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 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!
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!’
Now, lest you think that I have forgotten my manners or taken to coarse language, more than usual, the title of this blog is attributed to the mother and father of one of our good friends. MJ and I spent several years socializing with a married couple who were professors at SIUC. One evening as we were enjoying our cocktails and reminiscing regarding experiences that we had partaken of and travels that we had enjoyed, they told us of the gentleman’s parents saying when they passed someone who had broken down on the side of the road, ‘poor dumb bastards.’ I must admit that I was taken aback by what appeared to be an insensitive and compassionless comment regarding another misfortune. In reality we learned that the parents were extremely civic minded and had risen high in political life and academia. The statement was more of an acknowledgement of the vacillating vicissitudes of life. One day we are up and flying high without a care in the world…and the next…we are poor dumb bastards!
As I was getting petrol, this afternoon, when I saw a man attempting to change a flat tire on his Mercedes Benz automobile.
We all receive our, ‘turn in the barrel.’ Or as pastor Kerry spoke yesterday of the Buddhist belief that life is predicated on suffering. When we are at the top of the mountain it is difficult to recall how it felt to be in the valley. When the health prognosis is good and the debts are paid and we are on our way to an exotic destination…our kaleidoscope is full of bright and happy colors. But…nothing lasts.
It is a gift to be able to recall being so poor that you had to save your pennies until you had a dime, in order to purchase a glass of milk at the local restaurant. Or to recall standing in a commodity line for government cheese and dried milk and potted meat. Or to remember how you felt when you saw the workers throw the food at the hungry people…of which you and your mom were a part of.
Empathy is a beautiful emotion…and it comes in many forms.
We were talking the other day about people and families who are financially secure, and we agreed that most have had a ‘hand-up’ or a fortunate break in their lives. You may not want company when you are on top of the world…but when you are in the garden of Gethsemane…nothing is more lonely.
Have you ever been in the ecstasy of happiness and good times and all is right with the world…and wondering when the other shoe was going to drop? When I first retired many of my former colleagues inquired of me as to what I was going to do. When I said that I was going to enjoy life…they looked at me as if I was from Mars. I also heard that I was retiring much too young, to which I replied that would not be true if I only lived five years. None of us have a guarantee or an end date stamped on the heel of our left foot.
So, in truth…we are all poor dumb bastards on a roller coaster journey through this ever changing life….and we all need a friend and a confidant and a person to assist us on the road back to Jerusalem.
I could not help but notice that our church parking lot was full and overflowing this morning. I recalled when that was the norm, every Sunday. This was the Sunday where the congregation voted to accept the slate of candidates for deacon and elder, for three year terms. MJ and I were pleased to see […]
I was walking into the movies, this morning, and I considered how cold and damp and dark that it was. It seemed that the cold cut me to the bone. I looked around me to see the sullen and frozen faces of my fellow movie goers and I knew that…winter is colder as you get older! In fact, according to Fahrenheit temperature, I believe that the winters in Southern Illinois are somewhat warmer than when I was a boy. I remember trudging through two feet of snow and negotiating icy paths while being bundled against 0 degree temperatures. Did I mention that this was while I was hiking over a mile to school and in the afternoon…back home? Ice sickles hung from our roof, that if they fell on your head they had the potential to end your life.
My buddy, Steve, and I drove through blizzards in 1978 and 1979, and got stuck in snow drifts and basically lived in a replica of the Arctic Circle. I not only did not know the meaning of the word, quit, I did not understand the wisdom of turning around and going back home…when your life was in danger!
Not long after I was hired at Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale…a blizzard struck our region. Our good friend, Faye, told us that she had heard on the radio that SIUC was closed, but that was not good enough for me. I thought as a new employee that if I failed to show up for work, in the event that Building Services was open for business, I would be fired. So, I set off and began driving through what appeared to be a snow covered field…with no sign of a road or path. I looked to my left and there were automobiles and trucks and semis…off in the ditch or encased in a herculean snow drift. I looked on my right…and it was worse than my left. Finally, I arrived at the Building Services office and proceeded to walk, slowly, to the front door and attempt entry. The door was locked and the lights were out, accept for one incandescent light bulb burning in the window. About that time, my colleague Elbert Covington, drove up and attempted entry through the locked front door…and then began to yell…Brooks and Covington are reporting for work…let us in! When Elbert and I decided that our department must be closed…Elbert said for me to return to Elkville, which is 15 miles from Building Services and then drive back to his home in DeSoto, which is 7 miles from Building Services…for the purpose of enjoying some hot chocolate. I assured my friend that if I was able to make it home…home is where I was going to stay!
My susceptibility to cold may be in conjunction with MJ and my recent visit to Miramar Beach, Florida. The temperatures fluctuated between throughout the 60’s to the low 70’s. It was very nice. As I sat on the balcony of my dear friends and family, Ira Kaye and Ron, I was reminded about how exquisite the location was. There is a picture perfect view of the ocean. The ocean has captivated me for many years. Its changing colors and appearance and beauty is indescribable. I remember, as if it were yesterday…and it almost was, the sound of MJ and Ron and Ira Kaye laughing uproariously as they played a card game that had something to do with a hand and a foot? I read, at length, and I typically read when I am in the Destin area. Life is captured, as if in a watercolor painting, and I slow down and consider where I have been and where I am going. I was reminded of the wonderful visits that we experienced with our friends, Mechem and Carson, when we visited on earlier occasions. Our sons, Aaron and Jonathon, accompanied us and the familial dynamic and bonds of collegiality were memorable.
We often take in a movie a the IMAX theatre located in Destin Commons. We did so again on our recent visit earlier this month. MJ wanted to see ‘1917’ and I am pleased that she did. The theatre is so much larger than the one that we have in Carbondale. We took seats in the back of the auditorium and it was quite a hike to the top. The flick was captivating with little dialog. It was much like watching a theater piece that had been filmed. Afterward we chose to take our dinner at the Red Brick Oven Pizza House. The pizza was good and the beer was cheap. As we were enjoying the delectable repast…it began to rain in the monsoon fashion. Luckily we had our raincoats and we exited into the deluge…and splashed the puddles dry.
I can see why many of my friends take a month or two or more…to enjoy the winter in Florida. There is a lot of wisdom in the philosophy of the Snow Birds. I think we need to do the same in the future!
Please enjoy a new blog by the Jazz Man.
Of late, we are hearing an abundance of discussion regarding the subject of truth. I recall my youth, more and more…it seems, where my teachers slowly and systematically taught me about truth. I learned that 2+2=4. Later came the multiplication tables and learning cursive, yes I am old, and my first forays into history.
‘Plymouth Rock is the traditional site of disembarkation of William Bradford and the Mayflower Pilgrims who founded Plymouth Colony in December 1620.’ Wikipedia
We were taught about our Presidents, from our first, George Washington, to the president in office when I began school, John F. Kennedy. I remember hearing, on numerous occasions, that anyone could be elected President of the United States. I wondered how this could be possible.
As I grew and matured I could not help but notice that many of my elders expounded what they assured me was truth…when in reality it…
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Do you live in a box? From our childhood, forward, we strive to fulfill the expectations that are both implied and demanded of us. I remember being advised to ‘go out for sports,’ and I often wondered, did anyone care that I did not have an interest in sports? Through the years I have developed a cursory interest in baseball and I watch the Super Bowl. I did enjoy playing catch with Aaron and Jonathon…and I was very fond of the baseball glove that my mother bought for me.
One of my SIU chancellor friends told me that they had no particular interest in sports but that it was expected of him to attend all sporting functions due to his office. Honesty is refreshing!
How many of us are employed in a job or a career that we do not care for…but it was pushed on us by our parents or spouse or societal expectations? You may be in a position that stresses you to the max. You not only work long hours but also take your work home with you and loose sleep. I had a supervisor, on my team, when I was a foreman for Building Services at SIUC who admitted that he hated supervising others…but he needed the money. This person so disliked his job, he hid in the rest room for significant portions of his work shift.
I have witnessed more marriages than I can count, that were made up of two terribly unhappy people. Perhaps they were influenced by the expectation that once you finish your education and get a job…you get married…and purchase the ranch style home and two automobiles and commence to absorb a debt load that is demonstrative of your adulthood.
In my younger years I have know many bachelors who led productive lives and kept their own counsel.
It could be that you are a member of a church or tribe or club…that the membership thereof is expected to not only sing the praises of the leader of the organization but to also to accept what the leader says as truth, to the exclusion of logical and rational thought.
Perhaps you like to wear a fedora hat while your friends and neighbors and family…wear baseball caps?
Maybe your friends like to fish and hunt and play golf…and you like to write and take photographs….why not!
My happiest friends are those who are employed in jobs that they both enjoy…and find fulfilling. I will take happiness and peace of mind every time!
If you are unique or stand out in the crowd…you are an original. We all emulate others to some extent…but the splendor of being your own creation is vital to the search for happiness.
Have you ever asked where the caustic and corrosive bias and prejudice that is rife in the United States comes from. We are not born prejudiced or with ill feelings regarding others who are a different color than we are. Rather, we are taught hate and lies about others from those who would influence us to be like them.
Why do we fight wars? Ron and MJ and I saw a fascinating movie while we were in Florida, 1917, about WWI. We saw it on the humongous IMAX screen.
Accounts from veterans who have seen combat, reveal that the adversaries that they fought…were no different than them. The vets will tell you that their foes did not want to be in the battle anymore than they did…but governmental leaders had sent them both there to fight and die for….freedom…or oil….or power and glory…or the egos of the political leaders. Have you ever noticed that when young men and women are fighting and dying for a cause that is, supposedly, worthy to lay down your life for…you never see the political leaders or their children at your side…when the bullets and bombs are flying?
A Winter’s Vacation.
A week ago, today, we enjoyed breakfast at the Donut Hole. My first experience with the culinary marvels of the restaurant revolved around their pastries. Ron had brought the sundry delights to us for breakfast, on several occasions. They have a unique and sinfully delicious confection that looks, somewhat, like a horseshoe. The first day of our marathon three day visit to the establishment, Ron pointed out a cinnamon role…that was a large as some peoples head! That morning I partook of the corn beef hash and eggs and hash brown breakfast. But, one week ago today I ordered the eggs Benedict that were carefully placed on two crab cakes that ultimately rested on a english muffin. The crab cakes were to die for!
I must speak more fulsomely regarding the corn beef. It is scrumptious and plentiful. It also is Kosher. Of our three days visitation to the Hole…
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Have you ever had a specific locale take on mythic proportions? Our family has had the lovely opportunity to visit Watercolor and Seaside, Florida on several occasions over the past, nearly, 10 years. There is not only a different climatic feel to Florida, but also a slower and calmer pace to life. The pastel colors of Watercolor are a serene visual to the, frozen, eyeballs of we northerners. Seaside and Watercolor are so close geographically that it is difficult to know when you have left one and entered the other. There are a lot of walkers and joggers out and about along with many people on bicycles. You can tell the natives from the visitors from the frozen tundra. The Floridians are wearing bright colors that match the surrounding architecture, while the snowbirds are dressed in the drab browns and blacks and grays of the wearers, usual, winter surroundings. Happy people smile at you as they wave from their golf carts. It is easy to believe that you have entered an alternate universe where the normal cares and concerns of life have evaporated.
Sundog Books is a favorite stop of mine. It is an independent bookstore. One of the primary elements that I enjoy about Sundog, is the staff that work there are, supremely, into books. When I asked for a recommendation regarding mysteries…no less than four people assisted me. When one of my assistants had not read a book that I was thinking about…the, kind, person who was helping me called out to one of her colleagues, who had read the book that I was inquiring about, to help me. They made the books that I purchased, come alive, to me!
MJ was in search of a Tilley Hat. She had been admiring the one that I had purchased, in Maine, this past spring. Next door to Wine World…is a little shop called, Florida Outfitters. I knew that they carried Tilley Hats, because I had searched for one that would fit me for the past nine years. The manager of the shop was animated with joy when she inquired as to whether he had a Tilley Hat that would fit her. He not only assured her that he did…but subsequently produced the selfsame hat! She was overjoyed. Not only was there a hat for MJ…but there was one that fit me that was a different color and style than the one that I had discovered in Boothbay, Maine. Now we have matching hats!
Wine World has an almost mythic status for Ron and I. My friend and I have been enjoying the blessings of the grape and the wisdom of deep discussion for nearly 10 years…al fresco. Many of the world’s problems have been solved by us, as well as detailed colloquies concerning the meaning of life and the opportunities of retirement. At our visit, two Fridays ago, Ron and MJ and I enjoyed some wonderful Merlot. We were not able to partake of their delicious and diverse cheeses, due to a remodeling project that they were undergoing.
Our journey to the peaceful and beautiful Florida hamlets of Seaside and Watercolor were what fond memories are made of.
We have returned from a trip to Florida. What a wonderful time we had with Ron and Ira Kaye. It had been 3 years since we had sojourned to the land of endless ocean and delicious seafood. Jonathon asked me what my favorite part of visiting Florida was…and I answered, looking at the ocean. The majestic mystery of ocean watching is ever compelling.
‘In 2010, 123.3 million people, or 39% of the nations population lived in counties directly on the shoreline. This population is expected to increase by 8% from 2010 to 2020.’ National Ocean Service
As I marvel at the ever changing appearance of the waters I am reminded of the timeless nature of God and creation. The ocean is the physical embodiment of peace.
Sunday, we were in search of a unique breakfast, and we settled on McGuire’s Irish Pub of Destin. Our imaginations were captured by the fact that they had a brunch. I noticed that they served steak omelet, comprised of 6 eggs. Have you ever had a 6 egg omelet? Neither had I! The steak was Filet Mignon. Now, the 6 egg omelet was huge…but there was also an Irish Coffee to accompany it. Finally, there was a basket of beignets for the table…all for $12!
As I contemplated the beauty and grandeur of my surroundings I reflected on the blessings of life…and its fragility. Every day is a gift that should not be wasted or ignored. The ocean has observed innumerable humans stand before it….generations who played their part on the stage of life…and who believed that the problems that they faced were insurmountable.
Happiness and contentment and peace of mind, is contained in the realization that each of us awakened in a beautiful dream…and it is our decision…what to make of it.
‘Heres a little song I wrote
You might want to sing it note for note
Don’t worry, be happy
In every life we have some trouble
But when you worry you make it double
Don’t worry, be happy
Don’t worry, be happy now’
‘Ain’t got no place to lay your head
Somebody came and took your bed
Don’t worry, be happy
The landlord say your rent is late
He may have to litigate
Don’t worry, be happy’
‘Don’t worry, be happy
Ain’t got no cash, ain’t got no style
Ain’t got no gal to make you smile
Don’t worry, be happy
Cause when you worry your face will frown
And that will bring everybody down
So don’t worry, be happy’
‘Don’t Worry Be Happy’ by Bobby McFerrin
I was tempted to title this blog the, First Tuesday of The New Decade, but I like the message of, ‘Don’t Worry Be Happy,’ better. For whatever reason…I have always been a worrier. If there is not a clear and present danger to occupy my worry genes…I search for something to fill the gap. My grandmother, Askew, often remarked that worry was just like a rocking chair…you rock and rock and do not get anywhere. My mother described herself as a worry wart. I do not know exactly what that is…but it does not sound good.
It has been my experience that most of the things that I have worried about have never occurred. While, issues that were never on my radar…present themselves as problems. There is a wise saying, ‘Don’t sweat the small stuff…and everything is small stuff!’
The more that I am able to climb over the walls of my pre-conceived notions and the false constructs of fictional ideas that I have accepted as fact…the happier I am!
There is another good admonishment that reminds us, ‘We would not be so concerned what people were thinking of us if we realized how little that they think of us at all.’
MJ and I were talking, the other day, and we marveled at the miracle of living to old age in a body that is, by all accounts, very frail.
One day…we found ourselves as a member of the human race and our home was a planet called earth. There were smiling faces peering down at us…and we thought…who are those funny creatures? It was not long before, those same smiling creatures called mom and dad, were cajoling us to take our first step…and we wondered why…when it was so much nicer being carried?
We began the first grade and the teacher asked who in the class knew how to write their name, and I raised my hand and proudly proclaimed that I knew how. Upon walking up to the chalk board and making some diverse marks…the teacher said, quietly, that I could return to my seat and that she would teach me how to write my name. I wondered how something that seemed so simple…could be complex.
Life is full of helpers, as Mr. Rodgers told us, and there is always someone close-by that will assist us in times of trouble. When MJ had her spinal surgery I was overwhelmed by the support that our fellow congregants at First Presbyterian in Carbondale, Illinois gave us. They brought many meals to us and checked on our welfare on a regular basis. I felt like I was a member of a large family.
During my years as a manager of the Building Service department at Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale…I wanted my colleagues to feel that they were members of a family that cared about them and who would help them to succeed.
I recall, just after I had begun working at SIUC in October of 1978…my 1963 Ford Fairlane would not start. I had not been employed for more than a week…and I knew no one. When I told my former that I needed to use the office telephone to call my wife to come and get me…and gentleman named, Ray Phoenix, said that he would drive me home. To drive me home he had to travel several miles out of his way…and I knew that I had become a member of a family that would help me when I was in need.
I was worried as to whether or not that I was performing my janitorial functions completely in the General Accounting building, Thalman Hall, and so I inquired of the Associate Director of General Accounting, Hugh Blaney. I asked him if he was satisfied with my work performance and prefaced my question with the caveat that I understood that my efforts were not as important as the rest of the occupants of the building. Mr. Blaney told me that my work was the most important in the building…because if I did not do my job properly…no one else could do their job. He went on to explain that I was doing a wonderful job and ended by purchasing me a Coca Cola.
We are all fellow travelers on a blue spinning orb in he middle of a very large galaxy. We did not purchase a ticket for the ride….So enjoy the complimentary excitement and thrill!
I had not thought about it until I heard it on television this morning, this is the first Monday of our new decade. I actually like the sound of the words, new decade. When you think about it, we mortals do not get a plethora of, new decades? I have, at the beginning of this year, lived in 8 decades. A nice accomplishment for a 62 year old!
I was back to walking our campus today. It was very quiet due to it being winter break. I walked through the Student Center and observed two students, a female and male, excitedly playing with what appeared to be a full body video game. They were bobbing and weaving and dancing about, impervious to the world about them, and they were getting wonderful exercise.
I listened as Jonathon and I were enjoying lunch, to a young man in a wheel chair and his caretaker. Their verbal exchange revealed that they were friends and enjoyed each others company. There was no lesser than and greater than…there was no healthy/disabled dynamic between them. They spoke as what they were, equals.
I reflected on the excitement and joy that can be experienced at Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale…if you want to access it. I remembered when everything about SIUC was a mystery to me and was intriguing and different from what I had experienced. I noticed that the staff at Building Services, of which I was a new member, wore, at least, three different uniforms. I was introduced to my, Custodian, and I ruminated on what my job duties would be…as I thought that I had been hired as a custodian? An African American gentleman entered the building that I was cleaning and announced that he was may boss and was I Brooks or Brandon! He was smoking an aromatic cigar and the smoke encircled his head like a wreath. Later that evening…my Custodian came over and asked me how I was doing and I told him that I had completed the cleaning assignment that he had given me and he responded by asking me if I had been upstairs yet? I said that I had not and he laughed and told me that the upstairs was my job also…
There is a newness to life each day that we live. Whether it be our first day on the job or our first home…or the realization that there is a job for us to do and a purpose for our existence.