Monthly Archives: January, 2022

The Great Thaw

So, today I ventured out as my Omicron Quarantine is over. The cold outside air felt a bit colder than usual after my seclusion. We have been experiencing bitterly cold temperatures and the warming to above freezing…at least for a while…is welcome. I drove out to Campus Lake and there before my eyes were an untold number of geese enjoying the frozen lake. Some honked with a lusty approval when I walked up…while others seemed to take no notice of my presence.

Since I was released from Isolation I dropped by Electric Larrys Emporium as I had seen an old Action Figure of ‘Dr. Evil’ that he advertised on Facebook. Have you ever had a childhood memory that was a bit fuzzy? That would best describe my recollection of the Doctor. I recalled having him but did not recall where or when I got him other than it had to be in the 1960s. While I was pondering the deep thoughts of Action Figures and their beginnings…two men came in with some dirty and unkempt toys that they wanted to sell. Among the ‘Land of Broken Toys’ was a Teddy Ruxpin with his sly smile intact. He needs shampoo and batteries and he still may not talk…but he is a semblance of the one that got away from Jonathon…so many Christmases ago…

Childhood and Vintage Toys have become an active hobby of mine for the last fifteen or more years. The hobby began when MJ told me, much to my surprise, that I should see if I could locate some of the toys that were cavalierly burned in the Burning Barrel…gleefully by my mom…not long after I left home at the age of 17. You see when I left home I lived with others of similar circumstance as mine and subsequently had no room to bring along my childhood Booty. Mom would say…now and then…’You better take what you want of your stuff…as I am going to burn it in the Burning Barrel…if you do not.’ As I planned to do so…she decide that the day had arrived. Thousands of dollars of antique toys and comic books…up in smoke…

Mom meant well…she had a heart of gold…I simply was not focused on what I had left behind…until I did not have it any longer.

Concern Is Comfort

Tara, MJ, and my niece texted me this morning to inquire how we are doing with Omicron. Her kind gesture…made my day! So often when you are ill and feeling as if ‘warmed-over death’ was your default setting…you feel a bit alone and watch life pass you by as you suffer in silence. When I told MJ of Tara’s text…she smiled broadly and rose to play a few hands of our card game…Golf. As she won almost every hand…her smile broadened and she proclaimed that we must play another once the Automatic Card Shuffler from Amazon…arrives later today.

Concern makes a difference in so many trials and tribulations of our lives. Once we understand that someone cares about us and our health and welfare…we take courage and often gain strength. We are not alone…we are members of a loving community that cares for us and that will help us when we need assistance. We are a bit like the young man that I observed in New York City many years ago. Someone felt that he had pulled his automobile too close to theirs in the midst of the nightmarish traffic of Manhattan. They screamed epitaphs at him and he returned the colorful rhetoric. Then someone that he knew called out a friendly greeting to him…and it was as if another man suddenly appeared. He smiled happily greeting his friend and went about his affairs with a joyful heart.

January is moving on in a rapid fashion. It will soon be a month since Christmas. Although some of our four seasons may seem a bit longer than others…they are all three months in length…and are all made to be appreciated and enjoyed. Service to others is a wonderful vocation or hobby and a way of life. Indeed there are few activities that are more satisfying. The more that we lighten another’s backpack…the freer we feel. When we make others happy…we in turn are happy. The human dynamic of peace and contentment is to look outward to assist our neighbor’s friends and family. I often said of Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale…that I could not outgive what the University had done for me. Rather it was additional hours worked or numerous committees that I volunteered for…or to daily endeavor to help people inside the house…and those who would be thrilled with the opportunity to come in…I could not repay SIUC…

My dear departed mother was always looking for someone that need help. If she had a dollar and you needed money…she would give you some. She neither sought recognition or praise for her charitable deeds…rather she relished anonymity. If you were a marginalized person or a person who people shunned…mom was your friend. Mom saw the good in people…because she took time to look…

Ice On The Pond…Our New Year Is Underway

Nineteen degrees that feels like seven with a thirteen-mile-per-hour wind. Our pond is freezing over. Winter brings both a sense of calm and quiet serenity and a pervasive feeling of unease and distress. Snow and ice are lovely to look at and treacherous for we senior citizens to walk upon. I am reminded of a little over five years ago when I fell in December and broke four ribs. I laugh when I see actors portray characters in movies who fight and receive horrible physical abuse and later comment that they are fine…they then comment with a smile, ‘I only cracked some ribs.’ Cracked ribs are no picnic!

Boris Johnson, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, has told an untruth to his constituents…or as I used to hear…lied to their faces… regarding his being present at a ‘Drinks Party’ that was in violation of his own governments’ lockdown rules surrounding our Pandemic. ‘Nobody told me that what we were doing was against the rules, that the event in question was something that wasn’t a work event,’ the prime minister told Sky News on Tuesday.’ Now, this is nothing new to we Americans…as we are accustomed to lies from our political leaders. However, it raises the question that I have often asked myself as to if our leaders really believe that we are so mediocre that we do not realize when they are telling us a bald-faced lie…without impunity?

Living in the moment has been on my mind more of late. We tend to look to the future for our reward…or to wish the ‘good old days’ would revisit us. We are firmly planted in the midst of a kaleidoscope of the panorama of possibilities…at this moment. We had Boston Terrier dogs for over 30 years. I marveled at their innate ability to live in the moment. They were happy with their existence in time…and each joy was brand new… Whenever I returned home from work or an errand…they greeted me like they had not seen me in a week. We humans are blessed and cursed with a big brain that is always on… Often when we are counting sheep to aid in our falling to sleep…we wonder if the sheep have done the grocery shopping… or what they are going to purchase for their new house…that they have yet to build…

Centering is vital to our happiness. Focus is the key to accomplishing anything worthwhile. A sense of place provides us with purpose. ‘Centering is a technique whose aim is to focus attention and energy, to provide relief from stress and anxiety, or both. In other instances, at the point of concentration, negative thoughts and emotions are released and positive thoughts and emotions are encouraged…’ APA Dictionary of Psychology

Omicron

The great Heavy Weight Boxer Joe Lewis said of an opponent, ‘He can run but he can not hide.’ A similar refrain can be uttered for the Omicron variant of Covid. We have been running from our Pandemic for over two years…successfully. First masks and social distancing and then both vaccinations and a booster. We literally did not go anywhere in 2020…and rarely eat out or travel to this day. When we do we are often the only people in the group that are wearing masks and are subject to our share of dirty looks and political/religious condemnation. Yet…Omicron has found us…

Now you may think that we feel misused by having followed the best health advice from our Health Experts…I do not…I am relieved that we have done everything that we could to avoid this plague. It is neither a political/religious/conspiracy hatched by the behind-the-scenes rulers of the world…nor is it the overblown flu that many claims. It did not end after the Presidental Election…and it appears that it will be here to stay for the foreseeable future and that we will have to learn to live with it. Someone said that they did not like to be told what to do with their body… I could care less what you do with your body…until your carelessness affects the health of my loved ones…

Having the sniffles and a bit of a cough is a lot better than being placed on a ventilator… I think that all of us need to pause and think about our heated rhetoric and research that comes from a box of Cracker Jacks. Also, we mask wearers need not think that we are superior because we do what science tells us is prudent…we are all mere children before this Virus. We need each other and we must love each other and endeavor to understand each other…rather than paint our living rooms…while our kitchens are on fire…

Cards

During our lovely stay at Miramar Beach, Florida…I witnessed many hours of enjoyable card playing by MJ and Ira Kaye and Ron. I am one of those poor deprived souls that never learned an adult card game. At one time I played Old Maid…and enjoyed it very much… MJ…on the other hand…loves card games. Upon our return to Little Egypt…I determined that I would learn her favorite card game…Golf. I was a bit amazed at how simple it was to learn and have subsequently played it with her and Aaron and Jonathon for several marathon sessions. Indeed we have played so many hands…that we have ordered an automatic card shuffler from Amazon. I have even succeeded in being the winner…once or twice.

My childhood was filled with swimming at Pounds Hollow Lake and daily bicycle riding and movies at the Orpheum Theatre and Pool Playing. I also very much enjoyed playing and role-playing… with my Action Figure collection….when I was a child. I think that there are card-playing families. Mine was not but MJ and Ron’s was. I found the idea fascinating that couples would visit each other’s homes…especially in the 1950s and the 1960s to play Bridge or Pinochle. Poker continues to be an interesting card game to me. I see that there are televised programs where people play in tournaments for a lot of money. I have a professor friend who appears to do quite well in card-playing tournaments.

Challenges and Opportunities could best describe our lives. Or as many of my friends said in my formative years, ‘One day chicken and the next day feathers.’ Each day of peace and good health and happiness…is a gift. So much of success in life is learning to take it a day at a time. Yesterday had passed and tomorrow is not promised. The beautiful photo of today…is where we live…

I have both watched the HBO/Max movie, Station Eleven, and read the book by Emily St. John Mandel. It is an apocalyptic story about a Pandemic. Yes, this is something that you might think is not appropriate for our times…but it is strangely comforting. So many of the petty and trivial and mundane things that we obsess about in our lives…melt away in the face of life-changing events. I was having a bit of political discussion the other day with friends. I noted that I do not get too enraptured by human beings in leadership positions. In a life-changing event…we might ponder why we are Christians…because of fealty to a man or woman…or to follow the mystical teachings of Christ.

Look for the New in 2022

jonathonbrooks

A new year is two weeks underway! Did you make any new goals for 2022? A new goal of mine is to write more fiction stories this year. I find great joy and satisfaction in completing a new short story. Another goal of mine is to read more books this year than last year. In 2021 I read 43. A third goal is to lose around 15 pounds. Let’s cheer each other on in our goals.

Resolutions are too all or nothing for me. When I think of a resolution I think of the idea of giving up something for the religious season of Lent. I’ve never tried to give up anything for the Lent season for 40 days because I’ve always known I would fail within the first week. I resolve to make no more resolutions in the month of January.

What shall the new year bring us? Certainly…

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Snow Watching

The Great Florida Holiday…has ended. We had a lovely visit with our family…Ira Kaye and Ron. They are such wonderful hosts. We have been visiting Miramar Beach for 12 years and the time has flown by. I thought that I was old…12 years ago…now I know that I am. Destin and the surrounding communities are wonderful and serene places to spend time in. Of course, the Ocean is a constant reminder of the unparalleled beauty of our Home. I never tire of observing the marking of time on earth’s clock…by the neverending waves coming to shore.

MJ and I have been to Sams to re-supply the pantries. Snow is on our horizon… It is not much colder…at the moment…than it was in Florida…but it certainly feels like it is. I am gazing at our pond and imagining that it is the Ocean.

It is a bit difficult to keep up with the changing instructions that are rapidly being issued by the CDC and our health professionals. I heard today that our face masks need to be upgraded to either the M95 or the KM 95…and that the cloth masks that we have been wearing for the past 2 years…are little more than decoration against the Omicron Variant. Our church has closed its doors for in person worship for the next 2 weeks. Worship will be by Zoom. This is cautious…and it is correct. Covid 19 is going to be a part of our New Normal…for the foreseeable future.

A significant amount of people still believe that our Pandemic is a Goverment Scam and that the Virus is little more than a common flu. They also believe that many of those who have lost their lives to Covid have been misreported as to the cause of death and that in reality their friends or loved ones passed from this world due to…heart disease…or diabetes or cancer or other debilitating diseases. The truth is that our Pandemic exacerbated the already weakened immune system of people with life threatening illnesses…and they died…and some played a bit of Russian Roulette with the greatest Plauge of any of our lifetimes…

Snow Watch is proceeding at the Brooks Ranch. We do not receive many large snows and icy winter storms…but when we do…they are not to be trifled with…

A Good And Pleasant Land

The Ocean Club has wonderful fresh seafood. MJ and I had a lovely Seafood Platter last evening…and as Ron would say…’It was to die for!’ We ordered and consumed the Bounty during the two for one special…which is something that we Snowbirds enjoy. Speaking of snow…the forecast for Carbondale, Illinois is snow this weekend. We are getting home just in time for some wintertime fun…

As I am confronted with the beauty of the Ocean I wonder if we appreciate what a lovely planet we live on. Human history is short…the history of one human life…is like a Weaver’s Shuttle. We are little more than a puff of wind that is forgotten soon after it passes. Each of us is under the mistaken illusion that we are old and have lived a long life and have seen or experienced all that life has to offer. In reality, our understanding and comprehension are that of a common Housefly that has a life span of 24 hours. Entire civilizations have been birthed and grown and died…and yet the Ocean Waves…keep coming to shore.

Now…we are one planet in the midst of billions of galaxies and trillions of planets…of which our scientists are discovering new ones each day that could support life… Other planets, Mars perhaps, could have experienced the rise and fall of civilizations…millions of years ago. We could be in the midst of a life-changing event on Earth…and not possess the frame of reference to understand what is happening to us…

The Bite-Size Mission that we humans have been given…to be kind and compassionate to each other…seems to be more than we are capable of. We still have a chance to get it right. As I ponder the vastness of the emerald green Gulf Coast waters…I wonder where we fit in…in the vastness of space and time and purpose of the miracle of life… Are we a bit like Narcissus…constantly admiring our own reflection? If we have some resources…do we feel special and blessed…while our perception is that our poor neighbor is…cursed? Do we…really…want to reach beyond the front door of our gated community…to learn of others?

Are you exhausted but can not sleep…hungry but never satisfied…a recluse and insular and an introvert…because people scare you? I am watching an elderly couple walk slowly out to the Ocean. The old man is carrying the beach chairs for both him and his wife. Their steps are a bit arthritic…but their determination is the same as when they were first married. They understand that life is to be lived and the juice of the fruit to be savored and it may drip down your chin…onto your white beard…but you know that you are a member of God’s Marvelous Creation…and you were born with a purpose…

Santas Miramar Beach…Conundrum

Santa stared at his doppelganger who was before him…with his Santa Hat on his head…and a lit cigar in the 1957 California Pottery Ashtray that was balanced on the arm of the beach chair that he was sitting in…dead… Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall…Santas 2 primary personal assistants…were apoplectic regarding the condition of their beloved boss. ‘How did this happen…he was fine and in good spirits when we left him to go to Sundog Books to purchase for him the book…Nightmare Alley’ said Lauren B. ‘He was going to read it before the three of us went to the Destin Commons AMC Theatre to view the new Nightmare Alley flick…with his 2 favorite actresses, Toni Colette and Cate Blanchette,’ replied Humphrey B. For you must understand that the only Santa that Humphrey and Lauren saw was the dead Santa…they did not see the other live one…

Santa pondered how he could have such a perfectly identical twin. When they were boys they had regularly fooled the grade school teacher at Hillcrest School. Then it dawned on him that his twin brother, Dave Kringle, had passed away 30 years ago… He was looking at the mirror image of himself…quite dead… Suddenly up walked Dave. Santa said, ‘Is that you brother…or are there now three of us?’ Dave answered, ‘Kris…your old heart just ceased to beat…and we are in the waiting room between life and death…how do you like it?’ ‘Well, I wanted to finish my Peanut Butter Old Smoky Whiskey and my Cohiba Cigar…and to read Nightmare Alley,’ replied Santa. ‘Also, I have committed to another 5-year contract as the active Santa Claus…hoping to see the children through the world through the Pandemic…before I retire, Said Kris Kringle.

‘He opened his eyes,’ said Lauren B. ‘Oh…I must have fallen asleep again…I just can not seem to stay awake…were you able to find…Nightmare Alley?’ said Santa.

Santa awakened to the sound of his own snoring. The darkened theatre was conducive to a nap. There was Toni Colette helping Bradley Cooper’s character take a bath…Santa thought…what a strange dream…and I must try to remain awake…to tell his chief elves…Aaron and Jonathon…about the movie…

Nightmare Alley @ Destin

Last evening we visited the Cinema. We have been there on several occasions through the last 12 years. A number of those sojourns were to the IMax Theatre. Yesterday was not…but it was still a big and empty movie emporium. I am accustomed to an extremely large crowd when I visit the Destin Commons…with kids and harried parents and excitement all around. I was alone in the stadium seating theatre until just before the start of the show…when 5 people came in.

Theatres have suffered financially during our 3 calendar year Pandemic. I am dismayed that many of them have been able to remain open. One of my primary retirement goals at the outset of the adventure was to attend the movies at least twice a week. This goal I kept for the first years of the adventure. Since our Pandemic I did not visit our local Theatre for over a year…and after that…2 or 3 times.

Nightmare Alley was a wonderful study in human nature and peoples subseptibillity to Con Men and Grifters. The story illustrated that there are individuals who work diligently at protecting themselves from real work as their study is how to separate their unsuspecting clients from the money that they have earned through their labor. Often what appears as miraculous or magnificent…is no more than a practiced and elaborate scam.

It is another chilly day at Miramar Beach…yet several degrees warmer than Carbondale, Illinois. I have succeded or exceeded my goal of 10 thousand steps per day…for the last 4 days. For me this is a fitness goal that I have worked on for over a year and 7 days a week. Retirement has been a pleasant experience and has thus far gone by rapidly. I was talking with Ira kaye and Ron regarding the key to my retirement contentment…having hobbie goals that I work on daily…

Cigar for the Old Man And The Sea…may be in order for today. I spied a Cigar Store yesterday evening on the way to the Theatre.