Monthly Archives: September, 2020

Slow Down and Listen Up

A wonderful blog from Jonathon Brooks!

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It is easier to talk fast than to slow down and listen. It is easier to be rude when confronted with rudeness than it is to be kind. It is easier to choose judgment over grace. In my life’s story, I aim to listen while being kind and walking in grace.

Human beings want their voices to be heard clearly, but we don’t all want to hear for ourselves with clarity. I try not to talk over others and to apologize when I mistakenly do so. At times it seems to me that I have a lot to say. But I need to wait my turn to speak what’s on my heart and mind. Our world needs more great listeners and fewer proud boasters. The reason I’ve learned a lot through the slowing down of reading books is because I didn’t make the devastating mistake of thinking I already knew…

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Love In Conflict — The Jazz Man

It is a lovely 64 degrees today in Southern Illinois. The pleasant temperature along with an 11 mile per hour wind says Fall has arrived! I wrestled all morning trying to delete my old iCloud account…since I have been paying for both it and the new account that I got when I changed phones. It […]

Love In Conflict — The Jazz Man

Three Months Until Christmas!

When I first began at Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale many of my colleagues would say in regards to a job that they had completed, ‘Close enough for government work!’ Contrary to public opinion, often their work was complete and excellent…but they still felt the need to quote their proverb that gave them some comfort should the foreman find a need for improvement in the work product. Since I am on the subject of obscure colloquial sayings…let me share with you another. At the beginning of each evening work shift and at the conclusion of the shift we were required to report to the Building Services Office. At the beginning of the shift to enable a foreman to report our presence on the daily attendance and at the conclusion to turn in our nightly time card. At the end of the shift, Jimmy Cook, a Building Custodian, would exclaim to John Golliher, a foreman, ‘Let her bump!’ John would respond on each occasion, ‘Let her bump…Jimmy Cook!’ I was 20 years old…and mystified by the exchange… A year or more later I asked a member of my team what, ‘Let her bump,’ meant? Ruth Biggs, who was John Golliher’s sister, told me that it was an old railroad term that referred to allowing the train cars to bump…in order for them to connect together. So, now it is 3 months until Christmas…and I am already in Spirit! Or you might say that this is one of my obscure traditions. MJ observed that I seemed to enjoy the Christmas Season more than Christmas Day! I reluctantly have to admit that she is right. I am a bit let down by the Day…because my revelry is over…

Are you with me…does it seem that 2020 began…yesterday? Has our pandemic odyssey robbed us of a year while we were preoccupied? In any event…October is coming up…and I will be 63! I can recall when turning 40 seemed old. My buddy Steve and I share the same birthday…although one of us is a bit older than the other… I rejoiced to see that Turner Classic Movies had a day full of Science Fiction and Horror movies, what we customarily referred to as B Movies. I am recording Village of the Dammed…it is creepy. I loved monster movies and science fiction movies when I was a youngster. My cousin, Billy, was subscribed to Forest J. Ackermans’s Monster Magazines and he had the most excellent collection of full monster masks that I had ever seen! I had a collection of Monster Models which included Frankenstein and Wolfman and Dracula. I glued them together and painted them with the little bottles of model paint that you could find in any Ben Franklin Dime Store. Billy and I made an 8 millimeter movie of me with his Creature From the Black Lagoon full head mask and Creature hands walking through the strip cut near Eldorado, Illinois.

So Christmas is coming and with it the hope for better days ahead! One of the first impressions that I had of my church, of over 21 years…was that First Presbyterian Church in Carbondale…did Christmas right! We first attended a Sunday in November of 1998…just before Thanksgiving. We were greeted warmly and the members of the congregation were so nice and interested in our sons. I think that it was the next Sunday that the minister began to speak of decorating the Christmas Tree in the churches narthex. At that time I did not know what a narthex was…but I found out. The tree was resplendent with multicolored twinkled lights and there were Nativity scenes and Creches throughout the narthex and the sanctuary…as well as, what seemed like a 100 poinsettia plants…strategically placed. We attended our first Christmas Eve church service…and it began at 11:00 P:M: and ended at the stroke of midnight. The service was primarily candlelight and the minister caused me to reflect on a Charles Dickens Christmas…and I looked for Tiny Tim and his father…Bob Cratchit… I was totally won over to the Presbyterian Church…that night!

After my mom and dad divorced…we had little money. Nevertheless mom found a way to purchase some Christmas presents for me. We enjoyed Christmas with my grandmother, Grace, and my mother’s sister’s, Wanda and Guelda and Vema…along with my cousins, Brenda and Billy. There was fudge and cookies and candies and divinity…which you never see anymore….and a great helping of love and family…and hope for a better day…

Amazing Grace — The Jazz Man

The afternoon breezes are cool and inviting. Lately I have been walking the pathway around our campus lake on the campus of Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale. I have been reminded of the efficacy of this quiet sanctuary. As I traverse the familiar path of my youth…I am lost in the welcoming embrace of nature. […]

Amazing Grace — The Jazz Man

The Continuing Adventures of Wallace T. Brooks…Private Eye (Chapter 2)

Wallace noticed that the last wooden black bear that Barry had carved with his Swiss Army knife had a green ribbon tied around its neck. None of the other carved creations had ribbons around their necks. ‘Ah ha!’ exclaimed Wallace as he had his first clue to the missing Barry. Wallace asked Marvin the mole if he knew of a store in Gatlinburg that sold green ribbon? Marvin said that he had purchased some green ribbon last St. Patricks Day in Jennie’s Ribbon and Bows Emporium and General Store. He then asked if anyone had seen his glasses? George the field mouse noted that it looked as if he was holding something in his left hand…whereupon Marvin exclaimed with great surprise and joy that he had forgotten that he was holding his spectacles as he could not see to read with them… when he was wearing them!

Mr. Mole proceeded to the Emporium on his moped with his spectacles firmly affixed to his nose! Frank the fox noted that the last time he had spoken with Barry that he seemed a little down in the dumps… Barry had disclosed to him that there were not nearly as many tourists this year and that he had missed the lively banter with them and constantly getting his photo snapped with them. He had gone on to say that each year when fall arrives he longs for a visit to Cades Cove and the splendor of the historic village and its majestic surroundings! Barry went on to mention that he had met his wife on the first day autumn, 24 years ago, near the Methodist Church in the Cove!

Wallace suggested that the group make their way to the old Methodist Church and Frank the fox said that he would drive them in the Chamber of Commerce van. When they arrived they began to pursue the church grounds, George was the first to notice that there were fresh bear tracks in the historic cemetery. Although they did not have the size of Barry’s foot…they suspected that he had been there not long before their arrival! Frank said that they should enter the church to see if there were more clues. Mole had just driven up on his red moped…and he ran into the church to announce, with some clear-sighted glee, that he had purchased green ribbon just the style and shade of the ribbon that they had discovered on the last carved black bear creation that Barry had done before his disappearance! Marvin went on to inform the group that Jennie, the owner of Jennie’s Ribbon and Bows Emporium and General Store, had told him that Barry had been into the store over the weekend and purchased a full roll of the green ribbon! Jennie then said that when she had asked Barry what he needed so much ribbon for…he had responded that he was going to take a holiday to visit his loved ones at the Cove! George the field mouse exclaimed that he had seen the same green ribbon tied to a oak tree in the cemetery! Wallace called out to his cadre to come over to a pew in the back of the ancient sanctuary to see what he was seeing. There on the back of the pew, carved in perfect block letters, was the inscription…BARRY LOVES ABIGAIL! George jumped up and down and beseeched the group to come and look at the green ribbon that he had noticed on the oak tree in the cemetery. There on the oak tree were the words: Abigail born on September 22, 1996 and died on September 22, 2016. Wallace asked, ‘Did any of you know that Barry was married?’ All the conclave said that they had not known of Barry having any family and that the audiences that watched him carve on a daily basis, including Saturdays and Sundays, seemed to be his family!

About that time walked in Bob Badger the Barrister. No one knew just how old Bob was. He had a law office near the Old Mill and had reported for work there…for many years. Bob asked, ‘Can I help you fine gentlemen?’ Wallace asked, ‘Have you seen any black bears lately?’ Bob the Badger Barrister laughed heartily, as Cades Cove was resplendent with black bears! ‘Could you describe the black bear that you are looking for?’ Marvin the mole answered, ‘He is a large black bear wearing bib-overhauls and a flannel shirt and a Tulley hat balanced on his head.’ Bob replied, ‘Why yes…I just spoke to him…not an hour ago. He was on his way to the Old Mill to have lunch with his daughter, Belinda. Wallace announced, ‘We must go the Old Mill immediately!’

When the investigators arrived there was Bob and several other black bears enjoying a picnic lunch of Bologna sandwiches and potato salad and pickled beets. Barry greeted the entourage with a broad smile and invited them to enjoy the afternoon repast with him and his family. Barry introduced the group to his daughter Belinda and her children, Parker and Payton. He was surprised at the kerfufle that had occurred at his absence as he rarely took time off from the Welcoming Center. He explained that he had fallen in love with his wife Abigail…so many years ago and that on the anniversary of her death he had to be with his daughter and grandchildren. Barry went on to say that he was going to retire from the Center and focus the remaining years of his life on his family. He had always loved the Cove and he and Abigail had agreed on his living away from her and Belinda…in order to make a living. He had realized that he had been away from his daughter and children for far too long… Marvin the mole removed his spectacles and wiped his eyes. Bob the Badger Barrister told the picnic enclave that he had some good deals on real estate in Cades Cove and that he would be happy to set them up with something great and consistent with their budget! George the field mouse asked Barry if he was going to give notice on his retirement from his black bear carving job? Barry said that he would. Frank the fox announced that is was time to head back to the Welcoming Center and close the case of Barry the missing Black Bear! Belinda asked, ‘Did I hear you call uncle Larry…Barry?’


Bob the Badger Barrister asked if the group did not understand that Barry had an identical twin brother named Larry? He went to say that no one could ever tell them apart…including himself…

The Premiere Day of Fall

Another great Jonathon Brooks Blog!

jonathonbrooks

It is the first day of fall and I feel cool about it. I don’t often write at 5:00 AM, but here I am with two cups of coffee down, and now I’m seeing what exactly I have to say. Fall weather is a favorite of mine. I am ready for my green and red American Giant hoodies once again.

I recently attained my reading goal for 2020 of 30 books. Now I’m at 32 and reading on. Perhaps in 2021 I’ll also set a writing goal of 30 short stories. Similar to many writers, I find it difficult to make the time for writing on a regular basis. I make time for my love of reading but I don’t always do the same for my love of writing. Although I won’t be putting my pens away anytime soon.

Some events that I’m looking forward to are another Record Store…

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The Continuing Adventures of Wallace T. Brooks…Private Eye — The Jazz Man

Chapter 1 It was a smoky morning in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Wallace had been up late reading Lovecraft Country. As he pondered the spectacular events contained in the narrative…he thought about it’s deeper message. He and his family had been traveling to Gatlinburg for over 40 years, and the supreme joys of the Great Smoky Mountains […]

The Continuing Adventures of Wallace T. Brooks…Private Eye — The Jazz Man

A Game Changer!

It is 70 degrees with a 9 mile per hour wind…and I am loving it! Fall has finally arrived in Little Egypt. Everything goes better in the fall…even in our 2020 pandemic. MJ and I have discovered a wonderful feature of shopping at our local Kroger’s supermarket and Walmart. We place our order on line and then drive to a specified location at either store and the kind attendants bring the sacked groceries out to our car and place them in the trunk…or in the boot…as the English would say. MJ had been telling me that we should try this miracle of shopping for some time…but I was skeptical…but now I am a believer!

Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale made an announcement earlier this week that is incredible! It is called the SIU System Commitment. ‘Leaders say it is a ‘system wide initiative beginning Fall 2021 that will cover tuition and mandatory fees for a new four-year undergraduate students who have a family income of less than $63,575 and meet basic requirements.’ WSIL TV.

‘ Our goal is to remove barriers so that all qualified students have access to an SIU Carbondale education,’ said Austin A. Lane, SIU Carbondale Chancellor. ‘A college education opens doors that lead to rewarding careers, and no student should have those doors closed due to financial restraints.’

Having been associated with SIUC for 42 years…I was gobsmacked! I have not seen an initiative of this magnitude in my career with the university! This groundbreaking commitment extends higher educational opportunities to students from lower wage families, of which Southern Illinois is populated by, as well as young people from across the nation. Southern had a bedrock commitment to being a university for first generation college students and an outreach to the children of coal miners and farmers and factory workers during its period of greatest growth, under the leadership of former university president Delyte Morris.

For the past several years our states have walked away from the commitment to providing a higher education experience at our state universities. Tuition has risen exponentially and an increasing number of of students have been priced out of college. Southern Illinois Universities extension of this exciting opportunity to students from lower income families is the most exciting news that I have heard in 2020!

SIUC’s tremendous announcement regarding regarding the systems financial commitment to students from lower income families has renewed my faith that we will come out on the other side of this terrible pandemic! ‘Weeping may endure for a night but joy cometh in the morning!’

Photo by Luidi Cardoso on Pexels.com

The Adventures of Pork-Pie and the Missing Sausage! — The Jazz Man

Pork-Pie was a happy pig! He had been the House Pig until he had become to large to sleep in bed with farmer Mike and Miss Lottie…whereupon they purchased a king size bed just for him! He watched as the other pigs were wallowing in the pig sty and that it was exceptionally muddy and […]

The Adventures of Pork-Pie and the Missing Sausage! — The Jazz Man

Virtual Vacations

Next week we were on our way to Maine…before we had to cancel. This was the second cancellation this year…the first being in May. We thought that we could estimate the scope of our 2020 pandemic…but we were wrong. Adjustment and then readjustment are the secret words for the beginning of our new decade. The postponing of a vacation is of little consequence when compared with the suffering and grief and death of almost 200 thousand Americans. However the real need to become accustomed to our present reality is manifestly demonstrated in our regular order of living.

When you reflect on holidays that you have taken, you must admit that the memories are the enduring component of the adventure. MJ and I stayed in Europe for a month in 2014. We began our European adventure in Nice, France where we were privileged to stay with our dear friends, Margo and Jeff. They had a flat that was about two blocks from the Mediterranean Sea and Jeff and I walked to the rocky beach each evening. In fact we walked all over Nice! The sights and sounds of the city were mesmerizing!

Being in Nice for a week gave us the opportunity to absorb some of the Nice culture. Some of the things that Nice is known for are it’s: sunny weather, Beautiful beaches and Azure Blue Water, and a Stroll on the Promenade des Anglais. Our friends flat was a block or so from the Promenade…and we enjoyed a daily stroll on this famous promenade!

Venice was the next stop on our month safari. After our flight to the nearest airport it took an hour by water taxi to arrive at our destination. What an interesting and unique city! Our flat was near the Piazza San Marco and it had excellent air-conditioning! Venice is comprised off 118 small islands that are connected by 400 bridges. Jeff had taken ill the day that we flew out of Nice and was relegated to the flat for most of our week there. He and I would stay up late at night and laughed at British comedian Rowan Atkinson. At one point I was sitting outside our dwelling in the hot Mediterranean sun and enjoying an Italian cigar while wearing my new white hat that I had purchased at a wonderful hat store in Nice! I noticed several young men filming a couple that was just down from me in the piazza. Suddenly I looked up and the film students were in front of me. One of the group asked me if they could film me because I was very beautiful! Now I had lived 56 years…and had never been referred to as beautiful… He went on to say that they were making a film for the Venice Film Festival and they wanted me to be in the production. Later I found their film on line and there I was for 1 second…puffing my cigar and uttering 1 word…yes! Now Venice is an ethereal place! One evening we joined a haunted Venice tour…and Jeff felt well enough to come along. The ghost stories were chilling and at one point our guide invited us to peer into the murky canal and try to see the decapitated head of a woman who was murdered on the spot that we were standing…I peered intently into the dark waters… I think of Venice often, especially during our pandemic, as it is called the city of masks…

On our third week we rented a car and drove to Tuscany. Jeff had booked a 5 night stay for us in an ancient farm house. Portions of the dwelling had been built in the 12th century. The matron of the household was a colorful character! She made us feel extremely welcome and she and her son visited the chickens for eggs at around midnight…and she reviled her kittens when they did not quickly do as she instructed them… We attended a carnival in the local town of Montecatini Terme. Both of our husband and wife hosts seemed to throughly enjoy our visit with them to their local festival. I can remember my sitting at one end of the long picnic table and our male host sitting at the other and our both raising our glasses in a toast of fellowship and good will. Neither of us spoke the others language…but we understood each other perfectly! During our time in Tuscany I experienced my first and last massage. Jeff and Margo had told MJ and I how wonderful the massages were at the local spa. Jeff said that usually he received a massage wearing his swim trunks…but I had forgotten mine. I tried a pair or two on in the local markets…but they were made for a person that was half my size. Then I was struck with a bolt of inspiration…I would wear a pair of my dry-fit shorts that I had brought with me…and my fears subsided… We waited patiently for our masseuses to summon us for our sojourn to the land of muscles like butter and relaxation bliss! Out comes two women and one walks toward me and says, ‘husband of Mary?’ I replied that I was and she said to follow her. When we got into the massage room she handed me a paper clump. She then told me to remove all of my clothes and put on the bikini paper underwear! I protested and proclaimed that my friend, who had received many spa massages, assured me that I could wear my dry-fit shorts… She did not smile…and repeated that I must put on the bikini shorts and that she would be back soon… Doing as I was told and looking like Buddha…I was not experiencing muscles like butter… When she came back into the room she instructed me to sit in front of a full length mirror and then proceeded to pour oil on top of my head…. next she told me to go over to the bed and lay down…or as I like to refer to the experience…my visit to the Twilight Zone!


So that is three weeks of our four weeks in Europe. The 4th week was in beautiful Florence, Italy. MJ and I were so exhausted that we hardly could climb the stairs of the Uffizi Museum…yet we soldiered on! The ancient sculptor and art is breath taking! Margo told us that some people become ill by being surrounded by so much beauty… that it makes them a bit dizzy!