April is about to leave us and we have not but barely become acquainted. The Netflix Series, Ozark has premiered its’ last seven episodes and I was somewhat taken aback to see that the end of one of my and MJ’s favorite Series was here for our viewing pleasure…when I thought that it was not going to be shown before the end of the year. According to a character on an Amazon Series, Outer Range, his assessment of Time is that it is an ‘M—-r F—-R… although somewhat crude language…it accurately describes the fluidity of Time. As the kind young woman who cut my hair today spoke about her, ‘Kiddo,’ and how she was going to pick her ‘Kiddo up after work,’ I thought of my mother and how she referred to me as Kiddo…most of the time…unless she was awaking me for school whereby she announced in a loud and friendly command, ‘Hit the deck you rubberneck!’ Those days seem like last year…instead of well over 50 years ago.
I am convinced that what we see with our eyes and hear with our ears and experience in our short lives…simply scratches the surface of what is unseen and unheard and concepts that are well beyond our mental capabilities. From time to time you get a glimpse of these unseen marvels in art and literature and theatre…and faith. There are so many deja vu moments that we encounter during the busy course of our lives…that we neither truly understand the significance of the event nor do we have the time to devote to analyzing them on an in-depth basis.
Shadows follow us and go before us on our life walk. We are characters in a grand story…and we have not read the beginning and have not understood the ending. Our brains strive constantly to make connections and that is how we understand our reality. Those experiences that do not connect easily or readily are placed in our to-do box…and sometimes they do not rise to the top…
Navigating life is exciting and challenging. Faith is a wonderful compass. Also, a heart that is open to new experiences and new ways of doing things and people and places and customs…that is different than what we are accustomed to. What we experience is based on our physical reality…but our unseen spiritual reality is rich and rewarding and often guides our actions.
My years in management/administration taught me that there was so much more to my co-workers than what I saw before me. They had rich lives outside work as well as significant challenges that from time to time affected their productivity. Managers need to be more understanding. The popular motivational speaker, Zig Ziglar, said, ‘I really do not care how much your know…until I know how much your care…about me.’
Trees can often obscure the forest. I have seen this in church government on more than one occasion over the past 50 years. Programs and rules and surveys and vision statements seem to occupy much of church leadership’s time and talents and create dedicated and extremely busy people…but the problems…soul…and spirit and heart… are often obscured through our diligent efforts at crossing every T…and dotting every i…
Nature clearly models the spiritual. The majesty of God’s Creation is not molded by Committee and governed by a handbook…
‘Attack Of The Fifty-Foot Woman’
It was a hot night in Eldorado when Neva J. and Chet and Billy B., watched ‘Attack Of The Fifty-Foot Woman,’ at the Starlight Drive Inn. The Starlight could be seen from Grandma Askew’s house…but you could not hear the dialogue. The movie was on the cutting edge for the late 1950s. Chet remarked, ‘What if Mrs. Blackwell was 50 feet tall?’ Billy B. noted that she not only would not be able to sit at her desk…but that the school would have to take the roof off of the classroom to accommodate her size.
B Movies and Kitsch and Monster Magazines and Action Figures were important components of Billy B. and Chet’s upbringing. They loved the Action Figures of the day, such as Johnny West and Chief Cherokee and Stony the Soldier and the prize of all…Daniel Boone. Before Action Figures there were tiny green soldiers and western figures…but the foot tall Action Figures were reminiscent of the 50-foot woman. The size added a realism to the fantasy that was compelling.
When discussing magnified realism…there was nothing more potent than to enjoy popcorn and a coke and other somewhat obscure snacks at the Starlight Drive-Inn. The projected film images were much larger than the IMax Screens of today. The movies also had cartoons before their showing. At the Starlight, it was exclusively the Pink Panther. Billy B. and Chet really did not see the Pink Panther anywhere else but at the Starlight Drive-Inn. Now…at the Orpheum Theatre in Eldorado there were the conventional snacks such as; popcorn and candy bars and Coca-Cola…but at the Drive-In, you could get a slice of pizza or a hamburger or hot dog. Many of the viewing audience came in by way of their friends or families…trunks of their automobiles. When the Sun was just about to set…trunks popped open all over the lot. It cost 75 cents to enter the Starlight…while it was 35 cents to see a movie…all day long…at the Orpheum. Although you could often view a double feature at the Drive-In. Chet and Billy B. entered by way of a car trunk to see the movie, Midnight Cowboy, which they were not old enough to attend. After, Chet asked Billy B., ‘What was all of the hubbubs about?’ The speakers for the Starlight Drive-In weighed about 5 pounds and were made of metal. You took it off of its hook next to your parking space and placed it on either the driver’s side or the passengers’ side of the car window…after you rolled down the window. This…of course, left a gap at the top of the rolled-down window for the mosquitoes to enter the car. Cars would park on a gravel road near the Big Screen and watch the movie for free and strain to hear the ambient sounds of the screen and metal speakers.
Television was not the varied entertainment option during the 1960s that it is today. There were 3 channels and 2 of them were fuzzy. The channels also ended at midnight and closed with a rendition of the National Anthem. Eldorado was a Dry-Town…meaning that there were no bars or liquor stores within the city limits and the thirsty people of the City of Gold had to drive to the much smaller town of, Muddy, to Molinarolos Package Store to obtain libations. Never on Sunday was a popular movie of the time and also could be said for sinful quests such as purchasing alcoholic beverages or mowing your grass. In those halcyon days, the idea of paying for TV was as laughable as…The 50 Foot Woman…
The leaves around Campus are blooming. The flowers are resplendent in their spring glory. The songs of the birds have that spring warble. Life is renewing and beginning again. When Old Man Winter comes knocking on our door…we are a bit sad to see the seeming death of our beloved plants and flowers and leaves. Our grass turns from vibrant forest green to a burnt tan and brown and withers and seemingly dies. We feel the cold winter’s breath and break off an ice cycle and slide on the ice rink of nature. We hope for renewal and another chance and one more bite at the apple… Christmastide brings us the birth of the Christ Child and the hope of salvation…but we wonder if we will live to experience the renewal of the resurrection…
Life is a circle. There is no beginning and no end. We are watching an Amazon Series called Outer Range with Josh Brolin and Lilly Thomas. Josh Brolins’ character discovers a large black hole in his west pasture. When he throws something in it…he does not hear or see it hit bottom. He later is pushed into the black hole and is found at the top of the hole…unhurt…the next morning. Early on in the series, he remembers his time in the black hole and when his wife meets him in the Hole and tells him that he has been dead for two years. Time is an interesting and mysterious subject. Is it linear as we experience it…or is it circular…and all events of our lives are occurring…concurrently…
Control is what we want. We seek to dictate the paths of our lives in totality. We want to measure our success by our monetary value. We hope to be recognized for our sublime skills in the arena of life…and we worry about the outcome: ‘And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the Lillies of the field, how they grow, they toil not, neither do they spin.’ Matthew 6:28. KJV
Today is the first day of the rest of our lives. Today is the day to spring forth with new life and vitality and vigor and determination to live the gift that The Creator has given you…to help your fellow members of the Human Family on our shared journey back to Jerusalem…
‘May is just in front of us,’ said Billy B. Chet asked if it was still too cold to go swimming at Pounds Hollow…and Billy B. replied that it did not open until Memorial Day. Jane announced that she had purchased a new swimsuit and that she could not wait to wear it to the sandy beach of the Hollow. It was April 25th of 1964 and the three friends along with Daryl and his dad, The Wiz, were working daily on attempting to solve the mystery of the JFK Assasinatohn that had shocked the world just last November. Billy B. could vividly remember sitting on his living room sectional couch and watching Jack Ruby come into the television’s camera view and see Ruby fatally shot Lee Harvey Oswald on live TV. He knew there and then that there was more to the story than what the news was reporting. President Kennedy had been an icon in his home and the homes of most of his and Neva J.s; friends. He was doing so many good things like the creation of the Peace Corps and Civil Rights…and it was said that he would have us out of Vietnam in a year or less. The Wiz told the group that the assassination of the President had been a conspiracy and that he could prove it.
Chet and Carol, his dad, had been in Dallas, just in front of the School Book Depository when the shots rang out. Chet said that the sound of the gunfire and the subsequent smoke had come from the Grassy Knoll and that he would swear that Lee Harvey Oswald was standing next to him when Kennedy’s head exploded. Carol had called the Dallas Police Department and they told him that they would get back to him…but when he said that his son, who was in the first grade had seen Oswald standing next to him in front of the Depository at the time of the assassination…they seemed bemused.
‘We must return to the scene of the crime,’ said the Wiz. ‘And how will we do that,’ asked Jane. ‘Why we will use Neva J.s’ Magic Mirror,’ laughed Chet. And so they did…and Billy B. and Neva J. and Chet and Daryl and Jane and The Wiz..walked on to the busy Dallas street in front of the School Book Depository…two minutes before the first gunshot. There was Lee Harvey Oswald drinking a Coca-Cola and watching the street. Chet grabbed him by his arm and said, ‘Do you know that President Kennedy is about to be assassinated…and that you are going to be blamed?’ Oswald’s eyes became as wide as Silver Dollars and he said that he had thought that the plan was canceled and that he must stop them. About that time the Presenditial Limousine turned the corner and began to come down the street in front of the Depository…and Oswald ran out in front of the Limo and was tackled by a Secret Service Officer…as Officer Clint Hill jumped upon the President and First Lady…and shots rang out…and the car sped toward the hospital…
‘Chet…Chet…would you read aloud next please,’ said Mrs. K. ‘Chet…wake up…you have dozed off,’ Billy B. exhorted him.
‘Don’t forget…children…President Kennedy is coming to Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale on May 1st…and we are taking several school buses to see the President and the First Lady…
This is the warmest day this spring. It is 80 degrees with a cool breeze. After traveling to Eldorado to take photographs…I decided that this warm spring day would be ideal for a journey to DuQuoin. Although I never lived in DuQuoin, I visited there more times than I can count or remember between the years 1970 – 2001. While I was still living in Eldorado and attending Eldorado High School I had many friends who lived in Elkville and the town that was seven miles from it, DuQuoin. As a lad from Eldorado…DuQuoin was the ‘Big City’ to me. I rode the Gulf Transport Bus to Carbondale on Saturdays and one of my friends…who could drive…would pick me up at the bus station and I would stay the night and return with my mom when she drove to church on Sunday. You heard correctly…we attended church in Elkville…50 miles from Eldorado. The little non-denominational church was pastored by a friend of the family and we knew many members of the congregation. Thus I had an array of friends in that area of the country and even today I live only about 22 miles from DuQuoin.
I would bring some expense money with me in order to help defray my food costs when staying with my hosts. On Saturday I had about $13 and proudly announced that I would buy the ingredients for a specialty dish that my host Pam was preparing. When she and her husband Michael deposited all of the ingredients into our shopping cart…I discovered that I was sorely short of funds. They laughed and gladly made up the difference. Green’s IGA was the go-to shopping center of DuQuoin in those halcyon days. Each time that I entered his store Mr. Green spoke to me like we were old friends. Ofen we would enjoy breakfast at a local restaurant of some notoriety, Maid-Rite Cafe, and the owner, Frank, would invariably place more bacon or biscuits and gravy or another pancake on my plate after I had taken it to the table and began eating. I later worked at SIUC with a colleague who lived in DuQuoin and often said that ‘The streets were made of gold,’ and I thought the same during my youth. On more than one occasion several of us teenagers would go to Emlings Cafe…which had the dangerous reputation of being open all night…and order breakfast at 3:00 A:M:. The 3:00 A:M: Breakfasts’ seemed especially good…
In Eldorado…I subscribed to the DuQuoin Evening Call and had it mailed to me… a day late…in order for me to keep abreast of the latest news in my ‘Big City’ hangout. Alongis’ had the best Italian Beef Sandwiches and my cousin and I would often avail ourselves of one when we were in DuQuoin. A few years later…about 1975 or 76′ Steve and I were driving through DuQuoin and he asked me if I would enjoy some biscuits and gravy at a little restaurant at the edge of town. I responded that I would very much like some biscuits and gravy and we pulled in and were shown to a table and the kind waitress asked us if we wanted coffee…and we did…and while she went to retrieve the coffee pot Steve asked, ‘You are springing for this …right?’ Springing was our term for paying and I answered that I did not have two pennies to rub together…and he sadly said that neither did he. We left rapidly…before the coffee arrived…
Warmer is the watchword for the Writing Porch. Mylo and MJ have joined me this afternoon. During my daily walk on Campus, I felt an upbeat attitude and feeling…as if something good was getting ready to happen. I have been reflecting on Forgotten People. They are almost everywhere that you turn. They tend to blend in with the scenery and are often unnoticed and underappreciated or unappreciated due to their humble attitude and leaning back when opinions and pronouncements are being uttered…while others lean forward in their customary self-anointed leadership roles.
Governance structures…especially of the volunteer variety…have a core nucleus…or some would say a clique…of people that are the movers and the shakers and whose opinions seem to weigh double as compared with the forgotten peoples’ weight of opinions… At times people leave church work due to feeling very unappreciated and somewhat hidden from the group. This is not only unfortunate but it is negligence and weakness in producing a strong faith community where everyone has a voice. It is an inexcusable loss of talent.
I made the case for many years to both chancellors and presidents at the University that they had a plethora of talent in the Civil Service Community that they were ignoring. This for the most part fell on deaf ears…or one of them would tell me what a good janitor that their janitor was or how terrific their groundkeeper was…or that the Civil Service Community were…’The Salt of the Earth.’ Patronizing platitudes are not sufficient and do not begin to solve the problem.
Pigeonhole is the term that best describes the marginalization of people. We live in a capitalist society that provides little to no ladders out of our pigeonhole confines other than money. Those who have proven to be adept at making a lot of money are idolized and lionized and asked to sit at the preferred seat at the banquet table. It is thought in polite society that the wise and the skilled are for the most part rich in this world’s goods. If that were the case…Christ would be the exception. The religious rulers of Jesus’ day were amazed and wondered where the itinerant preacher and his followers came from…as they definitely were among the Forgotten People…
Ukraine is undergoing war crimes and genocide on a daily basis. They are fighting and dying valiantly. How long will we say…’Those poor people…’ They are the faces that we do not have to confront…eye to eye…but what of the time that we are murdered and our women are raped and our children are slaughtered…while other nations stand back and watch and pray and offer…sanctions…
Populist politicians appeal to those who have felt ignored by the political elite for most of their lives. Many of us live in the middle of the political spectrum. We are neither ultra-right nor left-wing…we are people who seek that government that includes all people with no magnifying glass on any one group. Leaders who lift up the forgotten people are beloved and these leaders bring out the talents and skills and treasure chest of possibilities that these unnoticed members of the human family possess.
Mylo has gone to the Groomers. He is due to return with much shorter hair and styled like a schoolboy. We did not tell him what his future has in store…or as the Farside comic which had one little dog with his head hung outside the car window telling his doggie buddy, ‘Wait for me, I will be back after I am…tutored.’
We dropped by Hobby Lobby to have an old silk screenwork of art reframed. It is a Japanese scene of Mr. Fuji that is well over 100 years old. The wooden frame that it was in was worn and discolored and the backing of the piece appeared to be very old. On the back of the fabric was the date of 1812. It is amazing that the reds in the piece are still vibrant. Once we had chosen the new frame and matting and museum glass, with the assistance of a friendly and knowledgable young lady…the Silk Screen came alive…as if it were new once again.
Spring reminds me of the continual possibilities of new beginnings. No matter what stage of life we find ourselves in…with a new frame and some museum glass…we are revitalized and are as new as when we first began.
Billy B. wanted to do something special for Neva J. on Mothers’ Day. She was taking Photography classes at Lincoln School through the Adult Education Program. She was an excellent Photographer and had a keen eye for seeing something in the frame that others would ignore. Many of her photographs hung throughout their home. She took pictures of her good friend and confidant that the people of Eldorado called…’One Eye.’ Her name was really Abigal and she had been a school teacher until her son had been killed in Vietnam and she lost her way and much of her will to live. Some of the residents accused her of being a gypsy…while others said that she was a witch… Abigail was no more than a forgotten person…who Billy B.’s mom…found. Neva J. bought Abigal some new clothes at P.N. Hirsch Department Store and took her to the Beauty Parlor and drove her to Carbondale for a manicure and a pedicure…and she was a transformed woman.
Rosie talked to herself from time to time. She was a kind woman who was a bit of an introvert and a loner. Neva J. loved her and she loved Neva J. and Billy B. Often Rosie went on shopping trips with Neva J. and Billy B. and she commented that she thought that the First Lady, Jackie Kennedy, was the most lovely lady that she had ever seen. Rosie loved President and Mrs. Kennedy. Rosie seemed to have a closet full of the same style of dresses called Moo Moos… One day Neva J. took Rosie to Hart’s Department Store in Harrisburg and had her outfitted with a stylish outfit that was somewhat reminiscent of one that the First Lady was seen wearing on television. Rosie was transformed into an outgoing person. She enrolled in Dale Carnegie Courses and was such a quick study that she became an instructor in the popular public speaking classes of the day. Someone believed in her…and this was the spark that lit the fire of self-confidence in this intelligent and no longer lonely human being.
Chet could not see well. His glasses lens were very thick and some of his classmates called him, ‘Coke Bottle,’ due to the magnification of his eyes. Chet was extremely intelligent and tried to ignore the small-minded ridicule of some. Chet loved the television show, Lost In Space, and he studied the Robot on the show…which was one of the main characters. Chet became so good at imitating or channeling the Robot that he became a star in the school for his pitch-perfect portrayal. His and Billy B.’s classmates would gather around Chet as he performed and soon no one thought of Chet’s glasses…they saw him as a skilled performer and someone to be admired.
Billy B. and Chet had a master plan for Mother’s Day. They had borrowed Neva J.’s camera that she used for her photography classes and asked Abigail and Rosie to Neva J. and Billy B.’s house to take a photo of the three of them. They had been saving all year for the frame and the museum glass…and as soon as the photo was snapped they would ask Neva J. to develop it in the darkroom that she used at Lincoln School.
Billy B. snapped the photo…and Chet entitled it…’Three Wise Women…’
The Joy Of Spring
It is a lovely chilly Tuesday in April. The air smells fresh and clean and inviting. I am watching a group of gentlemen mowing across from my property and they have a bit of a spring in their step. As the summer progresses that buoyancy will be replaced by sweat. Spring assures us that we do not have to be either hot or cold…but sometimes we can be lukewarm…
Little Egypt has green onions growing in many yards. The fragrant smell of the new onions being cut is memorable. May is the time for picnics at Karel or Mahoney Parks in Eldorado. We often went before it became too hot and humid and later May is known for both. My aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents would all be present for the family picnic. There would be potato salad and baked beans and hot dogs and hamburgers and sweet tea to drink by the glass full. We Southern Illinoisans are almost southerners…but not quite…but we do enjoy our sweet tea. If you go much further north in Illinois…they do not know what you are speaking of and will tell you that they have sugar that you may use to sweeten your tea to your taste… Karel Park had some teeter totters and monkey bars and a merry-go-round that you could make go faster and faster if your pushing leg…held out. Also, tall slides became very hot as spring and summer wore on. Flies were our constant companions during our family reunion picnics. After swishing them away for hours…we tended to become somewhat lackadaisical in the constant employment of fly diversion. There was Granpa Askew, who I had never met as he and my Grandmother went their separate ways many years earlier. He invited me to sit upon his knee…like Santa Claus…and then offered me a dollar bill. I told him no thank you…but later my aunt Wanda informed me that I should have taken it…as he would just spend it on booze…which is the reason that he and Grandma Askew had lived apart for a long time. Grandma Askew came from holiness people and she eschewed liquor of any kind and movie shows and television and Carnivals…which she called…Carnevils. The weakness of the flesh…which is how most vices were preached about and spoken of in the Holiness Movement was either a lack of conviction of purpose in the Christian Walk…or Satan…
Mom and I represented the unchurched folk…in my early years. Neva J. enjoyed a periodic visit to a Honky Tonk and dancing and the occasional Slo-Gin Fizz. She had a heart of gold…and would help anyone in need. We had come from the big evil city and had some city ways. We along with aunt Guelda primarily kept our own brand of faith…and did not attend Granmas’ church…primarily because the minister spoke past 11:00 P:M: on a work night…and many in the congregation slept or at least cat-napped.
Spring Picnics in Eldorado were fun and eclectic and diverse with members of our family who were Gay and afraid to come out of the closet and others who enjoyed the occasional drink and yet others who pledged allegiance to the Faith…but we’re far from convinced. There were more secrets than any of us could count…but there was also a lot of love and genuine enjoyment of each other’s company.
As Time Goes By
April is moving rapidly toward its’ conclusion and May is peeking through the door. Over dinner with friends, the other night one asked MJ and me what we had been up to. As I reflected on what will soon be a third of 2022…I was amazed that our year was getting away from us so quickly. It seems that it was still the first days of January and we were enjoying the Ocean at Miramar Beach, Florida with Ira Kaye and Ron. When we returned home it was the contracting of Covid by Jonathon and MJ and me and the subsequent weird feeling of undergoing a short quarantine and wondering what the supposedly milder version hath wrought for the long term? And along came Mylo and he is growing like a weed…as my mother was accustomed to saying regarding my becoming taller. Then significant house cleaning by Judge Services and holidays and birthdays and 10 thousand steps per day and…it is almost May.
We live through the little things on our way to the big things….and suddenly it dawns on us that the little things were the big things. I am working on my 12th year of retirement and it seems like yesterday that I left my career. Until 2018 we traveled around the world and then discovered that there was peace and contentment and beauty and satisfaction in our own backyard. We still travel and indeed we have another Maine Holiday planned…but traveling is not the nirvana that many seek. Our Pandemic placed a large Black Hole in the middle of our lives. In fact, we are experiencing lost time. Life and its’ rhythms changed for us…and for many of us irreparably. When a friend or colleague asks us what we have been up to since the beginning of this decade…there is lost time and a big question mark as we attempt to fit the puzzle pieces together of our time in an alternate universe where we were afraid to encounter another human for the fear that we might die…
Art is life. Without literature and painting and music and theatre…we have no effective voice to communicate…’What we have been up to.’
He Is Risen…Now What?
Chilly and grey can describe the weather on Easter Sunday…1963. Billy B. awakened to the sound of Neva J. calling for him to, ‘Hit the deck you rubberneck!’ As he threw his feet over the side of his trundle bed she announced that it was the Great Easter Basket Hunt! He soon found the Basket behind their sectional couch. The couch was covered in plastic and sealed up by zippers so that every time Billy B. sat on it…it crackled and…
crinkled and it was hot to sit or lay upon in the summer. Neva J. reminded him that they were all going to Grandma Askew’s for Easter Dinner and that he should call Chet to remind him of the time to be ready. Chet did not tell Neva J. that Peter Rabbit was behind the couch and had winked at him when he found the Easter Basket.
Grandma A. had prepared, with the assistance of Neva J.s sister, Guelda, a wonderful ham and mashed sweet potatoes and spicy green bean casserole and broccoli salad with sweet cornbread…that Neva J. had brought with her for the feast. PR was between Billy B. and Chet…in the back seat on the way to Grandma A.s…and it was apparent to them that not everyone could see him…somewhat like the rabbit in the Jimmy Stewart movie Harvey. PR was once again dressed in his smart light blue jacket and was carrying a brilliant orange… giant carrot. As Neva J. drove their 1957 Chevy Belaire Convertable down Grandma’s Brick Street…Chet was busy having a lively discussion with PR about the meaning of Easter.
After Easter Dinner it was Grandma’s tradition to read the Easter story from her old and worn Bible: ‘In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulcher. And behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from Heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men. And the angel and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there ye shall see him: lo, I have told you.’
Peter thoroughly enjoyed the broccoli salad and asked for a second helping. Grandma could both see him and hear him…but then again she did have extraordinary insight. PR whispered to Billy B. and Chet and Grandma A….’Now that Jesus is risen from the dead…What would he have us do?’