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!’

 

 

Top Gun & Other Destinations

Everyone but me already knew how easy it is to purchase movie tickets online. MJ looked at the availability of seats for a showing of Top Gun Maverick for today and the theatre was filling rapidly. She asked me to perhaps purchase the tickets before I engaged in my daily walk on Campus. Then…I remembered something about being able to purchase tickets through my AMC APP…with no additional cost…and suddenly she noted that the seats that she was wanting were already filled…by the 4 Brooks… I marvel at the miracles of modern technology.

Maine is getting ever increasingly closer. We planned to return to Booth Bay Harbor almost immediately after arriving home last September. Ocean Point Inn is a Vintage Pleasure. The westward view of the Atlantic is stunning. I am mesmerized by the Ocean. Just sitting and watching its’ ever-changing appearance is a Holiday for me. Maine has a feeling, vibe, and spirit about it that I have found nowhere else that I have traveled. Of course…there is Lobster!

Memorial Day Weekend was a Pounds Hollow Weekend…and Billy B. and Chet and Jane were ready for adventure. The school was out and the weather was hot and freedom abounds. ‘Do you have the inner tubes packed,’ asked Chet. ‘Yes, and the picnic basket,’ answered Jane. ‘I was hoping that we could take some Pepperoni Sticks with us,’ Billy B. said. ‘The Pepperoni is in the basket,’ Neva J. responded. ‘I am taking your cousin Genes’ Creature From The Black Lagoon mask…I want to give the girls a fright,’ laughed Chet. ‘Be sure to pack the Creature Feet and Hands as well, Billy B. responded with a laugh. ‘Now you guys know that there may be some older people at Pounds Hollow and that they may have heart conditions…and probably are not healthy enough for a visit from the Creature From The Black Lagoon, Neva J. said with girlish glee.

It was Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend…and Pounds Hollow was packed. There was Mrs. K the teacher that Billy B. and Jane and Chet had just left yesterday at Hillcrest School. And…right in the middle of the Beach was Mr. S…the Principle of Washington Junior High. Now Mr. S. dressed each day for his Principal duties in a three-piece suit and tie and white shirt. His hair was combed perfectly with a large dose of Vitalis to make it lay in a slick slumber on his head. Billy B. and Chet thought of him as a Mafia Don similar to what they had seen in the movies at the Orpheum Theatre. He wore a large diamond ring on his left hand and a large black onyx ring on his right hand. Yet…today there he was in all of his natural glory. He was laying on his back and his large stomach showed in the noon sun like a ripe watermelon… ‘Let us give Mr. S. a proper Memorial Day Scare” said Daryl who had joined the group. ‘That is an excellent idea…I fear his little spindly legs will not be able to carry him fast enough as he flees from the Creature,’ laughed Jane.

‘Hello…Mr. S…how are you today,’ said Chet in full Creature regalia. ‘Just fine,’ said Mr. S. Mr. S. had a towel over his face and could not see the horrible Ocean Monster that stood beside him. ‘Why don’t you take the towel from your face…in order that I may see you clearly,’ giggled Chet. ‘Hi, Chet…where did you get that fine Halloween Mask from…it is one of the most intricate that I have seen, asked Mr. S. ‘How did you recognize me,’ asked Chet? ‘You have a very distinct voice,’ said Mr. S…

‘Get out of the water,’ yelled the lifeguard with a frantic urgency! Mr. S. rose to a half-sitting position on his beach towel and saw what appeared to be a half-man and half-fish creature walking right for him…and he jumped up and began to run… and lost his trunks…which were much too small for his mature girth.

‘I did not know that you had your own Creature From The Black Lagoon Suit,’ said Chet. ‘Yes…Neva J got me one for my birthday…and oh my goodness did it come in handy today,’ Billy B. laughed…and laughed….and laughed…

‘Billiards…Anyone?’

Christmas was coming in Eldorado…and Billy B. and Chet could not wait. Billy B. had asked for a nearly full-size Pool Table with the Pool Balls and the Cue Sticks…and even chalk. He and Chet and often, Dennis W., frequented the Pool Hall that was downtown in Eldorado…but this would be a Pool Hall right in Billy B.s’ home with Neva J. He and Chet had seen the movie, The Hustler, with Paul Newman and Jackie Gleason portraying the illustrious pool player…Minnesota Fats. The ultra-smooth ease with which Minnesota could shoot any ball that he chose into any pool pocket…was a thing of beauty. The conundrum was how to fit the miniature pool table into Billy B.s’ bedroom…

Christmas Day arrived and to Billy B.’s ultimate delight…there was a giant present under the Aluminum Christmas Tree. It was wrapped in red glossy paper and had a large green ribbon on it. Neva J. said, ‘Billy B. you might want to move your bed over a little before you open the big present.’ ‘Why…whatever could it be that is so large, Billy B. smiled as he asked? ‘It is that miniature pool table that you have been wanting…from Western Auto,’ said Chet with dancing eyes. ‘Oh don’t spoil it…Chet…let him unwrap it first,’ exclaimed Neva J. Lo and Behold it was indeed the miniature pool table that Billy B. had looked at through the Western Auto Store Window every day for the past month. He had feared that the pool table would go the way of Rock-Em-Sock-Em-Robots…which he had desired for years and Neva J. had said that he was too small for them…and suddenly…he was too big for them…

The Christmas Pool Table was large and filled the entire walking space in Billy B.s’ Bedroom. It had stationary legs and green felt and heavy Pool Balls and regulation size Pool Cues. In order to make some shots, you had to sit on the bed…while other shots had to be made from the bedroom door or the Pot Belly Coal Stove room that adjoined Billy B.s’ Bedroom. When Billy B. wanted to go to bed he had to climb up from the foot of the Posture Pedic. Dennis W. and his brother Lanny played several games on it and Chet and Jane and Daryl were there almost every day that Christmas Holiday to hone their Billiard Skills. The Christmas Table was a Christmas Treat…but it was not the same as a regulation Table like was at Duffy’s Pool Hall in town. ‘Why don’t you ask Santa for a full-size table,’ said Daryl? ‘It is a bit too late for that now that we have the Western Auto Model installed in my bedroom…don’t you think,’ said Billy B. ‘It is never too late for an additional Christmas wish,’ noted Chet. ‘One year I did not receive the Barbie and Ken dolls that I had asked for and mom told me that Santa replaced them with the ones that I had requested, laughed Jane. ‘Dad, better known as The Wiz, says that do-overs for Santa must be requested prior to January the 1st of the New Year,’ Daryl said with some knowledge of how the Santa System works.

Billy B. slept fitfully that night. He dreamed that he was with Santa and Santa asked him if the Pool Table that he had for him was large enough? ‘But where are you going to put the table…as it is much too large for my small bedroom, Billy bleary-eyed…asked Santa? ‘Why Minnesota Fats and I are going to put it in your bedroom…of course…as he is excited about playing a Pool Tournament with you and Chet and Jane and Daryl, Santa said as he laughed so much that his belly ‘shook like a bowl full of jelly!’

MF was smoking a large Cuban Cigar and he said, ‘Rack Um!’ There was Jane and Chet and Daryl…and the Wiz…sitting alongside the walls of Billy B.s’ herculean size bedroom…it was…now the only room in his house…

‘Fats…You know where it is going,’ laughed Santa with his pipe firmly held between his smiling teeth. ‘I have been waiting for a rematch with you…for a long time,’ exclaimed Santa…as he won his 100th game of Billiards…

‘Billiards Anyone,’ cried Santa…as he laughed the laugh of ‘A sly Old Elf,’ on a mission…

Growing Up In Eldorado

Lately, I have been telling Billy B.s’ story of growing up in Eldorado. I had not realized that there were so many stories of Billy B. and Jane and Chets’ childhood that I had not written about…before now. Billy B. lived in Eldorado from 1962 to 1975. He absorbed what he saw like a sponge from the Atlantic…all that he saw and heard and felt. Eldorado was a booming town in Southern Illinois in 1962. The schools still had their very separate and distinct identities and commerce was flourishing in the Downtown District. It was a town of possibilities and promise and hope for the future. Pentecostals and Parrish Priests lived side by side and worked together for the good of the community. Eldorado had a distinct identity.

Dennis told Billy B. that if he wanted to see something unique he should attend church with him at the Grove Church. Billy B. asked, ‘What is so special about the Grove?’ ‘They dance until they are exhausted and often fall onto the floor in a faint,’ answered Dennis. ‘There are two ministers; Tommy and Mike, and they preached the word of God without fear or favor,’ said Dennis. Now Billy B. had been familiar with Pentecostal Worship for most of his life…he had not experienced it personally but he had seen a dressed-up version of it in Grandma Askews’ church when he visited with Neva J. Now…the Grove was like nothing that Billy B. had ever seen or experienced. The organ music was in the rock and roll/jazz vein and the reaction was similar to a rock and roll concert. Several members of the congregation rose from their pews and began to shake violently. Then they started to dance in a manner that was somewhat otherworldly. Finally as the ministers; Tommy F. or Mike W. began to lay hands on them and pray for them…they suddenly fell onto the floor of the Sanctuary and writhed and cried in other tounges…

Chet thought that the manifestations of the Spirit that he had witnessed were similar to the accounts that he had read of people freed from demonic possession. He had read Don Bashams’ book, Deliver Us From Evil, and Eric Princes’ works regarding spiritual warfare…and he considered that the Grove Church was a Case Study on the Subject.

Tommy F. sang, ‘There Will Be Peace In The Valley…Someday…’ and the congregation was mesmerized. They felt the Peace In The Valley…They saw the Peace In The Valley…they were in the Valley with Minister Tommy F. …

Billy B. pondered this outward manifestation of faith…in his heart. He thought of Faith as a Creed for Christianity and he considered if it was about the outward show of faith…or the inward fire burning of faith? ‘Is the Christian Walk… who recognizes that I am a Christian by my works…or by my inner faith?

Eldorado highlighted the separation between works and faith between Biology and Physical Education. Somewhere between academics and PE, there was a line of demarcation drawn to illustrate faith and works. Billy B. had a heart condition and he was unable to participate in PE. Some understood…while others…including teachers…did not. The heart condition was real…the misunderstanding…was not.

Chet said, ‘Eldorado is a mixture of the real and the surreal.’ He anticipated the Creature From The Black Lagoon to walk out of the Karel Park Creek. Billy B. expected an unequal measure of expectations for the residents of the City Of Gold…

For The Love Of Apples

Billy B. and Chet and Jane watched with eyes as wide as saucers as the Southern Illinois University Theatre Company performed at Hillcrest School. Billy B. had never witnessed a live performance before and he was awe-struck. The Play seemed to transport him into another world of wonder and whimsy and heightened emotions. The Theatre Students even came into the audience during the production and Billy B. had never experienced such a grand escape from his reality in Eldorado. Peter Pan was the Play…and Wendy touched Billy B.s’ hand as she passed through the audience of third graders…Billy B. was immediately in love…

After the performance, Chet said, ‘Let’s go to Carbondale and see what is going on at SIU?’ Jane agreed and noted that they could take the Gulf Transport Bus to Carbondale and that they could stay overnight at her sisters’ house, who lived there, and return the next day. ‘Let’s see a Play Performance while we are at SIU,’ said Chet. ‘I will have Neva J. purchase the tickets…it will be an awesome adventure,’ Billy B. exclaimed!

The Bus ride was its’ own adventure. There were several unfriendly faces and a few kind ones to greet the intrepid three. One elderly lady invited them to sit with her and she began to speak. ‘Where are you going,’ the old lady asked? ‘We are on our way to see a Play at SIU,’ answered Chet. ‘Why don’t you get off of the bus at my house in Murphysboro and I will fix you supper and then take you to the University in time for the Play, she asked? ‘That sounds like an excellent idea,’ Chet said. ‘Not so fast…Chet…my Sis will be waiting for us at the Bus Station,’ said Jane. ‘Thank you for your offer…mam…what is your name,’ asked Billy B.? ‘My friends call me Grimhilde…or WQ…for short, the woman replied. ‘This is my stop,’ said WQ. ‘Be seeing you,’ she called as she quickly walked away.

It was warm and the ride was long and all three of the Eldorado Explorers fell asleep… They awakened to the loud sound of the Buses’ brakes and the sudden stop. ‘Carbondale…’ called the dour bus driver. Jane and Billy B. and Chet exited the Gulf Stream Bus…but it still looked like the last stop…in Murphysboro. ‘I have been waiting on you kids,’ smiled WQ. ‘The Gulf Stream often stops twice at Murphysboro…not to worry…I will have you to your Play on time,’ laughed the wizened woman. ‘But what shall I tell my Sis…she will be waiting on us at the Bus Station,’ asked Jane? ‘Again…no worries…I drove my Studebaker to Carbondale…it is only seven miles away…and picked her up for…supper, ‘grinned WQ.

WQs’ home was unique in that it was all underground except for the front door which was made of ancient oaken wood that had been cut from the forest by John A. Logan himself. Logan was the most famous person born in Murphysboro and had been a member of the United States House of Representatives…and was called Black Jack…by his friends. He had been a Major General and had fought in the Civil War at the Battle of Bull Run. Soon…there was Janes’ Sis with a big smile and cutting herself a large piece of hot apple pie. ‘Murphysboro is famous for its’ apples, Sis said.

Dinner was to die for and the trip to SIU was quick and easy. As Jane and Chet and Billy B. were in line to purchase their tickets for the SIU Theatre Troops’ performance of ‘Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs’, Jane asked, ‘Where is my Sis?’ ‘Oh she was so sleepy from the apple pie that she chose to stay at my house and rest,’ answered WQ.

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‘Let’s hurry and dress you for your parts,’ said WQ with an evil grimace of joy. ‘You mean that we are going to be in the performance,’ asked Chet? ”Why yes you are…you see we are short three dwarfs…and you three are just the right size,’ laughed WQ…

Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale…Neighbors

Today was another gloriously cool day in Little Egypt. The temperature was sweater weather and a great day to smoke a cigar…if you had one. I and my family of mom and dad moved to Southern Illinois in 1962 and it was an abrupt change from where we had lived in the Chicago suburb of Sauk Village. Now, I do not mean it was a bad change…but it was jarring. I left people and places and things that I had become accustomed to in my young life. I soon picked up on the fact that we lived in a small town that was loosely connected to several other small towns in an impoverished rural area that was virtually always termed; Southern Illinois. One of the loose connections in our geographical area was sports. Another connection was automobiles…and as soon as a person was old enough to obtain one…and had the resources to do so…they were essential. Friday nights in Eldorado consisted of those who had cars driving around the Town Square…slowly…while those of us who wanted cars…watched with a bit of envy. One of the first communal activities that I engaged in when I arrived at the Haunted House that was direct across from the Eldorado High School Football Field…was to watch Friday Night Football…and I am not referring to the television show. I quickly observed the smiles on my dad and Uncle Bills’ faces as they watched the Eldorado Eagles play football…I quickly discovered that this was a big deal in Little Egypt.

We heard of the mystery of the big University in Carbondale. The news did not reach our Eldorado Daily Journal every day due to being 50 miles away from the City…but anecdotal information was plentiful. We understood in Hillcrest School that there was a world-class college in Carbondale…we just did not know where Carbondale was. I personally felt the power of the visits of the SIUC Theatre Students each year when they traveled to our little school to perform a play for us. After I sat through one of their magnificent moving performances…I wanted to visit SIUC. We also heard that there was a Protest Parade…or something similar thereto…against the Vietnam War…and that some of the young women were bare-chested…I knew again…that I must visit Southern Illinois University in Carbondale.

Southern Illinois is rich in churches. On my numerous visits to Eldorado…I lost count of the churches that are on almost every block. There are the old established churches that were there when I was a child…and there are numerous storefront churches…sometimes with unusual names. Eldorado had not only a lovely statue of an angel but also stone tablets containing the Ten Commandments. I love any type of angel depiction. Indeed…life in Southern Illinois was centered around Church when we moved here in 1962…and for the most part, it still is…with a large influx of non-denominational groups.

I visited Murphysboro this morning and snapped some photos. Murphysboro is just 7 miles from Carbondale…but I have not been there an abundance of times. It is the County Seat…so we travel there to pay our taxes. Murphysboro is the most active Southern Illinois town that I have visited thus far…outside of Carbondale…and has many Antique Shops and other small businesses. It is said that Murphysboro had the opportunity to have Southern Illinois University built in their town…but passed. They are the proud home of The Apple Festival. They also are the home of 17th Street Barbecue…which is not only world-famous but was sought by former President Clinton when he visited SIUC.

Murphysboro and all of Southern Illinois is picturesque land and beautiful people…that have often been forgotten. When I tell someone that I am from Illinois their response is, ‘Yes…I have been to Chicago.’ Our news media is obsessed with either the east coast… with some glancing nods to the west coast…while there is an abundance of riches of talent and ‘Place’…and people in locations such as Little Egypt…that go unnoticed and unappreciated.

Southern Illinois is full of proud hard-working people who are not looking for a handout…just a hand-up. There is a peaceful and pleasant and compelling life to be had in the rolling hills of Southern Illinois. Most who come here…never leave because of the sheer beauty of their surroundings. Life is somewhat slower than the City…but it is careful and connected and offers time to reflect on what is important to you…

Cool Sunday In May

Downton Abbey has been one of MJ and my favorite dramas of the past several years. This morning we saw the latest Downton Abbey movie and thought it was outstanding. It is quite a change for me to only attend the Theatre a few times per year…when I once was in the audience two or three times per week. Our Pandemic changed so many things which have been altered by this life-taking and life-altering event. May is getting away from us and soon 2022 will be half over. As the motto of the old Soap Opera, The Days Of Our Lives, reminds us, ‘Like sands through the Hourglass…so are the days of our lives.’

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Billy B. knew that his childhood was passing quickly. He and Chet were members of the 6th grade…which is Junior High School…at Washington School in Eldorado. Billy B. had talked Neva J. into purchasing for him a used Tenor Saxophone and he had enrolled in Band with Mr. Prince. Billy’s Tenor Saxophon Idol was Boots Randolph. Boots was famous for his song…Yakety Sax. Many years later Billy B. saw Boots perform at the Executive Inn in Paducah, Kentucky. Billy B. was underwhelmed. Mr. Prince told Billy B. that he played the Scales better than anyone that he had ever heard. Billy B. played the Scales…a lot… Chet and Jane and Daryl were excited about the upcoming trip to New Harmony, Indiana for the 6th Grade Class. New Harmony is a historic town in Indiana. Chet and Billy B. thought that this would be a golden opportunity to try out the new cameras that they got for Christmas. Billy B. had a Big Swinger Polaroid Camera. The Swinger…which was white…was more popular…but Billy B. never sought the most popular. The Big Swinger produced a photo in about 60 seconds from the time of punching the red plunger button on the side of the device. You could watch the photo come to life after you pulled off the top black paper from it once it exited from the camera. Once the photo seemed to be fully developed…there was a strong-smelling chemical that came with each pack of film that had an applicator that you spread the semi-high inducing chemical on the completed picture. Seeing the magical photo develop before your eyes and then taking a hit off of the Photo-Fixative…was a supreme pleasure. Billy B. and Chet thoroughly enjoyed snapping photos with their new Polaroids. Chet had the old-time regular Polaroid that had the camera lens folded out from the camera body. Jane commissioned the young photographers to come back with photos like no one had ever seen before. They accepted the challenge.

Daryl told Jane and Billy B.and Chet that New Harmony was inhabited by ghosts. ‘Ghost loves New Harmony…they are spirits from the Community that lived here and when they died…they did not choose to leave,’ Daryl said. New Harmony was the site of two Utopian Communities. The town was founded by the Harmonist Society in 1814. It was built by Pietists who were a religious group. George Rapp was the founder and the group was also known as Rappites.

Billy B. began to snap Big Swinger Polaroid Photos with his new Big Swinger. Chet followed Billy B.s’ lead and took several Polaroid Photos with his Polaroid Camera. There was the Roofless Church and the Eigner Cabin and the Potter Cabin and he and Jane and Chet and Daryl had a distinct impression that someone…unseen…was watching them.

Billy B. playing his tenor saxophone was one of the photos that emerged from the side of the Big Swinger…although the Tenor Saxophone was safely at Billy B.s’ home in Eldorado. Another Polaroid Photo was of Chet and his mom, Thelma, with sad looks on their faces. Chets’ dad died a few months after their New Harmony 6th Grade School Trip. There was a Polaroid Photo of a School Teacher with a white blouse and a long black dress and her hair fastened in a bun on her head…the only problem being that the image appears in a photo just of the School and the Teacher was not present

‘Part of New Harmony’s failings stemmed from three activities that Owens brought from Scotland to America. First, Owens actively attacked established religion, despite the United States Constitutional guarantees of religious freedom and the separation of church and state. Second, Owens remained stubbornly attached to the principles of the rationalist Age of Enlightenment, which drove away many of the Jeffersonian farmers Owens tried to attract. Thirdly, Owens consistently appealed to the upper class for donations, but found that the strategy was not as effective as it had been in Europe.’

‘I like the photo of your playing your Tenor Sax,’ said Jane with a wide smile…

Storyman

Pouring…was the best word for Saturday. Billy B. was wearing his ‘Big Shirt’ that he purchased at J.C. Pennys…just before they closed for business. It was too large for him…but it was comfortable. The rain had a calming and soothing effect on Billy B. It seemed that several of the happy occasions of his life had been associated with rain. On many rainy Saturdays, Chet and Billy B. were ensconced in their plush Theatre Chairs at the Orpheum…watching Dracula and his escapades. Bella Lugosis’ Dracula was the gold standard…but the British actor, Christopher Lee, was no slouch. During the 60s’ there was at least a new movie per year of Dracula and another wonderful British actor, Peter Cushing, fighting off Evil with a Cross and some Garlic. Vampires do not like Garlic. This is how I am certain that I am not a Vampire…

‘We need to search for Vampires in Eldorado,’ whispered Chet. ‘I think that they live on the way to Raleigh…in the Haunted House that we pass on the way,’ Chet continued. ‘I have never known who lives there,’ replied Billy B. ‘A former Prince from Prussia…I heard from the Pool Hall Manager…Mr. Mugs, said,’ Chet. ‘I saw him at the Townhouse Cafe…drinking a Bloody Mary,’ Chet continued. ‘I think that we must go to the Haunted House…tonight…and see if we can determine if he is a Vampire…or just a Prussian Prince…who looks like a Vampire, Chet said with some excitement.

Jane joined Billy B. and Chet for the Sherlock Holmesian Hunt. No one had ever seen the PP accept at night or on a very cloudy and rainy afternoon. He drove a 1957 hardtop Chevy and kept it in the Haunted Houses’ garage. As far as they could tell…PP lived by himself. Chet knocked on the door…and a black cat ran in front of the threshold. The door slowly opened…but no one was there. As Billy B. and Chet and Janes’ eyes became accustomed to the dim light of the living room they could see what appeared to be gold-colored vinyl records on the walls behind the red sofa. On the opposite wall was a humongous stereo system and suddenly it began to play Chubby Checker singing his hit…The Twist…

‘Well…it looks like you have found me,’ said Chubby Checker. ‘I told my uncle Vlad that it would only be a matter of time before someone discovered that I was outside Eldorado…with him, said Chubby. ‘But why are you here,’ asked Jane? ‘I had to get away from Pennsylvania for a while…my fans would not allow me any rest, said Chubby. ‘Where did you live in Pennsylvania,’ Jane asked? ”King of Prussia, Pennsylvania,’ replied Chubby. At about the same time the basement door opened and out stepped…Uncle Vlad. ‘Who are our guests,’ Chubbys’ Uncle Vlad asked? ‘They are fans of the Twist…,’ answered Chubby. ‘Well…that is true…especially of my mom…Neva J….she Twists every day and every evening…when she has the chance,’ laughed Billy B. ‘Do you kids know…The Monster Mash,’ Uncle Vlad asked?

Billy B. and Chet and Jane liked Uncle Vlad and his nephew…Chubby…but it was a bit chilly sleeping in the basement of the Haunted House and only coming out at night…and either singing the Monster Mash…or ‘Twisting the night away…’

Terrarium

Jane was awakened by the Sun shining through her bedroom windows. It was unusually brilliant and peeked its rays through every crack and crevice surrounding her heavy drapes that were pulled tightly shut. In fact, the bedroom was similar to the blinding glare of the powerful movie light bulbs that Billy B. used when he was filming a Holiday Event. He used a light bar with six powerful light bulbs ablaze in order to facilitate the images on the 8-millimeter movie camera being bright enough to see clearly. When he was taking movies everyone had to squint into the camera lens and paint a humongous smile on their faces…while their eyeballs felt like they were going to burn out of their sockets. Jane stumbled to the bedroom door and fumbled for the handle and then…sweet relief…the sunlight became normal once again.

Mrs. M. told her third-grade class to be prepared for sudden solar outbursts throughout the day as the scientist had announced that the Sun was undergoing numerous Solar Flares and that the sudden onset of brilliant light was a bit blinding…until you became accustomed to it. Daryl said, ‘I had to milk. the cows on our farm this morning, before school, and that they would give no milk after the bright light.’ ‘I was waiting on the school bus…but it had to stop and wait for the light to subside…as Doc Irvin could not see the road,’ Chet noted. ‘Our dog, the Bruiser, cried and howled for an hour after the glaring light,’ Buddy whispered. ‘I saw a car wreck by the Ben Franklin Dime Store,’ Bill said.

‘Oh my God…there it is again, cried Mrs.M.! ”Everyone please walk single file out to the hall and drop to your knees and cover your heads as you rest them against the block walls of the hallway, Mrs. M. continued. ‘I fear that we are under Nuclear Attack from the Soviet Union, cried Mrs. M…

‘Billy B…are you still playing with your Dad’s light bar,’ asked Neva J? ‘Yes mom…I am shining it on the Terrarium and you would not believe how the little people scurry and run for cover,’ Billy B. laughingly responded. ‘Put the lid back on the Terrarium and unplug the light bar before your Dad gets home and discovers that you have been playing with it,’ Neva J. said.

‘Finally…we can stop squinting,’ said Jane. ‘Billy B…you seem to take some pleasure in shining the blinding movie lights in our eyes as you produce your 8-millimeter film,’ said Chet. ‘I wish that I did not have to use such bright lights for the 8-millimeter film…but without it, the images are so dark that it is difficult to distinguish what is on them, replied Billy B.

‘Chet and Jane and Buddy and Daryl and Billy B. were walking in Eldorado on Halloween night on the brick street that runs alongside the Methodist Church. It was so dark on this moonless night that you not only could not see any black cats…you could not see your hand in front of your face. Suddenly Jane heard a click and the whir of the 8-millimeter film…and then…light as bright as noontime…

‘Billy B…stop tormenting your friends…

Unexplained Flying Objects

‘The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain,’ said Neva J. as she walked through her and Billy B.s’ house on West Street in Eldorado. She was quoting the lyric from My Fair Lady and she always said ‘falls’ rather than ‘stay.’ Neva J. was a bit of a renaissance woman. It was the 4th of July morning and there were big plans for the holiday. She and Billy B. and Chet had traveled to Missouri to purchase some illegal firecrackers…illegal in Illinois that is. Billy B. was accustomed to the little black buttons…that when you lit them they expanded into a long and charred cylinder…called snakes. Chet was bringing sparklers, which were legal in Illinois, and Lanny W. and Dennis W. committed to bringing Cherry Bombs…which were illegal most everywhere.

The Starlight Drive-In always had a magnificent Fireworks Show…but Billy B. and Neva J. seldom attended due to their not wanting to drive in the relatively heavy traffic that parked alongside Route 45 as an overflow from the Drive-In Parking Lot. Grandma Askew and Aunt Guelda had a ‘birds-eye’ view of the Fireworks Show from their Front Porch on Richardson Street. The years that Billy B. and Neva J. and Chet had gone to Granma A.s were some of the most impressive light shows that they had seen on the nation’s birthday. Billy B. wanted especially this year to celebrate the 4th on West Street…ever since he had seen the lights in the northern sky around Christmas. Guelda had said, ‘Why those lights must have been the Christmas Star.’ ‘Yes…I thought of that possibility…but there were at least ten lights,’ answered Billy B. Chet had suggested that when the 4th came up…they would set off their fireworks in hopes of attracting the Aliens… Now Aliens was not something you spoke of in polite company..and at least not without a large smile on your face and a hearty laugh to indicate that you were ‘having a laugh’ as the British say… UFOs were relegated to the authors; Issac Asimov and Ray Bradbury…and other Science Fiction writers. Billy B. and Chet loved Science Fiction movies and had seen most of them at one time or another. They had watched the Mole People and It Came From Outerspace and This Island Earth. They had read the Martian Chronicles. The story of Barney and Betty Hill’s abduction by Aliens on September 19 and 20 in 1961…intrigued both the young space explorers.

Lost In Space was the Science Fiction show of choice for Chet and Billy B. Chet brought his Lost In Space Robot Costume to the 4th of July Event and wore it…although it was a little hot. The fireworks were spent and even some Roman Candles were fired off and the night sky was as bright as noontime…as far as Neva J. and Billy B. and Chet were concerned. Billy B. brought his binoculars and looked and peered and searched for the Unexplained Lights in the northern sky…but saw none. As he and Chet cleaned up the last of the explosive debris…when a small friendly voice said, ‘Don’t forget your binoculars…Billy B….you are going to need them in the future…’

The four-foot-tall man with the big head and spindly arms and who was distinct grey color…winked a massive black pupil eye at him…

Family

During my Campus walks, I have begun straying from the Beaten Path. It is a bit difficult to see wildlife if you are walking the paved path that everyone else walks. I have found the same to be true on the Path Of Lifes’ Journey. If I walk in the same steps as everyone else…I often see what they see. I tend to see things differently than some. I blame it on my artistic temperament. When everyone is walking in the same direction…I wonder what the catch is. Have you ever had a question for a member of a group…such as a church group…and their answer is almost like a tape recording of what the church leader would say? The same can be said for politics. Everyone is tutored in Poly Parrot Speech. There is little that I enjoy more than speaking to the real human in front of me…rather than their Artificial Intelligent Representative.

Family is what protects us and educates us and loves us unconditionally.

I saw a lonely woman today. She was sitting alone at an outside table at our local Sonic Restaurant. She looked sad and perhaps ill. She hung her head, at times below the table. Yet she was charging what appeared to be an iPhone and was carrying a nice backpack and a camera case. Her clothes were clean and she had a large Sonic Soda on the table beside her. I almost never indulge in the culinary delights of Sonic…but today and today only… they had Corn Dogs for 50 cents apiece. She checked her phone charge every few minutes and appeared to be waiting on a call…

We members of the largest family on Earth…the Human Family…are sad and lonely and looking for answers that we have not been able to find on the Prescribed Path to Nirvana. We are hopeless…and we are looking for hope. We are searching for loved ones…but we are afraid to reach out. Often we see the world through the prism of what it has done or has not done for us. A photographer would tell us that we may need to change the filter on our human camera…to see the brilliant hues and colors and richness of our surroundings.