Author Archive: bjaybrooks

Family and Similarities and Tatoos

Saturday…when we made the historic decision to get, for some of us, our first tattoo…I noticed the huge grin on Aaron’s face.  When I asked him if he ever thought that the ‘old man’ would get a tattoo…he said, no.

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The discovery of my, long lost siblings, and the relationship that we have developed with, Brock and Marcy and their wonderful children, Jeb and Jaime, has enriched our lives.

I overheard Aaron telling his uncle Brock that he seemed like his brother.  One thing is for certain…when we talk of Uncle Brock and Aunt Marcy or their cousins, Jeb and Jaime, they light up and, immediately are in for whatever adventures are about to ensue.

What is so humorous about Saturday or as we like to refer to it ‘Tattoo Day’ is that Aaron and Jonathon have heard me say, on more than one occasion, that I would never get a tattoo.

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Suddenly, when the idea of obtaining an initial B for Brock and I…was proposed… and we were ‘in like Flynn!’

I have heard it said that happiness is a state of mind…but it is much easier to engage in that wonderful state when you are with your loved ones who care about you…just because that ‘you are you.’  When there is nothing to prove and no hidden agenda the reality of who you are can be exhibited without fear.

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When you take the political affiliations away and the religion or lack thereof and you remove all pantomime and mimicry of others…and decide to just be yourself and connect with others who are themselves…it is the epitome of love and friendship and family.

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So often we have a fear of revealing who we are.  Thus, we craft our thoughts and speech to fit the mold of a church or faith community.  Or, we are afraid to speak up when we see someone being treated unfairly.  We have a desire to be a part of the majority and often fear being the lone voice, even if it is of reason and sanity and social justice, and we do not want to be singled out.

Have you ever tried to please someone and conform to their requirements and later discovered that no matter how hard you worked at the program…you never made the grade?

It is exhausting trying to ‘ape’ or mimic or transform into someone that you are not.

 

The most interesting people are the genuine articles.  People who are comfortable in their own skin and who trust their judgments of right and wrong and who accept others for ‘the content of their character’ and not for the way that they dress or the education that they possess or the car that they drive or the home that they live in.

 

I am listening to former FBI Director’ James Comey’s book, A Higher Loyalty, Truth, Lies, and Leadership, and it has been an eye opener.

The former Director did things that I did not agree with when he was with the FBI.  However, as I listen to the audible account of his book, he was and is a leader who endeavored to make decisions on the facts and to follow the old adage, ‘to thine own-self be true.’

Mr. Comey succeeded in having enemies in both the Republican and Democratic Camps.  Some have said that he went to far in announcing his decision in the case of Secretary Clinton’s emails.

Other’s say that Comey made a terrible mis-judgment, and has lied about, our current President.

I see a leader who wanted to do the right thing without respect to political party.  The President uses him as his own personal piñata now that the former FBI Director is telling the truth of his meetings with him…but he praised him when he re-opened the email investigation just prior to election day.

You can’t have it both ways.

I spoke out in favor of a fired Chancellor of Southern Illinois University, twenty years ago, and had my job threatened and the jobs of my staff, the custodians.

 

I was afraid for over two years that I was going to loose my job for simply standing by my friend and saying that I thought that it was a mistake to terminate her when she had caused us to dream again about what SIUC could become.

Twenty years later we have lost eight-thousand students and there is now serious consideration being given to dissolving the Southern Illinois University System.

My mantra as a manager/administrator at the University was to treat others the way that I wanted to be treated and to be able to look at myself in the mirror each morning without regret as to the manner in which I managed.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the Tattoo Parlor Saturday evening and I met some of the nicest people.  These were people that listened and accepted me, a 60 year old tattoo virgin, as one of their own.

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Matching Tattoos

Brock and Marcy visited us this weekend.  As usual, it was an extremely enjoyable event!

IMG_9666IMG_9681IMG_9634IMG_9642IMG_9660We first tried on the Photo Booth paraphernalia and then sojourned to S and B’s Hamburger Restaurant to decide on our next, ‘Brooks’ move.

IMG_9620IMG_9623We decided on the way back to the house that a B signifying Brooks… Tattoo would be in order after Jonathon remarked, ‘There is Tuff Luck…do you want to get some tattoos?’

Jonathon texted his and Aaron’s life long friend, Matt Davis, who is an expert craftsman of tattoos.  I turned out that there was time, already Saturday evening, for my brother Brock and I to receive a glorious initial B tattoo to commemorate our finding each other…after so many years.

IMG_5348 2IMG_5374 2The big grins illustrate our joy in the matching tattoos and with aid of a mouth appliance that was part of a, hilarious game, that Marcy brought with them…for us to play.

IMG_5373 2I do not remember laughing so hard…in the past twenty years…as we attempted to read phrases from game cards, with the appliance in our mouths, while the others attempted to decipher what we were saying.

IMG_9592I mentioned to Matt Davis that I  had come to tattoos somewhat late in life…as I was sixty years old.  He remarked that just the other day he had given the first tattoo to a sixty-two year old gentleman.

Now I see…my ‘bad ass’ future!

Stories

One of the most enjoyable interactions that I have been privileged to partake in…for some time…was my visits with, Jack, during the first few days of our Caribbean Cruise.

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I mentioned Jack in an earlier blog.  He was one of the most vibrant and aware and alive 89 year olds that I have ever met.

His recounting, over dinner, of his military exploits just after the WWII were enthralling.  Jack told me of visiting the Roman Coliseum and it being empty of people.

He also mentioned, when we told he and his wife, Jill, that we had taken a private tour of the Vatican…a few years ago, that he had been in both St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel when they were completely empty of people…just after the Second World War.

He went on to talk of he and his friend convincing two spies to have their picture taken and an article written about them for the military newspaper.  Of course the article visually identified them by their photographs and blew their cover with the accompanying narrative.

Listening to Jack brought a time, long past, alive for me and caused me to relish in it’s intrinsic detail and incalculable worth.

Jack is a part of the Greatest Generation.  Time is drawing short for us to learn what they have to tell us.

We met an artist from Siberia…the warmer part.

Victor Shvaiko has a compelling story.

Viktor Shvaiko (or Victor Shvaiko: born 1965) is a Russian artist who’s work has been shown in various galleries across the world.  He was born in Altai, Russia, on of Russia’s most remote towns.  He exhibited around Russia up until 1991 where he fled to Italy, through Yugoslavia during the confusion of the civil war there.  His forte is in paining cafes from areas around Italy, France and the rest of Europe, with  great sense of lighting and shadows in his evening and morning paintings.’   Wikipedia

Mr. Shvaiko spoke of not having anything to eat for 24 days during his time in Russia.  The suffering that he underwent and the cheerfulness of his demeanor was a stark juxtaposition of the human experience.

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Mary Jane and I were sitting at a dinner table that the Shvaiko’s were hosting…but we really could not hear them, due to the background noise.  Victor, came over and knelt on the floor between us and visited with us for ten minutes or better.

I was impressed with his humility and caring spirit.

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He is an extraordinary and accomplished artist.

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We have cruised several times…but never have we experienced a more thoughtful and considerate cabin steward than on our recent journey.

He greeted us, both morning and evening, and beseeched us and implored us as to what he could do to make our stay more enjoyable.

I must admit, at first, I thought that he had been been trained well and that, perhaps his concern was expected by his supervisors.  However, I quickly discovered that his demonstrated customer service…was who he was and that he, indeed, did care.

A cruise ship crew member that truly cares about your vacation experience can transform a good cruise into a great cruise.

Such was the case with, David G., who was part of the group that we were traveling with.  His keen interest in our welfare and looking out for our best interest was inspiring and made us feel both welcome but also a integral part of the festivities.

David G. is a professional that is truly immersed in his chosen discipline and his enthusiasm for it is contagious.

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I Love Aruba!

A few days ago we visited the Caribbean Island of Aruba.

We had taken a Caribbean cruise in January of 2012 with my wonderful brother-in-law, Ron, and it was nice to get the opportunity to return six years later.

In 2012 we visited the Mopa Mopa store, that was just inside the enclosed dock area for the cruise ships patron’s as they exited for their Aruba adventures.  They are the exclusive store for the art of the Quillacingas tribe, who have been using the same process for over 2000 years.

‘The masks line the walls-faces decorated with stripes and flowers streamlined with hues of crimson, muted blue, and golden yellow.  The expressions they wear are countless-staring, frowning, and grinning-their mischievous eyes waiting to tell a story.’

‘The masks give the store it’s name and they represent a culture, a tribe and a tradition.  Though the striking handmade masks appear painted, they are actually coated with naturally colored tree bud resin.’   mopamopa.com

IMG_9337IMG_9581IMG_9578We sought the fine watch and jewelry store that we had visited in 2012 to see if they had the watch that got away.  It was still there but we did not find the watch.

IMG_9330The Caribbean Islands in general and Aruba in particular has an easy…live and let live attitude and feeling among it’s inhabitants.  Once you become accustomed to the heat…I think that the life style would be compelling.

With the devastation that has hit the Caribbean in the past year…the islanders are, as always, very welcoming of tourists.  I think that all of the Caribbean relies and exists on tourist and the finances that they bring.

Mary Jane and I spoke for some time with, first the daughter, and then the mother who actually had two Mopa Mopa stores…one being at the dock and the other being a few blocks up town.  What delightful and interesting people!

I could not help but think of my buddy, Ron, when we revisited Aruba.  He throughly enjoyed his visit, with us, in 2012.  In fact he enjoyed everything about that Caribbean cruise, and especially the food on board the Caribbean Princess…he said at every meal…’this is to die for!’

I remember, so fondly, the first night of the 2012 cruise, where the waiter told us that he had a fine wine package available for us for the paltry amount of $150.00 and that included three bottles of wine that individually would sell for $500.00.  Ron exclaimed that he would take it…and I pondered that he, indeed, was enjoying his first cruise experience.

Ron, was such fun to have with us.

dscn0018When I travel…I learn…each time…that there are members of God’s creation all over the earth…that are different than me…and who are fascinating!

I am humbled by my ignorance of the splendor of the families of the earth…and my minuscule part in the story.

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A Visit to Cartagena, Colombia

‘Cartagena is a port city on Colombia’s coast.  By the sea is the walled Old Town, founded in the 16th century, with squares, cobblestone streets and colorful colonial buildings.  With a tropical climate, the city is also a popular destination.  Reachable by boast are Isla de Baru, with white-sand beaches and palm trees, and the Islas del Rosario, known for their coral reefs.’   Google

IMG_9262 2We can now say that we have visited South America.  Cartagena was a lovely city and the Old Town, which is walled, was especially interesting.

Our tour guide seemed, especially, concerned for our safety and at one point on the tour, when we had thirty minutes of free time, he instructed us to not go anywhere with anyone.

IMG_9264 2Our guide also told us to not purchase the, purported, cuban cigars that were being offered by the numerous street vendors…as they were not really cuban.

We heard, at some length. of the damage that Pablo Escobar and the Medellin Cartel had done to Colombia.  He noted that all tourism had ceased when the Cartel was in force and that Colombia was truly a dangerous country, at that time, for both it’s citizens and tourists.

We visited the Palace of Inquisition.

‘The Palace of the Inquisition may today be one of the finest buildings in the city, but in the past it housed the notoriously grisly Inquisition, who’s bloody task it was to stamp out heresy in colonial Cartagena.’   lonelyplanet.com

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IMG_9277 2IMG_9268IMG_9295IMG_9298There were many police, everywhere that we stopped, in Cartagena and they seemed very focused on keeping order.

Also, there were numerous street vendors who were selling everything from beer to cigars…and they looked hot and tired and often desperate.

We sat in a park that was in the middle of the walled city’s square.  Here people seemed to be enjoying life and relaxing.

We visited the most decadent chocolate store…and they had free samples.  You could help yourself…to all that you desired…with little spoons.  It was delicious!

We also visited a jewelry store that specialized in emeralds.  The little store was so packed that it was difficult to hear the introductory speech that the owner gave, regarding emeralds.  Further, when we inquired regarding the price of an item, the language barrier prohibited us from communicating with the store employee.

IMG_9276 2At one point, during our short siting in the park…a vendor came by exclaiming that he had coke…’which was the beer of Cartagena.’  I mis-heard him and recounted, what I thought was a humorous phrase to Mary Jane.  He heard me and asked, imploringly, if I wanted a beer?  I did not want one…but I wish that I had purchased one.

Jack and Jill and Selena and John…and Mr. Katoot… On a Journey in the Caribbean

IMG_9115 2Mary Jane and I have just returned from two week journey to the Caribbean.

Although we have been there previously, I do not recall meeting so many lovely people before.

Before leaving on our cruise, we met Jack and Jill, at a cocktail party at a resort that we were staying at, the night before sailing away.

We were sitting at a table for four when, Jack and Jill, joined us.  I agree, their names are easy to remember.

We were discussing our various travels and Mary Jane mentioned that we had taken a private Vatican Tour a few years ago.

Jack began to tell us of entering St. Peter’s Basilica, just after the war, and there not being anyone in it.  Also, he noted that the same experience occurred in the Sistine Chapel.

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When we returned to our room, I remarked that he must have been speaking of WWII…but that he certainly did not look old enough to have been in that War.

The next evening we had dinner with Jack and Jill and he asked me how old did I think that he was and then told me that he was eighty-nine years old.  I exclaimed that he did not look nearly that old but that by my calculations he must have been to have participated in the Second World War.

Jack held his head high with pride and told me that the events that he had been referring to happened in 1946.

We spoke of politics and faith, they are Jewish, and I was wearing my Star of David ring that was made in Israel.  They were a delightful couple and we were privileged to enjoy dinner with them on a couple of additional evenings.

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As we were boarding the bus that was to take us to the cruise ship, Selena told me that she liked my hat.  Selena was checking our names off of a list, as we were traveling with a group.

Selena had that rare combination of talent and ability combined with a wonderful personality…that made each person that she encountered both comfortable and the warm feeling that they were an integral part of the group.

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John conducted the events that we were part of on the ship.  Having been in meetings that he conducted at a previous event…I pondered his unique ability to facilitate such a smooth and interesting meeting.

I told him at the conclusion of the cruise that I believed that he, ‘had a good heart…a heart for people…and that it was no mystery to me why he was so successful.’

Each stop and each day brought us beauty and a richness of visual stimulation…but it was the connection with other human beings…that made lasting memories.

IMG_9181I watched with amazement as Mr. Katoot led his team in the massive labor of producing an excellent event for the attendees.  His herculean efforts along with his team of four extremely hard working individuals…made for a flawless smooth journey through our activities.

I told Mr. Katoot what an appreciation I had for his efforts and abilities, having come from a career in University support services…myself.

Have you ever been on a cruise?  If you have I am certain that you have noticed the hard work and long hours that are spent by the ship’s staff.  The Cruise Industry would not exist without these dedicated professionals.

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‘I Don’t Really Care How Much You Know…Until I Know How Much You Care…About Me.’ Zig Ziglar

I recently watched, on HBO, The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling.  Judd Apatow, Garry’s friend for twenty five years, created the four and one half hour examination of the life of the ground breaking comedian.

When I was watching Mr. Shandling in his show that was about a show, The Larry Sanders Show, I knew that I was witness to something unique and a bit mysterious.  I received the complete DVD Set for a retirement gift.

The Apatow documentary took time to focus on Garry Shandling’s perfectionism and his unflagging desire to have his stand up comedy seem perfectly natural and his  delivery totally relaxed.  He worked tirelessly to present himself as a genuine and in the moment person…real and without pretense.

The famous comedians that owe their success to Shandling is numerous and includes; Jim Carey and Kevin Nealon and Sarah Silverman and Bob Saget and Conan O’Brien.  Garry was a mensch.

I am currently watching a Netflix documentary entitled Wild Wild Country,which is about the Indian Mystic Guru, Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh.  The controversial move to Wasco County, Oregon by the mystic and his followers, is a fascinating examination of a religious cult that has by and large been forgotten.

One of the most notable items, in the first three episodes, was the tremendous emotional and intellectual hold that Bhagwan had over his followers.  This cult leader connected with his flock on such an elemental and visceral level that they were willing to follow him anywhere and do whatever that they perceived that he desired.  At times, just a look from him would drive them into weeping and an ecstatic emotional experience.

 

 

There is a reason that many young people leave denominational religion and join charismatic and fundamentalist groups.  They are hungry for someone that cares about them.

 

 

When I began at Southern Illinois University in 1978, one of the first people that I heard about was former University President Delyte Morris.  My colleagues told me that President and Mrs. Morris had bicycled the Campus on a daily basis and that they stopped and spoke with members of the campus community.

The students felt that President and Mrs. Morris cared about them and their lives and that they were a part of a large SIU family.

 

 

Former Chancellor Jo Ann Agersinger told me, after I had referred to her as Dr. Argersinger, several times, during my hosting her in an open forum on campus, to please call her Jo Ann.

Chancellor Argersinger was know to walk out into the middle of a field that was being mowed by a Ground’s staff member, to shake their hand and introduce herself and demonstrate her care and concern for the vital member of the University.

People who met Jo Ann felt that they knew her and that they were a part of her plan to revitalize SIU and that they were recognized as necessary and an integral member of her staff.

My friend, who I have total confidence in, tells me that new chancellor Montemagno has a similar concern for the Physical Plant staff.  I understand that he greets them warmly and asks their opinion and works to ensure that their jobs are secure.

Another friend, who…again I have total confidence in, tells me that the chancellor has worked to revitalize the Dog Pound at Basketball games in the Arena.  He often sits with the students in the Dog Pound and cheers the game with them.

President Trump won election to the Presidency because that he connected with enough Americans that had felt forgotten and ignored and disenfranchised…for many years.

We are all searching for someone who inspires us.

We are all searching for a leader that is more than talk…a leader who’s actions demonstrate that they care about our welfare and that empathize’s with our concerns.

Perhaps the secret for turning around the enrollment issues of our beloved SIU is to make it one large Saluki Dog Pound and our chancellor lead us in successive cheers regarding our alma matter and all that is right about it and good about it and extraordinary about it?

I can see the history professors coming from the east and the engineering professor coming from the west and the agriculture professors coming from the north and the theatre professors coming from the south.

 

 

I can see the undergraduate and the graduate students coming through the middle of the throng and they are arm in arm.

 

 

I can see the Building Service Workers and the Grounds workers and the locksmiths and the carpenters and the clerks and the plumbers and the electricians and the painters and the food service workers…all taking their seats in the congregation of the vital and important and integral members of SIU’s Community.

 

 

And, Oh My….there comes the Mayor of Carbondale and the City Manager and business owners and the Kroger’ Managers and the Schnucks’ Managers and representatives from Murphysboro and Anna and Harrisburg and Eldorado and all of the towns and villages of Southern Illinois.

 

 

Synergy comes automatically when people feel valued and needed and the dynamic propulsion of ideas are sought and accepted by those charged with leadership decisions.

 

 

 

Do Not Let the Extraordinary Become Ordinary

 

 

I walk the Campus of Southern Illinois University, daily.

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I was there at the height of the student enrollment.  Almost 25,000 students were in attendance and between classes it was difficult to walk down the campus sidewalks.

University Housing was placing three students in two student dormitory rooms and this meant crowding in another twin bed and a small desk for study.

I worked second and third shifts and at anytime of the evening or night I could see students jogging across campus.

Building Services, the housekeeping department of which I was the Assistant Superintendent, had 160 full time staff and over two hundred student staff.

Today, I am told, that Building Services has under 60 full time staff.

SIU has a vibrant and rich tradition that has been formed for nearly 150 years.

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Many of our academic programs are leaders in the nation and recognized throughout the world.

For over the past 20 years we have spent an inordinate amount of time contemplating our own mirrored visage and trying to determine what manner of woman or man that we are.

 

 

 

I knew a chancellor who wanted us to attain greatness by our 150th birthday.  Many of the challenges in Southern @ 150 were noble…and some were attainable.

We lost nearly 1,000 students in more than one year of this man’s five year tenure.

I knew another chancellor who was sure that a new university logo and a revitalized look for the central campus…was the answer.

The outside consultants for the new logo…were worth a million dollars per year…for at least three of this woman’s five year tenure.

We purchased new I Pad type tablets for the entire freshman class, for at least two years of this chancellor’s reign.

After her departure the interim chancellor told the civil service council that one of the first problems that he had to wrestle with was how to pay for the Tablets as there was no money for them in the Budget.

Over 2,000 students were lost during her chancellorship.

I have heard several chancellor’s tell our university community that they were in it for the long haul and that they were not going anywhere…and they are gone…and our enrollment is at an all time low.

If we are not careful we can be looked upon as if we are a bit rural and quaint and in need of a savior.

When the attack on Pearl Harbor occurred, ‘A day that shall live in infamy’, our nation was focused, like a laser beam, on our one goal…wining the war.  All able bodied men enlisted and all women went to the factories to make war armaments.

The home front had victory gardens and ration tickets and blood drives and everyone was immersed in the paramount goal, for the survival of the United States.

Former President Roosevelt inherited a country in the midst of the Great Depression.  People were standing in soup lines and bread lines and working for a nickel or a dime a day.

President Roosevelt knew that the first thing that he had to do was put the United States back to work…and that is what he did.  Focusing on infrastructure the WPA and other Depression Era Programs caused our nation to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Our university has one need that is the zenith of it’s concerns…to the exclusion of all others…increase enrollment.

One of the most full proof solutions to understanding what is needed to achieve the number one goal of increasing enrollment is to listen to the customers of the university…our students.

 

 

‘Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.’   Proverbs 16:18   KJV

There is no room for pride in the solving of the critical problem of enrollment at our university.

SIU is a proponent of a rigid flow chart for leadership.  Often this type of authority and responsibility model has the ability to break-down at any level that a middle manager or administrator is unwilling or unable to share ideas of their subordinates.  This often happens, at the university, for petty reasons.

I sat at the Constituency Heads Table at the monthly Board of Trustees Meetings for five years.  The Table is positioned in front of the BOT and before the audience seating.  There is a microphone at each seat for the purpose of the elected Constituency Heads to address the BOT…at each meeting…if needed.

I have noticed, of late, that the Constituency Heads, must now place their names on a sheet of potential public comments before the BOT and that they can be denied to speak or their time allotment reduced at the pleasure of the chair of the BOT.

Why the special Constituency Head Table and why the microphones…if the elected spokes’ people for the; Faculty Senate and the Graduate Council and the Administrative and Professional Council and the Civil Service Council and other groups…have no particular right to address the BOT on behalf of thousands of members of the university community that they have been elected to represent?

When I was the president of the Civil Service Council…I met with the chancellor on a monthly basis.  I was a first hand witness to a chancellor being terminated and one of the reasons for termination was that he had ceased to meet with individual Constituency Heads on a monthly basis.

Ideas regarding increasing enrollment will not percolate to the top…if there is no forum to be heard.

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So often, in life and business, we want to devise a new and unique plan to solve a problem that has its’ solution before our face.

SIU is the possessor of greatness and human dedication and potential that is extraordinary…not ordinary.

The sleeping tiger…must be awakened!

Travel Is An Elixir and An Education

As I was reflecting on enriching elements of the past 40 years, the subject of travel came to mind numerous times.

‘Wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow.’

 

 

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many people need it sorely on these accounts.  Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things, cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.’   Travel Quotes

When we visited Tunis, Tunisia…we relished the, obvious love and respect that our tour guide had for America.

The ethnic and religious prejudice that many in our country exhibit for Muslims…was not shown us, conversely, because we were Americans.  On the contrary, we were treated with respect and offered homemade cakes and tea and made to feel at home in Tunis.

Our first evening in Rome, Italy, we were welcomed as if we were, special friends and members of the family, as our waiter prepared us, ‘his special pasta dish’, and it was delicious.

 

 

When we left the ristorante our happy server followed us into the street and beseeched us to return, again, and he would take care of us, personally.  We assured him that we would…and we did…more than once.  He even served us his finest Grappa, ‘which is a pomace brandy and is 35% to 60% alcohol by volume (70 to 120 US proof).’   Wikipedia

When we visited Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, there were more Japanese school children looking at the exhibits…that Americans.

In Florence, Italy, we found such a wonderful ristorante that we had a half dozen meals there.  The pace was leisurely, or what we Americans would call slow, and the focus of the diners was on the wonders of the food and the fragrance and body of the drink and the joy of the fellowship and friendship.

The pleasant and un-hurried pace of our French neighbors in Paris, for the three days and nights that we visited, was refreshing and calming and peaceful.  Friendly greetings are important to the French.  Many Parisians are accompanied by their dogs and the elderly are not, defeated, by the vagaries of age.

When we visited the island of Aruba we took a boat, that had a glass bottom and windows to enable the viewing of the sunken ships and treasures and the aquatic life in the Caribbean Ocean.  The Dutch tour guide renamed me Papa Illinois.  She regularly endeavored to secure for me the best view of the sunken ships and aquatic life…to the visible consternation of the other passengers.

In Nice, France, our friend Margo, invited us to a gathering of authors.  It was a lovely evening that was conducted by well known author, Patricia Sands.  We felt included and welcome.

In Edinburgh, Scotland I helped a dignified Scottish man to his feet, from his wheelchair, to facilitate his ordering his dinner at a restaurant.  In the few minutes that I spoke with this gentleman it was manifest to me how wonderful the people of Scotland are…through his kindness and generosity.

 

 

I attended a business meeting with my friend Jeff, that was near York, England.  A lady enquired of me, ‘Are you alright?’

I thought that she was referring to a terrible cold that I had contracted.  I later found out that this is a typical greeting in the United Kingdom.

The Brits that I met that evening were so lovely and kind and one even told me that I reminded her of the American Actor Tom Hanks…especially when I spoke.  I often tell people that…to this day.

The mistaken belief that people from other countries are bad…or failing in some manner or all wishing that they could be Americans…is a concept that is hatched from a lack of exposure to others and learned bias.

Most people that you meet around the world…are friendly and inviting human beings that, often, have different cultures that are much older than the United States and that are based in history going back for thousands of years.

Instead of building walls we need to build longer tables to sit down and break bread with our fellow human travelers.

The Big 40!

Now you may think that I am speaking of age…but I passed 40 over 20 years ago.

Today is Mary Jane and my 40th anniversary.  Forty years ago I promised my bride a beautiful day with no clouds in the sky.  It was cloudy and rainy and cold.  It is cloudy and rainy and cold today, also.

Sometimes my weather forecast is a little off.

Never have two people, united, that had any less financially or in material possessions than the newlywed Brooks.

We each had a car.  Mine was a 1963 Ford Fairlane and MJ’s was a Ford Maverick.  A significant portion of the floor, on the passenger side front, was rusted out and you could observe the road as it whisked by, in my automobile.  Also, the front passenger seat was broken and had to be braced with a small board to keep it from free falling on to the back seat.

Mary Jane’s Maverick was somewhat better then my Farilane…but I had my pride…and thus I insisted that we take my car when we drove to Carbondale from Elkville, Illinois to eat dinner at the Golden Bear Restaurant.  It was winter and I noticed that my sweetheart’s cheeks were a rosy glow from the winter wind that was entering the, decrepit, Ford from the hole in the floor.

I began working at Southern Illinois University, October 10, 1978, and we purchased a new Ford LTD on the 25th of October.  Not long after the new car purchase I was still driving my vintage vehicle to work, when one morning at the quitting time of 1:00 a.m….it would not start.  My kind colleague, Ray Phoenix, offered to drive me home.  As we pulled up to our trailer home, Ray, commented that the new LTD was a nice looking car.  I replied that we had, had it for a couple of weeks and that I thought that I had better start driving it to work.

Forty years ago…when the minister pronounced us husband and wife and Mary Jane took my hand…I thought that life had changed for me and that I was embarking on a great adventure.

A few years later came Aaron…with a little blue cap and a lusty cry.  Aaron called me Di Da…and it was music to my ears.

Then came Jonathon…who laughed at everything and climbed out of his crib and jumped on to the floor.

Through out the rapid succession to this noteworthy number we have had constants that have helped to remove the rocks in our path and leveled the hills that were before us.

A love and dedication to each other…and fascination with our two sons…and a quiet christian faith that has never failed us…has caused the years to fly by.

We laugh at every opportunity…tears come…when you least expect them.

A good and steady job at SIU was a great blessing to our little family.  To have a salary that you can build a life upon and the knowledge and security that it will be there tomorrow…is a confirmation for plans and dreams.

We have traveled, as much a possible, and it is a nice way to raise children and appreciate the diversity of our country and world.

One of the most valuable goals that I am still endeavoring to achieve is to not take myself to seriously.  When I can achieve this Zen…all of life problems seem to diminish and importance of love and life and beauty and humanity become paramount.

And, so, 40 down…and 40 to go.