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.


‘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!’


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!’



This Is Real!

‘Jason Hargrove was behind the wheel of a bus in Detroit when he said a passenger began to cough.  The middle-aged woman let loose four to five times without covering her mouth, he said; and watching her do this — at the same time Michigan was under a state of emergency for the Coronavirus – got him upset, he felt compelled to vent his frustration in a video afterward.’

‘I’m mad right now because that s*** was uncalled for.’  

‘Now, nearly two weeks after he recorded the video, which viewers shared widely on Facebook Live, Hargrove himself has died of COVID-19.’    NPR

We are all in uncharted waters…with 20 foot waves …and a starless night sky.  The shore that we seek to arrive at has cliffs that are steep and rocks that can gash the hull of our vessel open.   We have a lighthouse…and it is our medical professionals.  We have heroes…they are our nurses and doctors and all hospital staff that bravely continues to care for their fellow human beings…who are desperately in need…while they endanger their own lives.  

In the year of our pandemic, which will fill history books and be taught of in schools across the world, it will be noted that many of us did not believe the science…as we thought that it was being promulgated by the Deep State.  The profound peculiarity of the plague that we are in the midst of…as being a Partisan Pandemic…will astound future generations.  The sadness that the richest country in the world…did not have enough Personal Protection Equipment for our front line medical soldiers in this horrible war…will mystify the students of 2040…and 2060…and 2080…  Then they will ask…why did not the United States manufacture more PPE…and the history books will note that we called on China to come to our rescue.  They will beseech their elders and their teachers and their professors…why did the governors have to out-bid their fellow governors…and the highest bidder received the life saving equipment…while those with less resources…died?

Our future progeny, the inheritors of the Earth, will ask why didn’t the youth of 2020 believe that the social distancing admonishments of medical leaders…did not apply to them?

Then the young ones will ask why other countries, across the globe, declared nation-wide stay at home orders…while the land of the free and the home of the brave…decided to leave that decision to the governors…and they sought direction from the president…and the president…deferred to the governors.  

Mr. Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and his key advisor, told the country that the Strategic Supply of PPE’s…was “theirs” and did not belong to the states.  The students will ask…’what did he mean?’


Servant Leaders

Servant Leaders

The Jazz Man

I have been watching Governor Andrew Cuomo, of New York, during his daily press conferences.  But, first of all, have your ever visited New York city?  It is full of people who are so tightly packed together that they seldom make eye contact with you…they do not have either the time or the energy.  Life is so fast paced, at least to this Southern Illinois native, that if you do not have your head in the game…you will be left behind.  We were staying in the Hotel Edison…when we decided to purchase a cup of coffee in the restaurant.  As I sat down at the bar, the person behind the bar came up to me in a hurried manner and asked me, I think, what I wanted.  As I looked up from the menu and paused, momentarily, he went to the person next to me and served them.  He then…

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Main Street Books

Each year on the day after Thanksgiving, we time travel to Charles Dickens…A Christmas Carol…via St. Charles, Missouri.  This has been a holiday tradition for well over 20 years in the Brooks home.  One year we did not go…and Aaron and Jonathon let us know of their displeasure.  There is, Pierre Noel, and Father Christmas, and Santa Claus…alongside Tiny Tim, Scrooge and Bob Cratchit.  There is a colorful parade that marches down the cobblestone street, that has soldiers and drummers and Santa’s elves.  

We have been visiting Jansens Clocks, each year, since our first sojourn into the magical world of St. Charles.  Nine clocks later …our house has been transformed into our own clock shop.  We enjoy a delicious Reuben Sandwich at Bradden’s Restaurant.  On Black Friday, there is a generous and kind red headed lady that is the bartender.  Each year I order Grand Mariner…and she pours me a triple…or more!  I then, being in the Christmas spirit, order another!  After that we visit my favorite Bookstore; Main Street Books.  This unique shop reminds me of the book store in the 1998 Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan movie, You’ve Got Mail.  Emily, who is the owner of the compelling literary cornucopia…has the personality and ability to cause you to want to read something new and different and to take an intellectual journey.   

Emily and her wonderful colleagues, simply, bring the books to life and their familiarity with the content of them…causes the words to jump off of the page for the lucky reader!  They can be found @ mainstreetbooks.indielite.org.  

Main Street has, temporarily, closed it’s doors for the pandemic, but they have a vibrant and efficient on-line presence.  I have, already ordered 5 books…and I probably will order more.  This quaint shop is important to me and my son Jonathon, who first pointed out the beauty of their bibliophile enrichment to me…several years ago.  

I just received my first order of 3 books from Emily at Main Street Books, and she enclosed a handwritten post card thanking me for my patronage and wishing me good health and safety.  You will go far and wide and not find such personal and considerate customer service as what Emily exhibits on a person by person basis!

Jonathon just walked out on to the porch, where I do my warm weather writing, and told me that he is preparing to order another book, a science fiction selection entitled, Lagoon, from Emily at Main Street Books.  And…she even sends a book mark with every selection!

Books are the fabric that connects us in our present pandemic distress.  Main Street Books, in St. Charles, Missouri, is a purveyor of peace…




The Earth Renews

The Earth Renews

The Jazz Man

As I enjoyed my daily stroll across campus, today, I considered that our Earth is engaged in it’s annual spring renewal, irrespective of our pandemic.  The trees are resplendent with their blossoms.  Squirrels are playing and frisky in their antics.  They have always been comfortable on the campus of Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale…but they are additionally so..due to the lack of humans in the way of their happy antics.  Today was cool and pleasant…and it had that, certain feeling, of promise and hope and renewal of life!


I enjoyed a few puffs of my wonderful Christmas gift from Aaron, my Christmas pipe, in my automobile.  Remember, we are on a stay at home order due to the coronavirus, and I was on my way to Walmart for needed groceries…which is permissible…from necessity.  I though of friends and family and suffering and joy.  MJ and I have a dear friend…

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Hope…Not Hubris

Hope…Not Hubris

The Jazz Man

As I was driving to my walk, this afternoon, I noticed a group of young men who were jogging…and not social distancing.  It is funny how I noticed this, now oddity, when not long ago the close pact group of athletes would have appeared normal and uneventful.  They ran with the unabashed abandon of the invincible.

‘Dozens of choir members became ill after a rehearsal earlier this month in Mount Vernon.  According to Skagit County Public Health, 60 members of Skagit Valley Chorale met on March 10.  Within several days, 45 members became ill, 28 tested positive for COVID-19, and 17 members did not get tested but had consistent symptoms.  Two people in their 80’s died.’   Q13 Fox

‘The city of Lynchburg is furious.

‘We had a firestorm of our own citizens who said, ‘What’s going on?’ said Treny Tweedy, the mayor.’

‘Some Liberty officials accuse alarmed outsiders of…

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The Joy Of Seeing Friends, Or Zoom To Happiness! — The Jazz Man

This morning our church had a ‘Zoom’ worship service. What a joy to see our friends doing well, in their homes. The Spanish flu, pandemic, occurred from January 1918 – December 1920. ‘It infected 500 million people-about a quarter of the world’s population at the time.’ Wikipedia. Zoom and other social streaming programs are a tremendous […]

via The Joy Of Seeing Friends, Or Zoom To Happiness! — The Jazz Man

‘But The Greatest Of These Is Love’

I read, today, of a university student taking in a homeless person, to stay the night, due to the individual not being able to find admittance in our cities homeless shelters.  This wonderful person noted that the shelter seeker… was her ‘neighbor,’ according to the scriptures.   

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Jonathon told me of an article where a minister attested that God was good in that the coronavirus was only killing 1% of those that contracted it.  I wonder what the minister would say if his loved ones were members of the 1%?  By the way…why does God get the blame?

There is a popular school of thought, in certain religious circles, that some suffer due to their wayward and sinful ways.  Inherent in this doctrine is the caveat that if you follow the teachings of the church or sects, leader, you will flourish…while others are the chaff of the wheat from the threshing floor…or the dross from the refinement of silver.  The exclusionary doctrine is tepid and cold comfort to the adherents of the ‘us against them’ philosophy.  

There has never been a time, in the majority of our lives, like this time.  The unseen enemy that we are fighting is no respecter of persons or rank or religious affiliation.  From the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and the heir to the British Monarchy…to United States Senators and members of Congress…to our beloved American actor, Tom Hanks, we are all in this together.  

Our first responders…are not boasting of their accomplishments…they are to exhausted…and afraid.  Nurses who have no choice but to wear the same face mask, all day, and wash it out and bleach it…in order to have a semblance of protection…while they work to save our lives…are demonstrating profound love!  

I spent my career in housekeeping services at Southern Illinois University@ Carbondale.  I know of the courage and love that our custodial staffs across the world are demonstrating as they disinfect and protect us from the coronavirus!  

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As Jonathon and I were standing in line at our local supermarket, yesterday afternoon, I noticed that management had installed a plastic shield that partially protected the cashiers from human contact with the customers as they rang up their sale totals.  However, the shield offered no protection when it was time to pay for the purchases and receive your change and receipt.  

Our state governors are, often, the leaders in the United States effort to combat the pandemic.  To discuss political persuasions and to categorize their extreme and herculean efforts according to political likes and dislikes…is obscene.  

Grandma Askew, spoke to me when I was a child, and talked of coming plagues and pestilences and drought and famine.  As I read the Bible I noted that the theme of all of the scripture writers…was love.  We engage in social distancing…from love for the members of our human family.  

‘If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.  Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.’    I Corinthians 13: 1-7    NIV


Another Round of Sandwiches for Me and My Friends

Please enjoy a wonderful Jonathon Brooks, Blog!


The secret to having friends is to make the first move. If I aim to be a friend, or friendly, to my fellow life traveler then perhaps they will return the favor of friendship. We all want friends. Although we don’t all want to boldly initiate the first move.

I am an introvert in an extroverted world. I’ve worked hard throughout my lifetime to be more outgoing. The desire to be kind and make the world a better place has caused me to be more extroverted than I ever could’ve imagined as a boy. If I would have always stayed in a shell of shyness my life would not be what it currently is. My life wouldn’t be as rich or as full of love and friendships. For this I am thankful to be an extroverted introvert.

Kindness is a king of the virtues. Mean is no way to live…

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Peace In The Storm

Love is the answer.

The Jazz Man

Several words that are used to describe our profound emotions as we travel the long and curving path of life, are difficult to describe.  We often say that we love someone or something or someplace, and yet if hard pressed to elaborate regarding about what it is that caused us to use that powerful word…we find it a bit like attempting to capture a beautiful cloud before it changes and morphs into something else.  I see love when I see our nurses and doctors risk their lives to care for us during our pandemic.  They work countless hours…often without the proper personal protective equipment…knowing that they have a great potential of contracting the disease.

Many times I have been comforted by a fellow traveler and made to feel less afraid of what I was facing and secure in the courage of their kind words…to only understand later that they were…

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Cheers From Our Friends

Jonathon and I were in the drive thru of the SIU Credit Union, this morning, when what do I hear, but a friendly voice call out, ‘Hello there, Jay Brooks!’  When I looked around to see who was so jubilant, there were our friends Jane and Bill.  They looked like two college kids on spring break with their wide smiles and happy demeanor.  Just having the opportunity to be exposed to their kind conversation and smiling faces…placed my ship on course… for the day.

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As we walked the beautiful campus of Southern Illinois University, we saw some wonderful volunteers who were receiving donations for the university’s Food Pantry.  Cars would drive up with their donations and hand the food to the caring people.

MJ said that our friends from London, Jeff and Margo, called us today and that she had a lovely conversation with Margo.  We have been friends for nearly 50 years.  It appears that they are confined to their flat as we are confined to our home, due to the coronavirus.  I love the United Kingdom, and London is a wonder!  Each time that we have news from our UK friends…it makes my day!

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Brody, our 16 year old Boston Terrier, went for his hydrotherapy this afternoon.  Our Veterinarian’s office has a, wise, social distancing policy…whereby we stayed in our car and telephoned, and one of their marvelous technicians came out and took Brody in for his, as he calls it, Peanut Butter Therapy.  The young woman even sent MJ a photo of Brody as he tread water with his tongue extended as far out of his mouth as possible to obtain the motivation for his exercise…the peanut butter!


This evening, Jonathon and I have a church board meeting to attend via, a streaming service called Zoom.  It will be a new experience for us both, and another change in the way that we do things…in our efforts to halt the spread of the virus.

Happiness is not just a warm puppy, but the human connection that we have with our friends both near and far.  When the days seem desperately dark…look around for a fellow traveler…holding a candle…to light your pathway.

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