Ports Of Italy

When we journey to Maine…we dine at Ports of Italy…twice. During our first year staying at Ocean Point Inn at Boothbay Harbor, we went to Ports and had a dining experience that was heavenly. Our waiter who was originally from London made the experience special. Lobster lovers need not fear as there are dishes with Lobster at the Restaurant. After dinner, we inquired as to what was the best dessert and Tony told us…Grappa. I was reminded of our great experience in Rome where we had dinner on two occasions and the manager made us a special dish. The food was delicious and our spirits were high as the next morning we would disembark from the Port of Civitavecchia for a Mediterranean Cruise. So…when our feast was complete I left our customary 20% tip and we walked out of the restaurant to go back to our hotel which was just a few blocks from the Ristorante. Out came the manager and exclaimed that we must come back to see him and to not let our visit be only once. I assured him that we would indeed come back as we had booked our hotel for a week after our return to Rome from our cruise.

While we were on our Mediterranean Cruise we learned that the typical gratuity in Europe was a few Euros and not the 20% that we had been leaving. And so we returned to Rome and to our favorite ristorante and our friendly manager and he made us a special dish again. I asked him if he had Grappa…and he replied that he had only the best Grappa for me. Our gratuity was less…as was the custom…and he did not follow us out into the street.

Maine is a happy place. It is an artist’s haven. When I am there I feel somewhat removed from the political and religious struggles that our country is plagued with. Maine is Yankee grit and determination and lobstermen and rocky shores and fresh salt air. Maine is a love for books and vintage architecture and a less frenetic pace of life.

LL Bean is headquartered in Freeport, Maine. For several Christmas my mother-in-law and father-in-law would buy me a pair of slippers from LL Bean…and they were the most comfortable slippers that I ever wore. We enjoy going to Maine in September as it is already turning cool. It gets cold in Maine…hence the popularity of LL Bean. I am wearing a pair of flannel pajamas that MJ got me for this past Christmas…from LL Bean. Hiking and canoeing and kayaking are popular in Maine.

We love exploring the little towns and hamlets. Bath has a wonderful Brewery. Wiscasset has some fascinating little shops. I purchased a little porcelain bulldog from one of the emporiums last year. When the TSA lady searched my bags before our return flight she pulled the little porcelain dog out of his box and commented how cute he was.

Our first trip to Maine was in 2009. We felt so at home and had such a sense of place…that we returned in 2010. Then for several years, we traveled to Europe and the United Kingdom, and the Caribbean…but Maine was calling our name…


MJ and I have been watching You on Netflix. It is about a bookstore attendant…who marches to the beat of a different drummer. Diabolical would be the best word to describe him. Thinking of You…caused me to remember the Elfian Bookstore owner who I met in Bar Harbor, Maine. The bookstore had a plethora of old books and they had the vintage prices to match. The owner seemed Wiley and wizened. He watched me carefully as I strolled the packed aisles. He asked me in a squeaky voice…what my reading interest was. I mentioned several literary pursuits and when I said that I enjoyed reading the Bible…he stood up with bright eyes and motioned for me to follow him. Before us was miniature volumes of the Pentateuch. ‘You are familiar with the Pentateuch,’ the Elf asked. ‘Yes, I am…but I have never seen such small volumes,’ I replied.

‘They are magic…it has been said that they were in the Ark of the Covenant,’ Elf said with a sly smile. As I began to open the first of the tiny books…the Elf cried out, ‘No not in here…you must wait and open the special books in your home!’ I paid the Elf and he placed my purchase in the bookstore brown paper and tied the paper securely with a white string. As we left the Bookstore…the Elf called out, ‘Please come back and see me…If you dare.’

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As soon as we departed…the Elf shut the door firmly and locked it and put a closed sign in the window. I wanted his business card…but he did not return to the door to see what the commotion was all about…or to unlock the door.

‘Pardon me…do you have a telephone number for the old man who owns the bookstore,’ I asked the Stationary Store Owner that was next door. ‘Oh my…that store has been closed since the owner died…ten years ago,’ said the Stationary Store Owner.

‘Open your package quick,’ said Aaron and Jonathon. As I cut the white string and opened the careful flaps of the brown paper…grey powder spilled out…


Soon comes Maine. Maine has lobster. Maine is good…lobster is good. We have planned for a year…and now the time of our departure is nigh. It seems that there is either lobster or something with lobster in it at every restaurant we visited. I used to enjoy watching the live lobsters in the big tank at Red Lobster. Then I would think…soon they will be dead.

The lobster is dropped into boiling water…alive. A bit like life…don’t you think? I am reminded of the old adage…’You do not want to see where the sausage is made. Moments in Maine are magic. Eating at the Seaside Restaurant in Camden…was special. As we sat next to the water on the deck a man who was sailing his boat stopped and called out to us as to the correct time. When we told him he thanked us and noted that he was late for an important meeting.

Ocean Point Inn at Boothbay Harbor feels like home. This will be our third visit. The Inn is next to the Ocean. A more peaceful place I have not found. Often the waves lap up onto the shore. The mysteries of the ages are hidden in the Ocean. The staff is especially friendly and soon you are family.

Maine Lighthouses are beautiful. We see one or two every time we are there. Lighthouses were vital to the sailing ships seeking shore. The Maine coast is very rocky. I ponder that if the Lighthouse could speak…what stories it would tell. We visited Bar Harbor on numerous occasions. Bar Harbor was known as the destination spot for the rich and famous 100 years ago. We had dinner in one of the restaurants and after we returned home we discovered that President Obama and his family dined there a week after us.

Southwest Harbor was our destination for our first two journeys to Maine. Storm of the Century, a movie based on a Stephen King novel, was filmed in Southwest Harbor. We stayed at a delightful Bed and Breakfast and the breakfast and dessert were to die for. One of the little restaurants that we visited on both occasions that we stayed in the Bed and Breakfast…remembered us and greeted us warmly…although it had been a year since our last visit.

When in Maine we neither talk about politics nor religion…we prefer to luxuriate in the miracle of God…that is Maine… Mainers are hard-working people who are in touch with the Ocean and the unique secret that is their home.

Mystery Beyond The Clouds

Clouds captivate me. Their ever-changing form is endless. Have you noticed how they look from an airplane? Sometimes like a big fluffy pillow. When I look up I see a different world than my terra firma experience. When I look down from a jet I see another earth than when I am standing on it and in the midst of all that surrounds me. Perspective is everything.

So many things divide us for no logical reason. The color of our skin or the faith that we attest to…or the lack thereof. Some are assured that they are highly educated and that they are members of the Elite Club…and we…The Great Unwashed…shall not enter in. We climb upon our soapbox and proclaim…’Thank God I am saved!’…with the caveat unsaid that

so many of the rest of you poor dumb bastards are not.

What if each of us is a ‘Bit of God?’ When we malign or marginalize or say to members of our human family…’ Move along now…nothing to see here…’ we are telling God…we are not interested…

Let Others See Your Soul

Have you ever met someone that you can not forget? Someone who left an impression on you so significant that they changed your thinking…a divine moment. Often our daily activities involve the wearing of our professional/social masks. We have been schooled from birth on what to say and what not to say. We do not want to interfere or be thought pushy or presumptuous. We care for our friends and colleagues and family…however we do not want to be considered…Out There…or extreme. Safe is our operative operational conduct. We have a good and encouraging word for others…but we do not want to be misunderstood.

Masks are removed from time to time. The reaction from our peers is amazement and joy and peace be unto you.

I have heard it said that a person who loses a loved one wishes that they had told them how much that they meant to them…before they passed away. At times life can be a bit artificial in our daily routine. We are fascinated by robots and we study the discipline of emulating them. Hurt comes with letting others see your soul…at times…but it is well worth the ride.

Secrets we keep…and we are quite good at keeping. A life well lived is a life of honesty and joy and suffering…and sharing the experience of our soul.

Fall Is In The Air

Seventy-two degrees and a steady rain…my kind of day. I have not experienced such a cool day since last spring. Jonathon tells me that if he wants to know anything about the weather forecast he simply asks me. I told him that we old folks enjoy watching the weather. It appears that we may be in store for a bit of the September Rains.

Yesterday at Giant City State Park I enjoyed the sound of silence. The woods are a wonderful place to commune with nature. The sandstone boulders and stone walls are accustomed to visitors. They simply ‘are’ and want you to be the same. I wonder if I have always realized the truth of simply ‘being’ and enjoying a sense of place. I am one of those old people that believe we all have a purpose…a calling…a mission… It is important to have times of silence…where we can hear the still small voice…and not the whirlwind…speak to our souls.

Leaders forget that many honest-hearted people feel marginalized and not seen by them. It is easy and comfortable to hang with your supporters and with those that you work closely with and those who see eye to eye with you…when you are a leader. It is more difficult to offer your outstretched hand to someone who perhaps will not return their hand… It is nice to fellowship with the outgoing and the extrovert and with those who seem to get things done…it takes a dedicated effort to include the introvert and the quiet and those who feel as if they have a lifetime membership in the second tier of the church…or the workplace…

A popular myth is that there are leaders and there are followers. There are those who are blessed with golden speech abilities and herculean planning skills. There are those who have the education and the life skills for the job… While the rest of us are the sheep…who require a diligent Sheepdog.

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Many sit silently and watch deterioration and decay and diminishment…and know in their heart that they have some productive thoughts and life skills that could aid and perhaps turn around the dying of a magnificent institution…but no one has taken the time or exerted themselves enough to ask them to join at the table.

Pigeonhole is what we do with fellow congregants and our work colleagues. We develop a definition of a person and in our mind, they never break out of the parameters of that steel structure and form…

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Change or Die…is my motto of life. We must recognize when something is not working and make the proper adjustments to facilitate continued growth and success. I had the opportunity to tell both chancellors and presidents of Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale that they had a plethora of talent under their noses and for the mistake of pigeonholing them and failing to ask this talented group for their help…our University was losing students by the thousands.

Credentials and certificates we love. Persistent bragging and telling lies for the truth…when done on a continuing basis…convinces a lot of people of the talents of someone who is no more than a good storyteller. Our attention spans are short and our problems are long. We research only the surface of the human talent we are surrounded with…when the needs are deep and require immersive study.

Change is life.

Labor Day Weekend

‘It was a great idea to stay overnight at the Gray Plaza Hotel in Marion so that we can explore Giant City, State Park,’ Chet remarked. ‘Yes I thought that it would be fun after our all-day visit to the DuQuoin State Fair for us to spend an additional day and camp overnight at Giant City before we return to Eldorado, Neva J. responded. Is it true that the glaciers caused all of the rock formations in the Park,’ Jane asked. ‘Giant City’ terrain is much different than most of Illinois and looks much more like it belongs in the Ozarks ‘Yes, the boulders are similar to those we saw at the Garden Of The Gods, humongous sandstone, Billy B. answered Jane with a wink and a grin. ‘The boulders are part of the Chesterian Formation and come from the Mississippian Period around 359 million years ago,’ Chet answered with a sly smile. ‘Thank you…Mr. Peabody,’ Jane laughed.

‘Simply a beautiful night to be camping under the stars,’ Neva J. said as if to herself. ‘September is some of the best camping because it is not so hot,’ Darryl agreed. ‘Goodness…did we forget the wine,’ Neva J. asked with a start. ‘No, NJ…it is in the other picnic basket,’ Jane chuckled. ‘I wonder what these rocks would say to us if they could speak,’ Billy B. mused. ‘Give me a blanket…I am chilly,’ Chet responded. ‘Rocks do not get cold,’ Billy B. answered. ‘Not the rocks…me…I am cold,’ Chet said through chattering teeth. ‘Maybe I should place another log on the campfire,’ Darryl said. ‘Yes…but first you will have to find another log…I looked high and low and could not find any more than the wood scraps that I gathered,’ Chet complained. ‘Hand me your flashlight Billy B. and I will make a wood run,’ Darryl said. ‘I will come along and help carry the wood…if we find any,’ Jane commented as she rose from around the dying embers of the campfire.

‘May I help you…’ said a Voice. ‘Pardon me…who is speaking,’ Jane asked with quavering speech. ‘May I help you,’ the Voice repeated. ‘Well yes…we need more wood for the campfire…and could you come out into the light of my torch so that I may see you clearly,’ Jane requested. A young man in brown clothing walked out of the lengthening shadows followed by two other men at his left and his right. ‘Who are you guys,’ Darryl asked. ‘We are members of the Civilian Conservation Corps and we are working on the Giant City Lodge,’ the man in front said. ‘How long have you been in the woods,’ Jane asked. ‘Well it seems like only a few days…FDR is still the President isn’t he,’ the young man asked. ‘No…we had chicken dinner at the Lodge and I saw a photo with all of you guys who worked on the lodge just outside the entrance to the dining room…I saw you three in it,’ Darryl responded.

‘Berl…I told you we took a wrong turn in the thicket, Merle said with a wicked grin.

Old Is Good

I traveled to Giant City State Park today. It is only September 2nd…but that is good enough for me. Autumn had begun as far as I am concerned. I marvel at the broken boulders in a little creek that I enjoy taking photos of. I relish looking at the stone wall that was built as a retaining wall for the creek. I think of my father-in-law Berl and his twin brother Merle who worked for the Civilian Conservation Corp and aided in building the Giant City Lodge.

As I rested beneath the old trees and stone walls of Giant City I considered that my surroundings were telling me that they had seen my generation and many generations before me.

Yes…the woods speak to me. As I sit silently listening to the birds and watching the water flow through the ancient creeks…I hear the admonishment of the meaning of life. We live in a bit of an artificial world. Social circles and society and politics and religion have endeavored to construct a Wicker Man that represents our true reality. When I first heard about the internet…I was gobsmacked. I could not fathom that the literature of the ages and connection around our globe…and news available to me as fast as my telephone modem could download it…was available. I grew up searching the dictionary and the encyclopedia and learning my multiplication tables and how to write cursive. How was it possible for the wisdom of the ages to be at my fingertips…without leaving my desk chair? Now at the old age of nearly 65, I have discovered that the internet did not bring only good things…but damaging and destructive and conspiracy-filled content as well…

Easy it is to follow a lie. Research is to discover the truth. Everyone that you know can agree that a lie is truth…but that does not make it so. When Berl and Merle worked for the CCC…they did not have time to listen to conspiracy theories and lies and to follow the hidden agendas of Wolves dressed in Sheep’s clothing. The understood work from dawn to dusk. They understood calloused hands and sore backs and the joy of having enough money to purchase some food for their family. They knew that a stone wall was good. They realized that a stone wall would last and would be there for their children and their children’s children.

Meteorological Fall Is Here

Maine is just around the corner. September 1st is here. God is in his Heaven and all is right with the world. I received a request from my friend Kathy today as to whether I would like to read scripture publically in our Sunday Worship Service…and I said yes without reservation. Faith and church and the study of Christ’s teachings have been my compelling passion for well over 50 years. When I was at the doorstep of retiring, I told my replacement that I had endeavored to conduct myself as a manager/administrator…as a Christian. I am not referring to the hard-nosed…John Wayne wannabes who believe that exclusion is the controlling precept of Jesus’ teaching…but simply put…love…forgiveness, and inclusion were the admonishments of the Carpenter that I sought to emulate in my conduct with my colleagues.

Fall allows me to reset my direction and what I want to accomplish with the remainder of my life. I almost never volunteer and I think it comes from my mother’s admonishment to not push myself forward where I may not be wanted. However when I am invited…I am compelled to accept the invitation. I have always been a bit of a rebel. Not a rebel without a cause but rather a seeker of truth and of following my heart and soul. When I read of my blogger and good friends’ struggles with blindness and being, by and large, confined to a wheelchair, and yet her insurmountable spirit…I think that I should do more to help others.

Our world is full of suffering and loneliness and religious/political confusion.,..we should be a lighthouse in the fog of war. We are entering the time of year when we take stock of where we have been and where we are going. We slow down a bit and we reflect on what our year has brought us…our accomplishments and what has yet to be done.

Life is a conundrum and the twists and turns that it can take…suddenly…can change your entire reality. So…we need an anchor in the waves of change and the swells of the Ocean we all are sailing on. Writing serves as an anchor for me. Through writing, I reflect upon and organize what I truly think and believe about the many challenges of our world. Writing is a mission and calling and a concrete expression of my journey back to Jerusalem.

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I want to watch the Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Telethon this Labor Day Weekend…but Jerry is gone. MJ and I and baby Aaron were attending a church convention in Des Moines, Iowa many years ago. We were lodging at the local Howard Johnsons Hotel. They were famous for their seafood and were considered an upscale Hotel. I felt somewhat alone and out of place until I saw that they were hosting the Jerry Lewis Telethon. I had watched the Telethon since I was a child…now…I felt at home.

Aaron was born in November…I recall with great joy carrying him into our little four-room home in Elkville. I knew that a new chapter in MJ and my Story was in my arms…and I was overjoyed…

Hello September

Tomorrow my four favorite months begin. I have learned to like them all…but the upcoming four are special. I have a vivid memory of watching the Eldorado Eagles football team play under the lights…from my front porch which was direct across from the football field. We had moved to Eldorado and rented a big haunted house and it was chilly too cold when we got there…especially at night. I began first grade at Hillcrest School which was at the end of Illinois Avenue. My cousin Brenda and I walked there each morning and walked home each evening. She was in eighth grade. Halloween came up quickly and mom purchased a costume for me from Muckley’s Ben Franklin Dime Store. The Dime Store had everything a first grader could want. I received a Christmas gift of a Johnny West action figure for that Christmas. Thereafter I was hooked on Action Figures.

‘I can not believe that the toy manufacturers have expanded the little toy cowboys to a foot tall,’ Billy B. exclaimed. ‘If you think Johhny West is cool you should see my Daniel Boone…his face looks just like Fess Parker who plays him on the Daniel Boone TV show,’ Chet replied. ‘For the Halloween Party let us wear costumes like Johnny West and Daniel Boone…and I will come as Jane West…Johnny’s wife,’ Jane said. ‘That sounds like fun and I have a coonskin cap already,’ Chet exclaimed. ‘We will conduct a little Play for the other kids before the best costume is judged…and I know that Mrs. K will give her permission,’ Billy B. announced.

So the three western actors gathered at Billy B.s house and began Play Practice. There was a fire in the fireplace and yet the big Victorian house was cold. Neva J. served the Troupe hot chocolate and apple cider with pumpkin pie. ‘After the hot chocolate and pie I am somewhat sleepy,’ said Darryl. Now Darryl had come along to portray Frankenstein…because it was a Halloween Play. ‘I think we should call the Play…Johnny West Meets Frankenstein…,’ Chet advised. Suddenly there was a knock at the massive mahogany front door. ‘Fuller Brush Man,’ said the man dressed in a suit and tie and carrying an attache case that was full of his brushes. ‘We do not need Fuller Brushes today,’ said Neva J. ‘How about Electrolux Vacuums…everyone needs an Electrolux Vaccum,’ the salesman pleaded as he pulled out from behind him… Electrolux. ‘How about a set of World Book Encyclopedias…I see that you have kids…they need to be educated,’ the salesman pleaded…with bloodshot eyes. ‘What do you really want,’ Neva J. asked. ‘I am so hungry Maam…I have not had a bite all-day,’ the man said as one of his bloodshot eyes popped out of its socket and rolled across the wrap-around front porch. ‘Oh my goodness…come in and have some pumpkin pie and apple cider, Neva J. said as she watched the salesman of multiple products enter the living room…dragging one leg. ‘We should call a doctor for you,’ Jane beseeched. ‘Oh no need really…you see I am a bit of a Zombie…but I am also a Vegetarian,’ said the Zombie as he devoured the Pumpkin Pie…