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The political scrambling over the most recent mass shootings in America brings to mind our experience last March, as our cruise ship was pulling into port to visit Christchurch, New Zealand. The captain announced that a mass shooting event had just happened there and we would instead be moving on to the next port. I was shocked to have come so close to such a horrific event.

Then we saw, within a week’s time, the New Zealand government was moving to further tighten already strong restrictions on gun ownership. Now in New Zealand, one cannot have a clip of more than 7 rounds, many combat type weapons are proscribed, and one must have a license to own a gun.

This island country of less than 5 million was able to act quickly and decisively to bring more meaningful control of guns. Yet, in our great nation of 65 times the population, despite dozens and dozens of such major incidents and ongoing gun carnage, we seem unable to legislate even the most moderate of gun control.

Is this a sign that America has become too big and diverse to govern? If not what is it a sign of?

If you check on Amazon to see about buying a copy of my wonderful new book of essays on all sorts of things, ranging from a cheetah on our Landcruiser hood, to a super french fry museum in Bruges, to the story behind Todd Lincoln becoming America’s greatest industrialist, you may find that the prices look high. But, just go to the offerings in small type and you will find lower prices for the softbound and hardback editions.

Cider our curious 18-year-old cat at Applewood Lodge, “confurs” with author Chuck Ebeling, about their new book of essays, “Apple Pressings” which is newly available on Amazon Books. Cider is acknowledged in the introduction for his role as he “trod the keys in attempts to add his random edits.” Author Chuck is more than willing to share the blame for any typos or spacing issues in the newly-published book with his “confuree.”fullsizeoutput_87d3

My new book  — Apple Pressings — of essays presented before the Chicago Literary Club is now available for ordering, in a paperbound edition. Hardcover coming soon. To order, go to Amazon and then Books; the title is Apple Pressings.  For an even better buy, go the Barnes and Noble’s website, http://www.bn.com and search for Apple Pressings.

If you are a curious person like me, you may enjoy what Samuel Johnson called these “loose sallies of the mind.” Come with me to find out about the “Masai Mara Hood Ornament” we met in deepest Kenya, or the two billion candlepower beacon that once guided aircraft to Chicago, or what is going on with the Electoral College that really elects our Presidents, or how Toyota beat out VW and Detroit in the small car competition, or how Abraham Lincoln’s son became the top corporate magnate of his era, or what really went on in Vietnam in 1968, or the ins and outs of spokesmanship in “Smoke Smoke,” or how we went off the deep end with open offices, or an insider’s relationship with Dick McDonald who designed the Golden Arches, or how the ubiquitous french fry became a global cultural symbol, or what it was like to do public relations during the growth explosion of one of the greatest brands of all time.

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My first book will be published within the next month or so, and it is an anthology of my essays presented before the famed Chicago Literary Club in each of the 15 years I have been a member. Most of these were presented after club dinners at the aptly-named Cliff Dwellers Club, on the 22nd story, overlooking Grant Park and Lake Michigan.

The topics of the essays range widely: from fries, to Kenya, to Toyotas, to beacons, to Sam Johnson and James Boswell, to political colors, to spokesmanship, to changing office culture, to Belgium frikots to breakfast with Mr. McDonald, to name a few.

Below is my Introduction to APPLE PRESSINGS. Stay tuned for more, as publication approaches.

 

CHAPTER 1

Introduction

I came to think of these writings as the apple pressings of my mind.

In making apple cider, pressings are the remains of the crushed apples after the juice is squeezed out by a press. The essays herein were written at our Wisconsin retreat, Applewood Lodge, thus named because there are more than 200 apple trees of miscellaneous lineage spread across the property. They, or their antecedents, were likely planted by the owners of the fairly ancient house, now reduced to an overgrown foundation of large boulders, which once stood near the entrance,

Not long after Vicki and I acquired Applewood and built our weekend country house in 1989, I put together a traditional hand-operated wooden apple press, in hopes of teasing succulent fresh apple cider from the red, green and yellow apples adorning our trees every fall. Grinding the apples was sweat-busting work, thus the press has now been resting unused in our storage shed for some years.

Just as the pressings – also known as pomace or must – are what is left after the precious juice is squeezed from those hardy apples – these essays are the essence of what remains in the wake of travels, research and reflecting. The yield is these 15 essays, each completed annually between 2005 and 2019, under the auspices of the renowned and historic Chicago Literary Club, of which I’ve been a member over that time.

As for the back story of this compendium, I was invited to join the Literary Club by John Notz, a Lake Geneva friend who noted an article I’d written for a local newspaper about the winter mountain hut restaurants that Vicki and I ravenously visited in our ski trips to Arosa, Switzerland, from the late 1970’s through the early 2000’s. Each of the subsequent Literary Club essays here is also preceded by a short back story on why or how I came to think it worth writing.

I retired from a full-time career in public relations at the stroke of the Millennium, at the tender age of 56. I felt like a 16-year-old on summer vacation, but with a somewhat larger allowance. Yes, I have since been guilty of filling my time with an abundance of leisure activity, but I’ve also become active with several not-for-profit organizations, founded two university award programs in cause-related community relations, and done some travel and writing, much of it here, with the Literary Club.

My sweet wife of more than 40 years, Vicki, has served as my more-than-willing editor and grammatist, and our aptly-named cat, Cider, has often trod the keys in attempts to add his random edits. Each essay indicates the date presented before the Literary Club, and is reproduced as it was presented.

I hope you enjoy these sometimes-tasty, and always tart apple pressings, dried and ready for you to read, inside the covers of this non-edible volume. You might even consider it “must” reading. A glass of crisp apple cider might help them go down all the more smoothly. So, cheers, and enjoy!

 

 

 

Of course! Then why are 13 states still, after many years, refusing to pass the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution, which clearly establishes that men and women are born with equal rights. Let’s do it, and this applies to both Democrats and Republicans who consider themselves to be good Americans.

I wrote on why we should care about “dark sky” issues a few years ago for the local newspaper in Lake Geneva. Despite a modest recent upsurge in interest in space exploration, it still applies to our relationship with the dark sky.

 

ALL THERE IS?

Driving northwest from Chicago, toward Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, as we begin to cross farmland, I notice domes of light pop up on the horizon. I soon learned that these are artificial light emissions rising up from villages and towns and shopping and industrial areas. These light domes are what astronomers call light pollution, and they increasingly make the sky seem to glow while interfering with man’s ability to see the stars clearly. Scientists now know that some 50 percent of the light on earth seen from space is wasted energy, serving no purpose, accidentally spilling upward. An estimated one and a half billion dollars a year of such wasted light energy is emitted skyward from the U.S. alone. Now, some two-thirds of the night sky around our globe is clouded by such man-made light pollution.

One of the often overlooked dimensions of conservation in our natural habitat is man’s wasteful and damaging pollution of the night sky with un-needed and easily attenuated man-made light. This is one aspect of atmospheric pollution we can readily control.

Way too many of our street lights, security lights, and shopping lights, from major cities like Chicago to small towns like Lake Geneva are robbing our people, young and old, of seeing the wonders of the night sky. The Milky Way, the massive galaxy of which the earth is a part, is invisible to most people in cities and even small towns. Most of the starry sky is invisible, because of modern light pollution.

When the University of Chicago opened Yerkes Observatory, the world’s first astrophysical laboratory and still home to the largest conventional telescope ever created, on the shores of Lake Geneva in the tiny village of Williams Bay, it was because there was little to no light pollution. The village, some 85 miles from Chicago, had yet to be electrified in 1897 when the famed observatory opened, and the large lake provided the observatory almost absolute darkness for viewing toward the east, south, and west.  Even today, when most modern research telescopes are located on mountain tops in remote unpopulated areas, we were recently able on a clear summer’s night to stand on the lawn outside Yerkes and, prompted by an expert observer, begin with our naked eyes, to make out the Milky Way and other long unseen mysteries of the stellar umbrella.

Having just seen a documentary on light pollution called “The City Dark” on PBS, that talked about the disappearance of details in the night sky for so many people, and even the possibility that too much light at night could contribute to health problems for some, I experienced an “aha” moment about modern society. Part of the film’s premise is that light pollution was taking away the visual connection to the vastness of the universe among younger generations, and perhaps contributing to a growing self-centeredness. I wondered if the lack of public and governmental support for a manned space program is partly because we are being increasingly disenfranchised in our relationship to the cosmos.

Have today’s generations begun to believe that our increasingly urban life here on earth, under our expanding localized bubbles of light, is “all there is” for mankind? Or are we still part of a cosmic continuum that offers endless learnings, exploration and even a relative eternity of succession for our species and life now on earth? Pointing our man-made lights downward and lifting our eyes once again to the night sky may point the way to fresh possibilities.

Is it a year? Is it an age? Is it the 100th anniversary of prohibition? Is it the year of the next U.S.Presidential election?  Is it perfect eyesight? Is it a theme?

Stay tuned…

It’s SuperBowl Sunday, and I was ambushed on CBS Sunday Morning when they cut to a feature about how the losers tonight might flock to the many Waffle House restaurants around Atlanta. The hashbrowns looked good. But then they mentioned that the 2,000-restaurant chain preserves their original Waffle House location as a museum!

Well, that kind of preservation based upon pride in a historic commercial space might not be so surprising. Except, and here’s the rub, McDonald’s, the most famous and largest (37,000 restaurants worldwide) quick service restaurant choose to tear down Ray Kroc’s first McDonald’s, in DesPlaines, Illinois, late last year.  Why, after having restored and rededicated that original design Golden Arched stand in 1985, which was first opened in 1955, did the parent corporation appear to so visually abandon its roots?

Maybe it was because the nearby corporate home office in Oak Brook was being moved to a new modern location near Chicago’s Loop. Maybe because of some water problems with the nearby DesPlaines River. Or maybe because management has lost touch with its roots. I suspect, some of each. Sad that little Waffle House cherishes its beginnings, while mighty McDonald’s chooses not to. As a proud McDonald’s retiree, I’d hope for more.

cider and his Packer snowman buddy are ready for the big game today!

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