Virtual Vacations

Next week we were on our way to Maine…before we had to cancel. This was the second cancellation this year…the first being in May. We thought that we could estimate the scope of our 2020 pandemic…but we were wrong. Adjustment and then readjustment are the secret words for the beginning of our new decade. The postponing of a vacation is of little consequence when compared with the suffering and grief and death of almost 200 thousand Americans. However the real need to become accustomed to our present reality is manifestly demonstrated in our regular order of living.

When you reflect on holidays that you have taken, you must admit that the memories are the enduring component of the adventure. MJ and I stayed in Europe for a month in 2014. We began our European adventure in Nice, France where we were privileged to stay with our dear friends, Margo and Jeff. They had a flat that was about two blocks from the Mediterranean Sea and Jeff and I walked to the rocky beach each evening. In fact we walked all over Nice! The sights and sounds of the city were mesmerizing!

Being in Nice for a week gave us the opportunity to absorb some of the Nice culture. Some of the things that Nice is known for are it’s: sunny weather, Beautiful beaches and Azure Blue Water, and a Stroll on the Promenade des Anglais. Our friends flat was a block or so from the Promenade…and we enjoyed a daily stroll on this famous promenade!

Venice was the next stop on our month safari. After our flight to the nearest airport it took an hour by water taxi to arrive at our destination. What an interesting and unique city! Our flat was near the Piazza San Marco and it had excellent air-conditioning! Venice is comprised off 118 small islands that are connected by 400 bridges. Jeff had taken ill the day that we flew out of Nice and was relegated to the flat for most of our week there. He and I would stay up late at night and laughed at British comedian Rowan Atkinson. At one point I was sitting outside our dwelling in the hot Mediterranean sun and enjoying an Italian cigar while wearing my new white hat that I had purchased at a wonderful hat store in Nice! I noticed several young men filming a couple that was just down from me in the piazza. Suddenly I looked up and the film students were in front of me. One of the group asked me if they could film me because I was very beautiful! Now I had lived 56 years…and had never been referred to as beautiful… He went on to say that they were making a film for the Venice Film Festival and they wanted me to be in the production. Later I found their film on line and there I was for 1 second…puffing my cigar and uttering 1 word…yes! Now Venice is an ethereal place! One evening we joined a haunted Venice tour…and Jeff felt well enough to come along. The ghost stories were chilling and at one point our guide invited us to peer into the murky canal and try to see the decapitated head of a woman who was murdered on the spot that we were standing…I peered intently into the dark waters… I think of Venice often, especially during our pandemic, as it is called the city of masks…

On our third week we rented a car and drove to Tuscany. Jeff had booked a 5 night stay for us in an ancient farm house. Portions of the dwelling had been built in the 12th century. The matron of the household was a colorful character! She made us feel extremely welcome and she and her son visited the chickens for eggs at around midnight…and she reviled her kittens when they did not quickly do as she instructed them… We attended a carnival in the local town of Montecatini Terme. Both of our husband and wife hosts seemed to throughly enjoy our visit with them to their local festival. I can remember my sitting at one end of the long picnic table and our male host sitting at the other and our both raising our glasses in a toast of fellowship and good will. Neither of us spoke the others language…but we understood each other perfectly! During our time in Tuscany I experienced my first and last massage. Jeff and Margo had told MJ and I how wonderful the massages were at the local spa. Jeff said that usually he received a massage wearing his swim trunks…but I had forgotten mine. I tried a pair or two on in the local markets…but they were made for a person that was half my size. Then I was struck with a bolt of inspiration…I would wear a pair of my dry-fit shorts that I had brought with me…and my fears subsided… We waited patiently for our masseuses to summon us for our sojourn to the land of muscles like butter and relaxation bliss! Out comes two women and one walks toward me and says, ‘husband of Mary?’ I replied that I was and she said to follow her. When we got into the massage room she handed me a paper clump. She then told me to remove all of my clothes and put on the bikini paper underwear! I protested and proclaimed that my friend, who had received many spa massages, assured me that I could wear my dry-fit shorts… She did not smile…and repeated that I must put on the bikini shorts and that she would be back soon… Doing as I was told and looking like Buddha…I was not experiencing muscles like butter… When she came back into the room she instructed me to sit in front of a full length mirror and then proceeded to pour oil on top of my head…. next she told me to go over to the bed and lay down…or as I like to refer to the experience…my visit to the Twilight Zone!

So that is three weeks of our four weeks in Europe. The 4th week was in beautiful Florence, Italy. MJ and I were so exhausted that we hardly could climb the stairs of the Uffizi Museum…yet we soldiered on! The ancient sculptor and art is breath taking! Margo told us that some people become ill by being surrounded by so much beauty… that it makes them a bit dizzy!

‘The Path Less Taken’ — The Jazz Man

I thoroughly enjoy walking the path around campus lake! It is something that I have been doing for 42 years…and it still seems fresh and inviting to me each time I trod the familiar terrain. When I am on campus…I am at home. Earlier I received an email from the chair of the Range civil […]

‘The Path Less Taken’ — The Jazz Man

Transparency Of Purpose

It is a fine Monday in Southern Illinois. The temperature and the humidity are lower. Cooler heads are good for healthy dialogue. It seems to me that life is more peaceful in the fall and winter. I remember when air conditioning was a rare commodity and when a store was privileged to have it there was a stencil of a snowman blowing cold air on the door announcing that they had air conditioned comfort and for prospective shopper to enter to enjoy the cool respite! We had a couple of window fans and we basically perspired all night…at least until the wee hours of the morning…where a hint of a cool breeze would waft through the window screens. We slept with the front and back doors open and the screen doors latched and you could hear virtually everything that your neighbors were saying and doing…much like a party line telephone… One thing for sure…there was little that was hidden!

Something that troubles me today is the lack of transparency. All to often I see hidden agendas and self-serving actions wearing the mask of benevolence and care. When a political leader or otherwise insists that their rhetoric and faux promises are for my benefit…and all I have to do is weigh their words against their actions…I am saddened by the needless subterfuge. It seems to me that often people have several variations of themselves. The version that you see is the one that they believe fits with your expectations. Indeed it may not represent the person at all…but rather their marketing of who they think that they need to be to elicit what they need from the person that they are dealing with.

Speaking to a person’s representative rather than their actual visage can be likened to Halloween and the wearing of funny or bizarre masks. Even now with everyone wearing face masks due to our pandemic…I often have trouble distinguishing aquantiances when I encounter them in the grocery store. It is even more difficult when experiencing longtime friends who suddenly decide that they are unwilling to continue the ruse and subsequently reveal the real person…to your surprise and dismay!

It is important to not base relationships on transactions. If someone knows you when they need your services and then…seemingly develops amnesia when you are no longer in demand…beware!

The most refreshing and original people that I know are the transparent genuine articles! The excitement of fellowshipping and knowing a one of a kind person is exhilarating and inspiring! There is a freedom and joy in presenting yourself to the world as God made you and not fearing to express your opinions or beliefs.

2,000 Books Later

Jonathon inspires us to read more!


I’m one book away from reaching my 2020 reading goal! The goal for this year was set on January the first for 30 books. 29 books later and I’m turning the next pages. My new unofficial goal after book 30 will be set at 42 books. I must read on!

All things books related interest and fascinate me. Buying books and gifting books and reading books brings me tremendous joy. I average around 38 books read per year. The English major from my college days still lives on and still has all his bookmarks from throughout the years.

My favorite item to give as a gift is a book I’ve previously read and enjoyed. And being given a book as a present truly means so much to me. The story of my life is a happy one and I like the happy stories the best. More hope and redemption and…

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Joy Comes In The Morning! — The Jazz Man

I am sitting on the writing porch and it is raining a deluge! I love it! Fall is as good as here and I am wearing my new Frankenstein T shirt, a gift from Jonathon, and happiness is still in the small things…especially when you realize that life is nothing but a drive by parade […]

Joy Comes In The Morning! — The Jazz Man

Head Space

Im Thinking of Ending Things is the new Charlie Kaufman film that premiered on Netflix last Friday. In the beginning of the film a young man picks up his girlfriend, of about 7 weeks, and they proceed to his parents farmhouse for the purpose of the girlfriend meeting them. It is snowing and they are excited that winter has arrived. The couple are played by Jessie Buckley and Jesse Plemons…while the mom and dad are portrayed by Toni Collette and David Thewlis. Nothing in the movie is what it appears to be. The name of Jessie Buckley’s character changes several times throughout the performance as does her course of study at university. When they arrive at the home of the parents…their ages morph on several occasions when they leave the room and return. When the young couple first enter the home appears to be empty although they waved at the mother whose sillouhette was in an upstairs window. Jake, the young man, had cautioned his girlfriend, Lucy, to not expect much of ‘a spread’ as his mom had been ill. Yet, when the the parents finally appear there is suddenly a full table of food…that no one appears to eat a bite of. At one point during the mother’s. conversation with Lucy she informs her of Jake’s genius and how that after he reached a relatively young age…she was unable to talk with him because she did not understand what he was saying. Later in the evening Jake’s mom bemoans that Jake did so well with the challenges that he had to face and that he had to work so hard. She proudly noted that he won a diligence pin in school!

The increasingly bizarre family dinner contained four or five age changes of Jake’s parents and the multiple changes of Lucy’s name and the changes of her study at university. Throughout the movie were the recurrence of scenes of a high school custodian.

SPOILER ALERT: The movie is taking place in the custodians head. He is imagining different scenarios, both real and fictionalized, and then observing how they play out.

And so today is the 19th anniversary of 9/11. As I was preparing to leave my home for the university I was startled by the Today Show showing one of the twin towers blackened and smoke emanating from the upper stories. The first speculation by the newscasters was that a small plane had flown into the building. Not long thereafter a passenger jet was filmed flying into the second tower. In no time there was a report of the White House being evacuated and that another jet was on its way to strike it. A jet flew into the Pentagon. Later that day we learned that yet another jet had crashed landed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. I told MJ that someone has declared war on us. I was fearful for what might happen at Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale! I wondered if this was just the beginning?

Our country came together during the early days of 9/11. Queen Elizabeth of the United Kingdom ordered that the Star Spangled Banner be played outside Bukingham Palace. Members of Congress sang the National Anthem on the steps of Congress on September 12, 2001. President George W. Bush stood on the smoking debris of the World Trade Center and leaned on a fireman and announced that we were going to avenge the deaths that had occurred. Tears of sadness and support were in the eyes of all Americans…

We all live in our heads much of the time. After all that is where our brain is and our two windows to the world. Jake, from, Im Thinking of Ending Things, remarks to his imaginary girlfriend that, ‘all reality is tinged.’ Each of us participate in our shared space… through our own filters. For nearly 200 thousand Americans covid-19 is a disaster of unparalleled magnitude. For their countless family members and friends…people who loved them…it is a war that they will never recover from……

Mocha Flavored Coffee for the Monday Holiday Win

A cup of coffee with Jonathon!


It is important in our busy lives to slow down and rest. Today is my final day of a four day weekend from my job. A three day weekend is wonderful but a four day celebration is even better. Currently I am having some morning coffee in a large green mug shaped liked a barrel. I’m enjoying it.

Where do you find rest or peace in life? I often find rest through my hobbies and doing the things I love. Peace I have found through a life of Christian faith and trying to be a better version of myself today than I was yesterday. Reading and writing and listening to music bring me rest and peace of mind. For others a hike out in nature might bring these things. Perhaps watching a sporting event or having a beer brings rest to some. All of us need to slow down and…

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Don’t Forget the Postage Stamp

A great Jonathon Brooks Blog!


Notes expressing gratitude seem to be a thing of the past for a lot of us these days. The handwritten note of friendship or thanks has been replaced by the e-mail and the text message. Yes, the handwritten note might possibly be dead for most of us, but it is not dead to me. Just earlier today I wrote a thank-you note to a friend.

I’ve saved all of my birthday cards received since I was nineteen years young. Honestly, I’ve saved cards of all sorts since around that age. I have old shoe boxes full of Christmas and birthday and friendship and get-well-soon cards. I appreciate that someone thought so much of me to let me know through a card or note how much they valued me.

It can be tremendous fun to enjoy a form of communication that takes more time and is more difficult and even costly…

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Murky Or Merry? — The Jazz Man

Well, it is September 3rd in Little Egypt. I made my third visit to our JC Penney store that is going out of business. There are still a lot of clothes, although the store has been going out of business for several weeks. It makes me sad to see our department stores leave us… I […]

Murky Or Merry? — The Jazz Man

Good News!

‘The number of first time college students at Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale increased by 31.2 % this fall. The total reflected a 32.9% in new first time students enrolling from the Southern Illinois region.’ KFVS 12

I saw a photo yesterday with our new chancellor, Dr. Austin Lane, walking campus with his leadership team for the purpose of talking with students as to how their fall semester was progressing so far. This may seem like a simple thing…but it is major when it comes to connecting with our precious students and staff and faculty.

All of us are looking for our leaders to see us and demonstrate some empathy for our lives and our challenges. During my 25 years of management I learned that the first order of business for me if I wanted to improve morale in my department was to connect one on one with my team…and my team was everyone that worked in Building Services. I have been a members of churches where I felt very disconnected from the pastor and the board of elders. When no one neither asks your opinion nor seems to care should you offer it…you soon find other avenues where your contributions are recognized. Of course, I have felt the excluded in the workplace as well. A leader is conducting a fools errand if she or he only believe that a select few on campus have valuable insights that redound to the success of SIUC! The powerful dynamic of a chancellor who projectes care and concern for all members of the university community…. is a powerful catalyst for change and growth!

A couple of things are clear to this almost 63 year old. The first would be that we must get control of the coronavirus before we can rebuild our economy. The alphabet begins with A B C…not C B A! Secondly would be the pervasive problem of racial strife and unequal treatment of the races in our country…going back to the days of slavery. Slavery is our original sin… We must first address the unimaginable pain of the black commuinty…the senseless death…and the catastrophic destruction of a proud and beautiful people…simply because of the color of their skin! Peaceful protest is a beautiful thing! Destruction and violence and the burning of poor peoples businesses is a criminal act. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. taught us how to be a part of peaceful and non-violent protest. Our president desperately needs to focus on the pain of the African American community if the balm of gilead will ever be applied!

Photo by Yaroslav Danylchenko on

I have many friends who are police officers. I respect the police and really cannot imagine a society without their yeoman work. My friend, Leanna, told me almost 50 years ago…that we should always remember that policeman and policewomen are simply men and women. There is no special endowment of perfection given to any occupation…

Photo by Josh Hild on

African Americans have treated me as one of their own! I cannot think of a group of people that I love anymore than my black friends! I am humbled by each and every one of their friendships! So the question is clear…when will we treat all of our American citizens equally and with justice! When will we cease inflaming…in the starkest of terms and the revealing of unvarnished racism…and set about healing and peace and seeing each other as valuable contributors to our nations success?