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Chicago Stories

Road Trips are exciting. Jill and MJ and I were just reminiscing about driving across country on past vacations. I vividly recall our Great Western Holiday in the early 1990’s. I had recently purchased a vintage Mercury Marquis. When I put my foot on the accelerator…there seemed to be no end to the increased speed that the deep maroon mercury could attain. The automobile had plush velour seats and drove like a, Young Lincoln, as my friend Ben Mezo had described his Mercury Grand Marquis in the early 1970’s. We decided to point our noses west and see where they led us as we followed them. We began climbing Pikes Peak as we traveled on our great escapade only to discover that we could only drive half way up, due to snow on the higher elevations. We drove about 500 miles per day with the ultimate goal of visiting Aunt Lauretta and Uncle Merle…before returning home. MJ noted one morning that we were only a day or less drive from Southern California…I had always dreamed of visiting California…and so we proceeded with gusto. San Diego was simply beautiful and ocean and pier was some of my fondest memories. I purchased my first Bosson’s Head at a little shop at the San Diego Pier. If you have never seen a Bosson Head…you have not lived. Bosson was an English family owned business that made the most realistic chalk heads of different characters in literature and history. When you encounter one…you expect it to talk to you. Finally we arrived at Merle and Laurettas and Merle asked me if my car was new and I replied that I had purchased it used. He said that he had never had a car so fine or been able to afford it…Of course this was over the top rhetoric…but I received the point…Don’t be a show off.’ I was driving the Mercury a little faster each day of the 2 week odyssey. Through Utah…I did not see a police officer. In Colorado…i did not see a squad car. At times I was driving 90…95…100 miles per hour…and it was like floating over the road. We drove well in excess of 5 thousand miles on our western driving holiday…

So, the Brooks’ family were going to take a Harley Davidson Motorcycle road trip from Chicago. Of course this would be the first Brooks’ family…Neva June and Bill…and little Jay in the middle of them. The trek was to be all of the way to the home of my mom’s sister’s, Guelda and Wanda, and my Grandmother Askew. The better part of a six hour marathon…unless you drive like my dad. Dad wore a leather motorcycle jacket and a jaunty cap with a brim. he placed our luggage in his leather saddle bags…and our first stop was a truck stop along route #57. When we entered the restaurant and store combined mom and dad took a seat at the table and I began to look around. I immediately set my sights on some very interesting looking paper back books. I had not learned to read…much…but I literally loved books. I took a book back to the lunch table and announced to all that I was going to read the book over our lunch. Mom said, ‘You silly kid…that book is for sale and you must take it back to where you found it,’ and I was mortified as I thought that we were in a restaurant and library. When we arrived at Grandma Askew’s there were the aunts that hugged me like I was their favorite pet and Grandma with a piece of apple pie and a white coffee mug filled with cold milk. And Uncle Bill, Wanda’s husband, who stood and grinned like the Cheshire Cat of Alice In Wonderland and rhythmically moved his tongue between a gap in his lower teeth. Bill said, ‘How are you doing Junior,’ to my dad…and I wondered why he called him Junior. Then there was the visit with all where I discovered that Aunt Wanda and Uncle Bill had recently moved to Eldorado from Alaska…along with their children, Brenda and Billy…my cousins. I slept on the living room couch that had been made into a makeshift bed…next to Nugget…the dog…who did not like me and showed me his bared teeth in a wicked snarl…to ensure that I fully understood the arrangement. When I woke in the middle of the night to feel the opened windows cool country breezes of Southern Illinois…there was Nugget looking at me and smiling his toothy smile.

Talk ensued of the Brooks 3 moving to Eldorado…and it was in whispers and hushed tones…and the little Brooks was not supposed to hear…and mom seemed sad…and dad seemed sad.

Chicago…My Home Town

Jeff just messaged me and remarked that there were a lot of things about Chicago that he liked. I feel the same way. Chicago was where I was born…it is indeed my home town. My father worked on semi tractor cabs and made good money. My clearest memory of my years in and around the Windy City was our living in Sauk Village…on a street that was reminiscent of the television show, Leave It To Beaver. I would watch the show and think that it reminded me of my street and my friends. Of my 5 years in Chicago we lived in the city for the first 2. I vividly recall the hustle and bustle of apartment living. Not as an active participant but as a observant toddler. There is a rhythm and a vibe to city life that is inspiring and exhilarating. However the bulk of my ‘Chicago Memories,’ come from Sauk Village.

For awhile it seemed that nothing could go wrong in our idyllic life that was patterned after the Cleavers on my favorite television program. On the weekends dad and mom barbecued in our backyard and had our neighbors, George and Helen, came over to enjoy the festivities with us. George called me ‘Doc’ and had me rub his back while he lay in an extended lounge lawn chair. Mom and Helen played badminton. They vigorously smacked the birdie back and forth over the outstretched net and laughed heartily when one or the other scored. Pabst Blue Ribbon was enjoyed by all…but me.

We decided to travel into the city to see the newly released Disney Movie, Lady And The Tramp, and Mom’s friend, Ivy, and her kids, Steve and Susie, joined us for the major event. As I looked at the lighted theatre marquee and all of the people and buildings that surrounded us…I knew that this would be an experience like no other. When the screen came alive and the theatre darkened I was transported into the world of the Darlings and Lady and her sweetheart…Tramp. After we left the movie and returned home…I ruminated on how wonderful it would be to live like Lady and Tramp and their canine friends did. The were unfailingly loyal to each other and never said a mean word about each other. They had adventure and fun and staid by each other through good times and bad. Whenever we hear a baby cry…MJ and I both say in unison, quoting the Siamese cats in Lady And The Tramp, ‘I hear baby cry’.

I was with my dear friends, Jim and Laura, several years ago, on a work related trip to Chicago. These two are such fun to go anywhere with! We began with drinks when we arrived…and of course mine was a Dirty Martini. We then enjoyed a wonderful dinner at a premier Italian Restaurant. The can-do spirit of Chicago was palpable. After this enjoyable trip I better understood why Chicago is the City With Big Shoulders…

Good Ham

Have you ever had Serrano Ham? I purchased one this afternoon at our local delicatessen. It has similarities with prosciutto. Our friend, Jo Ann, introduced us to the delights of prosciutto many years ago. It sells for $18.99 a pound. I told the nice young man to slice it thin. It was the second time that the deli butcher had waited on me in the past few days. The first time an old employee of the establishment was training him on the vagaries of slicing and packaging deli meats. Today he was on his own and presented himself with a smile and a mannerly welcome. First I ordered a half pound of prosciutto and then a pound of the Serrano Ham. He carefully cut and then packaged each order and subsequently apologized for being slow. I responded that, You are doing great, Man! He looked at me as if he had never heard such worlds of encouragement…before. The young deli professional said, ‘Thank you Man…have a good day!’ As I was departing Keepers Quarters I considered that all of us need time to learn and people who will not only have the patience to wait…but the words of encouragement that will provide us with the confidence that we so desperately need to succeed.

One of my blog followers mentioned that we each tend to become pigeon holed in our careers whether we realize it or not. I heartily agree. Many moons ago I was the custodial crew supervisor in Parkinson Lab on the Campus of Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale. We worked the third shift. He was a graduate assistant in Geology. When he visited us, at our invitation, in our basement office…he commented that he was expecting to find Playboy Pin-Ups aligning our walls. One of the members of my Building Services Crew were a gentleman who had worked a career for a large cold cuts company, Blue Bell, and had driven a company automobile for his travel duties. Another member of my staff had been the Credit Manager for Martin Oil Company which was a multi-state petroleum corporation. We looked at the young graduate student with incredulity and dismay.

I have sat on more boards and committees than I can effectively remember. This includes Boards associated with the State of Illinois and Southern Illinois University and, for the last 50 years, church boards. More often than not I have felt pigeon-holed and categorized before I had the opportunity to open my mouth. So many times the leaders or moderators of committees expect the answers that they are looking for…from the historically accepted sources.

Judging future endeavors by our past experiences is…folly. This is especially true when there are people of good will who have not spent their lives attempting to, ‘Blow their own horn, as regarding their accomplishments. Jesus was born of ordinary people. He had neither a Harvard or a Yale degree. His dad was a carpenter and his mother a young humble girl. Money nor degree nor riches…nor familial position equals wisdom… If Jesus came to visit the majority of our churches this afternoon…we would not recognize him…

LIfe is short and it is fierce. The day to day struggles of Ordinary Time pull us in a multitude of directions. We seek answers to questions that we have not clearly formulated. We seek the Wise Old Sage…among those who we have pigeon-holed as…Wise Old Sages. We seek the best among the kaleidoscope of choices that dance before our eyes. Why are our our churches dying? Why do we seek wisdom from political parties and their leaders…who are primarily concerned with protecting their Senator or Congressman lifestyle? Why do we look to a mentally failing babbling buffoon…for wisdom or a clear understanding as to the commonsense approach to governing a country or the will of the Master Creator? Why do we seek the living among the dead…

Rain

My kind of weather contains rain. You may have noticed that weather is a prominent subject in many of my blog posts? The weather….especially inclement weather…fascinates me. When I hear that it is supposed to rain all day and night and all day tomorrow…I am at peace with the world. When the clouds darken the sky…I say Hi! During my career I worked nearly 20 years on either the evening or night shift. I slept during the day when the sun was shinning. I had to darken my bedroom to nod off into dreamland. When I was eating my breakfast…you were enjoying your supper. When the rooster crowed…it was time for some shut eye. There is a lot going on at night. Have you ever been in a restaurant at 3:00 A:M:? People of the night are by-and-large good folk. They dress a bit differently. At times it appears that they are wearing their pajamas or a derivative thereof. Their skin is pale…almost a shade of ashen. They drink a lot of coffee…cup after cup…and they smoke many cigarettes. People of the night look you over when you enter the local eatery that caters to their kind. They watch you with some interest…and skepticism. They are wondering why you are so tan. They wonder why you drink Perrier Water. They wonder why you have on a sport coat and tie…

Calming peace pervades when you like something that most people do not. It is a bit like being an observer from another planet. It seems that the humans do not have the custom of making eye contact with each other. When you ride with them in an elevator…they are fascinated with their I Phones and can not bear to look up…even when you attempt to make idle conversation with them. As you see the reactions of the night people when they watch the cable news speak of 2 or 3 or 4 mass shootings occurring during the day…you notice that they seem disinterested and return to their I Phones and another coffee as they open a new pack of Marlboros.

As a night person who enjoys rain you scratch your head when you consider that about half of the people in the country believe truth that can be supported by facts….and the other half believe conspiracy theories that were authored in madness and delusion. The day people seem in a constant state of agitation and distress. The night people are tired and pale and cough at times.

All of the news stations have accounts of Unidentified Flying Objects and they have the video tapes and expert testimony to attest that neither the scientific or military or political or religious community has been able to identify what thousands of people have seen.

The rendezvous with the Mother Ship is tonight…after some coffee and cigarettes…

Motivation Is The Key

As I was walking last night until 11:50 P:M: I remembered what a vocal stranger told me once, many years ago, in front of Downs Furniture Store in Elkville, Illinois. He walked up to me and announced, in his theatre stage voice, Motivation Is The Key! He then turned on his heels and walked away. The motivator first startled me and then I laughed at his over the top pronouncement. But, he was right…and I have never forgotten him or what he said. I walk 10 thousand steps per day because it is good for my right leg that landed me in the hospital at the end of December. It is also a good weight control and it cheers my disposition…that often needs some cheering. Life is a series of activities…if you are not moving…you are missing out on the crux of the Game. Often I do not feel like writing…but I feel much better once that I have. At times I want to think twice about my daily journey to Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale for the beginning of my 10 thousand steps…but I do anyway…and I am glad.

Jonathon and I had lunch at the Panda Express, yesterday. I stepped up to the front door and discovered that it was securely locked. I pressed my nose against the glass window and cupped my hands around my eyes and squinted in at the empty chairs and tables. Thereupon a nice woman, who was sitting with her friend at some out door tables, told me that they were not going to let us in and that to order we had to go through the drive thru.. As we sat and consumed our two plates for one lunch special I heard a man call out with a lusty cry to his neighboring driver. I asked Jonathon did the man say that he loved the person that he called out too? Jonathon replied that the passionate man had told the other to, ‘Get his f—ing ass out of the road!’ I considered that there is virtue in patience in an impatient world. So many times we are motivated by our urgent sense of expediency. It would be nice if we were motivated by a sense of calm security and peace with all humanity.

Yesterday was a prime example of motivation. I had been having some difficulty with my blog for a couple of weeks. When I would type a new entry my page would produce something like a black mask over two thirds of the page…while I was typing. I could barely see the typeface, somewhat similar to the chairs and tables in the Panda Express, and once I published the document its appearance was normal. I was on the Live Chat with WordPress for 5 to 6 hours before we solved the problem. About 2 hours into the discussion I considered removing WordPress from my computer and asking for a refund of my, just paid, $68 dollars for the Premium level of blogging. Luckily I thought again and considered that I needed to take my own blogging advice and to be patient in an impatient world. The kind helper at WordPress faithfully stuck with me through it all.

Presbyterian Liturgy recognizes a large portion of the year as Ordinary Time. If you think about…Ordinary Time governs much of our daily lives. Not everyday is Christmas. We just returned from a lovely holiday at Miramar Beach, Florida…but now we are home again. Purchasing a new car or a home is exhilarating and fun…but we do not do so everyday. Weekends are wonderful, but they are only 2 of the 7 days of the week. At some point in our lives we must learn to be motivated and inspired by the ordinary and nuanced facets of the beauty of each day that is very similar to the last and a good forecast of the next…

Going Home

Hot would be the word for today. Not that it is anything for we Southern Illinoisan’s to wonder about as it is usually hot in Little Egypt in the summer. Most often our hot days are combined with high humidity or air that you wear. Although, at this moment the temperature of 82 degrees feels quite comfortable with two fans running and the sun setting. I got Aaron a vintage G.I. Joe today at Electric Larry’s. He was one of the small G.I. Joes from the 1990’s. When I was a lad and G.I. Joe first came on the scene…he was 12 inches tall and came in a cardboard box with all of his accoutrements. I never owned a large 1960’s G.I. Joe…I had his cheaper cousin…Stony. Stony was made with legs that were pre-posed and were un-moveable while G.I. Joe had fully articulated legs and arms. It seemed to me that the plastic that Stony was fashioned from was harder than Joe’s. Toys were made better 50 years ago. They were made by hands that constructed them to last…and not for discarding. I inquired regarding an old Polaroid Camera at Larry’s. He said that they stopped making them in the 1960’s. It was one of the deluxe kind that pulled out in the front from its collapsable storage mode. It came in a leather case. Randall, the owner of Larry’s mentioned that cameras of that era, my era, were made to last as long as they were not exposed to moisture for a prolonged period.

We love to get out…or get away…see something new or do something different than we normally would. However once we are out as the comedian, Jerry Seinfeld, told us…we want to get back in. I crave home and people and places that remind me of home and folks, that although I am their guest, treat me like I am at home. To feel like you are at home with another person or group of people is a compelling attraction. The feeling will cause you to return to the people or places that make you so Wellcome. Home is a feeling as much as a residence. When I think about church I think about home. We wonder and fret regarding our diminishing number of churches and congregants who attend those churches while we seldom ask ourselves if people feel at home at our church. We are all looking for a place of love and security and acceptance.

Think about your hearts warmest days. Consider if you will the days that you understood that you had arrived…home. Often it is a building combined with a special feeling. Often it is someone who accepts you for who you are…not who criticizes you because you are not fashioned in their image and obtained their likeness. It is Gay Pride Month…and some my dearest friends are Gay. Are you seeking a god that hates the same people that you hate and has the same bias and prejudice that you are proud to proclaim as not only your right to posses… but the truth…as you have divined by your personal communications with the Creator? Shall we all step aside for the wisdom of a god that hates the majority of his creation, as many in churches would tell us? Or do we seek the Jesus of the lovely Bible Story books that I used to read when I was visiting the doctor in Eldorado, and I visited the doctor often when I was a child? The pictures in the books were so beautifully illustrated that the message of God’s love for all men and women and boys and girls…pulled at my heart strings. When I read those Bible Story books at the doctors…I felt at home.

A Drive With An Old Friend

Summer weather has arrived. For a moment I considered that it had lost its way…but I did not know that it had a GPS. I was pleased and honored to drive my friend of 50 years, Jeff, to his trailer in Creal Springs. It is a picturesque route. Jeff and I met when we both attended the same church in Elkville, Illinois. I was either 12 or 13 at the time. He is a member of the Dunmyer family…who were so kind to me in my youth. They, like most of us in the little non-denominational church, had little…but they always had a place for me at their table. As Jeff and I journeyed to his trailer…the years rolled away. I have considered that my life experiences are a bit seamless to me. If you are my friend…you will always be my friend.

Situational friendships and commitments and loyalties…are a quandary to me. How do you care about someone today…and not tomorrow? My father left my life, permanently, when I was 6 years old. He passed away at age 60 and I never got to see him again. I would have loved to have seen him and hugged his neck and recognize our common human ties and our family. When Jeff spoke of our friends…it is as if I saw them yesterday. When I see others become upset with their friends or family and proceed to cut off relationships with them…I am sad. Our lives are very short…the narrative of our experience on our home, for now, is precious and people come into our lives for a reason.

I have heard it said that once the Grim Reaper comes to collect each of us…our lives will pass before our eyes. I want everyone that I know…to be included. I can not afford to leave anyone out.

Walk Softly

June has entered waking softly and happily. June 2021 is so different than June 2020. We in the United States are breathing easier and not as afraid as we were last year at this time. The elusive hope is slowly returning into our spirits and enlightening our understanding of the beauty of our mortality. I read a lovely piece by Garrison Keillor, the other day, were he recounts being in the emergency ward of a hospital for 24 hours. He mentioned that he has had two strokes, previously and that he had become faint and his thought processes were muddled before he was taken to the hospital. Garrison, who Jonathon and I met at Shryock Auditorium, spoke of his younger years when he was, ‘insanely busy,’ and either preoccupied or in his words, arrogant, and thus had little time for others. He reflected on another hospital encounter where he sat and visited with the richest man in Minnesota…as they both were patients in the health facility. The next week he read off the death of the man that he had enjoyed visiting. The nexus of his article is that we are all equal in our mortality and the best of life awards and honors and gold and acclaim…are a bit of fluff…when it is time to meet your maker.

We walk softly as we head toward the light that is at the end of the long tunnel of our 2020/2021 Pandemic. I have a dear friend who told MJ and I that he thinks about his mortality on a daily basis. I think about my time on earth and what have I done to make other’s lives better and what is there yet to accomplish. As my friend and doctor told me a few months back…Mr. Brooks…you are getting older.’ I laugh to myself…on occasion…when I witness the supreme struggle of many to one-up their colleagues or to better themselves at another’s expense. Riches and power and fame and acclaim are as light as gossamer wings. It is like the rich man who was told that he could not take his riches with him…and he retorted that he was having his burial suit tailored with big pockets…

Jeff D. and I will visit tomorrow. He and I have been friends for 50 years. Jeff is the genuine article. He is honest and marches to the tune of his own drummer. He and I both have significant Native American heritage. It is refreshing to talk with a person who is not attempting to impress you. I was watching a documentary regarding the scientific communities work to produce the first photos of a Black Hole. Quantum Physicists and Astronomers understand that Black Holes exist in space…but they do not follow the laws of Physics as we understand them. Black Holes absorb everything that comes near them in they’re tremendous vortex. Nothing returns once it has entered a Black Hole. It was commonly believed by the famous scientist Stephen Hawking and his colleagues that there was no methodology of recording information as to what had been sucked in by the BH. Philosopher Physicist have now discovered that at the Event Horizon, which is the perimeter of the BH, there is a substance that they have termed, ‘Soft Hairs’ that recover at least some of the data as to what is entering the BH. To properly take a photo of a BH the astronomers needed a telescope the size of the earth. The compensated by having several telescopes take images of a BH at the same time…all around the Earth and then compiling the data to discover an image of a BH.

We have temporary residency on a blue planet called Earth. We are tenants…not owners. There is so much more that we do not know…than what we know…

Conditioning

I discovered yesterday that my vintage Toyota Camry was not starting properly. It has been such a reliable car for the over 10 years that I have owned it…I was flummoxed as to how this could happen. I looked under the bonnet and found that there was no regular battery there…only the Hybrid Battery. So, I did what all good non-mechanics do…I watched a You Tube video on where the 12 volt battery is in a 2007 Toyota Camry and discovered to my dismay that it is in the trunk. I subsequently examined the terminals as to their security to the battery posts and their cleanliness. Both were good and I proceeded to Auto Zone for their kind help and assistance. When I asked the nice woman at Auto Zone if they checked batteries…she responded with a hearty, ‘We do!’ Before we had exited the building and I parked right by the front door…I informed her that the car was a Hybrid…and she responded that they not only were prohibited from checking the 12 volt batteries in a Hybrid but that it was written right on there battery checker. She sadly told me that I must go to the Toyota dealer for the battery check. I did so with great haste…as the Camry would not start after I put gas in her…but on the second attempt…she did. I was happy to get a 2 P:M: appointment at Toyota when I did not call until noon. After I put gas in her old tank. When I arrived I told the person who greeted me, in the Service Area, that I was very early but that I feard being stranded if I turned off the engine. I asked him if I should leave it running…and he replied, yes. An hour and 40 minutes later the nice fellow who had checked me in said that indeed the battery was bad…and could not keep a charge above 25%. He told me that he had some bad news and that being that the new battery was $335. I responded that I had to get home and that he should install it. I mentioned that it seemed that everything with a Hybrid vehicle was more expensive…and he responded that it was. I told MJ that I was relieved that we had to purchase a $335 dollar battery rather than a $3,500 Hybrid battery.

So, conditioning is paramount in our acceptance of what life throws our way. We praise our new President for doing what a President should do. We accept that our denominational churches are dying because we refuse to accept the realization that we in denominations do not want to change. We see clearly that there is a political agenda that is based on, ‘The Big Lie,’ and we seek non-partisan agreement with people that have no desire to agree on anything that does not emanate from their false construct of reality.

At one time we believed the homelessness was a terrible wrong. At one time we believed that church attendance was paramount to a life well lived. We trusted our elected President…at one time….before Watergate. We believed to fight in foreign wars was our duty….before Vietnam. We believed, on some level, that we were all mortal and that we would all die as mortals…and that what we had achieved in this life was of little importance in relation to the life to come…

Story, Yet Unrealized — The Jazz Man

The June 1st rains are falling steadily. It is Tuesday…but it feels like Monday. Yesterday was Memorial Day. We are a country that is based on an idea. The idea is really a grand experiment that encompasses the family of man. Many nations…if not most…arise from their shared ethnicity. I visited the military cemetery at […]

Story, Yet Unrealized — The Jazz Man