Brothers

Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity.  It is like the precious ointment upon the head . . . . and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion . . . .”  Psalm 133:1-2

In July 2015, I posted on attending the 100th anniversary of the Gamma Alpha Beta fraternity at Augustana College.   Many of the brothers from my era showed up.  We have remained a close-knit group since graduation.  This last weekend, we had a reunion of “GAB’s” in Rockford with about 20+ brothers — all of my vintage.

I wasn’t destined for college (see post of October 13, 2013).  My future was to work as an assistant plumber after high school.  Frankly, it’s a fluke that I even applied (around the time of high school graduation) and got in to “college.”  And that I came to know my brothers. 

There are amazing memories and stories.  One I smile at is the dark night when my entire pledge class was corralled by police and taken off to the police station for borrowing a neighbor’s ladder at midnight (the neighbor was awake, thought it was theft and called the police).  One quick-witted pledge escaped detention by launching himself over a window well and clambering up onto a fire escape.   Yeah.  That was me. . . . 

The GAB’s won the Homecoming Sing with the ballad I sang to Lauren every night when she was young — “Oh Shenendoah.”   It was that song I picked for the Father-Daughter dance at her wedding (see post of August 14, 2011).  We had tears in our eyes as the music played.  It’s interesting how when you meet old friends, you pick up where you left off.    It’s as if time stands still and I’m 19 years old again.  With my brothers. In my brain, I’m still 19.  Now if only my body would cooperate . . . . .        

Power

There is no king that can be saved by a mighty army; nor is a strong man delivered by his great strength. Psalm 33:16

According to the Council on Foreign Relations Global Conflict Tracker – there are 27 ongoing – bloody – conflicts going on right now around the world. Some are territorial disputes. Some insurgencies. Some for purposes of genocide. A few over drugs. A few, like Ukraine, are all-out wars. All for the exercise of power. And where does it get us?

World War II saw the murder of 80 million people – that’s a million people killed every month for six years. World War I – 20 million souls. Today, the world’s conflicts are extinguishing the lives by the tens of thousands. Destroying cities. Devastating crops. Creating massive pollution. All for the flaunting of power. And where does that get us?

While the leaders of nations, rebel groups and political entities claim justification for the killing and destruction, how will they be remembered? Hitler thought he could conquer the world and yet he has been relegated to the toilet bowl of history. Vladimir Putin has joined him. Perhaps Xi Jinping, Kim Jong-Un, and the despots of other fiefdoms will be flushed down as well . . . . .

Meanwhile. . . . according to the UN Chronicle, 25,000 people die — every single day — of starvation. And nearly a billion people are under-nourished. Just think if Putin, Xi and the other global tyrants hung up their desire for murder, cruelty and devastation and used their power to help others. They could be heroes. Heroes. And remembered for eternity. For truly making a difference.

Everyone’s time on this earth is transitory. But a whisper. All the more reason to use our gifts — our power — to make a difference.

My Father’s House Has Many Rooms

{A repeat from May 27, 2020] In 1985, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints – the Mormon Church – opened a grand temple in Glenview, Illinois.  It was the 35th Mormon Temple in the world.  

Prior to its consecration in August 1985, the doors of the Temple were opened to the public.  From July 15 to August 3d, an open house invited anyone and everyone to take a guided tour through the beautiful structure.   There was no proselytizing and no sales talk.  It was strictly – we would like to share with you – our neighbors – this new home for the Mormon Church. 

I had seen the construction site – and later the completed structure.  When I read that the Temple would be open to the public, I thought it would be interesting.  And educational.   So one weekend afternoon, Donna and I drove over to a very crowded parking lot and lined up for the tour.  We must’ve spent close to an hour walking through – including a small, beautiful oval-shaped room, grand chandelier and four chairs – I believe called a “Celestial Room” – where one might pray more directly to God.  

After the tour, we were met by two young men in white shirts and black ties.  They cordially asked if we had any questions – about the Temple or the Mormon faith.  I asked how Mormons view those of other faith traditions who worship God in their own way.  One young man responded by quoting John 14:2-3 – “My Father’s house has many rooms. . . . ”  and he shared an ecumenical belief that while Mormons may have an upper hand in terms of their faith (not unlike the exclusionary attitude of soooo many others faiths, synods, religions), all Christians should have a reservation for lodging in Heaven.  As to non-Christians, there is further latitude that acknowledges that all people are God’s children.  A good thought that we are all God’s children . . . . 

14 Years

[A repeat from October 21, 2018] In 1972, Donna and I took an extended honeymoon to Spain and Portugal. In Spain, we traveled around – sightseeing and attending the corridas of famed matador Diego Puerta in Madrid, Cordoba and Sevilla.  And we took pictures galore. In Ayamonte Spain, I traded three ice cream cones for a photo of three little boys (“It’s okay – he’s a tourist” said the woman working the open air shop). Then there was the fishing boat where the six men were quick to pose following my request. And in Lisbon, we walked the gardens of Jeronimos Monastery.  A gardener – wearing a black turtleneck and jeans – was suspended on a board over a large circular clock garden.  Clipping flowers.  He smiled, tipped his beret and posed.  Snap.  Snap.  Snap.  

Fast forward nearly 15 years.  Donna and I returned to Spain and Portugal with our 10 year old daughter, and friends, Diane and David and their son Dave.  Before leaving, I had the photograph assemblage mentioned above blown up to eight by tens.     

In Ayamonte, we went back to the same ice cream shop and I showed the same (now older) woman the photo of the three little boys.  She gasped.  And identified each one.  She asked us to be at her store in the morning.  And we were – greeted by a crowd.  And the three little – now grown – boys.  We gave each one an 8″ x 10″.   One mother cried on seeing the photo as she had no pictures of her son as a little boy.  

The fishing boats were gone – replaced by a small office of the Guardia Civil — the national police who sport the tri-cornered hat.  An officer identified one fisherman as the father of Ayamonte’s head of Guardia Civil – who marched over.  And began weeping when I gave him some 8″ x 10’s”.  His father had died a few years before.  He handed me his card – “if you ever need help in Spain, you call me.”  I still have his card. . . . .

And in Jeronimos, we found the gardener — now in a drab gray uniform.  Raking leaves.  And three weeks from his retirement.  He saw his photograph.  And his eyes filled with tears.  At his request, we buzzed through two rolls of Polaroid film taking pictures for our gardener friend – and each member of his entire gardening crew. We had memories. And made memories. . . . .  

Wisconsin Supper Clubs

[A summer repeat from 10/6/16]

Have you ever been to a Wisconsin supper club? If you haven’t, you’re missing a major life experience. Wisconsin supper clubs have a presence in most parts of (duhhh) Wisconsin. Little, sometimes out-of-the-way towns will have good restaurants that feature four course meals: soup; salad; main course; and dessert. And of course there’s the obligatory beverages: beer; spirits; and jug wine (though sometimes one is surprised by a genuine “wine list”).

When you enter a supper club, you usually pass the bar.  The trick is – do not pass the bar.   Ever.  There’s a protocol.  In most places, you go to the bar, say hello to the bartender and indicate you would like a table.  He (or she) will then give you the once over.  Make a mental note that you want a table.  And ask if you want a drink.  You must always say “yes” to the drink.  Or you may still be sitting at the bar at closing time.  At some point, a table will open and you’ll be escorted into the dining room. Immediately a relish tray, menus, water, bread and butter will be plopped on your table.    

Menus contain the usual assortment of two, four and no-legged protein.  My suggestion is go for the fish.  Usually perch or walleye.  Interestingly walleyed pike commercially-caught in Wisconsin is not served in Wisconsin.  Walleye normally comes from Canada.   Your entree includes mashed or baked potatoes and vegetables (sometimes canned).  Soups are usually onion or some “cream of” something soup.  There’s often a salad bar. Served salads can be disappointing.  If that’s the option, have the blue cheese dressing.  I mean – what the hay?  And the spigot is on — from bar to your table.  Dessert is usually a chocolate sundae in a shiny tin cup.  

I’ve been to my share of supper clubs – mostly in Door County and Northern Wisconsin.  Guide’s Inn in Boulder Junction and Birmingham’s on County B north of Sturgeon Bay are favorites.  These are two I would go back to again.  And again.  And order the walleye . . . .     

Riding With Joe Miller

(A summer repeat from 6/4/2013)

In my post of January 16, 2013, I wrote about Joe Miller’s Jests — the famous compilation of 247 numbered jokes published in 1739 by John Mottley. Well, there’s another “Joe Miller” that played a role in my life.

Fifty plus years ago, when I worked at Camp Napowan (the Boy Scout Camp in Wild Rose, WI), the chap who owned some of the property was Joe Miller (no relation to the joke book persona). Joe had an ancient olive drab pick up truck that (Scout’s Honor) had no doors. Floor stick shift. And of course there were no seat belts and no handle above the door to grab. His favorite line – while cruising, weaving and wobbling on the back roads of Wild Rose – was “If there’s no one coming around that bend, we’ll see the sun rise tomorrow.” If we were driving with Joe, we’d grab under the glove compartment and hang on for dear life.

Today, there’d be a lot of “tsk tsking.” There would be newspaper articles.  There’d be an “inquiry.” Joe would be criticized. Maybe tossed in the clink. Unsafe vehicle. Endangerment. Et cetera. The usual assortment of money-grubbing plaintiff’s lawyers would sue anyone and everyone to scam a buck.

You should know — I would definitely not want – or allow – my child or grandchild to be one of Joe’s passengers. But looking back on it — I’m privately glad that I rode with Joe Miller . . . . .

He’s Your Boss

On August 13, 2020, I talked about how my father had developed the “Par Tube” — a system of using paper tubes to segregate golf clubs in a golf bag. The idea prompted my Dad’s purchase of a small company that made the paper tubes — Chicago Paper Tube & Can Company.

I was 8 years old when he bought the company. My folks both worked long hours during the week and I was a latchkey kid. My parents worked every Saturday as well – and that meant me too. My Dad would open the shades in my bedroom at 5:30 a.m. on Saturday mornings admonishing that “the day’s half gone! Time to get up!” So we drove to the factory at 137 South Albany in Chicago (the building had once been a stable for Post Office horses) and I got to know the employees – all Black and Hispanic. And I would work on an assembly line of perhaps four people — gluing little paper caps on little paper tubes.

Shortly after beginning my Saturday tenure working in the factory, I got tired. Got up from my seat and walked back in the office and sat down. My father looked at me just as the foreman – Bill Pemberton – walked in the office. Mr. Pemberton looked at me and told me to get back to my job. I looked at my Dad who just shrugged his shoulders and said “Son – he’s your boss.” And so I slowly got back up and walked back to the line. As I walked out, my Dad gave Mr. Pemberton a thumb’s up. And that was that. . . . .

Just Between Us Girls

[A summer repeat from April 21, 2016] In 1973, three men entered a small family-owned health food store in Evanston.   They pulled guns on the father, mother and 14 year old son. One man began pistol-whipping the mother viciously. Shattering her skull in several places. Another turned on the boy and brutally beat him. The father for some reason was left unharmed. The three took money, some product and wallets and walked out the front. They got into a car driven by a fourth man and drove away.  The mother and son were unconscious – the mother near death.

Two men were caught.  Isaiah S. pleaded guilty to armed robbery and attempted murder and was sentenced to 10 to 30 years in prison.  Darvie T. wanted to go to trial.  The case was assigned to Judge Saul Epton where I was tasked as an Assistant States Attorney.  We didn’t have much in the way of evidence against Darvie, so my partner and I decided to go talk to Isaiah – the one who plead guilty.  Early one Sunday morning, we drove with two Sheriff’s police to Stateville.  And we had a chat with Isaiah.

Long story short, Isaiah volunteered to testify against Darvie in exchange for a “reconsideration” of sentence.  No obligation.  We checked Isaiah out of Stateville and started the drive back to Chicago.  Isaiah was in the back of the squadrol – cuffed.  As we drove back from Stateville, Isaiah asked if he could “say something.”  “Sure Isaiah” we responded.   “Just between us girls, it wasn’t Darvie who was there — it was his brother.  But I’ll say anything you want.”  We talked and Isaiah volunteered the whole story.  Darvie was not one of the four.  But Isaiah was willing to testify against him.  On the chance of a more lenient sentence.  What to do?  There was no option.  

That Sunday afternoon, we brought Isaiah to Chicago Police HQ at 11th & State where he was on a polygraph for nearly five hours.  His story passed with flying colors.  Next day, when Darvie’s case was called, I just said “nolle” (nolle prosequi).  And the case was dismissed.  The right thing was done – for the right reason.  

Oh – and Isaiah?  Yeah – we’d told him if he testified a judge might reconsider his sentence.  He had told the truth.  So we kept our word.  And his sentence dropped by a year at each end.  The right thing was done – for the right reason.           

Never Give In

On August 22, 2011, I posted “Calvin Coolidge.”  The post repeated Coolidge’s oft-quoted words which ended “. . . .Persistence and determination are omnipotent. The slogan ‘press on’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.

Winston Churchill brought these inspirational words to a new semantic level in 1941.  During the dark days of World War II, Churchill was invited to give the commencement address at the Harrow School. Known for wit, wisdom and tenacity – he addressed the young graduates.  But he spoke to the nation.  Churchill’s brief comments concluded with an admonition to all – “Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never — in nothing, great or small, large or petty — never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense.”

It’s easy to give up.  Back down.  Throw in the towel.  But with the words of Churchill and Coolidge, how can we look in the mirror and say “I can’t“?   William Manchester’s trilogy The Last Lion chronicles the life of Churchill. It is my favorite biography.   I would recommend it to you. It might take a while to read (it’s over 3,000 pages) but don’t give up.  Press on.  Keep reading.  Never never give in . . . . .

So This Guy

[A bit of humor from September 14, 2014] So this guy is delivering a speech to a large group of people. He begins to rant “All lawyers are jerks!”  [Or you may select your own epithet]

From the back of the room a guy raises his hand and yells “I really take offense at your words.”

The guy giving the speech asks “are you a lawyer?”

Absolutely not,” the guy says defensively. “I’m a jerk!”

Lawyers do get a bad rap from the public.  In a 2013 Pew research poll, lawyers ranked at the bottom of ten professions.  Only 18% of responders felt that lawyers contributed “a lot” to society’s well being.  And that’s down from 23% in 2009.  In a December 2013 Gallup poll on “Honesty/Ethics in Professions,” lawyers were at the bottom of the list — just above members of Congress, lobbyists and car salesmen.  While there are a lot of good lawyers, I tend to think that much of the criticism of lawyers is deserved.   We don’t police the profession as we might and. . . .  wait . . . shhhh. . . .sorry – gotta run!  I hear a siren. . . . .