‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’
‘Well…I can not believe that July is almost over…and school begins next month,’ said Jane with a scowl. ‘I have been reading that Japan and many other countries have school in session year-round and that they are overtaking us in educational preparedness,’ Chet mused reflectively. ‘I think that ‘I believe that school should be six months per year…and the other six months for adventure, Billy B. announced as if he had given the subject deep contemplation. ‘I quit school when I became 16 so I could go to work in the Shoe Factory in Mount Vernon…and I have always regretted the decision,’ Neva J. muttered. ‘We must have a last spectacular adventure before it is time to buy the school clothes and supplies…you know the paste and rulers and a package of number two pencils,’ Billy B. said. How about a trip to Maine,’ asked Neva J.? ‘I think that is a Capital Idea…and educational too,’ Darryl proclaimed. ‘We could go exploring for Lighthouses…and eat Lobster,’ Jane said with a lilting laugh. Billy B. loved to hear Jane laugh.
‘I have a great idea…we will stay at the Ocean Point Inn at Boothbay Harbor…my friend Lois runs it and I am sure she will give us a good deal,’ Neva J. said with a wide grin. Ocean Point Inn is a vintage resort with cabins next to the Ocean,’ Neva J. continued. We will drive the 57′ Chevy Convertable out to Maine and tour the surrounding towns that are near Boothbay,’ Neva J. said as she rubbed her hands together with glee!
‘I could live at Ocean Point Inn,’ Chet exclaimed! It is so peaceful and serene and the Ocean view is majestic and mysterious,’ Jane said. ‘I love the Maine Breakfast that they serve each morning…it is to die for,’ said Darryl. ‘Is everyone ready to drive to Pemiscot Point to see the Lighthouse,’ Neva J. asked. ‘I have heard that Pemiscott Point Lighthouse is haunted by the former Lighthouse Keeper who died in 1878.’ Chet mentioned. ‘All the better…I say…perhaps we will meet him when we go up into the Lighthouse,’ Darryl said with a hearty laugh.
The rocky shore of Pemiscot Lighthouse was something to behold. It was no sugar white sandy beach as Miramar Beach in Florida was…but rather a rocky and dangerous shore that certainly would require a working Lighthouse. After driving about two hours from Boothbay Harbor and stopping for a Lobster Casserole at A Taste of Maine…they had arrived and it was foggy enough that you could cut it with a knife. Pemiscot Lighthouse was a working Lighthouse and its; Beacon was ablaze with brilliant light for the ships in the Ocean. There was no one in the Lighthouse Gift Store to sell Neva J. and Billy B. and Chet and Darryl and Jane a ticket to enter the Lighthouse…but there was a Sexton at the base of the Lighthouse that was beckoning the intrepid Eldorado group to enter the magnificent structure. Up the steep stairs, they climbed… At the top of the stairs sat an old sailor with grey whiskers and a hoary head of hair…he was smoking a pipe and the smoke encircled his head. ‘How did you residents of Eldorado arrive at my Lighthouse,’ the old sailor asked. ‘We drove from Eldorado in my 57′ Chevy Convertable,’ Neva J. replied. ‘What is a 57′ Convertable…a type of buggy,’ asked the sailor. ‘It is an automobile powered by a combustion engine,’ Darryl replied. ‘My Light has gone out…look upon the rocky shore and you will see the crashed sailing vessel on the boulders below,’ said the sailor with little more than a whisper. ‘The Old Sailor is correct…there is a ship that has crashed onto the shore and bodies are laying all over the rocks…and as I look through his telescope there is…Neva J. and Billy B. and Jane and Darryl…and me…
Chet suddenly awakened as the wind blew his hair and spirits were light and free and adventurous…as they crossed the State Line…into Maine…
Neva J. called out to the car’s crew…’ shall we stop for a restroom break…before driving the last 20 miles to the Pemiscot Lighthouse?’ ‘Yes…please do…I feel a little nauseous and need to purchase a Coca-Cola to settle my stomach…I think that I consumed more Lobster than I am accustomed to,’ said a blue and sweating Chet. After a short time at the Maine Service Station for restrooms and Coca-Cola and then back on the road to the Lighthouse…up ahead was a terrible car wreck and there were five bodies along the side of the road with blankets over them and including their faces. ‘They did not see the oncoming Semi Tractor Trailer whose driver could not see the road and had drifted into their lane of traffic…, said the police officer in a whisper… ‘You need a Lighthouse in this fog…’
Time Changes Things
I heard the great philosopher, Dolly Parton, say regarding a family reunion she was enjoying in Pigeon Forge…at the foot of the Smokys…that she was not in the children’s group nor in the senior citizen category…but that her time was coming. She went on about how the children look up to the elders among them and look toward them for wisdom and history and a sense of place…and that the transition from one group to the next happens almost imperceptibly. For many years we are the breadwinners and the homemakers and the host of events and cookouts and holidays…and then we are slowly the ones being helped to the table. The storytellers and the gray heads and hoary beards among the group. No mountain was too tall for us to climb and no valley was too steep for us to explore. We have the distinct privilege and high honor of seeing the babies in our midst become wonderful and caring adults and their children…do the same.
We are traveling on what seems to be a slow coal-fired locomotive that is leisurely ‘clickety-clacking’ down the track of life…when in reality we are on the Eurorail and the scene is whisking by our windows so rapidly that it gives us a headache to look at it. On the Stage of Life…Shakespeare told us to ‘Play our part well…’
If we had the luxury of sitting down at the Orpheum Theatre in Eldorado and watching a film of our lives…they would make so much more sense than they do at the moment…sometimes. We would see the danger that was lurking just around the corner that we did not take. We would hear the laughter of our grown children and grandchildren as they sat securely in their own skin…and enjoyed the person that they were.
Fear and doubt and imaginations…stalk our lives at times…but the result of most trepidation and worry is merely shadows and not reality. Life brings joy and peace and love…and forgiveness…if we give it a chance…
‘Oh sweet mystery of life at last I’ve found you,’ the singer proclaims. The discovery of life’s mystery is easier to sing about…than to discover. I asked an old gentleman…probably my age at the time…what he could recall about the 1940s…and he replied that it had been so long ago and he had been so busy working…that he did not remember much. He went on to say that looking back on the 40s was little more than a blur in his memory. I think that there was more truth in his words than I realized at the time of our conversation. Working at Life…tends to obscure Life.
The Geese surprised me this morning. I was at my favorite Campus Pond and when I rounded the corner of some foliage…there were many of them languidly indulging in a Thursday morning swim. When they saw me… they did not flinch or Honk. We have seen each other before. As their world swirled about them…they were singularly focused on the tasks at hand…swimming and bobbing for food.
I spoke to my old friend yesterday. Our conversation made my day! There are many who say that they are your friend…but there is only a handful…who live their title and claim. Those that do so…are worth their weight in gold. So to be present for your life…is a worthy cause. To have a sense of place and purpose in life is a bringer of contentment and happiness.
Chet did not seem to have many friends. He was a bit of a loner…with thick glasses that made his eyes look pronounced. He appeared to be just the type of friend that Billy B. wanted to have. Most of Billy B.s first grade class already knew each other due to having gone through kindergarten together. Billy B. had not attended kindergarten nor had he lived in Eldorado until a week prior to school beginning. Billy B. had begun life as a rather outgoing person until his mom and dad began having marital difficulties and he witnessed the unhappiness that their problems brought both of them. The move to Eldorado had been a surprise for Billy B. and he had been told it was for the purpose of mom and dad making amends and dad getting away from the ‘other woman’ in Chicago. So…Billy B. had become contemplative as life delivered him a massive change from his Leave It To Beaver lifestyle…to a big and cold and haunted house across from the High School…that had a rat in the bathtub the first morning the family awakened. Chet was a breath of fresh air and a good and faithful friend. He and Billy B. liked to play with soldiers and cowboys and sundry action figures. Chet liked his hot dogs directly out of the package and Billy B. learned to like them that way too…although Neva J. was appalled. Life had presented lemons to Billy B. or a New Normal…as some would say…and he acclimated to it with gusto with his good friend Chet.
What appears to be devastating can often be a door of opportunity…if we are willing and able to walk through it…
Maltese In The Mirror
Mylo has a friend in the mirror. He visits him each day. At times he barks…at other times he kisses the Maltese In The Mirror…and at still other occasions he stares for a bit. Mylo is fascinated by the mirror image of himself…it is another Maltese with a good haircut…from another dimension. At times we feel somewhat like Mylo. We see the mirror image of ourselves and wonder what that good-looking person is like and what they are all about? My quest for photos of Little Egypt continues. I am on a search for who I was…and who I am at this elderly stage of my life. I was in DuQuoin, Illinois today, and everywhere that I looked brought back memories of my youth. DuQuoin was the big city for me when I was a teenager. DuQuoin had the State Fair, one of two in Illinois, and they hosted the largest Harness Racing event in the United States, the Hambletonian. Famous celebrities came to DuQuoin including; Bob Hope and Red Skelton. The DuQuoin State Fair had the mystery of the Freak and Mystery Shows. Was there really a headless woman?
So…we read where the President of our University tells us that although he received a hefty pay raise as well as the Chancellor of SIUC…they still are underpaid… He wishes that he had more money for pay raises for staff…who he notes deserve a pay raise…but the revenue is not there… Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale is settled among some of the poorest people in Illinois. There are the senior citizens who must decide whether to purchase their prescription drugs for the month…or eat. Southern Illinois’ children are excited regarding school will soon begin…because they are hungry and only get well-balanced meals…at school. The residents of Little Egypt…walk…they have no money for gas. Every town in Southern Illinois that I have visited over the last few months has houses that are falling down around the ears of the families that inhabit them. SIUC was founded to be a missionary outreach to the poor citizens of Little Egypt.
I was sad when I read an announcement this morning that Tony Dow, the actor who played Beavers’ older brother Wally on Leave It To Beaver, had died. On October 2nd, 2021 I was wondering what to do with the three extra hours that I had on a rainy Saturday. Our house cleaners were going to be doing some deep cleaning and I did not want to be in their way. I set sail for Caper Girardeau, Missouri to meet Tony Dow and Jerry Mathers…Wally and The Beaver. They were at Comic Con at the Ramada Inn near the airport. Leave It To Beaver was an iconic television program to me. I watched the show on Prime Time in Sauk Village which is a suburb of Chicago, Illinois. I remember distinctly how much I identified with the happy suburban lifestyle that the Cleaver family enjoyed. The street that they lived on…looked like my street. The friends that Wally and the ‘Beave’ had reminded me of my friends. My mom wore dresses and pearls around the house on many occasions. Happiness seemed a birthright to me…because I did not know any different. All of that changed when I became five years old and my mother and father began having marital troubles that ended in our moving to Eldorado in Southern Illinois and then their subsequent divorce and mom and me standing in commodity lines for a five-pound block of Commodity Cheese and Potted Meat and Dry Milk. So…I looked back at the Prime Time TV run of Leave It To Beaver and the idyllic days in Sauk Village…with nothing but fond memories.
There was quite a crowd at the Ramada Inn Convention Center and I had trouble finding a parking spot. When I entered I did not see Wally and ‘The Beave’ anywhere…but a kind gentleman directed me to where they were signing autographs and having photos taken with them. Jerry Mather’s wife explained the pricing of the photos and autographs and I chose what she recommended. I was struck by how much older Wally and Beaver looked..but then again it had been over 60 years. When I approached Jerry Mathers I told him that I had grown up watching him in Leave It To Beaver and that my early childhood had been reminiscent of the show. He responded that you must have had a wonderful childhood.’ When it was time to have my photo taken with the two of them I ruminated as to whether I wanted to have the photo taken with my hat on or off. Jerry said that was a tough decision.
Tony Dow was quiet and friendly. I had read that he had recently been in the hospital for Covid. His wife seemed very loving and protective of him. As I stood between the two actors and heroes of my youth…I thought of how time had passed so quickly. I had caught snippets of Jerry Mather’s career after Leave It To Beaver and watched a remake of the show and noticed that he had lost a bit of weight. I read that Tony had been a producer and was an active artist. After I met Wally and ‘The Beave’ I watched some videos of Tony and his wife that they had made during the height of our Pandemic and I noticed the genuineness of him and his authentic comments about their life.
Showing Up…Is Half The Battle
The cool breezes of 74 degrees are blowing through the Writing Porch. A placid peaceful rain is falling. Monday has arrived again and all is right with the world. Summer is scampering away from us. We may not miss this Herculean Hot summer as much as we have missed summers in times past. As I have regularly gotten a bit older I have learned one valuable lesson…showing up is half..or more…of the battle. So often our fears and misconceptions and lack of direction…prevent us from simply showing up. As an employee for most of my life, I discovered that the best habit to develop was to report for work on a regular basis. You can learn most any job duty…if you are there to be taught it. If you are not there…failure is the result. As a writer, I plan on writing every day. As a photographer, I take photos daily. As a Walker, I walk on a daily basis. Good routines make for a good life.
When I first became a manager at Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale I was 29 years old. I thought that was old…but I have found that I was wrong. Each day for the first year when it was time to report for my management job…I was nauseous. I was afraid that I was not up to the task and that I probably would be a failure. One of my first duties when I arrived at Building Services as the Assistant Superintendent…was to meet with the Superintendent. This was a daily affair and I dreaded it. He was a serious man with little humor when it came to me. I took copious notes to ensure that I would not forget his instructions to me…and I was determined to succeed. I knew that I had three people; MJ and Aaron and Jonathon who were counting on me to not fail. I held the position for over twelve years before becoming the Superintendent.
Vincent van Gogh sold only one painting during his tumultuous life. He painted 900. He was mentally ill…but he persevered and today is one of the most renowned artists in the world. Vincent cut off his left ear…but he did not stop painting. I wrote the other day that Art Is Life…and it is. Many of us must do our Art…as it is like breathing to us. The value of Art has been diminished at times during our human history…especially in the Industrial Age and our current higher education of credentialing rather than education. The facts are that every academic discipline is resting on the human family’ love and hunger and thirst for Art. Our Bible was written by men who were inspired by their Art of Faith and the desire to see the unseen. Architecture illustrates the physical manifestation of the sublime. Geology is the study of the artistic mystery of our earth. History records the struggle and progress of the human family as we travel back to our mutual home.
Strive to be present in the unfolding of your life. We must remove our noses from our iPhones and iPads…and look around at the breathtaking beauty of our family and colleagues and friends…our home and our sense of place. Leave your comfort zone and try something new and in the trying…renew yourself on our short walk back the Jerusalem…
Settled & Secure
‘I love going to Grandma Askews’ house and staying with her and Aunt Guelda for a few days,’ mused Billy B. ‘There is a place for everything and everything is in its’ place,’ he continued. ‘I always feel warm and happy when I see her rocking chair and the old and worn King James Bible on the little table next to the chair,’ Jane said with a tear in her eye. ‘Your Grandma A. has the coldest and sweetest milk that I have ever drank,’ Chet offered with a wide grin. ‘I think that Nugget…is a badass dude,’ Darryl laughed. ‘He barks at me every time I enter his room where he sleeps on the easy chair that is next to the couch,’ Darryl continued. ‘When I try to pet him he snarls and bares his teeth and simply will have none of it,’ Chet noted. ‘Grandma did not always live such a sedate and settled life,’ Billy B. said.
‘Mom…I am hungry…when will daddy be home,’ Neva J. asked. ‘I could eat as well…it has been two days…’ Get The Point…Get The Point…,’ Gene or Fetch as Neva J. called him, said with a sour look on his face. ‘Why don’t we hunt for some venison in the woods…Gene has a bow and arrow set…maybe he could bag us a deer,’ Wanda asked? ‘I think that our two dads…are lazy loafers and drunkards and abusive,’ Beulah said with anger in her eyes! ‘Mom suffered though Gueldas and my dad being abusive and not feeding his family and Neva J. and Gene and Wanda suffered with a drunkard for a father,’ Beulah continued. ‘Now…now…Beulah… let us go to the woods and see what the Lord will provide for us,’ Grandma A. said with a look of peace that was baffling.
‘Persimmons is all that I see,’ Neva J. said with disgust. ‘Neva J. persimmons are good to eat and they are good for you…fill your basket full of them and we will eat them for our supper tonight,’ Grandma A. said. ‘I bet Dad is eating at his favorite Bar and drinking Old Fashions and Dirty Martinis,’ said Fetch with tears in his eyes. ‘Yes…but God will provide for us…and God loves your father too,’ Grandma Askew said in a whisper.
‘Come and get it…fried chicken and mashed potatoes and green beans with bacon cooked in them,’ Grandma A. said with a wide smile. ‘Here is your fried chicken…Narky, which is the name Grandma A. gave Nugget during the last few years of his life, and I have included some mashed potatoes…just like you like them,’ Grandma A. said with a beaming smile.
Settled and Secure comes from being unsettled and insecure. Life brings to us many challenges and trials and tribulations. Often we feel like it might be the end or at least a new normal that we are not ready for. We watch our neighbors and friends and colleagues go through trying times and say by the grace of God that has not hit me as yet…but wait…none of us are exempt.
In The Good Old Summertime
‘Did you know that there is a heat advisory for today, asked Billy B.? ‘What is a heat advisory,’ replied Chet. ‘They are issued when it gets so hot that the heat can make you ill,’ Billy B. said. ‘I feel ill often when I am outdoors under the Sun…especially the noonday Sun,’ Neva J. commented. ‘The summer sun is so glaring and intense that houses and even a small town…spontaneously combusted,’ Jane commented. ‘I do not know many people who have an air conditioner in their home…or car…just window fans that you place on exhaust out of a window at night and attempt to draw in some cooler night air,’ Darryl mentioned. ‘And that is not very effective…I can tell you as I lay in a pool of my own perspiration…and clasp my damp sheets,’ Billy B. said with a grimace. ‘It makes me appreciate fall and the cool breezes of autumn,’ Chet said with a smile on his face.
As Chet and Billy B. were watching ‘The Day The Earth Stood Still’ at the Orpheum Theatre and enjoying the luxurious air conditioning…Chet had an idea. He wondered what Klaatu, the alien who looked like a human in the movie and played by Michael Rennie, would do to solve the problem of the heatwave? ‘Ride bicycles more and stop burning fossil fuels,’ Klaatu said. Now, this was indeed a surprise to Chet as Klaatu was speaking directly to him…and there he was…in the movie. ‘Hello Klaatu…how is it that I am in ‘The Day The Earth Stood Still’ and yet I can see myself eating popcorn and setting next to Billy B. in the audience,’ said Chet. ‘Well…you had a question and I thought that I would take a moment to answer it for you…as you can see by the theme of the movie…Klaatu and Gort came to Earth to warn the inhabitants of the planet that they must cease to be warlike or they would have to be destroyed,’ said Klaatu. ‘The question you have postulated will in the next few decades become the most important question that any occupant of earth can ask,’ Klattu continued. ‘Being hot and thinking little of it…will soon not be an option for earthlings,’ Klattu said with a sigh. ‘The problem of Global Warming was not on many people’s radar in the 1960s…but in the next century…it will be all anyone can talk about,’ Klattu said in little more than a whisper. ‘The earth is a great and fragile gift…the balancing of mankind’s needs…are mostly mankind’s wants…while the needs of the earth are almost being totally ignored,’ Klattu said.
Chet remembered his mysterious talk with Klaatu. He understood what had been a nuisance…was now a nemesis. The other day it was 104 degrees in the United Kingdom. The glaciers were rapidly melting. Tornadoes were now a mile wide when they touched the earth. Yet people still were fighting over political/religious conspiracy theories.
Vincent van Gogh has come to live at our house. I have been a van Gogh admirer for many years. Jonathon ordered him from the Getty Museum in Los Angles, California. On the box that he came in are 10 Vincent Van Gogh facts:
- Born in 1853 in the Netherlands.
- It was cheaper for him to paint self-portraits than to hire models.
- He voluntarily admitted himself to a mental asylum.
- He signed his works with his first name only.
- In less than 10 years he produced more than 900 works.
- He only sold one painting during his lifetime.
- He wrote more than 600 letters to his brother Theo, an art dealer.
- After a quarrel with his friend Paul Gaugin, he cut off his left ear.
- He died of a gunshot wound in France.
- His last words were ‘The sadness will last forever.’
MJ and I visited the St. Louis Art Museum a little over a week ago and were delighted to see a few van Gogh works.
I love a good action figure and Jonathon, Aaron, and MJ know it. Vincent van Goghs’ work is captivating to me. I often wonder if he saw that which he painted in the surreal way he placed the subject on his canvas. We visited the Musee d’Orsay in Paris in 2012. There was a large room in the museum that was dedicated to Vincent exclusively. What a feast for the senses in seeing all those Works gathered in one place! It was extremely hot and very crowded with people…but the experience was to die for…as my buddy Ron often says.
The above paintings are from a visit to the St. Louis Art Museum in 2020. I recall the trepidation that we had at being out in public with our Pandemic still raging…and it is not over.
Action Figures spark my imagination. Art…especially over the past 25 years has been a great comfort to me and a singular enjoyment. Action Figures are a bit like little statues or little people. When I see them I wonder what they are preparing to do…or think…or their personality is. So…I suppose I have always been a fan of art…whether it be the little statues of Action Figures when I was a lad…or the Fine Art that mesmerizes my thoughts as an adult.
Storytelling is art. A good story comes from the author’s imagination being sparked by a simple idea. The ideas come from what surrounds the Storyteller. Faith is art. ‘Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen…’ We all love a good story. Stories keep us on the path of life…and point us toward tomorrow…
Art is life…
It is my Buddy Rons’ birthday today. MJ and I and Ira Kaye and Ron have traveled together on several occasions. Ron is my brother-in-law…but he is like a brother to me. We have been invited to Ron and Ira Kayes’ condo @ Miramar Beach many times over the past decade. They are experts in making me feel welcome. I have known my Buddy for over 44 years…and they have been fun. He is a stellar example of a man that is dedicated to and who loves his family in both word and deed.
Ron and I had a habit of enjoying different wine and cheese, while our better halves shopped, @ Wine World. On many occasions, we mutually solved the problems of the world and enjoyed doing so. If I feel draggy or less than inspired…Ron inspires me to live life to the fullest! He is one of the finest examples of how to live your life well.
Ron keeps me laughing and his good humor is contagious. Although he is a bit older than me…he causes me to want to reach out and grab the brass ring. This man has a kind heart. In all of the years that I have known him, I have never heard him argue or fuss or show a disagreeable temperament. Ron…like me…loves the Ocean. From Fish Frys and Homemade Ice Cream…to ensure that I have Baileys Irish Cream for my coffee…and Kettle One for my Dirty Martinis…he is a winner! I grew to love Florida…by seeing it through his eyes…
MJ and I are thinking of Ron on his birthday and wishing him all the best that life has to offer…and many more…