Jumping out of airplanes

First – it wasn’t me. . . . .

[A high flying repeat of April 17, 2014] Last Saturday, Donna, Lauren, Trent, Eve and I drove out to Rock Island, Illinois, for an Augustana College alumni event.  On Sunday morning, we had brunch with friends and started our 3 hour drive home. One of us got very hungry along the way and we decided to stop at the Flight Deck Restaurant which is attached to the Rochelle Municipal Airport (Koritz Field) just off Interstate 88 at Route 251. Airport restaurants are known for good cuisine since pilots will often fly in for a meal and fly back out. Little did we know what adventure was in store. 

We sat and ordered.  Eve was hungry.  And wanted to move.  My granddaughter has one speed.  Fast forward.  So she and Trent walked outside – into a fenced buffer near the taxiway.  And Eve took off running with Trent speed-walking alongside.  I stayed inside – watching out the big window.  And then it happened.  Things started falling out of the sky.  Mercy!  They were sky divers – parachuting down.  Using rectangular (“square ram”) parachutes.  I dashed outside and watched another half dozen or float from the heavens and land — like they stepped off a curb — a sand wedge distance away.  This was a first for Eve.  And it was a first for me.   

We learned that another “stick” of sky divers would be floating down in 20 minutes or so.  It was easy to wait as our lunch arrived. My sandwich was the size of Rhode Island.  We went back out and watched another dozen or more float down and land with precision in the field.  Some were jumping tandem (2 on the parachute).  In all, it was really an incredible experience.  We learned that the airport is home to the Chicagoland Skydiving Center.  Skydivers jump from 18,000 feet(!) and land with pinpoint precision right outside the window of the restaurant. 

I told Donna it would be great to find a little B&B close by, drive out on a Friday and have dinner at the Flight Deck (recommended by the way) and maybe arrange a “jump” on Saturday morning.   The first part was fine.  The last part didn’t go over at all . . . . .

The Desolate Wilderness

“. . . .they knew they were pilgrims and strangers . . . and looked not much on these things but lifted up their eyes to Heaven, their dearest country, where God hath prepared for them a city (Heb. 9:16) and therein quieted their spirits.

The next day they were on board, and their friends with them, where truly doleful was the sight of that sad and mournful parting. To hear what sighs and sobs and prayers did sound amongst them; what tears did gush from every eye, and pithy speeches pierced each other’s heart, that sundry of the Dutch strangers that stood as spectators could not refrain from tears. . . . .

Being now passed the vast ocean, and a sea of troubles before them in expectations, they had now no friends to welcome them, no inns to entertain or refresh them, no houses, or much less towns, to repair unto to seek for succor; and for the season it was winter. And they that know the winters of the country know them to be sharp and violent, subject to cruel and fierce storms, dangerous to travel to known places, much more to search unknown coasts.

Besides, what could they see but a hideous and desolate wilderness, full of wild beasts and wild men? And what multitudes of them there were, they knew not; for which whatsoever they turned their eyes (save upward to Heaven) they could have but little solace or content

— Recorded by Nathaniel Morton, keeper of records of the Plymouth Colony based on the account of William Bradford.

Best wishes for a wonderful and Blessed Thanksgiving!

The Lottery of Birth

[A repeat from April 9, 2015] I’m lucky.  You who read this post are probably lucky.  You were born into a relatively stable environment. To decent parents. You have an education.  Job.  Family.   Friends.  A religious tradition.  You can travel. And if you get sick, there are doctors to take care of you. The twinkling spark that suddenly became YOU arrived just in the right place.  At the right time.  It was a lottery.  Of birth. 

What if that spark had come to life a hundred years ago. A thousand. For many in those times, they just endured.  Day by day.  Struggling with the things we take for granted today.  Yet even now there are those who are born into a life of abysmal poverty, suffocating hunger and crippling disease.  Raised in countries ravaged by violence, hatred and injustice.  Where every single day may be an arduous, painful and frightening saga.   Do you ever think — that could’ve been me.   

While I go to church on Sunday, I scratch my head over those faith traditions which deny salvation to those not exactly like them.  Can a little boy help if he is born in Totonicapan, Guatemala?  Or to a Hindu family in Rajahmundry, India?  Can we help that we are born Jewish?  Lutheran?  Buddhist?  And if the little girl in Zimbabwe never hears the message of [pick your faith tradition] what does that mean for her eternity?  Her hope of salvation? Is it a closed door?   I wonder how Gabriel might answer that question (see post of 1/30/12).

The Gutenberg Bible

[A repeat from October 26, 2017] No book has received the attention or acclaim as the Gutenberg Bible.  The first example of mass-produced printing using “movable type,” the Gutenberg Bible is surely the rarest and most unique example of the printing art.  The Gutenberg Bible was first produced by Johannes Gutenberg in the 1450’s with the financial backing of Johann Fust.  The Bible was completed in an “edition” of approximately 180 two volume sets (Old Testament/New Testament) with perhaps 100 on vellum (no one is quite sure).  The great curiosity is that today only 48 are known.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gutenberg_Bible

I first became interested in the Gutenberg Bible when I acquired the rare book room of the Boca Grande (FL) Library in 1984.  The one rarity they would not sell was a page from an original 42 line Gutenberg Bible (grrrrr).  While it is speculated that the remainder of Gutenberg’s Bibles have been destroyed over the centuries, I have my own theory.  I believe that somewhere – out there – there is a copy or two of the Gutenberg Bible.  Lying undiscovered, layered with dust, laced with cobwebs and swarming with dust mites.  My daughter has suggested that I take a sabbatical to hunt for this treasure much as I did in the ’80’s when I traveled to Spain and Portugal every few months on the hunt for manuscript rarities.  I may still do this. . . . 

The last Gutenberg Bible (Old Testament volume only) sold in 1987  for $5.5 million.  Today, one might fetch $30 million.  Individual leaves sell well into five figures.  If and when I find a Gutenberg Bible, I may then go on a quest – to seek out the yet undiscovered ships’ logs from that 1492 voyage of the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria. . . . .

America’s Funniest Home Videos

[A repeat from February 21, 2013] While waiting for a carry out order at a restaurant in Boca Grande Florida a few weeks ago, I sat at the bar, sipped on a glass of cab and relaxed.  There were two televisions on.  Above the bar.  Both were tuned to the same program: “America’s Funniest Home Videos.” I’d never watched the program before, so I began to watch — with a tabula rasa. The tabula rasa quickly became a “what the $%^X!&?”

The setting of the show was a glitzy lounge with elegantly-attired people sitting around cocktail tables sipping on what appeared to be champagne or some pseudo bubbly.  And the host played “home videos” while babbling.  Many of the videos involved men being hit where it really hurts (prompting many laughs).   A lot of the clips involved people falling, tripping, slipping or otherwise embarrassing or even hurting themselves (guffaws and belly laughs).  And the elegantly-dressed people would howl and applaud like world peace had just been declared. 

Three men and two women were sitting at the other end of the bar (and not elegantly dressed) — paying rapt attention to the “videos” (which I suspect were for the most part staged).  They were laughing (one guy snorted as he laughed) and howling and poking each other every time someone tripped, fell, was bitten, smacked or fell into water (I think the beer helped inspire these reactions).  Watching this fivesome was more fun than watching “AFHV.” 

My bag of food arrived and I mercifully left — but not without my concluding that “America’s Funniest Home Videos” has got to be one of America’s dumbest programs as well.


My good friend Antonio, who lives in Monterrey, Mexico (see post of March 12, 2012), and I were communing about how conservation worked when we were young (he is a few years younger than me).  It was pretty simple.  

Bottles were returned for a deposit – then reused.  Clothes were dried on a line – by solar and wind power.  No 220 volt dryers chugging for an hour and a half.  Diapers were washed and reused.  We had one television in the house with a screen the size of a placemat.  There were no “stadium sized” televisions.  Our moms used an egg beater to whisk everything (there was no blender).  And when we shipped Christmas presents, our parents crumpled newspapers for packing.  There were no plastic “peanuts” or bubble wrap.  We cut the grass with a hand mower.    And raked leaves. Wardrobes were pretty modest.  No “new models” except hand-me-downs.   There were no plastic water bottles (which today are made, used in a minute and thrown out by the billions).  There was one water glass by the kitchen and bathroom sinks — that everyone used.   Rinse to clean – drink.   Stores and businesses had water fountains.  Thirsty?  Use the water fountain.   And my father changed razor blades in his Schick razor.  Very little was “disposable” . . . .  

Have we become lazy and complacent?  You tell me.   We hear political trumpets sounding about saving the environment and how we must look forward and not back.  But I do think that looking backward – at least in some areas – could sure provide a lesson for how we might best look ahead.

Crossing paths with Sean Connery

On May 21, 2017, I talked about my experience of being on the Board of The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation – and spending my first board meeting (Taliesin West in Scottsdale) staying in the Sun Cottage – Mr. Wright’s home – and sleeping in his bed. Quite an experience. . . .

At one of the winter board meetings, I happened to be in the Taliesen (West) store perusing stuff. Some guy was next to me also perusing. He started to speak to the clerk and I thought I know that voice. I looked over and it was 007. Sean Connery. Oh my socks and shoes! I slipped out of the store and went into the architectural school – and casually mentioned that 007 was in the store. It seems that the speed of light was exceeded as the students whisked out of the school – to see the legendary actor. It’s what happened next that sticks in my mind.

Mister Connery came out and began walking to the parking lot with a chap (presumably a protector). Students approached him and asked for photographs and autographs. And Mister Connery could not have been nicer — staying the course until the gaggle of fans had been satisfied. And dispersed. It’s nice to see celebrities who maintain respect for those who admire them. The stories are legion about those who . . . . shall we say don’t . . . .