Oscar woke up thinking of home. He wondered how long that he had been sleeping. it seemed that he had just laid his head on top of his 3 pillows…and yet it was daylight then and it was pitch dark now. He recalled going about his daily routine activities. He had walked on Campus and taken photographs and written his daily blog…yet he did not completely recognize where he was at the moment. When he arose from his bed…there was Marnie watching her beloved Cubs. When Oscar asked who was winning…she replied, ‘Who do you think.’ Looking over the arm of his favorite chair, in the loft, was Wallace…with a bark…bark…and a snuffle. Darren came out of his hall bedroom and asked his dad if he was still going into work that night…and Oscar replied, ‘Am I? ….I guess so.’ As he sat on the edge of his bed to put on his work shoes…Bruiser…another of the families Boston Terriers…gave him his trademark single lick. Suddenly Oscar heard the doorbell ring. At the door were he mother and step-father, June and Demetrious, they were carrying a large smoked ham and Christmas Coffee Cake…and they asked Oscar to help them in with the Christmas gifts….
Something is a bit out of wack thought Oscar. I remember all of these happenings…but not in the same evening…or the same year…or even the same location. There was Marnie…in her 20’s…and she was asking Oscar if he was ready to go shop for their 1st Christmas Tree. Daren had been born November 16h and he was….brand new. As they drove their Ford LTD two door Sedan to DuQuoin…Oscar felt so lucky…and fortunate. He had a good job and he drove a good and reliable automobile…and he recently had been promoted to a crew leader in his housekeeping position. Why just the other day he and Marnie had laid their eyes upon a exquisite handmade Christmas village…and they bought it in celebration of Darren’s birth. It had cost $100…but there would be nothing but the best for their new baby boy!
Thud…laugh…laugh…laugh…Daniel had jumped out of his crib again! When he ran into find his mom, brother and Oscar, the few hairs that he had on his head…stood straight up and he grinned with abandon at his continuing victory over his parents useless boundaries.
Oscar walked down the stairs into his basement to see if he could distinguish some semblance of his present reality…at least the reality that he laid his head down on his 3 pillows with. At the base of the basement steps was his first home in Chicago. There was his mom, Neva, and his dad, Bill, and they were under a humongous Christmas Tree…and his dad was winding Laughing Santa…and Santa was laughing…uproariously!
Oscar walked up the stairs from the basement and up the stairs to his loft. When he reached the top step he was in the Varsity Theatre’s Loft theatre and he and Marnie and Steve and Faye were watching the premier of Godfather III. Faye leaned over and asked him if his headache was better…and he replied that it was since she had given him one of her pain pills.
We humans measure time in a chronological fashion. How does God measure time…
A Fable For Our Time
The late December Chicago winds were blowing briskly. Neva June was baking her famous Christmas Coffee Cake…and Bill had just come through the kitchen door, with his motorcycle cap affixed to his head and his leather jacket zipped up as a guardian against the winter wind. It was December 23rd and the Brooks home was excited about the holidays. The 6 foot Christmas Tree was resplendent in the living room with its lovely ornaments and popcorn strung garland and bubble lights and red candles in the windows. This year Neva had invited her dear friend, Ivy and her family, to join them for Christmas dinner. There would be delicious roast beef and mashed potatoes. Oyster dressing and Turkey as well. Homemade sourdough bread and candied yams. Aunt Wanda was bringing Divinity and aunt Vema was bringing homemade fudge. Grandma Askew was bringing her outstanding Country Ham. The Brooks lived in Chicago…as far as the Southern Illinois family were concerned…but in fact they lived in Sauk Village…which was well south of the Windy City. This was a first for gathering for Christmas in the northland. Always before the Brooks had journeyed to Eldorado in Little Egypt. But this year…they were risk takers. The southern kinfolk had decide to travel to the big city.
Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer was playing on the radio. It had not been but since October that the Cuban Missile Crisis had been escaped by the canny leadership of President Kennedy. Well…Neva June and Bill had thought that they might not live to see Christmas…and they had commissioned a Bomb Shelter to be dug in their backyard…but the ground had been frozen. Jay had practiced, ‘Duck and Cover,’ in his first grade class…and he had wondered how he and his classmates would be saved from an atomic bomb by simply placing their hands over their heads and crouching against the hallway walls.
Vietnam was raging with no end in sight. The United States was sending over our teenage boys shortly after they graduated high school. Many…never came home. We asked why…but there was no satisfactory answer for the wholesale death of our boys.
On Christmas Eve we travelled to see the movie, Lady and the Tramp, on Michigan Avenue in Chicago. Santa Claus and his elves were on every corner. ‘Peace On Earth…Good Will Toward Men,’ was being broadcast on loudspeakers. We had Christmas Eve dinner at a fine Italian Restaurant. After dinner we were full of Christmas Cheer.
‘From 1962 – 1964 the United States lost 16,732 soldiers in Vietnam.
‘All In…All In’
I was thinking about purchasing some Cohiba Cigars in Cozumel, Mexico a few years ago. MJ and I were on a Caribbean Cruise…in January…my favorite time to visit the Caribbean. Toward the conclusion of President Obamas Presidency he had lifted the embargo on Cuban products…and that included Cohiba Cigars…which are among the finest in the world. So, before me was an eight pack of Cubas finest tobacco product. I considered that I could smoke 3 or 4 while on ship…as they had a Smoking Room…and take the remainder of the Cuban delights back to the States…since there was no longer a penalty for doing so. The woman selling the cigars asked $100 and I countered with $50. She responded with an offer of $60…and then proclaimed, ‘All in…all in.’ I accepted the deal and proceeded to smoke my head off in the lovely smoking room on the Princess Cruise Liner Ship. Her statement of, ‘All in…all in,’ intrigued me. ‘To go all in in poker is to bet everything on a hand.’
People who live by their wits are my inspiration. The Mexican lady sold me the Cohibas by her ‘All In’ statement. I thought, at the time of the sale, what a positive creed for life. I have been ‘All In’ many times during my life. I have been all in as a father and a husband…and during my Southern Illinois University career…I was truly…all in. But…I have not always been all in. Insecurities and doubts and fears have held me back on several occasions. Often in my christian walk…I have left what I knew that I should accomplish in church life…to someone else who I felt was more qualified. It is easy to not be all in. Commitment is hard…commitment is real. The hero of the christian walk is the person who is slow to speak and quick to work…without fanfare or recognition. I remember being on the Stewardship Committee for the Session of First Presbyterian Church in
Carbondale. I considered myself quite busy…with daily duties at the church…when one day as I was in the parking lot of the church and I watched as Clark Ashby, a man older then me, slowly exit his automobile and walk around to the trunk of his vehicle to retrieve a tool kit and then to slowly walk into the building to perform some maintenance needs for our congregation. I knew then that I was but a beginner in the ‘All In’ dedication that is the christian life.
All In is a life style and a commitment of time and purpose. Commensurate with truly enjoying being all in with whatever you are doing in your life is the wise statement that, ‘It is amazing what can be accomplished if you do not care who gets the credit.’ I ran into my old friend and colleague Bob Smith this morning on Campus. Bob was such a great leader in the Building Services department. His care for his staff was noteworthy. I thought, today, that he has the same sunny attitude and disposition. I have been retired for over 10 years and have only seen Bob once during that time. Bob and I are the same age and were both born on October 24th. I think of Lisa and Ro and their all in commitment to our church and its mission. I think of all that my good friend, Elizabeth, has done for SIUC and her unfailing behind the scenes dedication to the success of others…and of the institution.
Success is seldom achieved by the Show Horses…but rather by the Work Horses.
A Happy Thought
I was enthralled with watching the new SIUC students joyfully drop ice on each others heads outside the Student Center this morning. They laughed and hooted and hollered and rejoiced that they were at University…and having fun with their friends. I felt better..just watching them. I wonder if we realize what a gift that we have been given? In a Universe that is full of Dark Matter…we have been given physical and measurable life. When we were young…we knew that our lives were full of promise and mystery…and adventure. We understood that each day brought new possibilities and challenges and a hope for our steady improvement. We loved travel…because we had not really seen anything. We enjoyed meeting people…as we did not know many people. We even appreciated the exhilaration of a bucket of ice on our heads…
Reversals have been served to me on a plate many times…cold. Life is chuck full of setbacks. Murphy’s Law states that anything that can go wrong…will. There are no ICU Beds within a 200 mile radius of Southern Illinois. Perhaps we should all take heed and wear our face masks in public and social distance….and get a vaccine.
Fall is knocking on our door. School has begun across our region. Autumn is my favorite season. I love the leaves turning colors. My old boss, Joe, used to say that fall was crisp like Lipton Tea, and he was right. A sweater or a jacket suits me well. October is my birthday month. Birthdays create in me…a happy thought. As an old fellow…I appreciate each additional year. I vividly recall receiving the Big Swinger Polaroid Camera for my birthday when I was in the 6th grade. I felt like a professional photographer. This was the same year that I was studying the Tenor Saxophone under Mr. Prince tutelage. Mom snapped a photo of me, with my new Big Swinger, of my playing my tenor saxophone…which I loved. I took my new Polaroid with me on a school trip to New Harmony, Indiana. I still have the photos that chronicle my escapades in the 6th grade.
Happiness is being happy where you are…and with who you are. It is not a magical unattainable elixir. Most of our contentment comes from placing one foot in front of the other toward a worthy destination. We are the sum of our stories. Life on earth is a large collection of stories. When we reflect on our history…it is in story form. Focus on the good times…learn from the bad and then forget the hurt… Make a conscience effort to think happy thoughts. Remember the victories….walk over the defeats…
The Pineapple Suite
A constant theme through the 6 episode limited HBO Series, The White Lotus, was that of a newlywed couple being placed in a different suite than the groom’s mother had booked for them at the White Lotus Resort on Kauai in Hawaii. The fascinating series was actually filmed at the Four Seasons Resort on Kauai. The groom strove to get he and his new brides room changed to the Pineapple Suite…to no avail due to it being occupied by a German Newlywed couple…and the Resort Manager’s increasing distaste for the young man’s continual harangue. So, as the series episodes progress and the young, rich, man gets involved and involves his mother, who made the initial reservation…and the Manager’s boss…the complaining mother and son get their passionate wish…The Pineapple Suite. Their first words were in regards to the ‘overdone pineapple decor’ and that they could not see the ocean…which they could from the better located room that they fought to be moved from. Finally, a knife comes with the room for the purpose of peeling…pineapples.
So often what we believe that we need for our complete happiness…is not the answer. We seek a job that will provide; friendship and camaraderie for our social needs. We look to a marriage for a mirror image of ourself. We desire our significant other to reflect out idealized image of our perfect self. As we acquire resources we spend on better and bigger houses….and finer automobiles…and richer holidays…to supplant what is lacking in our hearts…and souls. We hope to be admired for our physical riches…and worry little about our inner life.
Pounds Hollow is in my thoughts much this summer. The waining days of meteorological summer are fast coming to an end. Pounds Hollow…as most of the swimming areas in Little Egypt will close on Labor Day. Floating on the deep water for hours on end, when I was a lad, crystallized life for me and renewed my perspective on what matters. I had forgotten that MJ and I travelled to Pounds Hollow several times after we were married. Nature has a flow and rythm that is much different than our manic race to the top of the Capitalistic Heap… There is more than fighting…there is more than blood/money…and the heady…drunken…myopic view that it brings… Look at your world in Long Exposure.
Dissatisfaction fuels our enterprise. Despair generates many of our life decisions. The desire to seek and acquire the spiritual in a physical world…leaves us continuing to come up short…and to seek the Pineapple Paring Knife…
Beware the Pineapple Paring Knife…
Long Exposure photos are mysterious. I shot one of students on our Campus the other day…and the print looked like spirit wisps…walking.
The Art of the Extra Mile
The old saying states that showing up is half of life. Another saying I enjoy speaks of going the extra mile. If I don’t show up and go the first …The Art of the Extra Mile
Count Your Pennies
As I was driving to Campus this morning I was listening to the Old Time Radio Show radio channel. The show ran from 1943 – 1953. The show was based on characters appearing in Archie Comics. In the show that I was listening to…Archies father, Mr. Andrews, was endeavoring to cut household costs and he thus forbade Archie to speak for more than 3 minutes on the telephone and reminded him that each additional minute cost another nickel. The show ran when a nickel had significant value. Well…it took Archie a minute, of his allotted 3, just to giggle when his girlfriend, Veronica, spoke his name.
As i perused the medicine aisle at Walmart I eavesdropped on an elderly couple discussing the varying prices for medicinals that they required. The old gentleman studied each bottle with a keen eye for detail. He suddenly exclaimed that they could get twice as much for half the money…
At times we have a peculiar tape measure for judging economic actions. We might not purchase a new comb…until all of the teeth have fallen out of the old one…but thousands of dollars for a hobby that we enjoy…is a bargain. In Afghanistan we either spent 68 billion…or 1 trillion…or 2 trillion…depending on which newscaster that you are listening to. This spending was non-partisan. We believed that we had an Afghan Army of 300 thousand of highly trained military with the best weapons that money could buy. The army folded like a cheap suit…
We struggle to see the need to lift up the impoverished. We wonder who will pay for healthcare for those who work hard…and yet do not have the resources. Who will educate the poor and the working class in this country. Could it be that enrollment in State Universities has precipitously declined for a generation because the States have ceased to fund these vital institutions. We began wars in Afghanistan and Iraq…on credit. We sought to capture and punish those responsible for 9/11. Many years later we got Osama Bin Laden…the rest is a sad coda that is reminiscent of Vietnam…and our roof top escape from Saigon in 1975.
We have a rabid hobby of fighting wars that we can not win…we do not have the money to fix our toothless comb…that is the problem of the poor and needy…
Fork and Vine Restaurant and Wine Bar
Today we enjoyed a most lovely lunch at the Brixwood Fork and Vine Restaurant and Wine Bar. It has replaced the former Russel Hill Winery which has been closed for some time. The ambiance of the establishment is delightful and the food and wine was to ‘die for!’ Jonathon had told us of the wonders of the Bleu-Cheese and Bacon Burger…but the experience is more than words can speak… The Feather Hills Cabernet was so good…we purchased a bottle for home. Aaron had a wonderful Salmon Wrap…and the fries were scrumptious. We sat outside but with a roof over our heads with a nice ceiling fan turning…it was cool and complete.
Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale is preparing for the beginning of Fall Semester classes on Monday. Jonathon said that the Sunny Side Cafe was full of people this morning…for breakfast. Our little city has added significant population…this weekend…in preparation for higher learning. The official enrollment numbers will not be taken until the 10th day of classes…but we hear good things. However enrollment is just a shadow of its former self…in the 1990s. The Carbondale Campus had just under 25,000 in its heyday. In those days there were 5 multiplex theatres in town as well as a thriving mall with several anchor stores and restaurants. R. Buckminster Fuller lived in Carbondale and taught at the University. Fuller’s home in Carbondale was a geodesic dome…and it is still standing.
Organizations that I have been affiliated with for over 50 years…are usually…top heavy. They have many administrators and managers and leaders…but few followers in comparison to the magnitude of the leadership team. So much of the decision making of governments and universities and churches…is comensurate on what the leaders think is good…for them. The opinions of we little people…are often not considered. For more times than I can count…I have witnessed decisions made regarding what is good for the rank and file or the student…or the congregant out of protection of place and position and continuation of appointment…and the decisions are driven by our own narrow set of values and the opportunity to impose those values on those who we are supposed be protecting. Protection of position rather than leading with a servants’ heart…has become increasingly rare…
Faces are important. This is why, on some occasions, we enjoy wearing a misleading face…or a mask. When we make mistakes…we look for our ‘Smiling and Everything is All Right Mask’ to hide behind and fool our friends and neighbors and colleagues into believing that we have not made a bad decision…but rather a good one… In Florida…we proclaim freedom…to mask our inadequacies and ineffectiveness and ignorance… We stayed much too long in our 20 year war in Afghanistan…and now we are leaving devastation in our absence…and mask wearing in the wake of our bad decisions…
Fall Semester Begins
Campus is abuzz and aflutter with the comings and goings of our precious students returning to Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale…and with our wonderful new students…and their parents. When I first witnessed the traffic on Giant City Road…I thought that there must have been an automobile accident. On the contrary…Carbondale High School has begun its semester and it is move in day at SIUC. These are exciting times for a college town… As I was entering Faner a petite young lady held the door for me…and I considered how wonderful nice young people are…and I thought that I probably reminded her of her grandfather. Another student was practicing twirling a University flag…and as long as I can recall I have witnessed this flag twirling session when Fall Semester begins.
In 1978 I was the same age as many of the Universities students…now I could indeed be the grandfather to a new SIUC student… When I first became a supervisor in Building Services…at the ripe old age of 22…I often dressed in a cardigan to appear older than my youthful years. In fact for many years people guessed me older than my chronological age…and I liked it. Now when they guess me older…it does not have the same resonance. I know that Southern has been my home for the past 43 years. I love it…and I love driving to it each day…much as I did during my 32 year and 2 months and 3 week career. I vividly remember the mystery and the majesty of Little Egypt’s hidden treasure. I was overjoyed with the knowledge that not only had I been hired into a job…that was a career…but that I had the opportunity to obtain a college education…and work as a member of an international community.
Hopeless…gave way to hopeful… Economic marginalization evaporated in the brilliant light of Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale. Suddenly…the pages of Earth’s Book were available for me to read…in the faces of my international friends and colleagues. SIUC was an oasis in the midst of a desert. I had been accustomed to hearing a very narrow view of life and its purpose. I knew that there was more…but SIUC…opened the door of opportunity for me…
And so, we gather tomorrow with our loving family, Ira Kaye and Ron, at the Bricks Wood Winery…which was formally the Russel Hill Winery. It will be great to enjoy the fellowship of our long time travel partners and fellow visitors to Hawaii in 2015…which seems like yesterday. We will engage in solving the world’s problems and sip wine and be thankful for the days of grace that we are enjoying. The hands of time wait for no woman or man. The sand in the hour glass continues to cascade to the bottom. What we first thought was a long time…is but the briskness of a Weaver’s Shuttle…
Days Of Grace
MJ and I just had our Thursday lunch at Von Jakob Winery. The wine was good and the food was great. We had tenderloin sandwiches that were as large as my fist…and larger than MJs’. It was almost more than I could eat… Little Egypt is resplendent with wineries. Many people engage a limousine tour of the many wine stops…in order to be able to imbibe freely. When these folks enter an establishment that you may be enjoying a glass of wine in…they can be easily spotted by their peals of laughter and flushed happy countenances… Wineries are good places to lay your worries at the doorstep and enter into days of grace. The plethora of worries that surround us in our modern life…can fog the beauty of life and our part in it. So often we are going to visit a winery more often…perhaps when we have more time…or less to do…or when our projects are finally completed. We know that we intend to stop and reflect and enjoy each others company…when things just get a little better…and we have less on our plate…and we finally have the necessary time for the Golden Years… What if the Golden years are here and prolonged waiting will tarnish their glow?
Work so captivates the minds and hearts of we Americans…that we can think of little else. For several years after my retirement, friends and colleagues asked me what I was going to do for employment. Now, I gave the best years of my life in pursuit of my career and of acquiring financial stability. I worked 12 and 16…and even 24 hour days in the frenetic race to succeed. I wonder why people, who have a stable income, feel that they must work for more money…until they die… Is our worth as humans beings totally tied to our stock portfolio? We take great store and put a tremendous influence on those who have acquired significant wealth. We seek these people to set on our University Board of Trustees and we value their considered opinion over those of us who have simply made a living or the poor among us. Capitalism has become our standard of excellence and our exact ruler for success or failure at the game of life.
A common and popular doctrine in some christian churches is the prosperity doctrine. The teaching that if you are doing God’s will…he will make you rich in this earthly life. I have known thousands of wonderful christians…who have remained poor for their entire lives. The prosperity doctrine is working out well…for the prosperous…or those who seek to become prosperous off the hard labor of others. Somehow we have raised the false flag of wealth…as the beacon of Christ’s love. The flip side of the prosperity doctrine is that we look down on those who are poor and homeless and in need of help…’Why if fhey would just pull themselves up by their boot straps…they could be the recipient of God’s love…like we rich folks are.’ Jesus said, ‘Then the King shall say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom that was prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was a stranger and you invited me into your home. I was naked and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison and you visited me. Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you? And the King will say,’I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’ Matthew 25: 34 – 40. NLT
”Why are we weigh’d upon with heaviness, and utterly consumed with sharp distress, While all things else have rest from weariness?’
‘Hateful is the dark-blue sky, Vaulted or’e the dark-blue sea. Death is the end of life; ah, why Should life all labour be?
‘Let us alone. Time driveth onward fast, And in a little while our lips are dumb . Let us alone. What is it that will last? All things are taken from us, and become Portions and parcels of the dreadful past.
‘Let us alone. What pleasure can we have to war with evil? Is there any peace In ever climbing up the climbing wave? All things have rest, and ripen toward the grave In silence; ripen, fall, and cease: Give us long rest or death, dark death, or dreamful ease.’ The Lotus Eaters…Tennyson