Monthly Archives: January, 2020

Practical Miracles

Miracles still happen.

The Jazz Man

I think that we are infatuated with the idea of miracles?  We certainly need them.  We read of, Alice in Wonderland, and we are captivated by, Jack and the Beanstalk.  Television and movies show us the most fantastic happenings.  The television show, Lost, illustrated members of a plane crash being marooned on an island that could not be be found.  In the last episode of the long running series we discovered that the characters had all died, an undetermined amount of time ago, and that although their story lines had changed…they did not realize the change.


The scripture tells us of the blind receiving their sight and the dead being brought back to life.  Jesus healed all manner of illness and disability and seemed to do so with little struggle or strain.

‘When He had said these things, He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva; and…

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A Love of Photography

For the past, nearly 10 years, I have been retired and enjoying the ‘Life of Riley.’  I spent over 32 years of enjoyable service to Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale, and I have continued to visit my campus on a daily basis.  SIUC never ceases to amaze me and I find something new each day that I visit the majesty of the Jewel of Little Egypt.  I know I must appear unique to those who see me snapping photos across the campus on such a regular basis.  I have noticed my satisfaction when I take a photo that I am pleased with.


I can recall, so many years ago, being intrigued with the university.  As a youngster in Eldorado, Illinois, the annual visits of the SIUC students who were studying theatre and their performance in my little school…mesmerized me.  As I watched the expertise of the actors, I was transported to another place and possibilities and hopes and dreams…for a boy from Chicago who was raised in Southern Illinois.

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When I began at SIUC in October, 1978, I could not believe my good fortune at having become affiliated with such an institution for good.  One of my first impressions was the amazing diversity that I was able to interact with on a nightly basis.  In those halcyon days there were students from over 70 nations that attend Southern.


My first university class, ‘An introduction to computers,’ was a revelation to me in that I earned an, A, for the course and the professor encouraged me to continue my education.

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The combination of enjoying success in Building Services, and being a member of a community that had no end to the vistas that it opened for those who chose to partake of them…was inspiring.  SIUC is a university that is a working persons school.  Planted amidst the farm land and coal fields of Southern Illinois, it is a place that welcomes the first generation college student.  Yet, it is an international university.


The opportunity and hope that SIUC brings to the city of Carbondale and the surrounding Southern Illinois region is tremendous.  Being the largest employer in the area, its economic impact is significant.


I mentioned to MJ soon after I began working at SIU that there was a different culture at the university.  I had been accustomed to being rather myopic in my views…and I was surrounded by others who thought in a similar vein.  When I became a member of the University Community. my eyes were opened to the much wider and diverse and ‘coat of many colors,’ of humanity that God had created.  I found that many people thought differently than me and spoke differently than me and worshiped differently than me.  I was enlightened to discover that the world was not contained, under a glass globe, but was rather much more interesting and lovely and encompassing…than I had imagined!


Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale gave me something to strive for and anticipation for not only what tomorrow will bring but what a thousand tomorrows will bring.


I reminisce about my former colleagues mentoring their student co-workers.  How they brought food for the student members of their housekeeping crews on a nightly basis.  How they took many of them into their homes on holidays…when they had no where to go.  How they listened to their problems…and were surrogate moms and dads to young people who were lonely.  I can still feel the happiness and the feeling of home, at our annual Thanksgiving Dinner @ SIU.  For many years we fed 200 or more, smiling students, from all over our planet.

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I can still see the little, thin, wide eyed boy as he sat in the darkened auditorium while the SIU’s theatre students performed on the stage…and his subsequent life in the land of his dreams.


‘Beware of Those Who Smile at You But Wish You Evil’

Beware of what lies behind, some, smiles.

The Jazz Man

It is another cold day in Little Egypt.  Snow may be coming tomorrow.  I, longingly, recall the balmy Gulf breezes of Miramar Beach, Florida, two weeks ago.  I remember telling my friend, Peter, who is a internationally respected historian, that Populism is a good thing.  Peter, kindly, responded that it depended what type of Populism I was speaking about.

‘Populism – A political approach that strives to appeal to ordinary people who feel that their concerns are disregarded by established elite groups.’    Google Dictionary

‘Winning over masses has been at the heart of politics since antiquity.  It is referred to as populism if done so by delivering extremely simplified answers to citizens.  The German born political thinker Hannah Arendt (1906 – 1975) examined this issue in her world famous book Totalitarianism.  She wanted to understand what had turned the democratic Republic of Weimar and the communist USSR into extremist-totalitarian…

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‘Poor Dumb Bastards’

Now, lest you think that I have forgotten my manners or taken to coarse language, more than usual, the title of this blog is attributed  to the mother and father of one of our good friends.  MJ and I spent several years socializing  with a married couple who were professors at SIUC.  One evening as we were enjoying our cocktails and reminiscing regarding experiences that we had partaken of and travels that we had enjoyed, they told us of the gentleman’s parents saying when they passed someone who had broken down on the side of the road, ‘poor dumb bastards.’  I must admit that I was taken aback by what appeared to be an insensitive and compassionless comment regarding another misfortune.  In reality we learned that the parents were extremely civic minded and had risen high in political life and academia.  The statement was more of an acknowledgement of the vacillating vicissitudes of life.  One day we are up and flying high without a care in the world…and the next…we are poor dumb bastards!

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As I was getting petrol, this afternoon, when I saw a man attempting to change a flat tire on his Mercedes Benz automobile.

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We all receive our, ‘turn in the barrel.’  Or as pastor Kerry spoke yesterday of the Buddhist belief that life is predicated on suffering.  When we are at the top of the mountain it is difficult to recall how it felt to be in the valley.  When the health prognosis is good and the debts are paid and we are on our way to an exotic destination…our kaleidoscope is full of bright and happy colors.  But…nothing lasts.

It is a gift to be able to recall being so poor that you had to save your pennies until you had a dime, in order to purchase a glass of milk at the local restaurant.  Or to recall standing in a commodity line for government cheese and dried milk and potted meat.  Or to remember how you felt when you saw the workers throw the food at the hungry people…of which you and your mom were a part of.

Empathy is a beautiful emotion…and it comes in many forms.

We were talking the other day about people and families who are financially secure, and we agreed that most have had a ‘hand-up’ or a fortunate break in their lives.  You may not want company when you are on top of the world…but when you are in the garden of Gethsemane…nothing is more lonely.

Have you ever been in the ecstasy of happiness and good times and all is right with the world…and wondering when the other shoe was going to drop?  When I first retired many of my former colleagues inquired of me as to what I was going to do.  When I said that I was going to enjoy life…they looked at me as if I was from Mars.  I also heard that I was retiring much too young, to which I replied that would not be true if I only lived five years.  None of us have a guarantee or an end date stamped on the heel of our left foot.

So, in truth…we are all poor dumb bastards on a roller coaster journey through this ever changing life….and we all need a friend and a confidant and a person to assist us on the road back to Jerusalem.


The Joy of a Full Parking Lot! — The Jazz Man

I could not help but notice that our church parking lot was full and overflowing this morning. I recalled when that was the norm, every Sunday. This was the Sunday where the congregation voted to accept the slate of candidates for deacon and elder, for three year terms. MJ and I were pleased to see […]

via The Joy of a Full Parking Lot! — The Jazz Man

Is Winter Colder When You Get Older?

I was walking into the movies, this morning, and I considered how cold and damp and dark that it was.  It seemed that the cold cut me to the bone.  I looked around me to see the sullen and frozen faces of my fellow movie goers and I knew that…winter is colder as you get older!  In fact, according to Fahrenheit temperature, I believe that the winters in Southern Illinois are somewhat warmer than when I was a boy.  I remember trudging through two feet of snow and negotiating icy paths while being bundled against 0 degree temperatures.  Did I mention that this was while I was hiking over a mile to school and in the afternoon…back home? Ice sickles hung from our roof, that if they fell on your head they had the potential to end your life.


My buddy, Steve, and I drove through blizzards in 1978 and 1979, and got stuck in snow drifts and basically lived in a replica of the Arctic Circle.  I not only did not know the meaning of the word, quit, I did not understand the wisdom of turning around and going back home…when your life was in danger!


Not long after I was hired at Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale…a blizzard struck our region.  Our good friend, Faye, told us that she had heard on the radio that SIUC was closed, but that was not good enough for me.  I thought as a new employee that if I failed to show up for work, in the event that Building Services was open for business, I would be fired.  So, I set off and began driving through what appeared to be a snow covered field…with no sign of a road or path.  I looked to my left and there were automobiles and trucks and semis…off in the ditch or encased in a herculean snow drift.  I looked on my right…and it was worse than my left.  Finally, I arrived at the Building Services office and proceeded to walk, slowly, to the front door and attempt entry.  The door was locked and the lights were out, accept for one incandescent light bulb burning in the window.  About that time, my colleague Elbert Covington, drove up and attempted entry through the locked front door…and then began to yell…Brooks and Covington are reporting for work…let us in!  When Elbert and I decided that our department must be closed…Elbert said for me to return to Elkville, which is 15 miles from Building Services and then drive back to his home in DeSoto, which is 7 miles from Building Services…for the purpose of enjoying some hot chocolate. I assured my friend that if I was able to make it home…home is where I was going to stay!


My susceptibility to cold may be in conjunction with MJ and my recent visit to Miramar Beach, Florida.  The temperatures fluctuated between throughout the 60’s to the low 70’s.  It was very nice.  As I sat on the balcony of my dear friends and family, Ira Kaye and Ron, I was reminded about how exquisite the location was.  There is a picture perfect view of the ocean.  The ocean has captivated me for many years.  Its changing colors and appearance and beauty is indescribable.  I remember, as if it were yesterday…and it almost was, the sound of MJ and Ron and Ira Kaye laughing uproariously as they played a card game that had something to do with a hand and a foot?  I read, at length, and I typically read when I am in the Destin area.  Life is captured, as if in a watercolor painting, and I slow down and consider where I have been and where I am going.  I was reminded of the wonderful visits that we experienced with our friends, Mechem and Carson, when we visited on earlier occasions.  Our sons, Aaron and Jonathon, accompanied us and the familial dynamic and bonds of collegiality were memorable.


We often take in a movie a the IMAX theatre located in Destin Commons.  We did so again on our recent visit earlier this month.  MJ wanted to see ‘1917’ and I am pleased that she did.  The theatre is so much larger than the one that we have in Carbondale.  We took seats in the back of the auditorium and it was quite a hike to the top.  The flick was captivating with little dialog.  It was much like watching a theater piece that had been filmed.  Afterward we chose to take our dinner at the Red Brick Oven Pizza House.  The pizza was good and the beer was cheap.  As we were enjoying the delectable repast…it began to rain in the monsoon fashion.  Luckily we had our raincoats and we exited into the deluge…and splashed the puddles dry.


I can see why many of my friends take a month or two or more…to enjoy the winter in Florida.  There is a lot of wisdom in the philosophy of the Snow Birds.  I think we need to do the same in the future!




‘What Is Truth’

Please enjoy a new blog by the Jazz Man.

The Jazz Man

Of late, we are hearing an abundance of discussion regarding the subject of truth.  I recall my youth, more and more…it seems, where my teachers slowly and systematically taught me about truth.  I learned that 2+2=4.  Later came the multiplication tables and learning cursive, yes I am old, and my first forays into history.


‘Plymouth Rock is the traditional site of disembarkation of William Bradford and the Mayflower Pilgrims who founded Plymouth Colony in December 1620.’    Wikipedia

We were taught about our Presidents, from our first, George Washington, to the president in office when I began school, John F. Kennedy.  I remember hearing, on numerous occasions, that anyone could be elected President of the United States.  I wondered how this could be possible.


As I grew and matured I could not help but notice that many of my elders expounded what they assured me was truth…when in reality it…

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Follow Your Heart

Do you live in a box?  From our childhood, forward, we strive to fulfill the expectations that are both implied and demanded of us.  I remember being advised to ‘go out for sports,’ and I often wondered, did anyone care that I did not have an interest in sports?  Through the years I have developed a cursory interest in baseball and I watch the Super Bowl.  I did enjoy playing catch with Aaron and Jonathon…and I was very fond of the baseball glove that my mother bought for me.


One of my SIU chancellor friends told me that they had no particular interest in sports but that it was expected of him to attend all sporting functions due to his office.  Honesty is refreshing!


How many of us are employed in a job or a career that we do not care for…but it was pushed on us by our parents or spouse or societal expectations?  You may be in a position that stresses you to the max.  You not only work long hours but also take your work home with you and loose sleep.  I had a supervisor, on my team, when I was a foreman for Building Services at SIUC who admitted that he hated supervising others…but he needed the money.  This person so disliked his job, he hid in the rest room for significant portions of his work shift.

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I have witnessed more marriages than I can count, that were made up of two terribly unhappy people.  Perhaps they were influenced by the expectation that once you finish your education and get a job…you get married…and purchase the ranch style home and two automobiles and commence to absorb a debt load that is demonstrative of your adulthood.


In my younger years I have know many bachelors who led productive lives and kept their own counsel.

It could be that you are a member of a church or tribe or club…that the membership thereof is expected to not only sing the praises of the leader of the organization but to also to accept what the leader says as truth, to the exclusion of logical and rational thought.

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Perhaps you like to wear a fedora hat while your friends and neighbors and family…wear baseball caps?

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Maybe your friends like to fish and hunt and play golf…and you like to write and take photographs….why not!

My happiest friends are those who are employed in jobs that they both enjoy…and find fulfilling.  I will take happiness and peace of mind every time!


If you are unique or stand out in the crowd…you are an original.  We all emulate others to some extent…but the splendor of being your own creation is vital to the search for happiness.


Have you ever asked where the caustic and corrosive bias and prejudice that is rife in the United States comes from.  We are not born prejudiced or with ill feelings regarding others who are a different color than we are.  Rather, we are taught hate and lies about others from those who would influence us to be like them.

Why do we fight wars?  Ron and MJ and I saw a fascinating movie while we were in Florida, 1917, about WWI.  We saw it on the humongous IMAX screen.

Accounts from veterans who have seen combat, reveal that the adversaries that they fought…were no different than them.  The vets will tell you that their foes did not want to be in the battle anymore than they did…but governmental leaders had sent them both there to fight and die for….freedom…or oil….or power and glory…or the egos of the political leaders.  Have you ever noticed that when young men and women are fighting and dying for a cause that is, supposedly, worthy to lay down your life for…you never see the political leaders or their children at your side…when the bullets and bombs are flying?

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Corn Beef For Breakfast and Waterford Hidden Treasures

A Winter’s Vacation.

The Jazz Man

A week ago, today, we enjoyed breakfast at the Donut Hole.  My first experience with the culinary marvels of the restaurant revolved around their pastries.  Ron had brought the sundry delights to us for breakfast, on several occasions.  They have a unique and sinfully delicious confection that looks, somewhat, like a horseshoe.  The first day of our marathon three day visit to the establishment, Ron pointed out a cinnamon role…that was a large as some peoples head!  That morning I partook of the corn beef hash and eggs and hash brown breakfast.  But, one week ago today I ordered the eggs Benedict that were carefully placed on two crab cakes that ultimately rested on a english muffin.  The crab cakes were to die for!

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I must speak more fulsomely regarding the corn beef.  It is scrumptious and plentiful.  It also is Kosher.  Of our three days visitation to the Hole…

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Wine World and Sundog Books and Tilley Hats

Have you ever had a specific locale take on mythic proportions?  Our family has had the lovely opportunity to visit Watercolor and Seaside,  Florida on several occasions over the past, nearly, 10 years.  There is not only a different climatic feel to Florida, but also a slower and calmer pace to life.  The pastel colors of Watercolor are a serene visual to the, frozen, eyeballs of we northerners.  Seaside and Watercolor are so close geographically that it is difficult to know when you have left one and entered the other.  There are a lot of walkers and joggers out and about along with many people on bicycles.  You can tell the natives from the visitors from the frozen tundra.  The Floridians are wearing bright colors that match the surrounding architecture, while the snowbirds are dressed in the drab browns and blacks and grays of the wearers, usual, winter surroundings.  Happy people smile at you as they wave from their golf carts.  It is easy to believe that you have entered an alternate universe where the normal cares and concerns of life have evaporated.


Sundog Books is a favorite stop of mine.  It is an independent bookstore.  One of the primary elements that I enjoy about Sundog, is the staff that work there are, supremely, into books.  When I asked for a recommendation regarding mysteries…no less than four people assisted me.  When one of my assistants had not read a book that I was thinking about…the, kind, person who was helping me called out to one of her colleagues, who had read the book that I was inquiring about, to help me.  They made the books that I purchased, come alive, to me!

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MJ was in search of a Tilley Hat.  She had been admiring the one that I had purchased, in Maine, this past spring.  Next door to Wine World…is a little shop called, Florida Outfitters.  I knew that they carried Tilley Hats, because I had searched for one that would fit me for the past nine years.  The manager of the shop was animated with joy when she inquired as to whether he had a Tilley Hat that would fit her.  He not only assured her that he did…but subsequently produced the selfsame hat!  She was overjoyed.  Not only was there a hat for MJ…but there was one that fit me that was a different color and style than the one that I had discovered in Boothbay, Maine.  Now we have matching hats!


Wine World has an almost mythic status for Ron and I.  My friend and I have been enjoying the blessings of the grape and the wisdom of deep discussion for nearly 10 years…al fresco.  Many of the world’s problems have been solved by us, as well as detailed colloquies concerning the meaning of life and the opportunities of retirement.  At our visit, two Fridays ago, Ron and MJ and I enjoyed some wonderful Merlot.  We were not able to partake of their delicious and diverse cheeses, due to a remodeling project that they were undergoing.


Our journey to the peaceful and beautiful Florida hamlets of Seaside and Watercolor were what fond memories are made of.