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.

IMG_3407

‘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!’

image_c1a993f2-0936-4dc7-8d8f-eb1ac5ce8646.img_1320

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!

sky earth galaxy universe

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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!’

 

 

Santa’s Dilema — The Jazz Man

Parker asked Elvira, the elf, if she could turn up the heat in the North Pole castle, as she was cold. Elvira left and returned with a 3 electric space heaters… Elvira told the group that the Geo Thermal heating system for the massive dwelling was broken and that they did not have the money […]

Santa’s Dilema — The Jazz Man

Christmas 2020…Is Coming

American actors James Stewart (1908 – 1997) and Donna Reed (1921 – 1986) star in the film ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, 1946. The children are Larry Simms (Peter Bailey), Jimmy Hawkins (Tommy Bailey) and Carol Coombs (Janie Bailey). (Photo by RKO Pictures/Archive Photos/Getty Images)

This is the coldest day I have experienced for sometime! It currently is 36 degrees and it feels like 27 degrees. That is winter in Little Egypt! I am in the Writing Loft…as it is much to cold for the Writing Porch… I have so many collectibles and chotskies surrounding me, both on my desk and my file cabinet, that I am constantly entertained. I often think that once I have departed this mortal coil…others who see my surroundings will say to my sons…what was your father’s interests…and they will answer…diverse… Just in front of me I have a stature of Shakespeare and Hamlet along with a Russian Nesting Doll of former former Soviet Union Premier of Boris Yeltsin, with all of the other Russian leaders…back to Czar Alexander III…nestled inside. Along with these are an Alaskan Polar bear and David Copperfield and figurines of Norman Rockwell’s ‘Freedom From Fear and ‘Baby’s First Step.’ A unique piece of art that I purchased in New Orleans that depicts Paris, France and Snake Bowl that I purchased the other day at the St. Louis Art Museum and which was crafted in Nicaragua. There also is an old timer Kalidscope that Aaron gave me as a Christmas gift a few years back and a Waterford Crystal Sail Boat purchased in Ireland at the Waterford factory. There is a wooden cross from Mexico and a pewter figurine of a Innkeeper made by the Franklin Mint from my favorite antique shop in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. There is a handcrafted box from Aruba and a painted pewter, well proportioned man with a red sport coat and a white shirt and tie…with a bulging belly and a bald head…that reminded me of me! I unpacked my prize Christmas gift from my friend JoAnn, who told me that she had gotten a Renaissance Santa…for a Renaissance man…

My spirit was lifted this afternoon as I walked the path of Southern Illinois Universities Campus Lake. The communal Christmas decorations had begun! Christmas is hope…for a better day! For we christians the weeks of Advent brings to our hearts an anticipation of the arrival of the Christ Child. I saw a photograph of an old tree that was split to make room for a young and new tree growing inside of it. I think that we may feel much the same way as we begin to receive our vaccines for the 2020 pandemic and are able to return…not to life as we knew it…but to a revelation of life as we were meant to live… Life has been as Thomas Hobbes wrote in Leviathan: ‘No arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; that life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.’ Soon…we are going to be given a second chance… or as the angel told George Bailey in the storied holiday movie, ‘It’s A Wonderful Life,’ ‘You see George, you’ve really had a wonderful life. Don’t you see what a mistake it would be do just throw it away?’

Holiday Delights

Blind Pig is good beer! It is manufactured in Champaign, Illinois…which is the home of the University of Illinois Flagship Campus. It is called Scary Cherry Milk Stout. I am little frightened…but not in excess… Thanksgiving was lovely…although we missed our family! I still got very sleepy after dinner…and it was ham instead of turkey. Each time that I received a text or a message on Facebook from my friends and family…it made my day! There is a 24 hour Alfred Hitchcock marathon on Turner Classic Movies and I have noticed scenes in these movies that I never noticed before.

Customarily we are up early on Black Friday to travel to St. Charles, Missouri for their magnificent Dickens Christmas. The cobblestone streets are lined with; Tiny Tim, and Scrooge, as well as Santa Claus and St. Nicholas, and elves and horse drawn carriages! The pandemic has kept us home this year. I watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade yesterday and a tear made its way to my eye as I marveled at the holiday spirit of the performers… I have never witnessed such an active Santa Claus on his massive sleigh as he danced and gestured in a wonderful manifestation that next year…it will be better!

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

I think of the countless families that had an empty chair or chairs at their Thanksgiving table… If you have not lost a loved one or a friend…it puts everything in a humbling perspective… We really have nothing but each other… Love is the magic ingredient of the holidays…when it is missing…a large hole exists in our hearts!

Photo by Charlotte May on Pexels.com

So now we look towards Christmas. We will not give a greater gift than to reach out to someone that we do not speak to on a regular basis. When I know that someone cares about me it a Balm of Gilead for my soul… I have many friends and loved ones from a christian life of over 50 years. Many of these people invited me to their tables…when I had little to eat. They kept me in their homes. They treated me as a member of their family… Have you ever experienced someone speaking with you…and you knew that God was using their voice….to bless you?

Thanksgiving Eve — The Jazz Man

The majestic Brooks Christmas Tree has taken it’s place at the ranch! MJ and Jonathon and I have been working on the project all day. We think that it looks especially good this year with Aaron’s Little Town Christmas Village underneath its boughs! As I was retrieving the decorations from the Christmas Closet…I felt like […]

Thanksgiving Eve — The Jazz Man

North Pole Surprise!

Elvira rolled out folding stairs for our group to climb into her sleigh. Porter was amazed that he ascended 10 steps before he was able to climb into the gigantic sleigh and sit on the most comfortable, red velour covered seat, that he had ever sat upon! Behind him was his buddy Steve who told him that he felt like Charlie McCarthy’s buddy…Mortimer Snerd. Up came Parker and Chet and Chet had a sly grin on his face. Last to board the sleigh was Neva who was laughing like Porter had never seen before. Steve pulled out a humongous roasted turkey leg…from his trench coat pocket. As he munched away the wonderful odor of the bird captivated the travelers. The rate of climb of the North Pole conveyance…rivaled a 747 jet plane…but they sat safe and secure in the plush seats as they had sunk down about a foot in them. When Parker looked over the side of the sleigh she was amazed at the panoply of fields and forests and cities and villages that whisked by below her!

Suddenly…they were landed before a nondescript log cabin. Elvira’s assistant folded out the staircase and the group descended. The cabin appeared to be a four room structure…but when they entered it was a mansion of unending rooms and brilliant Christmas lights and Bing Crosby singing, ‘I am Dreaming of a White Christmas,’ broadcast throughout the building! Parker asked Elvira if they soon would be able to meet St. Nicholas…and she replied that first they must eat and get some rest. For dinner they had potted meat sandwiches and pickles…and smoked herring. For their beverages there was either water or weak and unsweetened tea. Chet inquired as to where the hot chocolate and candy canes and Turkish delight were…and Elvira responded…budget cuts… After their Spartan dinner it was time for bed. Elvira opened a massive ornate door and out cascaded several sleeping bags and hard pillows. Chet said…’What, no beds?’ Elvira explained that although they still had the wonderful sleigh and Rudolph along with 3 Tiny Reindeer…and the hidden opulence of St.Nicholas Castle…that was creatively hidden from the tax collector as a four room log cabin…they had fallen on hard times and that it was directly the result of the hateful manner that men and women and boys and girls treated each other! Elvira went on to say that problems had begun to develop several years ago when the receiving of Christmas gifts had become the preeminent obsession of people…and not the giving of gifts. Two thirds of the elves had been laid off and St. Nicholas had begun to suffer from Seasonal affective disorder. Where he was formally, ‘A jolly old elf that laughed when he thought of Christmas…in spite of himself.’ he had become sullen and solitary and had lost a considerable amount of weight… Mrs. Claus had been the driving force behind the success of Christmas…for the past 20 years or more! And, that is what Elvira had asked the group to come to the North Pole. They not only needed help manufacturing the toys…although the demand was down 33%…they also needed ideas regarding a solution to the precipitous decline of Santa Claus and his yearly mission…

Chet asked when they could meet Santa? Elvira noted that he was difficult to coax out of his bedroom…but that she would attempt to do so with the assistance of Carol. Parker inquired…’Who is Carol?’ ‘Why Carol Claus…of course,’ Elvira replied. Out came some pixies…or at least some tiny happy dancers. They sang in unison, ‘You better watch out…you better not cry…you better not pout…I am telling you why…Santa Claus is coming to town!’ After the pixies…came the Harlequins…in their checkered costumes… Finally were the children…who had been invited to live at the North Pole with Santa and CC…as they had been taken from the type of children depicted in Charles Dickens famous Christmas story, ‘A Christmas Carol.’ These children were neither wan nor afraid…but were joyful and well fed! Their eyes were bright and shinning and the smiles on their faces portrayed that they had not a care or worry in the world… A 12 foot tall mahogany door began to open…and out stepped Santa Claus…in his pajamas…

Settled Secure And Safe — The Jazz Man

Thanksgiving Monday has presented itself with a bright blue sky and moderate temperature. It is 50 degrees and I am on my writing porch and comfortable in a medium jacket. Another drug company has announced that it should have a Covid-19 vaccine ready early in tbe New Year. The challenges of 2020…will shrink in 2021. […]

Settled Secure And Safe — The Jazz Man

Better Days Are Just Around The Corner!

Late Fall has arrived in Little Egypt!

Suddenly it occurred to me that better days are just around the corner! The year of our pandemic has been difficult and devastating for millions across our planet. A mixture of conspiracy theories and politics and doubt have created a 2020 pandemic that is terrible and still getting worse! We are more in danger of contracting Covid-19 now than we were in the spring! However, now there is a light at the end of the tunnel!

Photo by Elisabeth Fossum on Pexels.com

Two vaccines for Covid-19 are preparing to be released. One is 95% effective and the other is 94.5%. We will come out of the shadows of this devastating disease! We will be able to gather together again…and hug one another…and fellowship in our shared humanity! What we are living through will be a part of history books a 100 years from now.

My old friend Jeff and I have spent some time together in the last few weeks. Jeff and I became friends when we were teenagers…and that has been sometime ago… It had been almost 50 years since I had seen him and yet he was the same person that I had know so many years ago. A principled person who lives by his inner standards of right and wrong and someone who is not concerned regarding what the societal or other common practice is. In other words…Jeff thinks for himself…and that is refreshing! I wonder how much more happy we would be if we followed our heart and lived the life that we choose…and not what someone chose for us?

Today is the anniversary of former President John F. Kennedy’s assassination…57 years ago today… November 22, 1963 is a day that is indelible in my memory. I was in first grade at Hillcrest School in Eldorado, Illinois. It was announced by our teacher, Mrs. Kittinger, that the President had been shot and that school was dismissed. I walked home, down Illinois Avenue, and when I arrived at our house that was just across from the Eldorado High School…I found my mother watching television and crying. She was watching the news report that President Kennedy had died. I wondered if the President was a member of my family…as mom was certainly weeping as if he was…

We have been through terrible ordeals during my lifetime. Our 2020 pandemic is the worse for lives lost. Yet, there are reports that some some vaccines will be distributed next month to healthcare workers. I have a good friend who is in the custodial industry that has contracted the virus…I wonder if the powers that be have considered how ‘essential workers’ have been placing their lives on the line…for the majority of this year? Better times are just around the corner…and let us reassess why we were given the gift of life and what we need to do with it…to help our brothers and sisters…on the road back to Jerusalem…

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Thanksgiving At Grandma’s House — The Jazz Man

The smell of roasted turkey wafted through Porter’s bedroom. It did not have far to travel as it was not far from the kitchen. Porter relished not having to attend school for not only Thanksgiving but the Friday after! He and Chet had been talking of little else for the last two weeks. Chet was […]

Thanksgiving At Grandma’s House — The Jazz Man

A St. Louis Journey

It is a blustery Thursday! The wind is blowing at 24 miles per hour. However it is 64 degrees and sunny. It is a week until Thanksgiving! On our way home from St. Louis, last evening, MJ and I saw several homes with their Christmas lights joyfully displayed. Once again I ponder…where did 2020 go?

MJ and I made our annual trek to St. Louis for medical appointments and in our year of almost no travel…it seemed like a big event… All reports are excellent and we even lost this yearly visit due to so many years of positive news! We thank God for his grace! So, in our dedication to social distancing…we visited the St. Louis Art Museum…which is massive structure with a small amount of people. They had an exhibit of German artists on display that we enjoyed very much. Then we first discovered some lovely wire baskets made from telephone wire by skilled artisans from South Africa. We were in the first floor gift shop. The friendly lady informed us that they have a much larger selection in their basement gift shop as the shop is much larger. Thus we were off to the larger shop. When we arrived we did discover a plethora of wondrous wire baskets of all colors and styles. Alongside the beautiful baskets was some unique pottery. The pottery got its hooks in us and would not let us go!

Later at Cunetto House of Pasta I reflected on our excitement to bring home a piece of pottery each. I think that we might have been overwhelmed with the experience of shopping in a gift shop…after a year of staying at home… We both enjoyed the Tuesday night special of baked lasagna. As my buddy Ron would say, ‘To die for!’ I even enjoyed a Grey Goose Dirty Martini…which is usually a Holliday treat!

Covid has given us a lot of time to reflect. Having both friends die of the virus and a friend die suddenly causes me to continue to realize the temporary condition that we humans find ourselves in… None of us have a lease on life. All of us have the sword of Damocles hanging over our heads! ‘But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; then whose will those thing be that you have prepared?’ Luke 12:20. KJV

One of the most enjoyable weekly events that I experience at our church is the lighting of the Advent candles and the reading of scriptures commiserate with the holy season. Our Advent Wreath is on the way and we will participate with our Zoom church services by lighting candles and meditating on the meaning of Jesus birth…

Mr. 39!

November 16 is a wonderful day at our house! Thirty-nine years ago today we were excited and overcome with anticipation! Our first born Aaron had made his entrance into the world! He entered with a lusty cry! The day began with an early morning trip to Carbondale Memorial Hospital. I was 24 years old. In those days I thought that I was 50! We had purchased a little white whicker Bassinet and a wind up swing for Aaron’s arrival…

After Aaron was born the nurse who was in charge of the Nursery asked me if I wanted to feed my son. What a thrill! I held this little fellow in my arms and he had on a little blue knitted cap. When I gave him the bottle he drank like a man on a mission! The head nurse told me that he had character…and I agreed. I was working at SIUC as a Building Custodian. I thought that I must get about seeking a promotion as my family had expanded by 50%! The November 16 that Aaron was born on was cold and cloudy and rainy. It felt like winter. But the sunshine that he brought into MJ and my life was abundant!

Aaron is a photographer extraordinaire! He is a manager/administrator for Home Depot, and he is wonderful son and friend! I think that I have adopted the behavior of my step-father, Earl, regarding when I see Aaron purchase something that I admire…I want one of the same! Aaron would be of the same mind when it comes to our favorite drink, the Dirty Martini, and I relish enjoying them with him! Family means a lot too Aaron…and he has taught me many things! He loves to visit his Uncle Ron and his Aunt Ira Kaye in Destin, Florida…and we are planning a journey there next May!

MJ and I were so inspired by our new son that one day when were in the University Mall, during the Christmas Season, we saw the most lovely handmade Nativity scenes made by a nice woman. She told us that we could customize our order and that she would paint the characters accordingly. Henceforth were traveled to her home and purchased our 100 dollar handmade nativity for Aaron’s first Christmas! We still have it today…although cousin Ricky bumped into it, several years later, and broke the star off of the stable…

There are so many memories from our years in the little house in Elkville. I joyfully recall our first Christmas Tree that MJ and I purchased shortly after Aaron was born. It was 7 feet tall and we decorated it with ornaments that we purchased at the DuQuoin Walmart. It had a Victorian look…and the ornaments were replicas of Victorian decorations. We adorned it with garland, which later Aaron called ‘garlet’ and bubble lights and a majestic red skirt underneath… Aaron was not old enough to request Christmas gifts…but be assured…he had plenty! But really MJ and I did not require any Christmas gifts…Aaron was all that we could desire and hope for!