Monthly Archives: October, 2017

The Miracle

I witnessed a miracle…


In fact…I witnessed the same miracle…many times…over numerous years…among hundreds of people.

When I first saw the miracle…I could not believe what I was seeing!


My life experience before the Miracle had been that the people that I knew and interacted with…for the most part did not change from year to year.

During my formative years…I and my friends, pretty much stayed within our group…be it school…or church…or family…and did not think, often, of others that were not in our group.

When I began working at SIU, 39 years ago tomorrow…and also on a Tuesday, I soon became acquainted with my co-workers…of whom many were former coal miners and farmers and railroad workers and factory workers.

I, soon, was accepted as the ‘Lad’ in the group…and by and large treated nicely.  For some time I was the youngest person in the department.

But, back to the Miracle…

I observed, the first evening that I worked on October 10th, 1978, that many of my fellow student custodial crew were international young people, and one was from Africa and one was from Asia and there was a Japanese staff member and a student from Turkey.


My Supervisor, Don, was a native Southern Illinoisan, and he liked all of his students and they liked him.

When I became a custodial crew supervisor…I had students from Nigeria and Mexico and Japan and Iran and Mexico and Malaysia.


They told me about their countries…and I had an education that I never dreamed that I would be exposed to.

Time after time…I marveled at the acceptance and love and caring that my full time staff exhibited for their international students and their African American students.

Our Housekeeping organization was large.

We had over 30 Custodial Crews with over two hundred students on our staff.

Invariably…the full time staff of former coal miners and farmers and railroad workers and factory workers…took their international students and their African American student staff…under their wings.

IMG_1756 2

Many of the Crew Leaders brought their students food nightly and they invited them to their homes for holidays and they cared for them and they loved them and race and religion and country of origin…had no relevance or barrier.

Everyone loves Michael Jordan and Ernie Banks and Beyonce and often…former President Barrack Obama.

My friend, Gerald, worked in the Parts Department of a local car dealership…before he came to SIU.

Gerald, began the Thanksgiving Dinner for our student custodial staff…and he loved the students and he rejoiced in their obvious happiness…at the feast!

We were one family in Building Services.

We knew each other…our happy times and our struggles…and our shared humanity…and we cared for each other…and we loved each other.

Working together and breaking bread together and learning about each other and caring about each other…creates understanding….and family.


An Open Mind

Jonathon and I were talking, yesterday morning, regarding why so many members of the human family…can not…or will not open their mind or at least listen to an opinion that is different than theirs.

Each of us are reared with certain biases and prejudices…that are taught to us by the people that we interact with.

Often, our reality, is what our mothers and fathers have told us and our limited exposure to the wider world.


Mary Jane, often tells of her mother mentioning to her that the owners of a clothing store, in DuQuoin, Illinois, were dirty.  When she and her mother went into the store to shop…she told her mom…they do not look dirty to me.  Her mother told her to be quiet…and they exited the store quickly.


Two African American Cheerleaders, for the Football team, at SIU…took a knee during the national anthem…recently.

People seek refuge inside a bank building after the first to

UNITED STATES – SEPTEMBER 11: People seek refuge inside a bank building after the first tower of the World Trade Center collapsed. (Photo by Corey Sipkin/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)

They have been excoriated by many…and the worst of comments have been made…without giving, even limited inquiry, as to why they felt the need to do what they did?

Many have called them cowards.

I would have to disagree with that assertion…as it takes courage to speak out or go against the majority.

The young women explained that they were not protesting the flag or the anthem…but that they were in support of Black Lives Matter.


If you were an African American…you might understand…but what is wrong with really listening and contemplating…their life experience and their views?

Why do so many people want to diminish those who are not like them?

Why do we seek to compare ourselves to others who we think are lesser than us…or who have a different faith than we do.

Why is the color of our skin important?

TO GO WITH AFP STORY "Americans mark 9/1

New York, UNITED STATES: TO GO WITH AFP STORY “Americans mark 9/11 anniversary with new questions on vulnerability” – This 11 September 2001 file photo shows Marcy Borders covered in dust as she takes refuge in an office building after one of the World Trade Center towers collapsed in New York. Borders was caught outside on the street as the cloud of smoke and dust enveloped the area. The woman was caught outside on the street as the cloud of smoke and dust enveloped the area. AFP PHOTO/Stan HONDA (Photo credit should read STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)

When a foreigner engages in terror…we must close our borders…we must restrict entire races and religions…from entering our country.

When a white man kills 58 people and injures nearly 500…we just do not know the answer…and we are admonished to pray for the families.

When the hurricane devastated Puerto Rico…our President contrasted it to Katrina’s large number of deaths…and noted that there were only sixteen dead in Puerto Rico.

He spoke of the Budget being, ‘Out of Whack’, due to the devastation and destruction.

Perhaps we can just throw paper towels at the disparity and the prejudice and the bias…ingrained in our Country…for its’ own citizens.

I believe that African Americans love their country…as do Puerto Ricans…as do Muslims…as do Jews…they just want to be loved back.




Keep Spinning Joyfully

Please enjoy a happy blog about happy music 🎶, from my son, Jonathon.


Music brings extra sweetness to my life. For around two years now I’ve been working on my vinyl record collection. Spinning vinyl is my favorite way to experience music. It’s a joy to watch the black or red or split colored or orange or any other color record make its journey around the turntable. Like planet earth itself the record goes around and around.

I connect with a song’s lyrics in a strong manner. Some groups through the years I stopped listening to because the songs were flooded with messages of hopelessness or despair. A dear friend of mine once told me she’d figured out what type of music I like. She said, “You like happy music.” In response to her revelation she gave me the most excellent of presents in the form of a Herman’s Hermits record. I was and am thoroughly thankful for this gift I’ve spun many…

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Home…An Eldorado Christmas

‘A Brooks Tale’


It was the Christmas Holidays.


I loved being off school for over a week!  It was, first of all fun, to experience Christmas…with our aluminum Christmas tree…and the red balls that hung on it…but alas…no blue light to illuminate it.

My favorite Christmas toy was Laughing Santa.  He was a jolly, little, stuffed fellow…with a crank on his back, that when turned, the most joyful sound of uproarious laughing…emitted…from Santa’s belly.

I had received Santa in my hometown of Chicago…in happier times.  We moved from Chicago to Eldorado, Illinois…when I was five years old.  Not long after that…Mom and Dad divorced.

We had roast beef for Christmas…it was Mom’s speciality.  Also, coffee cake…which was to die for…as my buddy Ron would say.


My aunt Wanda and my cousins, Billy and Brenda, were there.  I liked Brenda…she was my babysitter.  And, my aunt Guelda, who I swear was Jewish, and Vema, who I did not like, and her husband Ed.

I had asked for a Polaroid camera, called a Big Swinger…as opposed to the Swinger, and what do you think happened…a Christmas Miracle…I received the Big Swinger!

I took a lot of Polaroid photos.  They were a big hit with the Christmas crowd.

The day after Christmas, I caught my neighbor Lanny for a ride into town…to see a movie.

Lanny was a few years older than me and he could drive and he could drink.

One time,

Lanny told me that he would introduce me to a girl, who was his age, and that, ‘she gives’…I wondered if he meant Green Stamps?

On the way to the Orpheum…I noticed a small bottle that was sitting next to Lanny and I, in the front seat of his car.  It had on the label, Peppermint Schnapps.

I asked Lanny if I could have a drink…and he said drink up…but be careful…as that stuff will, ‘knock you on your butt.’

I drank a long swig of the delicious elixir…it was heavenly…and it made me cough.

Next to the bottle of Schnapps was a bottle of vodka.  I took a couple of full drinks of that bottle…as well.

Lanny, pulled up to the front of the Orpheum…and he asked if I was alright…I said that I was never better…and I exited his car and felt like I was walking over railroad ties.

Earlier, in the Holiday Season, I had attended a Christmas showing of Mary Poppins at the Orpheum Theatre.

After the Holiday Performance…the Lions’ Club had the most magnificent baskets for each of us…that were full of candy and fruit and small gifts.


I have admired the Lions’ Club ever since.

Mom, extolled…yea commanded…that no one visit her from Thanksgiving until Christmas Day.  Her reason was that she needed the time to prepare for Christmas.

When I first heard her impassioned plea…I thought that there must be a tremendous workload in the preparation for Christmas Day.

I, could not help but notice that the primary preparation was mental pondering.  Mom took a nap each afternoon…and often prior to the nap…she would tell me what was ahead…in preparation for the big day.

It entailed, house cleaning, of which I assisted, and the preparation of the Holiday Feast, and the important, construction of the aluminum Christmas Tree.

Aluminum Christmas Trees…were very popular in the 60’s.

We did not celebrate Thanksgiving…it was the first day for the ultimate preparation…for Christmas!


One Christmas Season…Mom announced that, ‘This Christmas…we are going out for dinner!’

Earl, my stepfather, replied that, ‘June…there will not be any restaurants open on Christmas Day.’

Mom announced, ‘Two Tony’s…will surely be open…and that is where we will go for Christmas Dinner.’

On Christmas Day…we drove to both of the Two Tonys’ Smorgasbords that were in our region…they were closed.

We drove all over; Eldorado, and Harrisburg, and West Frankfort…and more…no restaurant was open.

We finally found…Poor Boy’s Market in Harrisburg…open…at about 6:00 P:M:.

We purchased some hamburger and buns.

Our Christmas Dinner was Hamburgers and french fries…and it was good.




Las Vegas…What Now?

This past Sunday, a madman, murdered 58 people who were attending a Country Music Festival in Las Vegas, Nevada.  Four hundreds and eighty nine people were injured, out of a crowd of over twenty two thousand that were attending the last night of the Festival.

‘Authorities say the 64-year-old gunman, Stephen Paddock, fired from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino at a crowd attending a music festival below.  When police entered his hotel room, they discovered Paddock had killed himself.’   CBS This Morning

This massacre has become the new…deadliest mass shooting in modern American history.

So, what is the answer?

Many of our political leaders have said…that we must pray for the families of the fallen…

Gun enthusiasts extol the virtue of the second amendment and our right to bear arms.

Many tell us that our right to bear arms…protects us from the evil and criminal…that will purchase guns regardless of what the law is.

‘According to the Congressional Research Service, there are roughly twice as many guns per capita in the United States as there were in 1968: more than 300 million guns in all.  Gun sales have increased in recent years.’   Guns in America, By the Numbers: NPR

I believe in the second amendment.

I own a few guns.

I have a FOID Card.

Imagine…you and your family…attending the Country Music Festival in Las Vegas.  Many of us love Country Music.

I can visualize; Mary Jane and Aaron and Jonathon and I…first hearing what sounds like firecrackers…and thinking that it must be part of the performance.

I can viscerally feel…what it must have been like…to witness…persons at your left and your right and in front of you and behind you…being shot…with a hail or rain of bullets from the sky…and the blood and the fear and the confusion.

I can see the fear in my wife’s eyes and my boys…and feel the terror…in my heart.

We must do something as a nation.

If guns make us safe…we should be the safest nation…on the Globe.

Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, says that there will, likely, be a vote on ‘bump stock’ after Las Vegas Shooting.

The ‘bump stock’ is used to convert a semi-automatic gun into an automatic gun…which are outlawed in the United States.

Australia has outlawed automatic and semi-automatic weapons since, ‘Martin Bryant went on a shooting spree in Tasmania and killed 35 people with a semi-automatic rifle.’   CNN

There have been no mass shootings in Australia…since this law was passed.

‘The lead guitarist of a country music band playing Route 91 Harvest festival, where a gunman murdered 58 people on Sunday night, has said the horrific experience of the attack has changed his views on gun laws in America.’

‘I’ve been a proponent of the [second] amendment my entire life, ‘Caleb Keeter posted on Twitter.  ‘Until the events of last night.  I cannot express how wrong, I was.’      The Guardian



A Natural Laboratory of Higher Education

IMG_5738I walked around Campus Lake, today, on the Campus of Southern Illinois University in Carbondale.

I am still amazed and awestruck…by the natural beauty and wildlife that can be found on the Campus.

IMG_5744I began walking the Campus Lake Path in 1986…or thirty one years ago.  In 86′ I made it around the Path in 36 minutes…now it is nearly an hour for this 60 year old.

Although, since my retirement…I stop and take several photographs.

SIU has been historically renowned for its’ natural beauty.  I can personally attest that I have visited every university campus in Illinois…and SIU is the most beautiful…but…I am somewhat biased.

IMG_5772As the years have gone by, so very quickly, I have learned that nature is a great calming influence…a peaceful interlude…and a healing presence.

IMG_5746Former University President, Delyte Morris, brought trees from around the world to the SIU Campus.  His appreciation of the gift of nature has made the Carbondale Campus…a unique combination of the classroom and the natural environment.

IMG_5748SIU has had a constant appeal to students from urban settings.  The contrast from the hustle and bustle of their homes in the cities…and the idyllic songs of our Campus’ natural environment…is compelling.

IMG_5804In today’s world…we are never out of touch…or truly off duty…or enjoying a movie at the cinema on the weekend.  Email and texting and Facebook and cell phones…have…indeed…kept us in touch…24/7…and we are exhausted and emotionally spent.

IMG_5800How about…unplugging for awhile?  Why not study Philosophy…and then take time to ponder what you have studied…in the midst of the Earth’s wonders?

IMG_5825So often, we are told from our childhood…that we must study hard to obtain a good paying job to ascend the corporate or education ladder to be all that we can be.

But, there is life…and relationships…and children…and love and illness and sorrow and happiness and suffering and faith and doubt…and the lessons that nature can give us.


Fall in Love Every New Day

Please enjoy this great blog by my son, Jonathon.


Having hobbies helps to make the experience of life so much more fun. A man who has hobbies never gets bored. A secret to having a highly joyful life is to fall in love every five seconds. Fall in love with music, books, sports, games, writing, taking pictures, being a good friend, building collections of all sorts (stamps, movie stubs, buttons, birthday cards), fancy coffee drinks, laughter, great conversations, the work you do to help make a living, and on and on and on. Insert your favorite hobbies here!

As a boy I loved Nintendo video games, playing with my Boston Terrier dogs and hanging out with my small circle of friends. I was flooded with life and enthusiasm. Trips to my grandparents homes were always something to look forward to. Movies out with my family were great fun. My favorite pastime was laughing, making others laugh, and smiling.


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Puerto Rico

‘It is an archipelago among the Greater Antilles that includes the main island of Puerto Rico and a number of smaller ones, such as Mona, Culebra, and Vieques.  The capital and most populous city is San Juan.  Its’ official languages are Spanish and English, though Spanish predominates.  The island’s population is approximately 3.4 million.  Puerto Rico’s rich history, tropical climate, diverse natural scenery, traditional cuisine, and attractive tax incentives make it a popular destination for travelers from around the world.’   Wikipedia


Our first visit to Puerto Rico was in 2008,  It was a Caribbean Cruise in commemoration of Aaron and Jonathon’s Graduation.


We had a shore excursion on the beautiful island of Puerto Rico.


We visited the rain forest.


We visited a fort.


The Puerto Ricans, that we met, were so friendly…I thought that this would be a lovely place to live.


I had the honor and pleasure of promoting a wonderful Puerto Rican gentleman, Jesus, during my tenure at Southern Illinois University.  He was one of the best upgrades of staff…that I ever made.  A professional in every way and a compassionate and caring person.  His example…was one to emulate.


We revisited Puerto Rico in January, 2012.  My buddy, Ron, joined us…and we had a wonderful time.


We stayed at the San Juan Marriott Resort and Stellaris Casino.  When we arrived a young lady offered us all a glass of champagne…and from then on…I was hooked.


As we toured the Old City…the following day…I was struck with the exuberance and hospitality of everyone that we encountered.


We were offered free samples of Bacardi Rum.  I went back for seconds.


I wandered into an intriguing Cigar Store.  Ron and Mary Jane followed.


The kind owner inquired as to what type of cigar that I was looking for…I answered with an euphoria… that was still remaining from the rum…a cuban cigar…the owner replied that I was still in the United States.


The gentleman owner…went on to give me a complimentary, delicious, churchill cigar.


I wonder about his store…after Maria.


Carmen Yulin Cruz, the mayor of San Juan…is an inspiration!


Mayor Cruz’s passionate pleas for aid for the thirsty and hungry and devastated residents of Puerto Rico…are the most moving and heartfelt that I have ever witnessed.


‘In an 11 hour period beginning at 7:19 a.m. and ending at 6:46 p.m. Saturday, the President of the United States ripped off 18–yes, 18! — tweets dealing with the dire situation in Puerto Rico following the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria.’


‘The Mayor of San Juan, who was very complimentary only a few days ago, has now been told by the Democrats that you must be nasty to Trump,’ Trump tweeted.


‘Such poor leadership ability by the Mayor of San Juan, and others in Puerto Rico, who are not able to get their workers to help,’  Trump added.


‘They want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort, 10,000 Federal workers now on Island doing a fantastic job.’


‘The words Trump used are telling.  ‘They want everything to be done for them,’ he tweeted.  ‘They’?  You mean the millions of American citizens in Puerto Rico?  And the not so-subtle suggestion of laziness in Trump’s tweets is just more of the same racially coded language that the President has trafficked in since the day he announced his campaign.’   CNN Politics

On Saturday Night Live, last night, ‘The sketch imagined a phone call between Mr. Trump and Carmen Yulin Cruz, the mayor of San Juan (played by the cast member Melissa Villasenor).  ‘I’m begging you, Puerto Rico needs your help,’ she told him.’

Mr. Baldwin responded, ‘You called the best person for the job, ‘Trust me, I know things are, as the locals say, despacito.’

‘He promised to send help ‘by Tuesday or Wednesday at the latest.  ‘When Ms. Villasenor said that wouldn’t be good enough, he replied, ‘Well, you should have paid your bills.  FEMA takes a few days, unless you join FEMA Prime.’

‘At one point, Mr. Baldwin said, ‘We want to help you, but we have to take care of America first.  ‘Ms. Villasenor replied, ‘You do know we’re a U.S. territory, don’t you?’   The New York Times

I wonder…if our President…has been drinking rum…as I was…and forgot…that Puerto Rico…is the United States?





Photos from the Atlantic.