The Concrete Tree

On the 10th anniversery of the death of the my father (Frank the Beachcomber), I wrote this little piece on family and heritage. Thought some of you might enjoy it. It is written 200 years in the future.

Hurrying home from school on his solar powered skate board, Zander was very excited and a little bewildered. His homework school assignment was to dig down below the surface of the ground and see what he could find. This puzzled him as the concept of digging down never occurred to neither him nor any of his family members. After all, his entire city, and indeed the entire country were covered in concrete. No one ever talked about what was below the concrete. Everyone assumed it was just more concrete. Why everything in the country was built up and not down. Every building in his city was built on concrete that went up and up and up. That is why Zander and his family lived on the 1600th floor of the “high rise.” Seeking an answer, Zander pointed his laser at the stars and instantly he was connected with his sister who had settled on the moon about 55 years ago. His sister scoffed at him and his teacher, and the idea that anything could be found below his feet. Zander felt the same way, but concerned about his assignment, he decided to give it a try.

With his carbon titanium drill, he pointed at the concrete and began to watch in wonder as concrete split and cracked in all directions. After several minutes of layer upon layer of concrete, the young lad was about to give up when he began to see small brown patches of something that was definitely not concrete. Calling to his family above, they all gathered around and stood in amazement at the scene. Many of the younger members of the family could only look on in bewilderment at the site of soft brown concrete. However, his grandfather, wise and knowledgeable at the age of 126 said he seemed to recall long before the concrete, there was a time when dirt covered the planet. He was quite sure that this is what was spewing up from their feet.

Zander reached into the “so-called dirt” and pulling hard retrieved an old, rusty metal box with a lock on it. His mind began to wonder at what was inside the box. It took but mere seconds to break the lock and retrieve what was inside. To his disappointment, it was nothing more than a drawing of what looked like a man with many arms, and writings about someone or something. The above mentioned picture seemed to show a very skinny man with many, many arms. What was the meaning of this picture? No one knew; no one that is except great grandmother. She vividly recalled a time from her long ago past when the world had not been a concrete jungle, and grass and flowers and trees flourished. But that was so long ago and those memories were crushed in her mind with the weight of a world of concrete and dullness all around her.

Grandma Zeta told the family that this was not the drawing of a man with many arms, but was rather a “family tree.” It was a depiction of the lineage of the family going back hundreds and hundreds of years. Grandma Zeta said that this was a “priceless” find. Didn’t seem that way to the rest of the family they stated.

Just then Xenia and Flander, two classmates of Zander ran up to the gathering. They too had busted up concrete near their homes and Xenia found many, many old silver and copper coins. They were very shiny everyone exclaimed, but since the country provided for all the needs of the people from birth to death, coins were of no value to anyone. Sorry Xenia they exclaimed. Flander then showed them what he had found on his excursion. He had found a small piece of metal with the words “Ford Mustang” on it. Inquiring of Grandma Zeta again, she recalled a time from her childhood when there were animals that roamed the planet. But as the planet grew and grew there was no place for both man and animals to co-exist, and soon the animals disappeared. Perhaps “Ford Mustang” was an animal back then—-then again maybe not. Not impressed with any of the findings, the family was set to go their separate ways when Grandma Zeta motioned them to listen and look for just a few more minutes. She began to explain what the “family tree” meant and how the knowledge of the past was more valuable and priceless to them than anything else on earth. Her mind began to come alive and she regaled them with stories of their past, stories of great-great-great-great grandpa “Cornelius Zuiker” who came to the United States from Holland as a boy of 14, eager to make a better life in America. Of his six children who became successful lawyers, businessmen, social workers, and homemakers, and who brought into this world children who served their country in the military and as volunteers across the planet. She told of family members by marriage, and of their children and their parents, who gave so much to others and asked for so little in return. With this knowledge, held deep in their hearts and minds, the family could put all their worries, be it financial, physical, or emotional to rest. Grandma concluded by reminding the family that no matter where they were at this time, whether on planet earth, the moon, or anywhere else, that this “family tree” was planted in something so much stronger that concrete.

This “family tree” was planted in a foundation of hard work, dedication, loyalty, and commitment, and that this “family tree,” of which Zander was a loyal and royal member, could never be uprooted or toppled, and could stand strong and proud against the storms of life.



The shape you take

For her summer reading project, my cousin, Geneva Kalinowski, read Step to Freedom, the book that Frank the Beachcomber and my father, Joseph, wrote together. This is the paper Geneva submitted to her teacher:

31 August 2010

The way you portray yourself as a person, shapes who you are to society. One wonderful man, Joseph F. Zuiker, shapes his life through many harsh and excruciatingly painful devastations. Although the pain contributes to the past, it also reflects what he has become today. The book STEP TO FREEDOM, by Francis C. Zuiker, depicts the events that happened to Joseph while he was in the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic. While there, he was put to the test to determine weather he could help their country or not. Trust had to be built and friendships made, all while building a school. So what characteristics shape him as a person of kindness?

As Joseph ventured his way through the Dominican, he had a different mind set than the people. He was determined not only to make a difference for the culture, but also to make a difference in the lives of the citizens. His determination shapes who Joseph is today by one particular event that he overcame while in the Dominican Republic. As he was working toward making their society a better place to live, he encountered a problem that really needed to be fixed. The children of the Dominican Republic had horrible living conditions during the day. Their schools were not up to standards and the many children that were forced out of school because of its small size, were left with nothing to do. Joseph made it a priority to himself to recreate their school. Joseph feels a sense of purpose in his life to help others.

While striving to rehabilitate the society and school for the Dominicans, he ran into another problem. The Dominicans had a trust issue for Americans coming into their country. The Peace Corps in the past would help the economy of the Dominicans, but not as much the people themselves. Joseph built a honest bond with the Dominicans through many hard tasks. As a determined man in the peace corps trying to make a difference, Joseph had to show the citizens that he was one of them. Many people thought of him as a no-good rich American. He had to build electricity and lighting into the shack he was living in and the Dominican children offered to help if he could pay them. He needed the Dominicans to trust that he wasn’t just a good for nothing rich American, so he said no and worked on the lighting himself. The children later worked along side of him.

Helpful is a word that shapes the entire image of the life of Joseph F. Zuiker. Starting with the Peace Corps and ending with the school, Joseph has always been a big help. As said in the book STEP TO FREEDOM, while spending almost two years in the Crossroads of Santiago de la Cruz, Joseph helped the citizens rebuild their country. He wanted to make a difference in the older citizens and younger citizens lives. He was helpful because he not only created the idea to build the school, but he also contributed to the construction of the school and the quality of the education for the children.

Joseph Zuiker is a wonderful man with a big heart. While in the Dominican, he was determined to help the citizens, had to prove himself as an honorable man and was very helpful to the contribution of the school. These qualities and the events of which they are shown by Joseph Zuiker are only a few to display. These not only shape what he was in the peace corp, but also develop a sense of what he is today. My uncle, Joseph F. Zuiker is a wonderful man that cares for people of all kinds. Through this story I believe that the shape he developed was a big heart because of the caring things he does for others.



Movie reviews

Movie reviews from Uncle Dennis (via e-mail): North Country interesting but certainly not the best of the year; Shopgirl beyond stupid and one man’s fantasy and hardly worth making a movie about. Jarhead—what was this movie supposed to be about? Sure training camp is tough and you should just be glad that you never went out for the track team in some of the schools in the Northern Chicago suburbs. Capote—extremely well acted and interesting story. Good Night and Good Luck—again well acted and an interestin period of time in our history. Wallace and Gromit—a very cute,fast, and darling animated movie. Walk the Line—so well done, singing was excellent, could be one of the year’s best and Reese is coming to live with me soon.

My mom and I went to see Walk the Line last night. Though this film was quite similar to Ray (talented, addicted, redeemed individual), I especially enjoyed learning some of the background to the Johnny Cash songs I’ve always enjoyed. As we were leaving the theater early this morning, mom and I reminisced about the Johnny Cash albums we used to listen together in Idaho.

Have more movie recommendations? Post a comment, or head over to the In the Roost forum to post a review.



Surf report

Matt writes from Hawaii with this great report about his surf session:

Yesterday was bigger, 5-8 feet solid in the bowls alamoana area. It took me 45 minutes to get out only to catch 3 waves. Today it settled down and was pushing 3-5 feet. I was in the right spot all night. I am proud to say I caught my first stand up barrel going right at bowls. What a trip! It was like slow motion. I saw the wave begin its curl and I got some speed, pulled down into it, and bent my knees ever so slightly, time suspended and I was entombed by this beautiful wave. I whizzed out the other side after what seemed like eternity and grinned. This was the holy grail. Now i will order pizza and relax.




Connie is an 18 year old, I think. She is a very quiet child that I have watched over the past five to six years. During that time I represented her sister when her brother in law was killed in a car crash. During that same time I represented her grandfather when the 83 year old gent got creamed by a speeding vehicle. I got her nieces and nephews money for the death of their father and her Grandfather took her to the Phillippines as a reward when he got his money.

For those five years I have been encouraging Connie to study hard and to graduate from high school. Her sister, who is now in jail for drugs, never made it that far. She got preggers and was a mother by 16 or 17. Connie’s sister almost made it. I talked to her also telling her to study and be a stewardess and see the world. The sister got preggers at 17 in her last year and is now fully involved doing nothing around the house.

Anyway miracle of miracles, Connie graduated last month as the first of thie family to get an advanced degree ( a high school diploma). I was very happy.

But then I asked Connie what she would be doing, college, trade school, job in tourist industry, and Connie informed me that she had already signed up for the Army. It seems as if Connie will be getting a $3,000 bonus from the USA if she makes it through basic training. $3,000 is a lot of money to this kid. She will be some kind of supply person if she successfully goes through her South Carolina training. Then she will go somewhere else for a few weeks or whatever. and then dear sweet little Connie will be shipped to Fort Bliss , Texas and possibly shipped out to Iraq.

Please note that saving Iraq is not in Connie’s mind. She doesn’t know where Iraq is. She doesn’t even know where Indiana is and she sure as hell doesn’t know what a bicameral or unicameral legislature is. Connie does not know about branches of government nor about religious differences. Dear sweet Connie knows almost nothing.

Yet here is this sweet girl, the love of her mother’s eye about to go to Iraq to get her $3,000. I don’t know if there is a moral to this story or not. I know that almost no member of the Congress who voted for the war has any child or relative fighting for “democracy in Iraq”. I know that this young lady has no idea of what harm might befall her. She is somewhatlike a bug heading toward a light.

But God has sent us a good Christian ruler who has only good in his heart and who is doing God’s work, saving us from those heathens. It too bad God’s doesn’t send some of his relatives. Then sweet Connie would not have to go.

Confused about God’s plan for Connie …



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