The cool breezes of 74 degrees are blowing through the Writing Porch. A placid peaceful rain is falling. Monday has arrived again and all is right with the world. Summer is scampering away from us. We may not miss this Herculean Hot summer as much as we have missed summers in times past. As I have regularly gotten a bit older I have learned one valuable lesson…showing up is half..or more…of the battle. So often our fears and misconceptions and lack of direction…prevent us from simply showing up. As an employee for most of my life, I discovered that the best habit to develop was to report for work on a regular basis. You can learn most any job duty…if you are there to be taught it. If you are not there…failure is the result. As a writer, I plan on writing every day. As a photographer, I take photos daily. As a Walker, I walk on a daily basis. Good routines make for a good life.
When I first became a manager at Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale I was 29 years old. I thought that was old…but I have found that I was wrong. Each day for the first year when it was time to report for my management job…I was nauseous. I was afraid that I was not up to the task and that I probably would be a failure. One of my first duties when I arrived at Building Services as the Assistant Superintendent…was to meet with the Superintendent. This was a daily affair and I dreaded it. He was a serious man with little humor when it came to me. I took copious notes to ensure that I would not forget his instructions to me…and I was determined to succeed. I knew that I had three people; MJ and Aaron and Jonathon who were counting on me to not fail. I held the position for over twelve years before becoming the Superintendent.
Vincent van Gogh sold only one painting during his tumultuous life. He painted 900. He was mentally ill…but he persevered and today is one of the most renowned artists in the world. Vincent cut off his left ear…but he did not stop painting. I wrote the other day that Art Is Life…and it is. Many of us must do our Art…as it is like breathing to us. The value of Art has been diminished at times during our human history…especially in the Industrial Age and our current higher education of credentialing rather than education. The facts are that every academic discipline is resting on the human family’ love and hunger and thirst for Art. Our Bible was written by men who were inspired by their Art of Faith and the desire to see the unseen. Architecture illustrates the physical manifestation of the sublime. Geology is the study of the artistic mystery of our earth. History records the struggle and progress of the human family as we travel back to our mutual home.
Strive to be present in the unfolding of your life. We must remove our noses from our iPhones and iPads…and look around at the breathtaking beauty of our family and colleagues and friends…our home and our sense of place. Leave your comfort zone and try something new and in the trying…renew yourself on our short walk back the Jerusalem…
‘I love going to Grandma Askews’ house and staying with her and Aunt Guelda for a few days,’ mused Billy B. ‘There is a place for everything and everything is in its’ place,’ he continued. ‘I always feel warm and happy when I see her rocking chair and the old and worn King James Bible on the little table next to the chair,’ Jane said with a tear in her eye. ‘Your Grandma A. has the coldest and sweetest milk that I have ever drank,’ Chet offered with a wide grin. ‘I think that Nugget…is a badass dude,’ Darryl laughed. ‘He barks at me every time I enter his room where he sleeps on the easy chair that is next to the couch,’ Darryl continued. ‘When I try to pet him he snarls and bares his teeth and simply will have none of it,’ Chet noted. ‘Grandma did not always live such a sedate and settled life,’ Billy B. said.
‘Mom…I am hungry…when will daddy be home,’ Neva J. asked. ‘I could eat as well…it has been two days…’ Get The Point…Get The Point…,’ Gene or Fetch as Neva J. called him, said with a sour look on his face. ‘Why don’t we hunt for some venison in the woods…Gene has a bow and arrow set…maybe he could bag us a deer,’ Wanda asked? ‘I think that our two dads…are lazy loafers and drunkards and abusive,’ Beulah said with anger in her eyes! ‘Mom suffered though Gueldas and my dad being abusive and not feeding his family and Neva J. and Gene and Wanda suffered with a drunkard for a father,’ Beulah continued. ‘Now…now…Beulah… let us go to the woods and see what the Lord will provide for us,’ Grandma A. said with a look of peace that was baffling.
‘Persimmons is all that I see,’ Neva J. said with disgust. ‘Neva J. persimmons are good to eat and they are good for you…fill your basket full of them and we will eat them for our supper tonight,’ Grandma A. said. ‘I bet Dad is eating at his favorite Bar and drinking Old Fashions and Dirty Martinis,’ said Fetch with tears in his eyes. ‘Yes…but God will provide for us…and God loves your father too,’ Grandma Askew said in a whisper.
‘Come and get it…fried chicken and mashed potatoes and green beans with bacon cooked in them,’ Grandma A. said with a wide smile. ‘Here is your fried chicken…Narky, which is the name Grandma A. gave Nugget during the last few years of his life, and I have included some mashed potatoes…just like you like them,’ Grandma A. said with a beaming smile.
Settled and Secure comes from being unsettled and insecure. Life brings to us many challenges and trials and tribulations. Often we feel like it might be the end or at least a new normal that we are not ready for. We watch our neighbors and friends and colleagues go through trying times and say by the grace of God that has not hit me as yet…but wait…none of us are exempt.
‘Did you know that there is a heat advisory for today, asked Billy B.? ‘What is a heat advisory,’ replied Chet. ‘They are issued when it gets so hot that the heat can make you ill,’ Billy B. said. ‘I feel ill often when I am outdoors under the Sun…especially the noonday Sun,’ Neva J. commented. ‘The summer sun is so glaring and intense that houses and even a small town…spontaneously combusted,’ Jane commented. ‘I do not know many people who have an air conditioner in their home…or car…just window fans that you place on exhaust out of a window at night and attempt to draw in some cooler night air,’ Darryl mentioned. ‘And that is not very effective…I can tell you as I lay in a pool of my own perspiration…and clasp my damp sheets,’ Billy B. said with a grimace. ‘It makes me appreciate fall and the cool breezes of autumn,’ Chet said with a smile on his face.
As Chet and Billy B. were watching ‘The Day The Earth Stood Still’ at the Orpheum Theatre and enjoying the luxurious air conditioning…Chet had an idea. He wondered what Klaatu, the alien who looked like a human in the movie and played by Michael Rennie, would do to solve the problem of the heatwave? ‘Ride bicycles more and stop burning fossil fuels,’ Klaatu said. Now, this was indeed a surprise to Chet as Klaatu was speaking directly to him…and there he was…in the movie. ‘Hello Klaatu…how is it that I am in ‘The Day The Earth Stood Still’ and yet I can see myself eating popcorn and setting next to Billy B. in the audience,’ said Chet. ‘Well…you had a question and I thought that I would take a moment to answer it for you…as you can see by the theme of the movie…Klaatu and Gort came to Earth to warn the inhabitants of the planet that they must cease to be warlike or they would have to be destroyed,’ said Klaatu. ‘The question you have postulated will in the next few decades become the most important question that any occupant of earth can ask,’ Klattu continued. ‘Being hot and thinking little of it…will soon not be an option for earthlings,’ Klattu said with a sigh. ‘The problem of Global Warming was not on many people’s radar in the 1960s…but in the next century…it will be all anyone can talk about,’ Klattu said in little more than a whisper. ‘The earth is a great and fragile gift…the balancing of mankind’s needs…are mostly mankind’s wants…while the needs of the earth are almost being totally ignored,’ Klattu said.
Chet remembered his mysterious talk with Klaatu. He understood what had been a nuisance…was now a nemesis. The other day it was 104 degrees in the United Kingdom. The glaciers were rapidly melting. Tornadoes were now a mile wide when they touched the earth. Yet people still were fighting over political/religious conspiracy theories.
Vincent van Gogh has come to live at our house. I have been a van Gogh admirer for many years. Jonathon ordered him from the Getty Museum in Los Angles, California. On the box that he came in are 10 Vincent Van Gogh facts:
- Born in 1853 in the Netherlands.
- It was cheaper for him to paint self-portraits than to hire models.
- He voluntarily admitted himself to a mental asylum.
- He signed his works with his first name only.
- In less than 10 years he produced more than 900 works.
- He only sold one painting during his lifetime.
- He wrote more than 600 letters to his brother Theo, an art dealer.
- After a quarrel with his friend Paul Gaugin, he cut off his left ear.
- He died of a gunshot wound in France.
- His last words were ‘The sadness will last forever.’
MJ and I visited the St. Louis Art Museum a little over a week ago and were delighted to see a few van Gogh works.
I love a good action figure and Jonathon, Aaron, and MJ know it. Vincent van Goghs’ work is captivating to me. I often wonder if he saw that which he painted in the surreal way he placed the subject on his canvas. We visited the Musee d’Orsay in Paris in 2012. There was a large room in the museum that was dedicated to Vincent exclusively. What a feast for the senses in seeing all those Works gathered in one place! It was extremely hot and very crowded with people…but the experience was to die for…as my buddy Ron often says.
The above paintings are from a visit to the St. Louis Art Museum in 2020. I recall the trepidation that we had at being out in public with our Pandemic still raging…and it is not over.
Action Figures spark my imagination. Art…especially over the past 25 years has been a great comfort to me and a singular enjoyment. Action Figures are a bit like little statues or little people. When I see them I wonder what they are preparing to do…or think…or their personality is. So…I suppose I have always been a fan of art…whether it be the little statues of Action Figures when I was a lad…or the Fine Art that mesmerizes my thoughts as an adult.
Storytelling is art. A good story comes from the author’s imagination being sparked by a simple idea. The ideas come from what surrounds the Storyteller. Faith is art. ‘Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen…’ We all love a good story. Stories keep us on the path of life…and point us toward tomorrow…
Art is life…
It is my Buddy Rons’ birthday today. MJ and I and Ira Kaye and Ron have traveled together on several occasions. Ron is my brother-in-law…but he is like a brother to me. We have been invited to Ron and Ira Kayes’ condo @ Miramar Beach many times over the past decade. They are experts in making me feel welcome. I have known my Buddy for over 44 years…and they have been fun. He is a stellar example of a man that is dedicated to and who loves his family in both word and deed.
Ron and I had a habit of enjoying different wine and cheese, while our better halves shopped, @ Wine World. On many occasions, we mutually solved the problems of the world and enjoyed doing so. If I feel draggy or less than inspired…Ron inspires me to live life to the fullest! He is one of the finest examples of how to live your life well.
Ron keeps me laughing and his good humor is contagious. Although he is a bit older than me…he causes me to want to reach out and grab the brass ring. This man has a kind heart. In all of the years that I have known him, I have never heard him argue or fuss or show a disagreeable temperament. Ron…like me…loves the Ocean. From Fish Frys and Homemade Ice Cream…to ensure that I have Baileys Irish Cream for my coffee…and Kettle One for my Dirty Martinis…he is a winner! I grew to love Florida…by seeing it through his eyes…
MJ and I are thinking of Ron on his birthday and wishing him all the best that life has to offer…and many more…
Since my almost 12 years of retirement began I can think of few lovelier locations to visit than the Ocean. We have had the kind privilege of joining our pals, Ron and Ira Kaye, on several occasions at Miramar Beach which has a terrific Ocean view and the sugar white sand of the Gulf Coast Beach. The placid perfection of the peaceful place is transformative. As I have sat…often for hours…and gazed at every morphing and majestic wave…I feel renewed and refreshed and want to write more stories.
‘I think that I could lay on this sandy beach and watch the Ocean for hours,’ Jane said. ‘Yes…the hypnotic effect of the sun on the water and its’ constant movement towards the shore is mesmerizing, Billy B. added. ‘I like to see the storm clouds over the water and wonder what they are bringing with them,’ Chet said with a smile. ‘Have you heard that the famous psychic Edgar Cayce loved to visit Miramar Beach and that he saw several visions regarding the future while he was on this same beach,’ Darryl asked the group. ‘I thought that I had read everything that is written about Cayce…and I do not recall anything about him visiting Miramar Beach,’ said Neva J. with a quizzical look on her kind face. ‘That is very true…but the information that Darryl is speaking of is held in a secret book of which I have one of the twelve copies,’ said The Wiz. Cayce believed that the Lost City of Atlantis rested on the Ocean bottom just a few miles from Miramar Beach,’ The Wiz said with a knowing smile. ‘I think that we should rent some scuba gear and a boat and visit the place where Edgar Cayce said Atlantis was and dive down to see if we can find it,’ Billy B. said with exuberance! ‘Let us go…and go quickly…an adventure is afoot,’ Neva J. laughed.
‘Zip me up,’ Jane said to Billy B. ‘My pleasure, my friend,’ said Billy B. with his wet suit already on. ‘Stop the boat,’ said The Wiz. ‘Is this the spot that Cayce referred to,’ Chet asked? Yes…and the natural marker for it is the red water that is over the top of it,’ noted The Wiz. ‘It seems a bit strange that there are no other boats or people to be seen…and the wind has shifted from the south to the north,’ Chet said. ‘The resting place for Atlantis is somewhat like the Bermuda Triangle in that you can not see it until it wants to be seen,’ advised Darryl. ‘The water is like a mirror…and smooth as glass,’ said Neva J.
‘Atlantis is alive and well,’ The Wiz proclaimed. ‘It is a myth that the City is lost or only the remnants of a once brilliant City…it is functioning as it always has…beneath our feet…at the bottom of the Ocean,’ The Wiz continued. ‘Each of you takes the person next to you…hand…and we will create a diving chain to the City…and it will only take a few seconds for us to arrive,’ The Wiz said with a hearty laugh.
‘That seemed like a second…and no more than two seconds,’ Chet bemused. ‘Really the diving gear was not necessary…but I did not want to frighten you…Atlantis is a special place,’ The Wiz said soothingly. ‘It is beautiful and it shines like diamonds,’ Jane observed. ‘Take off your diving helmets…there is oxygen enough for all,’ said Joe B. ‘We thought that you might like to see our little home…it has been written about so often…and by people who do not know who we are,’ Joe B. continued. ‘How is there oxygen at the bottom of the Ocean, asked Chet? ‘We are covered by an impenetrable dome,’ Joe B. answered.
‘How about another Fireball,’ Ron asked Billy B.? ‘You know this Fireball Drink is warming to the soul,’ Billy B. laughed as he quaffed another burning delight.
Right now it feels like 115 degrees outside. It is 95 degrees. I have been taking photos of my home for most of my life…Southern Illinois. I have noticed over this past week…when I am snapping my pictures…I do not see many people…other than those in their air-conditioned automobiles. I was in Cristopher, Illinois today and did see a group of kids on their bicycles not long before I departed. The vision of Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale was to be an international university that first reached out to coal mining towns of Little Egypt. Dr. Delyte Morris had the dream of building a world-class School in the farmland and rolling hills of the poorest and most economically deprived region of Illinois. Each of the little towns and villages that I visit has its’ own personality and customs and cohesiveness among its’ citizens. Much as a city such as St. Louis or Chicago have communities within the different blocks and locations in the city in which they live. Communities are wonderful and yet a bit like islands in the desert. There are, however, some similarities in the affections of my fellow Southern Illinoisans. For instance, I have photographed several huge clocks that are usually in a well-groomed and flowery rest area in the town. There are also not only all of the main-line old and lovely denominational churches…but many store-front churches that are apparently non-denominational or fundamentalist. In almost every town that I have visited there are a War Memorial and a stone carving that lists the members of the community that have died for their country.
Movie theatres are a particular passion of mine since my days of childhood in Eldorado and the Orpheum Theatre. It appears that most of the old movie palaces have fallen into disrepair or have been repurposed for other uses. I know that the Liberty Theatre in Murphysboro was showing a movie from time to time.
‘Let us go to the movie in Christopher…I hear that this weekend they are showing the original Dracula with Bella Lugosi,’ said Chet with a wicked grin. ‘Where is it in Christopher,’ asked Jane? ‘Well it is right up town and was built in the 1920s and is considered the most magnificent Theatre in Southen Illinois,’ Chet answered. ‘I love Christopher…I used to work at Hoe Supply when I was a teenager,’ said Neva J. with a wide smile. ‘Well it is settled then…we will go this Saturday,’ said Chet with a wink.
‘I think that the Christopher Theatre must be the most beautiful architecture for a Theatre in Southern Illinois,’ Neva J. mused. ‘Yes…and the air-conditioning is very nice too,’ Billy B. remarked as he snuggled into the plush red velour chairs in the massive auditorium. ‘Oh…yikes…I am always frightened when Dracula bites the neck of the pretty girls in his castle,’ Jane said with her hand over her eyes as she peeked through her fingers. ‘I just hope that it is a little cooler when we get out of this cool comfort…you know like the picture on the glass of the front door when we entered…the snowman blowing cold air on us as we walked into the emporium,’ Billy B. noted.
‘Goodness…Gracious…we have lost time…again…just look at the Theatre…,’ Chet smiled as he munched on another kernel of buttered popcorn.
We visited; France, Italy, and the United Kingdom four times over eleven years, and each time we were there it was…hot. The only respite from the heat was in Edinburgh, Scotland in 2016. It was chilly in the summer. I loved it! Europeans are not accustomed to air conditioners like we Americans are. In Nice and in Tuscany and Venice and Florence there were large shutters on the windows that were opened wide and let the fresh air…flow in. No window screens to be seen. I recall searching for a hat for my balding head in 2014 when we stayed a week in Nice, France. The Mediterranean sun is a bit intense. We also did a lot of walking as a means of conveyance to where we wanted to go in France and Italy…and we were sweaty and spent at the end of the day. It is customary to hang your wet laundry on a little line outside your humongous open shuttered windows in both France and Italy. Somewhat like when I was a child and mom hung out laundry in our backyard with wooden clothes pins. When she brought in the natural dry clean clothes…they smelled wonderful. It was 104 degrees in the United Kingdom today. That has broken all heat records since the UK began keeping records.
‘It is hot enough to fry eggs on the sidewalk,’ Chet said with a grin.’ ‘I had my portable TV on and in my bed with me with my earphones on…until Sign-Off…and then I watched the test pattern for over an hour…but no sleep,’ yawned Billy B. ‘I am going to Cousin Freds and see if they have any $3 Box Fans…at least I can put that by my bed and have some type of air moving over me…even if it is like a gas furnace,’ Billy B. continued. ‘I hear that people are staying in the Ben Franklin Dime Store for most of the day…to enjoy its wonderful air conditioning, ‘Neva J. laughed. ‘You should plug your new Box Fan into an extension cord and sit on a lawn chair and peer out at your new swimming pool that is being dug…and think cool thoughts,’ Jane suggested. ‘I almost wish for school to hurry up and begin…but the only air-conditioned areas are the principal and his secretary’s offices,’ Darryl noted. ‘I have just had a brainstorm…or since it is summer…a brain thunderstorm…why don’t we see if Leo will open the Orpheum Theatre for movie matinees during the week like he has on the weekends…I bet he would have a full house just for the AC,’ said Chet with exuberance!
‘Man O Man this is the Life,’ Billy B. proclaimed! ‘Not only sweet air conditioning…but also free soda pop and popcorn,’ Jane bubbled over with delight. ‘Leo said that he has made more money in a week than he usually makes in six months…and he thinks that he is going to open the Orpheum every summer…with monster marathons and The Three Stooges…and John Wayne and Elvis Presley Flicks,’ Chet said. ‘I heard that Leo is going to extend the Theatre to have 3 separate auditoriums in order to show 3 different features per day,’ Darryl smiled. ‘You can not stop progress…,’ Neva J. laughed as she reached for the popcorn.
Have you noticed that many businesses and similar organizations count Monday as the first day of the week…and Sunday as the last? I assume that this must be due to most jobs running from Monday thru Friday. Monday is not the most inspirational day…for many. The fun of the weekend and the unusual food and special drinks…and swimming at Pounds Hollow and a Dracula Movie at the Orpheum Theatre…are over for five days. Billy B. came up with a stellar idea…Monday Swim at the Hollow. Of course, this worked perfectly during the summer recess from school…but school was to begin again…in less than a month. He had seen one in-ground swimming pool in his life. It was a thing of beauty. His neighbors, the Cook family, had a small in-ground in their back yard with a six-foot-tall wooden fence surrounding it. Billy B. could hear the laughter and splashing and general frivolity when he was in his backyard and the Cooks were in their swimming pool. The Cooks did not go to Pounds Hollow…they had Pounds Hollow in their yard. ‘Hurry Billy B…Jane and Chet and Darryl are waiting on us,’ Neva J. called out as she loaded the picnic basket in the 57 Chevy.
‘We should pool our money and purchase a swimming pool for your backyard, Billy B.,’ said Chet. ‘I think that you can buy an above-ground pool for $69.95 at Western Auto,’ Jane mentioned. ‘We will go by Western Auto and check them out,’ Neva J. laughed as if she knew a secret that no one else did. ‘Hi Bob…we are here to check out the above-ground pools that you have in stock,’ Neva J. said with a wink. ‘Well…all we have left in the above-ground pools is this one for $199…it is July 18th and the pool season for retail is almost over…we will not be getting any more pools before next May,’ said Bob with an almost imperceptible grin. ‘Let us proceed to the Hollow,’ Neva J. announced with gusto!
Once again…Billy B. and Chet swam and floated out into the deep water of Pounds Hollow…where they could barely make out Neva J. and Jane on the sandy beach. Suddenly…there was Darryl on an inner tube. ‘Are you disappointed about not getting the above-ground swimming pool,’ Darryl asked Billy B.? ‘We missed the good pool deals at Western Auto…better luck next year…I guess,’ said a somewhat downcast Billy B. ‘ Let’s rest on the shore for a few minutes before we swim back,’ Chet suggested. ‘I am going to sleep under this massive weeping willow tree,’ Darryl said with a smile. ‘That sounds like a wonderful idea,’ Billy B. responded.
‘Hi Doc…you are looking like a Champ,’ said George. ‘Oh George…Billy B. always looks so good and he is such a nice boy,’ Helen said as she hugged Billy B. ‘Helen has bought you a little gift…you will find it when you get back home to Eldorado,’ George said with a hearty laugh! ‘But how are you guys here at Pounds Hollow…Neva J. said that you had passed away…George, asked Billy B.? ‘Oh…George gets around,’ Helen said with a smile.
‘What is the digging machine doing digging a massive hole in our backyard,’ asked Billy B.? ‘Helen’s lawyer called me the other day and said that Helen had died…and in her Will, she had set aside enough money for you to have an In-Ground Swimming Pool…and she said to tell you that she apologized for never getting you the bicycle that she had promised not long after you moved to Eldorado…
‘Look Billy B…there is a new Three Speed Bicycle by your back door,’ said Jane.
Rain has a quieting effect on me. Rain combined with the sound of thunder in the unknown distance…is serene bliss. It has been a bit desert-like in Little Egypt for the past several weeks and the steady rain brings a renewed understanding that things change.
‘It looks like the rain is settled in,’ said Chet as he gazed out of his window. ‘Parker is on the headboard of the bed…again,’ Billy B. noted. ‘She is so afraid of thunder that she believes that the only safe place for her is the oaken headboard of my bed,’ Billy B. continued. ‘Didn’t Neva J. get her some nerve pills for her fear of storms,’ asked Jane? ‘Yes, but they are only marginally effective,’ Billy B. replied. ‘Rain causes me to think of our first visit to Eldorado and Grandma Askew’s,’ Jane said with a smile. ‘Do you mean the time that we got lost in the woods…as well as losing time,’ Chet asked? ‘It was the strangest occurrence that I have ever experienced,’ Jane replied.
‘Do you have the picnic basket all packed,’ Neva J. asked Jane? ‘I have the wine that you told me to pack…but there is little room for more than a few bologna sandwiches…and some Charles Chips,’ Jane responded. ‘You do know that it is rumored that Karel Park is haunted and that some campers have seen strange creatures…during the midnight hour,’ Chet asked with a sly grin? ‘That is why it is important that we all have fresh batteries in our flashlights,’ Billy B. said. ‘I can not wait to enjoy some hot dogs and smores and wine…I brought some Dixie Cups.’ Neva J. laughed.
The glowing embers of the campfire were quickly extinguished as the hard rain began to fall. Luckily Karel Park had covered shelters for picnics and family gatherings and great protection against the rain. ‘I hear thunder in the distance,’ said Darryl…who had joined the campers at the last minute. ‘What is that strange light over the trees…is it lightning…it looks blue,’ said Neva J…as she poured everyone a little more Merlot…in their Dixie Cups. Suddenly there were three little men staring at them and standing just outside the shelter…they had large black eyes…and they were about four feet tall.
‘What a night…I did not sleep well,’ Billy B. said with a yawn. ‘My goodness…Billy B… you are old…’ Jane exclaimed! ‘My iPhone says that it is July 17…2022,’ Darryl marveled. ‘We had no cell phones last night…we were kids…on summer recess from school…what happened,’ said Jane with a trembling in her voice!
‘My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle,’ Chet solemnly intoned…