Author Archive: bjaybrooks

Secret Halloween Pleasures II

Costume parties are fun. Halloween Costume Parties are especially enjoyable. The big night had arrived…it was Halloween once again. Billy B. and his mom had spent all day Saturday decorating for the Sunday event. They had the expert assistance of Billy’s friend, Cyndy, who was a master at decorating for Halloween. The Bump house had never looked more festive. Neva Jane had decided to do something innovative and different for 1964…she was combining the children’s Costume Party with a Halloween Costume Party for her adult friends. Now, Neva Jane had many adult friends who were into a party… The adult attendees would enjoy adult beverages like Highballs and Bloody Mary’s…while the children would partake of faux adult drinks as well as Coca-Cola and Chocola and Kool-Aid. Billy B.’s mom was a Beatnik or new age thinker. She was going to have the joint Parties…together.

Jane was coming as Glenda The Good Witch from the movie, The Wizard of Oz. Buddy was attending as Barney Rubble and had talked his friend, Tommy, to come as Fred Flintstone. Jeff C. would be Linus from the Peanuts Characters. Jeff C. loved Peanuts. He once told Billy B. that he reminded him of Charlie Brown and that he thought that their class was torn from a page of the Peanuts comic strip. Billy’s dad, Willam, was going to film the festivities with his new 8 millimeter camera. Billy, of course would be the Creature From The Black Lagoon…and Chet would be the Lost In Space Robot.

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Clang went the Bump doorbell and at the door was Frankenstein…or someone who looked remarkably like the original Boris Karloff character. There he was with a massive Cohiba Cigar and mumbling…’Smoke…Good.’ Coming up the driveway was Dracula. When Billy B. greeted him and invited him in for a glass of wine…he said…’I never drink…wine…’ Billy had just completed the last minute preparations for the Party by stuffing each gift bag for both the children and the adults with 10 monster comics…they were only 12 cents each. Susie brought Billy B. a faux Bloody Mary and he took great joy in imbibing the adult brew…much as he did enjoy…candy cigarettes. Billy B. had a bit of a crush on Susie…although she was several years older than he. As he drank the Bloody Mary…suddenly he had the revelation that Susie would like to dance… The Wolf Man was already twisting the night away with Billy’s mom…and he looked remarkably like Lon Chaney Jr.’s movie character of the nocturnal beast. Billy B. closed his eyes as he twisted with his paramour
Susie…when he opened them he saw that he was dancing with…The Bride of Frankenstein. Along came Frank…and he was no longer smoking a Cohiba…he was drinking a Highball and wanting to cut in…

Chet poured cold water on Billy’s fevered brow. ‘Billy…what happened,’…Chet asked? You were Twisting with Susie and all of the sudden you began to yell to Frankenstein that you meant no harm…it was just Chubby Checker’s….wonderful and compelling lyrics. Neva Jane asked Billy if he had taken a drink from the adult table…and he replied that Linus had given the drink to Susie and that she had brought it to him. Linus spun his blanket into a whip and knocked the drink out of Billy’s hand…and turned on his heel with a self satisfied smile…and walked out of the Bump home.

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Secret Halloween Pleasures I

Billy enjoyed monster and scary movies. He had ever since he had watched Frankenstein and Dracula at the Orpheum Theatre in Eldorado, Illinois when he was a wee child. Neva Jane drove him to the Theatre each Sunday afternoon…and he stayed until evening. He had no thoughts of school the next day or the television show, Lassie, that signaled to him that his weekend was almost over. Lassie came on Sunday evenings and once Billy had watched it…he knew that it would soon be bed time…and Monday would greet him the next morning. Billy did not care for school…much. He and his best friend, Chet, loved Halloween. Chet dressed up as the Lost In Space Robot…and he had the voice down perfectly of the mechanical star of the popular program. Billy’s cousin, Gene, had the most intricate of Universal Studios Monster Masks. They were made of latex and they covered your entire head…and were expensive and movie quality. As Billy Bump and his best pal, Chet, watched the original Frankenstein movie that headlined the Month of Monster Movies at the Orpheum…he could visualize he and Chet making friends with the much misunderstood Monster. Frankenstein was obviously looking for a friend. He had been brought back from the dead and he wanted to make the most of his second chance at life.

Chet and Billy B. had planned a Halloween party with Buddy and Jeff and Jane. It promised to be a special event. Chet would be the center of attention with his Lost In Space Robot costume and his robot arms akimbo and his robot voice. Billy B. would be coming as the Creature from the Black Lagoon and he would borrow cousin Gene’s Creature Head and Creature Hands to produce a frightening image of movie lore. Billy B.’s mom was going to make popcorn balls and Chets mom was supplying the hot dogs and buns. Directly after the party they were going trick or treating and they were determined to be the best costumed kids on the block.

Billy B. went to pick up his Creature from the Black Lagoon Head and Hands and his cousin Gene led him into the room that he kept his collection of Universal Studios Monster Masks. Billy was a bit scared of what he was seeing. It was just weird. Aligning the walls were the most realistic and hideous collection of lifelike masks that he had ever seen. It was like being in a Hammer Studio movie. There was the Wolfman snarling at him and the bandaged wrapped face of the Mummy. He looked behind him and staring into his eyes was a Ghoul with a toothy grin and one of the large and elaborate heads of the Mole Men. Billy’s cousin said, ‘Boo,’ and Billy B. ran out of the door and out of the front door and down the block. Although Billy enjoyed monster movies and scary stories…cousin Gene’s realistic masks were a bit too much for his young mind.

Once Billy B had asked his mother who the devil was…and she had answered that she was the devil. Billy responded with a shriek and tears and his mom said, ‘You silly Kid…I was just teasing you…’ Billy wondered if that was really the case… On another occasion he had been suddenly awoken and heard an audible voice tell him, ‘You are meaner…than the devil!’ He took it seriously and attempted to mend his ways. Nevertheless he loved a good fright and a monster movie and popcorn balls and watching Chet portray the Robot from Lost in Space.

Fall Happiness Has Arrived

For a man for all seasons…my season has come. I love fall! I walked campus this morning with a light sweater on…and it felt…right. We are back from our great Maine adventure and ready for what autumn brings us. Last week in Maine was really a prelude to the happy season. The unlimited natural beauty of Maine is unparalleled. It is inspirational for a lover of fall. The leaves on the trees were changing colors…almost before our eyes. Bodies of water enthrall me. I can sit and stare at the ocean for hours. I think that is why I enjoy the Ocean Point Inn so much, in East Boothbay.

Fall and winter…scratch me where I itch. I like the shorter days. I enjoy the cooler weather and the L.L. Bean sweaters and deerskin gloves. I began working at Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale in the fall…October 10, 1978. I was 20 years old…but turned 21…14 days later. Southern Illinois University
opened up a new world of opportunity and possibilities for me and MJ…and later Aaron and Jonathon. I became a member of a community that welcomed me and appreciated me. I learned what it was like to work with colleagues from over 70 nations. I loved the diversity.

In a world of uncertainty…there is one thing that is certain…time passes like a weavers shuttle…and life is short. I anticipated retirement for many years and now I have been retired for almost 11 years. Spend as little time contemplating worry and strife as you possibly can. Think about the good things that have happened to you and do not dwell on the bad.

‘It occurred to Pooh and Piglet that they hadn’t heard from Eeyore for several days, so they put on their hats and coats and trotted across the Hundred Acre Wood to Eeyore’s stick house. Inside the house was Eeyore.’

‘Hello Eeyore,’ said Pooh.’

‘Hello Pooh. Hello Piglet,’ said Eeyore, in a Glum Sounding Voice.’

‘We just thought we’d check in on you,’ said Piglet, ‘because we hadn’t heard from you, and so we wanted to know if you were okay.’

‘Eeyore was silent for a moment. ‘Am I okay?’ he asked eventually. ‘Well I don’t know to be honest. Are any of us really okay? Thats what I ask myself. All I can tell you, Pooh and Piglet, is that right now Im feeling rather sad, and alone, and not much fun to be around at all. Which is why I haven’t bothered you. Because you wouldn’t want to waste your time hanging out with someone who is so Sad, and Alone, and Not Much Fun To Be Around At All, would you now.’

‘Pooh looked at Piglet, and Piglet looked at Pooh, and they both sat down, on either side of Eeyore in his stick house.’

‘Eeyore looked at them in surprise. ‘What are you doing?’

‘We’re sitting here with you,’ said Pooh, ‘because we are your friends. And true friends don’t care if someone is feeling Sad, or Alone, or Not Much Fun To Be Around At All. True friends are there for you anyway. And so here we are.’

‘Oh,’ said Eeyore. ‘Oh.’ And the three of them sat there in silence, and while Pooh and Piglet said nothing at all; somehow, almost imperceptibly, Eeyore started to feel a very tiny little bit better.’

‘Because Pooh and Piglet were There.’

(A.A. Milne, E.H. Shepard)

Beware of Signing the Deed to Your Life…Away

Fall is in the air today. Pumpkins and Pumpkin Spice are coming in the door of our lives. I relish the chill and the crispness of autumn. The forbearer of holidays and hot apple cider and sweaters…from L.L. Bean…and falling leaves and birthdays. Fall is a time for looking forward and for looking back. Our 2020 and 2021 Pandemic has been created two of the most challenging years that any of us have ever lived through. We pray for an end to our terrible scourge…

Fog creates uncertainty and shadows and things seen in silhouette. It is easy to believe that someone who speaks kind words to you and tells you what you want to hear…is your friend…but beware. There are some pastors and religious leaders who are wolves in sheep’s clothing. The Bible speaks of them. I know precious people who have been abused by cult leaders. They have been taken extreme advantage of and sexually abused. They have been emotionally and mentally abused. Their lives have been altered and changed by this heinous abuse for decades. They were told by their abusers to keep quiet and to tell no one…and many have obeyed the wolf’s command and have suffered and been in poor health and emotional distress for 40 years and more. Our minds and our emotions and our allegiances are malleable…especially when we are young. Much of the direction of our lives is commensurate on who we were listening to in our formative years. Studies have illustrated that a high percentage of sexual abuse is perpetrated by an abuser that the abused not only knows but is comfortable with. Authority figures pervert their authority in order to take advantage of the vulnerable.

When something seems too good to be true…it is. Listen to your gut feelings…tell someone when you are made to feel uncomfortable. When an authority figure tells you that you are special or that they need you to keep a secret until your dying day…they are preparing to use you for their own lust and satisfaction…and not only do not have your interest at heart…they despise you and hold no value for your humanity…

There are churches that seek the deed to your life. The want to control your daily movements and your private life…including your finances. Some from those fellowships will extoll you that the best way to healing is to keep the secret of the devils that abused you… Nothing could be further from the truth! The road to your healing is to shed sunlight on the darkness that these evil people operated in. When you hide the abuse that you suffered it is like giving the abuser carte blanche to continue to abuse.

The Sun is shining on the lives of many who have suffered under the perversion of the gospel of Christ. Many of these false prophets proclaim that to leave them and to think for yourself will cause you to get sick and die. On the contrary…you will heal and get well…while their perversions will consume them…

L.L. Bean & And Other Maine Joys

My L.L. Bean Deerskin and fleece lined house shoes…were ‘Wicked Good!’ MJ’s parents, Fernie and Berl, bought me a pair for Christmas…for several years…when I was much younger and had smaller feet. I padded around our little 4 room house in Elkville, Illinois…and felt warm and secure and well served by such fine footwear. On our first day in Maine, a week ago Sunday, we traveled to L.L. Bean. MJ had told me that I might want to search for a new sweater…and that is all that I needed to hear. I found a wonderful black sweater that was heavy…only like L.L. Bean makes them for the harsh Maine winters. One time I had a pair of slacks that were quilted. They were the warmest slacks that I had ever owned…and they were from L.L. Bean. I also found a pair of Deerskin gloves…and they reminded me of my former beloved slippers with the only difference that they would keep my hands warm.

Ports of Italy is an Italian restaurant that is in Boothbay Harbor. Two and one half years ago when we visited Maine…we dined at Ports twice. The cuisine and service are five star. Have you ever had the experience of being served at a restaurant and feeling like you were home? That was our first experience and it has been replicated each time that we have been privileged to have dinner there. In 2019 our server was a gentleman from London, England and he was a consummate professional. This time we had a lovely lady who was a native of Italy and she advised us as to the glories of the Limoncello cake. Last Friday I had the Lobster Ravioli…and it was to die for… Have you ever had homemade pasta? There is a difference that is outstanding.

A Taste of Maine is just outside Portland…on the way to Boothbay Harbor. Their Seafood Casserole taught me what I had been missing in Little Egypt…when attempting to enjoy seafood. Also, their Lobster Mac and Cheese is chuck full of Lobster…and sensory heaven…

It is a rainy and cool day as I look out from the Writing Porch. Similar to my impressions of our 2011 porch addition…I feel like I did the first time that I sat out on it. It reminds me of Maine.

So, last Saturday as we drove back to the Portland Airport we had a little time to kill…as so we stopped again at L.L. Bean. I found another sweater…

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Camden, Maine

During our recent holiday in Maine I decided that Camden is one of my favorite towns. From the Ironworks Gallery to the Waterfront Restaurant…Camden is a joy to visit. Joy is the owner of Ironworks Gallery and she told me of some health challenges that she has undergone in 2021. I could see her appreciation for life exuding from her eyes.

Tomorrow…a week ago…we journeyed to Camden for the specific purpose of enjoying a, ‘To Die For,’ plate of clams to rekindle the marvelous memory of enjoying the same dish 2 and 1/2 years ago. As we excitedly walked up to the Waterfront Restaurant a dignified man wearing an extremely wide brimmed straw hat….called out…we are closed. When I heard his cry…I wondered who that he was talking to? We were. ‘On a mission from God.’ He repeated his entreaty. I looked up and suddenly realized that he was speaking to us. He mentioned that he was sorry but that he was short of staff and that they had to have a day off… MJ kept walking…and we called out to her a time or two before she halted…none of us could believe that our favorite clam serving waterfront view eatery…was closed…on our first visit after so very long. Somewhat similar to General Douglas McArthur…we vowed that we would return. And return we did…on Thursday…for succulent and delightful fried clams and perfect Dirty Martinis.

Lobster is one of my favorite foods. I remember when my in-laws vacationed in Maine 30 years ago and upon their return to Elkville, Illinois…MJ asked them if they had enjoyed some lobster. Fernie replied that they had not as she had supposed that it would be cheap in Maine and that rather than cheap is was expensive. Market price for seafood changes daily and it never went down during our weeks stay

We enjoyed a wonderful dinner with our friends, Joan and Jim, who were also staying at the Ocean Point Inn the same time that we were. The camaraderie and fellowship that we enjoyed as fellow travelers from Little Egypt…was uplifting.

Bath, Maine can not be missed for the joy of their Brewery. Although there was a long staircase to climb to reach the top floor of the establishment…it was worth it for the indulgence in the wonderful hoppy brew. Our first visit in 2019 was not long after the Brewery had opened. Our server was excited with all of the possibilities that lay in store for their business. The place was jumping when we visited last week…

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Maine…Dreams

So, after 2 and 1/2 years…we finally made it too Maine. We wondered and fretted as to whether we should have gone…but we were vaccinated and masked and we did the deed. It was wonderful! We lodged at the Ocean Point Inn and Resort at Boothbay, Maine. The Inn has wonderful Ocean views and is rustic and comfortable. ‘The Inn was founded in 1898 by Captain Edward Burnham. It was originally called, Captain Burnham’s.’ Google

Maine has a special feel. There is a compelling and peaceful atmosphere. The majestic Atlantic Ocean with its rocky shores and 25 Maine Lighthouses…is a world that I thought only existed in story books and the movies. In fact we visited a Lighthouse that was featured in the movie, Forest Gump. During our week stay in Maine…many leaves changed.

Fun requires work…or as our Jamaican server told MJ one morning as he was asking her if she wanted some water, ‘Every thing that is sweet…requires water.’ Maine is a bit like an alternate reality. The architecture is different than the midwest…where the Brooks reside…and the pace is slower and more deliberate. It is a location that makes you consider where you have been…and where you would like to be…

Maine engenders a consideration of life and its meaning and your place in the grand story. Do you love lobster? I love lobster! I vowed to eat lobster each of the 7 days that we were there…I fell short by 2. Maine teaches you that the earths history is long…and you role in it…is short. As the parking attendant told me in Philadelphia when we visited several years ago and I did not like that he had instructed me to leave my windows down when I gave him the keys to the car, ‘What you crying about…Mon?’ Once that you are fully immersed in Maine and its spectacular natural beauty…you consider what makes you happy…and you seek those precious things.

Main is hard to get to…and it is hard to leave from. It wraps its arms around you and sings you the most lovely of sirens songs.

The Happy Traveler is still traveling and seeking…

20 Years

Twenty years ago it was a peaceful Monday. Life was following its careful rhythms. We had just moved to Carbondale from the little village of Elkville in March of 2001. We had purchased our first new home. We had been living in it for almost 6 months. Aaron was attending John A. Logan College and Jonathon was in his senior year of high school. Mom lived with us…she had Alzheimers Disease. She could not be left alone.

I was thinking about the last chapter or my career at SIUC. I planned on retiring either in 2009 or 2010. I had been the superintendent of my department since 1997. During the last 3rd of my time at Southern I wanted to make a difference. MJ had resigned her position at the University to take care of Neva June. The fear of Y2K had been a recent issue and many feared the shut down of modern society due to our computers not working. The Supreme Court had decided that George W. Bush had won the presidential election. Our new President seemed to enjoy going to his ranch in Crawford, Texas…and chopping wood. Chancellor Jo Ann Argersinger had been unjustly terminated in the summer of 1999….and I still was not over it…she was my friend.

Tuesday, September 11 was a beautiful day with the sun shinning in cloudless skies. In those days I watched the Today Show on NBC each morning as I was preparing to go to work. I remember Katie Couric saying that a plane had hit one of the towers of the World Trade Center in New York. During the next few minutes fear gripped our nation as terrorist flew jets into both towers and the Pentagon…and the brave passengers foiled the hijackers of their plane and it crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

Night fell on our country. We did not know who had attacked us…or why…or when the next attack was planned. I watched, as did the nation, the rescue efforts of the first responders and many from every state who travelled to New York to help. As the gruesome days went by…we came to realize that there were no survivors. The band at Buckingham Palace in London…played the Star Spangled Banner. Congress and the Senate met on the Capitol Steps to sing the National Anthem…there was no political party division.

Let us look back 20 years…to chart our future of unity and peace…and not hatred and strife…

Wolves Masquerading As Sheep

I watched two of my friends today on a YouTube video. Their message was chilling and compelling and courageous. They spoke of abuse and being groomed by the abuser for some time. They spoke of the insidious questions that a person in authority or an authority figure will ask the person that they are grooming. Questions such as, ‘Are you trustworthy?’ ‘Can you keep a secret?’ What is happening…you must take to your grave.’

There are churches that abuse. If your town does not have one…you are an anomaly. Pastoral abuse can range from simple nosiness…to church leadership inquiring into your personal finances and requiring you to give at least 10%…and often 20% or more of your hard earned dollars that you need to support your family. Cults…or wolves that masquerade as sheep…want to be in the middle of couples married life. Commenting on everything from a persons weight to their perceived loyalty to the all knowing leader…who insists on a daily basis that only he/she hears from God…and all else is heresy.

Churches that abuse tell their honest hearted parishioners that they must continue to follow the teachings of the God ordained pastor…or suffer illness and early death…if they leave the flock. A hallmark of a cult is the public ridicule and singling out of people in the congregation if they are even slightly thought to have a different idea that the leader. Fear of God…not favor of the Creator…is the hallmark of a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Cult leaders demand the obeisance of all of the groups members. This slavish servitude often extends to whether or not a member of the group is approved to purchase a new automobile or is able to go on vacation.

Sexual abuse is found in cultish churches on a regular basis. When you have groomed a group of people to believe that every word that you speak is as if God was speaking to them…the crossing of sexual boundaries happens often.

Churches that abuse are closed societies. When all of your friends are subservient to the same perverse doctrine that you are…it is extremely difficult to see the forest for the trees. Many have been inextricably hurt by abuse and mind control and brain washing. If you are told enough times that you are no good…you begin to believe it. If you are abused enough times your entire physical and mental structure will suffer damage. Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome and nightmares and depression and nervous breakdown…are suffered by many.

Mental illness is attributed to demons or the devil in churches that abuse. Pop psychological dribble is applied to a person that is ill. Since their mental illness has a physical basis in them…the approach of Norman Vincent Peale’s book, The Power of Positive Thinking, is not affective in wellness of people that need a trained clinician and the appropriate medication.

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Remembering

Memory is a time machine. I wrote of Malones Taffy at the DuQuoin State Fair, the other day, and I not only could taste the taffy but I could smell the sweet State Fair Aroma of corn dogs and elephant ears and lemon shake-ups. I could see the dusty paths of the fairgrounds and remember the excitement of attending a Barbara Mandrel concert…where she sang a song to MJ and her sister…that was about sisters.

In 2011 we had our screened in porch built. What began as something that I considered would be nice…it became my favorite place in/outside our home. One of the first times that I sat in its high splendor…I was transported to Maine and the Clarks Point Bed and Breakfast that we enjoyed on Southwest Isle. I was peacefully staring out at our pond, which we call Brooks Lake, and a cool breeze was blowing and I was enjoying a glass of. wine. When I shut my eyes and then reopened them…I was on the front porch of the bed and breakfast on Sunday…drinking wine and peering out at the ocean.

Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale welcomed me to a wonderful career on the evening of October 10, 1978. I was 20…and felt old. It was a cool and crisp afternoon and I was excited to be hired into a job that would become my home for 32 years and 2 months and 3 weeks. Our little offices were located in the old fire station that was next to the coal pile. The Accounting building that I was assigned to..was filthy. I was overjoyed…what a way to make a first impression…just by doing my job. My immediate supervisor was a little bald man who was friendly and enjoyed drinking coffee. His boss was an African American gentleman who walked with limp and smoked cigars. Both of these gentlemen made me feel like I was most important to the success of SIUC. I subsequently performed like my work made a difference…and it did…

I just saw a video of chancellor Lane giving students a ride to their classes in a golf cart. The students were pleasantly surprised and the chancellor was moved by their joy in his reaching out to them.