer and my abilities are meager.  A year of my 3 years has come and gone and I have been ruminating on a humble and delicate way to say that my time is over.  

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From the beginning of my Session service, this time, I have been struck with the humility and sincerity of my colleagues and are Interim Pastor, Kerry.  We had a Zoom meeting earlier this week and I was blown away with the consideration that Kerry exhibited for differing of opinions and the welfare of all members of the group!  I mentioned that I have been involved with church government and assisting pastors for over 50 years.  I have not witnessed a more compelling example of a pastors heart…than what I saw and felt from Pastor Kerry!  

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In days gone by I have been a first hand witness of over reaching and arm twisting and hidden agendas in the christian community.  Earlier this week I was a member of a group that God was in the midst of…

And so I will hold on a little longer…because I want to see and be a part of what happens next…and Christ will not let me go…

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Love cures people

Love cures people

Happy Birthday Mom!

Today my mother would have been 92 year old.  She passed away in 2013.  She was born in Mt. Vernon, Illinois and had ten siblings.  Five were from her mom and dad and five were from her mother and her first husband.  One of my mothers sisters, Rosebud, died in infancy…and mom spoke of her lovingly and I thought that she knew her, when in reality she had passed away before mom was born.  It seemed that mom felt Rosebud’s presence with her…

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My mother’s family was very poor and her father was an alcoholic.  She relished in telling me that although the Askew family was poor they always had enough to eat…not like the Quinns who had to forage in the woods for persimmons for their supper.  When she became 16 she quit high school to go to work in the local shoe factory.  She earned $16 per week.  Her sister, Wanda, got her on at the factory.  She was very fond of Wanda!  

Neva June taught me to be fiercely independent!  She marched to the tune of her own drummer…and so do I…  

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If mom knew that you were in need…she would help you.  She regularly gave money to family and friends that needed a helping hand.  If you had been marginalized…you were mom’s friend.  Few things made her happier than to befriended a person who had no friends!  During the last 30 years of her life she had resources…but she purchased her clothes at the second hand store.  She rejoiced in a 50 cent sweater or a $1 suit.  From Thanksgiving forward to Christmas…mom was preparing for the holiday.  We traveled to see mom and my step-father, Earl, a couple of times per month…and some times more often.  However, during the time between turkey day and Santa Claus we were instructed not to come…because she would need every available minute to prepare for the feast!  When Aaron and Jonathon came along…they were excited to see grandma Neva Junes’s Christmas tree and all the festive decorations!  MJ and I knew that they were in for a surprise…when we entered their Eldorado country home…they ran through the house and exclaimed, ‘Grandma…Grandma…where is your Christmas tree!’  Forthwith grandmas showed her grandsons her miniature two foot Christmas tree on top of an occasional table…  My childhood Laughing Santa…had long since disappeared…and the only other decorations was those that you brought with you…in your heart…

Mom liked to dance.  She liked to visit the Honky Tonks and drink slo-gin fizzes.  She was full of life and looked like a movie star!  Her family were all church goers…but her.  After mom and dad separated and soon divorced she would tell me that she and I needed to start going to church.  For the last 43 years of her life she was a christian.  

Mom had compassion for those who were hurting or marginalized or outcast.  She had a fiery temper…although she never aimed it at me…  She was one of the most adept  readers of people that I have seen.  She could identify a bunch of malarkey or a hidden agenda…immeadately!  She thought for herself.  She steered her own course.  She was a flash of brilliance in a dull drab world!

You Might Just Save a Life

A great and timely blog by Jonathon Brooks!

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I refuse to live my life in fear and foolishness. Through the years I have fought hard to live as wisely as I possibly can. I learned as a boy that I am far from invincible and that life is a fragile gift best handled with care instead of recklessness. There’s a whole lot of bad in this old world and not one of us members of the human family has an immunity to the bad.

People are often prone to having invincibility complexes. We all know that the bad stuff the world has to offer is out there floating around somewhere, but we then choose to believe it won’t get to us because we are so special or smart or because we’ve lived such wholesome, or clean, lives. Our invincibility complexes lie to us. These lies can prove disastrous or even deadly.

The virus that has plagued our country…

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‘Danger…Danger…Will Robinson!’

During the mid 1960s I religiously watched the television show, Lost In Space, where the Robot that accompanied the Robinson family on their intrepid journey through space often warned Will, the young man of the family, when he detected a danger on the horizon, ‘Danger…Danger…Will Robinson…as he flayed his arms akimbo.  I am reminded of my favorite show, along with the Twilight Zone and the Outer Limits, when I consider our current reality of our 2020 pandemic.  There are 40 thousand new cases of COVID-19 across the United States within the last 24 hours.  There are spikes in Texas and Florida.  Texas is closing its bars due to the uptake in cases.  

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I think that I could best describe the danger of our current susceptibility to the Coronavirus with a metaphor, COVID-19 has been hiding behind our face masks and has not learned to jump far enough to reach the next human host due to the 6 feet of social distancing.  Illinois has entered phase 4 of its 5 phase plan to return to business as normal.  Our governor has been consistently guided by the science regarding the pandemic.  We Illinoisans have been staying at home and not eating in restaurants or drinking at bars.  Most retail stores have been closed.  Schools and universities have been closed to classroom education.  Now comes the caveat of continued health and safety for our citizens…social distancing and the wearing of face masks!  I have been observing how well the face mask wearing is progressing.  It is not!  I have not conducted a scientific study but my empirical research has shown that no more than 10 – 20% of people that I encounter are wearing a face mask…and most of those are not covering the wearers nose…while many others wear their face mask proudly under their chin!    When I grocery shop I am accustomed to people crowding next to me…walking the wrong way down a grocery aisle…and smirking and laughing when a grocery worker advises them to not enter an aisle due to there already being more people than the six feet of social distancing rule would allow for… bunched up together as they shop for their groceries!  

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I have no reason to believe that any event in my area of the country will be attended by individuals that take the precautions of inhibiting community spread of the virus…seriously.  I was asked recently my opinion regarding musical event in August.  I have no choice but to answer on the side of caution and health and safety…  

I listened to a young man apologize of his arrogance and dismissal of the dangers of COVID-19…shortly after he was released from hospital due to his contraction of the disease.  This is a disease that has taken the lives of nearly 130 thousand people in our country.  This is a disease that is reemerging in the Sunbelt…with a vengeance.  This is a disease that has been politicized…and people are dying…

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I spent 25 years as a manager/administrator of hundreds of people.  I thought about the safety and the health and welfare of those who looked to me for guidance and a safe working environment…every day.  I am not going to change now…old habits die hard…

The Courage Of Your Convictions — The Jazz Man

Adults used to speak of many esoteric ideas when I was a lad in Eldorado, Illinois. Manners were drilled into my head. My mom told me that if I was at a friends house and they invited me to lunch or supper…I was supposed to decline at least once and perhaps twice before I accepted on the […]

via The Courage Of Your Convictions — The Jazz Man