Irving Park and Kedzie

On January 4, 2012, I discussed Howard Gardner’s wonderful book – Frames of Mind. This classic book speaks of seven basic intelligences that all people share:  linguistic; musical; logical/mathematical; spatial; bodily/kinesthetic; interpersonal; and intrapersonal.  I’m not sure where “a sense of direction” comes in, but I will confess to having a total lack of this “intelligence.”

I have no trouble in my own home finding my way to the bathroom or getting to the basement. But once I walk out of the house, it is like my brain becomes a tabula rasa — a blank slate. . . . . Where is the driveway? Oh yeah. . . . How do I get to the back yard? Lemme think oh. . . it’s this w – no that way. Well. . . . it’s not quite that bad but perhaps you get my drift. If you ever want to inspire laughter with members of my family – just say the words “Irving Park and Kedzie.

Forty plus years ago, I was driving alone to a Thanksgiving gathering at my aunt and uncle’s home. They lived on Wolfram Street in Chicago. I was miles away when I realized – I had no idea where I was. . . . So I did what any red-blooded American male would do. I called my father (who was already there) from a local bar (no cell phones). “Dad – I’m at Irving Park and Kedzie and I . . . .” “You’re WHAT?” “Irving Park and Kedzie and . . . . ” “What in the WORLD are you doing at Irving Park and Kedzie?” I said I wasn’t sure where I was and how to get to Uncle Ernie’s. My father instructed me to get a pencil and paper (I walked to the bar and got the necessaries). And my dad explained – in detail – how to get from where I was to where I wanted to go. Nearly an hour later, I showed up. Nervous smiles and apologies. And we sat down to Thanksgiving Dinner. . . . “

I have to say that I am not as dumb as I may look. But if you want me to go from Point A to Point B? Do me a favor. Draw me a map, get me a GPS and allow me an extra half hour to get where I’m supposed to be.

The Four Chaplains – A Commentary

I’m touched by the story of The Four Chaplains. By the heroism, the sacrifice and the amazing constellation of circumstance that brought these four men together. At that hour. At that place. What are the odds that four friends – clergy of four different faiths — would be together when on that dark night, a torpedo changed the world for them.

Let me ask. Do you think the fellow who got priest’s life jacket was first asked “are you Catholic?”  Do you think the rabbi inquired – “are you Jewish?” Or the Methodist or Reformed Church pastors asked- “are you Methodist? Reformed?” I suspect not. Four men died so that four men could live. John 15:13 states “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

Could it be that there is a higher message? When these four heroes died, what was important was saving the life of a fellow human being. Knowing that they were sacrificing their own. Might God’s benevolence be similar? Is the criteria for salvation that one be Methodist? Lutheran? Catholic? Jewish? Episcopalian? I’m just askin’. . . .

The Four Chaplains

On January 23, 1943, the SS Dorchester set sail from New York en route to Greenland. The Dorchester carried 900 civilian and military personnel as part of a convoy of three ships. During the early morning hours of February 3, 1943, the ship was torpedoed by the German submarine U-223 off the coast of Newfoundland. Four chaplains were on board: George L. Fox (Methodist minister); Alexander D. Goode (Jewish Rabbi); John P. Washington (Catholic Priest); and Clark V. Poling (Reformed Church Minister). The four had met at the Army Chaplains School at Harvard University. All had served as leaders of the Boy Scouts of America.

As the ship began to sink, the Chaplains helped organize the evacuation of the ship, they hurried men into the lifeboats and when the supply of life jackets ran out, the Four Chaplains each gave theirs – to another. As the bow began to raise, the Four Chaplains linked arms and began praying and singing hymms. A survivor – Grady Clark – said “As I swam away from the ship, I looked back. . . The last thing I saw – the Four Chaplains were up there praying for the safety of the men. They had done everything they could. I did not see them again. They themselves did not have a chance without their life jackets.”

The story was received back in America with considerable emotion. Each of the Four Chaplains was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and the Purple Heart. They were nominated for the Medal of Honor but were found technically ineligible as their deaths did not occur in combat.

On May 28, 1948, a stamp was issued to honor the legacy of the Four Chaplains. I still have my stamp collection and my examples of this iconic stamp.

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The First Uber Driver

When I was 3 years old, my family moved from the attic at 6036 West Byron Street to 5744 West Division Street in Chicago. When I started kindergarten, I would walk to Ella Flagg Young School – sometimes with a little girl in my class. I remember Dick and Jane and “See Spot run. . . .” I just finished the book for the third time. Anywayyyy. . . .

After school, I would walk home, grab my tricycle and pedal furiously down Massasoit Street to Saint Angela School. The school usually let out a half hour or so after I got home. I would cross Potomac, turn my trike around – facing Division Street. And wait. Looking over my shoulder. Soon students in uniform began spilling out of the school. And I would offer – for a penny – a ride on the back of my trike the one block to Division Street. Sometimes the boys would struggle to get the ride. One would hop on the flat stand in back, grab my shoulders and I would begin pedaling like a maniac down Massasoit. At Division, the boy would pay up (I was never stiffed) and I would pedal back to the school. Usually, I could make two pennies. But sometimes it was the lucky three. And I would pedal slowly back home with the pennies burning a hole in my pocket.

I like to think if I’da been smart, I could’ve started a franchise of “Truber” drivers (“Tricycle Uber”). Then again, at age 6, I was just happy to have a job. Now that I’m retired, I’m thinking that if I ever need a few extra bucks, I can bring my tricycle up from the basement . . . . .

Is Donald Trump Still a Democrat?

Donald Trump registered as a Republican in Manhattan in 1987.  In 1999, he changed that affiliation to the Independence Party.  And in August 2001, he registered his affiliation with the Democratic Party where he remained until 2010.  In an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer (July 21, 2015), Trump said “In many cases, I probably identify more as a Democrat. . . .It seems that the economy does better under the Democrats than the Republicans . . . we’ve had some pretty bad disasters under the Republicans.”  

On October 19, 2021, the Wall Street Journal featured an interesting article by Gerard Baker “Trump is a Democrat:  How’s that for a Conspiracy Theory?”  The article recounts Trump’s recommendation that Republican voters in Georgia not vote in the Senate elections last year (which resulted in the election of both Democratic candidates by a narrow margin).  And now, Trump has advised Republican voters that “If we don’t solve the Presidential Election Fraud of 2020, Republicans will not be voting in ’22 or ’24.”   The idea for a President of the United States to tell citizens to “not vote” does raise questions.   Mr. Baker’s article suggests that Trump may just be a Manchurian Candidate in the spirit of the 1959 novel by Richard Condon.  Could it be?   I’m only the messenger – and not taking sides on this – except to say that whatever side you are on – it seems to me subversive for any politician to tell his/her constituency (or any constituency for that matter) to not vote in critical elections. 

What say you?    

Sam’s Shoe Shop

[A smile dating back to September 3, 2012] An old man was sitting in his easy chair when he heard the mail fall through the mail slot. He got up, stretched and shuffled off to pick up the mail. There was an envelope with a return address from his old Army unit. My old unit, he thought. He tore open the envelope and read that there was to be a reunion. “Wear your uniform!” the letter said.

My uniform. Where is my unif. . . .the attic! He slowly padded up to the attic and there was his footlocker. He opened it and pulled out the pants. They fit. He then shrugged on the tunic. It fit too! But his shoes were not there. Where could they b. . . . He felt in his pocket and there was a card. “Sam’s Shoe Shop – New York City.”  The old man remembered that he had dropped off his shoes for repair 50 years before.  

There was a telephone number on the card so he picked up the phone and dialed.  A voice answered -“Sam’s Shoe Shop.   Sam here.” 

Sam!  Sam!  I was in your shop 50 years ago and dropped off my shoes.”  The old man read off the claim check number.   “By any chance do you still have them?”   

Sam said “All right.  Just a minute.”  The old man waited for several minutes then Sam got back on.  “Okay.  I got ’em.   They’ll be ready next Thursday.” 

Gabriel

(An interesting ecumenical follow up to the prior post – an update from January 30, 2012)

There are three archangels in religious tradition: Michael, Raphael and Gabriel. Of the three, Gabriel is the one who curiously keeps popping up — not just in Christianity but in other faiths as well.  Gabriel is not just a divine messenger from God, he is an uber messenger. . . . .

In the Jewish tradition, Gabriel is the holy messenger who in the Old Testament book of Daniel offers an explanation of Daniel’s visions. In Christianity, it is Gabriel who foretells the birth of John the Baptist and Jesus. It was Gabriel who visits Mary to deliver the good news of her new role.

In the Mormon faith, Gabriel ministered to Joseph Smith.  In his earthly life, Gabriel was believed to be Noah. Some say, Gabriel continues to serve as a divine messenger having visited earth as recently as 1954.

In Islam, it was Gabriel (Jibril) who revealed the Qur’an to Muhammed.  In the Bahai faith, Gabriel is referenced in their holy texts (Baha’u’llah‘s mystical work Seven Valleys).  Among Yazidis, Gabriel is one of the “Seven Mysteries.”  In the Gnostic manuscripts, Gabriel is a divine spirit who inhabits Pleroma and who existed prior to the Demiurge.  

With Gabriel’s influential involvement in so many religious traditions, one has to wonder if Gabriel, the Messenger, is trying to tell us something.  Perhaps He who sent him is too. . . . 

Sermons

In my post of January 19, 2012, I mentioned “favorite radio stations” including WBBM (news); WFMT (classical music); and WMBI (religious). All three are still on my list. I try to feed my meager brain with the fruits of these stations instead of vegging out on Metallica or Megadeth. Same is true at the local fitness center – listening to TED Talks, language lessons, sermons or speeches. On the religious end of things, I thought I might share four ecumenical examples . . . .

Dr. Erwin Lutzer is the former senior pastor of the Moody Bible Church in Chicago. His sermons are meaty and meaningful. See for example – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=luSsQ_KgpAg&list=RDLVluSsQ_KgpAg&start_radio=1&rv=luSsQ_KgpAg&t=64 I’ve heard a fair number of these . . .

EWTN is the Eternal Word Television Network is the global Catholic radio and television network. Years ago, on Sunday evenings, I would often watch Fr. Benedict Groeschel (1933-2014) – a Franciscan friar who devoted his life to working with the poor. His program “Sunday Night Prime” was not exactly a sermon but involved interviews and commentary. A wonderful example is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EV8U2j1hVEM

On September 16, 2013, Rabbi Peter Rubinstein delivered a Rosh HaShanah sermon (titled “Choosing your Legacy”) that knocks it out of the park. There is nothing he said that one cannot agree with. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5DaSqibU0aU Your life is a work of art. . . .

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormon Church) has a number of interesting offerings. There is a wonderful series on Biblical teaching. One powerful example is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BTO7-Jarl-E

Wherever you are on the religious spectrum, the messages above — can be educational and inspirational. Spend an hour and a half. We are all here for a reason. Presentations like these can help us to understand that.

China

China’s economy has been doing well. Education is big. Astronauts. Space stations. And the culture is nothing like it was during the reign of Mao Zedong. Mao was the epitome of evil — the biggest mass murderer in the history of the world. Mao takes credit for the starvation and execution of 45 million of his own people during the five years from 1958 to 1962. And we’re not counting the before and after. . . . .

Xi Jinping has had a role to play in China’s rise but also its increasing descent. He is covetous. He wants to be the King of China for years and years more. He is growing the military. And being aggressive. Threatening. Hong Kong is victimized and Taiwan is in his sights. Mao’s poisonous visage is again being touted. And Xi is beginning to kill and punish anyone who disagrees. What he doesn’t realize is three things: life is short; his time will end; and yet – he could still be a hero. Simply by adopting the qualities of one. Courage. Compassion. Integrity. Charity. Friendship. Reconciliation. Self sacrifice. And serving as a role model for others.

Unlike Russia, I perceive Xi and China as still having a bare sliver of a chance. Think of the leaders who have made a difference by adopting these qualities. Leaders with character – Lincoln, Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Winston Churchill, and so many others. Wouldn’t it be great if world leaders and would-be leaders would strive to be heroes instead of planning and executing violence, hatred and corruption against their people and others? Haven’t they learned in the last 4,000 years that it doesn’t work?

I’d love to meet Mister Xi. I would like to squeeze his nose and say 醒来我的朋友 (XING LÁI WO DE PÉNGYOU or “wake up my friend“)! Though that would achieve nothing. I would probably gently tell him – maybe – just maybe – you could still be a hero. . . .” Whether he would listen is purely up to him.

Beatbox

“Beatbox.” I’d never heard the term before. Until. . . .

Let me back up. When I go to the local fitness center, I usually hop on the recumbent bike for a half hour or 45 minutes. When I do this, I listen to TED Talks (see posts of 2/5/17 and 12/29/16), language lessons or famous speeches and sermons. So last Friday, I perched on the bike, noodled my Iphone onto the TED channel and began scanning the offerings I’d not seen. One of the “most popular” was “The Orchestra in my Mouth” by an Aussie from Brisbane named Tom Thum. 34 million views. Soooo. . . .

I had no idea what to expect. But it soon became apparent. Tom Thum is a “beatboxer.” He uses his voice to replicate all manner of sound, beat, instrument, and amplitude. Over the years, I’ve used my voice to make various sounds (I’m sure most guys have too) but Mr. Thum’s offering was very different. Verrrry . . . .

I am sure you will enjoy spending 11 minutes to watch this video. When you’re through, I want you to practice Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.” It may take a lot of practice. See https://www.ted.com/talks/tom_thum_the_orchestra_in_my_mouth#t-651460 To make a living out of making different noises with your mouth? My kinda job. After all. I’m a lawyer. . . . .