Monthly Archives: October, 2016

The Natural Gem of Southern Illinois

Earlier this month Mary Jane, Jonathon, and I traveled to our nearby State Park, Giant City, with my wonderful brother Brock and his sweet wife Marcy.  I so enjoyed the experience that I returned today to walk two of the trails within the picturesque natural region.

Giant City is located within the Shawnee National Forest.  “Named for the unique impressions made by  its’ massive sandstone structures and a landscape like none other, with lush garments of fern, moss, flowering mints, hundreds of species of wild flowers and more than seventy-five varieties of towering trees,” according the Giant City State Park website.

The Devils’ Stand Table is fascinating.

dscn5374dscn5375dscn5376The rock formations are simply awe inspiring!  It is said that the during the Ice Age…that the glaciers stopped in the Giant City region and thus the spectacular natural splendor.

dscn5364dscn5363The Post Oak Trail was very nice.  It had a lovely view of the various trees and foliage from a high vantage point.

dscn5381dscn5383img_4763-2img_4764img_4766img_4768In our world of hustle and bustle…it is refreshening to commune with Gods’ gift of nature.  So often what we deem important…money and the accumulation of it…prestige and power…fame and renown…is dwarfed by the reality of who we are…and what we are…in the magnificent creation that surrounds us.

Mummies in Sicily

I wrote a blog regarding the Ghosts of Anthony Hall earlier this month that I throughly enjoyed due to my having some first hand knowledge of the story.  Thinking of this I pondered whether or not I had any other weird or spooky stories to relate.  I was reminded of our stop in Sicily during our Mediterranean Cruise of 2011.

“The Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo are burial catacombs in Palermo, Sicily, southern Italy,” according to Wikipedia.

palermo_rosalia_lombardoRosalia Lombardo is considered to be the best preserved corpse world wide.

The Capuchin Monastery outgrew its’ cemetery and thus began digging crypts below it.  “The bodies were dehydrated on the racks of ceramic pipes in the catacombs and sometimes later washed with vinegar.  Some of the bodies were embalmed and others enclosed in sealed glass cabinets.  Monks were preserved with their everyday clothing and sometimes with ropes they had worn as penance,” according to Wikipedia.

The experience of walking down many steps into the catacombs and then encountering dead bodies or mummies along both your left and right…and often above your head was difficult to describe.  They were close enough to reach out and touch without moving from the walking path.  Many were dressed in their finery…including wedding dresses and suits of the day.

new_corridorOne of the figures had been a proud “Don Juan” in his day and thus requested that glass eyes be inserted into his eye sockets in order that he might continue his avocation.

monks_corridorThe Catacombs of Palermo were like nothing I have ever experienced and certainly conveyed to me the short time of our existence on this Earth…our mortality.

womens_corridor“Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.”   Ecclesiastes 12:7   KJV



Note: All photos are from Wikipedia.

Happy Birthday Old Chap!

Today is my 59th birthday.  As I reflect back…it seems that only yesterday I was 58!  I began the morning by stopping by to pick up my cake from our local bakery, that Mary Jane had ordered for me.  The young woman that waited on me remarked…”are you picking up your own birthday cake?”  I responded yes…and felt good about it as Mary Jane often picks up her birthday cake also.  The cake person then asked her colleague why my cake was so expensive…and received a logical explanation for the cost…she subsequently charged me three dollars less…with a sad smile.  Finally she asked me if I needed a cake server with my cake…although I thought that she asked me if I was going to be the cake server.  Lastly she wished me a happy birthday.

Two lovely Birthday Presents have been given me this October.  One was enjoying time with my brother Brock and his sweet wife Marcy earlier this month.  The other was our enjoying birthday dinner in St. my favorite restaurant, Cunetto House of Pasta, with my delightful sister  Billie,…again who I had never met.

img_42679839b890-1920-47ac-98fd-4cd1cb56ccc7-2img_4707My sons Aaron and Jonathon continue to be the light of my life!  They and their wonderful mother Mary Jane have made every day for me an adventure and a joy!

dscn5027IMG_2650One truth I have discovered is that my and Brock and Billie’s father is a mystery to all of us.  It is much like the fable of the blind man touching an elephant and reporting much varied descriptions of the animal that they felt based on where they placed their hands.

Springfield, Ohio "69"

Springfield, Ohio “69”

This is a photo of our Dad with our sister Tammy.

This was Dad's birthday. He was 57. Taken in Tennessee

This was Dad’s birthday. He was 57. Taken in Tennessee

“My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle…” according to the Old Testament author Job.  KJV

I received birthday wishes from several of my high school and grade school classmates…and instantly I could see their faces as I remembered them from our childhood days.  They’re taking time to wish me happy birthday warmed my heart!

I think of my old friend Steve…who in years gone by I had many adventures with.

I think the complexity and hidden beauty of this thing we call life is so rich and full…that often we fail to absorb it.  It happens so fast that we see it in the rear view mirror as we speed down life’s highway.

“So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”  Psalm 90:12   KJV



York’s Houdini

York, England fascinated me and captivated my imagination!   “York is a walled city in northeast England that was founded by the Ancient Romans.  The city walls form a walkway on both sides of the River Ouse,” according the Wikipedia.

The Roman Emperor Constantine was named Emperor of Rome in the Principa or headquarters, which is now under the York Minster.

img_4279img_4264As we began our exploration of the medieval city of York…we decided to put first things first and thus visit a fudge shop where we purchased some inspiring confections.  After this we divided, in order to conquer, and pursued the ancient city.

img_4265dscn5206dscn5202Suddenly I happened upon a gentleman performing one of the famous magician Houdini’s favorite escape feats.

dscn5191dscn5192dscn5198dscn5200dscn5201Now if that is not enough for you…there was also a knife thrower!

dscn5224I neglected to mention that the knife thrower also juggled knives while he rode a ten foot tall unicycle.

dscn5233dscn5239All of this excitement happened before our lunch at the Gin House which was located on the third floor and had excellent food and libations.

York was such a mysterious and inviting city that I want to return.  The ghosts of history are everywhere you look.  Again…I will say that Time Travel is possible…as indeed you are transported to York’s medieval past with every step you take in this gracious place.


One World/One Campus

As I was touring the beautiful Campus of Southern Illinois University at Carbondale I came upon a memorial plaque and tree dedicated to former administrator and professor Charles Klasek.  The heading of the memorial was “One World/One Campus.”

Dr. Klasek was a popular administrator overseeing SIU’s outreach to international students in the 80’s.  In those halcyon days SIU had a very large international student population.  This outreach was a priority of the University…and for our country’s higher education system.

I began as a crew supervisor in Building Services in 1979.  On my crew were; African, Malaysian, Turkish, Iranian, Mexican, Japanese, Chinese, American and many other representatives of foreign countries.  At one time students from over 70 nations attended University at SIU.

I am reminded each time I visit Europe how much more humanity is alike than different.  On our recent visit to the United Kingdom I thought almost daily…that I could live there.

London remains to me one of the most fascinating and mysterious cities I have ever been exposed to.  There is a unique mixture of the very old and the new in this bustling financial metropolis.


img_3333There is the feeling that Charles Dickens could be around the next corner accompanied by Mr. Scrooge and Tiny Tim…or that you might bump into Mr. Bean!

img_3550img_3291Oxford felt like home to me.  I experienced Déjà vu.  This historic English town…makes you want to study…to learn…to apply yourself…as my teachers admonished me to do!

dscn4507img_3615It is also a great place to receive literary inspiration as you enjoy a pint…or two with fish and chips at C. S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien’s favorite pub…The Eagle and Child.img_3595img_3600img_4278In Edinburgh I met a man who was in a wheelchair, the first evening that we were there, who asked me to assist him to his feet to facilitate his ordering food as we walked through the cafeteria type line.  His kindness to me…over just a few minutes…caused me to enjoy Edinburgh immensely.  It was people who were performing their Art and enjoying the performances that were outstanding in their Ordinariness.  Most were not professional actors..but their heartfelt immersion in their craft was enlightening.  It illustrated to me in a profound way…that I and all people should engage in their artistic passion…as a member of the human race…to enrich their life…and the lives of others!

dscn4962dscn4998img_3832dscn4952img_3864dscn4969img_3903Or at Stratford-upon-Avon…there was a mixture of serious sincere Anglican Christians and people who love Shakespeare.  Have you ever read Shakespeare?  There is nothing that compares to it!  He was a literary genius!

We attended a performance of Dr. Faustus in the Swan Theatre and we were transported to another world!

At Shakespeare’s home there were the most engaging actors performing passages from any Shakespeare Play that the audience called out.

dscn4932dscn4934The power of education…the power of faith…the power of writing…the power of theatre…the power of Art…can transform us and can cause us to understand our fellow human beings…and the beauty of life on this blue globe!

The well know Dutch author Herman Koch wrote in his new book, Dear Mr. M, as the main character was dying…that his perception of his life was that it had ‘been like one  long boring day.’

Let us make our day of life special and exciting…and a study in this grand…mysterious…painful…and glorious existence that we find ourselves in.


Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo

On our last night in Edinburgh we attended the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.  This is a limited engagement event that is packed to capacity each night of its’ run.  “Performers from over 48 countries have taken part in the Tattoo, and around 30% of the 220 thousand audience each year are from overseas,” according the Tattoo’s official website.

We took a United Kingdom cruise in 2012 and one of he shore excursions, when we were docked near Edinburgh, was to attend the Tattoo.  Tour bus after tour bus pulled up alongside the Ocean Princess and hundreds of cruise passengers disembarked to travel to the performance.  We chose not to go…and regretted it.

I noticed during our daily excursions to the Royal Mile and the festivities of the Fringe that around 4:00 pm the police blocked off the roads around Edinburgh Castle…although the Tattoo did not begin until 9:00 pm.

img_3913The above photo of the audience exiting the show after 11:00 pm illustrates why.

It was chilly and windy the entire five days that we were in Edinburgh…but this night it was, as my mother was accustomed to saying, downright cold!

We made our way to almost the top of the bleacher seats that are installed next to the Castle for the duration of the Tattoo’s short duration during August.

dscn5027Mary Jane had purchased us neck scarfs in Town…and they felt good!  Aaron did not wear his.

dscn5021dscn5050dscn5078dscn5089dscn5111Or what can compare with the Queens Carriage?

dscn5165dscn5171To our shock and surprise the horses did what horses sometimes do…and the disciplined military performers did not miss a beat.

dscn5147If you want to attend a grand performance that will stir your emotions and at times move you to tears…I highly recommend the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo!


Politics and Societal Norms Be Dammed

When I just wrote the title for this Blog I thought…what a strong statement.  However as I have been exposed to the heinous…horrible…hurtful…descriptions of sexual assault on women…that is cavalierly described as “locker room” talk…I am shocked and sickened!

Other explanations for one of our Presidential Candidates description of taking advantage of his stardom to kiss and touch the genitals of women, saying that he can get by with it due to his being a star, is that this is common talk among men.  Dr. Ben Carson said on CNN that he grew up with the men that were in his family and that he was around talking like the Candidate.  When the female news anchor said that she was not accustomed to hearing men speak about women in this manner he responded that perhaps this was the problem.

Other Candidate Surrogates have pointed to the coarsening of society or to the lyrics of Rap music.  Pardon me…but the Rap musicians are not running for the highest office in the Land!

Although many Republicans have withdrawn their support for the Candidate…several remain.  They validate their support by saying that no matter what the candidate has said or done that he is still better than Hillary Clinton.

I have written previously that I am an independent or moderate…and that I have voted for several Republicans in my life… yet there must be a point where the recognition of the equality and sacredness of women is more important than politics.

Is it acceptable, in our new normal…or our alternate universe, for the Candidate to begin kissing your wife…your daughter…your mother…your sister… and then…if he feels the urge…to touch their genitals?

The Candidate during the last Presidential Debate, in answer a question by  Debate Moderator Anderson Cooper asking him if he had ever done to a woman the things that he had described in graphic detail to Access Hollywood’s  Billy Bush, he responded that he had not.  Since the Debate several women have come forward describing sexual assault by the Candidate fitting closely to his lurid description that was caught on tape.

Is it logical or feasible that the women have come forward…with nothing to gain…to endure scorn and ridicule by the Candidate…as some totally encompassing conspiracy and collusion between the Government…the media…and the Clinton Campaign?

Polls illustrate that the majority of Americans want to see change in our Government. Many Americans are suffering without jobs or with jobs that pay inadequate incomes.  It seems that so many of our politicians listen only to the special interest groups that line their pockets with money.

Germany…in many ways was in a similar condition as we find ourselves now…and they chose a “strong man”…a leader with powerful rhetoric…a leader who convinced them that there were groups of people that were causing all of their problems…and that if those persons were eliminated…all would be well.

To legislate morals or to vote on their basis is a fool’s errand.  To say that sexual assault is all right in the mistaken belief that a Candidate has some messianic power to produce what his grandiose rhetoric claims… is to be a participant in the Twilight Zone!

statue of liberty construction


The Ghost of Anthony Hall

During the mid 80’s I had recently became the Assistant Superintendent of Building Services at Southern Illinois University when the custodial crew supervisor for Anthony Hall asked me to come to the building for an urgent discussion.

When I arrived he told me of one of his student employees, a Malaysian woman, was afraid to work in Anthony Hall, the building that she cleaned each evening, due to someone she had seen that frightened her very much.  At this time SIU had one of the largest Malaysian student populations in the United States.

The student employee explained that she had completed her custodial duties for the evening and was going through the floors to ensure that she had not left any lights on…or doors open.  When she exited the elevator on the third floor of the building…she looked to her right where she saw a woman sitting in a chair.  The woman had her hair in a bun on the back of her head and was dressed in a long dress to her feet and a white blouse with long sleeves.  When the student spoke to the woman…the woman did not look at her or respond.


Anthony Hall is named after the famous suffragette Susan B. Anthony…and the building was originally constructed as a women’s dormitory during the early part of the last century.


The story of the apparition of the woman in white spread throughout the campus…students in the Malaysian Community refused to work in Anthony Hall…at this time they made up fully half of our custodial workforce throughout campus.

Soon, the Superintendent of Building Services charged me with writing a full report to the Vice President of Campus Services regarding the Ghost in Anthony Hall.  I began by talking with the Anthony Hall supervisor again.  He mentioned that he often heard footsteps…late at night…but could find no one in the building.  He took me into the attic of the building where he showed me a dusty picture of Anthony Hall during its’ beginnings as a women’s dormitory.  The photo was of an assembly of women all dressed in white blouses with long sleeves and dresses that were to their feet and their hair in buns on the back of their heads.  Now this picture was not available to the custodial worker who saw the woman in white as it was stored in an attic that was only accessible by ladder.


I spoke with my colleague who had, in the past, worked as the Anthony Hall custodial supervisor for some time.  He told me of often hearing footsteps and not being able to find anyone in the building.  He also said that one time he felt the presence of someone with him in the building…and that the hair stood up on the back of his neck.

fullsizerender-8The story of the Ghost of Anthony Hall spread throughout Campus and I was asked about it for years after the event.

fullsizerender-3Our truly wonderful Malaysian students…never worked in Anthony Hall again.


The Girl in the Window

We arrived from Oxford to Stratford-upon-Avon in short order and with great delight.  Having spent two nights in Oxford we were to stay three nights in the hometown of Shakespeare.  Our faces glowed with great satisfaction when we pulled into The Stratford, A QHotel.  It was such an upgrade from the small hotel that we had stayed in at Oxford.  While the Oxford hotel room had been extremely small with a toilet that leaked onto the floor of the Loo…The Stratford was a lovely upscale hotel with both a Pub and a restaurant.  The rooms were spacious and air conditioned…and the toilet did not leak.

Having difficulty in believing our good fortune, as this was the largest and nicest hotel room that it had been our fortune to stay in, in Europe, we proceeded to first tour the historic village.

dscn4610Our Tour Guide was a native of Stratford-upon-Avon…and was a delight!

dscn4704One of the first places we toured was the cemetery.

IMG_3625Then we visited Shakespeare’s Tomb in Holy Trinity Church.

img_3632Also, there was our throughly enjoyable…and frightening attendance at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre’s production of Dr. Faustus in the Swan Theatre.  This Play and Performance is weird and strange and unsettling from beginning to end…and the performers are so talented that you forget that you are in a theatre…and that it is not real!

So, during our sojourn…as is my custom when in Europe…I searched for a Tobacco Shop for some good United Kingdom Cigars…and found some.

img_3786Here I am setting in the pastoral courtyard of The Stratford after a wonderful British Breakfast…looking up at the a corner window of the grand hotel…and seeing a young girl looking down forlornly at the garden setting.

This window appeared to be set apart from the rest of the rooms in an upper cupola.  Although I had enjoyed more than one British Cigar during my stay in the comely establishment…I had not previously seen the window…or the girl.

As I watched her for some time…it takes awhile to smoke a good cigar…I noticed she did not move or seem to change expression.

Who was this girl?  Why did she set looking so sad in this obscure window?  Was she real or a spirit from long ago?




img_3784“I have heard (but not believed) the spirits of the dead May walk again: if such thing be, thy mother Appeared to me last night; for ne’er was dream So like waking.”  (The Winters’ Tale 3.3)

“By the pricking of my thumbs, Something wicked this way comes.”   (Macbeth 4.1)

“Yesterday the bird of night did sit, Even at noon-day, upon the marked-place, Hooting and shrieking.”   (Julius Caesar, 1.3)



Equality for All?

“Donald Trump Tax Records Show He could have Avoided Taxes for Nearly Two Decades, the Times Found,” a headline announced today in the New York Times.

Mr. Trump claimed a $916 million dollar loss.  The Times goes on to say, ‘…between 1995 through 2009 when he was chairman or chief executive of the publicly traded company he created to assume ownership of his troubled Atlantic City casinos.  Ordinary investors in the new company, meanwhile, saw the value of their shares plunge to 17 cents from $35.50, while scores of contractors went unpaid for work on Mr. Trump’s casinos and casino bondholders received pennies on the dollar.’

There is no ascertation in the Times article that anything illegal happened…but the ‘Game’ is weighted heavily in favor of the rich.

During the Great Recession millions of people lost their savings…their homes…and were harshly removed from middle class lifestyles that they had worked to attain all of their life while the Wall Street Elite were neither punished…jailed…or terminated for their malfeasance.  Many received outrageous cash bonuses while we the taxpayers footed both the George W. Bush one billion dollar bailout and subsequently the Barack Obama almost one billion dollar bailout of Wall Street.

Michael Douglas’s iconic character Gordon Gecko in the popular 1987 movie Wall Street said, ‘The richest one percent of this country owns half our country’s wealth, five trillion dollars.  One-third of that comes from hard work, two-thirds comes from inheritance, interest on interest accumulating to widows and idiot sons and what I do, stock and real estate speculation.  Its bullshit.’

Millions of Americans are angry with the evaporation of the American Dream that if you apply yourself…and study…and work hard…you can become anything that you desire.

Often we equate intelligence or wisdom with successful capitalism.  Persons are elevated on their ability to make money.  Our local University’s Board of Trustees often places persons in the governing group that have demonstrated a talent in accumulating riches.

Our current Governor of Illinois was elected primarily on his demonstrated massive wealth and his promise that he would do the same for Illinois.  We are well into our second year without a State Budget and Illinois is crumbling from the ineptitude the Governor and Legislature.

Candidate Trump promises us that he is an excellent business man and that he will do the same for our Country that he did for his Trump Empire…?

A homeless man was at our church service this morning.  After the service had concluded he asked me if I could help him?  He was abrupt and spoke with an anger, just under the surface, that was palpable.  Perhaps he had a reason to be angry and disillusioned?

The allusion of control is one of the most pervasive in the middle class and wealthy members of the human family.  Comfort and ease of living can change overnight.

What if our Heavenly Father reveals to us when we pass from this life…that we were all part of his ‘one creation’  or as the Apostle Paul referred to the New Testament Church as ‘The Body of Christ?’

“For the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so is Christ.”  Corinthians 12:12

“And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it.”  I Corinthians 12:26