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!

 

 

 

Where is the Democratic party Presidential candidate who will advocate for a National Service program?

For example, a two-year National Service program for young men and women in their late teens could accomplish several important things:

1. Provide a workforce to help America restore its failing infrastructure.

2. Reduce youth unemployment by providing useful work in both the military and a federal civilian workforce, giving these young people useful training and experience, an income, opportunity to mature before going on to college, other more advanced training or joining the adult workforce.

3. Expose a wider cross-section of youth with military experience, broadening support and understanding of the military’s role in our society.

4. Create more national pride both in those participating and their families.

5. Reduce violence, drug use and misbehavior among young vulnerable Americans,

6. Demonstrate that federal government can make a positive difference in everyday lives.

7. And not least, advance a dynamic federal program that both Democrats and Republicans should be willing to support, that reaches into the heart of America.

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.

Swimming after Spindrift sparking water

This is the best I’ve had of all the new sparkling waters, made with real fruit and no added sugars, great tasting and refreshing. Introduced to me by Teri Turner of http://www.nocrumbsleft.com

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.

Earlier this week, a photo popped up showing my little sister pinning on one of my gold bars as I was commissioned an Army  2nd Lieutenant out of the OCS Brigade at Ft. Knox, Kentucky in 1969. Ten months and 10 days after enlisting in the OCS program, I’d been propelled from recruit to officer. I had skipped my college graduation in May in order to take a cruise of Lake Michigan and the North Channel with my family before reporting for duty. My enlistment was forced by the draft, which proposed to grab me within two weeks of graduation.

What followed were two years of active service, in places ranging from the Army War College (where I served as officer in charge of 43 military funerals at Gettysburg National Cemetery) to working as a press escort officer out of a forward corps press camp in Vietnam.

While a proper sense of the appropriateness of honoring those who fought and died in war was imbued in me through my own service and exposure, it was only years later that I learned that the war in Vietnam had been extended, with the loss of 20,000 additional Americans and a million Asians, by a political calculation to Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger when they maneuvered to cancel the proposed Paris Peace Talks of 1969 in order to deny the Democrats the Presidential election that year.

My god, how can politicians play tinker toys with the lives of millions of people, as if we were just pawns on a board? And that’s just what they did, and what they have continued to do in the generations since Vietnam, despite the lessons we could have learned there, but didn’t.

So, this Memorial Day, I do mourn the lost, those who were sacrificed as much as gave sacrifice for their country. But I also mourn the continuation of the crass, inhuman brand of politics that characterize the highest levels of leadership in our country., then and now.  If only humanity were our true brand of politics, and that humanitarians were our one and only brand of politicians.

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.

In a feeble effort to clean up my home library desk a little on the cusp of the New Year, I noticed a small notebook sticking out of a pile, and carefully pulled it out, so as to not upset the stack.

To my surprise, and then alarm, I saw it had a list of 8 items titled: Chuck: 2018 To Do. It contained my resolutions for the year ending tonight! I had obviously thought this out a year ago, and decided on my priorities.

First, the list was all about things and what to do with them (guess I’m at the age where thinning out seems a growing priority, even it much of if does not happen). In fact, I’d accomplished NOTHING on the list for 2018. I won’t go through the dismal failures, but the first words of the eight must-dos were: Clear, Review, Sell, Publish, Organize, Update, Clean and another Organize.

I’ll keep my track record in mind tomorrow morning as I think about what To Do in 2019. Perhaps I’ll resist making a list at all. Or maybe, I’ll think about how I would have to change to relieve any of this burden of things, and perhaps focus more on what I want to do for myself and the people around me, aside from rearranging the stacks of things on my personal Titanic.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

November 2019
S M T W T F S
« Oct    
 12
3456789
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,944 other followers