Monthly Archives: August, 2022

Everywhere Is Fun When You Are With Your Family

MJ and I and Aaron and Jonathon enjoyed a wonderful weekend with our lovely family. We spent the weekend on Kentuck Lake with Marcy, Brock, Jaime, Morgan, and Jeb. They treated us like Royalty! In fact, the time that we spent with each of them was so enjoyable that I am already ready to do it again. I grew up as an only child and did not know about Brock until 2012. Brock makes a Burger that will melt in your mouth…two of them melted in mine. He can do anything and I so admire his accomplishments! I think of Marcy as my sister and not my sister-in-law. She is an inspiration to me! Her love for Brock, Jaime, Morgan, and Jeb is something to behold. Jaime is my buddy. Morgan is so sharp-witted and accomplished in more than one area…but her dog-rearing skills captured my imagination. Jeb has the dry sense of humor that I aspire to achieve..but he accomplishes it with the ease of a professional. They have enriched mine and MJ and Aaron and Jonathon’s lives.

I lean towards the mystical, mysterious, and spiritual and was amazed when I saw a painting in the cottage that we were staying in of a boat without a passenger floating on Kentucky Lake. I had written a short story about such a boat that had no passengers and was found floating in an inlet of Kentucky Lake last Thursday and Friday…which was the day that we drove to the Cottage. Of course, I had not seen the painting that hung over the mantel.

Kentucky Lake is a Go-To Destination in Southern Illinois. I have heard my friends and colleagues speak of it all of my life. The beauty of the Lake is mesmerizing. The Lake is not only relaxing but a good place to jet ski and play frisbee. It is an ideal location to enjoy a Brocks’ Special Hamburger. or Marcys’ Delicious Banana Pudding. Aaron and I found it a perfect spot for a cigar break. Claw and Cayman Jack visited us…and we enjoyed their company.

Saturday night we played the most enjoyable card game that I have ever participated in. I have never enjoyed losing…so much…

Kentucky Lake Time

‘We are going to have a grand time,’ said Neva J. as she announced, ‘Hit The Deck…You Rubbernecks!’ Billy B. and Chet and Jane and Darryl rubbed the sleep from their eyes and leaped out of their beds. ‘I can’t wait for a Pontoon Boat Ride,’ laughed Jane. ‘Is it the same Pontoon Boat that the Willis Family went missing from,’ asked Chet. ‘Indeed it is…and their bodies were never recovered,’ Darryl intoned. ‘They will not bother us…I have my Case Knife with me for our protection,’ Billy B. announced. ‘Be sure and pack the red wine,’ Neva J. reminded all.

‘Edgar Cayce was from Kentucky and I hear that he enjoyed visiting Kentucky Lake,’ Neva J. informed the group. ‘Edgar Cayce is your constant companion…Neva J…you are fascinated with him…a bit, Chet observed. ‘Edgar was born in Christian County Kentucky and buried in Hopkinsville, Kentucky,’ Darryl noted. ‘Many believe Mr. Cayce to be a founder of the New Age Movement,’ Jane added. ‘If Edgar Cayce were still alive perhaps he could tell us what happened to the Willis Family,’ Chet said. ‘Oh…I see him from time to time when I look into my bedroom full-length antique mirror,’ Neva J. replied nonchalantly. ‘You all do recall that we have taken more than one mysterious journey through Neva J.s Magic Looking Glass…right,’ Chet asked. ‘Before we load the 57′ Chevy… let us look into your mirror…Neva J…and see what we can see,’ Jane suggested. As the Kentucky Lake Travellers peered into the massive mirror…looking back at them was Nelly Willis. ‘Have you folks arrived at the Lake yet,’ Nelly asked. ‘We like it so well…we decided to stay…I do not think that Harmon ever knew that we left,’ Nelly laughed. ‘Nelly…did you know that the Eldorado Police are still looking for you and Dennis and Lanny and that you are considered missing persons,’ Neva J. asked. ‘Well no one seemed to know us when we were in Eldorado and now that we are gone…we figured that no one would miss us,’ Nelly replied. ‘Well…where are you and the guys now,’ Billy B. inquired. ‘It is the funniest story…we were night fishing in the John Boat that we pulled behind our car when two of our hogs that we had raised in Eldorado…swam out to greet us.’ ‘Now to say that we were amazed would be an understatement…then they began to talk and inform us that Harmon had put a hit out on the three of us in order to inherit the insurance money and that we were in danger,’ Nelly said with a little laugh. ‘The pigs then said for us to follow them to an underwater secret tunnel where we could travel back in time to the Kentucky Lake of 100 years ago,’ Nelly continued. ‘So you are now at Kentucky Lake,’ asked Neva J. ‘Yes, but in 1863…not 1963…did you find the Polaroid of the Pigs,’ Nelly asked. ‘Yes…but what was that about,’ Chet asked. ‘The Eldorado Police could not make heads or tails of it,’ Billy B. laughed. ‘Well we always knew that they were smart hogs…but when Elmer Pig asked us to snap a Polaroid of him and Eskell…to leave in the John Boat…I was flabbergasted,’ Nelly said. ‘Elmer said that the photo would throw the Police off of the trail and would be an object of conversation around many dinner tables…especially when they were eating…ham…’

Kentucky Lake was everything that Neva J. had heard about it through the years. It seemed to go on forever and never end. The air was cool there…all of the time. She and Jane and Billy B. and Chet and Darryl ate fish almost every day. Sometimes she missed the 57′ Chevy…but she loved their horses…Brownie and Fred…and Moonshine was delicious…

Travel Is My Muse

SIUCs’ students are moving in today and there is one look on the parent’s faces…and another on their young adults. Mom and Dad look tired and nervous and a bit of trepidation at their babies flying from the nest. On the other hand, the new students have a look of excitement, wonder, and adventure on their faces.

We Brooks will be flying from our nest for a few days at a time in the next few weeks. First, we visit Kentucky Lake and then Boothbay Harbor, Maine at the Ocean Point Inn. I have heard people speak fondly of Kentucky Lake all of my life. Some folks holiday at the Lake…while others live on the Lake…and even others have houseboats on it. My friend Jeff and I were talking earlier this week and remarked that it was unbelievable how Covid changed the world…and I agree. We did not travel for well over a year. I have basically stopped my Retirement habit and goal of attending the Movie Theatre at least once per week. Prior to 2020…the beginning of Our Pandemic…we cruised often and were able to go to Europe on four occasions. A holiday at Kentucky Lake is a big deal to me! Brock and Marcy and Jeb and Morgan and Jaime will be there…and that will make our visit very special. We have not seen them in three years.

Old is a reality of the calendar…and a state of mind. Motion perpetuates…motion. Many of us have a young and active mind…some would say perhaps too young…and the way to keep your brain refreshed and renewed is to try new things and seek to do all that you can do…

Our last visit to Edinburgh, Scotland involved a lot of walking…like over 20 thousand steps per day. I was never so tired and yet felt more alive. Walking drives away the Blues. In fact, all of our European visits involved much walking…and many stairs. I can remember MJ and I dutifully climbing a tremendous flite of stairs in Edinburgh and thinking as we almost had crested the top that we had made it…when upon looking over the horizon of the climb…there was yet another flite just as long and arduous as the first. On our visit to Paris, we climbed the Montamarte Stairs…I was 10 years younger…and I barely made it. The cruises are nice…you have your Hotel with you.

Travel stirs up the soul and the mind and reinvigorates the traveler with purpose. The purpose is vital to human happiness. When Aaron and Jonathon were children MJ and I dedicated our resources to taking them to as many places as we could afford. Former President Nixon said in a book of his that I read that families should travel with their children as much as possible as there is no better education. After witnessing our friend Margo’s dedication to writing and her inviting us to a Writers Meeting with author Patricia Sands…I returned home from Nice, France, and started writing and have never stopped.

Maine is inspirational. From the crashing of Ocean waves on the rocky shores to the Lighthouses to the majestic towns and the delicious lobster. Maine is the Lobster Man’s life and the Artist and the Writer and the Seeker of Peace and meaning and a sense of place. Stephen King is inspired by his Maine home. Maine stirs up ideas and artistic pursuits.

Southern Charm

As I walked the Campus of Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale I could feel the expectations and excitement regarding the beginning of the Fall Semester on Monday. There has been a lot of work done on the Old Campus and the new VEMO Scooters are parked and ready to Scoot… This is my 44th year of Fall Semesters at SIUC. I began my career at the University on October the 10th, 1978, and have been almost a constant visitor to the Campus for the past nearly 12 years. I do not stray far from home. Our students are our most precious citizens. I saw several today with their new books under their arms and many with their musical band instruments as they carried them to the Student Center.

October tenth in 1978 was a bit chilly in the evening when I began my career at SIUC. The second shift did not begin until 5:00 P:M:. Mr. Young who was the Night Manager of the department talked to me for about 45 minutes before he sent me to my assigned building with my supervisor, Don Stonum. I was all of 20 years old and my eyes were so full…they were overflowing. I could not believe my good fortune in obtaining a job at the University. I could not fathom the good pay and benefits that I was going to receive. Mr. Young and Mr. Stonum both seemed very happy to have me on board…and I was determined to not disappoint their expectations.

Southern was there for me throughout my 32 + years with her. I was recognized for my accomplishment and promoted on several occasions. I received all of my University education on a part-time basis while I was working. I met the most interesting and diverse people from all over our planet at SIU. I learned that we are all God’s Children…

My meager advice to My School is… not to marginalize some employees or students. Do not make some feel small…and others feel tall. Train your managers on how to manage and what accepted norms of management are. As former President Regan told Soviet Premier Gorbachev…’ Trust but verify.’ Exhibit the care for your staff that was shown to me over 40 years ago. When you are seeking pennies to save…let your leaders bear the burned as much as their staff. Never short change your colleagues or minimalize them…or as the great statement from the movie Dirty Dancing admonishes…’No one puts Baby in the corner…’

August Night

‘This is one of the most comfortable nights we have had this summer,’ Neva J. said as she sipped her red wine. ‘Well it is only 73 degrees and there is a touch of fall in the air…I think,’ noted Chet. ‘I tell you what there is a touch of…there is a touch of school in the air…I already have homework,’ Billy B. said with a wry grin. ‘The Wiz is pouring it on for the first week of school,’ Jane observed. ‘I am so excited about going to Kentucky Lake this Friday,’ Darryl said. ‘What do they have at Kentucky Lake,’ Jane asked. ‘I hear it is so beautiful and peaceful and serene,’ Neva J. responded. ‘Will they have cigars there,’ Billy B. asked with a mischievous laugh. Billy B. had been smoking Marlboro cigarettes around the house when he did not think Neva J. would notice and then spraying the smoking area with bug spray from the plunger sprayer. One time she caught him and said, ‘You silly kid…if you are going to smoke you might as well do it in front of me…and thus the smoking of Marlboros had ceased to be fun.

‘Brock and Marcy will be there as well as Jeb and Jaime,’ Chet said with gusto. ‘We will have a bushel of fun when we get together…I am going to go out on the Pontoon Boat,’ Jane declared. ‘I have been told that the Lake holds many secrets and mystery,’ Chet spoke softly. ‘There was a family from Eldorado that disappeared when they went on their Kentucky Lake vacation last year,’ Neva J. remarked. ‘Yes, the Willis family…Dennis and Lanny and Nelly…were our neighbors at one time,’ Billy B. said. The Willis family had rented a cottage on Kentucky Lake and pulled their John Boat behind their car to the Water. The Willis loved to fish and they loved Kentucky Lake. Nelly had a special recipe for frying fish that would cause it to melt in your mouth. They carried their shotgun with them everywhere that they went. Lanny and Dennis really did smoke little Italian Cigars and you seldom saw them without one in their mouths. The Willis did not ‘Cotton’ much to society and preferred to stay to themselves. They did seem to like Billy B. and Neva J… and Nelly often went to church with them. Her husband Harmon had given up on church many years ago. Neva J. called him Charmin Harmon…but he was anything but. They had a Junkyard all around their house and Charmin Harmon spent the preponderance of his time working on one old car or another. The raised skinny hogs. They were almost feral. They had a Hog Pond. Billy B. had joined Lanny and Dennis on more than one occasion…on very hot days…for a dip in the HP. So…when Nelly and Lanny and Dennis got a chance to take a holiday to Kentucky Lake that Lannys’ older brother Curtis paid for…they took it with glee. On the seventh night that they were at the Lake, they decided to take a late summer boat ride under the stars and a full moon shining on the water. You could see perfectly…they say…but there was the howling of coyotes in the distance. In the morning some people from the cabin next to the Willis cabin saw the John Boat floating in the middle of the inlet of the Lake that they were in…but no one was in the boat…upon closer inspection…there was a polaroid photo of two Feral Hogs…grinning…in the bottom of the Boat…

Autumn Is Coming

Seventy-four degrees feels a bit chilly after the heat wave we experienced this summer. I have often said that I feel a hint of fall in August. I spoke with my old friend Jeff who lives in the United Kingdom, yesterday. We had a lovely conversation and reminisced about our adventures across Europe last decade.

This summer has been full of my traveling to many small towns and villages in Southern Illinois. I have been snapping photos everywhere I go. I seldom saw people…it was too hot. I did see many proud communities that had been somewhat ravaged by the sluggish economy of Little Egypt.

Fall is my time of year. The cool days and the chilly nights are what I like. I love the changing of the leaves and Pumpkin Spice. Southern Illinois University will begin its Fall Semester next week. The beginning of the Fall Term never ceases to excite my mind and stir my emotions. SIUC is the Door of Opportunity for our entire region. During the over 32 years that I was employed at the University, I was energized by the plethora of opportunities that returned anew each Autumn. I recall so many years ago when my good friend Jackie B. was enrolled in the Accounting Program at SIUC. I had been working a variety of jobs after my graduation from Eldorado High School…and I was quickly finding that the doors that were open to me seemed limited by my education. Jackie B. on the other hand was moving forward on what appeared to be the road to success. Sadly Jackie B. chose to not attend college…and I ultimately did… part-time as I worked for the School.

As I spoke with Jeff Lestz…the years melted away. We have been friends for over 50 years. How time flies. I have been impressed with the slipping away of time and the joy of living every minute to its fullest. I remember conversations that Jeff and I had in the early 70s and they seem like yesterday… I reflected on the shortness of life when Jeff and my mutual friend Doug passed away just the other day. We plan on building bigger barns and never think that tonight our souls may be required of us.

Anger and hate and strife and violence have become commonplace in our country. We have become entrenched in our tribes and our political/religious dogma and many of us want to lash out against the world. Have you ever seen the movie, The Wicker Man? The movie illustrates a pagan ritual by an island community of offering a human sacrifice that they place in a giant Wicker Man. I wonder if we are seeking a sacrifice to offer up in a burning effigy of our own Wicker Man to ameliorate the frustrations of so many that have seemingly been forgotten by society. Mom used to say that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Join that frustration with the heated blatant lies that many people embrace as truth…and you have a Wicker Man that is waiting for a Match…

Hannah Arendt coined the term, ‘The banality of evil.’ Evil acts are not always perpetrated by evil people but often by bureaucrats dutifully obeying orders…according to Arendt. Safety in numbers or going along to get along…or is it fear of stepping out and saying that…’The Emporer has no clothes…’

Eldorado Capers

‘It is a hot day for the first day of school,’ Chet said as he wiped his brow with the back of his hand. ‘Did you see the ambulances come to the High School as we were walking home from Hillcrest,’ Jane asked the group. ‘Was someone sick at EHS,’ Darryl asked. ‘I heard that Mrs. Pickle got stuck in the jar,’ Gary S. laughed. ‘Gary…you are such a Bozo…where do you come up with all of your one-liners,’ Jane laughed. ‘I learned several of them while I was taking Karate… every time that the instructor flipped us…he told a joke,’ Gary S. replied. ‘I am excited about our class visiting Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale on Monday,’ Billy B. said with a grin. ‘The Wiz says that it is never too early to develop a familiarity with College,’ Chet observed. ‘The University is on the last week of their summer break before the fall semester begins and we are going to tour several of the buildings and have lunch at the Student Center and even see a Play at the McLeod Theatre,’ Jane commented with delight. ‘I hear that they have pretty girls there,’ Gary S. smiled. ‘After they meet me…I hope they will remember my name,’ Gary S. continued. ‘I will have several new jokes for them…if they like to laugh,’ Gary S. said with confidence.

‘What a humongous College,’ said Billy B. ‘Actually Billy B…SIU is a university and it is comprised of several colleges,’ Chet dryly observed. ‘Thank you, professor,’ Billy B. smiled. ‘Where are the pretty girls,’ Gary S. inquired. ‘Cheese-It here comes one now…she is one of the Theatre students…I hear that she is in the play…Peter Pan and that she is portraying Wendy,’ Tommy C. said. ‘Greetings students of Hillcrest School…I am Wendy and soon we will take a magical journey…with Peter Pan,’ the actress said. ‘Why did the chicken cross the road,’ Gary S. asked Wendy. ‘Could it have been to get to the other side,’ Wendy replied. As Wendy walked to the large stage at the front of the Theatre…Gary S. said, ‘I am in love…’

The Wiz was smiling as he sat down with his new 4th-grade class. The house lights went down and the band began to play…and the scene opened with Wendy and her siblings and Peter Pan and Billy B. and Gary S. and Jane and Darryl and Tommy C. To their dismay they were no longer in the audience…they were in the Play…soon they were flying with Peter Pan…and Gary S. said…’I must remember to tell the pretty girls that I meet about this story…’

Memories & A Friend

So the weather was pleasant and I am told that there is no time like the present…thus another trip to Eldorado for a few more photos. It will not be long before I will have graduated from Eldorado High School for 50 years. The school began in Eldorado today as it did in Carbondale. Two ambulances had their sirens blaring and were headed somewhere in a hurry. This was somewhat unusual for the 8 to 10 visits that I made to my old hometown in 2022. Each time that I return to Eldorado I see something different and from a different point of view.

I was sitting in Eldorados’ lovely pavilion when an old gentleman, who was younger than me, asked me if I had forgotten a coke that he was carrying. I said that I had not. He then asked me if I had a cigarette. I noted that I had just finished my last cigar. Gary S. sat down next to me and asked me what the food was on the table in front of us. I said that it appeared to be some type of coffee cake that had been left. He went over and retrieved it and opened the plastic lid and smelled it and deducted that it smelled alright…and thus he had a piece…he commented that it was hot. Gary asked me where I was from and when I said Carbondale…he asked if the University was still there. I said that it was and he observed that there were a lot of pretty girls there when he visited. Gary S. then asked me if there were still pretty girls there…and I said that there were but that there were a lot fewer students than in the past. Gary S. was originally from Carmi and he had taken a Karate Course in Mt. Vernon many years ago. Gary S. asked me if I attended church and when I told him that I attended First Presbyterian in Carbondale he commented that Presbyterian is a good church. Gary S. asked if I had the time and when I told him that it was 12:10…he said that he must be on his way as he got a cigarette at 1:00. He then told me to not forget his name and to tell the pretty girls at SIU that he said hello.

School Starts Tomorrow

‘Tomorrow we go,’ said Chet. ‘Tomorrow is the First Day,’ Jane agreed. Tomorrow we are in Fourth Grade, noted Billy B. ‘No more…’ Schools Out…Schools Out…Teacher Let The Monkeys Out…,’ laughed Neva J. ‘What will we do for fun,’ asked Darryl? ‘Well we can still go to Pounds Hollow until Labor Day…and there is a John Wayne movie on at the Orpheum…The War Wagon…and it should be good for a thrill,’ Chet replied. ‘I am looking forward to our annual trip to DuQuoin for the State Fair,’ grinned Billy B. ‘I hope Friday is a bit cooler…it is so hot in the classrooms at Hillcrest when we first return,’ Jane opined.

‘We will go to Pounds Hollow on Saturday and spend the entire day,’ Neva J. promised. ‘I can not wait because my new diving suit arrived in the mail this morning,’ Chet replied. ‘I will snorkel with you, Chet, and we will see what the depths of Pounds Hollow have to offer,’ Billy B. replied.

Pounds Hollow was especially chilly on August 13. There was almost no one present for the last swim before Labor Day. Billy B. was surprised that the usual old man that took his money and issued him a wire basket to place his clothes in…was not present. In fact… no one seemed to be working at the little Dressing Room and Store at the Hollow. Chet simply climbed over the table in the open window and retrieved he and Billy B. a wire basket. Billy B.’s cousin Brenda had come along and she laughed when she saw Chet take command of the situation and in turn, she did the same thing for her and Neva J.

Chet and Billy B. lost no time in exploring the murky depths of the Hollow. As they dove for the sixth time…they saw a brilliant light at the surface of the water. It was so bright that they could see clearly the bottom of Pounds Hollow. When they came up from the lake…Neva J. said that they must get out of the water and leave Pounds Hollow. There was a brilliant light in the distance…that looked like a…mushroom…

We Are All Temps

Over the past few days, I have lost two friends. Both were fine men and ‘One of a Kind’…if you ever met them you did not forget them. Have you known someone who captivated a room…by their presence in it? Doug left us this week. He was a humble man and I do not know if he ever realized the powerful good influence he had on those who knew him. We knew each other best when we were teenagers and starting out on our Christan Walk. Doug hails from a wonderful family of whom many are my friends. For the past several years I have known him through Facebook and every time I see a photo of him…I recall my friend who was strong of faith, full of life, and passionate about scripture and serving God. Doug had a Big Heart and it was full of love.

Every day is golden. Each day counts. We are all making a difference in countless people’s lives…and we may not realize it. As I am seeing each of my human family as special and unique and understand that they have something special for my life…if I am willing to receive it. It is easy to go about our daily routine believing that others are out to get us or have a different politics or faith than we do. It takes more effort to look at our fellow travelers as our brothers and sisters…our family.

My life is not a segmented and forgotten series of events…it is a linear progression of friends and loved ones…of people who added to my living experience and who helped me along the path. I can not forget anyone…no matter how long ago we fellowshipped together. Each of us is a player on the Stage of Life…and our life whisks by like a weaver’s shuttle. While we are on Stage…let us love our family…and learn from them …and appreciate them…