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!’

 

 

The Time of Planting — The Jazz Man

I saw some new buds on the trees at Campus. Spring is on our horizon. I receive my next jab or my second vaccination on March 18…and I am in good spirits. Easter is coming and I am in the Bible Mood. I am always ready to purchase more Bibles at Eastertide. I often think […]

The Time of Planting — The Jazz Man

Waiting On Yesterday

It is a lazy and laconic Sunday that has contained within it the hope for a bright future. The temperature is mild and portends the coming of spring. The Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale Campus was quiet as Jonathon and I perused its confines. The squirrels were experiencing a happy Sabbath. Life is usually quite and serene on Ash Wood Lane. The backyard pond brings me hours of comfort and peace as I watch the actions of the Blue and White Heron and our resident Beaver…and the jumping of the fish. At night the frogs croak a melodious tune.

I journeyed to Barnes and Noble Booksellers, yesterday, to see if they had a Bible that I could purchase. I have been collecting Bibles for many years. Most of the ones that I liked appeared similar to those that I have bought in years gone by. I did see a Scofield Study Bible commemorating the 1917 anniversary of Mr. Scofield’s writing of his notes into what became the Old Scofield Study Bible. My first pastor had a Scofield Study Bible that he enjoyed and thus I have ordered a Bible for Easter that I did not already have.

Waiting on yesterday is a hobby that we all engage in. We often compare our current society to the society that we were either born into or at least the society that we grew up in and lived our formative years. Even after 10 years of retirement from SIUC…I still reflect, almost, daily on my many years working at the University. I ruminate regarding the untold hours that I worked… and the worries and stress that were associated with the position…but primarily I remember the good times and the success that we enjoyed as a great housekeeping organization. I was talking to Aaron yesterday and I recalled scuffling his hair and playing with him when he was a youngster. He was such a sweet natured child and a good boy. Even in my more recent history I recall with a vivid memory our visits to Europe and the excitement of being newly retired and, ‘As free as a bird on the wing!’ I remember wondering if I would eve be able to retire…and now the primary event is a decade in the rearview mirror!

‘Today is the tomorrow that we worried about yesterday.’ Our future is here and the harbinger of peace and prosperity and happiness is upon us! ‘Fear makes the wolf bigger than he is.’ German Proverb

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Hope for our future greeted us with open arms when we were 20…and 30…and 40…and it greets us today. We are living in a different chapter of our lives…but none the less as important as each of the preceding ones. The Bible has captivated me since I was 12 years old. I used to read it nightly at the kitchen table while the coal and wood stove in the adjoining room was fired up to 90 degrees plus! The pages on my Bible curled up due to the extreme heat.

During my formative years I attended the movies both on Friday night and again on Sunday…where I stayed from early afternoon until late evening on the strength of a 35 cent ticket for admission. I watched the same movie for 3 or 4 screenings and could quote entire segments of dialogue from them. I love going to the movies to this day…

Mysteries do not reveal their primary secrets until the latter portions of the book. Life is a magnificent mystery and we are the characters within the narrative. How often we have wondered why events in our lives went the way that they did…now we are in the most exciting portion of our novel! It has always been my conviction that this earthy life is but a ‘Foyer Experience’ and that once the door of our passing into there next phase of our life has transpired…we will wonder why we dreaded the opening of the door…

March Madness

Billy B. truly believed that he was ready for anything. His life in Chicago had truly been an adventure and he was the star of the Billy B. show! His mom and dad adored him…’Don’t you like the sound of saying the word adored?’ His friends hung on his every word…and the adults in his life deferred to his mature speech and observations Susie, Billy B’s much older girlfriend, hugged him whenever she saw him and seemed to be in love with his thin and tiny physique. Billy endeavored to shake himself awake after he saw the actor Fess Parker…at his kitchen table in his Daniel Boone outfit…eating waffles… Uncle Lester mentioned that Daniel had been hungry and therefore he had made him some waffles and black coffee. Mr. Boone asked Billy B. if he was ready to hunt some raccoon in the hills of Kentucky and Billy asked if Chet and Parker could come with him. Daniel said, ‘The more the merrier,’ and doffed his Coonskin Cap on to his head and they departed the Chicago suburb home that when the front door opened…. there was the wild woodsy hills of Daniel Boone’s home…Kentucky.

Chet said, ‘We are not in Chicago…anymore.’ Indeed…on the horizon…were a family of black bears. Jefferson asked where Billy and Parker and Chet were. Lester said that they went out of the front door with Fess Parker who was portraying the historical figure and television show personality…Daniel Boone… Jefferson said, ‘I hope that they do not get into any mischief.’ Along came Mingo who was Daniel Boone’s friend and compatriot on the television show. Mingo was of the Cherokee Nation and was portrayed by the actor, Ed Ames. Parker asked, ‘Are we really in Kentucky or are we on a television show set?’ At the same moment the group heard a loud call, ‘Cut and print…that is a wrap!’

Fess Parker walked laconically up to the group of 6 year olds and said that he appreciated their willingness to guest star on his TV Show. He went on to say that they had truly added to the ambiance of portraying a Kentucky family who was in danger of being eaten by black bears. Ed Ames added that Billy B. and Parker and Chet had been so natural in the portrayal of Kentucky Hill Children that he would like for them to accompany him on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson the following week. He mentioned that he thought that he was scheduled to throw a tomahawk at a silhouette during his segment…

Suddenly Billy B.woke up…again. He was in the Lottaburger and there was Uncle Lester grining like the Cheshire Cat of Alice In Wonderland and asking him if he wanted More…as David Copperfield had said in the Charles Dickens classic.

16 More Days! — The Jazz Man

Jonathon and I were out and about today when a gentleman of some seniority, or my age, called out to us, ’16 more days,’ and we shook our head vigorously to signify our mutual agreement…to what we did not readily understand… Probably because the Announcer could see the blank look in our eyes as we […]

16 More Days! — The Jazz Man

The Struggle

The game of life requires determination. I walked my 10 thousand steps today…just after noon. I was waiting on the furniture delivery folks and the walking was good activity for someone who hates to wait on people. I often reflect on MJ and my sons, Aaron and Jonathon, and think of how I felt when I was their ages. Aaron is 39 and Jonathon will soon be 37. I had some physical aliments then…that I do not have now…and posses new ones that have arrived with the Golden Years. Needless to say there are pressures and stresses and struggles at every stage of our lives. For instance…I never enjoyed running. Not in grade school or high school. I was never in that big of a hurry… I have noticed that we humans seem to endlessly debate ephemera. We have our political ideology and our faith…and we want you to share them with us…

I was watching a little boy on the news this morning that had Covid and is left with a racing heart and has lost the ability to read and write. There is a term for him…’A Long Hauler.’ A young woman was in the same news segment and it is reported that she has gone from an A student to just barely able to pass her school studies. The little boy’s name is Norman and he was asking Dr. Fauci what the answer for his physical aliments was…to which the good doctor replied that thus-far we do not know enough about Covid to provide him with an answer to his dilemma.

I recall needing to earn the next promotion and the intrinsic importance of keeping a good job. I was in the trenches with those who had more month than money and seemingly never enough to address the vacillating vicissitudes of life. Everything that has value in this life requires hard work and a focused dedication of efforts.

Happiness is a constant search. It does not emanate from a chemical substance or the peculiar fairy dust of specific happenings. Substantial happiness often ensues from the ability to defer pleasure for the greater good for your life. Working toward a goal and achieving that goal is a satisfying vocation. Often it is the plodding turtle rather than the racing hare that wins the race… The ability to stay on the path and take enjoyment in the small gifts of life…results in a peaceful and satisfying journey.

Accepting Others…Without An Agenda — The Jazz Man

The Daybed has arrived. Parker took one look at it and attempted to get on it. She is very pleased that her human family has purchased her a luxurious bed. We did not tell her that it was not for her. It is 64 degrees and sunny. Spring has come to Carbondale. One of the […]

Accepting Others…Without An Agenda — The Jazz Man

The First Line

It was especially warm for Christmas Day. Billy B. woke up early and decided to make some Maxwell Houses Coffee for his breakfast. It had snowed about 12 inches last week and the temperature had been below zero for several days. The snow was so deep that Billy B. could not get his Camry out of the driveway but he could extricate his new Subaru Forester through the snowy depths. It had been bone chilling cold and treacherous to drive on the roads…and now it seemed like summer time in the south. It was 80 degrees on Christmas morning. Pauly and Danny were happy with the warm and actually hot weather…and Steve and Susie, being a bit older than Billy B. and his friends, knew that an 80 degree Christmas in Chicago was extremely unusual…

George and Helen proposed a barbecue for the holiday due to the summer like temperatures. Billy B’s parents, Neva and Jefferson, were all in for an unusual celebration of Christmas 1963. Chet was on his way over and Parker had called Billy to ask if she could come over and watch him open his Christmas presents. Billy B. could not help but notice that the ‘Leave It to Beaver’ street that he lived at had a strange sepia color… There was a knock at the door and when Billy opened the door, uncle Lester was smiling and presented Neva with a bag of Lottaburgers. He had just consumed his two hamburger breakfast at the local burger emporium and he was ready to join the Bump family for a Christmas celebration. Billy’s dad, Jefferson, swore and said, ‘It is as hot as Hell on Christmas!’ Billy B. considered the prescient words. Chet arrived and announced that he had received a life size animated figure of the Actor Fess Parker’s rendition of the television character…Daniel Boone. He went on to say that Daniel Boone referred to him by name and that he seemed to know him. There was Parker at the front door. Parker said that her mom and dad were asleep and that she could not awaken them… She noted that her Christmas Tree seemed to be on fire and could not be extinguished. She had received a Barbie and Ken doll and they had apparently taken over her home and had asked her to leave the premises. Just before she had left to go to Billy B’s house, Ken had pulled up in a Jaguar and Barbie had ran out of the house to get into the sport’s car. Something about this 1963 Christmas did not seem normal.

Chet remarked that they were traveling in time and space once again. They were apparently in an alternate universe or ‘Hell’ as the christian doctrine speaks of…and everything was Topsy Turvy. Action figures had taken on life of their own and the winter temperature for Christmas Day had become erratic and the hope for their future was contained in a Black Hole…

‘Come and get it,’ said Helen…as George turned the Ribeye Steaks. ‘The beer and Coca Cola is ice cold…and the Steaks are red-hot….intoned George!’ It was 110 degrees now…it was Christmas Day in Chicago…and there was a figure in the shadows that was watching the festivities….

Well, the mysterious figure was none other than uncle Lester. Billy B. began to shake as if he had the chills that he had experienced with a skin infection that he had undergone for sometime last year. ‘Wake up Billy…wake up,’ said Lester. ‘You were having quite a nightmare,’ he went on to say. ‘What is the date today,’ Billy B. asked. ‘Why it is March 2nd,’ Lester replied. Billy discovered that it was neither Christmas nor Halloween…and he was still 6 years old…and that he did not own a Toyota Camry nor a Subaru, Forester…and that he had not heard of either type of automobile. He did know his dad’s Harley Davidson motorcycle and the joys of riding between his mom and dad on the exciting machine. He also vowed to not eat before bed…as the dreams were bizarre….

Billy walked into the kitchen…and there was Daniel Boone making waffles…

A Change In Attitude — The Jazz Man

Many happenings in my long life have resulted in me changing my attitude. As a child I had developed a dark attitude due to my mom and dad divorcing when I was 5 years old. I felt emboldened and secure in this rationale reaction to what life had handed me. My mother was extremely unhappy […]

A Change In Attitude — The Jazz Man

March Has Come In Like a Lamb

Spring is on its way! Although winter seemed exceedingly long…it was really only 3 months. There are a few days of it remaining. Our treadmill died…after 15 years. This unfortunate occurrence transpired without me using it for the last 12 of those years. So, it was off to search for new treadmills today. MJ has been an avid treadmill aficionado for 30+ years. The weather for the first day of March is serene and sunny in our neck of the woods. There is neither a hint of the snow and ice that we received last week… or the deluge of rain that we received over the weekend. It appears that the stage is set for a glorious spring and the return of life to our land.

Small things are a special gift. MJ told me many years ago that I had a photographic memory for minutiae. I recall when we were standing in a castle in Ireland and our tour guide was trying to remember the title of an American movie that she wanted to reference in the tour and I spoke out, ‘This Is Spinal Tap.’ And I was correct…although I had never seen the movie. I continue to enjoy ephemera. Jonathon picked up a Mr. T figure for me at Electric Larry’s Shop, yesterday. Mr. T was a member of the A Team in a popular television show of the 1980’s. The first lady at the time, Nancy Reagan, sat on his lap for a commercial to, ‘Just Say No,’ to drug usage. One of Mr. T’s catch phrases was, ‘I pity the fool!’

My daily thoughts are filtered through two unusual prisms. The first would be scripture as I have been a christian for over 50 years…and the other would be television and pop culture and movie references. Entire scenes from the television show, Seinfeld, come to mind almost daily.

Our future is bright if we have eyes to see the light over the darkness. Life is lived by most of us in the manner that we receive it. If we are looking for deceit and despondency and destruction…we will find it. If we are searching for hope and happiness and halcyon days…we will discover them. The decision is ours. Spring is upon us. New life and hope and promise is ours. Lets forget the painful past and look toward the brilliance of our our future. As long as there is life…there is hope…

Shampooing Carpet and Time Travel

Jonathon was my able assistant today….as he often is. Whether it is installing a front door knob, that I calculated would take us an hour…and it ended up taking us 4 hours. Our task was to shampoo Parker’s room, which used to be one of Aaron’s 2 bedrooms. MJ’s new Daybed is coming to live with us this Wednesday. We have a new carpet shampooer. It works better than any that I have had for home use. Since we had the task of preparing Parker’s room…which contains her kennel…I thought why not shampoo my loft office as well. We did the loft office first and then the necessary job. About two thirds through the task we noticed that the machine vacuum was not retrieving much solution that had been applied to the carpeted floor. Needless to say we discovered that Parker’s hair had stopped up the vacuuming process. So…we removed the hair and went back over the wet carpets to see much dirty water. As has been said, ‘A job worth doing is worth doing well.’

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels.com

I was reminded, by Jonathon, that I had probably done many hours of carpet extraction at Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale. I answered that had shampooed carpet untold hours at the University. Early in my career I was placed on a Carpet Shampooing team of two. My partner in the endeavor was, Ardell, and he kept me laughing the entire shift. He was a natural comedian. We should shampoo 25 – 30 rooms per night. Often I worked through my lunch and my breaks. I literally loved cleaning carpets. A few years later I became the assistant superintendent of Building Services and continued to shampoo carpets, by myself, due to our superintendent having a slow down policy designed to create so much dirt that the University Administration would be forced to provide us with more help. I inquired with the Administrative Aid to the President of the University as to whether she thought that their carpets needed cleaning and she said that they did and then asked when the carpet crew would be doing the task. I informed her that she was looking at the Carpet Crew and that I was going to shampoo their carpets that same night. Later when I became the superintendent of Building Services I formed a Carpet Crew that cleaned carpets on a nightly basis.

Life is improving! Things are getting better. We have been frozen in amber…but now we are breaking free. MJ has secured the airline tickets to Destin, Florida in May. We customarily traveled to Destin each year of our retirement for several years. Now I know how precious those trips were! We visited Europe 4 times in 6 years. I thought that we would visit Europe every 2 years as long as we were physically able to do so. We visited our favorites state, Maine in 2019, but could not make the trip due to our pandemic in 2020. We plan on visiting Maine in 2021. Life has been as if we hit the pause button…but now we are turning the corner…with a renewed understanding as to how interconnected that we humans are.

All of our life experiences are inextricably united into the person that we are. We are the sum of our aspirations and our experiences. We either choose to grow or we choose to die. I prefer to the opportunity to grow and learn new things and become more than my biases and fears…